The Gerontissa Gabrielia was born in
Constantinople a hundred years ago on October 2/15, 1897. She grew up in the
City until her family moved to Thessalonika in 1923. She went to England in 1938
and stayed there throughout the Second World War. She trained as a chiropodist
and physiotherapist. In 1945 she returned to Greece where she worked with the
Friends Refugee Mission and the American Farm School in Thessalonika in early
post-war years. Later she opened her own therapy office in Athens until 1954. In
March of that year her mother died and the office was closed. Sister Lila left
Greece and traveled overland to India where she worked with the poorest of the
poor, even the lepers, for five years.
It was not
until 1959 that she went to the Monastery of Mary and Martha in Bethany,
Palestine, to become a nun. When she arrived she asked Fr. Theodosius the
chaplain for a rule of prayer. Fr. Theodosius was somewhat surprised to find
that she could read even ancient Byzantine Greek. Fr. Theodosius said, "The
great elders that we hear about no longer exist. I certainly am not one. You
came here to save your soul. If I start giving you rules, you will lose you soul
and I will as well. But here is Fr. John. He will be your elder." So for her
first year in the monastery he set her to reading only the Gospels and St. John
Climacus. (It should be noted that at that time the Ladder had not been
published in modern Greek.)
She was three
years in Bethany. In April, 1962, word came that Patriarch Athenagoras of
Constantinople sought to send an Orthodox monastic to Taize in France. Sister
Gabrielia went by way of Taize (she spoke fluent French from childhood) to
In 1963 she
was back in Greece. The Gerontissa was tonsured to the Small Schema by Abbot
Amphilochios (Makris) on Patmos in the Cave of St. Anthony under the Monastery
of Evangelismos just before she and the nun Tomasina left again for India. Elder
Amphilochios was enthusiastic at the idea a nun who would be open to the an
active outreach in the world. In India she was for three year in Nani Tal in
Uttar Pradesh where Fr. Lazarus Moore was the priest and where he consulted the
Gerontissa in his translations of the Psalter and the Fathers. Between 1967 and
1977 the Gerontissa traveled in the Mission field of East Africa, in Europe
including visiting old friends and spiritual fathers Lev Gillet and Sophrony of
Essex, again to America, and briefly in Sinai where Archbishop Damianos was
attempting to reintroduce women's monasticism.
extensively, with much concern and broad love for the people of God. Some of her
spiritual children found her in Jerusalem beside the Tomb of Christ; others
found her on the mission field of East Africa. For years beginning in about
1977, she lived hidden in a little apartment, the "House of the Angels" in
Patissia in the midst of the noise and smog and confusion of central Athens. A
little place, a hidden place, a precious place to those who knew her there.
In 1989 she
moved to Holy Protection hermitage on the island of Aegina, close by the shrine
of St. Nectarios. There she called the last two of her spiritual children to
become monastics near her, and there she continued to receive many visitors. At
the start of Great Lent in 1990 she was hospitalized for lymphatic cancer. She
was forty days in the hospital, leaving during Holy Week and receiving communion
of Pascha. And to the puzzlement of the doctors, the cancer disappeared. It was
not yet her time.
finally withdrew to quiet. With only one last nun she moved for the last time in
this life, to the island of Leros. There they established the hesychastirion of
the Holy Archangels. Only in this last year of her life did she accept the Great
Schema at the hands of Fr. Dionysious from Little St. Anne's Skete on Athos.
He came to give her the Schema in the Chapel of the Panaghia in the Kastro on
the top of Leros.
Gabrielia passed from this world on March 28, 1992, having never built a
monastery. Over the years, six of her spiritual children did become monastics,
but never more that one or two were with her at a time. Only the angels could
count the number of lives that God touched and changed through her. Her
biography and collected writings were published in Greek in 1996, through the
work of her last monastic daughter and the contribution of many, many others who
held the Gerontissa dear. An English translation is in process.
knew the Gerontissa realized that God has not left us without His saints, even
down to the present day. The few words recorded here scarcely suggest the
clarity and love of her soul. Words are only the tools of this world; the wonder
of the Gerontissa was wrapped in the mystery of the silence of the world to
sought a reputation. She never allowed anything about her to be published during
her long life and only allowed her children to take photographs in her very last
years. Those whom God touched through her called her Gerontissa; she never made
herself anything but the nun Gabrielia.
humility and love incarnate.
from the Apophthegmata of the Gerontissa
place may become the place of the Resurrection. It is enough that you live the
humility of Christ.
2. As for
sleep, keeping vigil is enough.
3. There are
people who are vigilant about some things, and there are people who are vigilant
about all things.
4. Not a
knowledge that you learn, but a knowledge that you suffer. That is Orthodox
5. Do not
desire many things-more than you have, that which is far away. Rather, seek to
take care of what you have so as to sanctify it.
6. One thing
is education: that we learn how to love God.
is cheaper than money.
hell here than in the other world.
9. It is not
that which we say, but that which we live. It is not what we do, but what we
I put on the raso (the monastic habit), and I don't say anything unless asked.
The raso speaks.
If you have love for the whole world the whole world is beautiful.
Someone said that the Christian is one who purifies love and sanctifies
We desire our freedom. Why? In order to be slaves to our passions.
Conference: When good-for-nothing people gather and decide that nothing can be
The aim is that even when we have the parasite in the head ... we have the
Paraclete in the heart.
We become a replication of heaven with "May Your will be done on earth as in
One who loves does not notice, just as one does not notice that he breathes.
When the doors of Heaven are open, so the doors on earth are also open.
When the mind (nous) is not scattered in worldly things and is united to God,
then the "Good day" that we say becomes a blessing.
Every rejection and negativity destroys our work.
We must not exist before every image and likeness of the Other.
In the beginning of our life we have need of the presence of another to love or
befriend. As we progress, the One-God-fills us with such love and His joy
that nobody at all is needed. All of this longing for another the soul does in
the beginning because it still doesn't know Whom it loves and therefore thinks
it needs a certain person.
God often does not desire the act but the intention. It is enough that He sees
you are willing to do His command.
Jesus Christ gave the golden rule: alone and with the other.
When God created us, He gave us life and breathed His Spirit into us. That
Spirit is Love. When we lack love, we become corpses and are altogether dead.
The Christian must respect the mystery of the existence of everyone and
To reach nonexistence, love, love, and love-and so identify completely with
the Other, with every other. Then at the end of the day you ask yourself, "Do
I want anything? No. Do I need anything? No. Do I lack anything? No." That's
The spiritually advanced person is the one who arrives at a place of no identity
and who has understood in his depths that whatever happens is the will of God or
by the permission of God.
Only when the person stops reading otherbooks except the Gospel does he begin to
make real interior progress. Only then, united with God through the Prayer, can
he hear the will of God.
Never desire anything but the will of God, and receive with love the evil that
comes to you.
Do not respond to a person with the evil he brings you, but see Christ in his
Never say, "Why has this happened to me?" Or when you see someone with
gangrene or cancer or blindness, don't ask, "Why did this happen to them?"
But ask God to give you the vision of the other bank of the river. Then you will
see with the angels as it is in fact: Everything is according to the plan of
If we want to be good monastics, we must at every moment think of God before
monasticism. Otherwise we will not become good monastics.
Our most vulnerable spot is found in many words and discussions.
When you have thought of critcism ... judging others, ask God to take hold of
you at that hour so that you can love that person as He loves. Then God will
help you see your condition. If Christ were visible, could you criticize?
42 What we say
remains to eternity.
43 Only when
you are perfected in Love can you arrive at dispassion.
When needed, God will send someone to us. We are all fellow travelers.
The language of God is silence.
Whoever lives in the past is as if dead. Whoever lives in the future in his
fantasy (or imagination) is naive, because the future belongs only to God. The
Joy of Christ is found only in the present, in the Eternal Present of God.
59. Better to
say the Jesus Prayer aloud than not at all.
67. Anxiety and worry is for those who don't have faith.
Love is only on the Cross.
71. Do you
want to pray? Prepare to answer the Lord secretly.
80. Only when
we are "still"...not busy-bodies...busy-bodying...caught up in many
activities... do we give the angels an opportunity to do something.
beautiful is the Mystery of Tommorrow!
95. The Lord
said: "Whoever wants something, believing he will receive. It is enough that
the request is in agreement with the Commandments of God, that is with Love.
103. When we
think always of God, God thinks always of us.
110. Woe to me
if I do not love.
114. After the
Liturgy, we should sit in the Church as long as we can, for the angels.
117. We are
never anyplace "forever".
Every morning open a new page and put your signature on the blank. Whatever God
wants, let Him write.
When we pray, let us lock our door.
125. If you do
not reach the point of despair, you will never see the Light.
Be still and know...There is no greater school than this kind of stillness of
The only true joy is freedom from worry.
said to us: Go and make disciples of all nations. And we - hushing up - what do
179. The most
powerful prayer is the Epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy.
183. Love is a
bomb the destroys all evil.
192. The other
day a lady asked me what would happen with the 'toll booths' after death. I
said to her, " I will tell them the Light of Christ shines to All! You however
are in darkness and I don't see you!"
greatest part of my prayer here and for years now is Thankgiving. What else
should I ask, when I have everything?
199. God put
the sense in the head. Why? Do you know? So that we can not see ourselves. Yes!
So that we see only the other and love only the other. And so that we see
ourselves only in the eyes of the Other.
Some want to go to the Resurrection without passing by way of Gologatha.
Because the Christians could not put in practice the Gospel while living in the
world, they fled. That's how they became the first monastics.
person is 'sent'.
267. Our soul
is a Divine Breath. Our body is His Creation. In the whole of us we are the icon
Day and night let us bless God for the gifts He gives us.
Few words, much love. To all. No matter who they are.
And Mother said ...
Only one thing
do I know that I have always, and it is not pride, nor fantasy, but that which I
have day and night, wherever I find myself-three things: first, Faith; second,
Faith; third, Faith. That's all! Nothing else can I say to you. It has
directed all my life.
believe and someone says, "Do you want to come to Lebanon with me?" I say,
"How do you
say Yes to everything?"
I say yes
because I believe that if it is not for my good God will make it so that the No
will come from the very one who invited me. Some paper will not be ready, or
something will happen.
Today I am
ninety years old-may you live so long! I read again and again and again in the
Gospels, and I see something strange. Jesus Christ comes and says to the
Apostles, "Leave now what you have and follow Me."
Now, if they
said, "And who are you? Why should we lose what we have? Why should we lose
our profit? Where will you take us? What will you do with us?"-if they had
said that, what would have happened? They would have remained in darkness.
They said Yes
to some Unknown who came and said, "Throw all that away!" Why? Because they
believed in God, and they waited for the One who would say to them, "Come!"
And that was the beginning.
Because if we
say No, what will happen? ... One or the other: If you believe, you will walk
on the water like St. Peter. If you are scared-Bloop! Nothing else.
Through all my
life it has been like that. They called me to the strangest and most distant
place in India. One night they sent me a message: "Come and see someone who is
sick." We started out in an ox cart driven by some shepherd boy. And as we
were going up the mountain in the forest, what do I see above us? Two eyes
shining, a tiger. What do you say then? "Lord have mercy on me, and may Your
will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
So I closed my
eyes and saw that written within me. Because He said to us, "Why do you worry?
Why do you worry? Even the hairs of your head are numbered!" Why worry? Faith
is lacking. May we have faith.
Again, Mother said ...
Once when I
was there where I was, some foreign missionary came and said to me, "You may
be a good woman, but you're not a good Christian."
have been here so long and you only go about speaking English. What local
languages have you learned?"
I said to him,
"I haven't managed to learn any of the local languages, because I travel a
great deal from place to place. As soon as I learn one dialect, they start
speaking another. I've only learned 'Good morning' and 'Good evening.'
you're no Christian. How can you evangelize? All the Catholics and Protestants
learn all the local dialects in order to ..."
Then I said,
"Lord, give me an answer for him." I asked it with all my heart, and then I
said, "Ah. I forgot to tell you. I know five languages."
What are these five?"
is the smile; the second is tears. The third is to touch. The fourth is prayer,
and the fifth is love. With these five languages I go all around the world."
stopped and said, "Just a minute. Say that again so I can write it down."
five languages you can travel the whole earth, and all the world is yours. Love
everyone as your own-without concern for religion or race, without concern for
people of God. You never know if the one you see today might tomorrow be a
388. Come let us be silent.