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June 13, 2016

Saint John Triantaphyllides, the New Chrysostom and Merciful (+ 1903)

Saint John the Presbyter of Chaldia (Feast Days - June 13 and October 7);
Village of Mouzena in Chaldia


For June 13
The three Angels of Abraham were seen once again,
Who proclaimed the birth of the child,
Noetically the three Saints were seen again,
Calling you to that which is more excellent.

For October 7
Who can run to the relics of John,
And happen to have no share in divine consolation?

Fr. John Triantaphyllides was born on 10 February 1836 in the village of Loria (Mouzena) in the region of Trebizond, from pious parents, who were named Triantaphyllos and Kyriaki. Because there was no school in his hometown, he learned from someone who was literate the common letters in six months, being very intelligent.

At the age of fourteen he became fatherless, wherefore he was forced to migrate to the coast of Pontus for work, where he occupied himself in a bakery during the winter and in agricultural work in the summer. At the age of seventeen he married a humble and revered young woman named Helen, with whom he had one son and daughters.

One summer he traveled with his wife to his village by foot. On their way they met three Angels in the form of people. John was walking ahead. The Angels looked at him carefully but did not speak to him. After they encountered his wife and one of them said to her: "The villagers are waiting for John to become a priest. This is the will of God." The second said to her: "After thirty years you will be found worthy to venerate in the Holy Land." And the third said: "After his repose he will be numbered among the Saints." Helen asked in amazement: "How can you as people know about the future, and what will happen thirty years from now?" They answered: "We are not people but Angels of God, who came to warn that John not deny the mystery of the priesthood." With fear and emotion she replied: "May the will of God take place."

In 1870, at the age of thirty-four, John was called to the majestic office of the priesthood and was obedient to the will of God, according to the angelic prediction, and he was ordained a priest by the late Metropolitan Gervasios of Chaldia. He was placed as a parish priest in the village he was born in and celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Churches of Saint Panteleimon, the Most Holy Theotokos and the Monastery of Saint George (Lermouchou and Zando). Although little educated, due to his interest and intelligence he learned very well the rubrics of the Services and the Priesthood from the monks of the Monastery of Saint George in Choutoura. He had a gift of speaking and with whomever he spoke with they felt joy. And when he preached the word of God, his words exuded sweetness and grace. Although uneducated, he was a great preacher, which is why he was called "the New Chrysostom". Fr. John was dedicated after his ordination to pastoral work and tried to establish the virtues and observe with precision the commandments of God, especially merciful almsgiving.

Although he was modest in material goods, he fed the hungry, clothed the poor and orphans, and gave hospitality to strangers in his home. He helped the poor in his village pay their taxes, and for the good of the village made roads, bridges and fountains.

In 1877, during the Russo-Turkish War, Fr. John, the good shepherd, took care that the basic foods were not absent. He wrote letters to friends who were rich and gathered what was necessary, which he distributed to the poor and saved them from starvation. His virtue and philanthropy became known in Pontus and he came to be called "the New Merciful".

Fr. John had the gift to reconcile people who had animosity between them. As a peacemaker he became the district court of the Holy Metropolis. When individuals or entire villages went to the Metropolitan to hear their differences, he referred them to the Fr. John saying, "Go to him. He will reconcile you because he is wise, he has a sweet tongue and divine grace." And indeed he pacified them. They would come as enemies seeking revenge and they left as beloved brethren. He was an enemy and opponent of hatred, vengeance and scandals, but a friend and teacher of love and peace.

Fr. John had a grandchild from his daughter who had died and left him an orphan. One day he went to school and made a certain mess, so his teacher beat him with a rod and with kicks. A few days later his orphaned grandchild died. The child's father and relatives wanted to take revenge on the teacher and kill him. Fr. John did a lot of praying. In court he sought and managed to pacify the enraged relatives and had the teacher released from prison. As the grandfather of the dead orphan he hurt, but as a disciple of Christ and as a preacher of love he forgave and had the teacher released.

In 1900 he was made worthy together with his presvytera to go and venerate the All-Holy Sepulchre, Golgotha and the All-Holy Shrines of the Holy Land. They spent six months there and returned to their village. Their pilgrimage took place thirty years after the meeting and prediction of the Angels.

His good presvytera Helen reposed on 26 July 1902. Fr. John, who shepherded for thirty-three years in a God-pleasing manner the rational flock of Christ, reposed in the Lord on 13 June 1903, a Friday, and was buried at the Church of Saint Panteleimon. He departed bearing good works that followed him, and left consolation, support and a valuable treasure to the faithful in his sacred relic.

After his burial, a daughter-in-law of Fr. John saw the Holy Spirit descend as a dove on his grave.

Three years later Fr. John appeared in a dream to a woman named Panagila, and told her to translate his relic with her brother, which took place on 7 October 1906 in the following manner: When they went to the cemetery they saw Fr. John standing above his grave with his priestly vestments reading the Gospel. His face shined like the sun, and he urged them to dig. Many people had gathered, and they saw Panagila speaking with someone but they did not see with whom she spoke and they considered her crazy. When the relic of Fr. John was found, they saw that his two hands were incorrupt. They wept with joy and emotion, and they venerated him and were informed of his sanctity, glorifying God.

The event quickly became known in Chaldia. Every day crowds of people arrived, even entire villages with their priests, as well as Turkish agas, in order to venerate the holy relic, and they brought oil and candles as gifts to the Saint. The Turks would say: "This priest effendi, even alive was a Saint and also after his death appears more so. If you build a church for him we also will make an offering."

Miracles also took place at that time. Many who were sick were healed. A young man who was twenty years old from the city of Michailova near Tbilisi in the Caucasus, who had gone mad, was tied up in order not to cause himself or others harm. They brought him to many doctors and magicians and churches, but in the end without being healed he was brought to a mental facility in Tbilisi. One night there appeared in the dream of the mother of the mad child Saint John, who told her to not weep because her child would become well. He told her to have him drink water in which she was to put soil from his grave, and to burn a piece from his phelonion and cense with it. She did as the Saint told her and her child became well.

An Armenian family had only one child that was twelve years old, and had been speechless for four years due to fear. His father was a communist and the child had gone for the exam at the University of Tbilisi, but to no avail. His mother was a pious Christian and secretly from her husband she would go to many churches, but the child would not become well. When she learned of the above miracle, with faith and reverence she asked for soil from the grave of the Saint, dissolved it in water, had her speechless child drink from it, and immediately he started talking. With great joy the mother of the child announced the miracle to her atheist husband and proclaimed her Christian faith. Then her husband also came to believe and remorseful he thanked God.

The descendants of Saint John came to Greece as refugees and brought with them the hand and skull of the Saint. The relics of the Saint continue to work miracles.

Anastasia, the granddaughter of the Saint, narrates: "Around 1930 a certain doctor who was known to a friend of mine here in Thessaloniki became sick. His hands had become paralyzed and his parents became inconsolable because he was still young in age, around thirty-five years old. They took him to many doctors and churches, but could not obtain his healing. When they found out from my friend about the relics of my grandfather Saint John, he asked to venerate them. I did the cross over him with his holy hand and then the sick man moved his paralyzed hands. Then he took the holy relics and gripped them to his chest with great faith, thanking God and Saint John for his healing."

Saint John Triantaphyllides is recognized as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and registered in the books of the local list of Saints of the Patriarchate. His memory is honored on June 13 (repose) and October 7 (translation of relics). There is a Service of Praise composed for him by an unknown hymnographer. The former Metropolitan of Rodopolis Leontios Choutouriotis (1844-1926) worked to establish his annual commemoration in Chaldia.

Note: What we know about Saint John Triantaphyllides survived from his grandson Spyridon Triantaphyllides in handwritten notes in the katharevousa language. Spyridon was a teacher in Trebizond and reposed in 1942 in Thessaloniki. His son John gave it to Mr. Klimentidis Panagiotis and he gave it to the author of the book Ascetics in the World, in which this story was published.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The offspring of Chaldia, the barrier of Orthodoxy, the treasury of piety, John let us hymn, who pours out healings to the faithful, and mercy to those who run to him, giving the fruits of his divine teachings, imparting peace: glory to you whom we proclaim wise, glory to Him Who showed you to be, to all those who approach you with faith, a protective consolation.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
With the reed, O Saint, of your love and words, you drew to yourself your flock, and on the beaten track of sanctity, you were seen as a container of heavenly grace, while we run with leaps to your relics, drawing healings, O John, bringing you hymns.

Rejoice, the divine spring of Chaldia, and the most-ready defender of Orthodoxy; rejoice, John the glory of priests, the boast of all, newly-illumined illuminator.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.