A patron Saint is a Saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, or person. At Ionian Village, there are several saints who are deeply connected and special to the camp and its alumni. More on Saints in the Orthodox Church can be found at the Archdiocese Website. To learn more about the Saints we visit at Ionian Village, click on any of the links below:
The Saints We Visit
Saint Andrew the Apostle
The Apolytikion of St. Andrew the Apostle
As first of the Apostles to be called, O Andrew, Brother of him (Peter) who was foremost, Beseech the Master of all to grant the world peace and our souls great mercy.
The Life of Saint Andrew the Apostle
St. Andrew, known as the "First-Called Apostle," made a living as a fisherman before following Christ. St. Andrew chose this profession because of his great love for God and the beauty he found in His creation of the sea. St. Andrew was a follower of St. John the Baptist, and upon hearing him declare Christ, "The Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," accepted Christ and became His first disciple.
Upon Christ’s glorious Ascension, St. Andrew and the other Apostles committed themselves to spreading the logos and sowing the seed of Christianity throughout the world. St. Andrew dedicated his teaching to Asia Minor, part of Greece, and an area along the Black Sea, which included the city now known as Constantinople. St. Andrew was blessed with a gift of eloquence that enabled him to convert thousands of people to Christianity in one day with his mere words. His love and passion for Jesus Christ was evident in the words he spoke, and his popularity grew greatly within each place he visited. However, not all were converted to Christianity by St. Andrew’s words alone, but by the miracles of healing which Christ performed through him. Moreover, among St. Andrew’s incredible accomplishments are the numerous parishes that he founded throughout Thrace, Macedonia, Pontos, Greece, Asia Minor, Byzantium, and Russia, where he is regarded as patron saint to this day.While in the city of Patras, St. Andrew met and converted to Christianity a woman named Maximilla. Maximilla was the wife of the ruler Aigeates, who did not accept or condone Christianity. Out of anger, Aigeates sentenced St. Andrew to die by crucifixion. However, St. Andrew did not find himself worthy enough to die in the same manner as Christ, and requested that he be crucified upon an "X-shaped" cross. After enduring three days of torture on the cross, St. Andrew, the "First-called Apostle," finally gave up his spirit to the Lord. St. Andrew’s remains were taken to Constantinople, and in 1460 his skull was given to the Catholic Pope. However, as a Christian gesture, the skull of St. Andrew was returned to the people of Patras in September of 1964. Each year, the skull of St. Andrew and the cross, upon which he was crucified, are venerated by Ionian Village participants, as well as countless others, as they visit the Church of St. Andrew in Patras
Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos
Let us, the faithful, in one accord honor Dionysios, the offspring of Zakynthos, the Bishop of Aegina, and the protector of the Monastery of the Strophades.
Let us entreat him in sincerity: By your prayers save those who celebrate your memory and cry out to you: Glory to Christ, who has glorified you; glory to Him who has granted you to us as our unsleeping intercessor.
The Life of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos
Saint Dionysios, widely known for the act of forgiving his brother’s murderer and as the "Walking Saint," was born in 1547 on the Greek island of Zakynthos. During his childhood years, public education in Zakynthos did not exist. However, St. Dionysios was educated at a school run by Orthodox priests on the island, where he began to learn Greek, Italian, and Latin. Upon completing his primary school education, he continued with his studies at home with private religious tutors and theologians who instructed him further in language and theological studies. By the age of twenty-one, St. Dionysios not only was fluent in several languages, but he was known as a theological scholar by all. Therefore, upon his parents’ deaths, it was no surprise that he decided to enter into the priesthood and to assume a life of monasticism. At this time, he was given the name of Daniel, and spent time in seclusion before being ordained to the priesthood in 1570.
He spent the next few years traveling between Zakynthos and Strofades, at the two monasteries in which he served. St. Dionysios gained much respect from the clergy and people in both places, and in 1577 he was ordained Archbishop of Aegina-Poros. With the ordinations that were bestowed upon St. Dionysios, it seemed that a special gift also was bestowed upon him. The many blessings, which he granted to his people, seemed to produce miracles and caused St. Dionysios’ popularity to grow even more. St. Dionysios served as the Archbishop of Aegina for one year before feeling the need to return to Zakynthos. With his return to the island, St. Dionysios was appointed Bishop and President of Zakynthos, which allowed him to continue serving his people. However, by the spring of 1622, St. Dionysios’ health had deteriorated greatly, and he was forced to permanently remain in his cell, unable to carry out his responsibilities. In the autumn of that year, St. Dionysios took a turn for the worse and moved to his sister’s home where he could receive care. On December 17, 1622, St. Dionysios came to rest in the arms of God. Several years later, when his body was removed from its grave, his remains not only were found intact, but his body emitted a mixed fragrance of flowers and frankincense. Upon finding this, the monks of Strofades began to venerate Archbishop Dionysios as a saint, and at the end of the seventeenth century, the Patriarch of Constantinople proclaimed his divine nature by making his sainthood official.
Among the many blessings and miracles for which St. Dionysios will be remembered is his unbelievable act of forgiveness. In December of 1580, St. Dionysios’ brother, Konstantinos, was murdered by a man, who in trying to flee from the authorities, found refuge at the monastery where St. Dionysios served as abbot. While at the monastery, the murderer confessed the sin to St. Dionysios, who not only forgave him of the crime, but hid him from the soldiers and helped him escape across the sea to the shores of Cephalonia. St. Dionysios serves as a continual reminder to all Orthodox Christians that we should not let our hearts be hardened by evil or burdened with vengeance, but should forgive those who do wrong.
St. Dionysios also is known for the numerous miracles which he performed after his death. Currently, St. Dionysios’ body resides intact in a locked, viewable, tomb at the Church of St. Dionysios in Zakynthos. Often times, his tomb is unable to be opened. Many believe that this happens when St. Dionysios is out walking to perform a needed miracle. This is because often times when the tomb is unlocked and opened, seaweed is found at his feet, and his slippers are worn thin. In fact, his slippers need continual replacement because they receive so much wear. Furthermore, there are many stories told by people who have seen St. Dionysios alive and walking in front of them, or who have received one of his miracles. Because of these occurrences, upon visiting the relics of St. Dionysios, and upon hearing of his numerous stories and miracles, many of the Ionian Village participants remember St. Dionysios as the "Saint of Forgiveness" or as the "Walking Saint."
The Apolytikion of he Holy Apostle Iakovos
As the Lord's disciple, O righteous One, you received the Gospel, as Martyr, you have unwavering courage, as the Lord's brother, you have forthrightness, as Hierarch, intercession. Intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved.
The Life of the Holy Apostle Iakovos
St. Iakovos, also known as "St. James, the brother of the Lord," is the patron saint of the Ionian Village chapel. Although St. Iakovos was an apostle of the Lord, he was not one of the original twelve apostles. It is Orthodox belief that St. James converted to Christianity upon seeing the resurrected Christ. Shortly after Christ appeared to St. James, the apostles appointed him as the bishop of the Church of Jerusalem, so that he presided over the Jerusalem Council. While the rest of the apostles traveled around the world and preached and taught the word of God in many countries, James remained behind to establish further the Christian faith in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.
St. James lived an ascetic life and spent much of his time on his knees in prayer for his people. The people of Jerusalem, both Christians and Jews, grew to respect him for his sense of fairness and his strict adherence to the Law of Moses. For it was the Jews who called him, "James the Just." However, over time, the Jews began to despise him for his teaching that Christ was the Messiah. Therefore, the chief priests and scribes called James before them and asked him to deny Christ in order to spare his own life. When James declared that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Lord and that He will come again, the chief priests and scribes threw him down from the temple to the courtyard below. As James arose without injury, the crowd clubbed him to death.
Not long before his death in 62 AD, St. James wrote his Epistle in an effort to reassure those Jews that he had converted to Christianity. In this letter, he instructs his readers to live their lives with both faith and works. He explains that faith without works does not promise the soul salvation. St. James is also remembered for his attributions to the healing service, in which the Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered. In his letter, he teaches that when one is sick, he should call upon the elders of the church to read and pray over him so that he may be healed and his sins be forgiven (James 5:10-17).
The Apolytikion of St. Luke the Evangelist
O Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke,
intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
The Life of Saint Luke the Evangelist
St. Luke, who is credited with recording the life of Christ through his Gospel of the New Testament, was also known as the "glorious physician," and for his artistic ability. St. Luke was born in Antioch, Syria, where he began to commit his life to Christ upon meeting St. Paul. Prior to this time, Luke was a well-known physician of his time, praised with his skill in healing the afflicted. However, around 50 AD, Luke left his calling behind and joined St. Paul so that together they could glorify Christ.
As a missionary orator, St. Luke was not as skilled as St. Paul. However, his talent in writing and artistry far surpassed the skill of many during that time. St. Luke is highly acclaimed for his contributions to The New Testament. The Book of Acts and the Gospel according to St. Luke are detailed in history, expression, and narration that is often thought to outshine other Christian literary works. His mastery of the Greek language allowed him to express his thoughts about Christ with such passion, much of which is lost in translation.
Moreover, St. Luke is recognized as one of the first iconographers of Christianity. He used his talent in art to depict the Virgin Mary holding the Christ-child. Upon seeing the icon, the Theotokos gave St. Luke her blessing to continue with the depiction, which he later completed and presented to the Mother of God as a gift. Currently, this icon resides at the Mega Spileion monastery in Greece. Participants of Ionian Village visit this monastery to learn about St. Luke’s contribution to iconography, as well as of the icon’s discovery after being hidden in a cave and guarded by a beast for so long.
The Apolytikion of St. Marina
O Glorious Marina, once betrothed to the Logos, you relinquished all worldly concerns
and brilliantly gave struggle as a virginal beauty. You soundly trounced the invisible enemy who appeared to you, O Champion,
and you are now the world's wellspring of healing Grace.
The Life of St. Marina
Orphaned by her mother who died in childbirth, Saint Marina’s pagan father entrusted her upbringing to a woman who happened to be a Christian. Living in Antioch in a time when many people still worshipped several gods, Saint Marina’s father was unaware that the woman he selected to be his daughter’s foster mother was a Christian. It is no wonder that by the time Marina matured, so had her love for Jesus Christ. She loved Christ with such passion that she pledged to serve Him with her life, and had no fear in revealing her Christianity to her pagan father. It was a blessing that upon learning of his daughter’s Christian beliefs, Marina’s father made no attempt to prevent her from following Christ. However, her good fortune was about to change.
While walking to church one day, Marina was seen by Olymbrios, a prefect of the province. Olymbrios immediately fell in love with Marina and planned to marry her. In an attempt to win her heart, he began to court her. Marina did not wish to offend the prefect, and, therefore, entertained his visits pleasantly. However, she knew the day soon would arrive when Olymbrios would ask her to marry him, and she hoped he would understand that she already had pledged herself to Christ. On the day when Marina declined Olymbrios’ proposal, he was not offended, nor discouraged. Instead, he granted her more time to reconsider his offer. However, no amount of time would change Marina’s vow to Christ. A few days later Olymbrios returned to ask Marina to accept him to be her husband, and again she politely declined the invitation. It was at this moment that Olymbrios redirected his passion for Marina into vengeance, and set out to make her regret her refusal of him.
Olymbrios charged Marina with treason; she was found guilty and sentenced to a tortuous death. Marina’s naked body was beaten, whipped viciously, and burned with candles. Then he had her thrown in prison with open wounds. While in her prison cell, Marina prayed to God for strength. At once the devil appeared to her in the form of a serpent. Upon seeing him, she made the sign of the cross, and immediately the serpent burst and disappeared. Marina found herself surrounded by divine light, and a radiant cross, topped with a dove, which appeared to her. A voice from the dove told Marina to rejoice, for her "day of rejoicing has arrived." Instantly, her wounds were healed and when Olymbrios called for her again, he subjected her to more torture through boiling water and fire. When surviving this torture as if she was never subjected to it, Marina was sentenced to death by beheading. On July 17, 289, Marina was beheaded, but not before Jesus Christ appeared to her in all His glory. Marina was granted sainthood almost immediately, as many were witnesses to her miraculous survival of torture.
The participants at Ionian Village are blessed with the opportunity to attend Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Marina in Glypha, Greece. While there, they learn of the brave stance St. Marina made for Christ, as well as of the many miracles which have been performed through her.
The Apolytikion of St. Nektarios
Selybria's offspring and Aegina's guardian,
the true friend of virtue, revealed in these last times, Nekatrios let us, the faithful, praise as inspired servants of Christ; for he pours out healings of every kind for those who devoutly cry:
Glory to Christ who gave you glory!
Glory to Him who made you wondrous!
Glory to Him who through you works healings for all!
The Life of Saint Nektarios
Saint Nektarios, known for his countless miracles of healing, and as, "A Saint for our Time," was born in 1846 in Selybria, Thrace. When he was fourteen, he left his home and traveled to Constantinople in search of work and study. There, St. Nektarios lived a very modest life constantly praying to Christ and believing that He would provide everything he needed to live. Many acts of kindness were shown to St. Nektarios by his neighbors and townspeople, and it was through them, and by the grace of God, that St. Nektarios became an accomplished academic at the age of twenty-one. By this time, too, St. Nektarios was considered a theological scholar and a devout Christian. Upon completing his studies, he left Constantinople and entered a monastery in Chios.
Some time later, the Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, Egypt, offered St. Nektarios a scholarship to study theology at the University of Athens. Upon completing studies at the university, St. Nektarios was ordained to the priesthood to serve in Cairo, Egypt, where he became quite popular as a preacher and confessor. Within five months of his ordination, the Metropolitan of Nubia blessed St. Nektarios with the title of archimandrite, and two months later he was appointed to the high position of Patriarchal Trustee.
It was in January of 1889 that the Metroplitan Nilos suddenly passed away. As the seat was under the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarch Sophronios nominated St. Nektarios to fill the vacancy. Therefore, on January 15, 1889, St. Nektarios was ordained a bishop and began to serve his congregation with humility and an oath to never succumb to the temptations of this world. He served as bishop until countless rumors and false accusations were brought up against him. Patriarch Sophronios became subjected to unbearable pressure regarding the rumors circulating about Metropolitan Nektarios, and he soon stripped Metropolitan Nektarios of his authority and duty as bishop. Upon this humbling and confusing experience, St. Nektarios returned to Athens where he continued to serve God by preaching and teaching in its many churches. His popularity among the people in Athens again gained him popularity, and led to his appointment as dean of Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens, where he dedicated fourteen years of his wisdom and loving care, until his body forced him to retire on March 24, 1908. Once a new dean was found and instated as his replacement, St. Nektarios retreated to the island of Aegina, to the monastery that he helped to establish years before.
With his return to Aegina, the monastery began to receive countless visitors who sought to be in the presence of St. Nektarios’ pious and loving nature. While there, St. Nektarios witnessed the completion of the building of the chapel on the grounds, which he first started in July of 1906. On June 2, 1908, the chapel was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and he began to settle in and plan for the building of his simple home on the grounds. Throughout the years that he spent in Aegina, St. Nektarios wrote and published many theological treatises, guided the nuns of the monastery toward divine work, and performed many miracles of healing. It was also while serving at the monastery, that St. Nektarios endured many spiritual and physical tribulations, as well as witnessed the magnificent power of the Trinity and the Virgin Mary.
On November 9, 1920, St. Nektarios retired his spirit to the Lord. However, even in death St. Nektarios continues to perform miracles, the first of which occurred in the very hospital room in which he died. With the passing of St. Nektarios, a hospital nurse, assisted by a nun from the monastery, immediately began to change his clothes and threw his undershirt on the next bed. In this bed lay a paralytic, who once the undershirt landed upon him, was instantly healed and jumped out of bed praising God for his miraculous healing. This was the first of many miracles that St. Nektarios began to perform in death. The stories of these miracles, along with his body remaining completely in tact and emanating a magnificent fragrance for twenty years after his death, led the nuns at the monastery to venerate him as a Saint of the Church. Finally, in April of 1961, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople further blessed St. Nektarios with a proclamation of Sainthood.
Ionian Village participants not only learn about the life and miracles of St. Nektarios while at Ionian Village, but they are blessed with the ability to make a pilgrimage to the monastery in which he carried out his life. While there, they visit the house in which he lived and the chapel he helped to build, and they venerate his tomb and relics. Perhaps this is why so many Ionian Village participants return home with such a heartwarming feeling for St. Nektarios.
O believers, let us praise the protector of the Orthodox, The God-bearing miracle-worker lately appearing to us, the incarnate angel, divine Gerasimos. For he has rightly received from God the ever-flowing grace of performing healing. He strengthens those with diseases and he heals those with demons. And therefore he pours out healings to those who honor him.
The Life of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos
Saint Gerasimus the New Ascetic of Cephalonia was born in the village of Trikkala in the Peloponessos. As a young adult, he became a monk on the island of Zakynthos. On the Holy Mountain he became a schemamonk and studied with the ascetics of Mt Athos. Receiving a blessing from the Elders, the monk went to Jerusalem to worship at the Life-bearing Tomb of the Savior. After visiting many holy places in Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Antioch, Damascus, Alexandria and Egypt, he returned to Jerusalem where he became a lamp-lighter at the Sepulchre of the Lord.
The monk was ordained a deacon and then a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Germanus (1534-1579). St Gerasimus maintained the discipline of an ascetic. For solitude he withdrew to the Jordan, where he spent forty days without respite. Having received the Patriarch's blessing for a life of silence, St Gerasimus withdrew to Zakynthos in solitude, eating only vegetation.
After five years he was inspired to go the island of Cephalonia, where he lived in a cave. He restored a church at Omala, and he founded a women's monastery where he lived in constant toil and vigil for thirty years. He prayed on bent knees stretched out on the ground. For his exalted life he was granted a miraculous gift: the ability to heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits.
At 71 years of age, the venerable Gerasimus knew that he would soon die. He gave his blessing to the nuns and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on August 15, 1579. Two years later, his grave was opened and his holy relics were found fragrant and incorrupt with a healing power.
Since the Feast of the Dormition falls on August 15, St Gerasimus is commemorated on August 16th. Today's Feast celebrates the uncovering of his holy relics in 1581." (taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=103007)
The Apolytikion of St. Mamas
- Your holy martyr Mamas, O Lord,
- Through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God.
- For having Your strength, he laid low low his adversaries,
- And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
- Through his intercessions, save our souls!
The Life of Saint Mamas
His parents Theodotos and Roufina lived in Gaggra of Paflagonia during the reign of emperor Aurilianos who exercised a systematic campaign against the Christians (270 - 275 AD). Because of their Christian beliefs, Theodotos and Roufina (who was pregnant at the time), were arrested and imprisoned. While in prison she gave birth to Mamas but her husband died before he could see the newborn baby and soon after she died also. Mamas, who was raised by a lady called Ammia Matrona, turned towards the teaching of Christianity during his teenage years. As a result he was arrested at the age of 15, he was tortured and finally killed because of his refusal to abandon Christianity.
A Cypriot icon present St Mamas riding a lion while holding a stick with his right hand and a sheep in his left arm. According to this tradition, this Saint Mamas was a monk living in a cave near the town of Morphou. Once he was arrested by the Ottoman authorities because he was refusing to pay tax. As he was led to court by the Turkish policemen they came across a lion chasing a sheep. He called the lion to stop and come near him. The wild animal did and Mamas rode on the lion's back holding the sheep in his hand, all the way to the court. When the judge witnessed this unusual event, he ordered his release and granted him exclusion from taxation. St Mamas gave the sheep as a gift to the judge.
The Apolytikion of St. Alexios Man of God
Though thou didst bud forth from a renowned and notable root, and though thou didst blossom from a city famed for her great imperial dignity, yet didst thou scorn all things as corruptible and fleeting, striving to be joined to Christ thy Master for ever. Entreat Him, O Alexios most wise, fervently for our souls.
The Life of Saint Alexios the Man of God
Saint Alexios was born in old Rome of illustrious parents named Euphemianus and Aglais, and at their request was joined to a young woman in marriage. However, he did not remain with her even for one day, but fled to Edessa, where he lived for eighteen years. He returned to Rome in the guise of a beggar and sat at the gates of his father's house, unknown to all and mocked by his own servants. His identity was revealed only after his death by a paper that he had on his person, which he himself had written a little before his repose. The pious Emperor Honorius honoured him with a solemn burial. The title "Man of God" was given to him from heaven in a vision to the Bishop of Rome on the day of the Saint's repose.
The Life of Osios Loukas
Luke Thaumaturgus, Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, or Luke the Wonder-worker (d. 946 AD) was a Byzantine saint of the tenth century AD who lived in the provinces of Hellas and Peloponnese in Greece. His relics are preserved in his monastery of Osios Loukas. The principal source for Luke's life is an anonymous Life written by a monk of Osios Loukas who had been one of Luke's followers. His feast day is commemorated on February 7, and the translation of his relics on May 3. He was one of the earliest saints to be seen levitating in prayer.
Luke was a native of the Greek village of Kastorion. He was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. The Life, typically for the genre, begins with signs of Luke's closeness to god as a child. For instance, Luke is recorded as having done 'nothing in a childish fashion, and is seen to be literally close to god when his mother witnesses him levitating in prayer.
The son of poor farmers, he saint worked in the fields and tended sheep. As a child Luke tried twice to leave home to seek a solitary life of prayer. The first time, he attempted to withdraw to Thessaly, but was captured by soldiers lying in wait for escaped slaves and was returned home. The second time he had more success, meeting two monks journeying from Rome to Jerusalem who took him to a monastery in Athens where he received the small habit. After Luke's mother prayed for her son's return however, God made her appear in a dream to the abbot and commanded him to return Luke to his home.
At the age of 14, with his mother’s blessing, he went to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou and for 7 years lived as an ascetic. The Life records with suspicious symmetry that during this time Luke received the great habit from two monks travelling from Jerusalem to Rome (presumably the same two from whom he had received the small habit on their outward journey). Luke's fame spread and a number of miracles are ascribed to him during this period, such as revealing to two brothers the location of their dead father's buried treasure. Numerous proofs of Luke's holiness are also given, such as sleeping in a trench to remind himself of death, or being visited in dream by an angel who let a hook down Luke's mouth and 'drew out a certain fleshly member therefrom, freeing him from the temptations of the flesh.
Luke was forced to leave Iannitze by an invasion of the Bulgarian emperor Symeon (which Luke had predicted). Luke, followed by the local villagers, fled to a nearby island, almost perishing when attacked by Bulgarians in a stolen ship. After the invaders withdrew, Luke, now aged 21, enrolled in a school in Corinth, but soon left after he found the other students insufficiently serious. Instead, he went to serve a stylite at Zemena for the next ten years, until he was stranded in the Peloponnese on an errand when the harbor master refused to allow him to return to Hellas, fearing raids. When Luke was ejected from his oratory in the Peloponnese after a rainstorm, his hagiographer comments that 'God perhaps arranged these things beneficially, lest dwelling too long in the land of Pelops he do an injustice to his fatherland', perhaps indicating a rival cult of the saint in the Peloponnese and providing an interesting example of patriotism towards the province.
The Life also cites Symeon's death in 927 and the succession of his more pacific son Peter as a reason why Luke returned to Ionnitze to build his own community. Luke drew so many followers that he found the distractions unbearable and decided to retreat further into the wilderness. Three years later, however, Luke was displaced again, this time by a Magyar invasion. Just as before, Luke retreated with the local villagers to a nearby island. Once there, Luke found the desert island to be a suitable place to pursue his solitary ascetic life, and stayed for three years, enduring terrible thirsts. Eventually Luke's companions persuaded him to leave, and he settled for the remainder of his life in the far more amenable environment of the present Osios Loukas.
Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri
The Apolytikion of St. Ephraim of Nea Makri
On Amomon Mountain, you shown forth like the sun, and O God-bearer, you left for God by martyrdom; you endured barbarians’ attacks, Ephraim, O great-marytr of Christ, because of this you ever pour forth grace, to those who piously cry out to you, Glory to Him who gave you strength, Glory to Him you made you wondrous, Glory to Him who grants through you, healings for all!
The Life of St. Ephraim of Nea Makri
Saint Ephraim is a newly revealed saint of our church. His relics were only recently rediscovered in 1950 – more than 500 years after his death. Saint Ephraim was born in Greece in the late 14th century. His father died when he was very young, leaving his mother to raise Ephraim and his six siblings alone. At the young age of 14, he found that his love for God was so strong that he decided to go to the monastery of Amoman near Nea Makri to dedicate his life to God as a monk. He was ordained a priest and followed a life of asceticism for 27 years within the Monastery. In 1425, the Turks invaded the Saint’s beloved monastery, destroying everything and looting the surrounding villages. Many of the monks were tortured and beheaded at the hands of the Turks. Saint Ephraim was captured by the Turks, imprisoned and tortured.
For many months, Saint Ephraim was kept in a small cell without food and water. When the Saint refused to deny Christ, the Turks decided to put him to death. They led him out of his cell, hung him upside down from a mulberry tree, and beat him and mocked him asking, “Where is your God now?” The Saint endured hours of violent beatings. Finally, too weak, he prayed silently to God asking for forgiveness and fell into unconsciousness. Thinking he had died, the Turks took his body down and continued to kick and beat the Saint’s unconscious body. Several hours later, Saint Ephraim opened his eyes, prayed, and gave up his spirit to God.
The destroyed monastery, together with the body of Saint Ephraim was left abandoned and forgotten. In 1950, a nun named Makaria was led in a series of dreams to the area of the Nea Makri monastery. She began to restore what was left of the small monastery and prayed to God to find out more about the monks who had lived there before her. She sensed a voice telling her to dig in a certain place at the monastery. She asked the workman who was helping her repair the monastery to dig where the voice had told her. The man insisted that there would be nothing where she indicated and Makaria let her dig wherever he wished. He dug in three or four different places, hitting rock each time and getting frustrated.
Finally, the workman began to dig where Makaria told him. Not expecting to find anything, he was digging very fast and carelessly. As the hole got deeper and deeper, Makaria told the workman to be careful because he would find bones soon. He mocked her, but kept digging. Sure enough, at the depth of approximately six feet, he unearthed the head of a man. Immediately, a rich fragrance filled the air and the workman was speechless. Makaria uncovered the remains of Saint Ephraim.
That night, Makaria was reading the Vespers service and heard footsteps coming towards the church from the direction of the Saint’s body. She heard a voice asking “How long are you going to leave me here?” She turned to see a tall monk holding a candle and blessing her. The next day, Makaria cleaned the bones of the Saint. That night, the Saint appeared to her in a dream, thanked her for caring for his relics and told her the story of his martyrdom.
During the 20th century, an iconographer named Photios Kontoglou was largely responsible for a resurgence of the Byzantine tradition of iconography. In prior years, there was a large tendency towards more Western-looking icons in the church. As there had never been an icon of Saint Ephraim, Kontoglou prayed to God to reveal the saint’s form so that he could depict him in an icon. Through prayer, the Saint’s image was revealed to him and the first icon of Saint Ephraim was miraculously created.
Since the rediscovery of the Saint’s relics, many miracles have been attributed to the saint and the Monastery of Nea Makri. The saint has been associated with helping young people struggling with addictions such as alcoholism, drugs, and suicide. In 2011, the Ecumenical Patriarchate added Saint Ephraim officially to its list of saints. The Monastery of Nea Makri has now been restored and has become one of the largest pilgrimage sites in Greece. The mulberry tree where Saint Ephraim was martyred is still growing within the monastery.
The Apolytikion of St. Philaretos
From the wealth of your faith in God, You distributed your riches to the poor, O Philaret. Your life was adorned with compassion And you glorified the Giver of mercy. Implore him to have compassion and mercy on those who praise you!
The Life of St. Philaretos
Righteous Philaret the Merciful, son of George and Anna, was raised in piety and the fear of God. He lived during the eighth century in the village of Amnia in the Paphlagonian district of Asia Minor. His wife, Theoseba, was from a rich and illustrious family, and they had three children: a son John, and daughters Hypatia and Evanthia.
Philaret was a rich and illustrious dignitary, but he did not hoard his wealth. Knowing that many people suffered from poverty, he remembered the words of the Savior about the Last Judgment and about “these least ones” (Mt. 25:40); the the Apostle Paul’s reminder that we will take nothing with us from this world (1 Tim 6:7); and the assertion of King David that the righteous would not be forsaken (Ps 36/37:25). Philaret, whose name means “lover of virtue,” was famed for his love for the poor.
One day Ishmaelites attacked Paphlagonia, devastating the land and plundering the estate of Philaret. There remained only two oxen, a donkey, a cow with her calf, some beehives, and the house. But he also shared them with the poor. His wife reproached him for being heartless and unconcerned for his own family. Mildly, yet firmly he endured the reproaches of his wife and the jeers of his children. “I have hidden away riches and treasure,” he told his family, “so much that it would be enough for you to feed and clothe yourselves, even if you lived a hundred years without working.”
The Saint’s gifts always brought good to the recipient. Whoever received anything from him found that the gift would multiply, and that person would become rich. Knowing this, a certain man came to St. Philaretos asking for a calf so that he could start a herd. The cow missed its calf and began to bellow. Theoseba said to her husband, “You have no pity on us, you merciless man, but don’t you feel sorry for the cow? You have separated her from her calf.” The Saint praised his wife, and agreed that it was not right to separate the cow and the calf. Therefore, he called the poor man to whom he had given the calf and told him to take the cow as well.
That year there was a famine, so St. Philaretos took the donkey and went to borrow six bushels of wheat from a friend of his. When he returned home, a poor man asked him for a little wheat, so he told his wife to give the man a bushel. Theoseba said, “First you must give a bushel to each of us in the family, then you can give away the rest as you choose.” St. Philaretos then gave the man two bushels of wheat. Theoseba said sarcastically, “Give him half the load so you can share it.” The Saint measured out a third bushel and gave it to the man. Then Theoseba said, “Why don’t you give him the bag, too, so he can carry it?” He gave him the bag. The exasperated wife said, “Just to spite me, why not give him all the wheat.” St. Philaretos did so.
Now the man was unable to lift the six bushels of wheat, so Theoseba told her husband to give him the donkey so he could carry the wheat home. Blessing his wife, St. Philaretos gave the donkey to the man, who went home rejoicing. Theoseba and the children wept because they were hungry.
The Lord rewarded St. Philaretos for his generosity: when the last measure of wheat was given away, a old friend sent him forty bushels. Theoseba kept most of the wheat for herself and the children, and the Saint gave away his share to the poor and had nothing left. When his wife and children were eating, he would go to them and they gave him some food. Theoseba grumbled saying, “How long are you going to keep that treasure of yours hidden? Take it out so we can buy food with it.”
During this time the Byzantine empress Irene was seeking a bride for her son, the future emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos. Therefore, emissaries were sent throughout all the Empire to find a suitable girl, and the envoys came to Amneia.
When St. Philaretos and Theoseba learned that these most illustrious guests were to visit their house, St. Philaretos was very happy, but Theoseba was sad, for they did not have enough food. But St. Philaretos told his wife to light the fire and to decorate their home. Their neighbors, knowing that imperial envoys were expected, brought everything required for a rich feast.
The envoys were impressed by the saint’s daughters and granddaughters. Seeing their beauty, their deportment, their clothing, and their admirable qualities, the envoys agreed that St. Philaretos’s granddaughter, Maria was exactly what they were looking for. This Maria exceeded all her rivals in quality and modesty and indeed became Constantine’s wife, and the emperor rewarded St. Philaretos.
Thus fame and riches returned to St. Philaretos. But just as before, this holy lover of the poor generously distributed alms and provided a feast for the poor. He and his family served them at the meal. Everyone was astonished at his humility and said: “This is a man of God, a true disciple of Christ.”
He ordered a servant to take three bags and fill one with gold, one with silver, and one with copper coins. When a beggar approached, St. Philaretos ordered his servant to bring forth one of the bags, whichever God’s providence would ordain. Then he would reach into the bag and give to each person, as much as God willed.
St. Philaretos refused to wear fine clothes, nor would he accept any imperial rank. He said it was enough for him to be called the grandfather of the Empress. The saint reached ninety years of age and knew his end was approaching. He went to the Rodolpheia Monastery in Constantinople. He gave some gold to the Abbess and asked her to allow him to be buried there, saying that he would depart this life in ten days.
He returned home and became ill. On the tenth day he summoned his family, he exhorted them to imitate his love for the poor if they desired salvation. Then he fell asleep in the Lord. He died in the year 792 and was buried in the Rodolpheia Monastery in Constantinople.
The appearance of a miracle after his death confirmed the sainthood of Righteous Philaretos. As they bore the body of the saint to the cemetery, a certain man, possessed by the devil, followed the funeral procession and tried to overturn the coffin. When they reached the grave, the devil threw the man down on the ground and went out of him. Many other miracles and healings also took place at the grave of the saint.
After the death of the St. Philaretos, his wife Theoseba worked to restore monasteries and churches devastated during a barbarian invasion.