In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Brothers and sisters, today, is the Sunday of All Saints. This is the first Sunday after Pentecost. The first Sunday after which we celebrate not just the coming of, the distribution of, the inbreathing of, but, the OUTPOURING of, the Holy Spirit. The OUTPOURING. What kind of image does that stir up in your minds? A waterfall, a fountain, some kind of image of a fluid that just spills out, overflows, and inundates something.
The Holy Spirit, as we pray, is everywhere present, and fills all things. This Holy Spirit of God, this sanctifying spirit, is all around us, and within us. This Spirit, this grace, is given freely to all who desire it. Remember the Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water!” (Jn 4:10). And, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. Not only this, the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14).
This living water is freely given, to all who truly desire it. Just as the rain falls out of the clouds, and touches everything. God’s grace shines and radiates everywhere. And just as the rain nourishes and soaks into the ground in some places with good rich soil, in other places the water runs right off, because the ground is hard, like clay, and won’t receive the water, or it is asphalt or concrete. The rain falls freely where it will, but is not always received.
The Saints of our Church are those where soil of their hearts, minds, and souls, was ready and thirsty for the Grace of God. When they received God’s Grace, as we all do at our baptism and chrismation, that seed of grace that was implanted into their hearts, over time became like a great tree. The Saints spent their lives cultivating and watering that seed, with the hearing of God’s word, prayer and worship, and participating in the Holy Sacraments of the Church. Their hearts were like that good soil, into which the living water of God’s grace continually poured, nourishing their souls.
We can look around here where we stand in church, and see all those familiar faces. Saints who are well known in the Church. Apostles, martyrs, ascetics, hymnographers, hierarchs. They spent their lives seeking that “living water”, and having found it, many of them became overflowing sources of that “living water” themselves. You can point to St. John of Damascus, St. Romanos the Melodist. Your can look over there and point to St. Innocent of Alaska, to St. Sebastian Dabovich. The same Holy Spirit, who worked wonders through the Apostles Peter and Paul, continued to do so through These saints I’ve mentioned, and many many more. Christ Himself said it would be this way.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth! 18 As you sent me into the world, I too have sent them into the world. 19 I sanctify myself for their sake, so that they too may be sanctified in truth. 20 I do not pray only for these, but also for those who [will] believe in me through their word, 21 so that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you. May they be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. 22 The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, so that they may be one even as we are one; 23 I in them, and you in me. May they be perfected into one, so that the world may know that you sent me, and [that you have] loved them, even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those whom you have given me would be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (Jn 17:16–24).
Many of the Saints of the Church are known to us. Perhaps because they had people around them, who knew them, knew the way of their lives, and then therefore made them known to the rest of us, as happens with so many of our monastic saints. But, there are also many saints, who are a part of that “Great cloud of witnesses”, who we don’t know about. They lived quietly, anonymously, prayerfully. Maybe they lived long lives, into old age. Or, maybe they were not given much time to live. But regardless of how much time they had, they thirsted for that living water, found it, partook of it, and received a little of that “glory” which the Lord spoke of above. I would like to read a couple stories to you. These are out of a little book called Ascetics in the World: Volume One. I will read from Part 2 of the book, called “Wondrous and Instructive Events”, section 18 “The End of the Righteous Ones”, and section 45 “A Young Boy with the Gift of Clairvoyance”. (Pages 326 – 329, and 370 – 372)
18: The End of the Righteous Ones
Panayiotis Vasiliadis was born in Trebizond in 1880. He was a quite well-off copper merchant. His wife Despina was from a poor family, but rich in virtues of soul. They had seven children.
They were a loving couple and made all their decisions jointly. They furthermore agreed that, aside from their parents, other close relatives with financial problems, widows, orphans, et al., be added to their family.
As he had a large house and because he had relationships with people of the Church, he offered hospitality to metropolitans and priests from various areas who would come to Trebizond, as well as to the poor, homeless and transient. Panayiotis, like the Patriarch Abraham, would not chase anyone away from his house. He comforted everyone, offered them hospitality, and filled them with material goods, and with his noble love.
One of the many gifts which the people who received his hospitality offered him is preserved to this day. It is a prayer book with psalms, printed in Venice in the year 1780 in the Turkish language. This and the Gospel were his favorite books, which he often read.
In all his life, in easy times and difficult, he always took refuge in God. His faith in God was strong and alive. Five times every day he would pray, always beginning with the 50th Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God…”
When he was alone at home, he liked to chant. He advised his children to be humble and to not forget that: “he who exalts himself shall be humbled, while he who humbles himself will be exalted”. (Luke 18:14)
He was a peaceful and calm man. He helped many who had need, and especially the widows who had little orphan children, because he had a weakness for little children.
Once, his little daughter asked him to buy her shoes for Pascha. He brought them but when he saw a certain orphan girl barefoot of the same age he put them on her. When his daughter protested, he answered her without excuses: “You, my child, have a father. You have the opportunity (to receive shoes) tomorrow also.” He also protected his employees. He helped them to have their own homes. He even was the benefactor of many Turks who had need.
In the year 1920, in the exchange of populations, they came to Greece extremely poor, because they left everything. For safety, he left a miracle-working icon with a Turkish friend, an inheritance from his parents which dated from the year 1520. However, from the day the certain Turk took it into his home every night it would make a characteristic noise, so that they couldn’t sleep. Therefore the Turk notified Panayiotis and with much emotion and piety he brought it to Greece with him. The icon depicts Christ in the middle, the Panagia to the right, and the Precious Forerunner to the left.
There life in Greece was very difficult. They had lost everything but nevertheless he would tell them: “Glorify God, He will not abandon us.”
Though in deprivation the compassionate Panayiotis did not forget his poor relatives. Until he became elderly his pockets were full of candies, coins, and other things which he would offer the little children he would meet, playing on the street. This was his great joy.
The last years of his life, he lived at the home of his youngest daughter, Sophia. He suffered very much from bronchial asthma. In the year 1955, Pascha was on April 17th. A few days earlier, God notified him to prepare for the next life. “They notified me that I am leaving, and I want to prepare”, he told his children. On Palm Sunday he went alone to Church, which was quite far, even though he was so exhausted. He communed kneeling. He was very calm during those days. On Holy Friday, however, at noon he got up abruptly from his bed and murmured intensely. His daughter asked him: “Do you want something, father?” “No, my child”, he told her. “There, they came to take me, and I was upset. ‘Don’t ruin the Pascha of my children’ , I told them.”
On the Monday of Pascha his health worsened quite a bit. His children, his daughters-in-law and his sons-in-law gathered at the house.
In the afternoon he was breathing with difficulty. He turned his head, looked at them all, and the to the the husband of his older daughter, who was very fussy, he told him,
moving his head and grieving. “Savva, Savva”, and tears rolled from his eyes. Then he turned his head, and at 7pm in the evening he reposed peacefully. He left poor and chaste, but around him were all his children.
At the forty day memorial, Turks came from Trebizond, to whom he had been a benefactor when he lived there.
A little before the six month memorial after his death, he appeared to his wife in her sleep. He told her that he would be taking her with him, and for this reason, she should get ready. Thus, without any doubting, his wife went to Church and communed with much piety.
On the eve when they were preparing the kollyva for the six month memorial, at noon, while they were eating, she also reposed from heart failure.
After three years they exhumed his bones (common in Greece due to limited space). They were clear and yellow like a lemon (this is considered to be a sign of holiness).
Years later he appeared to his daughter Sophia while she slept. When she asked him: “How is it going, father? How are you doing?” he told her: “I am very well. We are together with your mother. Here it is very nice. Your neither hunger, nor thirst, nor get cold, so don’t worry about us.”
May his memory be eternal.
45: A Young Boy With a Gift of Clairvoyance
In September of a certain year in the oncological department of the University Hospital of Rio (near the city of Patras, Greece), a great stir occurred. The young Demetrius was urgently asking for the hospital priest. He wanted by all means to receive communion.
He was 13 years old. He had been in that clinic for about 1 1/2 years. A small headache led him there. The doctors diagnosed brain cancer. His ancestral descent was from Fieri of Albania. His parents were unbaptized. They remained for quite a few yeas in Patras. He however, a short while after his entrance into the hospital, wanted to be baptized. He had heard of Christ and wanted to become His “child”. He was baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” following, of course, catechism.
Everyone loved him very much in the clinic. The cancer had advanced quite a bit and already had deprived him of his sight. He could not see at all, nothing and no one. He listened, however, with great and much patience. He would not complain. He would say that God loves him very much. He prayed, and asked his parents to do the same thing also.
Whoever visited him realized that there was something different about this child. He spoke constantly of God. He was always courteous and joyous. His face shone brightly. He wanted to commune often of the Precious Gifts. Sometimes when his mother was in some other area of the clinic, he would shout: “Mother, come quickly. The dear priest is arriving with Christ. He is coming up the stairs. Come to prepare me.” And thus it would occur. The priest would come and find little Demetrius sitting in his bed, with his mouth open piously, doing his cross. While he did not know the precise time the priest was coming with the Precious Gifts, with a clairvoyant gift he could see him coming, even though he was surrounded by two closed doors which separated his room from the hall. The pious woman, Maria Galiatsatou, who voluntarily took care of this child assures us of this. “Mrs. Mary, I want to tell you something” he told her one day. “When the dear priest comes with Christ, I see him on the stairs ascending, and next to him there are two tall, beautiful people wearing fully white vestments who are turning towards the Holy Chalice and with their hands open, are protecting it.”
Once the Doctor asked him: “How are you doing, little Demetrius? How’s it going?” He answered him: “Mr. Doctor, can I tell you from up close?”
“I am doing well. Don’t worry that you wife left you. God will be with you because you are a good person.” The doctor remained a bit motionless. No one knew the grievous event which had taken place the previous days at his home – that, in other words, his wife had abandoned him….”
Whoever knew him was saying, “This is a child of God”.
The last time he communed, he could no longer stay sitting up in bed, but joyfully and with longing received Christ lying down. “I thank you very much” he whispered, and then reposed.
The priest, when he went to the morgue the next day to read the Trisagion prayers over Dimitri, said: “Such a relic I’m seeing for the first time in my life. His face is smiling, shining, and he has the color of amber.”
His parents came to love Christ ver much and also wanted to be baptized.
Let us take the examples of these Holy Ones of God, each one of them different in their own way, and open our hearts to God’s gift of grace. Let us make ourselves receptive to that “Living Water” the Lord so freely pours out in abundance upon all of us. Remember the Lord’s words to us today : “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”
And also the words of the Apostle Paul,
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”