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November 12, 2022

Elder Cornelius Marmarinos of Chios (+ 1975)

Chios is an island of many churches, chapels and monasteries. There are 22 native born saints from Chios, the most famous of which are Isidore, Markella and Matrona. This list is soon to include Elder Cornelius Marmarinos, who is in the process of being canonized.  

Cornelius Marmarinos was born in Halkios on the island of Chios in 1885. His birth name was Constantine and his parents were the notary Demetrios Marmarinos and Evanthia Flatsousis. His parents were thrifty and managed to ensure him a good future through education. He attended the Zografio High school of Constantinople.

Seeing in him a love of learning and ingenuity, his uncle, who had large department stores, brought him to America. However, Constantine, who had grown up with island traditions and a love of prayer and holy texts, realized soon enough that he could no longer work at his uncle’s department stores because being a salesman required him to talk for many hours a day, lying to customers to promote the merchandise which went against his spiritual beliefs. He took his prayer rope, left the shop and found himself in a deserted area asking for God’s mercy to help him in his situation.

That night he suddenly heard the sweet voice of the Panagia imploring him to stay where he was as his life was in danger. He remained and in the morning realized he was only steps away from an enormous cliff. This was the first time the Panagia had made her presence known to him and he knew he would devote his life to her. He remained on that spot for 20 days, fasting and waiting for God to reveal his life’s purpose. He again heard the Panagia’s voice who said to him, “My Son’s wish is for you to return to your island of Chios and build a monastery there in my name.”

He returned to his uncle and, with excitement, explained what had transpired and returned to Chios. On the return voyage, he made a stop on Tinos Island where the Panagia appeared to him after his prayers at the Evangelistria Church, telling him, “I will help you to carry out the plans that my Son has set out for you.”

His loved ones were waiting for him on Chios and were ready to give him in marriage as he was an educated man, a rarity those days, and because he could speak English. He was a sought after groom in the Chios community. He declared to his family once and for all that he was going to become a monk and not create a family. His parents did not stand in his way upon seeing his determination.

In 1923, he became a monk at the Monastery of Saint Mark on the Penthodos mountain range, which was the property of the famous monastery known as Nea Moni. This location was made holy with the repose of Saint Parthenios two years after the 1881 earthquake which devastated Chios, and which he had predicted. Initially he took the monastic name Kyrillos (Cyril) and spent his time in prayer and solitary living, especially in the underground cavern which held the remains of Saint Parthenios.

He was praised for his loyalty to his elder, his concentration, his motivation and his love of service to the numerous clergy at the monastery. While on the island of Mytilene for clerical reasons, it was suggested to him that he become ordained. In the village of Kournella he was ordained by Metropolitan Konstantinos Koidakis, who exchanged his monastic name Kyrillos for Kornilios (Cornelius), "Korn" for the village Kournella and "Ilio" the Greek word for sun. He returned as an ordained minister to the Monastery of Saint Mark.

Withdrawn one day in the underground cavern, his spirit travelled to the area of Lazaretto just above his home village of Halkios. Lazaretto was an old leper colony. He had a vision of the Panagia pointing to the exact spot where she wished for him to build a chapel in her honor. He asked for the blessing of the authorities at Saint Mark in order to carry out the path he was put on. With the help of the Panagia, donations came in from strangers and women volunteers arrived from surrounding villages to assist in the construction of the convent. Many of these women took up the monastic life themselves, devoting their lives to the work of Cornelius. He named it Agia Skepi tis Theotokou (Holy Protection of the Theotokos) and it celebrated every year on the 1st of October and later on the 28th of October to coincide with OXI day.

Due to his perfection of the life of virtue, unceasing prayer and strict ascetic life, Elder Cornelius was richly given the grace of the All-Holy Spirit and possessed the gifts of insight and foresight. His liturgies would last for hours due to the enormous amount of names of the living and the reposed that he commemorated. Those who attended his liturgies were thus not able to receive Holy Communion until the afternoon hours. He took care of all the poor, the hungry, the orphans, the destitute and was a father to all.

On November 12, 1975, he reposed and was accompanied by our Panagia, whom he saw in his last moments on earth standing next to him, ready to accompany his pure soul to the heavenly throne of her Son. His body was buried next to the cypress tress at the Monastery of the Holy Protection, and from there later transferred to the sanctuary of the church, which has become a source of many miracles.