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May 6, 2021

Stories About Saint Sophia the Ascetic of Kleisoura


 By Fr. Elias Makos

"Patience ... A lot of patience ... Patience a lot."

"Pride is an ugly thing ... Dirt to dirt ... Pride casts the soul into hell."

Many who met Sophia the ascetic of Kleisoura in Kastoria (1886-1974) - whose memory is celebrated on May 6th, who from her great humility was found worthy of doing miracles and was canonized in 2012, though she was despised by the world - report that she often said these words, which very accurately characterized her inner world.

Her whole life, since she was born in Pontus, was full of trials, having lost her two year old child, and a little later her husband, and being uprooted from her land.

In 1927, at the urging of the Panagia, she found refuge in the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kleisoura of Kastoria, where she lived as a laywoman in obscurity and constantly humiliated.

It was this death, the sacrifice of the ego, that was the hallmark of her holiness.

The fruits, which God gives, were confirmed as well in the case of Saint Sophia; those who voluntarily choose to become His children, they are so for this life as well as in the future.

Although Saint Sophia was usually hunched over (she rarely stood up), poorly dressed, almost barefoot, with minimal nourishment (oily greens, pickles, dry bread, grapes, tomatoes) and often fasting, with her hair reaching down to her waist, becoming a solid mix, and never allowed a single strand to be cut, she was truly free.

And as if truly free, she was a woman of love, of honer, of righteousness.

Pilgrims who visited her narrate various incidents, all of which conclude that every moment, every day she took a step towards sanctification.

According to some of these stories, she slept near a fireplace, having a stone as a pillow, from which in the winter months, when it snowed a lot in the area, snow entered and fell on her, and it was very cold in winter, and very humid in the summer.

It didn't bother her at all. When she was asked, "How do you bear it?" she would reply: "I look up" (she meant to heaven).

When Kleisoura was set on fire by the German-Bulgarians in 1944, but also in the years 1947-1949, during the civil strife, many people ran to the Monastery of the Panagia for shelter.

She welcomed them with her heart, took care of them and constantly comforted them: "Do not be afraid. The Panagia hangs around here and protects the Monastery."

She was so friendly with the Panagia that she often felt that she saw her in front of her.

She repeated: "The Panagia brought me here and I rejoice with her joy."

One afternoon the Saint was sweeping the corridor from the church to the outside of the Monastery with great diligence, and when a believer, who came to venerate, asked her why she was cleaning, she replied: "I am sweeping because our Panagia will pass through here tonight ... It must be clean."

When the visitor asked, "Does the Panagia pass through here?" she answered spontaneously: "Yes ... I have seen her pass through here."

To those who went to see her, and there were not a few, she greeted them with joy, saying: "Welcome my birds."

And they fell into her arms and sensed, as they claim, her fragrance, even though she was sloppy and unwashed.

She was accused, slandered, even dragged to court, but she did not react, she only prayed.

Prayer was her spiritual weapon. She bombarded God with prayers, night and day.

She fought with the demons incessantly. When, once, she realized that they had possessed and devoured a young man, she shouted very harshly: “You are damned, and you want to damn the child! Leave the child!"

She anticipated the visits, telling the pilgrims their names without knowing them beforehand.

She sometimes revealed: "The Panagia said to me: 'There come to us, Sophia, those who are good, and those who are bad also come.'"

She also predicted various events. Based on testimonies, she had predicted, a year prior, about the events in Cyprus: "There will be a war ... Greek blood will be shed ... But far from here."

To a woman, who she was guiding spiritually, she confided three days before her death: "The Panagia said to me: 'In three days you will come with me.' I am going with her."

Saint Sophia showed, yes, she showed with her actions, how Christ was inside her.

Everything in her was not hers, it was Christ's. It was what Christ wanted.

Her thoughts were the thoughts that Christ wants.

Her desires were the desires that Christ wants. Her decisions were the decisions that Christ wants.

Her words, despite her simplicity, were words that Christ wants. Her works were works advised by Christ.

And she attained this, because she opened her soul wide and the divine Light poured in abundantly. This is why her conscience showed her the correct path, the Christian way of life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.