Saint Gerasimus of Cephalonia

Saint Gerasimus of CephaloniaOctober 20

Our holy Father Gerasimus came from Peloponnese. In his youth, his devout parents put him to the study of sacred literature, in which he showed outstanding ability. As a young man, he left home for the island of Zakynthos and travelled thence all over Greece. From Thessaly he made his way to the Black Sea, Constantinople, the Propontus and Chalcedon. Everywhere he went, he sought out men who, being perfect in the ascetic life, could teach him ‘the Art of arts and the Science of sciences’. He arrived, at last, on Mount Athos, where he gathered nectar from all the flowers of the virtues that he found flourishing among the many ascetics he visited, in order to produce within himself, the honey of purity of heart. He spent a good while on Athos among the servants of the Mother of God. He received the great angelic Habit there and was devoted to the practice of all the virtues of the monastic life: perpetual fast, all-night vigils, tears, the elevation of the intellect, tending to God in hesychia and purity of heart. After some years, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Places. At Jerusalem he was ordained subdeacon, deacon and priest by the Patriarch Germanus I (1537-79). After one year serving at the Holy Sepulchre, he spent the following twelve in the service of the Patriarch, but never slackened in his ascetic struggle. On one occasion, he went into the Jordan desert and spent forty days in fasting and prayer as the Saviour did. Then he went back to serve the Patriarch as before.

Eventually he left Jerusalem and continued his pilgrimage. He lived for a time at Mount Sinai, then at Alexandria, and travelled widely in Egypt. After that he passed on to Antioch and Damascus, took ship to Crete and returned, finally, to Zakynthos. He settled there in a remote cave where, lacking bread and salt, he lived on nothing but a few vegetables. Despite his sequestered life, he was soon discovered by the faithful and many came to receive his blessing and spiritual counsel. Saint Gerasimus was well aware of the saying of the holy Fathers that nothing is as perilous for a monk as the praise and esteem of men, and so he decided to look for another hiding place. He found a little cave on the island of Cephalonia, where he stayed for about six years. But just as a shining lamp cannot be hid, there also the virtue of the Saint came to light and the faithful did not leave him to converse alone with the one God. Divine Providence led him to a place called Omala, somewhere on the island, where there was a little church and a miraculous icon. Here God made him know for a certainty that the time had come to accept disciples. Twenty-five young women came asking him to take them under his spiritual direction and to transform the little church into a monastery. He saw, therefore, that he must give up the way of life he preferred above all other, for the sake of sharing with his disciples the graces and spiritual experience that he had received in full measure from the Lord. The monastery was called New Jerusalem and those who dwelt there seemed as angels in the flesh.

Saint Gerasimus lived to be very old, and was forewarned of the day of his death. He gathered about him all his spiritual daughters, gave them his final counsels, blessed them, and with joy and in great peace, gave up his soul into the hands of his Lord and God. He died in 1579, on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. His memory is kept on 20 October, being the day of the translation of his relics. Until the present day, the body of Saint Gerasimus remains complete and incorrupt, as if he were asleep. It distills a heavenly fragrance and works many miracles. The Saint has become the Patron of the island of Cephalonia, the protector of all the inhabitants and their powerful intercessor before God. Particularly notable is his power to deliver the possessed, who are brought from all quarters into the presence of his relics. The preservation of Orthodoxy in Cephalonia, in spite of many centuries of Italian occupation, is due to the intercession of Saint Gerasimus.

Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Volume One, Introduction, September, October. Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1998.

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