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April 21, 2016

A Monastery of Five Widows and a Buddhist Who Became Orthodox

Holy Monastery of Saints Marina and Raphael in Xylotymbou

By K. Triantaphylou

From my five-day stay in Cyprus I will record due to brevity only what lessons I learned at the Holy Monastery of Saint Marina and Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene in Xylotymbou of the Holy Metropolis of Kition. The spiritual father, serving priest and founder of this Monastery was Protopresbyter Kyriakos Panagiotou, who among other things has a sweet voice. Because of his sweet voice, the late Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus had him ordained as his deacon, but he refused, saying he preferred to serve as a priest in his village.

Thus, when he was ordained a presbyter, his village had three sacred churches, and now, thirty years later, his town of Xylotymbou has twenty-five sacred churches along with the Holy Monastery of Saints Marina and Raphael, where six most-venerable women live as nuns, five of which are widows.

Father Kyriakos, dear reader, although he is married and the father of three children, could have lived with a family mindset, and could have organized parish excursions to bring together the female widows, but he did not do this and refused to do so. Father Kyriakos did not organize excursions for the widows, but he built a house of God for these widows.

These widows did not go from one monastery to another monastery to venerate. Rather these widows went to a monastery and became nuns to live in humility, prayer and fasting. The widows pray with their prayer rope for the soul of their husband, for their children and for their grandchildren.

These six nuns, namely the abbess Marina together with the nuns Maria, Athanasia, Raphaelia, Ephraimia and Nektaria, besides the other ministries they have, bake prosphora and artoklasia for any woman of the village unable to bake them. These prosphora arrive at the Proskomide kneaded by pure hands and not by the hands of young bakers.

The revered Father Kyriakos did not occupy himself only with his own village, but his activities have reached even Africa. He built one polyclinic in Madagascar, a sacred church and house for a priest in Tanzania, and now he is building a sacred church in Kenya. Lately, next to the Monastery of Saints Marina and Raphael, he erected and created a large museum that cost 1,400,000 euro. In this Monastery I also met Helen from Sri Lanka, namely Ceylon.

Helen was a Buddhist by religion, who went to Cyprus to take care of an elderly woman, and she embraced Christianity because she experienced a supernatural and wondrous event.

On Holy Thursday she accompanied the elderly woman to the Service of the Passion, where she saw the Crucifixion of the Lord repeated. That is, she saw vividly all that took place on Golgotha when the Lord was crucified.

Helen knew nothing about Christianity and when she saw this spectacle, she was distressed on the one hand and wondered why these bad people were hitting, mocking and crucifying this Man. She remained speechless and tears of pain rolled down from her eyes. A little later, when they returned home, shocked by the spectacle, she spoke and asked the elderly woman to explain to her what she vividly saw.

The elderly woman certainly told her what was appropriate and therefore Helen, whose name was something else at the time, having seen Christ Himself before her and especially the moment of His Crucifixion, renounced Buddhism. She called her mother, who told her that if she becomes a Christian they will never accept her in her paternal home. Of course, the threat of her mother did not scare Helen and thus she was baptized and lives as a Christian in Cyprus, far from her mother and homeland.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.