In the serenity and the dim light of a Church, I sit facing a venerable Elder to whom I was led by Grace, so that, by discussing with him, to acquire answers to my myriad questions, and, through the answers, to get peace in my soul. Tonight, in this evocative and peaceful environment, my venerable interlocutor and spiritual guide honored my insignificant presence with an in-depth narration of an amazing event that happened to him. At my request, my revered Elder allowed me to write down this narration, provided that, for the sake of being humble, I would not mention the names. The names of several people who play a role in each story are not disclosed for reasons, according to the Elder, that are related to each other (or concern themselves alone) and that it is, nevertheless, their inalienable right. My respected interlocutor, with his hand on his heart, recounts vividly those narrated below, and which, for better understanding, are expressed in first person and in simple language:

"It's the summer of 1995, the dawn of July 24. It is not dawn yet, and the night spreads its beneficial dew, mixed with the fragrance of the evening primrose, of the honeysuckle and of the jasmine on people who enjoy a peaceful sleep, after the fatigue of a hot summer day. Tired, after many exhausting hours of Religious, Pastoral, Social and Intellectual activities, I rest in my room. Suddenly, I wake up baffled by a dream so intense that, even awake, I feel that I am still experiencing it. I saw an Elder standing on a certain kind of rock that was in a location of a peculiar morphology. To his right I noticed a young female figure and to his left an ascetic male figure. These two figures emitted light rays, creating a bright circle around them. Amazed I was looking at the complex picture formed by those three figures, and I noticed that the Elder was holding in His left hand a Cross and a rosary, while the index of His right hand pointed to the territory of the Rock that was in front of him. Being in an awe, I dared to ask "Who are you Elder?" And the Elder said, "I am Raphael." Immediately after that, pointing with His hand to the female figure who was at the right, he says "Saint IRINE" and immediately after, showing the male figure that was left, he says "Saint NIKOLAOS." Then, I ask again, "What do you want from me Elder?" Pointing with his right hand to the location, Saint Raphael replied, "Here you will build a Church for me.'' "Still puzzled I ask again, "Where is this place Elder? Then, immediately, I was with Saints Raphael, Nikolaos and Irene, hovering in the sky and beneath us, Northeastern Attica was spread out like a spectacular geophysical map. Then, Saint Raphael, moving his right hand in a circle, suggested the district of MARATHON - GRAMMATIKON - SOULI, and said to me, "You will search here to find it."

The circular region of Attica, suggested by Saint Raphael

Having woken up now and having kept vividly in my memory all that I described earlier, I pray kneeling down, and thanking the Saint for this wonderful vision. Then, the very same day, I started looking for the indicated area and wandering in various country locations, hoping to spot, with the help of God, that particular kind of rock. Yet, my naively optimistic hopes were fruitless, so I changed tactics and began to ask several local residents about the estates that were probably available for sale, as I aim to visit various country areas. Accompanied by the owners of the land and discussing with them, I hope to have the chance to collect, if possible, some useful information, while I will be observing the location.

I became obsessed with that vision, so, day and night I searched for the land with that rock. On 07/29/96, the owner of an estate led me to the location were he had for sale a piece of land, and, because of the morphology of the landscape, I thought it was the desired spot. So, I decided to embark on the procedure of drafting a contract to obtain the ownership of the property, while thanking God for helping me during my research. On 8/20/96, I had enough time to arrange for a meeting with the seller on the specific land to address minor issues. Suddenly, while we were talking, the seller asked me abruptly and quite unexpectedly, "Do you believe in dreams?" Surprised I replied yes, then he told me that while sleeping he dreamed of his estate full of flowers, like a very beautiful garden. He added that, on that same night his wife dreamed of a tall Monk, who rested on the wall of their house, and that even the trace of his body form was imprinted on it.

On 09/02/96, at dawn, I saw again Saint Raphael in a dream in the same estate who told me "Not here, but over there, at the opposite side," while simultaneously he pointed with the index finger of His right hand at a rather vague area at the opposite hill. Early at dawn, I go to the land and try to get oriented to the direction indicated by the Saint on that inaccessible hill. In the morning, under the light of the day, holding a stick and equipped with tall boots that might provide me with some protection, even rudimentary, from snakes and thorns, I went to that place and tried to orient myself in the direction indicated, standing in the midst of an extremely rough area on the inaccessible hill. After I decided which way to go, I began to walk tentatively and with great effort towards that direction, looking for any sign from the above. So, while I was wandering amid the rocks, brambles, bushes, thorns, and briars, my steps led me to an old abandoned and ruined goat pen. I was now near the top of the hill. With great care, I entered the ruined goat pen. Inside it, the only creatures that lived among the crumbling stones, thorns and weeds were lizards, snakes and rodents. The entire area had obvious signs of deliberate damage, destruction and all kinds of vandalism, while the reasons as well as the individuals who grossly caused all that are still unexplained and unknown.

 The interior of the goat pen.

I started leaving that nightmare of a place, yet I was mesmerized by the stunning view that spread beneath the hill and by the shimmers emanating from the rippling, shining sea, while the mountains of Attica, Euboea and the closest islands of the Cyclades dominated in the horizon.

Panoramic view of the southern Evoikos Strait from the the estate of Saint Raphael.

Before leaving behind the rubble, something drew my attention away from the amazing view and I turned my face to the right, and then, I was dumbfounded... In front of me was the Rock that I was feverishly looking for... AND - STANDING ON THE TOP OF THE ROCK THAT I HAD SEEN IN MY DREAM - WAS THE SAINT, WITH THE INDEX FINGER OF HIS RIGHT HAND POINTING TO THE GROUND AND IMPLYING, ''BUILD MY CHURCH HERE". I rushed towards Him as quickly as the dense vegetation allowed me to, in order to get closer to Him, to prostrate myself before him and to ask for his blessing, but to my immense dismay, the Saint disappeared before I could move a few meters. I placed a sign at the point indicated by the Saint, and made sure to impress in my mind the location and also the accessible path towards it. I departed, glorifying God for the help He gave me.

Saint Raphael indicating the location for the construction of His Church on the characteristic rock in the location Ano Souli of Marathon.

Immediately after my return to the nearest residential area, I began investigating to find out the name of the owner of the goat pen and the property around it, and I succeeded, after resolving some minor difficulties. I wanted to find out whether the property was available for sale, its expanse, and the requested price. I did in fact learn the size of the estate, but the owner refused to sell it. Repeated offers to the owner, albeit tempting, were fruitless. He was adamant. And time passed. Eventually, I decided to desperately make my final attempt. I contacted the owner and used some honest, fair and tempting arguments to convince him to sell the estate…

He still remained firmly adamant. I had exhausted all possibilities and, desperate, before leaving, I gave him my name and my phone number, with the earnest request to let me know before other possible buyers, if he ever wanted to sell it. Grief and despair had possessed my mind and soul. But not many days had passed by when, lo and behold, I received, a call from the owner of the estate, who explained to me that he wanted to meet me to transfer his property as soon as possible. I was dumbfounded ... I could not believe what I heard ... I thought everything was a dream ... When I recovered from that astonishment, I dare asking hesitantly what the causes were for his rapid and unexpected decision. The seller took a deep breath and after a short pause, to my greatest surprised, he asked "What is your relationship with Saint Raphael?" I had stormy emotions, and the only thing I managed to utter were the words "what do you mean?" And then, I heard the seller simply and unexpectedly telling me, "Come, let's go immediately to transfer the goat pen and the estate, because I saw in my dream Saint Raphael who told me that I have to transfer the property to you to build His Church.'' After we arranged to meet up later, I thanked him and I just return to my house to make a long prayer offering my thanks to the Saint for His unlimited help.

Later, on the same day, with immense joy and bliss, I saw the owner of the estate, as we had already decided to regulate certain procedures of the transfer. Because of this joy, I could not help myself. Thus, immediately after the meeting with the seller, I rushed to visit the estate and the goat pen, to pay my respect to the rock and also to contemplate what should be the proper priorities to beautify the estate and to clean the ruined goat pen making it usable. I could not hold my self in the same place for a moment, but I was constantly moving from one end of the property to another. But when I tried to enter the small room adjoining the goat pen, I got freaked out in absolute disgust... The small room was full of innumerable and of all sizes of rodents. My disappointment was indescribable. I made the sign of the Cross and I asked, "My Saint, where do you send me now?" Of course, any attempt to enter that horrible little room was in vain, so deeply disappointed, I dragged my steps towards the path of return trying hard to restrain my disgust by that sight ...

The "horrible" small room today is a cell 

After some time, as I awoke early one morning, the image of the estate, the ruined goat pen, the horrible little room and the stony ground came immediately to my mind. At the same time, alternative thoughts began to occur with dizzying speed in my mind, in order to address the problems and, with the help of the Saint, to find their solution. Despite all these feelings, I was convinced that the Grace of the Saint would lead me to the right decision and would give me with the necessary courage to go on...

After all these events, without delay I started with less pessimism to revisit the estate. With determination and patience, I straddle over prickle bushes, pass various cliffs, dodge many natural obstacles and approach with a lot of precaution and attention that scary small room. All my senses are tense and prepared for defense. Then, to my absolute astonishment, I see three birds flying inside that horrible room; birds that had never appeared before... They were owls. Inside the room there was no trace of rodents. But what happened? I just assume that maybe all of us know the importance of rodents for the owls... Overjoyed, I forgot every unpleasant feeling and rushed to glorify the Saint whose Grace intervened so beneficially. With revived morale, and given the fact that my actions were obviously supported by the Saint, I go on appeased for the future. From that point, I started making numerous plans, dreaming of building the Church and arranging ways to find the necessary resources, or even choosing a path to make an accessible road to the property for vehicles to transport tools, water and any other material required for the work, and any other necessary goods.

Suddenly, on the night of the 7/23/97, two years after His first appearance, Saint Raphael again came in my dream and He said, "Tomorrow you will have Holy Liturgy in my place, and, from now on, you will be honoring my name three times a year: On the Tuesday that comes after the Easter, on July 24th, and on September 2nd, of each year." That dream amazed me. It convinced me once more time that, with the help of the Saint, the construction of the Church should be undoubtedly considered an accomplished fact. Therefore, the next day, on the 07/24/97, after an overnight prayer and purification of body and soul, I went to the farm and found the rock on which the Saint had stand in the past, and where I had placed a characteristic sign to distinguish that rock from the other rocks. There I made the place as decent as possible to perform the Divine Liturgy. My voice, prayers and praises to the Lord were accompanied by the harmonic chirping of various birds of the sky, while breeze was falling on the rustling foliage of the brambles and of the briars, and coming from the top of the hill and from the ends of Aegian Sea.

After a few days, the dream started becoming a reality. Indescribable joy had pervaded all over me while, from hereafter, in my mind the enormous responsibilities looked huge along with the struggles that would be required until the completion of the project. But I'm not alone... The Grace of the Lord and the help and the assisting hand of the Saint that support the efforts are obvious continuously and uninterruptedly. With Their help, the works of opening and shaping the dirt road leading to the estate started, along with the beautification of the property, the clearing of the rubble of the goat pen and many other necessary infrastructure; works that would allow or would facilitate the volume of the main tasks that were to follow in the future. Gradually, good-willing brothers came along and devoted their lives, adding their strengths and capabilities towards the completion of the difficult and demanding tasks that Saint Raphael indicated. A small brotherhood started to form and grow. The Monastery of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene at Ano Souli of Marathon had begun to arise.

At this point, the venerable Elder finished his narration and sank into silent, serious thoughts. When I no longer heard his voice, I returned to the reality of the present, because, during the narration, I imagined that I was with him, fighting by his side. In the silence and the calm serenity of the Church, I heard his breathing. Breathing that resembled the breathing of athletes after a strenuous effort. In the dim light, I thought his eyes were shining from the creative light the Divine Grace gives to the elect. I was very impressed by the spiritual strength in the ascetic body of my interlocutor. His unwavering faith and indomitable will gave me the impression that he is yet another pillar of the Orthodoxy assisted by Grace. Unable to mumble even one word or articulate a sound, and, imitating the Elder, I kneeled down and began to pray silently, humbly asking for the successful fruition of the purposes of my respected Elder in honor of the recently revealed Saints RAFAEL, NIKOLAOS and IRINE and for the GLORY OF GOD.

With love in Christ

Brother John