In Chapter 21 ofMonastic Wisdom, Elder Joseph states, “But the cane is the remedy for every passion. Demons fear it and shudder when they see a man punishing himself like a martyr for the love of Christ.” This is accompanied by a cleverly worded footnote, “The elder is not advocating some kind of masochism here, but advises counteracting sinful pleasure—whether it be due to thoughts of anger, pride, or carnal thoughts—with physical pain.” It then lists a few of the numerous Orthodox saints who have used similar techniques—i.e. inflicting pain upon themselves to counteract sinful pleasure, not caning themselves. Though Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) did the initial translation of Monastic Wisdom, the manuscript was passed around Arizona for the older fathers to edit and add input. One of the monks suggested this footnote and it was added to the manuscript (this footnote is not in the original Greek edition of Monastic Wisdom).
It is important to examine some terminology to understand why using the term “masochism” makes this footnote a cleverly worded statement which avoids the true nature of caning oneself:
Masochism: a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object; pleasure in being abused or dominated:a taste for suffering.
Auto-sadism: Also known as automasochism, is behavior inflicting pain or humiliation on oneself. It may be related to self-harm, or a paraphilia involving sexual arousal. It can be viewed as a form of masochism, a sublimated form of sadism, or a means to experiencing algolagnia, a sexual tendency which is defined by deriving sexual pleasure and stimulation from physical pain.
Self-defeating personality disorder: Also known as masochistic personality disorder, SDPD is a personality disorder that was never formally admitted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It involves a persistent pattern of behavior which is detrimental to the self, including being drawn to problematic situations or relationships.
Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI): is defined as deliberately injuring oneself without suicidal intent. The most common form of NSSI is self-cutting, but other forms include burning, scratching, hitting, intentionally preventing wounds from healing, and other similar behaviors.
Stating that “the elder isn’t advocating some kind of masochism here,” is stating the obvious. The monastics are not inflicting pain on themselves for sexual gratification, although addiction to pain or the endorphin rush pain causes, is well documented in medical literature. Caning one’s thighs or other body parts could technically fall under the category of autosadism, however, it is not practised to derive sexual pleasure. The self-defeating personality disorder can be applied to a few of the monastics in Geronda’s monasteries, though it is not applicable to the act of caning oneself. The more correct definition of this act would be the non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) which is a sub-category of self-harm. Virginity is one of the three monastic virtues, so explaining the obvious with an authoritative blanket statement—i.e. in essence, celibate monks are not caning themselves to derive sexual gratification from the pain—is misleading. The footnote does not address self-harm or self-injury which is the real issue behind caning oneself.
It is interesting to note that self-harm is listed in the DSM-IV-TR as a symptom of borderline personality disorder. However, patients with other diagnoses may also self-harm, including those with depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia, and several personality disorders. Self-harm is also apparent in high-functioning individuals who have no underlying clinical diagnosis. The motivations of self-harm vary and it may be used to fulfill a number of different functions. These functions include self-harm being used as a coping mechanism which provides temporary relief of intense feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness or a sense of failure or self-loathing and other mental traits including low self-esteem or perfectionism. Self-harm is often associated with a history of trauma or abuse, including emotional and sexual abuse.
It should be mentioned that Geronda Ephraim has stated in homilies to his monastic that Elder Joseph would also hit his monks with his cane as a form of disciplinary measure (i.e. corporal punishment). Flogging as a form of punishing monks was common in the beginning years of Orthodox Monasticism and is mentioned in early texts as well as the Rule of St. Benedict. Self-flagellation which was a universal pagan practise before the advent of Christianity, is not found in any of the early orthodox texts, not even the Rule of St. Benedict. Self-flagellation as a form of ascesis is a Roman Catholic monastic tradition that appeared sometime after the Great Schism. Though one can find Orthodox Saints who tortured themselves through various ascetical hardships or one time endeavours to battle a temptation (i.e. the saints mentioned in the footnote of Monastic Wisdom), the act of self-flagellation or caning oneself to counteract sensual pleasure is not found in early Orthodox texts. The practice of self-flagellation seems to have been unknown in Christian Europe until it was adopted by the hermits in the monastic communities of Camoaldoli and Fonte Avellana early in the 11th century. Once invented, the new form of penance spread rapidly until it had become not only a normal feature of monastic life throughout Latin Christendom but the commonest of all penitential techniques—so much so in fact that the very meaning of the term disciplina was restricted to ‘scourge.’
In the Greek Orthodox monasteries here, this form of self harm—non-suicidal self-injury—is used as a coping mechanism to deal with logismoi, and any negative or impassioned thought or feeling. For those who’ve attended services at a monastery with a side door that the monastics use to enter and exit the Church without having to pass the lay people, one will often hear the door open and shortly afterwards the rapid sound of wood or whatever striking an object. These are the monastics beating themselves outside because their logismoi was too overwhelming to push away with the Prayer.
Elder Joseph writes, “Here all my young monks have a cane under their pillow. As soon as a carnal thought comes, they let him have it! … So there is no other remedy than prayer, fasting, and the cane.” (p. 121). Following this tradition, all of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics have some object used to beat themselves either under their pillow or in close proximity to their bed. This is because carnal warfare is quite common at bedtime and during the personal vigil in one’s cell. Some monastics, such as Fr. Makarios (AZ), have a blessing to bring their beating stick to church. Thus, during the service, if one starts falling asleep, or having carnal thoughts or any other kind of passions arise, they can leave the church through the side door (or altar door) and go beat themselves—Geronda Ephraim does not like his monastics walking in and out of the church where people can see because they get scandalized and it’s a bad image for the pilgrims.
Other monastics who do not bring their beating stick to Church use pinching, punching, biting and other forms of inflicting pain upon themselves when thoughts arise so they do not have to exit the Church.
There is also an odd phenomenon where certain monastics, in a fit of rage, will also beat themselves. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, this style of “caning” is usually accompanied by a warning, and then prostrations and other penances if it persists. Hitting oneself due to outbursts of rage and anger defeats the purpose of ascetical caning, and is also unmonastic. There are also the cases of monastics self-harming themselves when rebuked by the Elder or when they’ve had a mini-break due to overwhelming external pressures and temptations. Such forms of self-harming have been the following:
The monastic laid face down on the floor, repeatedly banged his head on the floor, and made guttural noises.
Repeatedly banging their head off a dashboard and rapidly slapping the dashboard or steering wheel with both hands while making strange noises.
Rapidly punching a brick wall until both hands were bleeding.
Rapidly punching the sides of their head with both hands while making strange noises.
Intentionally injuring oneself in an attempt to avoid work—known in the military as a self-inflicted wound. Monastics guilty of this were severely censured in front of the other monastics and rebuked for being lazy and cowardly, etc.
Hitting/kicking inanimate objects, destroying inanimate objects, vandalizing one’s cell, etc. out of rage is a whole other chapter of Greek Orthodox monasticism in America. Though it is often a red flag indicating these monastics are ready to leave the monastery and return to the world.
NOTE: This is a paper written for Dr. David Ford’s American Orthodoxy class at St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary.
In American Orthodoxy, rife with controversy as it is, one of the most controversial characters is Elder Ephraim, former abbot of Philotheou Monastery, who currently lives at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. The mere mention of his name evokes strong emotions – people either love or revile him. It is not uncommon to hear him referred to as the holiest man alive, or conversely as a fanatical cult-leading guru. Either way, his establishment of seventeen monasteries in North America in a decade is certainly an impressive feat. It is said that the state of monasticism in a local Church is a microcosm of the state of that entire local Church, and thus America is undoubtedly in need of strong monasteries that can provide clear, Patristic guidance. Elder Ephraim came to America in response to the pleas of the faithful to provide this guidance, but in doing so many questions have been raised concerning the nature of Orthodox monasticism and teachings. To assess his role and importance for American Orthodoxy it is helpful to investigate his life and spiritual development, which will provide insight into him whom Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos says “’received fire,’ and . . . has imparted this fire . . . to the Church in America that has great need of it.”
Elder Ephraim was born to a poor family in Volos, Greece in 1927, receiving the name John at baptism. He worked hard with his father to support the family, but was more inspired by the pious example of his “philomonastic mother” who later became the nun Theophano “of blessed memory.” He quit school during the first years of the German Occupation to work, and it is then, around the age of fourteen, that his own yearning for monasticism began to blossom when a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast came from the Holy Mountain to serve in an Old Calendar parish in Volos. This hieromonk soon became John’s (Ephraim’s) spiritual father and related many stories of Mount Athos, and especially of Elder Joseph, at which John would “burn with the ardent desire for the day [he] would meet him.” He received a blessing five years later from his spiritual father to pursue monasticism, and in the meantime he “gave alms as much as [he] could, even though [he] was poor, so that God would help [him] achieve [his] goal.”
On September 26, 1947 John boarded a boat to the dock of St. Anne’s on the Holy Mountain where he was met by Geronda Arsenios who announced that “The Honorable Forerunner appeared to Elder Joseph last night and said to him, ‘I am bringing you a little lamb. Put it in your sheepfold.’” While such news would lead to pride in most people, Elder Ephraim humbly writes that he was simply grateful for this care of St. John towards him. The rest of John’s life was mapped out that night in a small chapel of St. John the Baptist where he did a metanoia of obedience to Elder Joseph the Hesychast from whose side he would learn for the next twelve years until the venerable Elder’s repose in 1959. John was tonsured as a monastic with the name Ephraim nine months later, and under obedience was soon ordained to the diaconate and subsequently the priesthood.
Of Elder Joseph, Elder Ephraim writes, “It was impossible for a person to come and stay with him and not be cured of his passions . . . as long as he was obedient to him,” and it was in this atmosphere that he struggled for twelve years. Although Elder Ephraim does not write it of himself, as can be seen in his own writings, he himself is one who overcame his own passions by the guidance of Elder Joseph. As he describes it, his spiritual regimen included practice of Christ-like obedience, fasting, all-night vigils, extensive practice of the Jesus Prayer, silence, and endurance of verbal abuse. While Elder Joseph allowed a little laxity concerning fasting, he was quite strict in every other aspect – for speaking two or three words on a trip Elder Ephraim received a first penance of 200 prostrations, and he relates to Constantine Cavarnos that six or seven continuous hours of the Jesus Prayer replaced Matins, and in the afternoon it also replaced Compline.
Elder Ephraim’s spiritual state and popularity seem to have grown rapidly. There was much talk of him at least in Athens while his own Elder was still alive, as Cavarnos reports, and Elder Joseph would even send people to see his disciple for spiritual nourishment. After Elder Joseph’s repose, Elder Ephraim became the head of a group of eight young monks, which grew to forty in less than a decade. In need of more space, he moved with twenty disciples to the abandoned Russian kelli of St. Artemios at Provata, a dependency of the Great Lavra. In 1973, he was petitioned by the Council of the Holy Mountain to move his brotherhood to Philotheou monastery where he became abbot and quickly revived the spiritual life. Seeing his spiritual discernment and success, the Council also asked him to repopulate the Xeropotamou, Konstamonitou, and Karakallou monasteries. He was also asked to repopulate the Great Lavra, but declined. He remains the spiritual guide of these Athonite monasteries, as well as eight women’s communities throughout Greece. In 1979 he made a brief trip to North America where he met many Orthodox Christians who were hungry for spiritual counsels, and flooded him with pleas to return, and so he began to make annual trips to guide his growing flock here. Due to these extended absences, he resigned as abbot of Philotheou in 1990 and moved to America where he quickly founded seventeen thriving monasteries by the invitation of the local Greek Orthodox hierarchs and the fervent pleas of the faithful. Today he labors as the spiritual father of thousands around the globe at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ which was founded by six Athonite monks in 1995.
With this brief biographical information, it seems Elder Ephraim’s life could be straight out of the Synaxarion. The success of his communities and the Patristic ethos of his writings show him to be a well-rounded master of the spiritual life in our time. Of his words in Counsels From the Holy Mountain, Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos writes that they are “an outcome and a fruit of obedience and noetic hesychia, a result of divine ascents, and they are certainly words coming from a paternal heart, words that help a person be healed in the atmosphere of spiritual love . . . His words arouse the heart to prayer, precisely because they proceed from prayer.” Constantine Cavarnos asks, “What accounts for Ephraim’s extraordinary success in attracting so many men to monasticism, at a time when there are numerous anti-monastic forces operating in the world?” and he answers, “It is, above all, his purity and holiness. And this he owes in large measure to his elder Joseph.” If these accolades be trusted, Elder Ephraim has innumerable gifts to offer to American Orthodoxy. To Americans, obsessed with monetary success and “intellectual” pursuits, he offers the true theology of a purified intellect – “not gained in universities, but rather by despising the world and by living in a quiet and peaceful place far from the world’s noise and turmoil, with a program of prayer and ascesis.” He offers immense faith – faith “that has taken him, a frail, elderly little provincial, to sophisticated, postmodern North America, there to perform mighty works for the Lord he loves so much.”
America’s generally Protestant inheritance has given us a severely weakened and increasingly secularized church experience. Those who profess faith in Christ are often driven by material and sensual desires and in no way stand apart from the popular culture. Faith is pushed further and further into the closet, and our proud tradition of “rugged individualism” has made us blind to the virtue of obedience. We are constantly on the move, uncomfortable with any down time or silence. These factors have led to a nation that is morally and psychologically sick. Elder Ephraim offers us an experience that is wholly other from American culture. He brings the unquenchable fountain of Athonite spiritual wisdom which is so vital for the life of the Church. As seen, his faith is anything but material, sensual, or secularized, and far from the closet, his faith is his life. Where we value innovation, Elder Ephraim calls us to enter the unchanging stream of Tradition. Where we fill our lives with noise, Elder Ephraim calls us to silent devotion to the name of Jesus. Where we are sick, he calls us to purity and healing. What Elder Ephraim offers to America now is exactly what he offered to Mount Athos fifty years ago. Of a conversation with the elder in 1965, Constantine Cavarnos writes, that he especially stressed the “need of a spiritual guide, and the value of praying mentally and heeding one’s conscience.” This is precisely the “fire” of which Metropolitan Hierotheos writes, and Elder Ephraim has come to spread such zeal to America.
To attain to such spiritual heights is a struggle against one’s fallen will and the fallen world. Without the luxury of a detailed biography it is hard to determine what specific weaknesses Elder Ephraim has overcome on his path to sanctity, but, as aforementioned, he does state that he received penances from his elder, and “in those twelve years that I lived with [Elder Joseph], rarely did I hear him call me by name. To call me or address me, he used all kinds of insults and appropriate adjectives.” Thus he assures the reader that he had to struggle to align his will with God’s. The strictness of his life on Mount Athos could be endured only by unceasingly seeking the grace of God, and his spiritual warfare has surely reaped great reward. His most obvious “weakness” in the American context is his ignorance of the English language. Thousands flock to St. Anthony’s Monastery, but those who do not speak Greek can have but limited conversation with him. As the success of his monasteries attests, this has not prevented him from nourishing Orthodoxy in America, but he could perhaps have an even greater impact if he were able to speak in-depth with more seekers.
Beyond the issue of language, concerns have been raised about Elder Ephraim and his monasteries among some of the faithful, causing many to be wary of his counsels and of anyone associated with him. The internet is filled with accusations that he is anti-Semitic, anti-marriage, anti-parish, a cultish guru (expecting unhealthy obedience from his disciples), and a Gnostic (he teaches the aerial toll-houses). The websites “Pseudo-Prophet” and “Greek Orthodox Monasteries Founded by Elder Ephraim” both contain several pages that lay these and other accusations against him. There is even the Greek Orthodox Christians of Chicago for Truth and Reform, which has as its mission statement:
We Greek Orthodox Christians of the Metropolis of Chicago will no longer accept the conditions that have spread and caused irreparable harm to our Faith. We are of the opinion that our current Hierarchs of the Metropolis of Chicago are complicit in allowing a cancerous cult to permeate the theology of our church. Therefore, we will focus the efforts and attention of our members to expose inappropriate teachings, practices and customs as they concern our Faith.
Its website also features articles entitled “What is an ‘Ephraimite’?” and “Learn to Speak ‘Ephraimitese’.” Most alarming is the link entitled “Report Ephraimite Activity” in which the organization encourages the faithful to provide: ” Names of any Greek Orthodox Priest who has presided over or participated in any sacrament at a monastery,” “Dates and Places of fundraising events held for the monasteries,” “Names and ages of monks, nuns or priests located at the monastery and ages when they entered the monasteries’” “Circumstances of spiritual abuse during confession,” and “Facts of excessive punishments attributed during confession,” among other things. Such alarming tactics are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes and serve only to illegitimize any valid concerns the group may have.
There is also concern about the source of funds for his monasteries. Orthodox theologian Bradley Nassif states, “If you look at a person like Billy Graham, where his reputation is sterling, there’s full, open and public disclosure of his funds and we should expect no less from the Orthodox church . . . I would encourage the bishop to be the bishop, stand up for the gospel, at all costs, and, if necessary, if they refuse to follow the gospel, they should do their duty and excommunicate them.” With all these charges laid against him, the typical response would be for Elder Ephraim to speak out in his own defense, or even to malign those who malign him, but even in the midst of such controversy, Elder Ephraim has a lesson for us. In a newscast for Fox News KVOA TV 4 in Tucson which aired on February 9, 2006, reporter Kristi Tedesco asks, “Why can’t Father Ephraim speak on his own behalf?” and Fr. Anthony of the Greek parish in Tucson answers, “Because he is Father Ephraim. He’s not going to play those games, that people, they like to play.” Just as Christ silently accepted the shame of the hatred of His own people, and finally of the Cross, so Elder Ephraim silently and humbly accepts the shame of such accusations, thus putting Himself in the path of Christ. Avoiding talk of scandals is certainly a timely lesson for American Orthodox who are daily fed on the mudslinging of ocanews.org! While it is possible that there are legitimate concerns about the actions of someone, somewhere affiliated with Elder Ephraim, they are unfortunately overshadowed by the obviously uninformed and biased accusations that abound, and most importantly, by the Elder’s evident sanctity and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church.
Elder Ephraim offers an imperative message to the Church in America – the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ as preserved in the Orthodox Church, and especially in the spiritual deserts of Mount Athos. He reveals a life beyond “Vaticanized ecclesiology, academic and intellectualistic theology, Protestantizing sociology and ethicology, spiritually void and deluded meditation, atheistic social activism, etc,” a life of joy that leads to eternal blessedness:
Theosis in the heavens, my child! There the Lord our God will remove every tear from our eyes, and do away with all sorrow and pain and sighing, for there the angelic way of life reigns, and the only work is to chant hymns and spiritual odes! An eternal Sabbath is prepared for us where we shall live in joy with our Father, God, Who is waiting for us to be ready so that He may call us to Him forever! There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder!
He offers us a message of hope, but also of urgency as we journey through these latter times. He further teaches us by word and example how to be ready for the call of the Father—through obedience to an experienced spiritual guide, hesychia, and maintaining a pure conscience, as he emphasized to Constantine Cavarnos forty-five years ago. Elder Ephraim is a missionary to the American people, calling us away from our ailing culture and ever further into the saving enclosure of the Orthodox Church. Elder Ephraim has “received fire.” Elder Ephraim is a spiritual fire. By the grace of God may America too catch a fire.
Archimandrite Ephraim. “Preface.” Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Florence, AZ: St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1998.
Cavarnos, Constantine. Anchored in God: Life, Art, and Thought on the Holy Mountain of Athos. Athens: Astir Publishing Company, 1959.
—. The Holy Mountain. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1973 (reprinted 2001).
Elder Ephraim. Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim. Florence, AZ: St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1999.
“St. Anthony’s Monastery: Monastery Mystery Part 1.”14 February 2009. You Tube. Web. 23 April 2010.
“St. Anthony’s Monastery: Monastery Mystery Part 2.” 14 February 2009. You Tube. Web. 23 April 2010.
Vlachos, Metropolitan Hierotheos. “Prologue.” Elder Ephraim. Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim. Florence, AZ: St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1999.
 Vlachos, Metropolitan Hierotheos. “Prologue.” Elder Ephraim. Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim. Florence, AZ: St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1999. xv.
 Including the monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Serres, that of Panagia the Directress in Portaria (Volos), and that of the Archangel Michael, a formal metochion of Philotheou on the island of Thasos.
 Cavarnos, The Holy Mountain. 125. Cavarnos continues: “For, as St. Gregory of Nyssa remarks (OnVirginity chapter 24), “the saintliness of a life is transmitted from him who has achieved it to those who come within his circle; for there is truth in the Prophet’s saying, that one who lives with a man who is holy and clean and elect will become such himself.’”
 Archimandrite Ephraim. “Preface.” 24. Emphasis added. He continues, “But the driving force behind all that masterful verbal abuse and insult was true paternal affection and a sincere interest in the cleansing of my soul. How grateful my soul is now for that paternal affection!
During the 1950s a particularly dynamic brotherhood gathered around the renowned desert father Elder Joseph the Hesychast (also known as the Cave Dweller). After many years living in conditions of extreme privation at St Basil’s, Elder Joseph had eventually settled at New Skete, where he earned fame as a teacher and spiritual father. His teaching was based on St Paul’s injunction, ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5: 17), and on the cultivation of inner stillness (hesychia) and prayer of the heart; this has been the direction followed by all the leaders of the current Athonite revival. He died in 1959, but no fewer than six Athonite monasteries have been revived by his spiritual children, who include Fr Ephraim, subsequently to become abbot of Philotheou, Fr Charalambos, subsequently abbot of Dionysiou, and Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, who was one of the leading lights in the revival of that house and remains its principal spiritual father.
… Two other monasteries were revived in 1973, as is indicated by the increase in numbers in the table above. Philotheou, like Stavronikita, had become very depleted in numbers and was still following the idiorrhythmic way of life when Fr Ephraim from New Skete, a former disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, was invited to become abbot and bring his group of disciples to repopulate the monastery. Archimandrite Ephraim has since moved to North America, where he has founded a great many monasteries in recent years. But his influence remains strong at Philotheou, where the brotherhood is regarded as strict and sees itself as upholding the purest form of Orthodoxy. For this reason they require non-Orthodox pilgrims to progress no further than the narthex during services in the katholikon and to wait until the monks have finished before eating in the refectory. Regulations of this sort would never have been imposed in the 1960s and are among the less attractive features of the current revival.
Decline of Idiorrhythmic Life
By the start of the 1980s it had become evident that a revival was taking place. But it was not simply a fact that numbers were rising again for the first time for many years. Far more important than sheer numbers were the changes taking place in the Athonite way of life. Most of the new recruits were young men; quite suddenly the majority of beards were black rather than white and the average age of monks was soon brought down to a much healthier level. Most of them also were well educated, and many were university graduates. This represented a marked change from the traditional community where the majority of monks had been drawn from a peasant background and had received little or no formal education. The newcomers were attracted by the presence on the Mountain of so many gifted and charismatic teachers and holy men, men such as Elder Joseph, Fr Ephraim and Fr Vasileios. They came to sit at their feet and learn, but they also came to devote themselves to a life of service to God in strict obedience to their abbots. What appealed to them was the fully fledged monastic ideal of the cenobitic way of life in its purest, most hesychastic form. Not for them the laissez-faire lifestyle of the idiorrhythmic houses.
During the 1980s several of the grander monasteries still clung to their idiorrhythmic ways, and as long as this comfortable way of life remained a realistic option, the monks were resistant to change. But the fact was that, unlike their cenobitic neighbours, they were not receiving any novices at all and the differences soon became apparent. Their earlier grandeur now gave way to a rather squalid decadence, and one by one they were forced to accept the inevitable demands of the newcomers and abandon the idiorrhythmic life. As we have seen, the Lavra made the change, in name at least, as early as 1980 but it has to be said that the change has never been fully implemented there. Many of the monks, while paying lip-service to the cenobitic ideal, have continued much as before. As a result the community has not seen very much growth and the monastery still presents a somewhat sad and vacant appearance. By contrast, Vatopedi and Iviron, both of which made the change in 1990, have gone from strength to strength and are homes to exemplary cenobitic brotherhoods. Last, and most reluctant, to change was Pantokrator. In 1992 a new cenobitic brotherhood was introduced on the orders of the patriarchate and it too now bears all the hallmarks of a truly revived monastery.
Thus ended a system that had been in place intermittently on the Mountain for 700 years. Grudgingly given imperial sanction when the Byzantine empire was fighting for its life, the idiorrhythmic system undoubtedly contributed to the survival of Athonite monasticism at crucial moments during the Tourkokratia. By the second half of the twentieth century, however, it had lost its appeal and become unworkable. Scorned and rejected by a new generation of monks, the idiorrhythmic system has retreated to the sketes and cells to which it is best suited and where it flourishes alongside many of the humbler traditions of the ascetic way of life.
We have already mentioned the biography of Elder Joseph the Hesychast by his disciple, Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, which vividly describes the evolution of one of the most dynamic cells in the revival at New Skete. A selection of the elder’s letters has also been published and includes a fifty-four-page ‘Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit’. Most of the letters are addressed to monks, but they have a universal application to any reader with a spiritu¬ally inquiring mind. More than one ends with these comforting words: ‘Don’t despair! We will go to paradise together. And if I don’t place you inside, then I do not want to sit in there either.” Another of the elder’s disciples is Elder Ephraim, who in 1973 became abbot of Philotheou. He attracted so many recruits to that monastery that he was able to send them out to revive as many as three other monasteries on Athos (Xeropotamou, Konstamonitou and Karakalou). Since then he has extended his activities to North America and in the 1990s he founded no fewer than sixteen monasteries in the USA and Canada. A selection of his writing has recently appeared focusing on the theme of repentance.
NOTE: Although Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos is not a part of Geronda Ephraim’s family, there are many overlaps between the two lineages, not to mention Fr. Panteleimon claims to have been a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Brief chronology of Fr. Panteleimon’s relationship with Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples
• 1956: When Fr. Panteleimon was 21-years-old, he met Elder Joseph in 1956 and the newly tonsured rassaphore monk stayed with the Elder for 2 weeks at New Skete. From that point on, Fr. Panteleimon started calling himself a disciple of Elder Joseph (before visiting the Elder, he was a disciple of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery, Mt Athos, where he was tonsured). It is uncertain if the fathers at New Skete knew that Fr. Panteleimon was under the authority of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery and thus technically stealing a monk. The fathers say that Elder Joseph encouraged Fr. Panteleimon to leave the Holy Mountain.
• 1958: Fr. Panteleimon returned to the USA, a 22-year-old self-made “elder,” a new “disciple” of the Elder Joseph, and with the title of a monk and a new name “Fr. Panteleimon.” It is also believed Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, dean of Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA, ordained him to the diaconate.
• 1958: During this period Fr. Panteleimon received a letter from the Elder Joseph. The Elder Joseph exhorted him in this letter to pursue the virtue of purity. He talks about purity more than once and tries also to encourage the young man to love God first in his life. Only 3 of Elder Joseph’s monks started monasteries (Frs. Haralambos, Ephraim, and Joseph the Younger); these three monks lived with Elder Joseph for many years and were under blind obedience to him. What makes Fr. Panteleimon somewhat unique is the fact that he started a monastery, but was only a disciple of Fr. Joseph via having visited for two weeks, not as the others who lived with him for many years. Fr. Panteleimon states that Elder Joseph gave him a blessing to start a monastery.
• 1959: Fr. Panteleimon wrote a letter to Elder Joseph informing him on his intention to return. Elder Joseph replied in April and told him not to come to Mount Athos. The Elder Joseph reposed on the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 28/15, 1959.
• 1962: Richard Stockton of Harvard University and former professor of Holy Cross Seminary was convinced by Panteleimon to purchase a house in Jamaica Plain, MA. The house became Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The young monk, Panteleimon, in his 20s, calling himself an Elder, found that people had difficulties being obedient to him who had never spent even one year under obedience himself.
• 1963: During a visit to the Holy Mountain, Fr. Panteleimon was tonsured a great-schema monk at New Skete by Elder Arsenios, the co-struggler of the Elder Joseph. The Church however, ordains that a man should remain a novice for three years of testing before he is tonsured into the Great Schema. The Fathers on the Holy Mountain made use of economia in this case since they tonsured someone they really did not know, except for the fact that he was a disciple of the Elder Joseph by correspondence.
• 1964: Around this time, the young 29-year-old monk was ordained a priest. It is said that the millionaire abbess, Mother Maria Pateras, paid Metropolitan Vasilios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate—one one of the many bishops of the Jerusalem Patriarchate who lived with a concubine—to ordain Fr. Panteleimon a priest.
• 1965: Up until 1965, Holy Transfiguration Monastery was under the Greek Archdiocese. It would most likely have stayed that way for years to come had not the fathers of the Holy Mountain strongly recommended that the monastery be taken to the Russian Church Abroad, under the confessing bishops of that Church. The young “elder” did not have the spiritual discernment to make this move on his own. It was only when they, the monks of New Skete and St. Paul’s Monastery told him that if he did not leave the Greek Archdiocese, they would sever whatever connection they had with him.
• 1967: Fr. Panteleimon was caught and arrested for smuggling while attempting to return from a visit to Greece. He was incarcerated and the abbess, Maria Pateras, used her influence to have him transferred to her home under house arrest. Shortly afterwards, he obtained his passport and Abbess Maria immediately bought him a ticket for the next plane to Boston.
• It should be noted that almost all the relics that are at Holy Transfiguration Monastery have been smuggled out of Greece. These relics and reliquaries came from the Holy Mountain and more specifically from the monastery of St. Panteleimon. The Russian monks there at that time, when they understood that Fr. Panteleimon was in the Russian Church Abroad, gave him many relics to smuggle from the Holy Mountain and smuggle out of Greece to America.
• Geronda Ephraim mentions in a cassette homily On the Old and New Calendar that he had visited Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos in Boston and talked with him:
“…And I, with Fr. Panteleimon, who is in Boston, America. Namely, Fr. Aresenios, the little old man that we have today, as you know, is the next after Elder Joseph, he took as a great schema, and I read as the chaplain in the skete where we were. Fr. Panteleimon removes the ordination of deacon by Athengoras of Thyatira. You know, the one who left history as a non-Orthodox in London—he was the first bishop in Boston and afterwards became bishop of Thyatira, England. Then, Fr. Panteleimon came as a deacon and we co-liturgized below. In the meantime, Fr. Panteleimon was with the New Calendarist Thyatira when he was in Boston, with the church of Iakovos. Then he became a priest in Jerusalem, by the Jerusalem Church, which is perfectly understood to be with the entire Church and is not with the Old Calendarists. He received the ordination from there, too right from both sides. But now he believes that there is no salvation nor…well, to us it is clear I believe it.
When I asked him then, “Father, are you with the Old Calendarists?”
He told me, “No. I’m neither with the Old Calendarists or the New Calendarists.”
Anyway, he has his own firm line and he says that there is no salvation except on his onw side, and he doesn’t commune or confess to people of the New Calendar. Of course, this happened in front of me and no one can tell me that I am wrong. When I went to Boston and went to his monastery, these things happened in front of me and I know them. Certainly, we are spiritual brothers and we have love, etc., but we utterly disagree in these respects. My own geronda told him, amongst other things, that, just as you believe him to be a saint and you have his holy relics and you do miracles with the relic of Geronda, so our Geronda died in the Church, we are ordained by the Bishop, who was in the Church and even then when we were ordained, we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch—who was Athengoras then—and Geronda was sanctified in the Church. Now how can we say that this Church, which sanctified Geronda, is heretical? It is terrible! …Better with the error of the calendar in the Church than to become a super-Orthodox and be found outside of the Church by dogmatizing that the mysteries are invalid and men are not saved…”
• It should also be noted that there are some interesting similarities in the founding of Greek monasteries in America. Almost 3 years after Fr. Panteleimon started a monastery in Massachusetts (1962), he left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and joined ROCOR (1965). Almost 3 years after Geronda Ephraim started a monastery in Pennsylvania (1989), he left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [and Ecumenical Patriarchate] and joined ROCOR (1991); though he returned to the EP/GOA less than a year later. Almost 20 years after joining ROCOR, Fr. Panteleimon broke communion with all churches and started his own exclusive church. Almost 25 years after leaving ROCOR, there is serious talk among Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries of breaking communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the GOA. Fr. Panteleimon was caught stealing relics from a monastery in Europe that he would have brought back to display in his own monastery. Geronda Ephraim was not caught stealing relics from a monastery in Europe (i.e. Elder Joseph’s skull from Filotheou Monastery, etc.) to bring back for display at his own monastery.
The monks of Mount Athos have recently released a 130 page document concerning Ecumenism:
Geronda Ephraim has a lot of experience with the Old Calendar issue. He was born a few years after the Church of Greece changed the calendar. His birthplace, Volos, would prove to be a stronghold for those sympathetic with the Julian calendar over the Gregorian in ecclesiastical use. His baptism would’ve occurred before the1937 schism, when the Old Calendarist faction were still members of the Church of Greece.
After the 1935 schism, Geronda Ephraim’s family joined the old calendar schismatic faction that broke off from the church.
Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who arrived on Mount Athos before the calendar change, also went with the schismatic faction that broke off from the church. After 1937, when Bishop Matthew created his own schism from the Old Calendarist schism, the schismatic factions were divided into two—The Matthewites and the Florinites.
Elder Joseph knew Bishop Matthew personally, as he was originally an ascetic on Mount Athos. Elder Joseph left the church and joined the schismatic Matthewite faction.1
Elder Joseph was very active with the old calendar schismatics. He founded a convent of nuns, made up mostly of refugees, in Macedonia. He stayed over a month at the newly-founded Convent of St. Irene Chrysovolantou in Athens and established their typicon according to the Athonite usages for coenobia. The convent, which is now world-renowned, was founded by Mother Meletia at the beginning of the thirties outside of Athens. Father Joseph, therefore, showed great zeal in admonishing the faithful, by word and deed, to “stand fast and keep the traditions” of the Church, even as we have received them, withstanding every and all innovation. During this period, prior to the Second World War, the best fathers of the Holy Mountain were zealots. Many illustrious fathers left the monasteries because of the commemoration and joined the zealots. 2
During the 1930s, Elder Joseph was actively helping Gerondissa Eupraxia. She and some of her spiritual sisters were building a monastery. Unfortunately there was a rivalry between them, quarrels, etc. Every now and again, Elder Joseph would come down from Mount Athos and help. These trips upset and wounded Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller because he didn’t like leaving the Holy Mountain; however, they had an obedience to stick together and there was no blessing to be separated for more than a 24 hour period.
The building of the monastery occurred after Elder Joseph’s 8 year temptation period with the demon of lust; when he was completely passionless, like a child.The parish priests, however, accused the Elder, especially about ethical issues, and made trial of him, in which the Elder was not presented. In the meantime, the laypeople out of simplicity made excesses; e.g. when they saw him they said “Christos, Christos!” inasmuch as he had blue-gray eyes and a blond goatee, etc.3
In 1938, when the Elder realized there was no benefit, he did not return to the Monastery. The sisters, one because the Elder didn’t come, another because the parish priests hunted her, were dissolved. But all of them firmly held the Monastic tradition. Many of them became sanctified. Two went to the Monastery of Panagia Pefkovounogiatrissis in Keratea (Euphrosyne, Fevronia), another was KlaioMaria of Perissa. The Abbess Efpraxia went to Thessaloniki and lived very poorly in a closet with dirt on the floor (near the Prophet Elijah), along with her mother, in the court of her brother’s house. When he saw that she was strong in the prayer , Geronda Joseph, instructed her to close herself in the closet and gave her a hesychast typikon to be occupied only on the prayer, not to exit, and to have no friends. She obeyed.
At the end of the 40s, Bishop Matthew, seeing that his end was drawing nigh and that no other bishop was with him, proceeded against the canons and ordained numerous bishops by himself, which then declared themselves a Synod and elected him Archbishop. This was the second blow to the zealots of Athos. Many at the time abandoned Bishop Matthew, observing that they could not be consistent in condemning the calendar change as uncanonical and then accept the uncanonical ordinations of bishops by one bishop.
In 1945, Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim of Katounakia joined the Florinites which was still a schismatic faction outside the church.5
When Geronda Ephraim of Arizona joined Elder Joseph’s synodia in 1947, they were still members of schismatic old calendarist factions. Some of the letters in Monastic Wisdom, were written to nuns in schismatic Old Calendarist convents. There are also letters preserved which are not found in Monastic Wisdom.6
Elder Joseph’s synodia left the zealots and returned to the Orthodox Church sometime in the 50’s after both Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim of Katounakia received visions that the living church was in Constantinople. Thus, Elder Ephraim of Arizona’s orthodox upbringing and his initial years of monasticism were rooted in old calendarist zealotry. Later, after the synodia of Elder Joseph joined the Orthodox Church, he also had the experience of the New Calendar side of things.7
In the 1950’s, Elder Joseph’s synodia had no priests, and two members—Fathers Haralampos and Ephraim—were ordained by Bishop Ierotheos, who was living as a hermit in the Skete of Saint Anne’s and was thus with the traditional Church Calendar, but a commemorator nevertheless. Although Father Joseph left the zealots, yet he never celebrated any feasts with the Papal Calendar. This was not difficult, for from 1939 he never left the Holy Mountain, nor did he allow any one of his synodia to go outside the Holy Mountain.
It is said in the biography of Elder Ephraim of Katounakia: “When, at the suggestion of Elder Joseph, they left the zealots and returned to communion with the rest of the Athonite fathers, they truly came to know the power of Grace in the Mysteries they celebrated…For the entire time he was with the zealots, he [Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia] saw something like a veil in front of him, hindering him from seeing this Divine Grace distinctly. The veil was lifted when he returned to the living church.”8
Elder Joseph was with the Old Calendarist zealots for 15+ years. Elder Ephraim of Katounakia had a veil hindering him from seeing divine grace distinctly for this 15 year period. One wonders if Elder Ephraim of Arizona has personal stories about the differences he perceived in Grace and spiritual experiences in Pappou’s synodeia (i.e comparisons of the initial years outside of the church and the later years after they joined the church).
There is not any information if they were properly received back into the church or if they just started commemorating the Patriarch again. The old/new calendar issue has been quite a grey area for the church. As the Church generally does not (or cannot) recognize any sacraments, including Baptism, administered in a schism, there have been varying ways that old calendarists have been received into the Orthodox Church. I.e. Bishops Paisios and Vikentios were reordained when they joined communion with the official church.9
Fr. Epifanios Theodoropoulos, the number one canonologist in Greece when he was alive, made some very strong ecclesiastical positions against the calendar schismatics, going one step further to call them heretics and blasphemers of the Holy Spirit since they denied the existence of grace in the New Calendar Church.10 Metropolitan Athansios of Lemesou, Elder Cleopa of Romania, as well as many of the Athonite Fathers hold the same views: “The Old Calendarists are outside the church, their sacraments are invalid, and they blaspheme the Holy Spirit by denying the existence of grace in the New Calendar Church.”
Archimandrite Panteleimon Metropoulos and Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Archimandrite Panteleimon (Metropoulos) has always claimed to have been a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. He also says Elder Joseph gave him a blessing to come to America to build a monastery. Some of Geronda Ephraim’s monks dispute this claim saying Elder Joseph told him, “No!” Apparently, he foresaw the scandals that Fr. Panteleimon would cause, as well as how that would impact Geronda Ephraim later. It is said that some of the letters in Monastic Wisdom are addressed to Fr. Panteleimon.
Following the suspension of the abbot and founder of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Archimandrite Panteleimon (Metropoulos), by the ROCOR in December, 1986, for multiple accusations of sexual immorality, the monastery and its supporting communities left the ROCOR and following a brief period under two independent Old Calendarist bishops in Greece, were received by the Old Calendarist Synod of Archbishop Auxentios of Athens. HOCNA is not in communion with any mainstream Orthodox church.11
Anyways, Geronda Ephraim went to visit Fr. Panteleimon at some point after all this fiasco, and talks about this meeting on in a homily On the Old Calendarists:
“…Father Panteleimon who is in Boston, America; he is like my brother… When I asked him then “Father, are you with the Old Calendarists?” He told me “No, neither with the old calendarists nor the New Calendarists”. Anyway, he has his own line firm and says that there is no salvation, except only on his own side, and he neither communes and nor confesses to people of the new calendar. This, of course, happened before me and no one can tell me that I am wrong. When I went to Boston and went to his monastery, it happened in front of me and I know these things. Of course, we are spiritual brothers and we have love etc. But we utterly disagree in these respects. My Elder told him, amongst other things, that, as you believe him to be a saint and you have his holy relics and you do miracles with the relics of the Elder, but our Elder has died in the Church. We were ordained by the Bishop, who was in the Church and even then, when we were ordained, we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch—then it was Athengoras—and he was sanctified in the Church. How now can we say that this Church, which sanctified the Elder, is heretical? It is awesome!”12
Bishop Matthew joined the early Greek Old-Calendarists as an archimandrite, was consecrated a vicar-bishop by the three original leaders of the Old-Calendarists (Metropolitan’s Chrysostom, Chrysostom, and Germanos) in 1935, but then broke away in schism from them in 1937 when he failed to persuade them to treat the New-Calendarist hierarchy of that time was outside the Church and graceless on account of the new-menaion innovation. He has been “glorified” as a saint in the GOC as “Saint Matthew the New” and is considered a “confessor” and “miracle-worker.” They claim he “streams myrrh” to this day…
Child abuse, brainwashing, horrible tortures, terrible secrets, fear, and death … And all this with a religious fanaticism that brings to mind the works and days of the Holy Inquisition. If you’re wondering when and where this happened, the answer is shocking: In the year 1950, just a few kilometers outside of Athens, in the region of Keratea , at the Old Calendarist Pefkovounogiatrissas Monastery. The «Espresso» met the nuns who today serve the Lord in the same monastery where the Middle Ages were once revived. The nuns insist that all these things were a misunderstanding. Indeed, “they christen” the torturers of children saints!
“My sister and brother-in-law, both consumptive, died there. Their three children were subjected to various abuses. The little boy was hung upside down naked many times and beaten to unconsciousness. When his father was alive, the nuns urged him to infect his child with tuberculosis, because he would become a bad man if he lived. They advised him to chew on his food and then feed it to his little boy, so that ‘he dies before him!”
Hundreds of people—dozens of children amongst them—were tortured to death by the abbess in order to be sent “to paradise without sin.”
More than two hundred innocent souls were horribly tortured at the behest of Abbess Mariam Soulakioti, who was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in Averov Prison. For years and years Keratea and the horrible deaths had haunted the headlines, but every now and then another shocking story sprang from hell.
Such as the story of Seraphim Silvestri, who lost his sister, brother-in-law, and three nephews in the cells of the monastery, as well as a young woman who left the seat of the court speechless when he began recounting what the nuns did to her 10 year old niece.
“Once they put my little niece, a 10 year old girl, in the kitchen for a chore. She was hungry and licked a potato. The sentence they imposed: The tied her completely nude in the stable and left her overnight. In the morning they found her senseless from cold and fear. Her soul had been cleansed and had been through all the preparation for paradise…”
The years went by, the inhumane stories were forgotten and today almost nobody remembers the screams of the children begging for help. The old nuns paid for their crimes, others were imprisoned and died in prison and the others in the monastery, which continues to operate with new nuns who pray daily for the soul of the “Saint Mariam.”
“She paid for something she did not do”
Fifty-eight years later, the nuns at the Keratea monastery could be changed, new ones came, but however all of them do not stop praying to Abbess Mariam, “to this saint who was slandered and paid for something she did not do,” as they say characteristically.
As two of the older nuns pointed out to «Espresso» “this monastery has been mercilessly beaten in the past and they continue to fight it. But we are not afraid just as Mariam didn’t fear. She was sentenced to die on a prison bed for crimes she did not do. She was a holy person,” they stressed and added: “Indeed, it was expected that she would have a tragic end, just as the other saints who were tortured by seculars before taking their place next to God.”
As the nuns recounted to us, “The monastery, which dates from 1927, was fortunate to host distinguished people, providential. Like the Archbishop of the Genuine Orthodox Christians, Matthew Karpathakis, the Abbess Mariam and several others. Here we honor St. Matthew every May and many believers come to pray to his icon for him to help them. Besides, his miracles are numerous. We will never forget a miracle that happened here about ten years ago and which many people question even today.” The girl who swallowed Communion
According to the nun Despina, “ten years ago, a 10 year old mute girl came to the monastery.” Her parents had gone to all the doctors, but had not seen results. An aunt of the child told them to bring her here, as they did. Once the little girl kissed of St. Matthew’s icon, she turned and for the first time said to her mother: “Mommy, I have something in the throat.” We were all speechless. Her mother told her to spit it out, but the short answer that “the owner of the photograph [i.e. picture of Matthew] told me to swallow.” Once she swallowed it, she started laughing and telling us that it was very beautiful and sweet. We understood that it was Holy Communion. Today, this little girl, now a woman, still comes to the Monastery.”
The corpse that “streams myrrh” and the horrible tortures
Sunday, November 19, 1950
After the death of Bishop Matthew Karpathakis, the Abbess Mariam deliberately spread rumors that his corpse “streamed myrrh”! In this way, hundreds of simplistic people were attracted who rushed there from many parts of Greece to see the miracle of St. Matthew whose body allegedly emitted myrrh.
Yet in reality, the sly abbess had sprinkled his corpse with perfume to deceive the pious and create a legend around the name of Matthew.
Saturday, November 25, 1950
The revealing narrative of the elderly Eugenia Margetis continues as she described with the darkest colors some of the horrible tortures to which she and other nuns were subjected.
Mariam ordered nuns under punishment to remain only in underwear and then assigned to a nun from her surroundings to beat them with a plank.
Other nuns, after Vespers, were led into the forests around the Monastery and fastened half-naked to the trees and remained tied up until Orthros.
Tuesday, November 28, 1950
From the continuing questioning about the scandals of Keratea Monastery, it was disclosed yesterday that Mariam’s most common method of torturing her victims was hanging them upside down from the surrounding trees to … leave them in the nest of these demons.
The son of Pavlakis narrated to his mother that the nuns at the Keratea Monastery submitted him to torture. Specifically, before dawn the nuns awaken the young boys and girls for Orthros. They would wake them up with a ferocious beating and told them this was for their purification, because in order to go to church and hear the Orthros and Liturgy, they must be savagely flogged beforehand, to be in pain and cry, because only then would they realize the greatness of the Christian religion. If any of the children dared to protest, the nuns moved him to the adjacent pine forest, tied his legs and they hung him from a pine tree with his head towards the ground.
Friday, February 9, 1951
Yesterday, the preliminary hearing for the Keratea Monastery scandals which began on November 15th, were terminated by the deputy procurator Mr. Papakaryas terminated after the request of the Chief Prosecutor Mr. Velouzou,…new criminal lawsuits were brought against Mariam Soulakiotou and the other monks for 13 new felonies, i.e. for homicide, fraud, forgery of wills, extortion…
Besides Mariam Soulakioti, notorious Abbess of the “Peukovounogiatrissa” monastery in Keratea, her helper Euphrosyne Mendrinou, as well as nuns and monks of their immediate surroundings, who have been placed in custody, have emerged from the preliminary investigation by Mr.. Papakarya guilty elements also against other foreign persons…
• Mr. Bakas, his wife and their three children, holders of significant property, went into the monastery appropriating their property. After some time, however, Mrs. Bakas realized she wanted to leave the monastery. But then Mariam put her in quarantine for six months in a hovel with grossly inadequate food. Mrs. Bakas contracted tuberculosis from the hovel and died shortly after. Her husband, also in the same manner, was infected and died of tuberculosis.
• The case of the Panagiotopoulou couple, who were forced to divest a house in Kallithea to Mariam, which was already being used as an Old Calendarist metochion (dependency), was also characterized as a homicide. Afterwards, the pair died of starvation in the Monastery.
• The case of Michalakou, who was consumptive and, in knowledge of her disorder, was punished with confinement in a hovel and died a few days later was also characterized as murder.
• The case of the nun Theodotis is also another matter of murder. The nuns hit her in such a barbaric way that she developed hemoptysis as a direct result from the abuse and died from it.
• The case of another nun, Maria, is similar. Without knowing what she signed, Maria signed over her property to Mariam and her surroundings. Afterwards, thinking that she was the lady of her estates, went to them to pick olives. The other nuns, however, attacked her, and beat the nun Maria so savagely that she was taken to hospital where she died.
Wednesday January 26, 1953 Attorney: It is a shame for Greece that Keratea exists! … Witness: They compelled my consumptive brother-in-law to chew food and then gives it to his 6-year-old child in order to impart the damned disease. Counsel: Why? Witness: Because they convinced him that his son would become the child of the devil and would burn the monastery. ….
Once they put my little niece, a10 year old girl, in the kitchen for a chore. She was hungry and licked a potato. The sentence they imposed: The tied her completely nude in the stable and left her overnight. In the morning they found her senseless from cold and fear.
Her soul had been cleansed and had been through all the preparation for paradise …
Sunday, February 6, 1955
In the outskirts of the capital and under the nose of the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, a ghastly den of crass ignorance, criminal unscrupulousness and unmentionable orgies operated for years undisturbed. An illiterate monk, in collaboration with a brutal nun slowly dragged various naive and tired and mentally ill and ignorant into this den via methods analogous of Nazi concentration camps…
Note: photos from newspapers are placed in random order not in relation to their texts.
The “Keratea Scandal”
The “Keratea scandal” erupted in the 1950s. At an old calendar monastery in Keratea (Πευκοβουνογιάτρισσας = Pine Mountain Physician), it was revealed that Abbess Mary Soulakiotou and the nuns kept affluent old women and underage girls and submitted them to grueling fasts and physical torture. The principles of the charges were ‘unlawful restraint and fraud.’
On the night of December 4th, 1950, eighty-five men led by officers of the gendarmerie, the responsible deputy prosecutor, magistrate and coroner surrounded and invaded the monastery at 6am and investigated.
They found 36 boys and girls stunted, pale, with fears and religious delusions. At midday, they placed the children in cars and transported them to the Children’s Station in Lavrion. The gathering up and embarkation occurred with the sharp resistance of nuns and children, weeping, curses, and knell sounds were heard for hours after removal of the children.
The Abbess Mariam and some very active nuns and monks transferred to prison.
The trial of Mariam Soulakiotou, the nuns and monks who were arrested, and the Old Calednarist Bishop K Alexandropouolou started at the beginning of 1953. The Chairman was appellate Tousis, the prosecutor Kostopoulos.
Forty-one witnesses went to denounce the gruesome details of the life in the monastery Keratea. At one point, the prosecutor interrupted a witness and said: “Keratea is a disgrace for Greece. The hairs of my head are standing up. Just think, 150 girls with tuberculosis died there.”
The witness Seraphim Silvestros testified that his consumptive sister and brother-in-law died in the monastery, and their three children suffered various abuses. The little boy was hung upside down naked many times and beaten to unconsciousness. When his father was alive, the nuns urged him to infect his child with tuberculosis, because he would become a bad man if he lived. They advised him to chew on his food and then feed it to his little boy, so that ‘he dies before him.’ This child had tuberculosis and during was at the sanatorium of Tripoli during the trial. The monastery appropriated the property of three orphans (65 acres and a house). The witness said, “They told us that we must die to empty cells so that others can come, in order for us to go to Paradise.
The trial lasted twelve days with such narratives.
Taken from: ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΕΜΦΥΛΙΟ ΣΤΗΝ ΧΟΥΝΤΑ του Σ Λιναρδάτου τόμοι Α και Β εκδόσεις ΒΗΜΑ-Βιβλιοθήκη
Mariam was imposed for ten years to prison for extortion, embezzlement, fraud and other offenses. Her partners received smaller penalties.
Many people, influenced by the numerous “calumnies” and lies sought the complete dissolution of the monastery. They continuously met, and talked about they would convert the monastery to once they had it in their hands.
Once they decided to change it into playgrounds, another time a hospital and another time into barracks. The latter was particularly insisted particularly by senior military who arbitrarily entered the Convent and measured counted the size of some cells and decided to install a leprosarium in the monastery buildings. But after this spread, residents of Keratea rose up, resentful of their decision, and persistently required this not be done.
NOTE: The Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery, founded in 1927 in Keratea (near Attica) was under the Matthewite faction of the Old Calendarist schismatics. St. Joseph the Hesychast was with the Matthewite faction (http://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.ca/2012/07/two-holy-fathers-on-calendar-issue.html) until 1945 when he returned to the schismatic Florinite faction. In the 1950’s, after a vision, he went back with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
During the 40s, Bishop Matthew suffered a stroke in which half of his body, the whole right side, was paralyzed. In normal circumstances, such a bishop would be obligated to retire since he can no longer serve the Divine Services in the image of Christ. By 1948, he was by himself, without any other bishops. The likelihood of Matthew’s movement disintegrating became very great; therefore, in August of that year, Matthew was ‘authorized’ by his church assembly, lead by the protosyngellos Fr. Evgenios Tombros and the Abbess of the convent in which he lived in Keratea, the nun Mariam, to consecrate bishops (uncanonically) by himself to continue their schism. To justify themselves in this action, they claimed that they were under persecution and that Matthew was the only canonical bishop left in the world.
At any rate, many people came to realize the impasse lurking in Old Calendarism, in 1950 and 1951 with the revelation of scandals such as the torturing of children, the misappropriation of properties and financial scandals in the monastery of Keratea, Attica, and the sentencing of the self-styled “abbess” Mariam to life imprisonment. Furthermore, as the expresser of obscurantist and extremist views on the Orthodox Faith, old calendarism began to lose followers with the rise in the standards of education and living of the Greek people, and the general recession in illiteracy during the 50s – 60s and 70s decades. Until that time, it had remained stationary.