January 23, 2021

Eldress Philothei Agiometeriotissa (+ December 9, 2020)

By Archimandrite Demetrios Kavvadias
On Saturday, January 16, 2021, a Holy Hierarchical Forty-Day Memorial Service was held at the Holy Monastery of Rousanou at Meteora for the repose of the servant of God Philothei the Nun, Abbess of this Holy Monastery.

In the world she was known as Sophia, one of the seven children of Priest Michael and Presvytera Andromache Kosvyras, who saw the light of day on March 31, 1949 in the town of Kalambaka. Her family was originally from Agnantia, Trikala, but they went to Kalambaka for more security because at that time the wider region as well as all of Greece was groaning from the sufferings of the civil war which came to complete the evil brought to our homeland by World War II. The priests and their families were also targeted and so Father Michael lived with his family in Kalambaka.

The pious Priest was found worthy of honorable old age, and having reached 97 years old in 2013 the Lord called him to Him. He became a well-known clergyman of the area and for a long number of years he was the General Hierarchical Commissioner of the Agnantia region who supervised six villages.

Little Sophia graduated from Elementary School only. However, the Holy Spirit who dwelt within her guided her steps to the Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Stagiades, which was founded in the heyday of Byzantium, in the year 1004. Her choice was a one-way path. Her priestly family, her modesty and timid character, her piety, her love for the Divine Liturgy and the services led her to the ancient male monastery which only a year and a half prior began operating as a female monastery. The abbess at that time was the pious Eldress Theonymphi Kantartzis (+ 2013) from Volos, accompanied by six other sisters in her entourage. The Monastery of Stagiades belonged to the hierarchical region of Agnantia and the young Sophia, with the approval of her own, entered into repentance at the dawn of 1970, on January 14th. After eleven months, on November 7, she became a rasophor nun from the Metropolitan of Triki and Stagi Seraphim, receiving the monastic name Philothei along with the wish to match the virtues and works of Saint Philothei of Athens, as it was indeed done in the course of her monastic life.

She remained in the monastery for eighteen years, practicing obedience and all the virtues and working tirelessly for the renovation and promotion of the historic Monastery of Stagiades.

In the autumn of 1988, the Metropolitan of Triki and Stagi, Alexios, approved the transfer of eight sisters and had them installed in the Monastery of Rousanou at Meteora for the revival of this Monastery, which after the repose of the pious Eldress Eusevia from Kastraki in 1971, remained closed and was thus slowly collapsing. The decision to officially transform the Monastery into a convent of course found many obstacles, but the Monastery was chosen from above as a residence for virgins in recent years. Thus, on October 17, 1988, Sister Philothei and seven other sisters, Dionysia, Eunice, Veronica, Irenaea, Nektaria, Thekla and Syncletiki, by the order of the Holy Metropolis, settled on the historic rock of Rousanou honoring the Transfiguration of the Lord and the Great Martyr Barbara. Metropolitan Alexios supported the sisterhood with special love and care in order to facilitate their settlement there and to begin calmly and smoothly the path of spiritual progress and reconstruction of the Monastery. In a span of two years he gave all the sisters the Great Schema. First of all, Sister Philothei was elected on February 17 of the following winter of 1989, and she was immediately assigned the duties of abbess, since she was "voted" by the sisterhood before the Metropolitan.

Since then and for 32 whole years, Eldress Philothei worked tirelessly for the renovation of the Monastery and its expansion. She took over a collapsing monastery and with diligence, frugality and good management delivered a masterpiece as the dilapidated building was restored and the Monastery was expanded to an adjacent rock where new cells and workshops were created. The Metropolitan of Stagi and Meteora Seraphim on October 22, 1996 laid the foundation stone for this project. All this was done with respect to the tradition of Meteora and the historicity of the place. The surrounding area was beautified and decorated with flower gardens.
She also founded and decorated with appropriate murals the chapels of the Nativity of the Theotokos and Saint Barbara and created two estates with farms. All these works were done with her humility and hard work and thanks to the unpaid work of the sisterhood. Everywhere there was beauty, order, cleanliness, and housekeeping that betrayed the "managerial mind", that is, the Eldress.

Also with the modesty of her character and her virtue, she became a magnet of attraction to the Monastery. Thus, not only was her work supported by people who supported her every effort but she managed to increase her sisterhood with many good sisters who are today the future of the Monastery.

The Eldress shined in the Monastery not with her knowledge, her great words, or the demonstration of her office, but with her virtue.

She always had a benevolent expression with a sweet and light smile that "captured" all souls, even the most difficult ones. This smile was not the result of technique but the fruit of her purified and loving heart and reflected the peace of her soul. She knew well her limits as well as the limits of every soul near her. That is why she activated love and prayer above all else. Without these two virtues, her work could not be crowned with success and be fixed for the next generation.

Although she lagged behind in human knowledge and wisdom, she did not lag behind in illumination since, first of all, she maintained in her pure soul the spirit of apprenticeship and obedience. This is because he who submits to one, submits to all while preserving his soul from many things. The Eldress proved this again and again. She maintained obedience and humility towards the head of the authority without conflicts and problems. The blessed Metropolitans Alexios and Seraphim as well as the current Theokletos testify to this.

Eldress Philothei never forgot her mother Monastery. That is why she supported like a daughter her Eldress Theonymphi and her former co-ascetics in their many difficulties, always remembering the blessed days of her life that she shared with them.

She has always been humble and obedient to the decisions of the Council of Abbots of the Holy Monasteries of Meteora to support with her signature the rights of the sacred place.

For her humility towards her spiritual fathers they testify themselves. The late Metropolitan Alexios and the Elder Isidoros Varlaamitis happily served the Rousanou Monastery in the Mystery of Confession. When Elder Isidoros, due to old age, resigned from the clergy of the Monastery, the Eldress addressed Mount Athos for the solution of the issue. The Monastery was now taken over by Elder Ephraim, Abbot of the Holy and Most Great Monastery of Vatopaidi on Mount Athos. In this way we could say that through Eldress Philothei the "much-longed for coupling" of Holy Meteora with the Holy Mountain monasticism took place, a fact which, God willing, is expected to bear fruit in the progress of monasticism in general. One of the first fruits of this relationship is the arrival at the Rousanou Monastery of the copy of the Holy Icon of the Panagia Paramythia on January 28, 2020. Eldress Philothei humbly welcomed the Panagia and addressing her, she entrusted her with the protection of the Monastery, the sisterhood and the pilgrims. Among other things she said:

"Our Panagia is the one who covers the whole world under her omophorion and listens favorably to the concerns, needs and questions of every suffering person, giving as a loving mother the solution to every problem, whether of a spiritual, social or national nature....

The gladsome and consoling look of our Panagia and the serious form of our Christ I am sure will become an occasion for the salvation and redefinition of many souls and the relief of many suffering people....

In a world where God is marginalized or sought after in the wrong ways, the grace of the sacred icon will move and overwhelm many souls and become the occasion for their re-evangelization and salvation."

The Eldress in the Monastery held an imposing but at the same time invisible presence and captivated everyone not with her natural appearance but with the solemnity that she radiated and her virtue. With her sweet and all-encompassing voice she adorned the proportions of the Monastery. Her chanting - carefree, humble, without boasting - betrayed her pure heart, which was a sacrificial altar of the love of Christ. Her love, forgiveness and forbearance are commonplace on the lips of her spiritual children. She did not want others to serve her, not even in the small and obvious. As an Abbess, she did not accept anything special for her office (portions, treatments, gifts, ministry).

Her humility was evident from the fact that she avoided rebukes especially in public, as well as remarks. She had to find the sister in particular and at an appropriate time after the temptation had passed to say what was due for her correction. That is why the clergyman of the Monastery said: "It is a great virtue to have the right from your office to rebuke and remark and to do it only when necessary." When she was urged to reprimand, she replied with a smile: "If you remember why you came to the monastery, that is enough! However, I am not your prison-guard!” In addition, with pure thoughts she supervised the Monastery without watching and suspecting the sisters.

The Eldress served the Monastery, managing her goods for the good of the sisterhood and whoever needed help from the Monastery. That is why she will be remembered by everyone for her support and philanthropy.

She also worked for the good and progress of the Monastery not for her own promotion but for the glory of God without being tied to anything. "Even if everything were lost, and the Church told me to leave here, I was never tied to the material, but only to Christ and so everything will be rebuilt," she said. And indeed: the monastic is a worker and a manager and never an owner and ruler - another feature of the humble monastic who looks forward only to the heavenly goods.

Eldress Philothei spent her humble life worshiping the Lord of glory in prayer, in services, in liturgy. Based on her participation in the liturgical life of our Church, with unwavering observance of the traditional monastic order, with an untiring and tireless disposition as a worker, she left in her sisterhood an "example, and you must follow in her steps" [1 Peter 2:21].

Her forbearance, grace, kindness, hospitality, philanthropy, love became the components of her monastic and abbess ministry and at the same time her legacy to the sisterhood and the spiritual children of the Monastery.

In every way, the Eldress took care of and secured the Holy Monastery. Thus, with excellent cooperation with the Bishops, during the bishopric of Alexios, the Monastery was transformed into a nunnery on April 5, 1989. During the bishopric of Seraphim, she was officially appointed Abbess on February 23, 1993 (when she received the staff), the foundation of the new buildings on October 22, 1996 and the delivery to the Monastery of its forty manuscript codexes by the treasury of the Monastery of Saint Stephen on March 20, 2009. During the bishpric of Theokletos, the Internal Regulations of the Monastery were approved on November 7, 2018 as well as the election of the Eldress and Abbess of the Nuns, Maximis and Seraphimia, on March 26, 2019.

Having completed the cycle of her earthly ministry, she remained in prayer as she entered the stage of the forty-day fast at Christmas 2020. Unfortunately, her heart was measured by the pain of mourning that came to the sisterhood from the painful death of Sister Irenaea, who although healthy died, as a result of the deadly virus. But the Eldress also received the pedagogical visit of the disease, fighting with the deadly virus and praying until its end, which came on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, on the feast of the Dormition of Saint Anna.

When the Eldress was in bed at the hospital, many people prayed for her. Even more people prayed after her death, remembering her love and benevolence to everything. Her brave contribution to newly established Monasteries, heads of families, passers-by, the sick, and her sweet smile, helped and supported many broken souls.

The simple, unpretentious and closed-door funeral service in various ways and points relieved the sisterhood. Now, freely and without local-chronological obstacles, she oversees the work for which she was consumed and prays for it.

The deadly disease of the 21st century, deprived us of the physical presence of many loved ones, clergy and laity. The gift of life and the gift of health are precious. However, studying the lives of the clergy and monastics who fell asleep during this period, we observe that they all had fullness of life and activity and then some, many more had the good testimony from outside as well as numerous circles of spiritual children who continue their ministry.

That is why we dare to say that the disease took good and distinguished clergy and monastics and thus enriched the heavenly Altar and the heavenly Monastery from where they pray for all of us that "remain" [1 Thess. 4:15].

The Holy Metropolis of Stagi and Meteora, various representatives of the Parliament, the local self-government and associations were present for the funeral of Eldress Philothei. All of them had a common position about the holy figure: the venerable personality of the Eldress and her philanthropy.

But more than that, the best - by far - placement was given to the "funeral letter greeting" written by the sister of the Holy Monastery of Saint Stephen at Meteora, participating from the bottom of her heart in the mourning of the neighboring Rousanou Monastery. Through this greeting the reader is introduced to the true spirit of monasticism and comes in contact with elements previously taken from the lives of the saints from monasticism such as the elements from the pen of St. Theodore the Studite and in the funeral greeting of the contemporary Abbess Euphrosyne . These elements are combined and relate in full application to the late Eldress. The synaxaric verses composed by the inspired Agiostefanitissa hymn-writer nun also makes an impression:

"Beloved Philothei departs from the earth,
Leaving her children the diagram of her life.
On the ninth the foremother Anna received our amma."

In just three verses the identity is given, the component of the ministry and the position of the Eldress whose soul was received by Saint Anna.
Blessed are those that You have chosen and taken, Lord!

Her soul shall dwell in good things! [Psalm 24:13]

And may her memorial be to generation and generation!  [Psalm 101:13]

May we have her blessing!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.