Eldress Evlampia Romanides (+ 1980)
By Fr. Lambros Fotopoulou
Evlampia Romanides, mother of Father John Romanides, had her origins in Aravisso of Cappadocia, a region which never ceased to discuss theological matters, even after the great Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa).
Born before the disaster (in 1895), she grew up in a place of deep faith. In this area, Orthodoxy was first in value, while language and origin was secondary. She belonged to the magnificent people of Karamanlis (or Karamanlides), who with their own unique Greek writing, their important monuments, and their unique customs and traditions were able to translate the experience of Orthodox ascetics and saints into everyday practice.
The theological model of the Cappadocians is the imitation of the strict hesychasts, such as the as stylite saints Symeon and Daniel, of Saint Alexis the Man of God, etc. The personality of St. Alexis, in particular, had a strong impression on the Cappadocians, due to his excessive fasting, vigils and hard asceticism, so that many songs written for him which are still sung today. Each Great Lent in Cappadocia there prevailed contemplation, memory of death, prayer and asceticism. The center of social life in Cappadocia was the church and intellectual achievement was to engage in mental prayer. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the breathing of Cappadocia was the rhythm of the Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ (inhalation), have mercy on me (exhalation)”.
It was within this spiritual environment that Evlampia Romanides was raised.
The childhood of Eldress Evlampia was one of pain. The pain was deep, but salvific. The twelve-year old girl saw the terrible slaughter of her parents, an event which imprinted itself on her young eyes and deep within her soul. However, this experience, rather than being catastrophic for Evlampia, was the heavenly message for her to choose the good path, to love Christ and the Church.
Socially Evlampia was left orphaned, but she gained powerful spiritual protection. The Queen of Heaven, the assistant of orphans, took her under her own protection. With admirable simplicity for so magnificent an experience the Eldress later spoke to her nuns the Panagia would appear to her, how she would take her by the hand and saved her from various psychological dangers. When celebrations took place around her it would trouble her, and she would distance herself. Then she would make herself very available for prayer. In this way a small child would communicate through prayer to God!
One wonders, what kind of prayer did the little orphan Evlampia say? In a written confession that she left, she said the following: “When I was twelve years old, the prayer that I said was this – Paraklesis, Six Psalms, Compline, Old and New Testaments. So I spent my time. Those words I would not allow to leave my mind night and day. Good Lord, do not deprive me of any of Your goods, and to listen to your words. From indecent things, with Your help my Lord, guard me. Lord, according to Your command, as you know Lord, whatever my throat utters is Yours. Our Queen the Panagia, with her intercessions and that of the saints … And with all these You are blessed forever and ever. Amen.”
After the Asia Minor Catastrophe she came to Greece and settled in Piraeus. She married her fellow Cappadocian, Savva Romanides, and bore her first child, a boy. She dedicated him to the refugee Saint John the Russian. When the child was two years old, she was found worthy to fulfill her vow and to have him baptized, the future Father John, in Prokopi in Euboea, where his sacred relics were deposited.
Life in Greece was difficult for the Romanides family so they migrated to America in 1927.
In the United States of America Evlampia Romanides helped her husband in couture, a profession that enabled them to raise their two children. The multicultural society, with its colorful and different religious values, did not affect her, but rather gave the challenge for missionary work. She battled with any forces holding the Protestant milieu. The heat of her faith had made an impression. The heterodox foresaw that it would be a great success for them if they convert this Cappadocian with a lot of faith to their ideas. They did not recognize the well-trained opponent. They organized a real “project” for her conversion, involving 10-15 people. They visited her and tried through the Holy Bible, with their well-known arguments, to weaken her. Evlampia had other, greater and more compelling, arguments. Leaving them alone for awhile she resorted to the saints, which is the “icon-corner” of her room. She prayed fervently to God to enlighten her. And, O! the miracle! a loud noise came out of the icons. The Protestants heard this and frightened they stampeded out the door. Since then they never bothered her.
Eldress Evlampia was convinced that the only truth is the Orthodox Faith and there is no other way of salvation but by Orthodox Holy Baptism. So when she learned that her daughter was married in New Zealand to a heterodox named Malcolm, a senior government official, she realized what exactly was her task. She went to New Zealand and stayed there until she catechized properly the groom to be baptized Orthodox with the name Mark. She did not leave New Zealand before she fulfilled her other sacred purpose: To establish an Orthodox Church in Christchurch, the second largest city in this country.
A seamstress refugee from America, without missionary assistance, and incremental financial support, alone with only God in her heart, is Equal to the Apostles and established the Orthodox Church in the far reaches of the earth ….
After the death of her husband she offered her services as a seamstress in the male Monastery of the Transfiguration in Boston while at the same time beginning to exercised by herself the monastic life. In this way she firmly decided to become a nun. The opportunity was not too late to give. Her son, Father John, returned with his family to Greece and the eldress followed at the same time informing him of her intentions.
With the aid of Father John and the assistance of the (now) Bishop of Tyroloë and Serention Panteleimon Rodopoulou and Father Polycarp Mantzaroglou she went to the Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian” in Souroti of Thessaloniki, where she became a novice on 1/17/1971. On 5/4/1973 she was tonsured to the Great Schema, without changing her baptismal name, at the request of Father John.
As a nun she never failed her monastic rule. At midnight she would pray continuously in the manner that she was used to as a youngster. She would explain in the following manner her characteristic habit: “Then, my child, the sky opens”, she said.
In the monastery she lived until 1980, when she slept righteously in the Lord, as she constantly requested of God: “May my name be in the book of life. A Christian end to my life in peace grant me ….”
Having a knowledge of her death (in 1980) she spoke to the sisters who served her about events that would later come to pass (the building of Holy Archangels Church). Moreover, the fact of her death was the meditation of her heart from the age of twelve years: “May I not get death out of my mind, Lord grant unto me”, she said. God gave her the last months of life with all the necessary information to prepare for her great departure.
“An Everlasting Memorial”
How different is this eldress from all those artificial models “introduced” by the religious “star system” of our time.
Having the grace of the “humble and quiet” Holy Spirit she subjugated herself to the will of the Triune God. She endured being an orphan and refugee with faith in God and unceasing prayer. She lived in the world dedicated to her duties as a wife and mother, and when she decided to become a nun, opted humble obedience in an Orthodox monastery.
Source: (Extract from the magazine “Εφημέριος”, June 2003, pp. 11-14). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
A further note about Eldress Evlampia from the book Fr. John S. Romanides by Fr. George Metallinos (in Greek, p. 85):
“This blessed woman from Asia Minor was a person of prayer. She would pray and do many prostrations. Fr. John would see her as a small child and laugh, saying: “What are you doing, one prostration after another?” And she responded to him: “Joke on little John … you will become a priest.”