Life and Miracles of St. Irene Chrysovalantou

 

The Life of St. Irene Chrysovalantou

St. Irene Chrysovalantou flourished after the death of the
greedy Emperor Theophilos the first. After Theophilos’
death his spouse, the most reverend and God-loving
Theodora, took the throne. The Empress Theodora supported
the Orthodox faith and re-established the veneration of
the holy icons, as was the tradition of the Orthodox
Church. The Empress Theodora was reigning in place of her
son, Michael, who was not yet of age to assume rule of the
empire.

When Michael was twelve years old Theodora sought to find
him a suitable wife. She sent her scouts on a mission to
find a beautiful girl who was noble as well as virtuous
and worthy of becoming an empress. In the land of
Cappadocia there lived such a beautiful girl and of great
virtue. She was the daughter of noble parents and her name
was Irene. The scouts knew of Irene’s virtue and
beauty and quickly took her to the empress in hope that
she would one day become empress herself. Irene had one
sister who was taken as wife by the Empress’ brother
Vardis.

As the scouts escorted the fair Irene to Byzantium, they
neared Olympus. Irene had heard of a man that lived an
extremely ascetical life on Mt. Olympus named Ioannikios
the Great and knowing that he was a holy man she very much
desired to see him. She begged the scouts to lead her to
the saint so that she may receive his blessing. The spies
finally agreed but St. Ioannikios only appeared to those
worthy in heart. Upon their approach St. Ioannikios
recognized the spiritual progress of the young girl and
exclaimed, “Welcome servant of God, Irene. Go to the
capital and rejoice for the Convent of Chrysovalantou
needs you to shepherd her virgins.”

Upon hearing this Irene was quite amazed that the holy man
even knew her destiny, let alone her name. She therefore
fell to his feet and praised him. Before she set on her
way St. Ioannikios gave her spiritual advice to strengthen
her.

When Irene finally arrived at the capital her relatives,
who lived in the city, came to greet her. They all had
their own ranks among others in the kingdom. They came
forward with some of their noble friends and greeted her
with much honor, as was truly due her. The King of kings,
who called all things from nothingness into being,
provided that the earthly king had chosen another girl to
be his bride several days before Irene even arrived. Irene
was not in the least upset by this, but rather, she gave
thanks to God that He enlightened the king to choose
another wife.

Many other noblemen and leaders, the richest men of
Constantinople, sought to make Irene their wife because of
her beauty and nobility. However, she desired no other
bridegroom than the heavenly Bridegroom. She all-wisely
rejected all the temporal and earthly things and sought a
place to pass her life peacefully and pleasing to God.

So remembering the words of
St. Ioannikios the Great, she sent people to visit
the Convent of Chrysovalantou so that she might know
what it was like. They found that the Convent of
Chrysovalantou was in a quite beautiful and quiet
place with a surprisingly good community of nuns.
Upon hearing of the Convent’s good fame St. Irene
rejoiced and gave to the poor not only all the
expensive clothes that her parents had given her, but
also all the priceless things the queen had bestowed
upon her. She then freed all of her servants and
slaves, cut her long golden hair and entered the
Convent of Chrysovalantou with all eagerness. Irene
effectively abandoned every worldly vanity and every
worldly way of thinking. She, the tender, noble, and
most beautiful, dressed herself in a habit of animal
hair and rejoiced as she took up the light yoke of
Christ, the Anointed One and Most Sweet. She
subjected herself to all the sisters with amazing
humility and served all the needs of the convent with
great care and tirelessness without ever
contradicting. She never considered that she was from
a noble family and far too good for such work and
performed the most humiliating services without
complaint. Her very image shone brightly and in her
soul she had compunction and happiness.

The abbess of the convent was a woman of great virtue for
this abbess was a struggler at the spiritual trials and
always advised towards good works. Irene had the grace of
God which had mystically descended upon her. This same
grace taught her what was of benefit for her soul for
without this grace, as the Lord himself says, man can do
no good: Without me you can do nothing but the one who
lives in Me and I in him, this one brings forth much
fruit.
Thus this ever-memorable one, as good and
fertile earth brought forth fruit to Christ and was
pleasing in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the entire
sisterhood of the convent and all were amazed by her. Such
was the trust that Irene had gained that she was made the
treasurer and purchaser of the monastery and was given the
care of the silver pieces of the convent. She was obedient
to all, displayed great humility, and never scandalized or
hurt any of the sisters. She was well loved and respected
by all of the nuns. Irene was not only very capable of all
her physical duties, but more so of all of her spiritual
duties. She was never missing from the Church services and
in her cell she would read the lives of venerable
monastics in order to imitate their lives and to teach the
sisters and incite them to similar endeavors.

One day as she was reading the life of St. Arsenios the
Great and learned that he remained awake until the morning
hours praying, she too desired to perform this act and so
she sought permission from the abbess to also practice
this spiritual struggle. The abbess at first hesitated to
give Irene her blessing to perform this ascetic act,
fearing that she might become ill from over-exhaustion,
but seeing her eagerness and knowing her humility and her
stability she blessed Irene to carry out this ascetical
practice. Irene began this super-human struggle even
though she had not lived in the monastery for one year.
The grace of God, however, gave her strength and she would
stand from evening until morning with her hands lifted up
as Moses and praying to God. Many other times she would do
the same from morning until sunrise and other times she
would stand in prayer all day and night. The abbess was
all the more impressed by Irene’s progress.

When three years had passed from the day St. Irene began
this great ascetical struggle, the hater of all good, the
devil himself, saw her great struggles and sought to trap
her in transgression. He was, however, unsuccessful. St.
Irene had not succumbed to the passions and had so much
given up care for her flesh for the sake of her soul that
she rejected and totally despised all physical things
(food, glory, money, clothes, etc.). She possessed only
one habit. She would wear her habit for the first time on
Pascha and continue with it for one full year without
taking it off or ever washing it. When Pascha would come
she would put on the new one and give the old one to the
poor. Her diet consisted of bread and water, once a day,
and perhaps some herbs. She was not prone to vainglory and
had totally forgotten her noble upbringing.

The demon who was unsuccessful at inciting St. Irene to
commit any sin at all sowed forth discord in Irene’s
mind by reminding her of the pleasure of her former life
and stirring her with carnal desires. The man-hating one
in vain tortured her, for she recognized his attack all
too well and she confessed his attempts to her abbess so
that she would be delivered from the temptation of this
demon and she continued her struggles as before.

One night, as she was praying as usual, a demon took the
form of a very ugly black man and stood from a distance
while insulting her, trying, the weak one that he is, to
instill a terror in the servant of God. The demon said to
her, “You fortune-teller and ill-fated woman, against
me do you battle without realizing what I am and how great
my strength is?” These and other insults did the
all-conniving one say to her, but our saint of God made
the sign of the cross and the demon disappeared
immediately.

One day after another St. Irene was plagued with dark
imaginations. Even though they deeply disturbed her she,
the courageous one, waged battle against the passions of
the flesh and was triumphant. She would often fall to the
ground and pray with tears to the Lord. She often called
upon the all-powerful Theotokos for help and to the
Archangels Michael and Gabriel to whom the monastery’s
church was dedicated. She also called out to for
assistance to all the heavenly saints so that they might
rescue her from the snares and unclean suggestions of the
demons. St. Irene prayed using these words, “All-holy
Trinity, All-powerful, through the intercession of the
Theotokos, and the supplications of the Archangels Michael
and Gabriel, and all the heavenly powers, and all the
saints, help your servant and deliver me from the assault
of this demon.” In this way our holy mother prayed
many days and nights until divine illumination descended
on her from above and overshadowed her soul and drove out
all the evil imaginings, leaving the saint unbothered, so
that she began even greater ascetical struggles and more
eagerly labored for God.

Whoever beheld this saint of God, Irene, saw in her great
and holy desire and her many God-given graces. She had
become a chosen vessel, as the great St. Paul says and a
container of the Holy Spirit, having abiding in her soul
the living Christ. She was no longer living according to
the flesh, but for Christ in spirit while Christ lived in
her, as the Holy Apostle writes. In this way St. Irene
became totally enlightened and led many souls towards the
Light of Truth. It came to pass that people of all classes
would run to her in numbers. Diligently, she taught and
advised with prudence and sweetness.

Suddenly, however, the abbess of the monastery became very
ill. All the nuns mourned in their cells for they knew
that she had reached the end of her earthly life. Since
the abbess was so virtuous they were grieved by her
impending departure. The nuns mourned but the humble Irene
mourned even more. The dying abbess said to them with all
meekness, “Don’t be sad about me, for you have a
good abbess more capable and more wise than I and to her
be ye all obedient with your whole soul. I am speaking
about Irene, the daughter of light, the lamb of God, the
vessel of the All-holy Spirit and do not choose for
yourselves any leader other than Irene.” The blessed
abbess, having reached her last hour said to her Master,
“Glory to your mercy, O Lord!” as she gave up
her soul to the angelic hands that were awaiting her.

The venerable Irene was not present when the abbess
departed from the earthly world. Likewise, none of the
nuns told Irene what the abbess had said, for knowing
Irene’s great humility and how she turned away from
vainglory, they feared that she might leave the convent if
she heard such words. Therefore, they buried the deceased
abbess as it was fitting and they proceeded to the church
that God might enlighten them.

At that time the confessor of the faith Methodios was
Patriarch of Constantinople. During the iconoclastic
controversy this holy patriarch had endured many tortures
and bore on his body the marks of the price he paid for
Holy Orthodoxy. Truly he possessed the Holy Spirit and he
was able to know the future. When the other sisters were
ready to depart for a visit to the patriarch Irene did not
want to go with them and she found an assortment of
reasons and obstacles not to go. The nuns, however,
managed to force Irene along. When they had arrived and
had received the patriarch’s blessing, he asked them
which of all the nuns they had considered for the new
abbess. They replied that they had chosen no one but
rather had their trust first in God and in his holiness
the patriarch, as he possessed the Holy Spirit. Therefore,
he was asked to make the decision for the Holy Spirit
would guide him. The God-bearer then responded that he
knew that all the nuns wanted the honorable and pure Irene
and that their opinion was good and pleasing to God. The
patriarch gave thanks to God that He had revealed to him
the virtuous acts of his handmaid Irene.

The sisters were amazed and venerated him by saying,
“Truly God dwells in your righteous soul and He
enlightens you and makes the hidden things known unto
you.” Immediately the saintly patriarch arose from
his throne and singing the required hymns, incensing, and
blessing the Lord, he ordained Irene a deaconess of the
Great Church, knowing by the Holy Spirit that she was
clean. He later read over her the prayers of the
installation of an abbess. He then instructed her on how
to proceed in guiding the sisters in the way of salvation
and in peace. He blessed Irene as well as the sisterhood
and sent them on their way back to their convent. Irene
cried long and hard. She felt unworthy of such a position.
The sisters tried to comfort her by saying to her,
“Don’t feel sad that you have been assigned our
protection for we will always remain obedient to you and
we will help you in all godly endeavors as much as we are
able.”

When they arrived at the convent they gave thanks to God
and escorted Irene to the cell of the abbess. Irene cried
on. She closed the door of her new cell and fell on her
face, “Master, Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd,
our Guide and Teacher, help Your handmaid and this Your
small sheepfold and deliver us from the grasp of the
noetic wolf, for you know our weakness and that we are not
able to do anything good without your help and
grace.”

She had prayed to the Lord in this manner for a long time
and addressed herself by saying, “And you, lowly
Irene, perhaps you realize what a burden Christ has placed
on your shoulders? You take the responsibility for souls
for which God took flesh and became man and shed His
all-holy and all-precious blood. If you allow one soul to
be lost you will answer to God for this on the judgement
day. You will receive hell as your reward for having taken
on yourself the care of so many souls, if you are careless
and one of these souls is condemned. The Lord Himself says
that the soul is worth more than the whole world.
Therefore, hold vigil, fast, pray and be careful that from
today on that your own fault does not become cause for one
of the sisters to lose her soul, so that the words of
Christ that say a blind man leading a blind man causes
the two to fall into a pit
, may not be fulfilled in
you.”

Irene struggled ever harder and spent many days praying
and fasting. She would also spend the night kneeling and
making many prostrations. She never gave rest to her body,
so that the Lord, seeing her many struggles, might be
merciful to her and give her wisdom to guide her flock
God-pleasingly.

According to her desire, the Lord gave her much wisdom and
she was praiseworthy in guiding the sisters. She taught
with wisdom surpassing the great teachers and
rhetoricians. Below is a small selection of some of her
precepts and admonitions:

“I know well, sisters in Christ and honorable
offerings to God, that it is neither proper nor blessed,
that I the unworthy and uneducated should teach you, but
because the mercies of God are unfathomable and
incomprehensible, His grace established that I should be
your superior. I, your worthless servant, beg you to obey
me and to listen to the words of my lowliness. When we
don’t keep the rules and orders of this schema which
we wear, and we don’t do that which we promised before
God and angels, we are of no benefit, just as faith
without works is dead, as we have heard. Christ has
promised us for the small amount of fatigue that we endure
here in this transient life, to give us the kingdom of the
heavens and unending life, delight, and eternal pleasure.
It was for Christ that, having believed in Him as we
should, we left the charms of this world as being false
and passing, in order to inherit those true and eternal
things. If therefore, we don’t keep the commandments
of the Lord, wretched and miserable that we are, then we
will lose these transient things along with the eternal
things like the unwise virgins, we will be truly unworthy
and foolish. Since the soul cannot be divided into two
parts, one that seeks delights and one that seeks
temperance, one that is haughty and one that is humble, we
must totally hate all of our failings and toil to dispel
from our soul every worldly desire, so that our internal
state resembles our external state and we may work on
attaining all the other virtues.

Remember that the virtues of the soul are preferable to
the virtues of the body. Fasting and vigils and the other
hardships of the body do not benefit us so much when the
virtues of the spirit are lacking. The virtues of the
spirit are humility, love, understanding, almsgiving to
the poor, and all the other good and God-pleasing acts.
After all of these things let us also work on the virtues
of the flesh and let us fast as much as possible.”

These and others were St. Irene advising her flock, with
motherly affection. Her spiritual children would eagerly
accept everything she would tell them and they brought
forth much spiritual fruit. Our venerable Mother Irene,
seeing that her counsel brought forth much reward to the
souls of the sisters rejoiced and thanked the Lord Whom
she loved with all of her soul and strength. Having
unshakable faith in God and immeasurable love for the
sisters, St. Irene dared to ask of God a great and
super-natural gift, the gift of spiritual clairvoyance.
She desired to be able to know the secret transgressions
of all the sisters, not out of human curiosity, but in
order to correct them so that not even one be condemned to
hell.

The Lord, seeing that her goal was a good one, immediately
heard her request and sent to her from the heavens a
light-bearing angel who appeared to her dressed in a
stunning white garment.

Irene was not frightened nor disturbed at the sight of the
angel, but rather rejoiced. The angel greeted her by
saying, “Hail most faithful and productive handmaid
of God! The Lord has sent me to serve you according to
your request for those who are destined to be saved by
you. The Lord commanded me to always stand by your side
and to wisely reveal to you daily the secrets of each
one.” Having said this, the angel, for the time
being, disappeared. Our venerable mother fell to the
ground in joy thanking the Lord and from then on this
angel was always beside her. This angel would appear to
her, conversing with her as a friend each time it was
needed for her to know something secret. This gift was
given to her not only for all the nuns who were under her
spiritual care, but also for the many that came to her
seeking to hear her golden words. Whenever Irene would see
someone who had committed a wrong-doing she would teach
him about the eternal hell to which all those who die
unrepentant are condemned. St. Irene would speak in this
way whether she was addressing a nun or a laywoman. She
never corrected a person in front of others so as not to
humiliate him but rather she employed the appropriate
manner to bring each person to repentance.

Irene would pray from the evening until the time of the
service of Orthros. After the service she would sleep
until the sun rose. She would then go into the church and
call the sisters one by one to confession and if one of
them did not tell of all sins committed, St. Irene would
advise as the angel would instruct. All the nuns came to
respect her as a saint. Word spread quickly about the
holiness of the abbess of Chrysovalantou. Inhabitants of
the city came to see this honorable and venerable person
by the hundreds. The nobility, political leaders, women,
virgins, young, and old. Irene taught with such wisdom and
compunction and the name of the holy abbess of
Chrysovalantou became ever so popular.

Irene continued to pray hard and long. One night as she
was praying with her hands lifted up towards heaven, the
demons came into her cell and began to scream in a
terrifying voice. They spoke in an unfit manner and tried
to distract our holy mother from prayer. They, however,
were unable to faze the saint. Nevertheless, the demons
continued to taunt Irene and mimicked her by saying,
“Wooden Irene, wooden feet hold you up. For how long
will you torture our race, how long will you burn us with
your prayers and how long will you hurt and make us
sad?”

Our venerable mother remained unfazed. This audacious
demon then lit a candle from the votive lamp and continued
to light the mantle and veil of the saint herself on fire.
The flames reached down to the ground and burned not only
the saint’s clothing, but deep into the skin on her
shoulders, chest, and back. Her entire body would have
surely burned had it not been for one of the sisters who
rushed it to put the fire out after smelling it from her
own cell down the hall. Unbelievably, the saint continued
to stand unfazed by the whole event. Irene stood tall,
hands still in the air and praying to our Lord above.
“My child,” Irene said to the frightened nun,
“why did you do such a bad thing and interrupt the
good that was taking place? We shouldn’t think about
the human things, but rather about the divine. An angel
was standing in front of me weaving a wreath of various
marvelous and fragrant flowers and as he stretched out his
hand to place this wreath on my head, you came in. You
thought that you were committing a praiseworthy act but
instead committed a most unpraiseworthy act. The angel saw
you and left. You brought to me sorrow and I lost a great
opportunity.”

The sister began to cry as she began to gather up the
fragments of our venerable mother’s habit. They were
partly burned and stuck to her flesh. A glorious fragrance
then came forth from her. This fragrance was sweeter
smelling and more powerful than all the costly perfumes
that could be purchased. This aroma filled the monastery
for many days and the nuns glorified thy God for this was
a true miracle. St. Irene did not own a second garment and
so her cell-attendant brought her a new one. In just days
wounds that would have killed most people were
miraculously healed by the Physician of our souls and
bodies and she was granted the grace of prophecy.

At that time a certain eunuch of her sister (the wife of
Caesar Vardis) came to visit the saint. Irene called him
aside secretly and said to him, “Kyrillos, (this was
the eunuch’s name) tell my sister to prepare her
things because in a few days her husband will die as an
outcome of a plot of King Michael. After a little while
this king will also lose both his kingdom and his life by
another machination against him due to his foolish
misdeeds. Be cautious not to say anything to anyone. None
of our relatives should dare to rise up against the new
king who will rise to the throne, neither should they
deter him in any way, even if he will assume the throne
after a murder, for God has loved him because he fears Him
and God has been gracious to him.”

Learning of all this, the sister of Irene told her husband
of the prophecies, being overcome by her love for him. Her
husband from his pride and foolhardiness, rather than
running to the Lord with tears and begging mercy, remained
indifferent. He was interested only in learning who would
be the next king and many times he sent messages to our
holy mother Irene trying to learn the future king’s
name. A few days later he was killed in the military camp.
King Michael was then killed in the same way and Basil the
Macedonian became king.

A noble and beautiful woman from Cappadocia, the home city
of St. Irene, was engaged to a certain man. Later on,
however, she thought better of it and decided against
marriage. She decided instead to become a nun at the famed
monastery of Chrysovalantou. The demon grew jealous,
however, and filled her ex-fiancé with tremendous
sexual passion. However, the man knew well that he would
not be able to enter the monastery. Instead, he hired a
powerful magician, a most able servant of the devil to
whom he gave a large amount of money for the deliverance
of the woman he wanted as his wife. The magician wrought
his evil art in Cappadocia and the woman in the monastery
went completely out of her mind. She began to run around
the convent screaming and crying out the name of her
ex-fiancé and swearing that if they did not open
the doors of the convent she would suffocate. Our
venerable mother heard the up-rise and cried, “Woe to
me the wretched one, if by the carelessness of the
shepherds the wolves snatch the sheep away. However, in
vain do you labor, O sly devil, because Christ will not
allow you to swallow my lamb.” She then called the
sisterhood together and instructed them to guard
themselves against the snares of the demons and she
ordered them all to fast for the entire week while praying
to God and each one of them to make a thousand
prostrations a day with tears for this sister of theirs
who was undergoing temptation.

St. Basil the Great
St. Basil the Great
Our venerable mother prayed in her
cell daily for this sister and on the third day, she
saw St.
Basil the Great in front of her and he said to
her, “Why do you deride us, Irene? We have left
our homeland and all the vile and impious acts take
place there now. When the sun rises take your sick
disciple and bring her to Vlachernae and there the
mother of our Master Christ who is powerful will make
her well.” Having said this, St. Basil
disappeared. St. Irene took the sick sister along
with two other nuns and arriving at the Church of
Vlachernae, they prayed the entire day with tears in
their eyes. At about midnight, St. Irene fell asleep
and in her sleep she saw many people dressed in
brilliant golden clothes and preparing the roads with
the most fragrant flowers and incense. Our venerable
mother then asked why so much preparation was taking
place. They answered that the Mother of God was
coming and warned her to prepare herself that she
might be accounted worthy to venerate God’s
mother. Then the Mother of the Life arrived followed
by a vast crowd. So much did the face of the Virgin
radiate that it was not possible for a mere mortal to
gaze upon her. Our Lady, having looked at all the ill
assembled in the church, looked at the disciple of
St. Irene. Our venerable mother Irene fell at the
spotless feet of the Mother of God, full of fear and
trembling. The Mother of God then called on St. Basil
the Great and asked him what Irene needed. St. Basil
explained to the Theotokos exactly what St.
Irene’s need was. Hearing this the Theotokos
said, “Call here, Anastasia!” When St.
Anastasia had arrived, the Mother of God said to her,
“Go with Basil to Caesarea, and study carefully
the situation in order to cure this girl, for to you
my Son and God has granted this grace.”

Venerating the Theotokos, St. Anastasia and St. Basil left
in all haste in order to perform the ordained task. Our
venerable mother Irene then heard a voice saying, “Go
to your convent and she will be made well.” On
awakening, Irene explained to the sisters what she had
seen and they went on their way rejoicing greatly. When
they arrived at the convent it was Friday at the time of
Vespers and all the nuns were gathered at the church. St.
Irene explained her vision and then ordered them all to
raise their hands and eyes towards heaven and with all
their hearts and burning tears to cry out, “Lord have
mercy!” After a long time, when the entire floor of
the church had become wet from the tears of the sisters,
St. Basil and the Great-martyr Anastasia appeared floating
in the air and the sisters heard them say, “Irene
open your arms and receive this, and don’t grieve us
needlessly again.” (St. Irene had been praying before
the icon of St. Basil and begged him to free Caesarea from
magicians). Stretching out her hands, St. Irene received
from the midst of the air a package weighing about three
liters and containing a host of charms including strings,
hair, and lead, bound together with the names of demons
written upon them. It also contained two small idols made
of lead, one in the shape of the ex-fiancé and the
other in the shape of the sick nun, stuck together as if
they were committing a sin. The nuns were amazed and
remained praying the entire night. They thanked the
Theotokos. In the morning, St. Irene sent the sick nun,
along with two other nuns to Vlachernae. Taking with them
the charms, oil and prosphora, they attended the Divine
Liturgy. After the Liturgy, the priest anointed the sick
nun with oil from the vigil lamp and later put the magical
charms on live coals. As the charms burned, the nun became
well and regained her senses. When the spell of the charms
was totally broken, a crying sound came forth from the
coals that resembled the squealing of pigs at their
slaughter. The nuns returned to the monastery glorifying
God that He does such strange and magnificent things and
on entering the monastery they told all what had happened.

The humble Irene, seeing that she was revered for her holy
acts, all the more condemned herself and tears were always
to be found in her eyes. She would especially cry during
the Holy Liturgy when the priest would sacrifice God on
the holy altar. She would ponder how the invisible and
immortal God accepted to become man and to be crucified
for our love and to prepare for us those divine mysteries
that we might receive them as food and drink. Being
overcome with compunction, she was not able to hold back
her grief and she would bow down her head so that no one
would see her crying, feeling that she was a thief and
evil-doer and committed great misdeeds.

Let us relate to you another of her miracles during her
lifetime: A young man by the name of Nicholas used to take
care of the vineyard of the convent of our venerable
mother. Nicholas fell in love with one of the nuns of the
convent and could find no peace day or night for desire of
this nun. The devil led Nicholas to this passion in order
to punish St. Irene. So much did the evil one darken the
mind of this young man that one night as he made his way
towards the convent he fantasized that he found the gate
of the cloister open, went into the cell of this nun, fell
down with her on her mattress and did that which he
desired. He then actually fell down on the ground and
began to grind his body up against the earth. Not only did
he cut and bruise his body but he also gave the demon a
chance to disturb him.

In the morning, the doorkeeper opened the gate of the
monastery and noticed him outside possessed, foaming at
the mouth and writhing. She went and told our venerable
mother what she had seen and asked her if she knew the
reason that Nicholas was now possessed. Falling down in
prayer, St. Irene said, “Blessed are you O Lord, that
you did not allow us to become neither the prey nor the
victims of the demons.” She then sent the young man
to the Church of St. Anastasia to be healed. A few days
later Irene saw a vision of St. Anastasia and heard the
Great-martyr say to her, “To free yourself from this
possessed man you sent him to me? Only you, my sister, can
make him well.” So, St. Irene ordered that the young
man be brought to her. So that no one might learn of her
miraculous power St. Irene did not cure the man
immediately but rather they tied him to a column of the
church. The saint, along with the other sisters, prayed
daily for him. When the priest was serving the Divine
Liturgy and had put down the holy gifts on the holy table
after the Great Entrance the possessed man broke the chain
that was binding him and ran into the altar. He grabbed
the priest and began to bite his shoulder as if he was
actually trying to eat his flesh. Immediately our saint of
God rushed to the possessed man and ordered him to remain
still. Seeing the saint, Nicholas wanted to run away, but
he was not able to move at all being held tighter by the
command of the saint than by any chain. When the Liturgy
had finished, our venerable mother remained alone in the
church with the possessed young man. She prayed to the
Lord and then addressed the demon. She ordered the demon
to tell her the reason and the manner with which he had
entered this man. The demon, forced by divine power,
answered all of our saint’s questions honestly. She
then commanded the demon to come out of the man. Shaking
the man and throwing him down to the ground the demon came
forth. St. Irene raised the man up and advised him as to
how to always be careful in avoiding overeating and
intoxication, never to be absent from church on any feast
day and to pray without ceasing so that the demon might
never again get a chance to bother him. When people would
ask him, “Who cured you?” he would respond,
“The Lord through the prayers of His angels.”
Nicholas went forth praising and giving thanks to God.

Our saint remained as before, occupied with her ascetical
struggles and often spent the entire day and night in
prayer for one, two, and even three weeks at a time. So
long and in such ecstatic prayer would she have her hands
upraised that she later would be incapable of lowering
them. At such times she would call one of the sisters to
help her lower her hands and from far away one could hear
her shoulders cracking. She would not eat bread from the
beginning of Great Lent until Pascha. She would eat only
fruit and vegetables only once a week with a little water.
On major feasts she would hold vigil and not sleep an all.
She would spend those nights praying and chanting and many
times she would stand out in the convent’s yard
praying with much compunction. When she would look at the
stars and the vastness and the beauty of the universe, she
would glorify the Creator Who wisely made all things.

One night a sister of the nunnery noticed St. Irene
praying in the outer yard of the convent. Our venerable
mother’s feet were not touching the ground but rather
she was standing in the air about two yards above the
ground! Near her there were two extremely tall cypress
trees. So long as our glorious saint was praying the two
cypress trees bowed down to the ground and waiting for our
venerable mother to finish her prayer. When finished with
her prayer St. Irene touched the treetops and blessed them
with the sign of the cross as they returned to their
original position! The nun saw this amazing site and
became frightened. She watched this strange event for
three hours. She went so far as to check the cell of her
abbess in order to make sure that she was not dreaming. It
was not a dream.

The nun was so terrified that she did not mention the
event to the others. Several days later the nuns noticed
two handkerchiefs tied to the tops of the two cypress
trees. Our venerable mother had tied those two
handkerchiefs there for the glory of God because many
times the trees venerate her. Awed by this strange sight,
one sister began to ask another by whom, and how, and when
might these handkerchiefs have been hung on the tops of
such tall and slender trees? Then the sister who had seen
the above stated miracle explained to the other nuns how
the cypress trees bowed when their abbess prayed. On
hearing this, the other nuns were filled with joy and
began to cry and even scolded the sister because she did
not wake them so that they also might see the miracle.

When St. Irene learned that this nun had made known this
great sign she became scandalized. She called the nun
before her and asked her, “If you saw me, as a human
being that I am, fall into sin would you tell everyone
what sin I had committed?” Then our venerable mother
warned this nun along with all the others, that if they
ever reported another miracle as long as she lived that
they would receive a very strict penance. The sisters saw
countless other miraculous signs during our holy
mother’s life, but for fear of being chastised, they
did not make them known to anyone.

It was the custom then of their convent to celebrate the
feast of St. Basil the Great on the first day of January,
because St. Irene had a great devotion to him as they were
both from the same city. One particular year, after the
priest finished serving the Divine Liturgy on this feast
day, he came out of the altar and announced that there was
a mouse in the altar that was defiling the sacred vessels
and that the nuns should try to kill it. Our venerable
mother went to her cell and prayed even for this seemingly
very small request. When the priest was ready to leave the
convent the abbess sent the ecclesiarch to the church and
said to her, “Go to the door of the altar and there
you will find a dead mouse. Throw it outside.” The
priest found the mouse dead just as St. Irene had said and
proclaimed, “Magnified is God in His saints!”

On that same day, Wednesday, during the watch-guard of the
night, our holy mother heard a mystical voice say to her,
“Receive the sailor who will bring you fruit today
and eat this fruit rejoicing in your soul.” During
the Orthros, St. Irene called two nuns to her and said to
them, “Go to the convent’s gate and you will find
a sailor waiting outside. Bring him into the
convent.” On meeting the sailor our venerable mother
exchanged greetings and asked him from where he was and
how it was that he happened to come to the convent. He
replied in this manner: “My lady, I am a sailor from
the island of Patmos. I had embarked on a voyage with my
crew to come here to Constantinople for a certain service
I had to perform. When we were passing by the far end of
my island we saw on the land a most pious and handsome
looking old man. This old man yelled out to us to wait for
him. However we were close to the land and there were many
rocks there. We had a good wind behind us and we continued
to speed along farther and farther away. The old man
yelled again louder and at that moment the ship came to a
complete stop and this old man began to come towards us
while walking on the waves. At that point, he took out of
his shirt three apples and gave them to me saying,
‘When you arrive in the capital, give these apples
to the patriarch and tell him that God sent them to him
from paradise by way of His servant John.’ Taking
out three other apples he said to me, ‘Give these
three to the abbess of Chrysovalantou whose name is Irene.
Tell her to eat these in fulfillment of the desire of her
soul because now I have brought these from
paradise.’ The old man then gave thanks to God and
blessed us and immediately the ship began to move and the
old man disappeared. I gave the three apples to the
patriarch and now I am bringing you the other three.”
Our venerable mother hearing this began to cry from joy
and gave thanks to the beloved Disciple and Apostle of
Christ. Then the sailor took the apples out of a silk and
gold embroidered handkerchief in which he had kept them as
divine possessions and he gave them to St. Irene with much
reverence. These three worldly and incorruptible apples
were so large and so beautiful in their shape and so
fragrant that in their physical nature alone they were an
amazing sight. The only explanation for the beauty of
these apples is that they were from paradise.

The sailor received a blessing and forgiveness from the
abbess before he went on his way. Our venerable mother
fasted for one week to give thanks to the Lord for this
gift He had sent her. After giving thanks in this way she
began to eat a small piece of one of the apples every day
without eating food or even water for forty days. Whenever
St. Irene would eat a piece of this apple a fragrance
would exude from her mouth so strong that all the nuns of
the convent could smell it. The entire convent smelled as
if it had been washed with a most costly perfume and it
truly smelled like paradise.

When the day of Great and Holy Thursday arrived, St. Irene
blessed all the nuns to receive the Holy
Mysteries and having received communion our venerable
mother cut the second apple and gave a piece to each nun
to eat. They all ate of it without knowing what it was,
being only aware of its great fragrance and sweetness. Not
only did they taste the sweetness of the apple with their
mouths, but on eating it they also felt a sense of joy and
jubilance in their souls. The third apple she kept as a
very valuable possession and every time she smelled it,
she felt joy and comfort in her soul.

On Great and Holy Friday, when our Master suffered His
passion, our holy mother was in ecstasy and as the sisters
were singing the service of the Holy Passion with much
compunction, she beheld a vision. She saw an innumerable
amount of beautiful and brilliant youth come into the
church holding in their hands guitars and singing hymns to
the glory of God in great harmony, sweetly and gloriously.
They were also carrying vessels filled with myrrh and they
emptied these on the holy table. Then the angel who was
waiting at the holy table cried out, “For how long my
Lord?” A voice was heard answering the angel and
saying, “Until the second Solomon shall come to join
the heavenly things with the earthly and that they might
become one, so long will the Lord magnify the remembrance
of His handmaid.” At this point the youth in white
cried out the “Glory to God in the Highest” and
ascended to the heavens.

Our venerable mother, however, also had to pay her own
debt as a mortal man. An angel appeared to her and told
her, “Be aware that in the coming year, on the
twenty-eighth of the present month, when you will
celebrate the martyr Panteleimon,
you will come to stand at the throne of the Godhead.”
It was then July twenty-sixth and at the Convent of
Chrysovalantou that they were celebrating the consecration
of the Church of the Archangel for on this day was its
building and restoration completed.

The next year, when they were again celebrating this feast
and the feast of St. Panteleimon, our holy mother received
the Holy Mysteries having first fasted for one week
according to the order of our Church. During that time she
was praying and had not even drunk water at all during the
week. She had only eaten of the holy apple that the
beloved apostle of our Master Christ sent to her from
Paradise. Before this time she had not wanted to eat of
this third and last apple because she wanted to have some
comfort in this exile here on earth. Every time she or one
of the sisters would fall into despondency or sadness or
have a certain complaint, as humans are prone to, she
would take the apple into her hands and from its
unimaginable fragrance she would be immediately be filled
with joy and would ponder what happiness awaits those who
are to inherit the eternal heavenly kingdom. Again this
time, upon eating the apple, the entire convent was filled
with the heavenly aroma. After partaking of the apple, our
venerable mother fell into agony, weeping, fearing death,
and looking to heaven. The nuns, not being aware of what
was happening, asked what had upset her that she was now
crying. She replied to them, “Today, my children, I
am leaving this world and you will no longer see me. When
the hour will have come and I will leave this life for the
eternal one, I want you to elect Maria abbess, because the
Lord has chosen her as she will govern you God-pleasingly.

Be alert to walk the narrow and difficult road in order to
find the spacious place of paradise. Hate the world and
the worldly things because all of these temporal things
are vain. According to the divine order, hate your own
souls in order to save them. In a few words, don’t do
anything that your flesh wants, but rather the desire of
God, because only He can help you at the hour of
judgement.”

These and other spiritually beneficial words did St. Irene
say to her sisters during her last hour. Then she lifted
up her hands and eyes towards heaven and prayed in this
way to the Lord, “Master, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son
of the Living God, the Good Shepherd, Who saved us with
Your all-holy and precious blood, into Your hands do I
give over Your small flock. Protect it in the shelter of
Your wings and guard it against the snares of the devil,
for You are our Sanctification and our Salvation and to
You do we send up thanksgiving and glory to all
ages.” Having prayed this prayer, she sat down and
began to smile, seeing before her the holy angels, who
were greeting her. Then her face began to shine as the sun
and she closed her eyes as one falling asleep and she gave
up her sacred soul to the Lord, having lived one-hundred
and three years. Even though she had reached such a great
age, her physical beauty had not faded as she looked like
a young, beautiful girl, by grace of her virginity and by
the fact that she had never known anything worldly. God
had granted that the all-pure one remain in this state to
give witness to the beauty of her soul and that grace had
been bestowed on her by her heavenly Bridegroom.

The nuns of the convent began to weep and wail and they
mourned their mother worthily. The entire city, men and
women of every age wept. Such a crowd of men and women
came to venerate her holy relics that the convent was not
able to hold them all. Neither was it possible for them to
bury her because of the pilgrims who were arriving. When
the night arrived they managed with difficulty to bury our
venerable mother according to the order of our holy
Church. According to the custom, the bishops brought
incense and myrrh and most-precious perfumes, but the
fragrance that came forth from our holy mother’s
relics far surpassed all of the earthly aroma.

Having sung the burial service, they placed the body of
our venerable mother in a temporary burial place until
they had prepared a tomb for her in the Church of St.
Theodore, which was next to the Church of the Archangel
and there was the body of our holy mother given final rest
and from her tomb, more miraculous than the tomb of a
martyr, came forth a most heavenly fragrance. The noble
relative of St. Irene, who had been delivered from dearth
by the intercession of the saint with the emperor, began
to celebrate every year the memory of our holy mother in
the most brilliant manner. All those who called on the
name of our most venerable mother Irene, received that
which was to their benefit.

Sacred Patriarchal and
Stavrogpegial Orthodox Monastery of St. Irene
Chrysovalantou

Five Miracles of Saint Irene
Chrysovalantou

 

Below are a few of the thousands of miracles
attributed to St. Irene Chrysovalantou which the
recipients responded to with thankful letters addressed to
the saint and published in the bi-monthly periodical
“St. Irene Chrysovalantou” distributed by the
Monastery dedicated to this saint in Lykovrisi. These were
published in the September-October 2009 issue.

1. Healing of Leukemia

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, I thank you for hearing my
prayers and healing my daughter of fifteen years old who
was admitted to a hospital in Vancouver because the
doctors diagnosed her with leukemia.

We prayed to St. Irene Chrysovalantou to cure our child
and she worked her miracle. I went to the hospital and
gave my daughter the icon of St. Irene Chrysovalantou to
have next to her and pray for her health. I also gave her
a piece of holy apple to eat. As soon as she ate it she
felt a weight lifting from her.

The same night she dreamt that she was thirsty and she
asked for water. She saw St. Irene holding an apple in her
hand coming near to her to give her some apple. The next
morning when she woke up she felt completely well and the
doctors were amazed with the progress in her health.

May St. Irene give to all health and peace and have us
under her protection.

The parents,
Konstantinos and Aikaterini
Agriomitrou

Vancouver, Canada

2. The Childless Receive A Child

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, thousands of thanks for the
miracle which you worked for me.

After thirteen whole years of marriage full of pain,
worry, sadness and a big emptiness in my life because I
did not have a child, you came to give me an adorable
little boy, my Chrysovalanti. You gave me so much joy and
happiness that I cannot describe it.

I prayed to you day and night to help me feel the joy of
motherhood and you helped me. I had vowed that if I had a
child I would call it by your name.

One night, when I thought I was asleep, a door suddenly
opened from the east (there was not a door there
normally). I saw a woman coming in dressed in black. I was
very frightened and I started to call for my husband and
mother. Then I saw the woman coming close to me and
standing at my bedside. She said three times: “Do not
be afraid”.

I continued to shout because I did not realize it was St.
Irene Chrysovalantou. Then I heard my mother saying:
“Do not be afraid, it is St. Irene Chrysovalantou and
she has come to tell you that you will have a child.”
Emotionally I turned around to see you, but you had gone.

After that I was certain that St. Irene would help me and
finally I was pregnant. Every day I smeared holy oil on my
tummy and thank God I had my baby with no problems.

Thank you St. Irene Chrysovalantou from deep in our hearts
and please always protect everyone and us.

Please protect our Chrysovalanti. I am sending a
photograph of him too.

With love and respect,
Maria Charilaou
Lemesos, Cyprus

3. Healing Of An Unconscious Man Following An
Accident

I too want to thank you, St. Irene
Chrysovalantou, for the miracle which you worked for
us.

My husband after a car accident remained unconscious in
big shock. At the hospital where he was for two weeks
fighting for his life the doctors, in spite of their
efforts, did not give us much hope of survival. They said
that if his heart could cope he would live.

I, who was expecting my second child, put all my hopes in
you St. Irene Chrysovalantou and I smeared some holy oil
from your oil lamp on my husband which I always have in
the house.

After two weeks one morning my five year old daughter woke
up and said: “Mummy, St. Irene Chrysovalantou came to
our house and she told me not to cry because my daddy
would get better. He will wake up from being unconscious
and speak to you.”

The next day he recovered and we asked him what he would
like, and he said he wanted St. Irene Chrysovalantou’s
holy apple and to see his daughter. I fasted for three
days and I gave the holy apple to my husband to eat.

In the morning when he woke up the doctors examined him
and they told my husband that he had fluid in the brain
and they would have to operate in a week. When the time
came for the operation there was a test to be done and
they found nothing. They were amazed how it had happened.
I knew it was a miracle from you and he did not have to go
through the inconvenience of an operation.

I vowed to come to your Monastery to pray when we were on
leave from our work and to thank you from near. Now my
husband is at home and we are happily waiting for the
birth of our second child. We shall always thank you for
as long as we live.

With faith and respect,
Kate Rosenli
Germany

4. Healing of Painful Kidney Stones

Thank you St. Irene Chrysovalantou from deep in my soul
for the miracle which you worked for me.

I had bad pains in my right side and I was admitted to the
hospital for tests which showed I had a stone in my
kidneys. They had me often under observation because the
pains continued to torment me.

One night when I went to bed I read one of your magazines
which my wife had brought to me in the hospital to read of
your miracles. After I read them my eyes filled with tears
and with true faith I prayed that you would work for me a
miracle too to avoid the pain and operation I would go
through.

Your miracle did not take long to work St. Irene
Chrysovalantou.

That same day at midnight I woke up afraid, thinking that
something was cut inside me and the pain I felt inside me
was unbearable. I went back to sleep without any
painkiller.

In the morning when they x-rayed me your miracle had
worked. The x-rays were clear. There was no stone on the
kidney.

After a while the doctor came and he said smiling:
“You are lucky and you don’t need the operation.
There is nothing wrong with you.” So I left the
hospital completely well thanks to your miraculous
intervention, St. Irene Chrysovalantou.

I thank you from deep in my soul and pray that you will
have us always keep us under your protection and we will
always call on you when in difficulty.

Your humble servant,
Savvas Orphanidis
Germany

5. A Mother Prays For the Health of Her
Children

 


I thank you wholeheartedly St. Irene
Chrysovalantou for the miracles which you worked for me
too.

My child was just nine months when he had problems with
his kidneys. We took him to a very good hospital in Athens
where after many tests they told us that for a year he
must take antibiotics and if things did not improve then
he must have an operation.

When we returned home and talked to someone I know, she
told me that for a young child to take antibiotics over
such a long period was disastrous for my child’s
health. So I decided to stop the antibiotics and instead
three times a day I put three drops of oil from your oil
lamp in his milk which he drank, and I also smeared some
holy oil on his kidneys.

You worked your great miracle sweet St. Irene, as a year
later, after many tests, my little Nicholas was completely
healthy and today he is a young man aged 27.

After that miracle you enabled me to hold in my arms a
second child who bears your name Chrysovalantou, as after
having my first child I was unable to have a second child
which I so much wanted.

For nine whole years I waited for this joy and my faith in
you gave me hope. I visited your Monastery at Lykovrisi
and I got some holy apple and holy oil which I drank
regularly and smeared some on me.

After some tests which I had for other reasons I found out
I was five months pregnant. You protected me St. Irene and
I gave birth very well to my little Chrysovalantou who
today is 18 years old.

Thank you sweet St. Irene Chrysovalantou for your help
towards me, and please always protect my family and all
those who call on your miraculous power.

Theodora Noula
Mesologgi, Greece

Mystagogy

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