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December 5, 2020

Elder Gabriel the Agiovarnavitis (+ December 5, 2013) - Part 1 of 2


Elder Gabriel Siokouros, the man of God, came from Lysi of Cyprus. As a layman, as a Hieromonk and as Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Barnabas after the invasion of the Turks, he was a man of prayer, sacrifice and love. His desire and longing was to offer everything to the Church, to help all people, especially young people and to lead them to the Church, to Christ. He served in Missions and Philanthropy with all his soul. He was a fighter who gave it his everything

Returning from Mount Athos in 1974 where he had remained for two years in order to perfect the art of Iconography, and before leaving for his Monastery in Cyprus, he learned of the Turkish invasion. Unable to return to his homeland and to his favorite Monastery of the Apostle Barnabas, because they had been occupied and destroyed by the Turks, he remained in Greece for several years. He settled in Nafplio, in the Monastery of Saint Demetrios of Karakalas and served there as a Priest.

It was considered a great blessing to meet him in the monastery, to talk to him, to listen to his advice, to learn from his humility, his patience, his love, his meekness. He disarmed you with his smile. He made you forget your pains and anxieties, your fears for the future. Many spiritual children talk, even now, about his discernment, his appropriate advice, his effort to make you fight more. It was also a blessing to visit him in Cyprus, to be hosted by his family, his mother Haralambou, Gregorou his sister and the beloved Panagiotis, as well as the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon of Achera where he lived then. In Cyprus people who knew him speak of many incidents of his life. From a young age he was very often withdrawn in the Chapel of Saint Euphemianos on the outskirts of Lysi. And there in his own hermitage he spent hours praying for everyone and everything.

He prayed so simply, so powerfully, with such faith, without the slightest doubt, and God always answered his prayers. He fought for the Monastery of the Apostle Barnabas in the occupied territories and had the pleasure of liturgizing again at his tomb and in his church.

He reposed peacefully on December 5, 2013. Many speak of the miracles of Elder Gabriel immediately after his death. May we have his prayers and his blessing and let us remember his words: "Prayer should be a source of joy and not forced. Anxiety exists where there is no Faith, Hope, Love and Trust in God. Do all things with peace, glorification, thanksgiving, and supplication to God."

Recollections of Elder Gabriel the Agiovarnavitis

By Dr. Haralambos M. Boussias
Great Hymnographer of the Church of Alexandria

He Held Christ Bloodied in His Hands

The Comforter Spirit, as a "violent breath" had entirely purified from sin Elder Gabriel from his youth, and as one who was equal to the angels he had begun his journey towards incorruption, towards eternity, towards the Kingdom of heaven.

For this reason he was found worthy to see good things and events "which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man" (1 Cor. 2:9).

During the difficult years of the invasion of our Cyprus by the barbarous Attila, the Elder was at the Holy Mountain where far away he hurt even more, because he was living the struggles of his homeland, the struggles of his Monastery, the struggles of his acquaintances.

He prayed continuously, but as a human he suffered. He suffered for the situation that had come upon all of Hellenism.

He would say: "For our sins and our distancing from the divine will, God has permitted our trial."

In spite of his deep and undying faith in our Jesus who is the just judge and liberator, the events deeply affected his sensitive heart, which did not take long to present themselves as serious problems, so that he was repeatedly hospitalized at the NIKE Hospital for Priests.

His beloved mother, the revered Haralambou, forsook her refugee acquaintances and went to Athens to support him, and from then on remained by his side.

When his health was later stabilized, he was sent Pachomios from Elder Akakios, to serve as the Liturgist of God the Most High in the then deprived of a Priest Holy Monastery of Saint Demetrios of Karakalas in Nafplio.

The coming of the Elder was a great blessing and an ideal situation for the Monastery, since he had no other obligations.

Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Argolidos gave the consent and the Elder was established in the Monastery, where he remained for seven years, having gathered his mother and later his sister and restoring many other souls from the surrounding places by his priestly stole.

He did not remain, however, only in the spiritual. He also occupied himself with iconography, so as not to burden the Monastery with its expenses, but to be able in accordance with the words of Paul: "You yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me" (Acts 20:34).

At the Monastery of Karakalas the nuns and his family near the Elder experienced unique moments. They experienced miracles!

One morning, as the Elder stood before the Holy Altar with the fear of God and said with compunction: "The Lamb of God is broken and distributed; broken but not divided. He is forever eaten yet is never consumed, but He sanctifies those who partake of Him," his mother was found worthy to see the Elder hold in his honorable hands the Lord slaughtered and they were dipped in blood.

She saw it other times as well, to the point where one time she was unable to endure it and she grabbed the hand of her daughter Gregorou, who was next to her, and said:

"My daughter, my son is holding Christ in his hands and he is full of blood!"

When she mentioned this to the Elder, he did not say anything. Who knows how many heavenly situations he had experienced, and how many revelations he had sensed in his priestly career!

He continuously lived in the cloud of God's wonders as an earthly angel, a citizen of heaven.

"Prostrations and Fasts You Cannot Do."
"You Should Only Come To Confession!"
"Bring Also Another Soul!"

When the Elder ministered at the female Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, burdened souls would come to find rest at his priestly stole.

After confession he would take most of them to the "exhibition" of the Monastery, and he would buy various products sold by the nuns and he would give them as a blessing!

Others after confession would ask for certain spiritual books to buy. This request became a problem for the nun who was responsible. The problem was solved when a certain pilgrim who was praising the Elder said:

"When I first came to confession, I expected him to give me a big penance and I already had a negative bias in my head. To my great surprise, however, I heard the Elder say: 'Well, as for you my child, prostrations and fasts you cannot do. Instead you should find the such and such discourse of Saint John Chrysostom, and read it.'"

This nun also recalls how a certain middle-aged lady, who frequently came to the Elder, would always bring another soul with her for confession. One time she confided in the nun:

"I whom you see before you once was in the profession of sin and made many souls stray. When I met Elder Gabriel, I was able with his prayers to change my life. When I asked what penance he would put on me, he said:

'Your health, my child, does not allow you to do prostrations or to fast. For you I only want you to try, whenever you come to confession, to bring also another soul, to confess. Thus, in this way, we will try to correct the wickedness within us and to receive remission for those souls that were harmed for so many years, when you carried them into sin.'

For this reason, every time I come, I try to bring at least one soul for confession."