|Mosaic Icon of St. Irakledios at Monastery Entrance|
(ee rah KLEE thee ohs). St. Irakledios is not a well
known Saint in modern times, but he should be!
In the First Century, when the Apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark were visiting Cyprus, they needed a guide to help them find their way across the center of the island, through the mountains, to Paphos. Young Irakledios was volunteered for the job by his Pagan father. As he served as a guide, the Apostles noticed his good will and pure soul, and Catechized him and Baptized him with the name Irakledios (for you Greek language fans, his name is sometimes translated to English as "Herakledios" because there is a "breathing mark" over the initial Ita).
The Apostles Ordained Irakledios as the First Bishop of the Tamasos region of Cyprus. In his life, he was known for miraculous healings, including healings from incurable diseases, blindness, and demon possession.
On one occasion, he heard of a Pagan woman whose son had died, and she herself had died of grief as a result. He raised them both from death, and they became Christians. In time, St. Irakledios Ordained the woman as a Deaconess and her son as a Deacon.
Another time, there was a flood in Tamassos, and Catechumens were unable to come from the village of Pera to the Church at Politico to be Baptized. Like Moses and Elijah before him, St. Irakledios parted the water, and the Catechumens were able to come and be Baptized.
St. Irakledios preached the Gospel, Converted people to the faith, Catechized, and Ordained and Appointed Bishops - most notably St. Afxivio and Epaphras.
The Saint had a premonition of his own death, and appointed St. Mnason (Acts 21:16) to succeed him as Bishop. Historical accounts vary as to the manner of his death. The hymns of the Church say that he died a Martyr's death, but other historical accounts say that he Reposed in Peace at the age of 60.
The Life of St. Irakledios gives us tangible proof of the connection of the "New Testament" Church to the Orthodox Church. There is an unbroken chain of Bishops Ordained by other Bishops for more than two millennia, now, each one trained by his Predecessor as taught in 2 Timothy 2:2. There is a remarkable consistency of Faith between "then" and "now."
Today, Pilgrims can visit the Cave where St. Irakledios stayed with the Apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark, and where St. Irakledios was Buried. This Holy Site is located under the Church of St. Irakledios at St. Irakledios Monastery, in the village of Politiko, Cyprus - there is actually a trap door in the floor of the ancient Church thru which one could at one time descend steps into the cave. (This trap door is now closed, but there is now another entrance into the cave outside the Church).
The Monastery is a vibrant, peaceful, and joyful Community of Nuns who Pray, Teach Children the Faith, Write (or Paint) Icons, and offer Hospitality.
|Olive Groves in foreground, with Monastery & Church in Distance|
In addition to these tasks, the Nuns are well-known for their work of making delicious Baked Goods - many of which are marked "Nistisimo" - which means "Lenten" or "Vegan" (Nistisimo items can contain honey) So, for the Vegan Pilgrim these are a special treat, as well as for all Orthodox Christians who endeavor to keep the Fasting Cycles of the Church.
Although pictures in the monastery are forbidden for pilgrims and tourists, we recently (May 2018) found this lovely video of the monastery, including a tour of the Church and the Cave of the Saint. The narrative is in Greek (apologies to non-Greek speakers) but the pictures are great. The tour is given by Gerondissa (Abess) Prodromi.
Source - The information on the life of the Saint is taken from the following book: The Holy Monastery of Saint Herakledios, The Holy Monastery of Saint Herakledios, Nicosia, Cyprus July 2016
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