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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Vision of Sophiani Which Took Place in Constantinople in 1607


A Beneficial Narration Describing the Vision of Sophiani

(To be read on the 6th of August)

In an area near Constantinople, called Abydos, there lived an orthodox and pious Christian together with his virtuous and God-loving wife Sophiani in the year 1607.

One day Sophiani became ill and was bed-ridden for twenty days without being able to even lift her head. At dawn on the 3rd of August she lifted her hands to heaven and seemed to have expired. All her relatives prepared her for burial and were unable to be consoled by anyone. But they found that beneath her left breast she was still warm, so they stopped the preparations until she was completely dead.

Meanwhile, her sister according to the flesh came, named Anna, and in her pain and despair she took cold water and sprinkled it over Sophiani, which helped her to revive. Sophiani then said to her sister: "It would have been better if you had not come, my sister, because you have caused me more harm and death by coming back to this temporary life, for your voice lifted me out of that bright Paradise and the inexpressible glory of God that I enjoyed. When you saw me dead, O miserable one, you should have rejoiced more and thanked God, rather than seeing me now restored to life."

Having revived fully and said many other things, those around her asked her to tell them about the mysteries of God she beheld in the other life. She rather asked of them to bring a spiritual father that she may confess, and if he decided it was blessed to narrate then she would do so. This is when the hieromonk Hierotheos Koukouzelis, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni in Cyprus, came by a patriarchal order to confess Sophiani, who then narrated the following:

"As I got up and settled on my bed, I fainted and saw before me an astonishing youth, holding in his hands a golden vessel full of water, and he said to me: 'Sophiani, I see that you have great thirst and your heart is sick with disease. If you drink this life-giving water, you will be healthy in your soul and body and you will have everlasting joy.' When I heard this, I leapt for joy, and I wanted nothing else but to keep seeing this young phenomenon. When I received the vessel in my hands to drink, I don't know how, but the life was taken out of me for three days and nights and I was absent from my body, while my soul followed the youth and we went up to heaven. We passed the seven spherical circles of heaven in the deep darkness and then we reached a bright and plentiful place, over which there were two tall and gorgeous gates. The right was made of pure gold and precious stones, while the left of copper and lit iron, which looked like fiery carbons. Around it stood a crowd of horrific armed giants who guarded the gate, and I stood speechless due to my fear.

My guide said to me: 'You see these gates, sister? These are the gates of justice, the gold is of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the iron of the hell of sinners.'

Leaving these gates we climbed higher to a brighter place, where there were countless crowds of astonishing men whose seats were not all in one place, but some were taller and others lower.

Then my guide placed me among the angels and said to me: 'Sophiani, here bow and venerate.' Immediately then I bowed and venerated with great fear, but who I bowed to I did not see. He again lifted me up and said to me: 'Stay here to know the greatness of the Second Coming of the Lord,' and after these words I saw a fiery, brilliant and royal throne, beneath which was a human hand holding scales.

Around this throne there were innumerable crowds of angels, who were coming up from the road that I too came from, carrying the souls of people, men, women and children, and when they raised them here, they said, 'Venerate,' and those souls venerated, as I did. On the fearsome throne, in bright clouds, sat the Master Christ, dressed in a blueish-purple garment. I, from the strong brilliance of His face, could not look at Him. The angels who were present were singing, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord, Who Is and God Who had appeared as man, have mercy on Your creatures.' While other angelic choirs were singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord Sabbaoth, heaven and earth is full of Your glory.' Those who were with us sang: "Glory to the God in the highest and on earth peace to those who please God.' Others cried out, 'Hallelujah' three times, while others: 'Amen, Amen, Amen' and never ceased their praise.

On the right hand of Christ stood the Theotokos and to the left the Holy Forerunner, as the iconographers depict. The angels, when they finished their praise, venerated the Lord and bowed their heads, and the Lord raised His blessed hands and blessed them. From the Master's fingers there fell gems and daisies, which, when I saw myself, I wondered and asked my guide what these mysteries were, and he said to me:

'Do you see, Sophiani, the daisies and the precious stones that fall from the right hand of the Master and descend to the earth? These are His rich mercy, the unbounded love He has for the human race, for Orthodox Christians, and that is why He blesses the homes of good Orthodox Christians, who keep untainted their faith in Him and those who confess clearly their sins, apply the divine commandments and abstain from the devil's will; all of them He blesses and redeems them from all evil. Those who are merciful and love their neighbor enjoy these blessings while alive and, after their death, inherit their inheritance from here and blessedness.

The flaming fiery knots that fall from His left hand signify His anger, wrath and indignation for those who live a sinful life and do not do justice to their neighbor. Not only are they barren of transient life, they are also consigned to the eternal fire to be damned with the unclean demons.'

To the left of the throne and the scales that we spoke of, there was a great chasm, from which came an unbearable stench, a sulfurous aura of smoke and innumerable spurious voices of people who constantly shouted 'woe' and 'alas'.

The angels were bringing the souls of people from the earth, and as they venerated, they led them to examine all their works that they made on earth, and they put the good on the right side of the scales, and the wicked on the left. Then Christ commanded the saved and holy souls, and the angels led them to the place where the golden gate was, while the unrepentant and sinful souls were cast into that chaos of the abyss. Then the angels cheered and were glad for the saved souls, while they were lamenting and crying out loud about the damned ones.

At that moment angels brought forth a soul, whose soul was redeemed by her good works, and the Lord was about to nod to the angels to throw her into the abyss. But then the Lady Theotokos and the Honorable Forerunner presented themselves before Him and pleaded with the Lord, saying: 'You who are slow to anger, Your compassions overcome Your rage. Even though her soul is sinful, she did not cease to keep her true faith in You, which is why we are entreating You to forgive her.' While they pleaded with Christ, angels came and brought forth her acts of mercy, her liturgies, her candles, her oils, and all the offerings and memorials she made. Even the prayers of the priests rose up, who were liturgizing on behalf of her soul, as well as the good works of her parents and relatives which they offered to the poor on behalf of her rest. In addition, the prayers of the poor could be heard, who received the charity from her relatives, who said: 'May God grant her forgiveness.'

Then the voice of the Master was heard, saying: 'Due to the prayers of My priests and My poor brethren, behold, I grant My forgiveness to this soul.' As the Lord was about to signal with His right hand for the angels to place this soul with the righteous, there arrived at His throne lamentations and crying, which were the result of the mourning and resentments of her parents with their blasphemies against God, which they uttered due to their grief, thus expressing their disbelief in the eleventh article of the Symbol of Faith: 'I await the resurrection of the dead.' When this took place, the Lord was greatly enraged, saying: 'Because the prayers of My priests did not suffice, but they oppose Me, take up this soul and cast it into the outer darkness.' The angels felt very sorry for this soul, but out of obedience to Christ, they took the soul and cast it into the immense precipice of hell. Then I the pitiful one dared to ask my guardian angel: 'Why, my lord, are the angels so sad when you cast a soul into the precipice of hell?'

He told me: 'This abyss is that which separates the righteous from sinners and sinks those who fall into this non-illumined place of Hades, where they are eternally damned. If all of angels rejoice for those who are saved, even more so do we sorrow for those who are damned.'

While the angel was saying this to me, I suddenly heard a loud noise, for the angels were coming bringing a soul with psalms and incense and lamps and radiance. This soul was coming with much joy and boldness, and the souls of the righteous came to greet it. This blessed soul had a white and clean garment like the sun and didn't have on it any blot or stain of sin, as the other souls did. I believe this garment was the vestment of Holy Baptism, which kept it immaculate and which is why it radiated so much. This soul came forth and offered its veneration, as all did by habit. Then all the angels cried out loudly, saying: 'We thank You, Almighty Master, for we have seen a righteous soul clean and immaculate from sin.' Then the thunderous voice of the Master was heard, saying: 'Take it and let it rest with the saints.' Then turning His words and hands towards me, He said: 'Lead Sophiani through the dwellings and mansions of My saints, so she can see them. Because many in the world are asking for her, let her return to her body that others may be saved from the narration of this vision which she was made worthy here to see. If she struggles to gain other virtues and completely thrives, then in three years she will be made worthy to find rest with greater honors.'

With these words of the Master an angel grabbed me and we followed that righteous soul unite with other saved souls. We arrived before that golden gate of Paradise. Suddenly I saw the Lady Theotokos with unspeakable glory and with her was the Apostle Peter, who held keys in his hands. He opened that beautiful gate and the Theotokos was first to enter followed by the Apostle Peter and then the angels with the souls they brought. I went with them in a hurry so I could walk with the Theotokos. This place was so radiant and full of fragrance, that I was in wonder and rejoiced beyond words. The land did not resemble our own solid land, which has uphills, downhills, stones, rivers and everything else we see, but it was white like pure cotton or like a golden garment adorned with various precious stones and pearls. I also saw tall trees, fragrant and full of flowers and beautiful fruits, which resembled roses and lilies. Underneath the trees there seemed to be golden-purple blankets on which rested men, women and children, among whom I recognized many from my homeland in Abydos and its city who had died.

There I also saw my priest father John and my mother Anastasia and one of my sisters, but I couldn't approach them or speak with them. Their dwelling places were not alike, just as their virtues and works here on earth were not alike. Walking forward I also saw the Saints, who were on a high and radiant place and all were walking around with white garments and dressed in a most bright light. I wondered to myself who they were, and the Theotokos turned to me and said: 'Sophiani, do you see the rest of the Saints? Go quickly to catch up and venerate the Righteous Abraham, otherwise you will not see him as you desire.' I then ran and saw from far away Abraham sitting on a beautiful throne and around him were innumerable souls with joy and gladness. I ran to see him and enjoy him, at which time he saw me and encouraged me to approach him. Taking more courage I ran to meet him, but at that moment I heard the voice of my sister and she sprinkled my face with cold water. I returned to myself and felt a great weight and coldness in my body, as if I was ice. Slowly-slowly my body got stronger and I completely recovered."

When her spiritual father listened to this carefully, he asked:

"Did you see any other mystery, my child? Did you see demonic toll-houses, damned sinners, as others have seen?"

Sophiani replied:

"I did not see anything further, my father."

"Do you recognize anything good you did in your life?" the priest asked.

"What good do you ask of me a sinner, father? But because you are forcing me to tell you, I will tell you what I know. Three years ago while I was spinning at my father's house, at noon I heard a loud sound and disturbance, as if an earthquake was taking place, and I saw with my eyes three sacred men in hierarchical vestments, who were, as I recognized them from their icons, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom. I was paralyzed with fear, did my cross, and venerated them with great fear. They then said to me:

'Fear not, Sophiani, we are the Three Hierarchs and we want you to dedicate your house to God so that it becomes a church in our name and we will intercede for your salvation.'

With daring I said to them:

'My Holy Masters, is this house suitable for the glorification of God and a dwelling place for you, as we are poor people and do not have the place to build a church as you specify? Besides this I do not know my husbands opinion, and if we can obtain a royal permit to build this church.'

They said to me:

'Do not be distressed that the place is filthy and dull, and fear not for the royal permit, only take care to dedicate it to us, and we will take care of everything else. For in the old days this barn was our temple. But if you neglect this and do not do as we said to you, we will ask God to take your life out of disobedience.'

When the Saints said this, they disappeared. When my husband came that night, I told him about all that happened. After three days, when we had done compline and said our small prayers, the Saints again appeared with an earthquake and said with loud voices:

'Sophiani, why didn't you do what we told you? Do you want to die a sudden death?'

I then said to my husband:

'Do you hear what the Saints are asking for?'

He replied to them and said:

'My Holy Masters, Sophiani told me everything, but because we are poor and do not have the means, and we fear the authority of the state, we did not do anything. But because you want us to dedicate it to God and your holiness, this place is yours as of today.'

The Saints said to him:

'Tomorrow morning you will dig in the barn and will find marble, crosses, and even a Holy Altar, and with this you will be convinced of our words. Go also to the Sultan and ask him for a permit and we will convince him to give it to you.'

When the Saints said this, they departed. All that night we glorified God and in the morning we announced this event to our fellow villagers who all rushed with their digging tools to help with the digging. Indeed, we found the Holy Altar with white marble and other ecclesiastical items that were buried. With ease we also got the permit from the Sultan and began to build the church. We had some parcels of land that we sold and bought various things we needed for the church. When it was all completed, the Holy Metropolitan of Kitros came with patriarchal permission and he consecrated it. We then left our village and settled in Constantinople, where we rented a house. But I beg you, my holy spiritual father, persuade my husband to allow me to become a nun that I may weep for my sins these next three years which the Lord promised remain in my life."

When her spiritual father heard these things, he told her husband to not prevent her from pursuing her righteous desire. He said that in two years they will go together to the Holy Land to venerate the Sacred Shrines and they will dedicate themselves to God.

Indeed, after selling their possessions, they went to Jerusalem and confessed everything to Patriarch Sophronios. After this they communed of the Immaculate Mysteries and Sophiani went to a monastery and became a nun, and her husband went to a men's monastery and from the name Christos he was named Chariton.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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