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December 14, 2021

Katerina Derba, an Ascetic of the World (3 of 3)

...continued from part two.


Eldress Katerina used to say: “A waterfall of Grace and blessing falls from the heaven every morning. God pours, but people sleep. No one is interested in turning to look at how much God loves us, and so the Angels take Grace back."

She said to a well-known young clergyman: "You have one good thing. They call you in the morning, and you're all in the mood. They call you at noon, you never say 'I'm eating'. They call you at night, you never say 'I'm sleeping'. Hold on to this for the rest of your life for all people. Never be busy with yourself. Always be at the disposal of others. This is a great good, I hope God helps you to keep it throughout your life."

"I cannot sit with people my age, because I see that at this age they look like students for 80 years in the first grade. We cannot be in the same class for so many years. We have to go further. And I have nothing to say, because when I say something, they understand something else."

She said of humility: "One day I said to the basil, when I bent down to smell it: 'Why are you so fragrant and yet so low? Grow taller so that people can smell your fragrance more easily.' And the basil answered, 'Eldress, if I become taller I will lose my fragrance.'"

She said about the vanity of the people: "I went out in the garden, I saw the withered roses and I cut them. Next to me I saw the buds, they were all happy and they did not pay any attention to the withered ones. There was a great contrast and I said to the buds: 'Do not be proud, because, in a few days when I will come back, you will wither too.'"

She said to a rose bud one day: "I was where you are and where I am you will be. I was once a bud and see how I became now."

"Nature is an open book. Thousands of secret voices speak for the Creator. But you have to be an expert, but also a slacker, and then you will be able to learn their language."

"I make prayer ropes. Are any knots fruitful or are they all empty worry beads?"

"Priests keep running here and there, they keep doing services, they keep listening and reading. Many times all this can be fake." [That is, if they are not done with the heart.]

"Do not rejoice when you gain any profit, even if it is spiritual, and you ascend. There is a fear of falling."

"Do not be sad when you lose. This lowers you. You step low on the ground and there is no fear of falling."

"Thieves do not go to the poor and the lowly. Thieves always turn their eyes to the great and rich."

"Do not rely on the display cabinet that you see every human being from the outside. You do not see what is in the storehouse [heart]."

"If you ask me I will tell you, if you do not ask me what can I tell you? I do not know poems."

"Grace falls before the sun sets. The soul cools down before dawn."

"Wake up in the middle of the night, say your prayer, shed a hot tear with pain of soul, with deep repentance, to heal your soul."

"If your daily life is poor, do not despise it. Judge yourself that you are not a poet enough to make life a beautiful poem and beautiful music."

"We have to shorten our way to go where God wants us to go. We look at things from the outside. You do not enter with the outside. You will go inside to find it."

"Do not be afraid of temptations. It is manure. Do not be afraid of the tree that has manure at its root. It will grow. Woe to the tree that has no manure."

Whenever she spoke, she did not sit like an eldress giving advice of high spirituality, but simply spoke with depth and tried to keep you in a deeper relationship with the essentials. She said: "We do not sit cross-legged like that to sit. We have to live something. We cannot waste time. How much longer is our life?"

"Say good morning to your enemy with love and know that at that time you are making a great gift to God."

She said about the Monasteries: "Everything is perfect [the exteriors]. If the monk goes to the depth of things, then he is a monk. Otherwise, if everything is perfect from the outside and has the most beautiful voices and the best services and all that... we still haven't gotten where we should."

"My, my, my! What does the priest do when he is in front of the Holy Table! What is happening at that time! He lowers heaven to the earth."

"The egoist is a machine without oil that makes noise, eats its own insides and tires others."

"There are human tears and there are tears according to Christ. Human tears can be a complaint and a protest. Tears according to Christ do not put anyone as the cause of the tears, but man feels in these tears the love of Christ for him, and then he discovers the depth and breadth of his senselessness and sinfulness."

"When the Saints speak of tears of repentance that purify and sanctify us, they mean the fruitful tears, and not the human tears that can sometimes be diabolical. Let us not be moved by any tears, but the tears according to Christ."

“The Fathers do not speak of tears of protest, grievance, disappointment, and whining, but of tears of gratitude. These are tears of feeling the love of God, and within these tears is the redemption of man. There the soul is purified, there it finds consolation."

She used to say to her grandchildren: "Whatever time you put me to sleep, I will sleep, because my conscience is at rest. This is the most important thing. Make sure you do a self-examination every night and then go to sleep."

She advised her grandchildren in parables and said: “I sowed the seed. If it is good the field will sprout. If not, it will not grow."

"In your life, do not be rigid. To get where you want, you have to go a little over here, a little over there, you have to bend your head. Never go straight ahead."

"Do not always choose the easy way. it is not the best. On the difficult road you will learn how to walk and you will learn to get up when you fall. You do not learn anything on the straight path."

"If our deeds are good and our conscience is clear, we do not fear God."

"Be humble in all manifestations because no one likes arrogance, neither God nor people."

To someone that married a rich man, she advised her: "Be humble, do not fly. Money you have today, you may not have it tomorrow. If you have humility and fall, you will fall softly. But if you are very high [you have pride] and you fall, you will be crushed."

Her Repose

Towards her end she saw a light and said that she was waiting to see who would come to take her. Will they be good or bad? She said: "We must not be afraid of death. It's nothing. It's a light."

While they were waiting for her to die, she told them: "I will not leave yet. I will wait for Fr. Methodios to return from Paris, because I promised him that." And indeed, when he returned, he visited her with her other spiritual children and the Prefect. They did an Unction Service and she was happy, because she really wanted it. They also gave her a bouquet of roses that she loved, and she said: "Thank you very much. I have always loved roses. You did well and brought them now because I would not see them in the coffin."

On the eve she asked to be read a prayer and thanked with a nod.

Shortly before reposing, a young French candidate for the priesthood went and asked for advice: “What can I tell you! The Priesthood is a great thing! If I were a man I would like to become a priest. Humility and again humility. There is nothing greater than humility. Keep this in your life."

Then she got up, went and washed herself, gathered her hair, greeted those present and lay down. She waited for the others to sleep and she left for the next life quietly, peacefully and without noise on 11/18/1978.

Many people gathered at her funeral. There were about 20 priests, university professors and other people in the church who knew and loved her. It looked like a demonstration and a joyful atmosphere prevailed. They took her with honor through Ermou Street, which was full of people, to Hagia Sophia, where they performed the funeral service.

May her memory be eternal. Amen.

(Information about Aikaterina Derva was given by Archimandrite Methodios Alexiou, Vicar of the Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory Palamas of Thessaloniki, Katerina's nephew Evangelia Vittis and her grandchildren Katherine Derba and the now late Constantine Derbas. We thank them.)

Source: Ασκητές μέσα στον κόσμο, τόμος Β΄, έκδοση Ιερού Ησυχαστηρίου «Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος», Μεταμόρφωσης Χαλκιδικής, 2012. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.