June 7, 2023

Saint Panagis Basias: A Contemporary Fool for Christ

By Lambros Skontzos, Theologian

The Ionian Islands are the birthplace of many Saints of our Church. One of them was the newly-appeared Saint Panagis Basias from Lixouri in Kefallonia.

He was born in Lixouri in 1801. His pious and wealthy parents were Michael Typaldos Basias and Regina Dellaporta. He received a strict education, and besides Greek he knew Italian, French and Latin.

Initially, he was appointed a grammar teacher, but soon he was inspired by the radical sermons of Kosmas Flamiatos and Eusebios Panas, great ecclesiastical figures of the time, who defended Greece and Orthodoxy, and joined them. The English (rulers of the Ionian Islands), who were supposed to be protectors, instead tyrannized the people and manipulated their Orthodox phronema. For this reason he left the public school, which propagated English supremacy, and started teaching at home.

At the age of 20, after the death of his father, having an innate inclination towards monasticism and being influenced by the personality of the great ascetic patron of the island, Saint Gerasimos, and also the great ascetic Saint Anthimos, he abandoned everything and went to the small island Xeroskopelos (Dias), in Kato Leivathos, to the Monastery of Blachernae, which was a place of exile for clergy by the English. There he also met the exiled famous cleric Father Nikolaos Kantounis of Zakynthos and received the monastic schema and monastic name Paisios.

But he did not stay there for long, because he was forced to return to Lixouri to protect his widowed mother and his unprotected sister. Although he lived in the world, his entire life proved to be a continuous ascetic struggle and a consistent living of monastic ideals and principles.

The Cell of St. Panagis in Lixouri

In 1836 he was ordained deacon and presbyter by Archbishop Parthenios Makris of Kefallonia. Henceforth he lived for the Church, for Christ and for his faithful brethren. He refused to be appointed to a parish and settled in the small Monastery of Saint Spyridon. For fifty years he officiated daily, preaching with the fire of his soul. He often hastened to the houses of the residents to help them materially and spiritually. Everyone's problem became his own problem. He sold all his possessions and gave them to the poor. He also turned out to be an excellent confessor. Crowds of tormented people hastened to take comfort and lighten their heavy burdens from this virtuous cleric.

With his personal purification and holiness, he received from God the gift of prophecy and foretold the future happening to persons, families and society in general. He was also found worthy to perform miracles in the name of Christ.

At the same time he had developed an admirable national and patriotic activity. On May 21, 1864, he partook in the joy of the Union of Ionian Islands with Mother Greece, for which he himself worked in his own revolutionary way, alongside other radical heroes, preserving and cultivating the Orthodox tradition in such difficult political and social periods.

In 1867, with the terrible earthquakes of Palliki, his house was demolished and since then he was hosted in the house of his cousin John Geroulanos, father of the well-known surgeon and academic Marinos Geroulanos.

Because he was humble and did not want people to talk about him, for this reason he decided to practice the ancient and great virtue of foolishness for Christ. He pretended to be intellectually disabled, so that others would regard his intellectual gifts and virtues as the products of a man of low intelligence. Despite all this, he was respected by all the inhabitants, except in very few cases. Even the well-known Lixouri anti-clerical writer Andreas Laskaratos liked and appreciated him!

From the hardships, deprivations and his ascetic struggle, his health was shaken and he was bedridden for five years. He had been visited at his home by Metropolitan Germanos Kalligas of Kefallonia, and predicted his election as Archbishop of Athens! He died peacefully at the age of 88 on June 7, 1888. His funeral became widespread. All the people of Kefalonia, led by Archbishop Germanos Kalligas, bid him farewell.

The Tomb of St. Panagis

His fame never faded from the memories of the pious Kefallonians, until our mother Church in 1986 included him in her Hagiologion. The translation of his sacred relics was a great event, the fragrance of which confirmed his sanctity. His memory is celebrated on June 7th, the day of his final repose. His grace-filled relics are kept in the Church of Saint Spyridon in Lixouri.

Among all his virtues, his humility stands out, which elevates man and places him under the throne of God. In contrast to pride, which casts a man down into the deepest pits of hell. Pride is the incurable root of evil in man, which keeps him away from God's sanctifying grace, while humility is the salvific antidote to the destructive path that selfishness leads man to. It is the worst obstacle to man's salvation. This selfish self-sufficiency, as a very morbid condition, prevents the consciousness of one's sinfulness and the disposition to repent. Selfishness and repentance are two completely opposite and incompatible concepts. One negates the other. The gates of the egoistic man's soul are hermetically shut to divine grace, and consequently his salvation is impossible, as long as he persists in his selfish preoccupation. Saint Panagis was the embodiment of humility, who taught humility more with his life than with his words.

Such clerics, like Saint Panagis Basias, we need in these difficult and apocalyptic days in which we live.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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