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June 18, 2024

Maria Tsolakis Has Reposed at 98 (One of the Key Figures Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Revealed Themselves To)


The Sacred Metropolis of Goumenissa announced in the morning hours of June 15th 2024 that the Eldress Maria Tsolakis reposed in Goumenissa at the age of 98. She was a great benefactor of the Monastery of Saint Raphael in Goumenissa, who lived a deeply pious and ascetic life. Also, she was a key instrument of God's Providence in the revelation of the Holy Newly-Revealed Martyrs Raphael, Nicholas and Irene and their fellow martyrs and in pointing out the specific place where their grace-filled relics were found, in the grove of Karyes in Thermis of Lesvos during the period 1959-1962.

Her funeral took place on June 16th, after her body was brought to the Monastery of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene in Goumenissa where an all-night vigil took place for her on Saturday night at 10pm into Sunday morning with the Divine Liturgy.

The following excerpts are a translation from the book by Metropolitan Demetrios of Goumenissa titled "Life in the Tomb", which details the history of the revelation of the New Martyrs of Lesvos, and here specifically are the details which make Maria Tsolakis such an important part of this history.

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The work continued. The workers were building the chapel according to the plan drawn by Doukas. About halfway through the building process they ran out of stones, and they dug a little further to find more. Digging they discovered deep in the soil some broken marbles and "church stones", as they called them. It was July 3, 1959, when, going deeper, they found a vaulted wall with iconography. It was, as was later ascertained, the right arch of the sanctuary of the ancient church. But they, without telling anyone, began to "remove" the wall and put the stones aside, to use them.

At that time, Maria Tsolakis went up to Karyes with her four-year-old son Panagiotis, to bring food to her husband, Doukas. Seeing the ancient wall with the iconography, she felt sad. "Goodness, what a shame! Why are you ruining it like that?" They paid no attention to her. Maria proceeded to the place where the Holy Altar had been moved from the ruined church, to light a candle. Moving forward, she saw a priest coming from the path that leads to Pamphila. She thought it was Father Pachomios, rector of the neighboring village, because she had heard that he was tall, like the clergyman who was now approaching.

When he approached her, Maria bent forward to offer a prostration in order to receive his blessing. She noticed then that the cleric did not set foot on the earth, and, looking up, she saw his eyes shining like sunlight. Bewildered, she was afraid to kiss his hand and did not speak to him. She passed by him, advanced a little, and, turning for a moment to see where he had gone, she was utterly shocked. The cleric was in the same position, but headless! She timidly uttered a cry of "My Panagia!", and the priest disappeared from her sight in a flash.

Panicked, she grabbed the child and started running towards the village, glancing back in fear, because the silhouette of that cleric was following her. As soon as the other workers saw her running, they said to her husband in surprise, "Your wife is running and is looking behind herself." Doukas was worried and ran to catch up with her. "Why are you running away like you're being chased and not standing to get the things? What happened so suddenly?" "Well, they say it's an illusion; but you know, I saw the headless priest," she replied. "Hey, you're not in your right mind, you need to be read over. We are ten people working, and we didn't see anything. Yet you say you saw him during the day?" "I'm not going back up there. Take the food yourself."

These words were exchanged, and Maria ran away to the village, upset. The priest followed her all the way. About half way she meets an old woman from Thermi, Sophia Karanikolas, who, seeing her in this state, asked her: "What is the matter, my daughter? Did you perhaps see the priest? This Panagia up there has been appearing for a long time, but no one has ever been harmed." Maria was ashamed to tell her; she bid her farewell and went on her way.

That same night she had a vivid dream, which was the beginning of the revelations. A beautiful woman in black came to her side, put her cold hand on her forehead and said:

"Maria, you should not have been afraid. The one you saw was not a ghost, nor was it the village priest. It was the monk who lived as an ascetic up there and was slaughtered by the Turks. One day you will know his name, his origin and all his tortures. Up there are two graces, Panagia and Saint Paraskevi. I don't want a candle, I want an unsleeping lamp. Get up now and take your baby who is now crying. I will appear to you again another night, because over there will begin something greatly historic. You will suffer many things, hear many things, but don't go astray from the path I have marked for you."

With these words, the Panagia was raised up and disappeared.

Maria woke up and felt the cold on her forehead. So vivid was this dream that she asked her husband, "Did you leave the door open? A little while ago, a black-clad woman walked in." "Surely you have lost your mind," he answered her. "During the day you see a priest, at night a black-clad woman. What will become of you?" Maria did not speak again, but with a feeling of joy and fear she woke up with the child in her arms.

In the morning, despite all the adventure of the previous day, she went up to Karyes, took the clay lamp that had been found in the tomb of the unknown dead person and lit it on the old Holy Altar. Since then she made sure for it to burn night and day without sleep. In fact, distressed as she was by her husband's words, she begged the Panagia with fervent faith: "If only my husband could see something, so that he too would believe that what I said was not off the top of my head."

In the meantime, it was learned throughout the village that Maria Tsolakis saw the priest at the Rallis's estate, and the comments began. However, old Elias Digidikis found Doukas and reassured him by telling him that even he as a young man had seen not only one, but two priests appear and disappear suddenly on this estate.

On Sunday, two or three days later, Doukas went up to Karyes early in the morning with the shotgun in hand. He went to kill a fox that a few days prior had drowned his goat in a valley. Time passed without result. Idle, he sat down on a humped olive tree to rest. It would have been time for the Divine Liturgy, because the village bells were ringing. As his gaze was directed towards the path to Pamphila, he saw an officer coming from a distance in military clothes, gold buttons, but without a hat or other insignia. As he came, he saw him first making the sign of the cross and then crossing his arms over his chest. "He must be a retired officer," he thought, "and he is coming from Pamphila to see some estate. Being Sunday, he saw where the church was being built and made his cross...".

With these thoughts Doukas continued to sit unconcerned. The officer approached and with every step he did his cross. "Well, this guy is a good one," said Doukas as he looked at him more carefully. His form was unusual, otherworldly. His eyes sparkled like mirrors reflecting sunlight. Doukas began to worry. "Is he coming to take the gun out of my hands?" He stood up and shouted at him, gesturing. "What are you looking for, sir? An estate? Let me show it to you... Hey! don't you see me, don't you hear me?" The officer did not respond. He kept going until he was about three meters away. He made the sign of the cross for the umpteenth time. His eyes shone in an inexplicable way. "What could this be?" said Doukas and it made him grab the gun that was lying next to him. But as he saw him coming at him, he lost his temper and cursed.

At the same moment the officer disappeared in a flash of light. The eyes of Doukas clouded over and he lost his sight for several minutes. "Out of my terror I took no account of either a weapon nor anything else. I started running towards the village and I didn't know when I got home," he says. His wife, seeing him arrive in a state of agitation, became worried. "I bet he argued with the owner of the neighboring property about the water." To her insistence to know what happened to him, he answered her: "You must be silent. You saw him as a priest, I saw him as an officer! But be careful, that no one finds out. These strange things that are happening in Karyes either will do us a lot of good or do us very bad."


...

After a while, while they were eating their breakfast, Maria Tsolakis came to their house and stopped as if she wanted to tell them something. "What is it, Maria? Did you perhaps see that papado again?" Angelo teased her, because that's what Maria called the cleric she had seen headless in Karyes, because he was tall. "No, Angelo. I only saw the same woman in black, the Panagia, and she told me that the name of that priest is Raphael."

Hearing her words, all three were stunned. "What happened to you, Angelo? I really saw the Panagia and she told me the name three times." "I believe you, Maria," answered Angelo, "because Vasiliki (Rallis) learned the same name tonight. We have been awake since three in the morning and, just now, we had the same conversation again. If only a little time passed I would have went down to the marketplace and you wouldn't have cought me on time, then I'd say you both had a conversation. Now it's obvious that something important happened to both of you. But tell us exactly what you saw."

"Yesterday afternoon, with your wife Vasiliki and my son Panagiotis, we went up to Karyes to light the lamps. Approaching the chapel, the child says to me, 'Mom, an old woman is sitting on the olive tree outside the church and is calling me with her hand.' We didn't see anything and I asked him where the old woman was. 'She went into the church,' he answered and ran to go inside as well. But he came out surprised and told us that the old woman went out of the window. We didn't believe it and I disciplined him, thinking he was making fun of us. But at night I saw the Panagia in my sleep and she said to me: 'The child did not lie, Maria. It was me, and if you would have left him alone, I would have given him my icon in his arms. Father Raphael, the monk who lived up here and was slaughtered by the Turks, has buried me here with his own hands."


...

In January 1960, Maria Tsolakis saw Saint Raphael in her dream and he showed her an olive tree near the chapel of Karyes, saying that there, in the place of this olive tree, there was a walnut tree in their years; in that walnut tree the Turks had him hung upside down and in the end they sawed him from the mouth. He even instructed her to dig at that spot, because his jaw was located there, which was missing from his remains. At the same time she saw the representation of all the tortures and the sawing of the Saint. But she had to see the Saint two more evenings, to overcome her hesitations and tell her husband. They informed the Rallis family, owners of the estate, and they agreed to obey the Saint's suggestion.

One Sunday after church, Maria and Doukas went up to the hill of Karyes to dig. There they met Angeliki Maragos, George Mykoniatis and some women who had come up to pray. Maria showed Doukas the spot the Saint indicated; it was the spot where she had first seen him, headless. Doukas uprooted the tree and began to dig. The hours passed, the work continued, but nothing was found, and Doukas began to get irritated and quarrel with his wife. Before long, the digging reached a dead end. In the place of the tree, a pit had been opened two and a half meters in diameter and one and a half meters deep, while at the bottom there was a large rock. For a moment Doukas considered giving up. "But to this day I cannot understand," he confesses himself, "what force pushed me to continue."

He dug around the dirt, then resting his back against the walls of the pit, putting in all his strength, he pushed the rock with his feet. The rock moved and then everyone was surprised to see a human jaw below. It was bright yellow, gave off a strong fragrance, and had no missing teeth. "This is the Saint's jaw," said Doukas. "If he hadn't shown us the spot himself, we would never have found it." With these thoughts he reverently took it and gave it to his wife, telling her to put it carefully in the box, with the rest of the remains. She took it, went to the chapel, but because she was afraid to go near the box, she hastily threw it on the window sill, without saying anything to anyone. By nighttime, however, when she fell asleep, something was tormenting her inside.

At night she saw in her sleep Saint Raphael, who took her by the shoulder, shook her hard and said to her sternly: "Why were you afraid and threw my jaw? The jaw you found is mine, which the Turks cut off and they threw it away. It was carried away by the blood to the root of the rock, where you found it. When the Christians came up and buried us secretly, they could not find it to bury it with the rest of my body. You were not afraid when you washed my bones with Vasiliki, and you were afraid now? Get up tomorrow morning, go get it, wash it and put it in the box with my bones. If you don't, you will be punished like your husband!"

Indeed, the next day in the morning, together with her maid of honor Marianthi Orfanellis and Vasiliki Rallis, despite the bitter cold and the snow that was falling, they went up to Karyes, washed the Saint's jaw, incensed it and placed it together with his other relics.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 
 
 
 

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