St. Eleni, New Martyr of Lesbos


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Commemorated on April 9

St. Eleni (who was also called Susanna) is one of the New Martyrs of Lesbos who are commemorated on Bright Tuesday. She was St. Irene’s older cousin, and suffered along with Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene on April 9, 1463 (Bright Tuesday).

On November 12, 1961, a woman by the name of Basilike Rallis had a dream in which she saw herself by the church at Karyes near the town of Thermi on the Greek island of Lesbos. As she looked inside the church, she saw a young girl about fourteen or fifteen years old, with a dark complexion and dark hair. Since the girl was praying, Mrs. Rallis also began to pray. The girl turned to her and said, “Do you know who I am? I am a martyr. Not like Renoula (a diminutive form of Irene), of course, but if you only knew what I endured! I lived with the mayor’s family, and I was also with them when the Turks tortured them here. They mistreated me and gave me such a horrible beating that I died from the pains. My name is Eleni.”

The saint also told Mrs. Rallis about an icon of the Mother of God that she had been asking about, revealing to her the place where it would be found.

When she awoke, Mrs. Rallis was reluctant to mention this dream to anyone. She said to herself, “If there really is another martyr named Eleni, I’ll see her again. Maybe someone else will see her, too, then I’ll tell. But who was this Eleni who lived with the mayor’s family? Perhaps she was their servant.”

The next night, she dreamed that she was in the village church. She saw three clerics coming out through the left door of the altar. She made the Sign of the Cross at once, for she thought that Satan might be tempting her. Then she saw the three clerics make the Sign of the Cross too. They looked at her and smiled as they slowly proceeded to the center of the church. “I recognized St. Raphael and St. Nicholas right away,” Mrs Rallis recalled, “but did not know the other saint. He was tall, middle-aged with a long grey beard and a lordly air about him.”

At that moment, a girl with a round face came out by the same door. She was beautiful, and she wore a rose-colored dress. Mrs. Rallis approached her and, kneeling before her, asked, “Are you also a saint?” “Yes,” the girl replied. “Sit down beside me, watch quietly, and I will explain some things to you.”

Others then began to come out from the same door and approached them. First, a man of medium height with civilian clothes and a long grey jacket walked past. The girl said to Mrs Rallis, “He is the teacher, Theodore.” Theodore was followed by another well-formed man. The saint said, “He is the mayor, Basil (St. Irene’s father).” Then a tall, stout woman of about forty came out with two girls whom Mrs. Rallis recognized at once. They were Sts. Irene and Eleni, of whom she had dreamt the night before.

The unknown saint who had appeared with Sts. Raphael and Nicholas identified the tall woman as Maria, the mayor’s wife, and the two girls as Renoula and Eleni. The saint asked Mrs Rallis, “Why, when you dreamed about her last evening, did you say that you would not say anything about it to anyone? Eleni is also a martyr, and she wishes to be remembered. She was not the mayor’s servant, but his orphaned niece who lived with them. Her proper name was Eleni. However, they also called her Susanna.” Mrs. Rallis slowly approached St. Irene, embraced her, and began to weep, saying, “O, my tortured little girl, how could these heartless evildoers burn you?” Then St. Irene also started to cry.

When Mrs. Rallis woke up, her eyes were filled with tears, and she thought that she would faint. So powerful was the dream that she later said, “Ah, that tortured child! How I ached for her! Every time I go to Karyes I will sit by her little tomb, and I will mourn as if she were my own child. Just think, they tortured the child in front of her father and in front of her mother who bore her. It seems to me that there does not exist a more terrible martyrdom for parents.”

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)