September 4, 2013

An Interview With A Nun Who Knew Saint Nektarios

In 1984 at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Aegina, the late Metropolitan Hierotheos of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina, together with his Chancellor (now a Metropolitan of that province named Ephraim) and the Archiepiscopal Commissioner of the island Fr. Damascene Hondo, met the blessed nun Chrysafenia. The purpose of this meeting was for this eldress nun to recall her memories of Saint Nektarios, whom she not only knew from her childhood years, but she had the blessing to live near him for a long period of time in his Monastery and received special comfort from him. Her testimony is important because it reveals how holiness is reflected to the eyes of a child, the soul of a child.

Metr. Hierotheos: How many years have you known Eldress Magdalene, Chrysafenia?

Nun Chrysafenia: Since I was a young child. I would go the Monastery at five and a half years old! When I was in the first grade. I would come and go because I would go to school. At one time I got sick. My eyes hurt. They took me to all the doctors but there was no healing for me. Instead of getting better, I became worse.

Metr. Hierotheos: What was wrong with your eye? Which one was it?

Nun Chrysafenia: It was the right one, and it was white. I couldn't see out of it. An aunt of mine took me and said: "We took her to the doctors, but here in Aegina we have greater 'doctors'! Let us take her to His Eminence that he may bless her with the Holy Lance." When we arrived in Aegina, I said to her: "Dear Aunt, we are going to the Bishop who said to bless me with the Holy Lance." I thought, young child that I was, that the Holy Lance was medicine! I didn't know. Automobiles didn't exist there at that time. My aunt grabbed a donkey and we sat. She placed me on the rump. When we arrived at All Saints, she showed me the Monastery.

"We are going there", she tells me. "We will also see the Grandfather to bless you."

"Aunt, I am getting down", I told her. I got off the donkey and made three prostrations. And looking into Heaven, I said: "My Panagia, my Christ, I also want to dwell here! To become a nun here at this Monastery!"

My aunt gets off and she slapped me! "You will never get off the animal again until we reach the Monastery", she told me.

"No, my aunt. I will not get off again."

We arrived at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. His Eminence sat behind a mulberry. He had a chair and a stool on which he placed his feet.

"There is the Grandfather who will make your eye better."

I went and caressed the feet of the Grandfather and said to him: "My Grandpa I love you, O how much I love you! From the earth to the sky! And if you make my eye well, I will love you even more!"

I sat on the stool where his feet were, and begged him: "Come, Grandpa, and make my eye well."

His Eminence got up, Saint Nektarios that is, and we went to the church. He took the Holy Lance and blessed me. I was also waiting for him to give me medicine! His Eminence then said to Eldress Christodouli: "Give to her aunt some roses from the epitaphion, in order to boil them and wash her eyes with it."

My aunt took them. However, when we went outside the door of the church, my eye was completely fine! I saw the light! My eye was cleansed! How could I leave the Grandfather.

"My Grandpa, no matter what you tell me, I am not leaving!"

"My child, go to school so you can learn letters, in order to be useful in the Monastery."

"No, my Grandpa, I am not leaving! I will stay in the Monastery, here near to you!"

So I went and hid myself at certain sofas they had at the Old Age Quarters. They could only see my feet. The nuns said among themselves: "The young child became frightened and she probably took to the road and left." Saint Nektarios told them: "She didn't leave. I will find her."

He came to the Old Age Quarter to find me. He said to me: "Come, my child, come out." I came out. 

My aunt was crying: "Your father in America will learn about this and you will even lose your bread. You won't have any bread to eat."

"We will have much more, if I come to the Monastery", I told her. "I am not coming down."

"Go, my child", said the Saint. "Go and I will send Eldress Athanasia and Eldress Damiani, who go down and shop, and they will bring you here with the animal."

I even remember the name of the animal. They had a small animal named "Lisa". I remember because I climbed on the rump and followed Eldress Damiani, Eldress Athanasia and Eldress Christophora as they were shopping. They would stay at our house.

Metr. Hierotheos: Was that the first time you met His Eminence?

Nun Chrysafenia: Yes, at five and a half years old. At the time he made my eye well. I continued going to school. Eldress Damiani and Eldress Athanasia would come and take me there. About a week had once gone by and His Eminence did not see me. He saw me in his dream. When he had a meeting with the nuns - Eldress Xeni, Eldress Christophora, Eldress Haritini, the nuns of old - he asked them about me.

"She is sick, Your Eminence, and we did not tell you?"

"Tonight I saw her in my dream. She was wearing a golden costume and I passed her a golden cross! You should have told me."

As soon as the nuns went out, Eldress Akakia came to the cell. I lived in her cell. They had a small couch there and I stayed there. It was near the "school". I went to His Eminence.

"Welcome to the venerable Chrysafenia! Welcome to my good child!" I kissed his hands and his feet.

"My Grandpa, my Grandpa, I was sick but my mind and my thoughts were here!"

"Sit, my child."

He took his omophorion and stole and "read" over me.

"From today, don't let me hear anyone call you Demetroula! When you hear the name 'Chrysafenia', then you will respond! Let the nuns learn of this."

Metr. Hierotheos: Meanwhile, did you go to school?

Nun Chrysafenia: Yes. I completed the fourth grade. They told me to go even further, but I didn't want to, because I was afraid I would lose the Monastery! I was twelve years old when Saint Nektarios reposed in 1920. Sometimes the Saint would ask me:

"How old are you, my child?"

"How am I supposed to know, Grandpa? I was born on the feast of Saint John Chrysostom."

"May you have a golden mouth, my child!" he would say with a smile.

He would take me up to the Diocese. On the road he would ask me:

"Today, my child, is the feast of Saint John the Forerunner. Why do they call him Forerunner?"

"It was his surname, Grandpa!" I said to him.

"No, my child. He led the way for Christ. This is why he, Saint John, is six months older than Christ."

Another day, on the feast of the Holy Unmercenaries, he said to me: "Why do they call them, Kosmas and Damianos, Unmercenaries?"

"It was their surname, Grandpa!" I responded.

"No, my child. They were physicians and did not receive silver coins (αργύρια). This is why they call them Holy Unmercenaries (Αγίους Αναργύρους)."

"And what are silver coins, Grandpa?"

"Money, Chrysafenia my child. They would not take it. They healed for free."

One day Zenobia Lalaouni came, who is known today as Nektaria and is a nun in the Monastery of Phaneromeni in Hiliomodi, in order for me to go along with her to Mesagro. We went to Abbess Xeni to receive permission.

"Go to your Grandfather to tell him", said the Abbess.

We went to His Eminence. I said to him: "My Grandpa, can I also go to Mesagro, since Zenobia is afraid to go alone?"

"No, my child. Your mother knows you are at the Monastery. What if something happens to you? Go to the back of the Monastery where is all the pisolite to see her off until Zenobia gets lost on the trail."

I was upset, and I said to myself without even whispering: "You have obligated me, Grandpa!"

The Saint turned to me and said: "You have obligated me, Grandpa?"

"My Grandpa, I did not yell it out! I said it to myself."

Metr. Hierotheos: What else do you remember, Chrysafenia?

Nun Chrysafenia: I will tell you about when Bishop Meletios came (this is Meletios Metaxakis, who was the Metropolitan of Athens at the time and later became Ecumenical Patriarch). The nuns had lit candles. They gave me the basket with the roses. As I was holding it they would grab them from there and sprinkle them on him! When Meletios left, Saint Nektarios was upset. I approached him.

"Why my Grandpa are you upset? What's wrong?"

"My child, will you take us to your home?"

"What will you do in our house? Gladly, Grandpa! Wait, Grandpa, so I can count the beds."

"I counted them, I counted them. They seemed too few."

"They don't fit us, Grandpa. But why should we leave the Monastery? I want to live in the Monastery here. I want to be here with the nuns."

"Go therefore, my child, to the Panagia in the narthex and say a prayer."

He didn't tell me what sort of prayer to say. I went and kneeled before the Panagia crying:

"My Panagia, terminate him! My Panagia, terminate him!"

I was late praying. Eldress Haritini went to the Bishop and said: "The little one must have gotten scared, Your Eminence, and she left."

"No, Eldress Haritini. She did not leave. She is in the church. Go and bring her."

Eldress Haritini came and took me to His Eminence.

"My child, what were you saying all this time?"

"My Grandpa, I asked God to terminate him, so that he can die and we could save the Monastery!"

"My child! You said things like that? Your mouth must be honey and sugar!"

He then had me kneel before the Panagia and read over me the prayer of forgiveness.

"Do not say such a word again, my child."

Another time they were baking. They would make me a round bun every time they baked. They told me not to tell the other nuns. One day His Eminence said to me:

"Come here, my child. Did they perhaps make you a round bun, there where you help them make bread?"

"They did, Grandpa, but they told me not to say anything!"

He laughed and he blessed me.

"Bring it here. Don't eat it all at once. You will get sick."

As soon as one entered the Old Age Quarters there was a cupboard. There they kept the sweets so I wouldn't eat them altogether and something happen to me. There was a small round table before the cell of His Eminence, and I ate. On good days I would eat with the nuns at the table. But at the small one I ate with His Eminence.

Metr. Hierotheos: Did you ever chant when the Saint was alive?

Nun Chrysafenia: They brought me near. That's when Eldress Theodosia, Eldress Akakia and Eldress Christophora would chant.

Metr. Hierotheos: Who chanted the best out of the three?

Nun Chrysafenia: Eldress Christophora. Eldress Theodosia had a stronger voice.

Metr. Hierotheos: When Theodosia came, was she very sick?

Nun Chrysafenia: They called her Evmorfia. I remember also their secular names. Foam would come from her. Her eyes would overturn. The Saint made her well. And Mitrodora. She came after the Saint. Her father brought her to his tomb. They also brought their sheep which they carried around with them! She was made well there. Parthenia Krakari was also very sick. Eldress Akakia I remember to have been a good chanter and good nun. They were all good! Eldress Haritini had the hostel out there.

Metr. Hierotheos: Did Magdalene have unsleeping prayer?

Nun Chrysafenia: All night, every night. The Saint told her and she prayed. He made her a deaconess. At night she would sit on a chair outside the terrace and do the prayer rope. I would go outside and see her. I would say to her: "You will get cold. Why don't you go inside?" She would walk around and around the Monastery praying until 3:00 AM when the bells rang! With Agathoniki and another one she also did eight-hour prayers. The Saint taught her to say "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" and "Virgin Theotokos". His Eminence once asked me:

"My good child, when you say 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me', what do you feel?"

"Christ is dancing within me, Grandpa!" Whatever came to me I said to him.

"When you commune, my child, what does your soul feel?"

"There is dancing from my mouth to my belly", I would tell him.

I was a young child. Whatever came to me, I said.

I will also tell you about Eldress Evniki. She was paralyzed in bed. The Saint told me to go and "teach" her the "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me". This was to keep her company. She liked my company. She would tell me that she hadn't learned it, so that I could continuously sit near her!

"His Eminence told me it three times and I learned it", I would tell her.

I haven't learned it", she would answer me smiling. "I'm an old woman, and I haven't learned it."

Metr. Hierotheos: What else do you remember, Chrysafenia?

Nun Chrysafenia: One time there was a drought. They brought down here to our Monastery the icon of the Panagia Chrisoleondissa. They had it outside the church and the people venerated it. I would say to Eldress Evniki who was paralyzed:

"Good Eldress, you also get up and venerate!" I had such a mind.

"But, my child, you know that I can't walk."

"I will take you by the hand. I will also venerate. I will take you."

Suddenly she got up and went and venerated by herself! The Panagia made her well!

Metr. Hierotheos: When the Saint reposed, were you here?

Nun Chrysafenia: Of course. I went and sat below the coffin and I wouldn't leave! "I also want to go with my Grandpa", I would say to them. They would pull on me, Eldress Akakia and others, but I wouldn't budge. "She will also die", they would say. I was always crying.

I got sick with my grief.

Metr. Hierotheos: What nuns do you remember?

Nun Chrysafenia: Eldress Xeni, Eldress Haritini, Eldress Theodosia, Eldress Magdalene, Eldress Christophora, Eldress Kassiani, Eldress Evniki, Eldress Akakia and others.

I went to Chrisoleondissa after 1935. Abbess Magdalene took me. Archbishop Chrysostomos made her Abbess of Chrisoleondissa. In fact, he wanted to take me to learn letters. I didn't go, because I always wanted to live in the Monastery.

Eldress Magdalene worshiped me. Whatever I did, she forgave me! That is why I went up there. I was upset however, because I was far from the Monastery of the Saint. One night I saw His Eminence in my sleep, and he said to me:

"Here with the Panagia, I am near you, my child."

So I calmed down.

Source: From the book Μίλησα με τον Άγιο Νεκτάριο (I Spoke With Saint Nektarios), Volume One, by Manoli Melinou. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.