Dear Readers: A long time supporter of the Mystagogy Resource Center has informed me that they would like to donate $3000 to help me continue the work of this ministry, but they will only do it as a matching donation, which means that this generous donation will only be made after you help me raise a total of $3000. If you can help make this happen, it will be greatly appreciated and it would be greatly helpful to me, as I have not done a fundraiser this year. If you enjoy the work done here and want to see more of it, please make whatever contribution you can through the DONATE link below. Thank you!
(Total So Far - Day 11: $2740)

May 16, 2021

Father Ananias Koustenis Has Died Due to Complications With the Coronavirus

I almost hate to say what I'm about to write so soon after his repose, because it's going to sound like an "I told you so" comment, but I'm going to say it mainly because if you search the name "Ananias Koustenis" on the internet in English, this is by far the most popular story told about him.

In March 2020 a video began to circulate (which has now been removed by YouTube for violating its rules on spreading unverified information on covid-19, see here) of Father Ananias Koustenis "revealing" to the Orthodox world a "sure protection and cure" for the coronavirus. I can't remember all the details, but apparently an older gentleman from Greece said that Saint Nikephoros the Leper told him through a vision not to be afraid of the new virus (coronavirus), because he would protect and heal all those who have faith and turn to him in prayer.

When news of this alleged revelation spread, churches all over the world began offering prayers and supplications to Saint Nikephoros to ensure they do not catch the coronavirus (see here). Many among the faithful started posting about it on social media and those with Orthodox websites posted about it as well. I myself probably received about half a dozen messages to post about this, since I had been posting a lot about plagues and miracles and Saint Nikephoros and about the coronavirus specifically.

My response at the time was that I was not going to post it, because I did not think it was true. First of all, the fact that this older gentleman who had the vision did not come forward himself to tell us about it was a big red flag to me that what is being spread is nothing but a rumor and false information. We didn't even know his name. Secondly, even if he did come forward, I would most likely still not accept it, because the whole thing sounded occultic to me; basically, if you say such and such magic words, the coronavirus will not affect you in the least. This isn't how God works. Plagues and epidemics and pandemics have happened throughout history, and many saints have died because of them, but suddenly now in an age when we can develope through science and technology a vaccine to prevent us from dying from viruses, God has further decided to help humanity because we just happened to canonize a Saint with leprosy a few years ago? This and many other things about the story just sounded way too silly for me to accept. I said that I would wait to see how this all plays out, and if there is any evidence that emerges that indicates this is true, I will post about it, but for now I was going to avoid it and side with caution, though if people want to pray to Saint Nikephoros, by all means do so, however my main concern was that they would use the prayer as a meaningless magic formula, like abracadabra, to bring about a "sure" result.

Time passed, people prayed to Saint Nikephoros, but the news of it sort of faded away, and so did my interest in the story. Then just a few minutes ago I found out that Father Ananias Koustenis has died due to complications with the coronavirus. What does this mean based on everything we have said so far? It means that either Father Ananias chose to never pray to Saint Nikephoros both before and during his struggle with covid-19, which is unlikely if he really believed what he preached over a year ago, and I'm sure he did believe it because he was a man of deep piety, faith and integrity, or he was just wrong about the whole thing. To me it is clear that Father Ananias was wrong, and he got a taste firsthand how wrong he was. Does it mean he was a bad person for this or that his legacy should be defined by this momentary lapse of judgment? Absolutely not. Father Ananias was one of the best and this is how he should be remembered. This is why I will now be silent on the matter and give a short obituary, with all of us having learned a great lesson of wisdom and discernment when it comes to how we should approach rumors that cannot be verified especially when it should be very easy to verify, but even more so to reject any magic formulas against any sickness or disease, but to only seek healings and miracles with faith and the humble acceptance of the will of God no matter what happens.

Archimandrite Ananias Koustenis was born in 1945 in Dimitsana of Arcadia in the Peloponnese, and became a monk at a young age. He studied Theology and Byzantine Philosophy at the University of Athens. Being very educated and a lover of the writings of the Church Fathers as well as secular literature in order to offer answers to the troubles of contemporary people, he wrote many books (including his translations of Byzantine texts into Modern Greek, such as the hymns of Romanos the Melodist and the Chronogrophy of Theophanes) and became famous for his sermons, being known as the "rock star" priest because the people loved him so much. He was especially well known in the Athenian neighborhood of Exarcheia, where every time he liturgized there in the Chapel of Saint Nektarios, a great crowd would gather to hear his words. When he was asked years ago on a Greek television program about how he felt being known as the "rock star" priest, he replied: "I feel very good about it, because Orthodoxy is anarchy." He went on to explain: "One is an anarchist, who is neither a servant nor a tyrant to others. You have to be cool to be an anarchist."

He was very close to Saint Porphyrios when he was still alive and often referred to him in his sermons. With this he also had a special love for the heroes of the Greek nation, such as the New Martyrs under the Turks, General Theodoros Kolokotronis, General Makriyannis, Dionysios Solomos, Alexandros Papadiamantis and so forth, and not only did he often refer to them in his sermons but he also wrote books about them. He had a great love for all the Saints of the Church in general, and often preached and wrote about them. His spiritual gift was his special way in which he took care and built up his flock and spiritual children, especially in their time of need.

Father Ananias was admitted into Attica Hospital in early April due to complications with the coronavirus, and after a long battle he finally reposed on Saturday night of May 15, 2021.