At St. Gerasimos’ Feast
St. Gerasimos the New Ascetic of Kefallonia (+1579) is known as a renowned healer of the mentally ill and a grace-filled exorcist of the demon possessed. They flock to his holy shrine which contains his incorrupt relics to receive healing. His nickname is “Kapsalis” (“the burning one”), after the desolate place of Kapsala on Mount Athos, where the Saint lived as an ascetic.The demons cry out: “Kapsalis, you have burned us.”
An eye-witness: “When the priest was performing the Holy Unction, a demon-possessed woman was screaming in convulsions: ‘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?’ As soon as she was anointed, the demon was so shaken that the woman fell down unconscious but she was freed by the grace of the Saint.”
Another: I happened to be traveling in Kefallonia during the feast of St. Gerasimos. When I arrived at the monastery, loud screams were coming from the demon possessed in the church, saying: “You are burning me, Gerasimos. You are burning me Kapsali.” Everyone understood in the church that there was a spiritual battle going on around them at that moment that they could hear but not see.
The Saint ‘Gets Up’!
A most solemn moment, as the Saint is ‘allowed’ in the vertical position
only during his Feast and Litany.
And His Litany
“As the sun you emerge from Your church Gerasimos, and with heaven’s angels you ascend the heights”.
On Aug 16 the Saint’s relics are carried in an upright position in a procession for 500 metres. The procession starts at the church and proceeds down a wide road lined with poplars as far as a spreading plane tree where there is a well which is said to have been dug by the Saint himself.
Tradition has it that Omala valley exclusively receives His Blessing. 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.
Among the procession, the Saint is in the middle, raised high, untouched by time, in His clerical robes which like His body did not perish in the grave.
“A five-branch plane tree and a deep well you left for us Gerasimos as an eternal sign”
He will rest at the Well that He dug, under the shade of the plane tree – The water in the Well will overflow and the leaves of the plane tree will thrush to greet The Master.
Hours before the litany begins, people struggle to secure a position to lay down anywhere along the procession’s way so that the Saint may pass over them. The Litany is the peak of hope for miraculous healings.
A picture of one of the plane trees planted by St. Gerasimos
The older church containing the relics of St. Gerasimos is built directly over his cave and pilgrims are welcome to descend the ladder and squeeze through the tiny floor-level entrance that leads into the cave.
This August the Lord granted me the special blessing to take part in all this. An indelible pilgrimage for both the profound mourning that was searing my heart and the healing ointment of forgiveness that is still working wonders in my life.