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August 16, 2021

Elder Ephraim of Arizona and the Holy Skull of Saint Joseph the Hesychast

By Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona

When we did the exhumation of the Elder, three years after his repose, we removed him with an amber color - this is a sign of holiness. All his holy relics were like amber.

At the exhumation, all the brothers who were there said, "I will take this," "I will take the other" and I said to myself: "I will not speak at all, whatever they give me."

Father Athanasios took his hand, saying:

"This little hand saved me, with the batteries I was eating!"

And while everyone was taking a piece of his holy relic for a blessing, I was sitting aside. Then Elder Arsenios turns and says:

"Give the head to Papa-Ephraim."

"May it be blessed. Thank you very much."

Another intended to take it, because our entire brotherhood was there. In this way I did not put my will anywhere and took the head of my holy Elder.

At New Skete I put it in the chapel next to my cell. At the Sacred Monastery of Philotheou I had it in my cell and now in Arizona it is placed in the Chapel of Saint Panteleimon, and it is fragrant from the time of New Skete until today continuously. And it is a very paradoxical mystery that as the years go by, it is even more fragrant.

And when I begin either my vigil or the Divine Liturgy or any ministry, I go and prostrate before him, receive his blessing and am obedient even today.

The relics of the sanctified Elder Joseph, wherever they may be, everywhere they are fragrant and perform miracles for all those who venerate them according to the faith that everyone has.

Always on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos we have a festival and in the afternoon of the same day we do the memorial service for our Elder, whom we absolutely believe to be a contemporary Saint.

Once in the Monastery of Philotheou, when we took his head out of its decorated case, to do the memorial service, it was very fragrant and especially in front of the mouth.

We wondered why more in the mouth and then a monk blurted out to tell me:

"Elder, do you know why it is fragrant from the mouth? Because he continually said the prayer with it."

Indeed, he was right, that is the truth! Because whether it was the prayer, which he said with his mouth, whether it was the saving words of God, which always came out of this mouth for the benefit of all, whether it was his complete avoidance of arrogance and reproach, whether it was his pedagogical words for the perfection of his submissives, whether it was his melodious chanting, which he received from God, everything came out of his mouth. May it therefore be blessed and thrice-blessed. That is why from his head his mouth is much more fragrant than any other part of it.

Source: From the book Γέρων Ιωσήφ ο Ησυχαστής και Σπηλαιώτης (1897-1959). Translation by John Sanidopoulos.