Eldress Galaktia: A blessing to the faithful
Eulogy for ELDRESS GALAKTIA
(March 5, 1926 - May 20, 2021)
by Archimandrite Antonios Fragkakis, Preacher of the holy Metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia
Early yesterday morning a great and venerable person of Crete, who had loved Orthodoxy very much, shed her spider-veined and earthern skin as well as her perishable body – a body that she had crucified during her worldly struggles – and flew quietly into the arms of the Lord to receive from His omnipotent hands the rewards of her spiritual ascent.
After her 95 years of radiant life on earth, she was now in the arms of the Lord whom she fervently loved since childhood and whom she followed with Apostolic-like love and self denial. Perhaps, this was the first time this tireless lady allowed “her eyes to sleep and her eyelids to slumber” (Ps. 132:4 (131 LXX) – a lady who from the depths of her heart lived and breathed the goal of inheriting the Kingdom of God.
She was holy, she was charismatic, she was a true ascetic. Should we dare call her a martyr we will not be held in error. From her youth she fervently loved Christ, whom she followed like the faithful Myrrh-bearers. She earnestly applied His life-saving teachings and was fully quenched by the life-giving waters of His love. She served Him by living His example so that His most troubled brothers would follow her example of true repentance. She lived the Holy Trinity’s presence intensely and essentially, even though she was openly and violently struck by the raging waves that the low dragon stirred up during her life’s turbulent sea.
She cried a lot, she loved more, she worked on virtue, she gave herself unselfishly to her fellow man by joyfully offering them her weak skeleton to help shoulder their weights. She dried their tears, she corrected their desires, she lightened their conscience, she calmed their souls, she inspired holy desires, she enlivened the beauties of Paradise, and likewise was guided with parsimony through the fears of hell and assisted a multitude of souls to traverse into eternal life.
She was wronged but forgave those who wronged her; she was slandered as a deceiver yet she herself deceived the saboteur of men and overcame this vain world; she became a heavenly existence, a dewdrop in the Garden of Eden; and lastly she glowed with a sweet scent of incense, offered motherly smiles and blessed everyone. She taught like an energetic athlete, instructed like an experienced guide, and little by little the light of her existence left this transient life so it could rise up into another hemisphere, that of eternal life.
– “How is Eldress Galaktia?” Elder Anastasios (Koudoumianos) of blessed memory asked me once.
– “She has aged,” I replied. “She is bent over...”
– “The branches of trees, once they are full of fruit, are likewise bent over” he responded. “The fruits are offered to all those around according to God’s will and as a blessing to the faithful members of the Church.”
Beneath her sweet, unpretentious and serene surface, bubbled a flowing river full of love and Divine life, which was made manifest by her penetrating and shining gaze, the brilliant light of her face, her most fervent smile, her angelic countenance, and the refreshment of her heart’s outpouring were magnetizing – so much so, that the more she tried to hide the radiance of her soul in obscurity of ignorance and worthlessness, the more God raised her on the lamp stand (Mt 5:15-16).
As a magnet attracts various metals, as the Sun attracts various satellites in the orbit of its influence, so too the Eldress’s reborn soul, unwillingly attracted around her innumerable souls that came to her and were influenced and transformed by her life. Her holiness was well hidden in her simplicity – a disarming child-like simplicity. As the humble manger’s straw in Bethlehem hid the greatness of the incarnate God, so likewise in this simple and humble soul Christ dwelt alive, and made her shine of holiness and spiritual wisdom. She had spiritual depth, the Holy Spirit flowed from her like a raging river through the channels of her soul. A deep and bottomless splash vibrated from the depths of her heart, and only by paying close attention could your “ears hear” (Mt 11:15) it and your soul draw from it to obtain and enjoy the secrets that flowed from this humble soul.
Still more, she would always cloak the most heroic acts of her life as simple and natural acts. Most of her decisions had the feeling of Golgotha, a heroic spirit and a sensational element. Yet Galaktia viewed them all “in faith” and lived through them “in silence”. For they were from the souls that called to Christ, not “crying behind Him” like the Canaanite woman, but in contrition, politely and calmly, like the woman with issue who was content to simply touch the hem of His garment (Mark 5:24-34). With the same contrition the Eldress Galaktia approached Christ and performed His works. That is why she always succeeded. Indeed, Christ did her favors. Her prayers moved mountains. Her utter faith in God’s providence “activated” Divine power within her and performed miracles.
Her Early Years in Pompia, Crete
She was born in the historic and heroic Pompia on March 5, 1926. Her family background functioned as fertile soil for her subsequent spiritual development. Her father was a doctor and god-fearing man. Galaktia used to say: “I never boasted because my father was a doctor. However, I am glad to say that he was a real man and a Christian.” Without seeking pay he was compassionate toward human pain, and he inspired in his beloved daughter an ethos of sacrifice and selflessness. Her maternal grandfather was a priest. And what a priest – a Saint! – of the same spiritual stature as the Holy Elders Parthenios and Evmenios of Koudoumas Monastery. He lived in matrimony for two years and holy widowhood for sixty-six. His nous was so sanctified by asceticism and prayer, that he said with sincerity of heart at the end of his life, that he considered himself unmarried, because he was not accompanied by any memory of his short married life.
Holy Monastery of Koudoumas – holy Elders Parthenios and Evmenios – father Nikolas Fustanakis – Eldress Galaktia: an unbroken chain of transmission of the gift of hesychastic [from hesychia, quiet] life. Among the four distinguished daughters of the legendary doctor of Pompia, Michael Kanakaki, the third one clearly stood out: Galaktia. ...
From a young age she was given to prayer. Unintentionally, secretly, she devoted many hours to prayer but also to the service of her neighbor. Her father’s surgery was considered an ideal place for her to practice “the sport of offering and to burn at the altar of sacrifice”. She took care of the wounds of the sick, sympathized with them existentially, encouraged them to be long-suffering, and secretly gave “from her own wealth.” The same was observed in the house. Galaktia was first to volunteer in everything. Whether it was housekeeping, tending the garden, bringing water, filling surgery orders. Her father, the doctor, seeing her always humble, silent, willing to do any work and indifferent in claiming rights and honor, hugged her and said to her affectionately: “My little Galaktia, raise your stature too. Do not let others take advantage you. I want you to have your voice.”
Her father treated her special; and she loved him. One day, however, at a young age, she said something to him that upset him. Galaktia confessed it to her grandfather the priest and he scolded her. The young Galaktia penanced herself harshly. She would lay face down on the wooden floor of the room and watered it with tears of repentance and begged the Holy Spirit to forgive her. Then one day, while she was in the depths of repentance, the uncreated light of the Resurrection shown in her eyes. At an unsuspecting time, as she went down to the warehouse to get something, a blue-white refreshing flame came unexpectedly from the sky and penetrated her head sweetly and peacefully. It went – as she said – through to her inner “soul”, opened her mental horizons and charismatically widened her heart (Ps 118(119):32). She felt her sins go away, like the dry leaves in the wind and how the strong wind scatters the dry bark from the trunks of the big trees. In this vivid manner is how she herself described this event.
It is understandable from a theological point of view that the heart of Galaktia, which was in great pain from the saving weight of repentance, was pulled hard from the nous and set afire by Divine love. From then on, a holy eros took hold of her that changed her whole life. She kept this great and decisive event of her early youth a secret until her 85th year, when she revealed it to us. It is obvious that God sent her the sweet fruits of Paradise and invited her to the crossroads, which end triumphantly on the wide avenue towards the Resurrection. After this shocking event she did not even want to hear about marriage! What she experienced was an inherent radiance, the first sighting of God that immediately sealed her life’s direction. She said: “When one tastes the holy cake, all other sweets pale in comparison.” And she tasted God empirically, hence she rejected with abhorrence and disgust the sensual pleasures of this world and always “avoided the pleasures of life.”
She acquired another measure with which to evaluate all human things, none other than the Cross of Christ. She was sweetened by the first signs of the immediate divine presence and ran incessantly to find the inexhaustible confectionery of Grace. Worldly grandeur, fancy dresses, majestic buildings, impressive garments, titles and the offices, projection and coquettishness, amusements and the sensual life, repulsed her to the point that oftentimes she would pretend to be ill to avoid them, not having another way to cover the richness of inner fullness.
She developed a special relationship with the Archangel Michael! The precarious health of her favorite niece Antonoula caused her to frequently send offerings to the Monastery of Panormitis on the island of Symi. She sealed the relevant request in a bottle and threw it into the sea. The request went to its destination by sea, and she received the informative answer from the monastery when the little Antonoula spoke the next day. Since then, her relationship with the Archangel was lively, direct, powerful and numerous and continuous miracles testify to this fervent, loving relationship. She threw another bottle into the Libyan Sea, which was found in a deserted church at Anopoli Sfakion (in Crete) and when this was made known the old abandoned church was miraculously renovated and started to function again.
The Archangel continuously showed his favor to the young girl. Once, when she was hard-pressed to accept matchmaking and was about to surrender, she embraced the icon of the Archangel in her bosom and fervently begged him to vigorously intervene and frustrate the match. His intervention once again was swift. There was an earthquake in the house, all the doors unlocked, and a noise disturbed the matchmakers and the family. Her revered father was finally convinced that speaking to Galatia about the matter of matrimony was ineffective and any other attempts would torment her.
Her fervent dedication to God became even more evident during the almost 40 years she lived with her niece Antonia. She loved this child as much as anything in the world. She attended to her almost sacrificially. The particularity of the situation made her already refined soul of Galaktia even more sensitized. She became Antonia’s guardian angel. Together with the child’s parents, she met her every need, like a watchful guardian on the ramparts of her integrity and was adorned with rose petals of her inconceivable love and offering.
She suffered a lot: Attacks by people, insults, ridicule, disputes. It is not easy to tend to a sick child with people treating you harshly and painfully. “Only I and my omniscient God know my cross,” she would say. Nonetheless, she showed them love and forgiveness.
A good swimmer, writes the fifth century Saint Diadochos Bishop of Fotiki, does not swim against the waves but dives below. She did not harm anyone, she did not hold grudges, she did not complain, she did not say anything negative. Above all, she did not open her mouth against anyone, and she did not keep in her soul even a trace of revenge. If anyone made her bitter or hurt her, none of us would ever know …
Together with her heavy Cross, she also cultivated asceticism towards the complete transformation of her heart. She maintained ceaseless prayer and communication with Christ, made innumerable prostrations and continued with ecclesiastical study. She also attended church from early morning and gave special emphasis to silence. Her nephew Nikos once said: “She prayed and fasted as much as all the nuns of Crete together.”
Her godly state and her most fruitful practice, especially her fiery prayer, echoed in the heavenly realms and imprinted the image of Christ on her heart. She regarded prayer as the most important time of human existence. She believed prayer was the strongest societal communication. For this reason, any surplus of agape * that she nourished toward the Savior Christ, she channeled into unceasing prayer. Prayer strengthened her. Through prayer she attracted Grace and increased the virtues of purity, humility, silence and love. Her prayer was so strong and powerful that sometimes, young children, during the Divine Liturgy, saw her bright and otherworldly, rising from the earth and the heavenly angelic brigades surrounding her and chanting with her.
The Pompians and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages of Crete loved and respected her very much. The famous Pompian Manolis Fustanakis, of blessed memory, once told me: “Even if we would examine Galaktia’s life under a powerful microscope, we will not be able to find any evil.” Naturally, as Adam’s descendant, she too had her weaknesses and her human faults. Yet hers were so innocent and childlike that you would overlook them with a smile, because her heart’s intentions were only to bring joy and comfort. Everyone admired the humble and virtuous doctor’s daughter, who burned like incense for others to smell, and melted like fiery beeswax candles to bring forth the light and the glow for the people to enjoy. But, if we wanted to render the greatness of the Eldress in a concise way, we could sum it up in few words: the incarnation of humility and love.
She was truly humble. Bigotry never took hold in her soul. She did not have any complexes because she was free from complex situations, nor did she feel a sense of inferiority because she enjoyed mental fullness. A deep and holy virtue was observed and revealed in her the hospitality and tender-heartedness of herself and made her know herself. She always had the feeling that she was the least of all; she kissed everyone’s hand and asked for their forgiveness. She did not do this out of humility but, with full awareness of her insignificance, she thought that she was so lowly, worthless, and that she still lacked a lot, that she was not where she should be and could be. She was characterized by her good thoughts for her neighbor and ruthless self-criticism for herself. And God, who judges our struggles, lifted her from the depths of her nothingness, to the face of the incomprehensible divinity, because “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12) according to the infallible word of our Lord.
Her love was proverbial and incomparable. She loved everyone, especially the poor and the downtrodden, the lame and the cripple, the needy and the afflicted, travelers and the locals, little children and the elderly, and she discreetly showered them all with her gifts of love. And all this love gave birth to her most discreet alms. I freely confess that she was the most charitable person I have ever met in my life. She took her salary and immediately distributed it. She would say: “I have made an agreement with the Virgin Mary, that I should empty my house and that she should send me what I would need to spend each day”, “sometimes she was late to test me. However, I am not worried because I know that it will definitely come.” “And indeed,” she would continue, “after a few days, it would arrive. The Virgin Mary does not fail on Her word”.
An extraordinary meeting
Until her deep old age, she distributed, giving “to the needy”. Even as an old woman, although having been operated on both of her legs, she would set out a large pot of food so that the lonely old men and a sick old man in the neighborhood would not be deprived of a meal. That is why, shortly before the end, the Seven Archangels, who carry the saints prayers from earth to heaven, visited her. They introduced themselves to her by their names, she did not forget them but retained them in her heart’s memory: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Phanael, Thanael. Uriel told her he guards the abyss. They raised their swords and made a road for her, as she said, to pass. She was taken to a golden palace. This is your dwelling place they told her. In the middle overflowed a golden vessel with crystalline water gushing forth.
– “What is this?” she asked.
– “It is the vessel of your heart,” they replied. “And it overflows from your purity, your silence, your humility and your mercies.”
Antonia’s falling asleep
Little Antonia’s early “falling asleep” cost her dearly. She cried constantly but was comforted by the hopeful expectation of reunion in eternity. In 1998 the Eldress’ health problems began. Due to her physical weakness, she could not take care of the child to the same degree as before. That year my lowly self was also appointed pastor of Pompia. We became very close, like a mother with her child, for twenty whole years. God gave her information in prayer: “I took your Antonia but I sent you an Antonios.” And indeed! I loved her as much as my natural parents, maybe even more. I felt close to her, her unwavering motherly affection and her unceasing care. May the barren ground of my soul be penetrated and bear the life-bearing sweet wine which I saw gush forth from her for so many years in her godly and angelic way of life. …
Relations toward others and prayer
She never boasted. She was aware, not simply of her insignificance, but her absolute nothingness. We found her many times to lament in repentance, slapping her face and calling herself “whore, robber, wretch, pitiful”. She was sad when they praised her because she thought that they did a great injustice to the truth, and went brutally against the just evaluation of God. She rejoiced in the accusations because she perceived them - as she said - as opportunities for correction, repentance and a salutary redefinition of her entire existence. She had established within her a rare and unobstructed factory of good calculations. He had a good reason for everyone. And the most difficult and scandalous actions, he did not pardon them, but kept silent and prayed for those responsible, when he was informed about them. “I am the greatest submissive before God - he said - and I have no right to judge anyone”. He found something good in everyone and that's what he showed. She was interested in good reigning in the attitude of others and in the fabric of society. That's why he finally escaped her and said: "I am burdened with sins and I hope only in the mercy of God, because I have grown old without works of repentance. However, for criticism, I think that I will not give a reason to God, the just judge!..."
She spent the last 20 years of her life in the fruitful practice of holy hesychasm and in the multifaceted implementation of the works of agape love. She lived in unceasing prayer. Her sleep was minimal, her meals even less. She spent her nights in prayer. Her nous, completely sanctified, went its original place, it went to its natural destination. It was activated in the bottomless well of the deep heart, as the Eldress herself described it. From there her nous was catapulted to the heavens. She penetrated sufficiently into God’s ineffable and amazing mysteries. She saw and enjoyed the abundant and bright Light of God, the inalienable glory of the Holy Trinity which is uncreated and homogeneous – as she said – and has no beginning and no end. The sun is but a lamp in front of Him by comparison.
She distinguished in that united, impossible Light, three lights, the hypostases of the Holy Trinity and made unique, empirical descriptions, which only the great Fathers of the Church dared to make. She saw bodiless Light, the Beginingless Father, the God-source. She saw the incarnate Light, the incarnate Word, and described with astonishing clarity His human characteristics. She also saw the third Light, the Holy and Life-creating Spirit, continuing and encompassing the Church, penetrating the hearts of the bishops and the priests stole, and raising them sufficiently in the midst of the prayers and tears of repentance. Pentecost day came – she would say – but has not left. The Holy Spirit moves about in the world with a loud bang, like the sound of “heavy breath” though nobody is paying attention, only those who have activated the secret mechanism of their heart.
With the “binoculars” of the nous and her most meticulous attention, she detected not only the heavens and the depths but also the hiding places of other peoples hearts. She had experiential knowledge of the degrees of heaven. “Heaven,” she would say, “has many degrees of grace that extend to infinity; they never end…” This means that she saw the alternations of the ages. She also let her mind descend to the fiery and dark kingdom of Hell. She saw many, but never disclosed who. “I light candles,” she would say, “I pray a lot and I try to move them into a better place, because they are mixed.”
She charismatically identified with the whole world and saw in herself her father Adam. As his descendant, she considered herself, to be the culprit for whatever bad is happening in the universe. For this reason, in the early morning hours, she made a long improvised, sensational prayer, which included the whole creation and every kind of people “under heaven”.
The radiance of her face and the sweetness emanating from her heart attracted a large crowd of people to her, especially young people, who came to her because they saw the everlasting and immortal vitality of a brittle and tired world: a spiritual and anointed soul in a skinny and old body. She herself felt like a mother. She especially embraced the most sinful ones, raising their hopes, strengthening their mind towards a spiritual repentance, emphasizing the endless dimensions of the Divine Mercy, and the infinity of God’s love in the world. She lovingly imprisoned convicts in the cells of her heart, in order to liberate them from the chains of their passions and to give them inner freedom. She did not, however, allow anyone to be discouraged. She repeated in her own way, the saying of Saint Nikon: “After departing this life, there is no possibility for repentance.”
Words of spiritual wisdom
Her legacies were simple and practical but full of spiritual wisdom and grace.
- “The tongue is Satan’s best friend.”
- “You need four things: love, humility, silence and secret almsgiving.”
- “Confess as you should, so that the devil will not have any hold on you.”
- “Let us not malign others, because then God will malign us when he returns to the world.”
- “Pray with the prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, but add also the Trinity. I pray like this: “Father, forgive me, Jesus Christ have mercy on me, Holy Spirit enlighten me.”
- “Whoever fears does not fear.” (That is, he who is afraid to sin is not afraid of anything.)
Contemplation – Her Theoria
The constant contemplation of God’s Uncreated glory, which the Elderess had to the degree of Deification, consolidated in her the sense of nothingness and an aversion of herself. At the same time the charismatic state of repentance as a mystery and a lasting experience was magnified in her. She would say:
“From my heart I can see what God is and what I am. God is everything and I am a nothing. I thank him, however, for showing me how messed up I am and giving me the opportunity to repent. I live the mystery of His Love daily, whatever I ask for He gives me. He does not deny me anything, even if I am His most naughty child. He treats me like a child bringing him good news. He takes care of me and supports me to the extent that I can not stand it, even though He ought to give me water to drink from New York’s sewers and not that from my own village because it is clean.”
The closer she got to God and empirically studied His unexplainable Uniqueness, the more she would lower in her soul her own self worth and cried rivers of tears seeking the mercy of God. And the generous Creditor endowed her from the storehouses of His Love with rare gifts: foresight, strong clairvoyance and prophecy.
She considered all these gifts to naturally be for everyone, because she had proactive purity and childlike simplicity. ...
And the Eldress had a rare gift to discern the spirits, which defines sound Theology. She was considered a New Testament prophetess, because she was a true hesychast. She perfectly distinguished the difference between the psychological from the spiritual, between the created and the uncreated. She said:
“The demons come in various forms, especially when I pray at night. Sometimes they become horrible monsters and try to scare me and other times, especially in the beginning, they would disguise themselves as good spirits and try to deceive me. But their stench betrays them. Spiritual stench, which is not perceived by the physical sense of smell, stinks worse than that of worm-eaten animal intestines and 16-day-old rotten meat. The Divine strengthens the tears of repentance and humility, pacifies, and makes the soul stronger. The demonic ones, no matter how camouflaged they are, create turmoil, fear, pride, and you get caught up in the stench of nausea. Your insides are disturbed.”
Many times I saw her as being caught up in a state of Divine rapture, immersed by her heart in the here and there, and thrown into the celestial worlds bright and “unaware” for what was happening around her. She would say she could see that her natural eyes changed by the Divine Light that was brightly shining down to the depths of her soul, changing them, so that throughout her whole body, from the hair on her head to the nails of her toes, all her senses became one. Christ reigned everywhere and she did not know where she actually was during all the times that the Holy Spirit visited her. She would say definitively that “the tongue cannot describe these things and the mind cannot fathom them – neither could an angel’s mind understand. I wonder how there can be people who claim not to believe.”
The evil spirits’ stench that she sensed was due to the fact that she herself prayed mentally in her heart. She felt – as she said – her heart murmur, especially at night when she lived “intense spiritual rejoicings”. She was fragrant with the incense of the Holy Spirit, which is why she could discern the deathly odor and the foul stench of the unclean spirits. Through her hesychastic prayer she activated the Holy Chrism in her heart. This is what the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John means when he writes: “We have received Grace from the Holy one and we know Him (1 John 5:20). The Grace is the activation of the holy Chrism in the heart, mental prayer and the enlightenment of the mind, situations that when absent, the germ of conceit can easily enter the inner room (Matthew 6:6) and make man conceited and disintegrate by the worm of delusion, and become like a hollow meaningless fruit cake, and in the end be lost. ...
The priests of our Metropolis, at least those who have spiritual discernment, loved her as their mother. And she loved them as her children. The miracles from her prayer... innumerable, but that is not for now. Let those who were benefited by her speak about them. I do not want my words to be considered a subjective alteration of reality and an emotional elevation of the moment [of her departure].
Someone indiscriminately recently said to her:
– “Too bad, Eldress, that I did not meet you earlier. A certain monk made mention of you during our meeting that you were in prelest, and that if we speak with you we will be contaminated!!!”
Yet the humble and forgiving Eldress, with surprise and spontaneity, without a trace of turmoil or anger, replied:
– “I wonder, dear child, why you should have known me earlier. I am no greater than others; rather, I truly lack in many things. What the father told you is true. He knows, he is an experienced person. But let him come and absolve me, so that I too can be rid of my sins.” ...
The last years of the Eldress
And I now conclude my meager reference to the Eldress’ giant spiritual caliber, and continue with a brief depiction of the fiery sunset of her earthly life. This period was considered completely different from the previous years in this world’s journey. With her physical strength diminished and her spiritual one flourishing, she looked like very ripe and fragrant fruit. She embodied the apostle’s word: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16).
She sensed the complete homogenization of her inner self. She was completely transformed into a “child”, in the spiritual sense of the word. She rejoiced with the little children, in the presence of those who loved her, she wondered about nature, the little ones of the neighborhood, the song of the birds, the sound of the rain, the rustling of the air, even the branches of the trees. She felt the whole creation in harmony with her heart, in communion with God. It is obvious that she had heard “the words of the beings” mentioned by Saint Maximos the Confessor. The heart – he said – has many sensory forces, which man ignores, as they are impeded by sins. When the Grace of God activates these mysterious inner-soul mechanisms, the Divine presence is actively observed in all the surrounding physical space. Then one realizes that even the soulless inanimate things of this world also praise the Creator, much like the Hymnologists, and the heart refined by Grace.
More recently, her universal motherhood had become more evident from the fact that she spiritually conceived and noetically gave birth to many contemporary Christians. Despite her old age, her spiritual antennae were attune and she acted with great discernment, prudence, and humor. She told high truths as a distillate of her life, but in a very clever and graceful manner, in order to guide others to salvation, without exhausting herself mentally and her maternal awakening having the best possible result with surgical precision. She never behaved like a teacher or a nun, though in reality she was an excellent pedagogue and an angelic person, who taught by simple examples, with deep meaningful content, with prayer, silence, subtlety and humor, self-criticism and discreet advice. She would say:
“I see everybody’s thoughts (λογισμοί). Some people come here just to scrutinize me and create problems for others, but I do not care. While they are here, I do not speak, I pray, looking into their hearts and I secretly embrace them with my love. They leave with good thoughts and most of them come back changed.”
When they routinely asked for her blessing, she would say:
“May you have the blessings of the Beginningless Father, His Co-Eternal Son, the Divine and Life-Creating Spirit, the Virgin, the Forerunner and the Baptist, who is the highest of all the Saints but also an austere visitor, of the Apostles and All the Saints. Be under the protection of the Celestial Powers. And if you deem my blessing worthy, may it be blessed.”
She talked about the passage into eternity. I would say she celebrated it and looked forward to it. She did not show any fear at the dread hour of her death. She had her eyes fixed on the great gate and walked steadily toward the Kingdom of the “Lamb”. She spoke laughingly about the end of her earthly course. She was preparing herself even more intently, in order to be “welcome”, as she said, in front of Christ’s Judgment Seat.
Sick, almost motionless and paralyzed, she continued to care and pray... for Christ’s Church; for the faithful; for the unbelievers and the heterodox who are “weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9.36); for the tired and aged; for the anxious heads of family and for the troubled youth. In the summer of 2016 she said:
“I want to sit on the street to say goodbye to my village. I only have little time left to stay with you. But God who unites us all is eternal.”
Many young children would tell her, when they heard her saying goodbye: “We do not want you to leave. But even if you leave, don’t forget us.” And she would answer with a question:
“This, my children, happens only with the Saints. I am a sinner and I need your prayers. I’m aiming for a small opening. At the least, if I can squeeze in and enter there with the Virgin’s help, I will not forget any of you.” (Lk. 13:24)
The Holy visions, her bodily myrrh-streaming, and her visions of saints also increased very much, especially after August 2016. The four “horsemen” Saints, Menás, George, Dimitrios and Nikitas were considered almost her constant companions. She described them with simplicity of heart and astonishing accuracy. She thought that vision is a natural idiom of all people, and so we can all receive the same visions. She said:
“My child, Menás is a monster in height, a robust man, full, wide, with tanned skin, older than the others, with white hair on his head, and he is a leader. He is the leader of the group. George and Dimitrios are beautiful lads. Moderate in stature and about twenty-five years old. Nikitas is tall in stature and blonde. His hair looks like my grandfather’s beard, which looked blonde like flax.”
She described the bodies of their horses with golden saddles, their snorting noise, and the lively stomping of their hooves. On December 16, 2016, the Saints visited her and the house smelled of incense. She was presented with her notebooks, her “soul’s record”: With childish innocence she said, “Let me show them to you so you can see them! They shine!!!” 1
From December 16 until today, what didn’t we see, hear, or experience? On January 13, 2017, she was diagnosed with a severe lung infection. The attending physician examined her, gave her one night to live, and assessed the condition as pulmonary edema. The Eldress was bedridden and unconscious. Every now and then she woke up and spontaneously narrated some of her otherworldly experiences. Nine priests were present to perform the mystical service of Holy Unction, at which moment her room flooded with an ineffable fragrance. We had not lit incense, so as not to aggravate her respiratory dysfunction. The old woman happily revealed to her first cousin Katherine (Rethymniotaki) who was taking care of her, that she had received a visit from the Lady Theotokos and she was accompanied by Saint Paraskevi.
Our Lady told her:
– “Your suitcase is ready and your record is stellar. Your departure is imminent.”
– “Take me now, my Panagia, since I am ready,” the humble Eldress begged.
The Virgin Mother smiled and replied,
– “You received a small extension. I will take care of the matter soon.”
Even though the doctors had her life finished, she truly livened up. She sat on the bed and, imbued with the Holy Spirit, taught, admonished, strengthened and prophesied to everyone present – and there were quite a few! Earlier, when she had first awoke from her lethargy, she talked about a gift that Anthony the Great would give her on the evening of his feast! She invited some to attend that glorious moment of her life when she would “finally put on her wedding dress” and “a Bishop would put something on her head.” I personally connected it with her dormition, because she loved Saint Anthony and also because she couldn’t live much longer. I believed then that the extension mentioned by Our Lady was for three days until the Vespers of Saint Anthony…
What she would receive on her head, I connected with the indestructible Wreath of Glory from Christ’s spotless hands! And the wedding dress I interpreted to be her funeral shroud. An Athonite monk that was in attendance understood that she meant her putting on the Great Habit! Indeed, the service paradoxically and hastily took place during the Vespers of the Feast of St. Anthony the Great, after the sincere blessing by our Most Reverend Metropolitan Makarios. From then on, her worn-out aged body gained strength and she lived for about five more years. I placed a no entry sign on the door of her house, to protect her from the crowds, since because of the many wonderful things she exhibited, her charismatic fame had spread, quickly, to the ends of the world…
Even though her brain could no longer function, and there was no indication that she could hear or converse, she was obviously being informed in a supernatural way, and insisted that the sign be removed, “because it was important for the people to communicate” with her! We obeyed her command immediately, which had the effect of making her house a meeting point for all Orthodox people and a place of sharing wonderful events and paradoxical other-worldly manifestations of God’s omnipotence! Naturally, it also had the most painful consequence for me personally, that I suffered from the flaming arrows, “that I”, so-to-speak, was “exploiting the most-holy Eldress to promote myself”! And all of these, emanating from persons within the Church, from both locals and foreigners… To a certain degree this is expected and understandable! Those who did so with good intentions I excuse, and those who were vicious and insidious, from the bottom of my heart I sincerely forgive. And I beg they are forgiven by the heart of Christ, our righteous Savior.
Throughout the last years of her life, especially when she was completely helpless and bedridden, the rich gifts bestowed upon her by God and His energies were made evident when she reflected on them to us. Her excessive sacrifices which were beyond human measure for the love of Christ, brought her a multitude of heavenly rewards, as God is faithful to His promise to reward our good deeds! Thus, our Eldress, having been endowed with the gift of healing, healed the mental and physical ailments of the people, performed many great miracles, caused internal changes to her visitors, guided by the breath of the Holy Spirit!
She did not have advanced education, but because she purified the nous of her soul, she received spiritual wisdom, she developed the receptive power of the Logos, she acquired existential knowledge, she gazed at the image of the future and its secrets, she gained “solid faith”, therefore she was spent philanthropically and beneficially for any of her fellow human beings! Whoever manages to be united with Christ, generously scatters the content of this bountiful share with the rest of the world… That is, they are consumed daily for the benefit of their brother in Adam’s family of man, to willingly accept to be “a curse” (Galatians 3:13, Matthew 5:11) so that their fellow human will receive a blessing…
Her great love for the living and for the dead was initially manifested by her fervent prayer and sacrificial martyric ministry. Her spiritual completion however, transformed this exhaustive giving of self into an ever-increasing charismatic miracle. I will never formally mention any of the numerous miracles that happened to many, both known and unknown. The unbridled slanderous statements about her subjective heightening and enthusiastic and self-mythologizing of herself cannot be allowed to continue. Of course she was not infallible! Being a person of God does not mean they are infallible. A person of God continually struggles and constantly repents! It is no coincidence, after all, that repentance was her constant teaching, and the quintessence of her God-loving course! If the works of the Holy Spirit which were manifested through her are deemed to be constructive, then let their numerous recipients speak out about them. My own concern is the matter of her holy personality.
I think her long life can be summed up in the following simple sketch:
- Throughout her life she had an ecclesiastical mindset;
- She respected and obeyed the institutional persons of the Church;
- She had good examples from her grandfather the priest and her parents;
- She was very patient with her niece and God blessed her for this; He gave her many gifts;
- The basic gift she had was that of self-denial, from which came compunctionate prayer and the prayer of the heart.
- Most of her life was lived in obscurity,from her self-denial and prayer;
- Without her realizing it, her nous was separated from her intellect (this increased during the years of her illness).
- Thus, God’s gifts of clairvoyance, foresight, and the other spiritual gifts were bestowed to her in a natural way.
Because she lived humbly, in the Church, the Church will put her God-loving life to good use. There won’t be any need for me to take any action on her behalf, even though as in the case of the Eldress, a human being can easily deceive and seduce world orthodoxy. I cannot, though, be silent about her amazing miracle-workings, I cannot keep my mouth shut about her living theology. She expressed it to us simply in her intimate relationship with God, but loudly. All of these are summarized in the following examples:
“Oftentimes I would find myself suddenly and quietly engulfed within bright infinite azure-white Light, when everything around me was shining brightly with a blessed, bright Light”!
I purposely use such words as much as possible, which when hearing them you thought, yes, you thought that the sweet mouth of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas and so many other Fathers of our Church were talking to you.
“I lived inside God’s Three-fold glory, dressed in the God-woven apparel of Uncreated glory and the Divine Radiance of God’s Trinity, within the Everlasting and Uncreated Light; I do not know how I had totally become Light, but a Light that was without evening, a Resurrectional Light, plentiful Light without beginning and end. The rays of the intangible Uncreated Substantial Light were radiant and generous, with an inexhaustible purity so that all divine knowledge flooded my soul and I implicitly understood the secret mysteries of God and the glorious chanting of His myriad angels.
“I lived in the place of God and my heart was embellished by the same inexhaustible Light, beginningless and triune, through which the infinite little ones are adorned and surround the Powers…”
How, indeed, did these highly theological descriptions find themselves in a simple woman who had no academic study of theology? The splendor of the celestial powers, constantly transmitted to her with an uninterrupted flow, the inaccessible beauty of the uncreated divine Light within her created self. And she wore this Light like a divine garment, she duly became Light “from head to toe” according to her own confession! She lived from the Light, she drank from it, she perceived it as the coolness of pure water, she was satisfied with its superficial presence, she breathed it in like the oxygen of heaven!
“I lived in the deep sea of divine usefulness, of divine mercy, of divine love, which for me was considered both indescribable and indestructible. We can only say a few things; the sun is but a lamp in front of Him!”
These, and many more words that we heard from her which she allowed us to tape or have as a written treasure, unreservedly solidifies her status among the many blessed persons of our era as an empirical theologian and Eldress! An Eldress who taught with the utmost self-reproach and achieved the strongest spiritual maturity, by constantly comparing her lowly self with the height of the unspoken revelations she was deemed worthy to live and observe; this is why she wrote and behaved with the utmost humility, more than I have ever encountered. The simplicity of her speech testified to the excellent attaining of her goal, the goal of leading a Christ-like life, which she had set for her whole life.
She beheld a multitude of saints, a choir of Holy Fathers, St. Anthony the Great and his company, the heavenly Temple with its incomprehensible – as she said – illuminations and music. Her beloved Archangel Michael constantly appeared to her and strengthened her during the last stages of her struggle. The mystery is that he also appeared in person to one of the Eldress’ assistants, to strengthen her faith. He was assigned to the “exit process” and took liberties. And yesterday, peacefully and serenely, she closed her eyes to this fleeting life, only to reopen them in the brighter and clearer life of the enduring reign.
Our memorable, ever-venerable and many-layered Elderess in Christ: ...
Rest assured that the next generations will fix their gaze on you. They will feel you like a mother. They will become students of your hesychast legacy. And they will boast “in the Lord” (Psalm 5:12, Psalm 89:18 (88 LXX) because in the waning of the twentieth century a great star has shone again in Agiotokos Messara, able to illuminate with its radiance our spiritual path in the third millennium.
May your memory be eternal, until we meet again!!!
Translated by Peter Los and A.H.
St. Isaac the Syrian: “As long as we are in the place where altering is possible, let us observe ourselves; and while we have authority over our lifebook and our book is still between our hands, let us zealously add [acts of] beautiful behaviour, and let us scratch from it the loss of the old behaviour without freedom. We are allowed to scratch out faults, as long as we are here. And God will take into account every alteration we make in it. May we he deemed worthy of life everlasting before we appear before the king, and He puts His seal on the book. As long as we are in this world, God will not put His seal neither on our good works nor on our bad ones, before the hour of departure, when we have completed the service of our country and we prepare to strike camp.” (Mystic Treatises, p. 292. Tr. Wensinck, 1923)
St. Symeon the New Theologian: “God is truth and light. God’s judgment is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. In the day of the Great Judgment all men will appear naked before this penetrating light of truth. The ‘books’ will be opened. What are these ‘books’? They are our hearts. Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is love for God, those hearts will rejoice in seeing God’s light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life...” Source