On September 23, 2020, Schema-archimandrite Timothy (Sakkas), abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter (Paraklitos), near Oropos (Attica region, Greece), reposed in the Lord from liver cancer.
The future elder was born in 1933 in Voronezh, Russia, in a family of Greeks, to George and Despina Sakkas. He spent his childhood years in Еvpatoria (western Crimea).
In 1944, the soviet authorities gave the Crimean Greeks a choice: either accept soviet passports or go into exile. The Sakkas family refused to accept the passports. As the elder told us, they had to get ready to be sent into exile during the night. But in the end, those who refused were lucky, because they were sent to warm Uzbekistan, and those Greeks who took soviet citizenship were sent to Siberia. Thus the Sakkases ended up in Uzbekistan, in Kokand.
Geronda told the following story from his childhood recollections: In those hungry, poor times, his mother Despina would make “candy”—apricot seeds soaked in a sugary syrup. One day, while collecting pits, he wandered into the garden of a certain Uzbek. The man grabbed the boy, thinking he was stealing the apricots. How surprised he was when it turned out the boy was only gathering pits, without a single apricot in his bag! Astonished at such honesty, the man filled up the child’s bag with apricots himself and escorted him out. “The Uzbeks are a just people!” the elder said.
In 1948, the Sakkas family was able to emigrate to Greece, and completely different opportunities opened up for the future servant of the Lord there. In 1959, he graduated from high school and enrolled in the Theology Department at Athens University. In 1962, he was tonsured in monasticism and ordained to the diaconate. Two years later, Fr. Timothy was ordained to the priesthood and given the rank of archimandrite, becoming the rector of the Church of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in the Athens suburb of Keratsini.
In 1966, Archimandrite Timothy was appointed as rector of the Russian-language parish of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Athens, on the central Athens Syntagma (Constitution) Square. The young and energetic rector breathed new life into the fading migrant parish. It was he who started the practice of festive night vigils that have become popular throughout all of Greece. To ensure that the younger generation of Russian immigrants didn’t lose their connection with the parish, Fr. Timothy introduced the practice of bilingual services—in Church Slavonic and Greek. One of Fr. Timothy’s most important works was the foundation of the Russian nursing home in the suburb of Argyroupoli, with a house church dedicated to St. Seraphim of Sarov. In 1976, the Russian diaspora of Athens awarded Fr. Timothy with a gramota out of gratitude for his significant contribution to the life of the community.
In the first years of his life in Greece, the future elder’s acquaintance with the Athonite monk Fr. Cherubim (Karambelas)—the future archimandrite and founder first of the monastic brotherhood and then the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Fr. Cherubim became his confessor and guide in the spiritual life. Thus, Archimandrite Timothy’s life path was inseparably connected with Holy Spirit Monastery. In 1980, he was elected abbot of the monastery. Geronda remained in this ministry for forty years!
Over the years, the Holy Spirit Monastery grew from a small residential building with a house church into a huge monastic complex with a skete on Mt. Athos and glory throughout the Orthodox world, such that Fr. Timothy can rightly be called a true benefactor of the monastery. Geronda Timothy established book publishing in the monastery. Wonderfully fluent in the Russian language, the elder himself began to translate spiritual literature from Russian to Greek. He was the first to introduce Greek readers to St. Seraphim of Sarov, and it was he who began translating the works of Sts. Theophan the Recluse and Ignatius (Brianchaninov). The list of books translated and published by Geronda is truly great. Another important branch of the monastery’s book business was reprinting pre-revolutionary Russian-language books and sending them to Russia. The post-soviet generation, which entered the Church in the early 1990s, remembers reprinted spiritual literature marked “Publication of Holy Spirit Monastery, Oropos, Attica.”
Together with his abbacy, the elder continued to head the Russian-language parish of Holy Trinity Cathedral. He served for three generations in the parish, so that, as he himself said, over the course of the decades he baptized representatives of three generations in the same font—grandmothers, daughters, grandchildren.
In 2003, during his visit to Holy Spirit Monastery, His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia awarded Archimandrite Timothy with the Order of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir III Degree for merits before the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2006, the elder was also awarded the gold cross by the Greek Orthodox Church and a medal of the Holy Apostle Paul for his many years of labors and God-loving ministry to the Church of Christ.
The ever-memorable elder strictly followed monastic principles. He believed that although there are many obediences in a monastery, people take monastic vows for one single purpose—to become “professional” men of prayer: It is prayer that is the meaning of the monastic life. Geronda was very strict about the novitiate—he wouldn’t tonsure someone before they had completed at least three years as a novice. Exceptions were very rare. Thanks to this approach, many people who were initially striving for monasticism ended up starting families, and the brotherhood of the Holy Spirit Monastery truly consists of the choicest monks. The elder was strict above all with himself and his monks, but condescending to the laity. His advice was never out of touch with reality; it was always down-to-earth. Geronda would hear someone out to the end and only then give advice. Often a single glance was enough for Fr. Timothy to understand just who was standing before him. All of this reflected his vast, long-term experience of communicating with people and his pastoral care.
“We must live with one hand holding onto Heaven,” the elder would say.
Fr. Timothy was distinguished by modesty and careful avoidance of renown: He strictly did not bless for his name to be publicized or to publish any material about him, and he didn’t even like to be photographed. Despite his illnesses, he never became despondent, never lost his high spirits. He served the long Lenten services and All-Night Vigils practically right up to his repose. Thousands of people in Greece, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, and in other countries who had the blessing of meeting the elder and receiving his grace-filled advice will ever keep his bright memory in their hearts.
May you inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, dearly beloved Fr. Timothy! And pray for us…