FAITH IN ACTION
SAINT ARSENIOS OF FARASA, CAPPADOCIA
One of the wives of the Muslims that lived in Farasa, Cappadocia told the mother of Agathi, the woman who gave me this information that she wanted to be baptized in the Orthodox Christian Church. Agathi’s mother mentioned this to Father Arsenios, who told her to take the woman secretly to her house and to instruct her in the faith and that she was to become her god-mother. After the Turkish woman had been instructed in the basics of the Orthodox Faith she was baptized by Father Arsenios and given the name ‘Ελευθερία. Following her baptism she received Holy Communion about three different times and then proceeded to live as a crypto-Christian in her Turkish home. Remember she was a Muslim, married to a Muslim and living in a Muslim home.
From the day of her baptism, Έλευθερία pretended to be indisposed so that she would not despoil the blessing of Holy Baptism with her Turkish husband. Her life had now become difficult in the Muslim environment of her home and our loving Lord Jesus quickly freed her and took her to Himself. She suddenly fell ill and remained bed-ridden for a number of days. Knowing that her life would soon be over she asked to receive Holy Communion from Father Arsenios. You can now imagine that this would not be an easy thing to do since her conversion to Christianity had been kept secret from her Muslim family.
Father Arsenios solved this problem by taking a small apple, made a small hole in it, put some Holy Communion in it and stopped it up again. He then told Έλευθερία’s god-mother to go and visit her and find a way to give her the apple in a discrete way so that she would receive Holy Communion. The god-mother took the apple with the Holy Communion with great reverence and joy, with her arms crossed on her breast, she went and visited Έλευθερία. When the god-mother approached her with the apple, ‘Ελευθερία knew intuitively what was happening and she said Χριστός ή ψυχή μου, Christ, my soul.” She took the apple reverently and ate it receiving Holy Communion in the process.
After she received Holy Communion she began to give up her soul to her Lord and Savior. Seeing this, the god-mother ran to Father Arsenios and said to him: “Your blessing Father, Έλευθερία is dying and now what will happen to her? She will be washed by the Turkish women.” “Don’t worry,” Father Arsenios answered. But that wasn’t a good enough answer for her. She asked again, “What’s going to happen, Father?” Then Father Arsenios said to her: “Forget about it. We will look upon it simply like she is getting a bath.” The god-mother was worried about this, however, because the Muslims consider the washing performed on the dead to be a baptism, and believe that all sins which the dead person committed in life are forgiven. But since the god-mother kept bothering Father Arsenios about this he then said to her: “Listen, do you think I am going to let Turkish women put their hands out to wash anyone that I baptized?” Then he began to pray for Έλευθερία.
So, what do you suppose happened next? In their attempt to prepare Έλευθερία for burial, when they put their hand out to wash her they could not move their arms. So they were obliged to bury her in the Turkish cemetery unwashed. While they were burying her Father Arsenios read the funeral service for her in another location and then he continued to pray for her. Then something else most unusual happened.
Έλευθερία began appearing every night in her home and was throwing things around the house in frustration. She said: “Why are you torturing me here in hell in your cemetery? Get me out of here quickly and take me home to the Christian cemetery. This activity continued for days on end until the Turkish husband could stand it no longer and went to Father Arsenios and said to him: “Father, your blessing. We are suffering terribly at home with my dead wife. Help us. You are the only one who can come up with something to help us. Every night, my wife tortures us. She comes and turns our house upside down and keeps telling us to bury her in your cemetery. It seems that she loved your religion.”
Father Arsenios said the following to the husband: “What are you asking me for? I am a Greek Orthodox Christian and you are a Turkish Muslim. You can do whatever you want to do.” He replied: “No, Father, I do not want to act without your blessing.” Then Father Arsenios said to him: “We will make an exception for you. You disinter her from your cemetery and we will bury her in a corner of our own cemetery.” And that is what they did.
Following this most unusual compromise between Turks and Greeks, Έλευθερία appeared in her home again in a state of great joy and wished them well. She said: “May you live a thousand years! Now I am in Paradise, in the Light, enjoying the good gifts of God.” So, in this miraculous way in which Father Arsenios acted with his people, he tamed the barbarous Turks and set them thinking with the obvious power of the true faith of the Orthodox Christians. He protected the faithful from the infidels in those difficult years so that the latter would not cause problems for the Christians. May his blessings be upon us.