Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A spiritual resurrection by St. Ephraim of Nea Makri

“O honored Abbess and Holy Mother, with respect I kiss your hand, the servant of God, A.

To begin, I ask for great forgiveness from St. Ephraim, because I was slow in relating the miracle that I was made worthy of (in order for it to be included in the books of miracles), due to many problems, after roughly nine years, when the Saint visited me the sinner.

I hope unshakably that our Lord, the Most-holy Theotokos, and our Saint will forgive me. I had very many family troubles, sicknesses and deaths, which absorbed me such that I forgot to write of the miracle. But I will never forget the great benefaction of our Saint, and I will not cease thanking him and praying to him.

It was an afternoon in November 1990, when my phone rang. It was one of my friends, who told me: “A., I learned that in Nea Makri there is a Monastery, where there is a Saint named Ephraim. Do you want to go venerate?”

Here I should say as an aside that then I was very far from God, not that I didn't believe, but I had so many family troubles, as I mentioned above, that my faith was shaken, it was lukewarm, I was going backwards, nothing was going right. I was indignant and burdened therefore, and I blasphemed with very evil words, like those used by lower classes of society [spiritually], who might be far from God, like I was.

I was working in Athens, and for 25 years, I did not go to Church of Sundays or take Holy Communion.

I would only go to Church on Pascha, along with everyone else, without understanding the deep sentiments of the faith.

I was very greatly influenced by the Killer of Man (the Devil), and he did with me whatever he wished...

Thus, that afternoon when my friend called me and told me to visit the Saint, I was still very lukewarm. My friend, in contrast, believed in God together with her family, and performed all of their religious duties. They were people of God...

Because, therefore, she was a very good friend who helped me psychologically and morally, I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I agreed to go, myself the sinner, when I was talking on the phone. When I understood what she wanted to tell me, I groaned within myself, saying:
“Oh...now she's going to tell me to go to the Monastery, like I would ever run to Monasteries!” (I was very far away them then).

How mistaken was my thought, however. Without my knowing that this was my first visitation to the Saint, whom I had never even heard of before.

When she told me his name, and I heard it for the first time, I asked:
“What did you say the Saint was called?”

“St. Ephraim” she told me.

“What did you say? Ephraim? That's the first time I heard the name. What is it, Turkish? Egyptian? What is it?”

She told me, “No, it's Greek...”

Ultimately, we came to his grace, and venerated with reverence, because he is a Saint, but not with deep religious sentiments as every faithful person. When we exited the Holy Monastery into the courtyard, I saw the tree on which they hung our Saint, but I did not think much of this, I was very lukewarm.

In the courtyard was a bookstore. I went in alone, while my friend was likely giving priority to the Saint. There, I was reading some of the book covers:
“Visions and wonders of the Holy Great Martyr Ephraim the Wonderworker."

At that instant, I murmured:
“Ok, now we are talking about miracles? What are they saying? What miracles occur in the 20th century? Why are you talking about miracles?”

I was utterly curious and doubtful, I had darkness in my soul, and I mocked what I read at that instant.

However, at the same time that I was mocking, I was intrigued by the book, and something within me told me: “Get it...get it...”

With great hesitation and without knowing what I was doing, I stretched out my hand and bought it, as if someone was pulling my hand and telling me: “Get it...”

Ultimately, I made the decision: “I will get it out of curiosity, to see what they write...” How would I have known that the sinner, at that instant, began to experience the salvation of my soul from our Lord, while naturally, at that instant, I did not understand all the depth, but only later I understood...

I don't wish to tire you, and I ask forgiveness, but I should write this in detail. When I ultimately bought the book, I began to read it every day during my afternoon nap, and slowly I began to read more and more.

The 2-3 chapters increased, and I soon wasn't sleeping at all at noon in order to finish the book. It began to please me, and it was something that interested me, and by the time I reached the middle of the book, I greatly began to love our Saint, and I sensed that I had known him for many years, while in reality, I had never known a Saint At that instant I sensed that noetically, I was very near the Saint.

Those hours when I was reading the book, I sensed that I knew the Saint well, and I thanked him for healing all of those sick people, as if I had sent him. I sensed this joy, and wholly thanked him.

At one point, I sensed how I had been affected by those 25 years that I had not gone to Church. I had never gone to Confession, and naturally I did not take Holy Communion, and straightaway, as I was sitting on me bed, I lifted up my eyes to heaven and said:

“My God, my Christ, thank You for healing those sick people, and forgive me as well...I, O Lord, have not walked in Your Church for 25 whole years...” (even though there were four churches in my neighborhood).

And later, I began to thank our Saint again, and said:
“My Saint Ephraim, I embrace you and kiss you, for you healed those sick people through the Lord...”

And, O the wonder, at that instant, as I put in the bookmark, I turned over the book, and kissed the icon on the cover, and thanked the Saint with indescribable joy and exaltation...

Before I kissed the icon of the Saint, within me passed a very beautiful smell, like cologne.

At that instant, I did not understand that this smell was called divine fragrance, because as I wrote above, I was far from the Church and did not know these things...

At that same instant, I began to have great curiosity and I asked within myself what that beautiful smell was, and I smelled the book to understand what was that beautiful smell. The clothes that I was wearing smelled, along with the air in my room. It did not leave me thus, but my whole studio smelled beautiful. And I asked, what was this?

My ignorance, my curiosity and my intrigue was solved by my friend who had called me before, who told me: “A., St. Ephraim visited you!”

On the phone I asked: “Where is the Saint? I didn't see him enter my house.”

My friend replied: “The Saint visited you through his divine fragrance, because we went to venerate him. The smell that you sensed is called divine fragrance, and this is the presence of the Saint, because the Saint wanted to visit you...”

My friend then asked me: “Did you light your vigil lamp?”, and I responded: “Paradoxically, yes.”

In reality, I don't know how, but I had lit my vigil lamp, and all that I remember was that I was kneeling and thanking God and the Saint who enlightened me, and entreating that I be forgiven, who had been so many years away from them.

O my honored Abbess, there when I was kneeling and crying, without any depression, I felt an internal change within me, and I put my head to the ground, and sought forgiveness for all my sins, for all of the years that I was very far away from God.

At that instant I asked myself, and had the thought: how could I learn all that is read within the Church, and come to know Christ better. How could I learn that which the priest and the chanters chant, and how could I learn about our Saints?

And again a divine illumination came to me! I should go purchase the Lives of the Saints, and other Christian books, in order to learn the Divine services, and everything that has to do with the Church, along with the hymns and apolytikia of the Saints. This is what happened.

During my first Holy Confession, I said this all to my Spiritual Father, and when I left for my home, I couldn't relate to you what a weight had fled from on top of me, and I walked as if I wasn't walking at all, but like a bird in the air (I became free in reality)...

From then when I was enlightened and as if re-baptized by St. Ephraim, I entered again to a religious road, and this I attribute to our Lord and to the Most-holy Theotokos, who intervened, sending our Saint Ephraim to enlighten me. Therefore, I owe a great thank-you to the Holy Great Martyr Ephraim.

From then on, I go to Church every Sunday and Great Feast, I confess and I commune.

Because of the wonder which St. Ephraim worked for me, I glorify and thank him every day, and confess his wonder to the world, and I give people his Paraklesis, his icons and his books to read. O my honored Mother and Abbess, I ask forgiveness from the Lord and our Saint for neglecting to write of the good that he did, and I ask forgiveness for tiring you...

I hope and pray that our Saint will protect your Holy Monastery, together with the sisters, and that you might pray for me, the sinner.

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