Monday, October 19, 2009

St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia

St. Gerasimos the Righteous of Cephalonia - Commemorated on October 20 and August 16th (icon taken from:

"Saint Gerasimus the New Ascetic of Cephalonia was born in the village of Trikkala in the Peloponessos. As a young adult, he became a monk on the island of Zakynthos. On the Holy Mountain he became a schemamonk and studied with the ascetics of Mt Athos. Receiving a blessing from the Elders, the monk went to Jerusalem to worship at the Life-bearing Tomb of the Savior. After visiting many holy places in Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Antioch, Damascus, Alexandria and Egypt, he returned to Jerusalem where he became a lamp-lighter at the Sepulchre of the Lord.

The monk was ordained a deacon and then a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Germanus (1534-1579). St Gerasimus maintained the discipline of an ascetic. For solitude he withdrew to the Jordan, where he spent forty days without respite. Having received the Patriarch's blessing for a life of silence, St Gerasimus withdrew to Zakynthos in solitude, eating only vegetation.

After five years he was inspired to go the island of Cephalonia, where he lived in a cave. He restored a church at Omala, and he founded a women's monastery where he lived in constant toil and vigil for thirty years. He prayed on bent knees stretched out on the ground. For his exalted life he was granted a miraculous gift: the ability to heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits.

Icon depicting the repose of St. Gerasimos (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

At 71 years of age, the venerable Gerasimus knew that he would soon die. He gave his blessing to the nuns and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on August 15, 1579. Two years later, his grave was opened and his holy relics were found fragrant and incorrupt with a healing power.

Since the Feast of the Dormition falls on August 15, St Gerasimus is commemorated on August 16th. Today's Feast celebrates the uncovering of his holy relics in 1581." (taken from:

Another icon of St. Gerasimos (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

The Celebration of St. Gerasimos on Cephalonia
"We thus come to the great day, the most significant day for Cephalonia and all Cephalonians living on the island or abroad: St. Gerasimos Dormition Day. St Gerasimos actually died on August 15th of 1579, the Dormition of Theotokos Day. As a result, the celebration of his memory was moved to the next day August 16th.

On the afternoon of the 15th , St. Gerasimos' Sacred Relic is moved in a litany procession from the older church that lies over his grave, amidst truly emotional and touching reactions from the devout who express their faith in God and their respect for St. Gerasimos.

The Sacred Relic is placed in a specially prepared place within the magnificent new church. Small Vespers begin and the devout start to pay respects from about 6pm until noon of the next day.

An Archieratic Liturgy is held on Saint Gerasimos Day followed by a Litany which is attended by clergy, nuns, monks, officials and thousands of Christians. The procession, which is accompanied by bands, an army honor corp, and boy scouts, ends up at the large plane tree when a prayer is chanted. The Metropolitan delivers a speech and the procession returns to the church where the public continues to worship the Sacred Relic. The Saint's Sacred Relic is returned to the smaller church and placed back in the larnax in the afternoon. A reception complete with an official dinner is given afterwards in the Convent's spacious Hall.

In the evening a special event in honor of Saint Gerasimos takes place in Argostoli. First, there is a litany of his icon throughout the town's streets which ends up at the main square. A special prayer is said and the Metropolitan addresses the cogregation...

In October, everything revolves around the commemoration of the Restitution of St. Gerasimos' Sacred Relic on the 20th of the month. The ceremonies take place at Saint Gerasimos Convent at Omala. The ceremony schedule of August 16th is repeated once again with the participation of clergy, the nuns and many officials. Small Vespers is followed by a dinner given at the Convent Hall for the clergy and the officials. The ceremonies proceed with Great Vespers and Matins officiated by the Metropolitan. The Saint's Praises are chanted. Around 1 am, followed by the Divine Liturgy. The Metropolitan departs around 2 am. On October 20th, an Archieratic Liturgy and Litany of the Sacred Relic take place.. Literally thousands of Christians come to pay their respect to Saint Gerasimos during the two days. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, the Sacred Relic is taken back to the smaller church and placed in its larnax.

A celebration is also held on this day in St. Gerasimos Church in Lixouri where the Saint's Icon is litanized through the town in the afternoon. A prayer is said at the main square and the Metropolitan addresses the congregation and the officials." (taken from:; see the link for an account of all the major feasts of the island)

The interior of St. Gerasimos Cathedral, with his sacred, incorrupt Relic in the background (taken from:

by Father Ioannis Mesoloras
"It is true that our villages owe a great deal to the presence of the Saint and His Convent at Omala Valley. The entire area celebrates and rejoices when St. Gerasimos is litanized to the plane tree and the thrushing fields. The Saint is seen as the sun by the folk poet as He comes out of His Church and lightens the mountain-enclosed area of the valley.

"As the sun you emerge from Your church Gerasimos, and with heaven's angels you ascend the heights".

This valley will exclusively receive His Blessing. According to tradition, many times it was attempted to remove Him from here, without success. A little further down on the road to Troianata, the location is called "podoria" and it is the place from where He could be moved no further. He would become heavy. He feels content here because it is the place He chose among so many others he visited. He thus reigns over Omala and several times during the year He promenades like a rarely-seen nobleman for His subjects to admire and rejoice. And they come in thousands. Among the procession, He in the middle, raised high, humble, untouched by time, in His clerical robes which like His body did not perish in the grave.

Heading the procession are children holding cherubs and the choir chanting "Oh, Saint of God, intervene on our behalf...."

Clergy and nuns all around Him, and a humbly saintly monk - Gerasimos Psihalas from Xiromero, holding the rug on which He will be placed on the Well. Coming up behind are Metropolitans - Cephalonians do take an interest, they ask: "how many Metropolitans will come?" - officials and the congregation of God. His procession to the plane tree is a blessing, the exodus of a king to his kingdom. He will rest at the Well that He dug, under the shade of the plane tree - His eternal signs according to the poet " - a five-branch plane tree and a deep well you left for us Gerasimos as an eternal sign". The water in the Well will overflow and the leaves of the plane tree will thrush to greet The Master.

A picture of one of the plane trees planted by St. Gerasimos (taken from:

Ah, this Litany! The church bells are ringing in joy, music is playing, soldiers are marching with arms. Who knows what the Omala Ascetic is thinking? Can He see it all, can He hear it all?

These poor folks are trying to exalt Him. Officials in presence, the bands, the chanters with their melodies, the clergy and the metropolitans with their gold-weaved robes. Speeches, thank yous, praises, meals...

Accept all this, Holy Ascetic. This is what the people are able and know to offer. If need be, don't pay attention. If it's not to Your liking, look elsewhere. Look at the valleys, the trees, the mountains.

" -The valleys and mountains shine in Your presence- the trees bow their branches to worship You, listen to the birds - through the leaves of the trees the birds sing angels' hymns - sing for You Gerasimos of Virtue". And if You pass on to the unwordly, listen " the Angels in Heaven officiate at Your Liturgy".

What a festivity, what a joy is the Saint's Litany! Everything takes on a new look- Has the Saint come out, what time is the Saint coming out? Asks the Cephalonian. Asks loudly, theatrically, theologically. They are not taking Him out - He is coming out, He is alive, He moves, He acts and above all He comes out to distribute gifts like a nobleman and administrator of heavenly wealth to His subjects: "Everywhere You spread comfort, joy, bliss and invisibly You give charity".

Everyone rejoices, is touched, cries, cross themselves and pray: but some are moved to convulsions

"- the demons are torn in the presence of Your Sacred Relic-
- They beg You to stop being angry-
- To not throw them to the wild flames-
- Asking complete freedom from You- "

[Note: St. Gerasimos is known to especially help those possessed by demons]

So much freedom as to torture the children of God. " to run free and at will to torture the sinful, to run and gather them from everywhere ".

The insane are the Saint's expertise according to the nuns, which is why there were special quarters for them to do their "forties" (40 days of Lent) in order to be absolved of the demons that had conquered them. Observe what happens at the Litany. Black dressed souls, men, women, children, all running to secure a position to lay down anywhere along the procession's way so that the Saint may pass over them. The relations of the insane try to place them - some cooperate, others resist. Some of them will find a spot somewhere. The clergymen give instructions - some of them in an inappropriate way that gives the impression of unloading a boat - policemen put people in order. Everyone is looking for a position, some must line up, others must bow. As the Saint is approaching, everyone calms down. He passes over them. A miracle can now take place. If not this time, maybe another, faith is not spent. The Litany however is the peak of hope. At the plane tree, prayers are said, hymns are chanted, speeches are given, thanks are directed to those who attended and honored the Saint with their presence, and the procession starts to retrace its way back. Passing the thrushing fields, "The Farmer of Omala" - according to the late socialist Antonis Tritsis - is at His element. Here, at the place where the crops were processed, the prayer " for the fertility of the earth and peaceful times " will be heard, and chanting the departure hymns the " association of ascetics, clergy, choir, and numerous celebration participants..." will return to the "small" church ....(there is a big, Byzantine style church as well).

Picture from the Litany of St. Gerasimos' Relics in 1964. It is striking to see the number of people laying on the ground out of humility and devotion to be passed over by the Saint's relics. (taken from:

 The Saint has been placed in His Dormition place. The crowd awaits to pay respects. The officials have paid their respects while the Saint was held up at the western gate where a memorial prayer was said for His parents Dimitrios and Kallie and all the deceased. The clergy hurriedly disrobe and wish "may the Saint look over us". The pilgrims begin to leave and soon Omala Valley will be deserted and the Saint will be peaceful in His Dormition. The congregation however will not have gone away empty-handed, they will have taken something: conscecrated bread, blessed charms from the nuns, icons, crosses, soil from His grave, leaves from the plane tree, blessed bread, and those who got the chance, coffee and sweets at the Abbey. Some will go to the Convent Dining Room for the meal. The locals will go home where they'll most likely have boiled goat. In the past, all homes had extra food for the relatives and friends who came on the pilgrimage. They surely had to have something after hours without eating, tired from the night vigil.

In our days, they leave, most go home, we invite them but they are not very receptive, they have cars and leave...

What finally remains in the mind and soul after participating in the Litany? Every Cephalonian can express it, the locals at Omala live through it so often..

Despite this, something obscene remains on the tongue of many Cephalonians, which the poet of the verses that provoked this article, begs to stop: blasphemy.

"My beloved Christians, stop blasphemizing St. Gerasimos
and among others, respect the child of Trikala".
(published in the local newspaper "Frangata" - 1995, taken from:

See: for information and pictures from the Monastery of St. Gerasimos (along with , and: on the Cave of St. Gerasimos where he lived in asceticism for five years.

Another icon of St. Gerasimos (taken from:

A few miracles of St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia (amateur translation)
"When therefore the Saint is processed and arrives at the plane tree he is placed above the well that is found there. Years before, most likely around 1930, my grandmother was lucky to be there, and had heard of the miracle when they placed the Saint above this well, it overflowed with water. She however did not believe it saying that it was an exaggeration. However she told me, and I won’t forget as long as I live “I Gerasimos, I saw it overflow and no one can make be deny it” Certainly then there was real faith and to go venerate in Omala you would fast before for days. The trip also was by foot, which was the real way of life.

The second miracle regards a girl, who when her mother was pregnant, presented with complications and the doctors advised her to have an abortion because with certainty they believed that if the child would be born alive it would have many problems. The pious parents however did not even hear of abortion and having no other doctor they took refuge in the Saint and prayed, and gave birth to a baby girl who today is graced with total health.

And the third miracle regards a woman who had a demon and the demons tremble at only hearing the name of the Saint. The woman remained at the monastery for a period of time, given hospitality by the nuns and at a Divine Liturgy the demon could not bear it, and later she herself recounted that she felt something with power leave her body. I must say that a few days before I arrived and when the priest was performing the Holy Unction, and when the time came for the priest to anoint this woman with the demon she got up and said a phrase that I remembered characteristically “Is it not enough that the old priest that stays here doesn’t leave me in peace day or night, and today you with the oil, the two of you will burn me” and as soon as she was anointed, the demon was so shaken that the woman fell down unconscious and after a few days by the grace of the Saint she was freed.

These are only a few words brethren, which in reality is little for St. Gerasimos, as the current Eldress nun Kassiane and her synodeia have experienced so many miracles that they are uncountable…" (

"[St. Gerasimos'] most characteristic motto, which he preached until he died, was "Children, live in peace and do not be arrogant".

Another icon of St. Gerasimos (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Apolytikion in the First Tone
O believers, let us praise the protector of the Orthodox, The God-bearing miracle-worker lately appearing to us, the incarnate angel, divine Gerasimos. For he has rightly received from God the ever-flowing grace of performing healing. He strengthens those with diseases and he heals those with demons. And therefore he pours out healings to those who honor him.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Now doth Cephalonia, with sacred songs of thanksgiving, call upon the multitudes of all the Orthodox Christians to extol the boast and glory of Orthodoxy, the divine and great Gerasimus, who is truly her deliverer and champion, who doth preserve her from all the harm of her foes.
(taken from:

The full service of St. Gerasimos in Greek under the title "Ακολουθία του οσίου και θεοφόρου Πατρός ημών Γερασίμου του νέου ασκητού..." is available (in numerous editions) here:[metadata]=1&stored_cclquery=&skin=&rss=0&cclfield1=term&search_coll[metadata]=1&cclterm1=%CE%B3%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%83%CE%AF%CE%BC%CE%BF%CF%85#.

St. Gerasimos the Righteous Wonderworker of Cephalonia (
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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