January 23, 2023

Brief Life of Saint Bessarion of Agathonos

Saint Bessarion Korkoliakos, the Agathonite, was born in Petalidi, Messenia in 1908, where he learned his first letters. His secular name was Andrew. At the age of 18 he went to Kalamata, where he connected with spiritual people and decided to enter the holy clergy. He became a Monk and took the name Bessarion. Then he was ordained a Deacon, Priest and received the office of Archimandrite.

His higher studies were at the Scholarcheio. However, the continuous study of the sacred books, the texts of our Church, the books of the chanter's stand, had made Saint Bessarion a man of broad and profound theological education.

Filled with spiritual supplies in the year 1935, following the invitation of Ezekiel, the Metropolitan of Karditsa of Messenia, Saint Bessarion went to Karditsa, where he devoted himself to the work of the ministry of our Lord. There he practiced the work of philanthropy and within it he spent his entire life to the point where, being in the Sotiria Hospital, shortly before his death, he asked from his bed of pain with tireless concern for the children, the poor, the matters pertaining to the Church and society.

He undertook many and difficult missions. Among them he played an important role in the German occupation, during which he is reported to have helped many patriots and saved children captured by the Germans with his personal intervention.

After the Liberation and the Civil War, Saint Bessarion left Karditsa. Already an Archimandrite with a long ascetic life and rich spiritual and social work, he came to the Agathonos Monastery after 1955, influenced by the fellow Peloponnesian Father Germanos Demakos. There he undertook to serve the spiritual portion of the Monastery. He had an internal ministry within the Monastery, but he also had an external service to the world. Every Monday and Tuesday he went to the Hospitals of Lamia, saw the patients, comforted them and confessed them. With his charismatic personality, his love for people and his sweet and simple way he managed to relieve the pained souls. On the other days he sat in the Monastery, in front of the church, he greeted the people with his friendly smile and listened to their problems. People who came burdened with pain, suffering and anxiety, left the Holy Elder relieved. He also helped many of them financially. Whatever things and money were brought to him by many people who trusted him, the Elder distributed them to the poor and those in need. He kept saying, "Outside people are poor, outside they are hungry, we have to help them."

Every Great Lent he left the Monastery with the blessing of Elder Germanos and traveled from one end of the Prefecture of Fthiotidos to the other. He went to all the houses and helped people. Many times he slept there too. His tour primarily included confession, for which he was eagerly awaited in all the villages. Saint Bessarion also confessed the children at the Ecclesiastical Lyceum of Lamia and was their spiritual teacher. He would confess the children and at the end he would always put "something" in their hand, to encourage them.

When Saint Bessarion was officiating, he shone all over, as he celebrated the Divine Liturgy with all the reverence and dignity that befits it. Despite the fact that he could not speak well, as his voice was declining, due to an incident with the Germans, he did not resign from the Holy Altar. He said: "What I do not have, Lord, this I give to you" (Pr. 3:6). With advice that Divine Grace granted through his prayer, with inspired catechism, with secret confession, the minister of God crafted his work. He was a Great Confessor. People saw him as friendly, simple, humble, with his weak voice and they were attracted.

Saint Bessarion was also the "porter" of the Monastery. He went out with the icon of the Panagia to the villages, where the faithful waited for him in the streets. They held services, their Elder confessed them, spoke to them with spiritual and edifying words and they gave him blessings from their products. Saint Bessarion divided what he collected into two sacks. He brought a sack to the Monastery for its needs, as at that time the Agricultural Technical School was operating there and the Monastery housed 82 needy children. He distributed the contents of the other sack directly to the poor. He knew what the needs of each family were and distributed accordingly.

The Holy Elder Bessarion spent his life instructing, advising, ministering in all kinds of ways to God's flock. He was the good shepherd, who sacrificed his life for the sheep. He considered all the things of the world to be rubbish, as the Apostle Paul says, "in order to gain Christ". And he gained Christ. Saint Bessarion is today close to the Lord, who gave him special honor. He didn't just sanctify him, He kept his body incorruptible, so that all of us could see it together and believe, be strengthened, to come to our senses, to be moved.

Saint Bessarion was generally in good health. He had no major problems. Towards the end of his life came weariness and old age. Due to the seriousness of the situation, he was transferred to the Sotiria Hospital in Athens, where he reposed due to pulmonary edema on January 22, 1991.

Access to the Monastery in those days was difficult due to heavy snowfall. The hearse got up with difficulty. For two days he was placed in the church, where many people came to bid farewell to the Elder and weep. His face was shining in the coffin and his body was fragrant. His body could not be buried in the cemetery due to weather conditions and was therefore buried in the Baptistery, where there were rooms reserved for confession. Many people for years came down to venerate the body, showing their piety. In fact, many brought him tributes, as if they were offering them to a Saint, without waiting for any sign to prove his holiness. Furthermore, there are reports of the amazing experiences they had in the Elder's tomb. Many had turmoil in their homes, but when they saw Saint Bessarion in their sleep, peace returned to the family, and so on. It was decided not to exhume, but to upgrade the site of the Baptistery. However, the caving in that occurred on the eastern side of the Monastery required its demolition and reconstruction with new supports. Therefore the exhumation had to be done. After the Trisagion was performed, the removal of the bricks began. The coffin appeared to be in excellent condition. After it was taken to the cemetery, the Monks opened the coffin to remove the bones. But when they opened it, they were surprised to find that his body under the shroud was incorrupt.

This was a miraculous event and divine economy. Despite the fact that all the Monks believed in his holiness, the Holy Church had to take up the case. His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolaos of Fthiotidos, when he learned this, was shocked, visited the Monastery and venerated the holy relic with emotion. The incorruptible body of the Holy Elder was transferred to the Chapel of the Holy Trinity to be protected and since then it has been there to be venerated by thousands of believers.

The quiet Elder, by the grace of God, shook the whole of Greece. After fifteen years, the body of this man was found to be fully intact, just shriveled, dehydrated, even holding the Holy Gospel and not being easily taken away from him. As if he wants to tell us that we have escaped the Gospel and exhorts us, especially the Priests: "Turn again to the gurgling wounds of our Faith, to Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Stop dealing with worldliness and social issues, others are responsible for these matters. You have a duty to lead souls to salvation, to raise man from Earth to Heaven!"

On June 14, 2022 the Ecumenical Patriarchate included him in the List of Saints of the Church.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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