October 20, 2020

Saint Gerasimos and the Deadly Plague of 1760


In the year 1760, the island of Kefallonia was struck by a deadly plague of cholera. It first manifested itself in the area of Livathos, and from there was transmitted to Argostoli and other spots on the island. The mortality rate was high, which always ended in the death of the victim. While measures were taken by government officials to prevent the deadly plague from spreading, all the faithful of the island called upon Saint Gerasimos to deliver their homeland from the calamity. As Kefallonia's ever-vigilant protector and powerful intercessor before God, the Saint intervened in the following miraculous way.

At the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos there were two icons of the Most Holy Theotokos - one was an ancient icon above the relics of the Saint and one was located in the pantry. The one in the pantry had been previously moved into the church, but the following morning it was found again in the pantry. Deciding to allow the Mother of God to choose where she wanted her icon to remain, the nuns set up a place in the pantry for the icon and placed a vigil lamp before it. The icon only left the pantry during times of processions.

At the time of the plague, the steward of the pantry was the Nun Akakia, formerly of the village of Zervata, in the neighborhood of Samis. She was a guileless and virtuous nun, esteemed by all. One night, Akakia saw in her sleep that she was in the pantry attending to her customary duties. Suddeny she turned her eyes and saw a certain monk kneeling before the sacred icon of the Theotokos that was in the pantry, speaking to the Mother of God the following: "Is it your will, My Lady, to drive out the pernicious plague from this island, of which your most sweet Son and God, in His compassion and providence, appointed me as protector and guardian?" Akakia then heard a voice coming forth from the icon, which said to the monk: "Yes, true servant of my Son, it is His will to drive it away; for even I myself besought Him concerning this, and He consented." Akakia then saw the monk unwrap a thick cloth that had been wound about his staff he had in his right hand, and he gathered something like fine cotton strands from the cloth on the tip of his staff, then exiting the into the courtyard he scattered them into the wind. Akakia then awoke full of joy and gave thanks to God. She called all the nuns and openly decalred to them what she saw in her sleep. The nuns then gathered in the pantry and offered a Supplicatory Canon before the icon of the Theotokos. After this they spread the word throughout the terrified populace in order to comfort them and for them to take courage from the Saint's protection.

Now a certain woman from Lithavo, from the village of Lakethra, who was married to the son of John Valsamos Pagoulatos, had returned a few days earlier from her parent's village at Lakethra to her husband's village at Valsamata. That night Akakia beheld her vision in the monastery, Mrs. Pagoulatos also beheld a monk in a vision. The monk spoke resolutely to her: "In the morning, when you rise, without delay you are to return to your father's house, lest because of you this entire region should be endangered." In the morning she did as she was told.

News of the two visions spread throughout the island. Now there was another woman, the wife of John Tsakarisianos, from the village of Valsamata, who heard these reports and did not believe them. She openly declared that the nuns and Mrs. Pagoulatos were spreading fables. Then, the following night, she, too, beheld a monk in her sleep. He was holding a staff in his hand with which he struck her on her right side, saying: "It is with falsehoods and fables that I, through the will of the Theotokos, drove out the deadly plague from the island?" The woman then woke up trembling, with a pain on her right side which remained as a confirmation of the vision. She then wept and wailed for her disbelief, and ran to the monastery to confess and repent before the relics of Saint Gerasimos.

The cries of Mrs. Tsakarisianos was heard by the nuns, so they all ran to the church and inquired what happened to her. She then related all that took place. To confirm her words, she exposed that part of her body where she received the blow from the Saint's staff. When they saw the bruised area, which was the color of a nut, they exclaimed, "Lord have mercy!" Then the woman said: "Glory to you, O Saint of God, my pain has passed!" They all together then offered up glory to God, being assured that Saint Gerasimos had delivered thier island.