July 9, 2020

Maria Aroni: The 75 Year Old Vigilant Guardian at the Grave of Archbishop Christodoulos

Maria Aroni is a 75 year old woman who daily visits the grave of the late Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece at the First Cemetery of Athens. Every day she cleans and washes the grave with perfume, then she stands a few feet away all day long. She does this because she will never forget what he did for her, and her gratitude extends to the daily upkeep and guarding of his grave after his death. "I want to be with him. I receive strength from him and with my thoughts of him," she says.

For twelve whole years Maria has never been absent even for one day from being at the grave of Archbishop Christodoulos. Not even the cold of winter or the heat of summer or any other weather condition such as rain, snow or wind has prevented her daily visitation. Has she lost her mind? Her family and friends and her social environment indicate that she is fine. It comes down to the simple fact that the Archbishop had a great impact in her life, and her gratitude and love has extended towards him beyond his time on earth, and she views this as a divine purpose in her life. "Until I shut my eyes I will daily take care of his grave. For me Archbishop Christodoulos has become a saint. He is my family," Maria says with tears in her eyes, doing her cross as she hastens to his grave.

Maria first encountered the late Archbishop when she was sixty years old, when she heard him preach a sermon after the Divine Liturgy in Sepolia. Maria goes on to say: "I am here twelve years, daily taking care of his grave. I sit here from the morning until the evening and then I go home. From the time I met Christodoulos he became my family. I saw Christodoulos in 2007 at the ecclesiastical IEK, Dinokratous 8, in Aigaleo. I kissed his hand at that time and he asked me why I came to see him. I told him that I had a niece who wanted to go to the Theological School. Christodoulos helped me," she says with tears, holding a towel in her hand that smells of perfume, with which she cleans the marble grave.

"After some time we happened to come across each other as I was walking along Ermou Street, and he remembered who I was. 'Did your niece get in,' he asked me. I was astonished that he remembered me. A few weeks later she got into the Theological School. Without having any other encounter he helped me," Maria says sobbing. From that time forward she and her family never forgot the good thing the Archbishop did for them and she wanted to repay him after he died. "When I pray, I pray to Jesus and to him. He was a holy man who passed through our land," she says with moving emotion.

: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.