Friday, October 28, 2016

Papa John the Exorcist, and the Forty Day Exorcism of 1917

When the Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia in 1917, seventeen priests were arrested in Odessa in order to executed them. One of them hid in the forests and was saved. Then he found his two children, a boy and a girl, who had been hidden by his neighbors and escaped from the communists. His presvytera, however, was arrested and executed.

The name of this priest was Papa-John and he was a Greek. He therefore took his two children and wandered from place to place, on foot most of the time, through Romania, Bulgaria and back to Greece, his homeland. He was a parish priest in Macedonia and Thrace. Then he came to the village of Skoutera in Agrinio, because the position of parish priest was vacant.

The cassock of Papa-John was an old rag, and for a button he used a stick from a shrub. From his neck he wore a black cord with a wooden Cross attached. He looked like Saint Kosmas the Aitolos. From his fasting and suffering his face appeared immaterial, he was "skin and bone."

The village of Skoutera welcomed him and helped him with his needs. He lived in a room with his two children, the girl being ten years old and the boy being eight years old. So Papa-John began to liturgize frequently, preach the word of God, and confess and commune the people. He ran to spiritually help whoever called him, he read prayers over sick people as well as diseased cattle, and they would immediately be healed.

A young woman from Skoutera had married in Stamna. When she visited her village she had heard the people speak with admiration for Papa-John. They told her: "They sent us a priest, and its as if they sent us Christ Himself, so good is he."

The young woman said that in Stamna there was a woman who had been demon possessed for eighteen years. Her relatives turned to doctors and ran to many monasteries throughout Greece but she was not cured. This young woman therefore asked for and met with Papa-John and begged him to heal the suffering woman. He asked to first see the possessed woman. He prayed and decided to deliver her.

On Sunday at the end of the Divine Liturgy Papa-John announced the following to the congregation: "Christians, we will take part in a struggle to heal a woman who has been tormented by Satan for eighteen years. We will fast for forty days, and every day we will do a Divine Liturgy. We will confess and commune, and every night bring the woman to the church to do a Supplication Service. We will not bring her to the Divine Liturgy, because Satan will create a fuss. We will notify the surrounding villages for those who want to come."

On Sunday night they brought the woman to the Church of Saint Nicholas. Many people gathered. She did not want to enter the church under any circumstance. The demon bellowed, cursed everyone, threatened to burn the church, and caused her to foam at her mouth. Some strong men had to grab her and take her down from the chandelier.

While holding the Cross, Papa-John read from the Euchologion the prayers of exorcism and he crossed her. He would hold the Cross above her head, and she would scream: "Take the hammer from my head, you are hurting me. I cannot suffer this hammer." The crowd of Christians did many prostrations and would say: "Lord have mercy."

Papa-John said to the people: "Christians, be patient, we will annihilate Satan."

The priest also told the teacher to bring all the children of the school, and they also would say "Lord have mercy" and do prostrations. This happened daily. The devil through the mouth of the possessed woman would say to the children of the school: "Go outside children, this old priest, whose breath stinks from fasting, is fooling you. A beautiful bride is passing, go outside. Your mother is waiting with a neat slice of bread with sugar on the bread." In other words, the devil was trying to get the children to go outside by making them envious and desiring.

People from the surrounding villages also came. One day someone entered and the devil said to him through the mouth of the possessed woman: "Oh, welcome my friend so and so, you're the one that did on this certain day this and that. Have you come also to pray and torment me?" The things that were said were true, and this man left utterly shamed. He didn't even light a candle. The strange thing is that during this time the woman was looking towards the sanctuary, never turning around to look behind her, where there were many people, but she saw him another way and revealed to him his unconfessed sins.

One night, when many people had gathered and Papa-John was reading prayers over the possessed woman, someone said to their neighbor: "Do your cross right. Is that a cross you are doing, or are you playing a mandolin?" Then the voice of the possessed woman was heard saying: "Leave the man alone! He is doing his cross correctly."

The possessed woman yelled out once: "Send for my friend the priest so and so and have him come here." It was a priest in a certain village who did not live a good life. This priest did not dare to come to the church.

The struggle of Papa-John to cast away the demon from the woman continued. During this time he was informed by the demon itself that was inside the woman that he was Lucifer, the leader of the demons. It entered into her as she was frying fish, because her indignant brother on some occasion said against her for the devil to enter inside her. From that moment the woman became demonized.

The struggle now for Papa-John became rough. The devil cursed him, and threatened him saying it would demolish the church and burn the village. "I will come out of this bitch and enter into your daughter and son," it said. Papa-John responded to it: "You have no right to enter anywhere; only to the abyss do you have the right to go."

A month later, one night after the Supplication Service had ended and the people along with the possessed woman left, Papa-John shut the door of the church, knelt before the icon of Christ, and he began to pray with tears for that tormented soul to be liberated from the demon. He prayed continuously from 8:00PM to 3:00AM. The villagers were worried that Papa-John had not returned home, to be with his children who were waiting for him. So they went with the children to the church and found him on his knees praying. His daughter, who knew what he was doing, said: "Leave him to pray." When Papa-John recovered from his praying which had absorbed him, he went to his house to sleep. As he slept he heard a voice say to him: "Papa-John, the woman after thirty-nine days, when the twelfth hour has passed, namely midnight, will be liberated from Satan."

On the last day Satan said to Papa-John: "You exhausted me, Papa-John." And indeed on the fortieth day he departed from the woman and she was liberated from her torment, living for many years after completely healthy.

In the room where he slept with his children, Papa-John had nothing but two blankets, which the women of the village gave him. The children slept on one and he on the other. Half of it he laid out on the floor, while the other half he used to cover himself. He had great faith in the almighty Lord. He sensed that his prayers were heard by God, which is why miracles took place. He would say: "When I ask God to flatten the mountain through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, it will flatten. When someone keeps these three things, then they are in paradise from now."

Papa-John was greatly impoverished, because whatever he was given he distributed to charity.

During his first Pascha at the village, someone gave him one goat and one little lamb. He was to slaughter the little lamb to celebrate Pascha, and keep the goat to drink some milk when he was not fasting. Papa-John did not keep the goat and the little lamb. He sold them and with the money he bought clothing for the orphans of the village, so that they may have joy on the day of the Resurrection.

He was also a great faster. During Great Lent he fasted sixty days from oil. This is why in the village instead of calling it a forty day fast, Sarakosti, they called it a sixty day fast, Exintara.

One night Papa-John saw in his sleep a house in an unknown location and the landlord of the house eating a dead dog. He asked for the location of the house and gave a specific description, and they told him. Papa-John went with an escort, found the house, knocked on the door, and a woman answered. Her child was with her, and her husband was out on their property. When he was informed he ran to the house, washed, made a deep prostration and kissed his hand. He had heard of the holiness of Papa-John and the healing of the possessed woman, but dared not meet him, because his conscience was burdened. He did not attend church, ate meat during the fasts, blasphemed, and he lived lawlessly with his wife because they had not been crowned in marriage. But he had a good intention. He asked to immediately confess to him. Then Papa-John crowned them in marriage and he lived as a good Christian.

Papa-John, the graceful liturgist of the Most High, with his ascetic life, lack of property and unceasing prayer, became known throughout the surrounding region. People came to receive his advice and had him read a prayer over them in order to become well. They considered him a great prophet and wonderworker. Unknown people would also come from various places, and he would say to them: "You are so and so, and came here for this and that reason."

Someone from Skoutera, in whose family home Papa-John stayed, said that he had once said: "One day the relic of a Saint will be revealed at the Monastery of Panagia Lykourisiotissa, and then the monastery will gain a great reputation."

But the village that loved him did not have him for long, because he was assigned as a parish priest to the village of Kainourgio. Then they asked for him and brought him to Peloponnesos. Since then his whereabouts became unknown and surely by now he has reposed.

Eternal be his memory. May we have his blessing. Amen.

Source: From Ascetics in the World, Mount Athos 2008, Hermitage of Saint John the Forerunner, Halkidiki. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.