August 12, 2023

My Elder Saint Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos) - 5 of 5

...continued from part three.
5. Facing His Illness in a Venerable and Martyric Way

The last point I would like to emphasize is how he dealt with his illness.

Fifteen years with him, I knew him like no one else. Therefore, even if there are some who say different things, possibly some of his shortcomings (after all, no saint is perfect), for all this you must ask me, since I knew him better than anyone else in all his fullness.

There is a proverb, a quote that says: "No one is great before their chamberlain," that is, for the one who often takes care of him, no one is great, because they knows all his faults. The opposite happened with Kallinikos. The farther you were, the more you didn't understand him, while the closer you got to him, the more you saw the greatness of his personality.

During his illness, all this inner depth that he himself tried to hide came out. He was not hiding himself and his inner life appeared, it manifested also when he spoke and when he liturgized and when he preached and when he was going to a house to see the people and when he went to the hospital to visit the sick, but those who did not have spiritual eyes to see were not able to see it. But this depth of his inner life shone much more during his illness.

He faced his illness as an ascetic, as an hagiorite - what he was in his inner world - and his repose was a repose of a venerable and a martyr.

He had a brain tumor, i.e. cancer. One can characterize him as a protector of people who suffer from this disease, as he too suffered and faced it with a spirit of humility and dedication to God. Well, his repose was a repose of a venerable and a martyr. During his illness, he left all of himself to God, to His Providence.

When they told him that he had a brain tumor, he understood that his time to leave this world was approaching. He went down from Edessa to Athens, went to a priest, Father Agathangelos Michaelidis, with whom he had been in communication, and confessed. Then he asked for a notary to whom he dictated his will. He said in his will that he had no money, he had no real estate, he simply determined where some vestments he had would be given, and he begged people to forgive him and he himself forgave from the bottom of his heart all those who harmed him. He dictated his will and then submitted to God, to His Providence.

Both in London, where I was with him for about a month during and after the operation, as well as after we returned to Greece and arrived in Athens, I was with him for seven months as his personal nurse. There I saw all the greatness of his "inner man". I have known this "inner man" for a long time, as the person close to him, but during his illness his entire inner personality shone like a sun, like gold.

He abandoned himself to God's Providence. He never asked what the doctors said. The doctors came, visited him and told me their opinion, but he never asked what the doctors said, because he completely left himself to God's Providence.

And as I sat all the time by his bed, he opened his mouth and spoke wise words. I had a notebook and I wrote them down and I have published them, because in them it is clearly seen how his life shone during his illness.

Among other things, I have written that he kept repeating: "Thy will be done." And when he was in pain, he didn't say anything else, except: "Thy will be done. Glory to you God," "Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." He praised God on the bed of pain and illness. Another time he said: "What shall we repay the Lord for everything?" In other words, he thanked God for all the gifts He gave him, even for his illness.

He once told me: "I am a sinful Bishop, but I fear God and love the Church and its glory. Write this also." Another time he said to me: "For a long time I have been talking to people about patience, now I have to apply it myself." Another time when I told him "this disease is difficult," and he said: "It is nothing difficult. Since we did not get to be crucified for Christ, we are nothing." That is, while he was in pain, while he had this disease, he said: "What do we do? Nothing. Were we crucified, like Christ? We were not crucified," meanwhile this illness was indeed a martyrdom.

One Saturday afternoon when I told him that the next day I would be officiating at the Hospital Temple, and I asked him what sermon I should preach, he replied: "Go up to the bell tower and say that the happiest man is the man of God." And he said this in the midst of his illness. I felt him many times to be like the Three Children in the burning furnace. To be in the furnace and to say "Glory to you God," is very great. "The happiest man is the man of God."

Regarding this he really liked this description: "Man of God". The Apostle Paul says this to his disciple Timothy: "But you, O man of God" (1 Tim. 6:11). He liked this phrase very much, that's why when he met someone he knew, he would say: "What are you up to, man of God?" "How are you, man of God?" to remind him what his purpose is.

Another time, during his illness, he told me: "We must love the whole world, the Priests, the elders, the children, the villagers." And another time he said: "God allowed me to live in order to repent." Also, listen to a golden saying: "I don't care much about sickness, even if I were a saint and if I had one eye or one leg." That's how much he wanted to become a saint. Another time he told me: "The Divine Liturgy is our party, our festival. If God finds me worthy to live and I come out of the hospital and go to preach, I will say nothing but 'God be propitious to me a sinner'." He said this because he experienced complete emptying and self-condemnation.

Another time, where I was sitting next to him, he said: "My child, it is better for physical death to come than for spiritual death, separation from God." One day he said to me: "Pray that I may not lose the mercy of God now in the period of my illness. Pray that I may not perish." This is said by a 65-year-old man who was an ascetic all his life, he was a man who as a Presbyter and as a Bishop had self-denial and love for God and people.

And one more time he said to me: "At this time I am under judgment because I am waiting for death and I am waiting for judgment and I must not condemn anyone." On another occasion he said: "Maybe God, with the illness He gave me, wants to tell me to stop, I don't need anything else from you. We must obey." When I told him "you will be fine and you will return to the Metropolis," he repeated: "Maybe God is telling me to stop, I don't need anything else from you. And we must obey God."

These were a few from the last period of his life, during the seven months when he was on the bed of pain and glorifying God.

What a consolation is this for us who have difficulties, we have sorrows, we have persecutions, we are slandered, we are sick! What a consolation is the life of this man who teaches us how to react to the difficulties we have in our lives!

That is why the Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, when it made the decision on January 13, 2016 to send the Patriarch a request for his canonization, wrote:

"The Permanent Holy Synod decided to carry out the necessary actions according to the ecclesiastical order for the registration in the Hagiological Documents of the Church the late Metropolitan of Edessa, Pelle and Almopia, Mr. Kallinikos, whose holiness and the orthodoxy of his life is confessed by all the Christian fullness of the Sacred Metropolis of Edessa, Pelle and Almopia."

And the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which made the decision on June 23 this year (2020) and included him in the Hagiologion of the Church, wrote in the "Act" which was published:

"Because by his life and conduct, the renowend Metropolitan of Edessa and Pelle Kallinikos (in the world Demetrios Poulos), born in Sitaralonon of Thermos in Aetoloakarnania, who lived theophilically and ascetically in the Metropolis of the Ecumenical Throne in Greece, he revered the Mother Church and preached the rights and privileges thereof, in venerableness and sanctity of life he distinguished himself as a type and model of virtue and self-control and good works for which he was counted worthy and presented even after death the living gift of the miraculous power of God...therefore we enact Synodically and we appointed and exhort in the Holy Spirit that from now and unto all the ages the renowned Hierarch Kallinikos is numbered among the Venerables and Saints of the Church, honored by the faithful with hymns of praise, annually on the 8th day of the month of August which was the day of his repose."

And immediately after the canonization of Saint Kallinikos was announced, the Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece wrote in the Press Release:

"This holy Bishop of the Church of Christ ministered in a God-loving, God-pleasing, Holy-spiritual and Missionary manner to his Metropolis... It would not be an exaggeration to say that this virtuous Hierarch proved to be a real jewel of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece."

I could, my beloved brethren, say a lot about Saint Kallinikos. Here, however, I must end the speech and say that he was a good shepherd, and a good Bishop, in the type and place of the Good Shepherd of the Church, who is Christ Himself, the same Christ he called many times his "Boss". And when various people went and said we want this, we want that, he said: "Whatever the Boss says" and pointed to the icon of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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