Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category


Cappadocia in Asia Minor (eastern Turkey) is virtually devoid of Christians now, but in 1840, when St Arsenios was born there, there were still vital Orthodox communities. St Arsenios became a monk and was sent to his native town, Farasa, to serve the people. He pastored his Greek Orthodox flock amidst extremely difficult conditions. Under the harsh yoke of the Turks, the Greek people of Farasa formed an oasis of Orthodox Christianity. They sought refuge in holy St. Arsenios, who was their teachper, their spiritual father, and the healer of their souls and bodies. His reputation as a healer was so great that not only Greek Christians but also Turkish Muslims came to him for healing. Many times his village was threatened with violence from marauding Turks, but each time it was preserved in a miraculous way by St Arsenios.

He lived in a small cell with an earthen floor, fasted often and was in the habit of shutting himself in his cell for at least two whole days every week to devote himself entirely to prayer.

St Arsenios predicted the expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor before it happened, and organized his flock for departure. When the expulsion order came in 1924, the aged Saint led his faithful on a 400-mile journey across Turkey on foot. He had foretold that he would only live forty days after reaching Greece, and this came to pass. His last words were “The soul, the soul, take care of it more than the flesh, which will return to earth and be eaten by worms!” Two days later, on November 10, 1924, he died in peace at the age of eighty-three. He was officially declared a Saint by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1986.

St. Arsenios was the spiritual father of the late St. Paisios’ family. He baptised St. Paisios as an infant. Throughout his life Elder Paisios had great love and reverence for the memory of St. Arsenios, and it was out of this love that he compiled the book “Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian” which provides us with the details of his life. Accounts of these miraculous events were documented by the St. Paisios from eyewitnesses, and they testify to how powerfully God works through His holy ones, and to how lovingly He cares for and protects His children amidst adversity.

Since 1970, many apparitions and miracles have occurred near his holy relics, which reside in the Monastery of Souroti near Thessalonica. The relic of St. Arsenios has also been known to heal those who have cancer and to grant children to infertile couples. In 1983 St. Paisios forwarded a portion of his holy relic to Pantanassa Monastery. This relic is available for veneration at all the St Arsenios Feast Day services. We pray that the intercessions of our Venerable Father Arsenios of Cappadocia, the Wonderworker, and of the late St. Paisios, be with you and your families always.

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“I Will Make You a Gerontissa”

A Conversation with Gerontissa Theophano—abbess of the first monastery founded by Elder Ephraim of Arizona in America

Olga Rozhneva, Gerontissa Theophano

(SourceSource) The first monastery built by Elder Ephraim in America was the women’s monastery of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Saxonburg, PA. Elder Ephraim founded it in 1989. Pilgrims meet here a peaceful corner of nature, where you can forget for a time your worldly cares and anxieties and you can immerse yourself in a world of silence and prayer. The sisters of the monastery labor purely for the prayer of the heart and mind. Here and there you here: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” The Byzantine singing in church during the services leaves pilgrims in awe.

The monastery is a missionary center. It is an oasis in the desert of modern life for those who are experiencing spiritual hunger. Here the afflicted receive spiritual counsel and consolation in sorrows. Children, who with their pure souls share in the nun’s joy in the Lord, especially love to visit the monastery.

Fifteen sisters are currently laboring in the monastery (thirteen nuns, two novices). They themselves earn money for bread and the monastery necessities. The monastery has an active icon studio, with the nuns making icons on wood and stone, they work at embroidery and sewing Baptismal garments and priestly vestments, they tie prayer ropes, decorate candles for Weddings and Baptisms, and they produce soap. There is also a monastery garden.

The first abbess of the monastery was Gerontissa Taxiarchia. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, her spiritual father, called her here from a Greek monastery in 1989. Gerontissa Taxiarchia was a clairvoyant eldress, having acquired the gifts of ceaseless prayer and love of Christ.

The monastery’s current abbess, Gerontissa Theophano, joined the sisterhood in 1990. Under her spiritual direction the sisters reverently preserve the traditions inherited from their spiritual mother, Gerontissa Taxiarchia. Gerontissa Theophano kindly agreed to speak with us.

* * *

—Dear Mother Theophano, could you tell us about your path to the monastery?

—My mother was born in Greece, and my father was born right on the eve of the Asia Minor catastrophe in Smyrna.[1] Then they moved to America.I met Elder Ephraim in New York. This is how I got acquainted with him: at that time I was a young girl. I didn’t want to go to college but dreamt of becoming a clothing designer, but my dad insisted that I get a higher education. He said to us, his children: “You must receive a higher education so you can provide for yourselves.” My dad was very concerned about our independence. “May it be blessed,” I answered him. As my father said, so I did.

I chose the history department and became an historian. In the end it turned out that Elder Ephraim had begun to come to the city where my university was, and I went to him for Confession. This was in the 1980s—the very first years when he had just started coming to America. So that’s why I met Elder Ephraim. Had I not obeyed my father I would never have met the elder. When we obey our parents we always receive benefit from it.

When I met the elder for the first time, he said to me: “My girl, you will become my nun, and I will make you a gerontissa!” It took some time to get used to this idea, but, glory to God, it happened!

Eight years passed between the day I met the elder and the death of my mother. That whole time I was troubled by the thought: “I’m not sure that I really want to become a nun. Maybe it’s better for me to get married?” I had such ambiguity. Sometimes I would dream of becoming a mother, and moreover a modern mother. We didn’t know anything about monasticism. We never saw a single nun.

But after my mom died I went to the elder and said: “Elder, 50/50, I can’t choose: marriage or monasticism,” and he said to me: “You know what I want from you, so decide. Pray to the Mother of God!” After you hear something like that, can you think about marriage? So, I rendered obedience here. My father was very strict, incidentally, like Elder Ephraim. I moved from one strict father to another.

I came here, to the monastery, in March 1990. At first we had just a small country house with two bedrooms and nothing more. There were three of us: Gerontissa Taxiarchia, me, and one other sister.

—Could you tell us how your monastery was built?

—At that time our bishop was Archbishop Iakovos, who was not very disposed towards monasticism, but it was God’s will that he agree with Elder Ephraim on building the monastery. Within a year after the monastery was built in 1992 we had ten sisters—the monastery was full.

A miraculous story occurred with the acquiring of the land for our monastery. The owners of the farm, where the monastery is now built, were a Greek couple. They had no children. During the Depression they had no money—just one farm. But in 1942, as the priest told me, they demanded that the owner pay his tax debt. He had on hand precisely one fourth of what he owed the government. Then he prayed to the Mother of God: “Panagia, if they agree to accept this amount, to cover all my arrears, then I will donate this property to you for your monastery.” And so it happened—the officials were satisfied with a quarter of the sum, and the spouses decided between themselves that, inasmuch as they had no children, they would give the farm to the Church on the condition that a monastery would be built here.

Additionally, one family, from among the spiritual children of Elder Ephraim living in this area, bought the property next to ours to build housing for their children, but it ended up that they gave us the spot so that, God-willing, we can expand.

—What did you build first?

—First a small building with ten cells for the sisters was built. Then we built one room over the garage with another four cells. Then we expanded the old farmhouse and turned it into an icon studio. We hope to expand it even more. Just today Elder Ephraim said to me: “What’s with your buildings?” I answered that we don’t have money, but he said: “It’s nothing—continue, continue…”

—And how about the church?

—The church is connected to the facilities where we live. It’s a chapel. In 1996 we built another chapel, of St. Seraphim of Sarov, in the forest. We have on our site some woods, and there, a small wooden church.

—Something like a skete?

—Yes, precisely like a skete!

—How do you spend the day?

—Right now it’s difficult for us to follow our usual schedule because of construction. We recently discovered that our whole building has rotted. We had to vacate the premises and to begin major repairs. We try to face this situation with patience. Thank God we already finished the church, and now we’re doing our cells and the attic, where the damage was especially strong… But, glory to God, glory to God… All is well. We have our elder, and by his prayers everything will be alright.

When we weren’t doing repairs… let me tell you about how we live when we weren’t doing repairs and we had a priest… right now we’re temporarily without a priest. Usually our day starts at six in the morning with Liturgy or a Moleben, and then is trapeza, then we go to our obediences. The next meal is at one in the afternoon, and then we serve Vespers and Small Compline together, and after that we retire to our cells for rest. Then we work and pray again.

—Dear Gerontissa, perhaps you can share some edifying stories from the life of your monastery?

—The first years of the monastery were especially blessed—the Lord gave us grace to start the monastery. Those years were full of miracles—it was something special. The spiritual mother of our abbess Gerontissa Taxiarchia visited us—Gerontissa Macrina. Blessed Gerontissa Macrina (1921-1995) was the gerontissa of the Monastery of Panagia Hodigitria, near the city of Volos, and was the spiritual child of Elder Joseph the Hesychast and our elder Ephraim. Gerontissa led the monastery for more than thirty years, acquiring numerous spiritual gifts and was blessed with exalted spiritual states.

When she visited us it was as if we had gathered everyone together—mother, daughter, and us, the granddaughters. Also, Elder Ephraim visited us. The whole family was gathered.

This meeting gave us the opportunity to realize something important. Those who were born in America don’t understand the depth of our history and don’t truly understand Apostolic Tradition. What kind of tradition is there in America?! Our churches in America are new and modern. It’s especially unpleasant to speak about Tradition. So when we saw our elder and both gerontissas at the same time, we understood that Tradition exists, that succession exists. This greatly strengthened us in Orthodoxy. It also helped us to later cope with temptations.

It was not easy when people came to us in the monastery and asked why we don’t change such and such. It was very difficult to keep the Greek language, very difficult, especially when I took upon myself the obedience of abbess. The priest immediately suggested to change something. I had to tell him: “Excuse me, but what I received from the hands of my elders, I cannot change.”

We had a variety problems. Our main orientation is missionary. In such situations it’s hard to talk about the real monastic life. Here we have Mexico, Guatemala. What don’t we have!? We have to speak with everyone, and to consider everyone.

Let’s return to Gerontissa Macrina. Our Gerontissa Taxiarchia told us that many priests, archimandrites, other gerontissas, and even bishops would go to Portaria to Gerontissa Macrina for advice. Everyone sought her out. They called her “Basil the Great” because she was very strict in the very beginning.

But when I saw her, she was love itself. I’ll tell you how I met her. My mother died when I was twenty-three. Shortly before her death Elder Ephraim came to us to confess mama for the last time. He said to me: “My girl, when it happens, when your mama departs to the Lord, immediately call Philotheou so the fathers can begin to commemorate her for forty days.” Immediately after that he flew to England to be with Gerontissa Macrina in the hospital so I was unable to communicate with him directly, and I had no one to comfort me in my grief.

On the day that my mother died, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, I had a dream, as if I was a child of ten-twelve years again and I was sitting together with other children in some beautiful place. The children around me were playing, but I didn’t play with them, but just sat. And some unknown woman in black came over to us and asked me: “My child, why aren’t you playing with the other children, and why do you look so sad?” I answered her: “I’m sad because my mama died.” “No, my girl, she didn’t die—she departed to Christ. Don’t be sad; she is now with Christ.” At that moment I woke up.

I told no one about this dream. Only after I found myself in the monastery did I tell this dream to Gerontissa Taxiarchia, and she said to me: “Maybe it was the Most Holy Theotokos?” I said: “No, it seems me it wasn’t the Panagia, but some gerontissa.”

When we went to Portaria with Gerontissa Taxiarchia and I saw Gerontissa Macrina for the first time, I immediately recognized her as the gerontissa in my dream. When Gerontissa Macrina spoke with me and I told her my whole history, she answered me: “I knew about the death of your mother, my child, and therefore I came to you in order to console you.”

—Thank you for this wonderful conversation, dear Gerontissa Theophano!

—May God save you!

 Olga Rozhneva spoke with Gerontissa Theophano

Translated by Jesse Dominick


17 / 10 / 2016

[1] That is, the exile of the indigenous Greek Orthodox population from their ancient homelands.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the first time in over a year Fr. John and I left the island and took a vacation. Vacation for us consists in two things: spending time with loved ones and visiting churches and monasteries (and for me, personally, it also means drinking as many Tim Horton’s coffees as I want:).


Saint Gregory of Nyssa OCA Church

We went to Kingston, Ontario to stay with my brother and sister-in-law. We had a wonderful time chatting and going for walks. We got to attend services at both of the Orthodox churches there: Vespers at St. Gregory of Nyssa OCA Church and Matins and Divine Liturgy at The Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church.


The Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church

Then we took a trip down to New York to visit the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery and Seminary. Although Fr. Matthew was ordained there, both as a deacon and a priest, I was the only member of our family that wasn’t able to go.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThus, it was my first time visiting the beautiful, grace-filled monastery. We toured the monastery and seminary, venerated the icons and relics, and spent time with our good friend who is a monk there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our return to Canada we headed for the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia Parigoritissa. Getting to visit the monastery and see all the nuns feels like a family reunion. During our stay we helped sweep the courtyard, fold pamphlets and got to work in the vineyard – which was an especial blessing.


Sweeping the courtyard

The summer Fr. John was ordained a deacon we spent significant time there. We cherish our memories of all the years we’ve been visiting the monastery; we would often stop by the monastery when flying home from Greece as there is a direct flight from Montreal to Athens.


In the vineyard

There’s nothing like the physical and spiritual respite that comes from making holy pilgrimages; the ideal vacation in my opinion. Thank God for such oases! You come back home more peaceful, more centered, and ready to re-enter the daily battle of acquiring grace in the midst of work and worldly obligations.


Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY

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Today is a wonderful feast day of the above beautiful icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos that was brought from Greece to Ukraine by architects appointed by the Mother of God herself to build a church at the Kiev Caves.

Now, I must say, if the Mother of God entrusts 3 years worth of gold to you, and asks you to build a church for the Orthodox faithful in Newfoundland, you will be most welcome here!🙂



The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks’ cave and asked, “Where do you want to build the church?” The saints answered, “Go, the Lord will point out the place.”

“How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?” the architects wondered. “And they gave us much gold.”

Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, “Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?”

The architects answered, “One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, ‘The Queen summons you to Blachernae.’ We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, ‘I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.’”

“We bowed down and asked, ‘Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?’ She answered, ‘I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.’”

“We wondered, ‘Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.’”

“The Queen replied, ‘Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.’”

“She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, ‘Place these within the foundation.’ We took more than enough gold, and She said, ‘Come out and see the resplendant church.’ We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, ‘Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?’”

“She answered, ‘I wish to call it by My own name.’ We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, ‘It will be the church of the Mother of God.’ After giving us this icon, She said, ‘This will be placed within.’ We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen.”

Having heard this account, everyone glorified God, and St Anthony said, “My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady.” For three days St Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.

After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of St Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.




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