October 20, 2016

Saint Gerasimos the New Ascetic of Kefallonia (+ 1579)

St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia (Feast Day - October 20 & August 16)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


Gerasimos gained a beautiful crown,
At the right hand of the Lord above.

The newly-appeared Venerable Gerasimos was born in 1509, in the village of Trikala, in the Peloponnese, which is known as the Morea. His parents, Demetrios and Kali, came from the Notaras family and, from a young age, he was given to learning sacred letters, which became for him a second nature. When he reached a mature age, he left his homeland and went to Zakynthos, and from there traveled throughout the whole of Greece. From Thessaly he went to the Black Sea, Constantinople, Propontis and Chalcedon. He finally arrived at the Holy Mountain of Athos, where, like a bee, he gathered the nectar from the various flowers of virtue he observed in the ascetic fathers. He left that place and went to Jerusalem, where he settled, and Patriarch Germanos I (1537-1579) ordained him first Sub-deacon, then Deacon, and then Presbyter. For a year he served at the Holy Sepulchre as a lamp-lighter, and then a further twelve years at the Patriarchate. At one time he went into the Jordan desert, where he spent forty days fasting, in imitation of the Lord (Matt. 4:1), and returned to his duties at the Patriarchate.

After this, he left Jerusalem and went to Mount Sinai, and from there to Alexandria and all of Egypt, then to Antioch and Damascus, and then went on to Crete, arriving finally in Zakynthos, where he lived for five years in a cave as an ascetic, eating only greens with neither bread or salt, and legumes soaked in water. He left Zakynthos to live in a small cave in Kefallonia at a place called Caves, where he remained for about five years and eleven months. From there he went to a place called Omala, where there was a little ancient church, and he slowly restored it. After building cells, he made it into a female monastery, which he called New Jerusalem, and where twenty-five nuns gathered. In his physical features the Saint was like Saint Theodosios the Coenobiarch, except for his beard, which was a little blonde. Having reached deep old age the Saint foresaw the day of his death and gathered his nuns around him to pass on his final instructions and teachings. Then he blessed them and surrendered his soul into the hands of God on August 15, 1579. Given that this day coincides with the Dormition of the Theotokos, we honor his memory on October 20, the date when the relics of the Saint were translated. His holy body remains whole and incorrupt, always preserving the signs of holiness, namely a sallow color and inexpressible fragrance and astonishing miracles, which he works for those who approach him with faith. Only one of these will we remember here.

A woman was visiting the Monastery of the Saint, and at the instigation of the devil she fell down the well while it was night time. The Saint appeared and yelled out with his accustomed voice, and grabbed hold of the woman not allowing her to be hurt or sink into the water. When the nuns heard the accustomed voice of the Saint, they arose from their beds and went from one place to another, hoping to hear for a second time the sweet voice of their teacher. They also looked for the woman, but could not find her, and finally bent over to look into the well. And O the miracle! - they saw her above the water, as if she was being held by someone invisible. Taking her out of the well, they learned from her that the Saint appeared in the well, grabbed hold of her, and he did not allow her to sink into the water. Having seen and heard this astonishing miracle, they glorified God and thanked the Saint.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us praise divine Gerasimos, the protector and champion of Orthodoxy, an angel in the flesh and a newly-appeared God-bearing wonderworker. Made worthy by God to receive everflowing grace of healing, he strengthens the sick and heals the demon possessed. Wherefore healings pour forth for those that honor him.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Today the Island of Kefallonia, calls upon multitudes of Orthodox, to sing praises of thanksgiving to divine Gerasimos the great, extolling the one who is newly-appeared, revealed as the boast of Orthodoxy and its defender and champion.

With the confession of Christians, God placed on an unshaken pillar, your revered body, giving to all Gerasimos, that oppose this stone, terrible offense.