October 3, 2023

Brief Life of our Venerable Mother Gabriela (Papagiannis)

Eldress Gabriela Papagiannis was born on October 2, 1897, the feast day of Saints Cyprian and Justina, in Constantinople.

Her father was a wealthy timber merchant and lived in an environment with many comforts in the City, in the area of the Phanar. She was a cute little girl, full of love for the whole world.

From the days when the Papagiannis mansion "received" the joy of little Aurelia (her name before she received the monastic tonsure) she immediately would run to open the door and welcome the visitors.

Aurelia was the fourth and last child of the family.

Of her siblings, the eldest, Vasiliki, was the one who first spoke to her about God.

Along with the fairy tales she read to her, she told her stories from the Gospels and the Old Testament. So one day, she told her that God is "everywhere present" and whatever we do He sees it.

Then little Aurelia, who was 4-5 years old, lost it and in a frightened voice asked:

"What if I go and lock myself in that cupboard, will He find me?"

"Yes" she told her.

"Well, even if I become small and go into this matchbox, He will see me there too?"

"And there also."

Then she understood that life is serious business because He sees us since He is "He Who Is Everywhere"!

The years passed and little Aurelia loved everyone and everyone loved her.

After high school, she left to continue her studies in Switzerland at the Agricultural School of Estavayer-le-Lac. She especially loved plants and literally until the end of her life she "talked" to them and it was as if you could see their response every time.

In 1923 she was in Thessaloniki with her family.

There she entered Aristotle University, as a student in the School of Philosophy.

After finishing her studies, she arrived in Athens and her first care was to get a job. So she got a job in a psychiatric clinic where she stayed only one year. Then she went to England, alone with the unique fortune of a paper Pound.

Her adventure in Christ was just beginning. There she found various jobs, while at the same time helping many needy and unemployed people, she also took care of many poor people for free.

And then comes 1954, the milestone year in her spiritual life. March 24th was the day her mother passed away.

For her, the Great Adventure of Faith in Christ was just beginning. From there, her great mission to the five continents of the world began. In 1954 she went to India where she stayed for five years. It was a big milestone in her life and she especially loved India.

There she unceasingly helped multitudes of lepers and sick people and showed them unlimited love! Everyone loved her and called her Sister Lila. Two hours of Bible reading and many hours of prayer were necessary in her daily tiring schedule. She had absolute trust in God and therefore never kept money on her.

He gave her everything, she would say, and all she did was leave herself in His hands.

She helped many people and was the reason many people were baptized Orthodox. She never spoke to others about Christ unless they asked her to. During these years she made important acquaintances, with notable figures such as Mother Teresa, Swami Sivananda and Baba Amte.

She was invited to various countries to speak about Orthodox Christianity and truly left the crowds speechless. After India, she found herself in the Himalayas for a year with simple food, alone with God, in hours of endless prayer.

She said later that during that time she lived hesychast monasticism without even knowing it!

She believed it was the will of God when suddenly the message came to her from the angels, as she said, "now you are able to become a Nun." Then she understood that monasticism is a special and superior way of life.

So she met a gentleman, who asked her to accompany her to Bethany to a monastery.

The fares were once again miraculously found and so she went to Bethany, at the age of 62, where she stood out for her love and patience.

And when she thought that this would be her life, she started traveling again to help people, to talk about Christ and in turn was loved by all people. Next she went to Athens where she underwent surgery to cure her 100% blindness in her left eye.

When the operation was done, she received back her sight. She remained in Athens in the Monastery of Evangelistria,or New Jerusalem as she called it.

Through the monastery she corresponded with and helped many people. Next she went to Africa, then back to Athens, where she stayed in the "house of angels" as her spiritual children called it, where every day she received suffering people and helped them.

Then she went to Aegina and then Leros, where she reposed at the age of 95, on March 28, 1992, raising her hands to the heavens.

At that moment her spiritual children clearly heard a young voice singing an unknown, joyful, angelic melody.

This lasted only a few seconds and then a silence filled her cell.

All the bells of Leros rang mournfully and many people attended her funeral.

Eldress Gabriela was a rare person with unlimited love for her neighbor.

She also was found worthy of the acquisition of the gift of clairvoyants. She said that the angels once told her that what counts most is the amount and quality of love you give to others without discrimination.

Everyone asked her how it was possible for her to love even strangers so much and how it was possible for her to be obedient to the whole world and travel constantly to help even a single person. So her life is rightly described as the ascetic of love!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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