A Caress from Eternity

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On Thursday, February 8, 2018, at 5:30 AM, the renowned elder and spiritual father Nektarios Vitalis, the elder of Saint Athanasius Monastery in Kouvaras, reposed in the Lord. I wrote about his holy life in a previous post. Today I would like to share with you a miracle which took place on the day of his funeral, February 9 at the Monastery of Saint Athanasius, sealing a life full of heavenly visitations. The Youtube video which follows, shows, from 1:38 onwards, how his corpse is not stiff (ie. rigor mortis) but shows signs of flexibility, as if he were only sleeping. Pay attention to how a spiritual child of his fondly kisses and gently caresses his Gerondas’ hand, seeking his final blessing. God is glorified in His Saints!
Father Nektarios’ ‘flexibility’ is the first supernatural event to occur after his demise and has been a great consolation to everyone.
May we have his blessings……!!!
He was known for his simplicity, purity, faith and deep connection with St. Nektarios of Aegina. In 1980, the sacred Elder had an astonishing conversation with St. Nektarios, and during this, he was healed of an incurable illness… A few days later, the general director of the Cancer Hospital “St. Savas” was astonishingly informed him that his cancer had disappeared. In Kamariza the bells rang joyously at the joyous news of the miracle.

Icon of St. Nektarios embracing and healing Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, along with the two women bearing witness to this to the left, and the doctors confirming the miracle to the right. The icon is from the Chapel of Saint Nektarios in Aretaieion Hospital.

Before this, in 1965, he suffered a stroke, and his situation was dire, but Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker granted him healing. As soon as he became well, he moved to Lavro. A short time later, he again saw Saint Nektarios in his sleep, who asked him to build his “house” in Kamariza, Lavro [a famous pilgrimage of the saint, where many miracles have occurred], and who informed him that he would help him.
Excerpt from a short encomium written by Mr. Manolis Melinos, who wrote several books on St. Nektarios, his life and miracles, and spent 30 years together with him:
  
ELDER NEKTARIOS
The sweet, the simple, the father,
The brother, the fellow man,
The consoler, the humble one,
The child among children, the great one among the great, the elder among the elders, in other words, the child-elder, reposed today, February 8th, 2018 at the age of 88. Now he is an intercessor for us at the heavenly Altar, together with St. Nektarios, near the Great High Priest Christ, to Whom he gave everything! 
Manolis Melinos,
Orphaned of a “Father” 
(source)
The Memorial Service and the Burial:

 

 

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+ Fr. Nektarios Vitalis — Memory Eternal

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+ February 8, 2017

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis is at long last with our Saviour Christ and his beloved patron Saint, St. Nektarios. May he pray for us! His was a life full of visions, visitations and miracles with his patron saint, even near-death, after-life  experiences! Miracles and signs of Holiness even during his Memorial Service and Funeral!

Καλό Παράδεισο, Γέροντα! Καλή αντάμωση στην Αιωνιότητα!

Greek traditional wish for the departed: “A Blessed Paradise, Gerondas! Until we meet again in Eternity!

Below follow Fr. Nektarios’ recalling of his miraculous healing of cancer by St. Nektarios, a few youtube videos where he tells of St. Nektarios’ visitations to him and his near-death, ‘after-life’ experience, and his final will, testament and tomb.

Miracle of Saint Nektarios: The Healing of Fr. Nektarios Vitalis of Cancer

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, well-known in Lavrio [a city in Attika, Greece] for his deeds and his sympathy to the poor and those written-off by the world in these difficult times, retells the following incident from when he was dying from cancer. What is said below has been told elsewhere, repeatedly, including in the book I talked to Saint Nektarios (Athens 1997, by the renowned writer Mr. Manolis Melinos).

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis recalls:

“I was suffering from a serious form of cancer. My chest was an open wound that was continuously running blood and pus. I would tear my undershirts from the pain. It was a tragic situation, and I was headed directly to death. So you understand, I had even prepared my grave clothes….

“On the 26th of March 1980, in the morning, I was talking in my office in the basement of the Church with Sofia Bourdoy (the church care-taker [a woman who cleans the church]) and the icon painter Helen Kitraki, when the door suddenly opened and an old, unknown man entered. He had a snow-white beard, was short and was slighty bald. He looked exactly the same as St. Nektarios appears in photographs. He took three candles without paying and lit only two. He venerated all the icons of the church, but passed over the icon of St. Nektarios without venerating it. He did not see me where I was. I had terrible pains when they pulled aside the curtain of the office and went to see the old man. He faced the Beautiful Gate [the Royal Doors in the Holy Iconostasion], crossed his palms and without looking around he asked: ‘Is the Geronta [Elder] here?’

“The church care-taker knowing my disease wanted to protect me…: ‘No, no…he is at home with the flu….’

“He replied: ‘Never mind. Pray, and have a Good Resurrection,’ [the traditional Orthodox greeting during Great Lent in anticipation of Pascha ‘Kali Anastasi’] he said as he left.

“The church care-taker came running to me and said ‘Father Nektarios, the old man who just left resembled St. Nektarios himself! His eyes flew flames. It seems to me that was St. Nektarios and he came to help you….’

“I thanked her thinking that she said this to console me. But deep down something was wrong. I sent her along with the icon painter to find the unknown man and quickly bring him back. I walked into the sanctuary and venerated the Crucified One [the icon of Christ on the Cross in every Holy Altar] crying, and once again asking Christ to heal me. Their footsteps stopped: ‘Father, the Elder has come!’

“I tried to kiss his hand, but out of humilty he did not let me. He bent and kissed my own! I asked him: ‘What is your name?’

“‘Anastasios, my son,’ he said, relating his baptismal name that he had before he become a monk….

“I led him to venerate the holy relics. He took out a pair of glasses with only one arm, and as soon as we saw them we were amazed! They were the same glasses of St. Nektarios that we had in the case with the holy relics. They were given to me by the old Gerontissa [Eldress] Nektaria of the monastery in Aegina.

“‘Belief is everything!’ said the stranger, as he put on his glasses.

“He began with reverence to embrace all the holy relics as the church care-taker showed, except for the relics of St. Nektarios, which he passed over….

“‘Geronta, forgive me,’ I said, ‘but why don’t you venerate the miraculous Saint Nektarios?’

“He turned and looked at me smiling. I asked him: ‘Where are you staying Geronta?’

“He showed me the ceiling, where we were building the new church [dedicated to St. Nektarios], saying: ‘My house is still not ready and I’m worried. My position does not allow me to live here and there….’

“‘Geronta, I must confess, you were told a lie earlier. I have cancer! But I want to get well, to make the Holy Altar, to finish the Church first, and then I can die….’

“‘Do not worry,’ he told me. ‘I’m leaving now. I’m going to Paros [an island in Greece] to venerate St. Arsenios and to visit Fr. Philotheos [Zervakos],’ he added, starting to leave and passing by the big icon without giving it a second thought….

“I stopped him and put my hands to his face.

“‘My Geronta, my Geronta, your face looks exactly like St. Nektarios who is honored here in our church….’

“Then, tears rolled from his eyes. He crossed me and embraced me with his hands. Taking courage I opened my hands to hug him. But when I spread out my hands, and while I was watching I could see him before my face, my arms closed back to my chest! The hairs then stood up on my arms and I crossed myself!

“I said again: ‘O my Geronta, I beg you, I want to live to do my first Liturgy. Help me to live….’

“He left from being close to me and stopped in front of his icon and said: ‘Oh, my child Nektarios, don’t worry. It is a passing trial, and you will be well! The miracle which you are asking for will happen, and it will be told to the whole world. Don’t be afraid….’

“Immediately he left us by walking through a closed door….

“The women ran to catch up to him. They reached him at the bus stop. He went inside and disappeared before the bus left!”

This story is always told by Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, a respected and reliable person, in the presence of witnesses. Fr. Nektarios eventually became well – to the amazement of doctors, radiologists, and forecasters of death. Because above all is Christ, our living God, and our intercessors before God, the Saints, plus our Mother the Panagia!

For “where God wills, the laws of nature are overcome….”

~From Mystagogy: The Weblog of John Sanidopoulos,(http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/06/miracle-of-saint-nektarios-healing-of.html).

 

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A Westerner Looks East for the Truth

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Stanley ( Barnabas) Dickinson

+ Memory Eternal!

Kalo Paradeiso! Kali Synandisi! [Greek wishes on a funeral]
May you enter Paradise! May we meet again there!

October 10, 2017
Acts 11:22-24
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

It is with gladdening sorrow that we have composed and dedicated this issue of the Stavronian to our beloved elder Barnabas, founder of the Parish of Holy and Life-Giving Cross and Normandy veteran. Our brother Barnabas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at 21:40, October 10, three days before his 94th birthday. He was not alone when he passed into God’s keeping. Apart from the angels that attended his repose, members of the Parish, his spiritual family, were there as well as his own family were at his bedside. He was holding my hand when he breathed his last breath. He received Holy Unction the same morning. He even drew energy to make the sign of the cross. We asked him for a word from the Lord and he said “Love”! It was a holy repose with the faithful holding lighted candles. I thank God that he entrusted to me the unworthy priest this holy soul and brave soldier of Christ as an example of the Christian life. As a founder of the Orthodox Community of the Holy Cross he will remain forever inour prayers. May angels take him to his just reward in the Heavenly Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May his memory be eternal. Christ is Risen!”

Fr. Jonathan
*
HEAVEN: FROM PROTESTANTISM TO ORTHODOXY 
A Westerner Looks East for the Truth
By Barnabas Dickinson
 
“When God the Holy Spirit says ‘Dsomething, you jolly well do it, or else…’,but what? Our loving Saviour had some stern words about lukewarmness, about turning back, having put one’s hand to the plough. … During the years of strife in the Church of England over this matter, pressure groups formed on both sides of the divide, and I attended rallies of the opposition in the Blackburn diocese. …What happens next? What do we do? Where do we go? What is our place in the Church? Speeches and discussion led nowhere… People were bewildered, defeated, hurt. Then, for me, God the Holy Spirit took a hand. Right at the end, in the question and answer session, a priest I did not know [ie. Father Jonathan Hem-mings] said very simply, ‘If anyone is wondering where to go’, they should be aware that Orthodox Church services in English are becoming available’, or words to that effect. Option (7) had come out of the blue, completely unexpected, and when the rally broke up for a cup of tea, I approached him. …
… One Saturday in the Spring of 1995, Fr Jonathan took me to the railway station for my train back to Chorley. He said to me, ‘It’s decision time’. The Patriarch of Antioch, who had taken personal oversight of this English group in May 1995, and the Holy Synod, had decided to accept us into membership of the Orthodox Church. ‘Are you coming, or are you not?’ Father Jonathan said. I said that I would …Grass did not grow under our feet, and quite soon, on Wednesday of Bright Week I was received into the Church, along with half a dozen others, including Fr Jonathan, now a lay member of the Church, having resigned his Anglican priesthood after Easter Day; eastern and western coincided that year. Our baptism in the Church of England was accepted as valid, having been in the threefold Name, and we were chrismated at the hands of Father Alexey, with Holy Oil consecrated by the Patriarch. For the first time I received the true Body and Blood of our Saviour. Now, twenty six years later I would not be anywhere else.

Thanks be to God for bringing Fr Jonathan into my life, and for all things. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

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Barnabas’ icons have been bequeathed to our parish. Barnabas’ legacy of icons by the hand of Dimitrios Hakim perfectly compliment the parish icons by the same artist.

To find out more about Barnabas, a most dear father to this poor little city hermit, please have a look at the November Stavronian which this month is dedicated to our beloved elder and co founder of the Church of the Holy Cross, Stanley ( Barnabas) Dickinson at
http://www.orthodox-lancaster.org.uk/newsletter

 

The Little Orphan

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The Little Orphan

an autobiographical poem

by St. John Jacob (the Romanian)

Blessed John (Jacob) of Neamts, the New Chozebite

“the child of zero” who “followed the One”*

 

Resurrection Day!

The bells are ringing!

Old men sit at their verandas,

Others are at their doorsteps.

 

The young and the children

Go out in their best clothes

To meet their friends at the church

Of the cemetery.

 

This mystical fragrance

Of the Holy Feast!

They take it in … like incense,

From herbs and flowers.

 

The Fields are robed

In a beautiful dress

And everything looks now

Renewed on the earth.

 

Near the Holy Altar

Of the wooden church

A little child offers

Candles and oil.

 

He kisses the Holy Cross

In front of the fresh tomb

And kneels crying

With sighs.

 

When the bells are ringing

In a jubilant tone

Near the Cross the little orphan

Sheds tears with pain.

 

Suddenly, while absorbed in his tears

And his deep sighs,

At the ringing of the bells

A sweet voice he hears :

 

“Cry Not, my child, today

Feel not sad, because, look!

By your side am I

Christ is Risen!”

 

Was this his mother’s voice

Coming from the tomb

His sadness to dispel

From his broken bosom?

 

Immediately the orphan

Rises and ecstatically looks up,

Searching to find

Who was speaking to him.

 

Then, from the Altar most Holy

By the smoked wall

He sees the Risen Christ

Sweetly smiling to him.

 

His little heart is lit

His face calms

His pain leaves him

And such is his mind:

 

“If I see here

The Risen Lord

Then my mother too

Is risen with Him.”

 

Speaking thus to his mind

Humbly he bows

And kissing the tomb

Returns to his ‘home’!

 

Alone, lonely, he lives

At his earthly lodgings,

His poor father

Died at the war.

 

Often at nights he sleeps

By the tomb with them.

Crying in the morning he returns

Back to the deserted house.

 

But the bells ring!

Again at the cemetery

His mother’s voice

Is heard to say:

 

“Cry not, my child, today

Do not be sad,

Because, lo, I am with you

Christ is Risen!”

 

Since then our little orphan

Stopped sighing.

And whenever the bells ring

His heart is consoled!

 

* A Hermit from the Holy Land with complete Incorruptible Relics at the monastery of St. George Choziba! He was a great ascetic and a poet. He called himself “the child of zero” who “followed the One”. After his all night- vigils, he would briefly rest in the verandah of the monastery and write his so moving poetry, sadly not translated yet in English.
* The painting is by the Serbian artist Uroš Predić, Siroče (Orphan), oil on canvas, 1888. National Museum

Monastery of St. George of George of Hozeva

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When you first catch a glimpse of the magical St. George’s Monastery (Choziba) in the Judean desert, the Desert Fathers’ Wisdom is brought to life in its uncompromising, breathtaking asceticism. This amazing cliff-hanging monastery, one of the world’s oldest and definitely one of the most inspiring churches in the Holy Land, is a must-see for the desert / archeological fans  / devout Pilgrims.

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St. George Orthodox Monastery, or Monastery of St. George of Choziba is a monastery located in Wadi Qelt, in the eastern West Bank, in the occupied territories. The sixth-century cliff-hanging complex, with its ancient chapel and gardens, is active and inhabited by Eastern Orthodox monks. It is reached by a pedestrian bridge across Wadi Qelt, which many believe to be Psalm 23’s Valley of the Shadow. The valley parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the backdrop for the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). 

Here’s some beautiful aerial video footage to give you a taste of the area around St. George’s Monastery…

 

St George’s Monastery can be reached via the main Jerusalem – Dead Sea highway (Road 1). Take a left at Mitzpeh Jericho (or a right if you’re coming from Jericho) and follow the brown signs for Wadi Kelt. You can hike the Wadi all the way to the monastery but it will take lots of hours of arduous trekking in the desert under the blazing sun!  Up and down, for hours, a windy path! Not so easy for seniors or people with disabilities, but there are usually plenty of locals offering their donkeys for the ride (at a cost of course).

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Check out the clip below for a real taste of the walk to St George’s Monastery … When I look at these photographs or watch the videos, I cannot believe I did all this walking!

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St. George’s Monastery was originally started in the fourth century by a few monks who were looking to immerse themselves in the lifestyles and desert stories of  John the Baptist and Jesus. The monks, and perhaps most notably the hermit John of Thebes, eventually settled on the spot around a cave where it is believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:5-6). The traditions attached to the monastery include a visit by Elijah en route to the Sinai Peninsula, and St. Joachim, whose wife Anne was infertile, weeping here when an angel announced to him the news of Mary’s conception.

 

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The monastery became an important spiritual centre in the sixth century under Saint George of Choziba. Hermits living in caves in nearby cliffs would meet in the monastery for a weekly mass and communal meal.John of Thebes became a hermit and moved from Egypt to Syria Palaestina. The monastery was named St. George after the most famous monk who lived at the site. Destroyed in 614 A.D. by the Persians, the monastery was more or less abandoned after the Persians swept through the valley and massacred the fourteen monks who dwelt there. The bones and skulls of the martyred monks killed by the Persians in 614 A.D. can still be seen today in the monastery chapel. These 3000 and more martyrs’ relics are so alive that during their Supplication canon every week an exquisite fragrance and raw smell of fresh slaughtered blood are alternately exuded from them!

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Monastery of Saint George

The Crusaders made some attempts at restoration in 1179. However, it fell into disuse after their expulsion. In 1878, a Greek monk, Kallinikos, settled here and restored the monastery, finishing it in 1901. Father Germanos, born Georgios Tsibouktzakis, who came from Thessaloniki, Greece, to St George’s in 1993 and lived there until he was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2001, was for many years the sole occupant of the monastery, he was named Abbot in 2000. Emulating the Wadi Qelt monks of late antiquity, Father Germanos offered hospitality to visitors, improved the stone path used by pilgrims to climb up to the monastery, repaired the aqueducts, and improved the gardens of shade and olive trees.

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This is probably the most stunning discovery in the monastery: St. John Jacob (the Romanian) – a Hermit from the Holy Land with complete Incorruptible Relics! He was a great ascetic and a poet. He called himself “the child of zero” who “followed the One”. After his all night- vigils, he would briefly rest in the verandah of the monastery and write his so moving poetry, sadly not translated yet in English. In the next days I plan to translate and post here some of his most moving autobiographical poems. This Saint is famous for his miracles, from the discovery of his relics to nowadays.

This discovery was even more stunning for me personally because my spiritual father had introduced him to me the last day before flying from Lancaster to Greece and then to Tel Aviv. He also gave me a tiny piece of a secondary relic of him. What a ‘coincidence’! I knew nothing about him, other than his name, and then a brief google search, and here I found him most alive and incorruptible! 

Greek Orthodox St. George of Koziba Monastery in Wadi QeltMonastery_of_St._George_of_Choziba_27Monastery_of_St._George_of_Choziba_31

 

Let me close with Archimandrite Konstandinos, a holy Elder, very special in his hospitality and famous for his clairvoyance gifts.

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For more photographs, go here

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Monastery-of-St-George

 

 

 

 

 

A Holy Beggar

*A personal witness by Maran Ata, a person who had the joy to meet this 

This is one part of the film “Mite” produced by the Pokrov Foundation in the year 2000, showing the Bulgarian Elder Dobri, who is considered a holy man of God.

“Four years ago, I had the pleasure to meet him and directly delight in his innocent kindness and simplicity. People from Sofia know him as Elder Dobri Dobrev from the village Baylovo. He is a 96 year old elder who could often be seen standing in front of the church St. Alexander Nevsky or St. Methodius and Cyril and their five disciples with his metal cashbox and begging for money. He gives the collected money for renewing of the monasteries and churches or to poor people.

I met him at the Church of St. Kyriaki, when I was attending the Holy Liturgy which was led by several bishops, in the presence of the graceful relics of St. Stephen Milutin the King. Simply, he entered through the church gate, stood in front of the relics and, as a young boy, made a few deep bows [prostrations]. That was an amazing scene, especially because of the feeling of unworthiness when God crosses our life-path with one of His righteous men.

Kind eyes, pleasant smile, humble look… all that makes him bright in the eyes of those who have met him and without hesitation hurry to get a blessing from this sagacious elder. He wears traditional shoes from raw skin and he all the time rushes somewhere, but he never uses modern transport vehicles. Simply, he loves the ascetic walk. He eats whatever the good people give him and he never repines for his condition. His face shines with heavenly light which at one point of the moment makes people unconsciously to understand that he really is like someone out of the Bible.

I hope that I’ll be vouchsafed by God to kiss the elders merciful right hand for third time in my life.” (Maran Ata)

“Man should keep righteousness and the truth. That’s God’s path!”

Source








Source: Mystagogy
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A Smile from Eternity

Honorable Mr. Papanikolaou,

A few hours after the entombment of elder Joseph, you posted at your website an article with the title «Funeral of Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopedi – A Smile From Eternity«, describing in a few words the event aided by a few pictures.

The photograph of the reposed, who is smiling not only with his lips but with all the expression of his face, made  a great impression on people, which we can see  from the articles and comments in numerous web-sites.

One can indeed come across dead people with a glowing face, a peaceful expression, but with never a smile. On the one hand all the spiritual fathers say that the time of death is horrifying for man. On the other hand we read in the book of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers that even the most advanced ones , out of humility, did not let down their guard before entering eternal life, where there is no longer any danger.

In addition, Elder Joseph had a major heart problem and he was very debilitated by this illness. So how did he repose smiling?

The answer is: NO, he didn’t repose smiling, but HE SMILED AFTER HIS REPOSE.

After a conversation of us with some fathers of the monastery, we convey to you the story of the event.

The two monks that were with him until the very last moment, sprinted to the abbot, Elder Ephraim, to let him and the rest of the fathers know about the repose of Elder Joseph and the former two didn’t pay attention to the reposed, who was left with his mouth half-open.

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Thus, they came back to the cell, to prepare the reposed according to the monastic order. Elder Ephraim ordered them to leave his face uncovered. The fathers tried to close his mouth, but as it was quite late, his mouth remained open. They even tied a gauze around his head, so that his mouth would remain closed, but after they removed it his mouth opened up again. About 45 minutes had already gone by, since he had passed away.

-Elder, what should we do, it looks bad with the  mouth open?

-Leave him as he is, do not cover his face!

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They sewed him inside his monastic mantle as according to monastic custom. The whole procedure so that he was put inside the mantle and sewed in took another 45′. Then, they cut off the cloth around his face –according to the order- and found the elder as everybody can see him now, smiling.

Did he listen to them and granted them this litle favour, so that he didn’t hurt their feelings? Or, was it that he wanted to grant us an indication what he saw and let us know the state in which he is now?

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The smile of elder Joseph of Vatopedi, is the First supernatural event after his repose and has become a great consolation for everybody.

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Panayiotis Koutsou

Source: Diakonima

 
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