The Chapel of Archangel Michael Madamado at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY

Huff House

In the Fall of 1998, with the blessing of Elder Ephraim, Elder Joseph Voutsas and Fr. Germanos Ponitkas purchased the 188 acre property known as the Huff House Golf Resort in Roscoe, NY for $2,500,000. Three lay-disciples from Toronto had taken second mortgages from their houses for $100,000 each and donated it for the down payment of the property, which helped greatly. Two of the donors gave the money as donations and the other donor gave the money as a loan. There was also a $25,000/month mortgage for the first 2 years and with the help of donations, the two monks paid off the mortgage.

Cell phone pic of Fr. Epifanios old desk mat (aerial of the property)
Cell phone pic of Fr. Epifanios old desk mat (aerial of the property)

Many of the original structures of the Golf Resort have been torn down. The structures that remained have had their exteriors and interiors redone, and new buildings have been erected. The property value has also sky-rocketed. The amount of money put into each new building (chapel, trapeza, monks’ quarters, new reception area, etc.) averages at over 2 million dollars/building.

The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.
The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.

At the end of December 1998, Abbot Joseph, together with 3 monks (Fr Germanos, Kassianos & Epifanios) and 4 novices (Symeon, Philotheos, Alexios and Michael) departed St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ and drove to Roscoe, NY to start setting up St. Nektarios Monastery. They arrived in early January 1999. Fr. Seraphim came from Arizona shortly afterwards. Due to problematic issues, Elder Joseph sent Fr. Seraphim back to Arizona after a brief stay at St. Nektarios Monastery. The monks were instructed to tell pilgrims that Fr. Seraphim was only sent up on loan to help start the monastery. This was so the pilgrims wouldn’t be scandalized

Brotherhood of St. Nektarios at Russian Synodal Building, NY.

During Holy Week of 1999, Elder Ephraim visited the Monastery and tonsured the four novices as monks in the old chapel. Elder Ephraim did not change the names of the new for two reasons:

  1. Because they were recently baptized converts who just changed their names at baptism.
  2. So the lie that they were given as an obedience to tell people would be more believable—The new monks had an obedience to tell people they were tonsured in Arizona but their koukoulis weren’t made yet and they had just received their koukoulis now. This was to cover-up the fact that Elder Ephraim visited the monastery and performed an ecclesiastical function without the knowledge or permission of the Bishop.
St. Nektarios Monastery, Kursk Root Icon, Russian Clergy and monks.
St. Nektarios Monastery, Kursk Root Icon, Russian Clergy and monks.

Some years later, Elder Ephraim again secretly visited St. Nektarios and tonsured 4 novices: Kosmas (Jason), Ephraim (Gerasimos), Nektarios (Gregory), and Damianos (Anestis). This time, the tonsure took place in the new chapel as the old chapel had been converted into a living room for the monks and a temporary dorm when the monastery couldn’t accommodate all the visitors in the guest houses.

The First Chapel at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc.—The Upstairs Living Room

Fr. Michael outside the old kitchen of main house. The upstairs living room of this house was originally the first chapel.
Fr. Michael outside the old kitchen of main house. The upstairs living room of this house was originally the first chapel.

The first church at St. Nektarios Monastery was located in the upstairs living room of the white building, originally dubbed “the main house.” The iconostasis from St. John the Theologian Monastery (closed in 1997) was used, as well as all the other materials from that chapel. The Chapel had golf green wall-to-wall carpeting. The use of the living room as a chapel was a temporary solution until the main church could be built. When the temporary chapel was no longer needed, it was converted back to a living room—a couch occupied the area of the Holy Altar, a computer station the area of the Proskomide. The former narthex was also used as temporary sleeping quarters when the guest houses became full and there was nowhere to put the extra pilgrims.

Originally destined to be the female guest quarters, the abbot decided part way through construction to make this structure the monks' quarters.
Originally destined to be the female guest quarters, the abbot decided part way through construction to make this structure the monks’ quarters.

When Geronda Ephraim secretly visited the monastery during Holy Week of 1999, he gave obediences on where to build everything and how the monastery should look. Geronda Ephraim told the abbot to build the main church where the tennis courts are and the trapeza would be where the current monks’ quarters are now built.

The Present-day Chapel of Archangel Michael Madamado (formerly, the Chapel of St. Nektarios)


The new chapel—which was formerly a Gaming/Entertainment Room—was finished shortly before the first Feast Day of the Monastery in September 1999. Of course, there was still lots more work to be done, this was only the initial groundwork so it could be used as a Church. The new chapel was originally dedicated to St. Nektarios. During the mid-aughties, Elder Joseph decided to change this and re-dedicated the chapel to Archangel Michael icon of Madamado. This was done for two reasons:

  1. The monastery needed another feast day type event to help generate more income and donations for all the projects that were taking place and will continue to take place.
  2. The large church that has yet to be built will be dedicated to St. Nektarios and it wouldn’t make sense to have two chapels dedicated to the same saint.
The 3D sculpture of Archangel Michael Mantamados, Lesvos, made from the blood of martyrs and mud.
The 3D icon of Archangel Michael Mantamados, Lesvos, made from the blood of martyrs and mud.

The present-day chapel at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc., Roscoe, NY is dedicated to the Archangel Michael icon of Madamado. So far, it has cost the monastery a couple million dollars to “beautify God’s house.”

Some Aspects in the Construction of the Chapel

The chapel circa 2005, before the bell tower was completed.
The chapel circa 2005, before the bell tower was completed.

In order to do the stone work and add a bell tower, etc. the pre-existing structure needed some foundational reinforcement. [NOTE: The bell tower was originally going to be taller. Before it was completed, Gerondissa Olympiada drove Gerondissa Ephraimia, abbess of the Archangel Michael Monastery on Thassos, for a visit. Gerondissa Ephraimia told Geronda Joseph the bell tower should be lower, so he changed the plans and did obedience to her suggestion].

The monastery hired Joe Valentine—owner of Valentine Construction Company, Inc. in Deposit, NY—to do the work. Joe Valentine’s crew was so impressive, that the monastery would hire them to do the foundation and concrete work of all their future projects. And thus, Valentine Construction’s annual revenue became 1 to 2.5 million dollars.

Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas
Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas

The Valentine crew became very close with the monks at the monastery. When Joe Valentine was in a custody battle for his baby boy, he asked Geronda Joseph if he could testify as a character witness for him in court. Geronda Joseph told him he didn’t know the language that well and it would be difficult for him to testify. However, Geronda Joseph gave Fr. Epifanios the obedience to testify as a character witness, which he did, and Joe Valentine won custody. Geronda Joseph later told the fathers that he didn’t testify for him because if something bad happened later, his name would be attached to it. He also told the fathers, and Joe himself, that he won custody because of all the help he gave to St. Nektarios monastery, etc.


According to the Masters Concrete webpage, as of November 23, 2009, Masters Ready Mixed Concrete (Kingsley, PA) has provided approximately 1900 yards of concrete between the two buildings.

Also see an interview with Fr. Epifanios Kapritsas of St. Nektarios Monastery concerning the benefits of Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s).

Stone Work


The Monastery ordered their stones from a New York State company, Champlain Stone, Ltd. South Bay Quartzite® was the material used for the Chapel’s exterior. It is advertised as: “A quartzitic sandstone with an advancing and receding surface that resembles a windswept and sandy beach. Visually smooth, yet heavily textured with a blend of tan, antique white, ice blue, amber, and brown. South Bay Quartzite® will enhance any home from warm beach cottages to cozy cabins deep in the woods.”

The stone work itself was done mainly by a crew of Ecuadorian stone masons who work for a Greek man named George from New York. The Fathers also helped out with the project. The Ecuadorians’ work was so impressive that they were to be hired for other projects as well. The fathers also respected their ethical work etiquette: “They don’t swear, smoke, and they don’t talk much, just work.” Later, during the construction of the new monks’ quarters, the Ecuadorians experienced a big temptation.

Fr. Raphael (Micah) Andrews of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY [son of Fr. Mark Andrews of Holy Protection Monastery, PA]
Fr. Raphael (Micah) Andrews of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY [son of Fr. Mark Andrews of Holy Protection Monastery, PA]
Father Raphael had stolen a radio from the pick-up truck of a Mexican work crew doing the drywall. As the drywall crew couldn’t imagine a monk stealing their property, the only other suspects were the Ecuadorians. There was nationalistic and heated tension between the crews from that time on. When Geronda Joseph discovered the stolen radio during a routine, random cell check, he was almost ready to call the police on Fr. Raphael. As Geronda Joseph has repeatedly told Fr. Raphael, “If it wasn’t for your father, Geronda Ephraim would have sent you home ages ago!”

Page 12 of the brochure below has pictures of the stonework on the chapel.



One of the main crews the monastery uses for framing is JP Construction, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, which is owned by John Paralavos. They were used for the extension of the Chapel, as well as all the other building projects. His crew was given special liberties: they could smoke and get drunk on monastery property. Like the other crews that did jobs at the monastery, the workers would stay overnight and sometimes for an entire week. One of John’s workers was an alcoholic. The abbot would give him a large cup of Metaxa every night as a reward for a good day’s work.


The story of how John became close to the monastery is interesting. Shortly after he visited the monastery with his family, the abbot read an article in one of the Greek papers which listed the richest Greeks in America—the abbots and abbesses like to know which pilgrims need “special attention.” When the abbot saw Johns  name  he decided to cultivate and groom him. This is a common practice with most of the wealthy Greeks that visit the monasteries: special treatment, groom and cultivate. The monasteries have a lot of bills and expenses and wealthy donors are a good asset. John Paralavos’ wife had lupus so he was already in an emotionally vulnerable state that could be easily manipulated. Regular blessings with St. Nektarios’ relics, house visits, taking him on a trip to Arizona to meet Geronda Ephraim, etc. also helped.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery

One time, John told one of the monks at St. Nektarios that he was thinking of asking Geronda to do a holy water blessing of his house. This monk told Geronda Joseph just before John and his wife went in for confession—it is a common practice for monastics to relay everything a pilgrim has told them before they go into confession. Geronda Joseph brought it up to them before they could ask and John started hailing him as a holy prophet, which the abbot dismissed. Later, the abbot asked the monk if he told John he had been informed beforehand about John’s desire to ask for the blessing. The monk responded, “No, I didn’t say anything.” The monk was then given an obedience not to tell John that he had told the abbot beforehand. Thus, John could continue to believe that the abbot was a God-inspired prophet who read his heart.

Stastidia in the Church

The stastidia in the Church were designed and made by the company in Serres, Greece that does all the wood work for Elder Ephraim’s monasteries in North America (chairs in the church, iconostasis’, etc.): Eleftheriadis Bros Sa.

Before the stastidia were made, there were wooden chairs for the pilgrims, and cushioned arm chairs for the monastics. Periodically, some pilgrims would become scandalized that the monks “sat in fancy chairs” while the pilgrims were forced to sit in “less comfortable chairs” or stand. One pilgrim even had the audacity to quote scripture to some of the monks in this regard, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues…”


Each individual seat cost close to $600, the Bishop’s Throne cost much more. The monastery made a plea letter to raise the funds to cover the cost and mailed it out to the pilgrims on their mailing list. With the help of donations, the monastery was able to cover the cost of the stasidia. The abbot would sometimes state, “It’s the poor people who build this monastery.” He gave a homily to a group of close spiritual children visiting the monastery and related a story:


“There was one man in New York who is very rich. He made a comment that he’d donate if there was going to be a plaque with his name stating he donated. The pilgrim told the rich man that the monasteries aren’t like the parishes in the world and don’t do plaques of honor. The rich man replied he wouldn’t give a cent, then. And to his shame, poor women who work hard cleaning toilets and save up money—which they hide from their husbands—gave donations for the entire amount of a stasidia. It’s the pain and sweat of the poor that build the monasteries.”

Address: Serres 621 21, Greece

Phone: +30 2321 078297

Iconography in the Church


George Filippakis of Woodbury, NY, is an artist who specializes in Byzantine iconography. He was commissioned to do the iconography at St. Nektarios Monastery, Inc. His first project was in the Trapeza, and then he did the Archangel Michael Chapel. The cost of the Church’s iconography was quite a few hundred thousands of dollars.

100% Beeswax Candles


The candles in the narthex are hand-made from real beeswax by the monks of St. Nektarios with the help of various pilgrims. Originally they were manually dipped by hand. In 2008, Geronda Joseph decided to order a $20,000 candle-making machine from Greece which would do most of the work for the monks.

The beeswax was originally bought from a company in Babylon, NY. Geronda Modestos offered Geronda Joseph his contact in China, where they bought “100% pure beeswax” for $1/lb., however, it had a funny smell. Though pure beeswax is expensive, and the prices increase yearly due to the high death rate of bees and hive collapses, the recycling of used candles from the narthex in the candle-making process helps cut the costs.


St. Nektarios was one of the last of 8 monasteries to be established in the year of 1998 via the blessing of then Archbishop Spyridon (2 in Florida, 2 in North Carolina, 1 in Texas, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Illinois and finally the 1 in NY). 1998 was a busy year for Elder Ephraim having to oversee the establishment of 8 new monasteries in less than 12 months, which his disciples state is further proof of his sanctity.

As two other monasteries have feast days in November, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate their main feast day on September 3, the day of the translation of the relics of St. Nektarios. This can ensure that each monastery can still attract peak numbers of visitors for their individual feast days, as well as allow the monks or nuns from those monasteries to travel to each others’ feast day celebrations.

The monastery has grown to over 20 monks with only a few monks having left in its 15 years of existence.



The Concept of “Validation” in Geronda Ephraim’s Monasteries

“Validation” is a buzzword that is thrown around frequently in some of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word validate as follows:

2a. To support or corroborate on a sound or authoritative basis.

2b. To recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of

Filotheou Brotherhood late ca. 80s/early 90s [Geronda Paisios of Arizona, kneeling far right, Fr. Germanos of NY kneeling opposite]
Filotheou Brotherhood ca. late 80s/early 90s [Geronda Paisios of Arizona, kneeling far right, Fr. Germanos of NY kneeling opposite]
In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, “validation” is normally used in the context of Geronda Ephraim: what he did or didn’t say, what miracles he performed or didn’t, what he does or doesn’t do, etc. It is quite common to find the “broken telephone” phenomena amongst the monasteries’ pilgrims. It is also common for rumors to spread around, such as, “Geronda Ephraim said the Antichrist has been born during a homily.” Thus the monks and nuns constantly “validate” and do not “validate” the various stories and rumors that spread amongst Geronda Ephraim’s followers.

A standard rule of thumb for the monasteries is that any negative story—whether true or false—is automatically dismissed as “invalid.” If it cannot be outright denied, it is minimized. If someone involved relates the scandal or embarrassing (for the monastery) incident to other pilgrims and spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim, then a system of damage control is put into effect:

  1. If the person telling the story (or “gossiping”/”slandering”) is a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim, then the Geronda or Gerondissa will talk to the individual directly. This will usually start with asking the individual why they repeated such things and ending with an obedience not to repeat the story again. If the individual is resisting the admonitions, they may be told some cautionary tales about all the tragic things that happen to individuals who speak against or go against Geronda Ephraim; “punishments from God.”
  2. If the individual “running his mouth” is not close to the monastery, they are easily dismissed to others as “liars,” “deluded,” having “psychological problems,” etc. Though these epitaphs have also been hurled onto close spiritual children of the monasteries who repeated big scandals or very private information to others.
  3. The Gerondissa or Geronda will also try to find out how many people were told and if they do not call each one individually to affect damage control, they may call the main persons of those pilgrim circles and ask them to tell the others.
  4. The Gerondissa or Geronda will also call all their monastics (or at least the ones who are aware of the scandalous incident) and give them a strict obedience not to talk to anyone about the incident. “If anyone asks, I don’t have a blessing to speak to lay people.” If it is a monastic who has diakonimata where they have to somewhat talk with lay people, they might be told, “If anyone asks, say no (or I don’t know)”; if they keep persisting, tell them to ask the Geronda or Gerondissa. For a monastic, this is not lying or breaking a commandment; it is obedience. The only sin in obedience is not doing obedience.
  5. In the cases of former monastics talking about their personal experiences, they are easily dismissed as deluded. “They didn’t do obedience, they hid thoughts from their Geronda or Gerondissa, and the devil gained a foothold in their soul. They became deluded and left.” In some cases, the former monastic will be dismissed as one with lots of psychological problems, or even “possessed.”

Newly baptized converts, Filotheou Monastery. [Hieromonk Chrysostoms, Fr. Vasilios & Fr. Germanos are on the left under over-hanging tree branch]
Newly baptized converts, Filotheou Monastery. [Hieromonk Chrysostoms, Fr. Vasilios & Fr. Germanos are on the left under over-hanging tree branch]
The above are just a few ways in which the monasteries manoeuvre in order to protect their image, as well as keep the pilgrims in check. Their image must be kept pristine and immaculate, without scandal. Geronda Ephraim has given strict obediences to all his abbots and abbesses, “You must know and see everything that is going on in your monasteries. I do not want scandals, especially in front of lay people. I do not want to hear anything negative or complaints from pilgrims about your monasteries, etc.”


Sometimes the monasteries cannot silence those who reveal their secrets, or simply speak about the things that go on behind closed doors. At this point, a discrediting campaign begins. If this doesn’t work then they will sometimes utilize lawyers as a scare tactic. These tactics were used a day or so before the KVOA TV [Tucson 4] exposé on St. Anthony’s Monastery in 2005. Geronda Ephraim was really saddened that this exposé was being aired, and a call was sent out to spiritual children to call, fax, email, and flood the station anyway they could with support for the monasteries and Geronda. Also, spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim who are lawyers contacted the TV station and threatened them with legal action if there was anything false or slanderous. Spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim and Geronda Paisios began an internet campaign to discredit David Smith and the content of his webpage. David Smith’s webpage was taken down a couple years later, but an archived edition still exists:

Geronda Paisios and David Smith.
Geronda Paisios and David Smith.

Pilgrims who had no knowledge of the inner workings of the monasteries—something only trusted monastics are privy to—began to defend the inner workings of the monastery based on the experiences that were tailor-made for them. Some spiritual children went as far as to threaten David Smith and try to intimidate him to stop talking about Geronda Ephraim.

Thus, true to their cult-like nature, and following the trend of every other cult that tries to silence their accusers, the monasteries and their pilgrims utilize a basic campaign of fear-mongering (“don’t speak against Geronda, it’ll end bad for you;” i.e. possession, losing salvation, etc.); intimidation, smear campaigns of discrediting (“psychological problems,” “deluded,” etc.).

In the monasteries, paranoia and suspicion was ramped up, making the atmospheres tense and suffocating.



Last year, a Tumblr page about St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc. (Roscoe, NY) was started and it revealed many of the scandals and indiscretions that have occurred there since its’ foundation, as well as, private details not commonly known by the 01

general public. The monastery attempted to have the page pulled through numerous complaints to TUMBLR. When that method of harassment didn’t work, they hired a lawyer and accused the TUMBLR page of “impersonating the monastery,” stating that the page “misrepresents the ideological underpinnings” of the monastery’s “tenets.” The monastery’s use of the term “ideology” is quite interesting. In contemporary usage, this word is generally used in the context of politics, though in the case of religion, it refers to fundamentalists and extremists. Furthermore, the effect of an ideology is always to destroy true moral transcendence.1

According to the TUMBLR page, a disclaimer that they were not affiliated with the monastery was required in order to keep the page running. The TUMBLR page also posted the lawyer’s letter.

“This blog is not directly affiliated with St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery (According to the monastery’s lawyers, this blog “misrepresents the ideological underpinnings of their tenets” – )”

It was also noted that shortly after this page appeared, the Monastery’s website added a Notice to Users section stating:


NOTICE TO USERS: The information on this site is the property of The Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios. This is the only website on the internet that is managed and approved by the monks of The Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios. Information found posted on other internet sites and blogs regarding St. Nektarios Monastery and its monks has not been validated, and in certain instances is inaccurate and misleading. Everyone is free to read and reflect on the information on this site. However, none of the information on this site may be reproduced without the prior written consent of St. Nektarios Monastery. If you wish to use any of the material on this site please contact us. †May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you!

This is a very interesting statement. Essentially, the monastery will decide what stories are valid and which ones are invalid. Even if a story is true, it will be dismissed if it mars the monastery’s image. Thus, the monastery will paint a tailored image of its blameless perfection.

p-koulouris_painting_geronda-josif_24x30 p-koulouris_painting_father-epifanios_18x24


In another interesting twist, the monasteries also use stories that have not been validated in order to promote Geronda Ephraim. Capitalizing on the fame and glory of Saints Porphyrios the Kafsokalavyte and Paisios the Hagiorite, a recent trend in the monasteries is to tell pilgrims how these two Elders highly praised Geronda Ephraim and commented on his holiness, etc. However, none of these statements have been validated by these two Elders’ monasteries, nor are they found in any of the books about these Elders.

St. Paisios the Athonite does not mention Elder Joseph the Hesychast, or his synodia in his book on Athonite monks.
St. Paisios the Athonite does not mention Elder Joseph the Hesychast, or his synodia in his book on Athonite monks.

In the 90’s and early 00’s however, the stories at Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries were much different. The content of the stories centered on how much difficulty St. Porphyrios and St. Paisios gave Geronda Ephraim in Greece. Both of them were highly critical of Elder Joseph the Hesychast and stated on many occasions to many people that he was deluded. In Elder Paisios book, Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters—in which he gives short biographies of the greatest and holiest monks on Mount Athos—Elder Joseph is nowhere to be found.

Both these saints criticized and disagreed with his methodologies as an Elder. They believed he was deluded and they cautioned people about him. St. Paisios was also very critical of Philotheou Monastery and how things were run there; especially the practise of “yelling the prayer.” St. Paisios would tell pilgrims who were thinking of visiting Philotheou, “Don’t go there, it’s too noisy.”

In the mid-90’s, Geronda Joseph Voutsas (NY); Gerondissa Olympiada Voutsas (PA) and Gerondissa Melanie Mikragiannis (WI) would tell pilgrims about St. Porphyrios, “Yes, he was very holy but he was also very critical of Geronda Ephraim.” Apparently, all three of them, together with Sister Vryenni, went to visit St. Porphyrios when they were lay people, and heard themselves many negative things come out of St. Porphyrios mouth about Geronda Ephraim, “Things not worth repeating!”

Both St. Porphyrios & St. Paisios believed Elder Ephraim of Arizona and his elder were deluded.
Both St. Porphyrios & St. Paisios believed Elder Ephraim of Arizona and his elder were deluded.

The monasteries’ storyline back then was that both St. Porphyrios and St. Paisios were jealous of Geronda Ephraim; how holy he is, what spiritual heights he has reached, how he has revived the Holy Mountain, and all the thousands of spiritual children that flock to him, etc. Sometimes detailed descriptions were given about how both saints didn’t have the kind of blind obedience Geronda Ephraim had and that rendered it impossible for them to reach the same spiritual heights. Then details of how Apostle Peter and Paul fought, or St. John Chrysostom and St. Epiphanios of Salamis fought and cursed each other were given as analogies.


Due to the above things, plus many more unspoken things that only the Athonite monks here in America know about, certain measures were taken at the monasteries to boycott the two saints. In 1998, at a gathering at the Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc. (TX), Geronda Paisios (AZ), Geronda Dositheos (TX) and Geronda Joseph (NY) decided to boycott the publications of Saints Porphyrios and Paisios—especially Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, which was a huge slight to both Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim.

The decision to boycott St. Paisios & St. Porphyrios' books occurred during this weekend at Holy Archangels Monastery in Texas.
The decision to boycott St. Paisios & St. Porphyrios’ books occurred during this weekend at Holy Archangels Monastery in Texas, 1998.

During this time period, the backrooms of the bookstore at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Inc. (AZ) were flooded with unopened boxes of books about these two saints which were never going to be put out in the bookstore. Many of the boxes were sent free as a blessing, too. Not all the monasteries were joined in the boycott, but even those that were breached the boycott; there’s good money and profit in selling Geronda Porphyrios and Paisios books.

As these two saints became increasingly popular in the West, and more publications were being made available in the English language, the demand increased greatly. People start asking the monasteries in the boycott to order these books for them. Over time, the boycott slowly faded away, and much profit was made in peddling these two elders’ books. In time, the New York monastery—one of the original boycotters—even distributed a couple Elder Paisios’ books.


Due to increasing popularity in the English-speaking world, via the numerous English translations of their books, some of the monasteries involved in the boycott realized it was a good opportunity to make profit. As well, the monastics couldn’t really tell the pilgrims the books were boycotted, nor the reasons why. The books of these two saints were in high demand, pilgrims kept requesting them and asking if they could place special orders. Thus, giving into the pressure and demand, some of the monasteries lifted the boycott and began to sell Elder Porphyrios and Elder Paisios books. St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY even distributed a couple of the English titles.

Elder Paisios Epistles

Eventually, the old stories—true stories—about how much these two Elders (now officially canonized saints) fought against Elder Ephraim diminished. Then, the new stories came—stories not validated by the monasteries under these two saints, nor mentioned in any publications of these two saints, either validated or not. It’s now being taught that St. Porphyrios called Elder Ephraim the last saint, the last depository of healing, the saint of humility, etc. St. Paisios is now said to have prophesied the monasteries in America and extolled Elder Ephraim for his apostolic efforts.

The biography of Elder Arsenios states St. Paisios retracted his original opinion that Elder Joseph the Hesychast was deluded:

Elder Arsenios

“Elder Paisios admired the life and struggles of our ever-to-be-remembered Elder, Fr. Joseph. He told us:

-‘Oh, what I lost! When I came to the Holy Mountain the blessed Elder was living. I heard of his reputation and one of my acquaintances said to me: ‘Don’t listen. They are all lies. They are in error [πλανεμένοι]’. I believed him and did not go to get to know him and benefit from him. However, when his letters were published and I read them, then I understood what a rare person this was, and what a great treasure I lost.'” (Taken from Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller)

The humble grave of St. Paisios of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti
The humble grave of St. Paisios of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti

This book was published after both these men were long dead, and neither can validate or refute it; however, the monastery under St. Paisios, St. John the Theologian in Sourouti, has not validated this tale. Up until the mid-2000s, the monasteries here taught the Elder Paisios criticized Elder Jospeh the Hesychast and Geronda Ephraim as deluded, and had many critical things to say about Elder Joseph the Hesychast. This book is published by a monastery under one of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s disicples, and it states that St. Paisios admired him.

The humble grave of St. Porphyrios, Kavsokalyvia, Mount Athos
The humble grave of St. Porphyrios, Kavsokalyvia, Mount Athos

It should be noted that neither the disciples of Saints Porphyrios and Paisios have validated any of the stories or prophecies these two supposedly said about Geronda Ephraim of Arizona. It should also be noted that none of the publications in circulation by or about these two saints mention any of the supposed quotes and prophecies about Geronda Ephraim of Arizona.

Thus, an interesting double standard has occurred at Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries:

    1. Any negative press about Geronda Ephraim and his monasteries is automatically dismissed as invalid. The monasteries will choose which stories are valid and will dictate their history and truth exactly the way they want people to view it. And these validations can only be okayed by the abbot or abbess.
    2. Any negative press about Geronda Ephraim and his monasteries that came from the mouths of Geronda Porphyrios and Geronda Paisios is no longer spoken of since they are both officially canonized as saints. It looks bad for the monasteries if two of the biggest contemporary saints after St. Nektarios discredited Geronda Ephraim and his elder (Joseph the Hesychast) as deluded.
    3. Today, stories that have not been validated by St. Porphyrios and St. Paisios’ disciples, and were unheard of until recently, are told to pilgrims as validated truth. These “invalidated” stories are capitalizations on the fame and holiness of St. Porphyrios and St. Paisios and are used to promote and validate Geronda Ephraim. Now that these two elders are officially canonized, their words have even more weight and validity in the orthodox world.
    4. Thus, the abbots and abbesses choose what stories are valid and invalid for their own monasteries. They also validate invalid stories from other monasteries to further promote their own agenda.
The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.
The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.


The “Holy Manna Relic”

Former seminarion Vasili Datch now monk Panteleimon at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)
Former seminarion Vasili Datch now monk Panteleimon at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)

For over a decade, one of the reliquaries of St. Nektarios Monastery had a “piece of Holy Manna” from the Old Testament. For over a decade, people venerated this “relic” with reverence, not realizing that is was a biblically impossible miracle for manna to last for more than a day, let alone 3,400 years or so. The Israelites were instructed to eat only the manna they had gathered for each day. Leftovers of manna stored up for the following day “bred worms and stank”: the exception being the day before the Sabbath (Preparation Day), when twice the amount of manna was gathered, which did not spoil overnight; because, Exodus 16:23-24 [states] “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ So they saved it until morning, as Moses said was commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.” A novice with a theological degree finally convinced the abbot that it was impossible for the fragment to be true manna from the Old Testament. Initially there was resistance, but the abbot finally decided the authority of the Old Testament was more valid than the word of the person who gave him the “relic.” The abbot ordered a new reliquary from Greece and did not include a space for the manna.

Stylianos Kementzetzidis and his fabricated Crypto-Christians of Turkey persecution and miracle stories

The monasteries have had a long history of “validation” issues. They validated and promoted Stylianos Kementzetzidis, a long-time spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim, and retold all his “miracle” and “vision” stories to visiting pilgrims. When it came to light that it was all an elaborate hoax to raise money for his ailing publishing house, Orthodox Kypseli, the monasteries stopped telling pilgrims these stories, but also tried to hide the fact that they were a lie, so as not to “weaken the faith of the faint-hearted.”


The monasteries that were involved in selling his “Crypto-Christian” miracle books and retelling his hoax stories to numerous pilgrims did not issue a disclaimer about the lie. They simply pulled the books and any literature from the bookstores and stopped repeating the stories. Certain monastics who had blessings to talk with lay people were given obediences not to tell pilgrims these stories were a hoax and lie, so as “not to scandalize them or create a stumbling block to their faith.”

The miracle in Syria: Chopped up dead man sewn back together and resurrected

The monasteries also promoted the “Miracle in Syria,” even distributing falsified letters from the Jerusalem Patriarchate “validating” the miracle. Once it turned out to be a hoax that went away to. The flyers detailing the miracle were pulled and the monastics simply stopped relating the “miracle” to pilgrims.

Persistent frontal suture misrepresented as exclusive orthodox miracle

Figure 1- Brazil Complete metopic suture (arrow).The monasteries claim that priests on Mount Athos have crosses on their skulls; i.e. “an extra suture that runs down the front of their skull which is scientifically impossible and is only a miracle in orthodoxy,” etc. This “miracle” validates Orthodoxy as the only truth. Yet, it is well documented in medical literature and occurs throughout the world in both male and female populations; it’s called metopic (or persistent) frontal suture. The simplest spin on this, “Well, that’s the tradition passed down on Mount Athos.”


A pilgrim once asked an Athonite monk at one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries about Fr. Seraphim Rose. The response was an issue about him only being chrismated (cannot be holy or a saint without orthodox baptism); there was an issue about him being idiorhythmic; there was issue of him saying things like there are no more elders (Geronda Ephraim was stated to be the holiest man alive and one of the greatest Elders in the history of the church). The pilgrim was told Fr. Seraphim Rose was deluded and issues of homosexuality were witnessed at his monastery while he was alive (apparently pilgrims to the monastery during those years later became monks at Philothoeu Monastery and told the other monks about the homosexual vibe they witnessed there).

In the monasteries, it is taught that Fr. Seraphim's disciples manipulated his corpse to make it look peaceful.
In the monasteries, it is taught that Fr. Seraphim’s disciples manipulated his corpse to make it look peaceful.

When the pilgrim asked about Fr. Seraphim’s repose and his smiling corpse with a peaceful expression, the Athonite monk responded that it was said that he had a very difficult death and that his disciples manipulated the body so it looked like he had a blessed repose. Yet, Geronda Joseph of Vatopaidi—whom Geronda Ephraim has mentioned in homilies did not have complete obedience and was problematic—has a similar smiling corpse and peaceful look on his face.

Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi L: Repose with mouth open. R: Afterwards, mouth closed and
Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi L: Repose with mouth open. R: Afterwards, mouth closed and “smiling.”

Thus, one is to surmise that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s death is not blessed—since Geronda Ephraim’s monks have not validated it as miraculous—but Geronda Joseph of Vatopaidi’s repose is blessed because it has been validated by the monks. The pilgrim also asked about Geronda Paisios (abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ), who praised Fr. Seraphim Rose in an Orthodox Word article as someone converts can look up to, etc. The monk chuckled and said, “That’s not what I’ve heard him say,” and left it at that.

The biologically natural process of corpses returning to their pre-Rigor condition misrepresented as an exclusive Orthodox monastic miracle

“A Monk’s Funeral: 30 hrs after death, the corpse retains its flexibility” [Athonite Moments, p. 200]
Furthermore, the Athonite monks in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries talk about a miracle on Mount Athos where monks do not experience rigor mortis—thus another “miracle exclusive to Orthodoxy.” However, depending on which monk one talks to, this is either exclusively Athonite monks, all orthodox monks throughout the world, or unsure. However, every mortician knows the technique of “breaking the rigor mortise.” Basically, you bend the limbs back and forth a few times and the joints will loosen up. This “breaks” the stiffness and the body is back to normal. Surely, Athonite monks know this trick if they’re teaching pilgrims that faces of corpses can be manipulated to look like they are smiling. Also, contrary to common perception the process of Rigor Mortis actually does reverse and the body returns to a flaccid state; the muscles losing their tightness in the reverse of how they gained it: i.e.: those larger muscles that contracted last will lose their stiffness first and return to their pre-Rigor condition. Thus, if a monastic is left out long enough before burial, it is natural for him to return to his pre-Rigor condition. No miracle, just natural process.


1 According to former Islamic extremist, Tawfik Hamid, “A religion becomes an ideology when the followers of this religion cannot tolerate the existence of those who have different views or beliefs, and when they understand their religious text literally and refuse to accept any way of understanding the religion other than their own way of understanding.” According to scholar David Satter, “Religion becomes an ideology when man-made dogma is treated as infallible truth.”

Orthodox Monks Don’t Experience Rigor Mortis?

“A Monk’s Funeral: 30 hrs after death, the corpse retains its flexibility” [Athonite Moments, p. 200]
Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are taught about a “Miracle exclusive to Orthodoxy”—i.e., monks do not experience rigor mortis when they die. Typical of the other “exclusive miracles” which are taught at the monasteries, this one also has some grey areas. Depending on the monastic giving the sermon, it is either all orthodox monastics throughout the world, or just Athonite monastics. In some cases, the monastic giving the sermon will grab the book Athonite Moments and show the pilgrims a photograph of a monk being lowered into a grave with signs of flexibility and no rigor mortis.

Of course, if you question the monastic giving the sermon, they only have a cursory understanding of what rigor mortis is—which usually amounts to “all corpses are stiff after they die and any flexibility in a corpse is scientifically impossible.” What “proof” do they offer to validate their erroneous understanding of corpses, decomposition and rigor mortis?  A photograph from a book and their “authority” validates this “scientifically impossible” phenomenon.

“Black, white, red: An atmosphere of mournful quietness” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Similar to their erroneous claim of Persistent Frontal Suture being an “exclusive orthodox miracle,” the claim that a corpse without rigor mortis is an “exclusive orthodox miracle” is also scientifically and biologically erroneous. In both cases, “science is not needed to validate these miracles” because they are an Athonite oral tradition and “monks who speak to God know more than a worldly scientist.” Science is not always rejected by the monastics—if science validates something in orthodoxy, or if science cannot explain phenomenon which for the monastics validates a divine origin, then it is accepted. When science conflicts with orthodoxy, then it is dismissed as idle, vain, worldly knowledge that is incompatible with spiritual knowledge.


First of all, rigor mortis is easily “broken” by bending and moving the joints about. A common question people have for morticians is whether they need to break a corpse’s legs if the body doesn’t fit into the coffin properly. The answer is, of course, no. The legs bend quite easily even after death.

''Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment'' [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
”Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Second of all, rigor mortis is basically a stiffening of the limbs. The joints become difficult to bend, but this does not happen with all bodies. There is a technique morticians use to get rid of it called “breaking the rigor mortise.” Basically, you bend the limbs back and forth a few times and the joints will loosen up. This “breaks” the stiffness and the body is back to normal.

The Athonite monks are aware of corpse manipulation because some of them have stated that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s corpse was manipulated by his disciples to smile, etc., to give the appearance that he had a saintly death.


Rigor Mortis is the stiffening of the body after death because of a loss of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) from the body’s muscles. ATP is the substance that allows energy to flow to the muscles and help them work and without this the muscles become stiff and inflexible.

Rigor Mortis begins throughout the body at the same time but the body’s smaller muscles – such as those in the face, neck, arms and shoulders – are affected first and then the subsequent muscles throughout the rest of the body; those which are larger in size, are affected later.

gerontissa efpraxia

Rigor normally appears within the body around two hours after the deceased has passed away with – as we have already mentioned – the facial and upper neck and shoulder muscles first to visibly suffer from its effects. Many Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) have reported that upon discovering the deceased that their face might have taken on what looks to be a grimace; this is because the facial muscles have contracted as ATP drains from them.

Once the contracting of all the body’s muscles has taken place this state of Rigor – technically referred to as the Rigid Stage – normally lasts anywhere from eight to twelve hours after which time the body is completely stiff; this fixed state can last up to another eighteen hours.

Contrary to common perception the process of Rigor Mortis actually does reverse and the body returns to a flaccid state; the muscles losing their tightness in the reverse of how they gained it: i.e.: those larger muscles that contracted last will lose their stiffness first and return to their pre-Rigor condition.


Rigor mortis can be used to help estimate time of death. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature (rapid cooling of a body can inhibit rigor mortis, but it occurs upon thawing). Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body. The joints are stiff for 1-3 days, but after this time general tissue decay and leaking of lysosomal intracellular digestive enzymes will cause the muscles to relax.

A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos
A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos

During rigor mortis, another process called autolysis takes place. This is the self-digestion of the body’s cells. The walls of the cells give way, and their contents flow out. Rigor mortis ends not because the muscles relax, but because autolysis takes over. The muscles break down and become soft on their way to further decomposition.

Thus, contrary to the misconceptions disseminated by the monastics, the flexibility witnessed in some monastic corpses during their funeral—which occur 24-48+ hours after their repose—is not “a scientifically impossible miracle which scientists cannot explain.” Rather, it is a natural process that is quite common and has been observed in corpses throughout the world, both orthodox and non-orthodox, lay people and monastics. Once again, the monastics misrepresent a natural phenomenon as an “exclusive miracle to Orthodoxy.” As stated above, in Greek-American orthodox monasteries, the “secular sciences” are generally not considered a “valid” source of information when it comes to understanding or interpreting natural phenomena and processes.


Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos
Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos

The monastic funerals here in North America are unlike those in Mount Athos: the body is not flung into a hole, but rather it is placed in a coffin and lowered into the hole. Thus, there isn’t much contact with the body before burial other than the last kiss. So witnessing such “miracles” of corpses without rigor mortis here is uncommon. Of course, if the superior tells the monastics that the body is warm and without rigor mortis, then they will believe it is so, and will also transmit this “miracle” to the pilgrims who visit.


Each monastery has its own process of preparing the body for burial, again giving opportunity for manipulation. The body is then placed in the middle of the Church, usually under the polyeleos, and the monastics have to read the entire Psalter continually until the next day. Then the funeral service occurs in the church ending with the procession to burial. Depending on time and circumstance, this process can take from 24-36 hours or more. Thus, photographs of monks without rigor mortis after such a time period cannot be considered a “miracle exclusive to orthodoxy” as this can happen to any corpse; i.e. the natural return to the pre-rigor condition.

Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos' funeral procession at St. Anthony's Monastery
Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos’ funeral procession at St. Anthony’s Monastery

Repentance and Confession amongst the Ancient Pagans (St. Nektarios the Wonderworker)

NOTE: This article is taken from Repentance and Confession, pp. 37-38; 45-47:

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The Ancient Greeks considered confession necessary and beneficial, because as they were initiated into the Eleusinian and Samo-Thracian mysteries,1 they would confess their sins beforehand (Plutarch, On Sparta: Sayings). Socrates spoke of confession as salvific: “If he is unjust, he should willingly go there, where he will give an account as quickly as possible as if to a physician, hastening so that the ailment of injustice does not remain for a long period of time and render the soul infected and incurable” (Plato, Gorgias).

A Samothracian relief showing Agamemnon being initiated into the Cabeirian rites
A Samothracian relief showing Agamemnon being initiated into the Cabeirian rites

Pythagoras would also say: “do not attempt to cover your sins with words, but to treat them with reproval.” And Aristotle asserts: “the person who confesses the sin committed honestly renders himself not far from sinlessness.”…

Medieval woodcut showing Pythagoras with bells and other instruments in Pythagorean tuning
Medieval woodcut showing Pythagoras with bells and other instruments in Pythagorean tuning

The most ancient civilizations, having sinned, would offer propitiating sacrifices to God. As they offered these sacrifices, they would confess their sins. These prayers sent up to God from every part of the world are a certain type of active confession of the human race to God. The propitiating sacrifices are a certain type of active confession of the sin and guilt of those who offer them. The person who does not confess his sin finds himself perpetually under the weight of guilt and distanced from God. This is why the soul suffers and pains.

The Person Who Has Sinned is Obligated to Satisfy the Divine Righteousness

The satisfaction of the Divine Righteousness, which has been offended through the creation of sin by the iniquitous person, is both i) something demanded by justice (in order for treatment of the soul to occur), as well as ii) an internal disposition of the sinful man to propitiate God.

The demand by justice and the disposition of the heart originate from the same source: the perennial nature of the Divine Law. Justice demands satisfaction on account of the everlastingness of the Divine Law, which sin has plotted against. Additionally, due to an internal impulse, the heart seeks to satisfy the Divine Righteousness, internally it desires and seeks the reign of the Divine Law, and it hastens to act on behalf of its eternal truth. This internal desire emanates from the concordance of the inner will of man with the Law of God.

St. Nektarios
St. Nektarios

The demand [by justice] and the eagerness [of the heart] are set forth to combat sin, because every sin is an adversary of God’s Law and an enemy of the peace and the kingdom of God upon the earth, which sin seeks to disturb and bring to confusion and disorder.

Sin, being undesirable by nature, is uncreated; as uncreated, it is something non-existent. However, it receives hypostasis when it is created by unnatural human desire. But since the entire creation is full of the Lord’s works, while His Law has been poured upon the entire face of the earth, this unnatural human desire and creation that receives hypostasis also receives some type of place and displaces the good that has been created by God. If then God created everything very well, it follows that this new creation that entered into the world also disturbed and harmed the reigning good and plotted against the Law of God. Therefore, sin is a great evil against God because it threatens to destroy the work of God. And since its creator is man, when man sins, he sins against God; this is why he is obligated to satisfy the Divine Righteousness, while destroying the evil he has created and working on behalf of the everlastingness of God’s Law.

The repentance of the Prophet David at the rebuke of the Prophet Nathan
The repentance of the Prophet David at the rebuke of the Prophet Nathan

Both the Jews and the Gentiles held this belief that every sin is referred to God. Both the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Gentiles are replete with such testimonies. David, while confessing his sins to God says: “Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee” (Ps. 50:6). While Hesiod2 says that justice is a virgin and daughter of God, honored and respected by even the gods themselves. When someone insults her by intentionally dishonoring her, she immediately sits by God and relates to Him the unjust opinion of people, so that the people may repay justice for the unjust actions of their kings:

“One of them is the virgin, born of Zeus,

Justice, revered by all the Olympian gods.

Whenever she is hurt by perjurers,

Straightway she sits beside her father Zeus

And tells him of the unjust hearts of men,

Until the city suffers for its lords

Who recklessly, with mischief in their minds,

Pervert their judgments crookedly….”3

From these verses, Hesiod appears to proclaim not only that every sin is referred to God, but also that no reconciliation takes place between Divine Righteousness and man unless the necessary satisfaction is given for the injustices committed.

"The Dance of the Muses at Mount Helicon" by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1807). Hesiod cites inspiration from the Muses while on Mount Helicon.
“The Dance of the Muses at Mount Helicon” by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1807). Hesiod cites inspiration from the Muses while on Mount Helicon.


  • Samothrace: a Greek island in the northern Aegean. Eleusis: a city in ancient Greece, northwest of Athens. The mysteries that took place in these two locations were secret religious rites of ancient Greece, celebrated every spring in honor of Demeter and Persephone; they symbolized the annual death and resurrection of vegetation.
  • A famed Greek didactic poet who lived during the 8th century B.C.
  • Hesiod and Theogenis, Works and Days, verses 255-261.

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God Revealed the Coming of the Redeemer (St. Nektarios the Wonderworker)

NOTE: This article is taken from Christology, pp. 35-41. 

NY Gerondia Table

In the first few centuries of the Church, many pagan writers accused the Christians of plagiarism; i.e. “their Hebrew myths were copied from already existing myths and were rewritten for the Jewish peoples.” The early Fathers, to counteract these accusations, took all the pagan writings that fit or resembled Christian scriptures and prophecies (both in the Septuagint and New Testament writings) and claimed that the Holy Spirit was speaking through these pagans to prepare the Nations for the coming Messiah. Thus, in pre-Christian pagan writings and mythologies, anything that resembles or agrees with Christianity is considered God-inspired prophecies, and anything that disagrees or is contrary, demonic.


God-inspired men and women of the Gentile world foretold the future coming of the Redeemer of mankind. Preserved testimonies confirm the truth of these words. God, as a Father of the entire human race, guided even the Gentiles toward faith in the future Redeemer by revealing to them His upcoming arrival. Theophilos of Antioch expresses the same opinion in his epistle to Autoclytos. He attests: “But men of God carrying in them a holy spirit and becoming prophets, being inspired and made wise by God, became God-taught, and holy, and righteous. Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. For they predicted also pestilences, and famines, and wars. And there was not one or two, but many, at various times and seasons among the Hebrews; and also among the Greeks there was the Sibyl;1 and they all have spoken things consistent and harmonious with each other, both what happened before them and what happened in their own time, and what things are now being fulfilled in our own day: wherefore we are persuaded also concerning the future things that they will fall out, as also the first have been accomplished.”2

The Sybil of Erythrae, and the Greek Philosophers Solon, Pythagoras and Socrates
The Sybil of Erythrae, and the Greek Philosophers Solon, Pythagoras and Socrates

Clement of Alexandria spoke in accordance not only concerning the prophets, but also the Greek philosophers themselves, such as Socrates, Plato, and others.3 Similarly, Origen acknowledges various degrees of divine inspiration even amongst the Gentiles. But why should we supposedly deny divine inspiration for the Gentiles? Does God show favoritism? Is He the Father of the Judaic nation only? Or would not the future Redeemer of mankind also be a Redeemer for all mankind? Or is God only for the Jews and not for the Gentiles? Why then should He abandon the nations to disbelief and despair? Why should he not likewise prepare them also to receive the future Savior and Redeemer, especially since He knew through His omniscience that the nations would glorify Him, worship Him, and believe in Him? Therefore, the nations received the gift of divine inspiration, and men among the Gentiles, who were godly inspired, foretold the arrival of a Redeemer and Savior of the world.

Homer, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato and Plutarch
Homer, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato and Plutarch

Tacitus,4 a Roman historian, attests that all the nations looked to Judea as an axis of their common hope, from where the awaited king was ready to appear: “Everyone in general was convinced about the belief of ancient prophecies that the East was about to overpower; and, that not long afterwards, they would see those who were about to rule the world coming from Judea.”5

According to Souidan and Nikifore Kallistos’ Ecclesiastical History, when Augustus traveled to Delphi to inquire of the oracle regarding the identity of his successor, he received the following response:

“A Jewish child, who is king of the blessed gods commands me to leave from this temple and to return to Hades again. Therefore, depart silently from our altars.”

Consulting the Oracle of Delphi by J Augustus Knapp
Consulting the Oracle of Delphi by J Augustus Knapp

Our Lord Jesus Christ was born during the reign of this Augustus; and our Church chants along with the Gospel according to Luke: “When Augustus reigned alone upon the earth, the many kingdoms of men came to end: and when Thou wast made man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed.”6 Such oracles referring to the expectation of the nations are numerous.7

The Roman historian Suetonius8 also bears witness to this same event with similar language. He says: “the entire East has been filled with talk of the ancient and steadfast opinion that it had been pre-determined from God that, during that time, they who were about to rule the world would appear from Judea.”9

While interpreting an oracle of ancient Sibyls that proclaims the arrival of a King, Whom all those wishing to be saved were obliged to recognize, and while unsuccessfully applying it to a certain young ruler of his epoch (whose name is not even recalled), the Roman poet Virgil9 says the following: “The years sung by the Sibyl have finally arrived. The infinite order of the ages is about to begin. Behold a new generation is being sent from heaven…The birth of this son, which will bring an end to the iron age and build the golden age all over the earth will be the basis of your favorable administration and pure freedom. This sign of the new age will appear during your reign, O Polion; and then, if there still remain traces of peoples’ transgressions, the entire earth will breathe because it will have been freed from the fear that held it for so many years in bondage.” Within this same poem he says: “He, through whom all these miracles are about to take place, will receive the life from the bosom of the godhead; he will be distinguished from all the heavenly beings and appear higher than them, and he will rule the world, having made peace through his father’s power…Therefore come desirable offspring of Heaven, great stem of Zeus! The announced time approaches; come to receive the great honor that belongs to you. Behold, all the world wavers at your arrival. The earth, the ocean, and the heavens shake; all things leap as the new age approaches.”

Eclogue 4 was written by the Roman poet Virgil c. 42 BC. During the Middle Ages, some elevated Virgil as pre-Christian prophet, largely due to perceived prophetic nature of the poem.
Eclogue 4 was written by the Roman poet Virgil c. 42 BC. During the Middle Ages, some elevated Virgil as pre-Christian prophet, largely due to perceived prophetic nature of the poem.

Plato spoke with inspiration.10 Let us hear him proclaiming, as the stentorian Isaiah, the crucified death of the righteous one, who suffers on account of righteousness: “we must strip him of everything except his justice, and our picture of him must be drawn in a way diametrically opposite to that of the unjust man. Our just man must have the worst of reputations for wrongdoing even though he has done no wrong, so that we can test his justice and see if it weakens in the face of unpopularity and all that goes with it; we shall give him an undeserved and life-long reputation for wickedness, and make him stick to his chosen course until death. In this way, when we have pushed the life of justice and of injustice each to its extreme, we shall be able to judge which of the two is happier…They will say that the just man, as we have pictured him, will be scourged, tortured, and imprisoned, his eyes will be put out, and after enduring every humiliation, he will be crucified, and learn at last that one should want not to be, but to seem just.”11

Fresco showing a young man with a scroll labelled "Plato", from Pompeii,
Fresco showing a young man with a scroll labelled “Plato”, from Pompeii,

Who does not see great similarity when comparing this with the words of Isaiah, who prophesies about the suffering of the lord, the only Righteous One who has appeared on the earth? Behold what the stentorian Isaiah prophesies about this righteous one: “I gave my back to scourges and my cheeks to blows: and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting…He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities…He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment is taken away: who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death…for he practiced no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth…because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors” (Isa. 50:6, 53:3-12; cf. Mt. 27; Mk. 14; Lk. 22, 23; Jn. 19).


In the Dogmatic Theology of Makarios, Metropolitan of Moscow, we read the following concerning the expectation of the nations: “It was necessary for the truths of the faith and especially the promises about the redeemer, which were given in the beginning to the entire human race and which were transmitted through oral tradition from fathers to children, and from ancestors to descendants, to be spread throughout all the nations, even to those who subsequently moved on further to the roads of impiety and idolatry. Even though it was inevitable for these truths, which were mixed with the new beliefs of the Gentile nations, to gradually shed their original purity and integrity and to be altered, nevertheless, even within this altered form, these truths supported and sustained, for the Gentiles, the traditions concerning the genesis and the first state of man, the fall of the forefathers in paradise, and—the most significant of all—the tradition concerning the Redeemer of the human race and the expectation of His coming.”

NY Road Sign


1 Sybil, derived from the Greek word Σίβυλλα, means Dios’ desire, or God’s will. The Sibyls were individual prophesying women, usually priestesses of early times, who admittedly are known only through legend. Through their prophecies, they would influence the common opinion of the people. The most famous sibyl was connected with Erythrai, but a sibyl also reached Delphi; a Babylonian sibyl is also mentioned. The sibyl of Cumae that lived in the 6th century B.C. became most important by virtue of her influence on Rome. References to sibyls are made by Aeschylus (458 B.C.) as well as Virgil (70-19 B.C.). The preservation of oracular utterances was one of the earliest applications for the art of writing in Greece, which began to spread about 750 B.C.; later, cities began to make official collections of oracles. See:

2 Theophilus to Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 9:

3 vid. The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book I, Chapter 5:

4 Tacitus was a native of Italy, born in 56 A.D. His reputation for eloquence was high, and he chose to write Rome’s history. He wrote various works in which he drew partly on historical works now lost, and partly on public records and his own experience.

5 Histories, Book 5, Chapter 13.*.html

6 The Festal Menaion, South Canaan: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1998, p. 254.

7 In response to a philosopher’s claim that the Crucified One is not mentioned by any of the ancient teachers, St. Catherine the Great Martyr answered: “Yet to affirm the truth that the ancients did speak of Him, let us hear what the erudite writer Sibyl says about His divine Incarnation and salvific Crucifixion: ‘One appeared and walked upon this banished earth Who became flesh without sin and dissolved the incurable passions without toil by His divinity. Envied by an unbelieving people, He was also condemned to death and suspended.’ Hear the unfeigned words of Apollo who, against his own will, confessed the passionless God, constrained by His almighty power: ‘The One Who suffered is a heavenly Trinal Radiance. He that suffered is God, though the divinity was passionless. At the same time, He had a mortal body, yet was immortal. He is God and man. He bore mortality, the Cross, mockings, and burial…‘ and so forth. Thus, Apollo admitted that Christ is the true God and co-eternal with unoriginate Father, Who is the origin, source, and foundation of all good things” (The Lives of the Holy Women Martyrs, Buena Vista: Holy Apostles Convent, 1991, pg. 506)” (St. Nektarios pg. 37)

8 Suetonius was a contemporary of Tacitus. Also see: Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius:
No Proof of Jesus

9 Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars.

10 Virgil was born 70 B.C. He was influenced by Alexandrian ideals of poetry, and wrote works such as Early Poems, Eclogues, and the Aeneid.

11 When Christ descended into Hades to preach to the imprisoned souls, only they who had some seeds of piety and virtue within them while still living on the earth believed in his preaching and were liberated from Hades. St. Nicodemos says that such were all the righteous people who lived both prior to and after the law, as well as several of the Greeks and philosophers. He quotes the following noteworthy story concerning Plato, recorded by the wise Nikitas of Serres: “A certain Christian would condemn the wise Plato excessively, criticizing him as an atheist and an evil man. However, Plato appeared to this person in a dream and said to him: ‘Do not criticize me pointlessly, my dear man. I do not deny that I am a sinner; however, when Christ descended to Hades, I was the first to believe [in Him]” (An Interpretation of the General Epistles).

12 Plato, The Republic, Book II, Part I:

Icon of St. Nektarios & St. Joseph the Hesychast holding St. Nektarios Monastery (Trapeza, Roscoe, NY)
Icon of St. Nektarios & St. Joseph the Hesychast holding St. Nektarios Monastery (Trapeza, Roscoe, NY)

The refectory as a place of punishment (Mary-Alice Talbot)

NOTE: These practices are also continued today in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. In Arizona, after Fr. Anthonios backed a truck into an orange tree, Geronda Ephraim told him he’d never eat another orange again. Thus, every Trapeza, when the Fathers were eating fresh picked and juicy oranges from the orchards, Fr. Anthonios would have a different fruit placed in front of him. In other monasteries, a monastic may be punished with being served a rusk and a fruit, even on dairy days, or no food whatsoever. During a bus pilgrimage to St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, Fr. Kassianos was forced to stand in the middle of the trapeza doing prayer rope while everyone else ate. Breaking, scratching, or ruining things, and in some monasteries even just dropping objects, is also punishable with prostrations—usually 50-100, though in cases of expensive tools, machinery and vehicles it can be up to 1000+ prostrations and this could be for many days. Each monastery has its own methodology of punishment and the punishments are tailored to the individual monastic according to their vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Holy Archangels Monastery (TX)
Holy Archangels Monastery (TX)

A medieval visitor to a Byzantine trapeza might observe some monks or nuns being singled out for punishment. One monk might be doing the equivalent of one hundred pushups, another standing next to the abbot holding fragments of a broken ceramic vessel, and another might be eating only olives and nuts, while his tablemates were feasting on lentil soup and boiled greens seasoned with olive oil.

St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)
St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)

The refectory, as a communal gathering place for monks and nuns, was deemed an appropriate location for public penance, particularly for misbehavior and infractions of the rule related to preparation of food and refectory discipline. A particularly useful source of information in this regard is the penitential’ of Theodore of Stoudios. He prescribes, for example, a series of 20 to 300 penitential prostrations (metanoiai) for various lapses of the cooks, such as failure to add oil and salt to food at the proper time while cooking, allowing broth to boil over, spilling wine or oil or vinegar, permitting food to spoil, or leaving a pot uncovered for a long time.1 Breaking a clay pot was viewed as a serious act of carelessness and might be punished by making the monk perform up to 300 metanoiai (the number probably depending upon the size of the pot) or stand at the front of the refectory holding the pieces of the pot in his hands, until he received the forgiveness of his brethren.2 A slight variant of this punishment is found in the eleventh-century vita of St Neilos of Rossano. After a young monk broke a pot by overfilling it with legumes and boiling them too vigorously, he had to tie the potsherds together with a string and wear them around his neck like a necklace while standing in the refectory.

Fr. Anthony Filotheiotis (AZ)
Fr. Anthonios Filotheitis (AZ)

Misbehaviour while eating might also be punished by a prescribed number of metanoiai, or by deprivation of certain foods or an entire meal. Examples of infractions of refectory discipline were conversing or laughing during a meal (one hundred metanoiai), missing a meal altogether (standing penance in the refectory, or eating of dry foods or fasting until the following day), idle or loose talk (deprivation of wine for one day and forty metanoiai), and getting up from the table before dismissal (no wine for three days and one hundred metanoiai).3

Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery (PA)
Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery (PA)
  1. See Theodore of Stoudios, Poenae monasteriales, nos A36-9, 41-5; PG 99.1737-40. These particular penitential regulations do not specify that the prostrations are to be performed in the refectory, but others (nos A2, 8, B29, 55) do, and this practice is confirmed by the evidence of the rule of Stoudios and vita B of Athanasios (see next footnote).
  2. Poenae monasteriales, nos A40 and 46; PG 99.1737 and 1740; Stoudios, chap. 35, BMFD 1.113AB, adds the detail that the careless monk had to stand next to the abbot with his cowl covering his head, while vita B of Athanasios of Athos says he had to stand next to the reader (Noret, Vitae duae, chap. 29, p. 118).
  3. See Theodore of Stoudios, Poenae monasteriales, nos B29, A12, B37, B36; PG 99.1735 and 1753.

 Le Troupeau Bénit 13

Persistent Frontal Suture: A miracle exclusive to Orthodox Clergymen?

NOTE:  The frontal suture is a dense connective tissue structure that divides the two halves of the frontal bone of the skull in infants and children. It usually disappears by the age of six, with the two halves of the frontal bone being fused together. It is also called the metopic suture, although this term may also refer specifically to a persistent frontal suture. In some individuals the suture can persist (totally or partly) into adulthood, and in these cases it is referred to as a persistent metopic suture. The suture can either bisect the frontal bone and run from nasion to bregma or persist as a partial metopic suture (see image of frontal bone) (where part of the suture survives and is connected to either bregma or nasion) or as an isolated metopic fissure. Persistent frontal sutures are of no clinical significance, although they can be mistaken for cranial fractures. As persistent frontal sutures are visible in radiographs, they can be useful for the forensic identification of human skeletal remains. Persistent frontal sutures should not be confused with supranasal sutures (a small zig-zag shaped suture located at and/or immediately superior to the glabella).


Human Baby Skull, anterior view.
Human Baby Skull, anterior view.
Adult human skull, showing the metopique suture ( in red ), which usually is no longer visible after two years old. This skull an archeological artifact from Aisne (France)
Adult human skull, showing the metopique suture ( in red ), which usually is no longer visible after two years old. This skull an archaeological artifact from Aisne (France)

The “Miracle” Story

A persistent story told in the monasteries concerns a “great miracle that only exists in Orthodoxy:” all priests have a frontal suture on their skull that extends down to the top of their nose and in deacons this frontal suture only extends half way down. This is claimed to be a miracle because the adult human skull is not suppose to have a frontal suture. Fr. Germanos Pontikas, an Athonite monk from Filotheou Monastery who is the second-in-command at St. Nektarios Monastery in NY explains:

Fr. Germanos  of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY.
Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY.

“During the ordination of a deacon, this new frontal suture appears and extends halfway down the front of his skull. Later, when he is ordained a priest, it extends all the way to the top of his nasal cavity. The lines [i.e. sutures] now form a perfect cross on the skull of a priest. In disorganized charnal houses, priests can be identified by this frontal suture. Also, when the Church exhumes a body, this is one of the indicators they can use to determine if the person was ordained or not. One time, I had to leave the Holy Mountain and go to the doctor in Thessaloniki. I had mentioned this miracle to him and he replied, ‘Ah, that happens to one in a hundred thousand people all over the world, it’s not a miracle.’  I then asked him, ‘Well, how did those people all end up on Mount Athos and ordained priests?’”

Στο Οστεοφυλάκιον Κυριακού Σκήτης Αγίας Άννας
Hieromonk Panteleimon has a frontal suture, Hieromonk Gabriel does not (St. Anne’s Skete)


Only for the Orthodox?

Another monk who explains this miracle states, “After the Great Schism, this miracle ceased to occur in the Roman Catholic Church which is also another proof that they do not have the Grace of the Holy Spirit, nor the Grace of Ordination. The relics of Western saints who were ordained before the schism have this frontal suture, after the Schism, it is nowhere to be found.” However, many of the post-Schism charnel houses in western Europe contain skulls with a frontal suture–and just like the charnel houses on Mount Athos,  some are priests, some are not.

Painted skulls, found in the charnel house in Hallstatt, Austria. The back skull has a frontal suture.
Painted skulls, found in the charnel house in Hallstatt, Austria. The back skull has a frontal suture.

There is a grey area in the telling of this tale. Not everyone can agree on whether it is all ordained priests, just priest-monks, or only those ordained on Mount Athos. Pictures of charnel houses on Mount Athos do reveal various skulls with a frontal suture, though the skulls are not always marked to determine if it is in fact an ordained monk or not. Furthermore, this miracle is not mentioned by any of the Church Fathers, nor contemporary Elders and Saints. One cannot find it in any of the books written about Mount Athos in the last century. It has been transmitted here from Mount Athos via Geronda Ephraim’s monastics, but is virtually unknown in other parts of the Orthodox world.

Simonopetra Charnel House.
Simonopetra Charnel House.

Persistent Frontal Suture Well-Documented in the Medical World

Figure 1- Brazil Complete metopic suture (arrow). Figure 2 - Brazil Incomplete metopic suture (arrow).

The 2 skulls above are from Brazil. The skull on the left has a complete metopic suture (Orthodox priest?) and the skull on the right has an incomplete metopic suture (Orthodox deacon?)

This phenomenon, however, is documented in the medical world and is known as persistent frontal suture. Furthermore, in medical research journals, there are numerous photos of skulls from Africa, Brazil, India, Mongolia, Thailand, etc., with complete and incomplete persistent frontal suture. Furthermore, many of these skulls have the yellowish coloring that is also suppose to be a miracle only found in orthodoxy indicating holiness or sanctity.

Non-orthodox layman adult skull with Persistent Frontal Suture, forming a perfect  Cross.
Non-orthodox layman adult skull with Persistent Frontal Suture, forming a perfect Cross.

The problem with the “exclusive Orthodox Miracle”

Persistent Frontal Suture is found all over the world. Many times the skulls belonged to people who were non-Orthodox and even non-Christian. Furthermore, many female adult skulls also have PFS. As those who are non-Orthodox are obviously not ordained priests in the Orthodox Church and the Church forbids women to be ordained priests, Persistent Frontal Suture cannot be claimed as a miracle exclusive to clergymen ordained in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Showing pilgrims pictures of Athonite charnel houses containing skulls with PFS does not validate it as an exclusive orthodox miracle, nor does it prove Orthodoxy is the only truth. Telling pilgrims that scientists are baffled and cannot explain this “miracle”—when, in fact, prestigious medical journals around the world are filled with articles about Persistent Frontal Suture in adult skulls—is inaccurate and misleading.

cup 1a cup 1

A rare metopic Tibetan skull bowel. Kapala This rare example has the metopic suture. The lining is silver with a gold wash, and a beautiful matrix turquoise cabochon is mounted inside. Tibet, 19th century.

A) Superior view of the skull showing the metopism, B) Anteroposterior radiograph of the skull showing the complete metopic suture. (CS – coronal suture, SS – sagittal suture, LS – lambdoid suture, MS – metopic suture).
A) Superior view of the skull
showing the metopism,
B) Anteroposterior radiograph of the
skull showing the complete metopic
suture. (CS – coronal suture, SS –
sagittal suture, LS – lambdoid suture,
MS – metopic suture).

Metopic ''Deacon'' (India) Metopic ''Priest'' (India)

Adult skulls from India. The one on the left would be assumed an “orthodox deacon” and the one on the right would be assumed a “orthodox priest.”


• A note on the morphology of the metopic suture in the human skull
• A rare case of persistent metopic suture in an elderly individual: Incidental autopsy finding with clinical implications (Karnataka, India);year=2014;volume=2;issue=1;spage=61;epage=63;aulast=Vikram
• Autopsy Study of Metopic Suture Incidence in Human Skulls in Western Rajasthan
• Imaging in Skull Fractures
• Incidence of metopic suture in adult South Indian skulls
• Incidence of metopic suture in skulls of Northeastern Thai adults
• Median Frontal Sutures – Incidence, Morphology and Their Surgical, Radiological Importance
• Metopic suture
• Metopism in Adult Skulls from Southern Brazil
• Morphological study of Metopic suture in adult South Indian skulls
• Occurrence of Metopism in Dry Crania of Adult Brazilians
• Persistent Metopic Suture in Various Forms in South Indian Adult Skulls – A Study
• Single Suture Craniosynostoses
• Skulls
• Tale of the Taung Child Collapses

Fig 1

Persistent Frontal Suture in Northeastern Thai Adult
Persistent Frontal Suture in Northeastern Thai Adult
Arrow indicating a complete metopic suture. The metopic suture extends from the nasion (A) to the bregma (B).
Arrow indicating a complete metopic suture. The metopic suture extends from the nasion (A) to the bregma (B).

Persitent Full Metopic Suture