Moving on to the third part of the Metropolitan Neofytos’ of Morfou trilogy, an outline of the sacred personality and life of Saint Iakovos Tsalikis, his Elder, as he experienced him.
Very important documentary about the sacred and blessed life of Elder Iakovos, the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. David in Euboea Island in Greece.
Elder Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia canonized by Constantinople,
November 27, 2017
According to exclusive information from the Greek-language Orthodox site Romfea, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate resolved today to officially number the blessed Elder Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia among the saints of God.(Original Greek-English Subtitles)
Great Hymnographer of the Church of Alexandria
The venerable Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, the admirable Abbot of the Monastery of the Venerable David in Evia, was a long-range star who shined in our days with the rays of his simplicity, his goodness, his equal-to-the-angels state and his numerous wonders.
Elder Iakavos was the personification of love, a living embodiment of “the new life in Christ”, a projector of virtue and a mirror of humility and temperance.
He embodied and experienced the testament of grace and delighted all those who approached him, since he was entirely the “fragrance of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15). With his sweet words he gave them rest and conveyed to them the good things of the Holy Spirit, “joy, peace and gentleness” (Gal. 5:22), with which he was gifted, affirming the Gospel phrase: “Out of the abundance of the heart the tongue speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
Elder Iakovos was a spiritual figure of the Monastery of the Venerable David, sent by the philanthropic Lord to the modern lawless Israel and admonished them with the example of his simple yet venerable life and the grace of his words which were always “seasoned with salt” (Gal. 4:6). The Elder was not very educated, but he was overshadowed, like the fishermen of Galilee, with the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, making wise the unwise and moving the lips of those chosen by God to spiritually guide the people to salvation.
Elder Iakovos was born on November 5, 1920 to pious parents, his mother Theodora being from Livisi in Asia Minor and his father Stavros from Rhodes. In early 1922 Turkish cetes captured his father and led him deep into Anatolia.
After the catastrophe of our blessed Asia Minor, which was allowed by God for our sins and apostasy, the family of the Elder followed the hard road of exile. Their ship transferred them over to Itea and from there they settled in Amfissa.
There it pleased the Lord, in 1925, for his father to find them and together as a family they moved to Farakla in Evia.
At the age of seven the young divinely-illumined Iakovos memorized the Divine Liturgy even though he was illiterate. In 1927 he attended elementary school and was distinguished for his performance and his obvious love for the Church and sacred writings.
The appearance of Saint Paraskevi to the young Iakovos and the revelation of his brilliant ecclesiastical future stimulated the faith and piety of the young student.
Often the purity of his life led him to pray for his suffering countrymen, whom he would heal by reading prayers that were irrelevant to their situation, but he did it with much devotion showing to all that the “grace of God was on him” (Lk. 2:40).
In 1933 he completed elementary school, but the financial difficulties of his family did not allow him to continue his studies. So he followed his father in his manual work.
Impressed by his melodious chanting the Metropolitan of Halkidos consecrated him a Reader.
What impressed everyone was his ascetic life, his prayerful disposition, his love for work, his lack of sleep, and his strict observance of the fasts.
In this voluntary personal deprivation he came to add the involuntary suffering of the whole family and that of all the hapless refugees from the dispossession.
In July of 1942 the mother of the Elder died, foretelling his future as a priest. He joined the army in 1947, where he remained undaunted by the derision of his colleagues, who jokingly called him “Father Iakovos”.
However, he received admiration from his commander, who was among the few that sensed the future bright spiritual path of the young refugee.
After being released from the army in 1949, Iakovos, at the age of 29, was orphaned also of a father. His focus was on his sister, without, however, neglecting the thoughts of his childhood desire to enter the monastic state.
After his sister married, in November of 1952 he went to the Monastery of the Venerable David near Rovies, fulfilling his desire of completely dedicating his life to God. At the age of 32 Iakovos was tonsured a Monk, and on December 19, 1952 he was ordained a Priest in Halkida by Metropolitan Gregory.
He then continued his ascetic life in the Monastery, with concerted prayer in the cave of the Venerable David, with divine visions and miracles, which increased over time.
He achieved high measures in virtue and suffered many attacks from good-hating demons, who hated his equal-to-the-angels life.
He often saw and spoke with Venerable David and Saint John the Russian, while he was also made worthy of the gifts of foresight and insight.
Often during the Divine Liturgy he would see Angels serving him in the Sacred Altar, Cherubim and Seraphim encircling him covering their faces with their six wings, revering the slain Lamb, the God-man Jesus, on the Holy Paten, broken but not divided, forever eaten yet never consumed.
In August of 1963 in a wondrous way he satiated with three kilos of noodles 75 laborers with generous servings with half a pot of leftovers.
On the 25th of June in 1975 he became the Abbot of the Monastery and held this rudder firmly until his venerable repose on the 21st of November in 1991.
Due to his hermit and ascetic life, however, the health of the Elder was shaken, the veins of his legs rotted, and he had to undergo surgeries for his hernia, his appendix, his prostrate and his heart, even being placed within him a pacemaker.
From 1990 onwards his strength began to leave him. In September of 1991 he was hospitalized at the General State Hospital of Athens for a small infarction.
When he returned to the Monastery he suffered from inflammation, which, unfortunately, turned into pneumonia. He sensed his end.
The morning of November 21, 1991 he followed the Service for the Entrance of our Theotokos, he chanted and he communed of the Immaculate Mysteries.
After confessing some of the faithful he took a walk around the Monastery. In the afternoon he confessed a spiritual daughter of his and waited for the return of his novice Iakovos from Limni, who that day was ordained a Deacon by the Metropolitan of Halkidos.
As soon as the fathers arrived the Elder tried to get up, but became dizzy. His breathing became heavy, his pulse weakened and from his lips came a soft blow.
The Elder took the road to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The people who were informed of his funeral were few.
The phones, however, took fire and from one person to another the sad news spread.
The next day thousands of people flocked to the Monastery, clergy of all ranks and spiritual children of the Elder from all over Greece, who came to give their last embrace.
The courtyard of the Monastery was crowded. The funeral service was chanted outdoors and after his sacred body was processed around the Katholikon. During the procession many of the faithful saw the Elder get up from his coffin to bless the crowd.
Once the sacred body descended into the grave, with one voice the thousands of faithful with resurrection hymns and resurrection bells joyfully cried out: “Saint! Saint!”
Since then Elder Iakovos, with his dozens of posthumous miracles, has been classified in the souls of the faithful as a Saint, by those who await with longing his formal canonization by the Mother Church.
Translated By John Sanidopoulos
Elder Iakovos Tsalikis was one of the most important and saintly personalities of our day, a great and holy Elder. He was a vessel of grace, a living incarnation of the Gospel, a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit and a true friend of God. From early childhood his aim was sanctification, and he enjoyed praying and would go to different chapels, light the icon-lamps and pray to the saints. In one chapel in his village, he was repeatedly able to speak to Saint Paraskevi. He submitted to God’s call, which came to him when he was still a small child, denied himself and took up the Cross of Christ until his last breath. In 1951, he went to the Monastery of Saint David the Elder, where he was received in a miraculous manner by the saint himself.
He was tonsured in November 1952. As a monk he submitted without complaint and did nothing without the blessing of the abbot. He would often walk four to five hours to meet his Elder, whose obedience was as parish-priest in the small town of Limni. The violence he did to himself was his main characteristic. He didn’t give in to himself easily. He lived through unbelievable trials and temptations. The great poverty of the monastery, his freezing cell with broken blinds and cold wind and snow coming in through the gaps, the lack of the bare essentials, even of winter clothing and shoes, made his whole body shiver and he was often ill. He bore the brunt of the spiritual, invisible and also perceptible war waged by Satan, who was defeated by Iakovos’ obedience, prayer, meekness and humility. He fought his enemies with the weapons given to us by our Holy Church: fasting, vigils and prayer.
His asceticism was astonishing. He ate like a bird, according to his biographer. He slept on the ground, for two hours in twenty-four. The whole night was devoted to prayer. Regarding his struggle, he used to say: ‘I do nothing. Whatever I do, it’s God doing it. Saint David brings me up to the mark for it’.
His humility, which was legendary and inspiring, was his main characteristic. The demons which were in the possessed people who went to the monastery cursed him and said: ‘We want to destroy you, to neutralize you, to exterminate you, but we can’t because of your humility’. He always highlighted his lack of education, his inadequacies and his humbleness. It was typical of him that, when he spoke, every now and again he’d say: ‘Forgive me’. He was forever asking people’s forgiveness, which was a sign of his humble outlook. Once, when he was invited to visit the Monastery of Saint George Armas, where the abbot was the late Fr. George Kapsanis, he replied: ‘Fathers, I’m a dead dog. What will I do if I come to see you? Pollute the air?’ He always had the sense that he was a mere nothing.
And when he became abbot he always said that he wasn’t responsible for what happened in the monastery: ‘Saint David’s the abbot here’, he maintained. When he served with other priests, he went to the corner of the altar, leaving them to lead the service. When they told him: ‘This isn’t right, you’re the abbot of the monastery’, he’d reply: ‘Son, Saint David’s the abbot here’.
Although he didn’t seek office, he agreed to be ordained to the diaconate by Grigorios, the late Bishop of Halkida, on 18 December 1952. The next day he became a priest. In his address after the ordination, the bishop said: ‘And you, son, will be sanctified. Continue, with God’s power, and the Church will declare you [a saint]’. His words were prophetic. He was made abbot on 27 June, 1975, by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Halkida, a post he held until his death.
As abbot he behaved towards the fathers and the visitors to the monastery with a surfeit of love and understanding and great discernment. His hospitality was proverbial. Typical of him was the discernment with which he approached people. He saw each person as an image of Christ and always had a good word to say to them. His comforting words, which went straight to the hearts of his listeners, became the starting-point of their repentance and spiritual life in the Church. The Elder had the gift, which he concealed, of insight and far-sight. He recognized the problem or the sin of each person and corrected them with discretion. Illumined by the Holy Spirit he would tell each person, in a few words, exactly what they needed. Saint Porfyrios said of the late Elder Iakovos: ‘Mark my words. He’s one of the most far-sighted people of our time, but he hides it to avoid being praised’.
In a letter to the Holy Monastery of Saint David, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios, wrote: ‘Concerning the late Elder, with his lambent personality, the same is true of him as that which Saint John Chrysostom wrote about Saint Meletios of Antioch: Not only when he taught or shone, but the mere sight of him was enough to bring the whole teaching of virtue into the souls of those looking at him’.
He lived for the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated every day, with fear and trembling, dedicated and, literally, elevated. Young children and those with pure hearts saw him walking above the floor, or being served by holy angels. As he himself told a few people, he served together with Cherubim, Seraphim and the Saints. During the Preparation, he saw Angels of the Lord taking the portions of those being remembered and placing them before the throne of Christ, as prayers. When, because of health problems he felt weak, he would pray before the start of the Divine Liturgy and say: ‘Lord, as a man I can’t, but help me to celebrate’. After that, he said, he celebrated ‘as if he had wings’.
One of the characteristic aspects of his life was his relationship with the saints. He lived with them, talked to them and saw them. He had an impressive confidence towards them, particularly Saint David and Saint John the Russian, whom he literally considered his friends. ‘I whisper something in the ear of the Saint and he gets me a direct line to the Lord’. When he was about to have an operation at the hospital in Halkida, he prayed with faith: ‘Saint David, won’t you go by Prokopi and fetch Saint John, so you can come here and support me for the operation? I feel the need of your presence and support’. Ten minutes later the Saints appeared and, when he saw them, the Elder raised himself in bed and said to them: ‘Thank you for heeding my request and coming here to find me’.
One of his best known virtues was charity. Time and again he gave to everybody, depending on their needs. He could tell which of the visitors to the monastery were in financial difficulties. He’d ask to speak to them in private, give them money and ask them not to tell anyone. He never wanted his charitable acts to become known.
Another gift he had was that, through the prayers of Saint David, he was able to expel demons. He would read the prayers of the Church, make the sign of the Cross with the precious skull of the saint over the people who were suffering and the latter were often cleansed.
He was a wonderful spiritual guide, and through his counsel thousands of people returned to the path of Christ. He loved his children more than himself. It was during confession that you really appreciated his sanctity. He never offended or saddened anyone. He was justly known as ‘Elder Iakovos the sweet’.
He suffered a number of painful illnesses. One of his sayings was, ‘Lucifer’s been given permission to torment my body’. And ‘God’s given His consent for my flesh, which I’ve worn for seventy-odd years, to be tormented for one reason alone: that I may be humbled’. The last of the trials of his health was a heart condition which was the result of some temptation he’d undergone.
He always had the remembrance of death and of the coming judgement. Indeed, he foresaw his death. He asked an Athonite hierodeacon whom he had confessed on the morning of November 21, the last day of his earthly life, to remain at the monastery until the afternoon, in order to dress him. While he was confessing, he stood up and said: ‘Get up, son. The Mother of God, Saint David, Saint John the Russian and Saint Iakovos have just come into the cell’. ‘What are they here for, Elder?’ ‘To take me, son’. At that very moment, his knees gave way and he collapsed. As he’d foretold, he departed ‘like a little bird’. With a breath like that of a bird, he departed this world on the day of the Entry of the Mother of God. He made his own entry into the kingdom of God. It was 4:17 in the afternoon.
His body remained supple and warm, and the shout which escaped the lips of thousands of people: ‘Saint! You’re a saint’, bore witness to the feelings of the faithful concerning the late Elder Iakovos. Now, after his blessed demise, he intercedes for everyone at the throne of God, with special and exceptional confidence. Hundreds of the faithful can confirm that he’s been a benefactor to them.
Source: Pemptousia, “The Elder of love, forgiveness and discernment” by Alexandros Christodoulou
For more information about the monastery and St. David, go here