On September 9, 2016, the Monastery of the Archangel Michael on the Island of Thassos in Greece, one of the monasteries under the guidance of well-known Orthodox spiritual father, Geronda Ephraim of Arizona, was ravaged by fire.
The local fire department said that the blazes which broke out at numerous spots across the island are believed to have been started by lightning strikes during a heavy storm. A state of emergency has been declared on the island. Before it was contained, the fire severely damaged:
• The monastery garden and
• Several monastery buildings such as the Wood Shop for icons and for furniture, the Animal Houses and three cells that housed nuns
• Most of the 3,500 olive orchard which fed the nuns and provided much needed income
• Many fruit trees and flower beds
• Electric Lines
In a miraculous way, the fire spared several large fuel tanks surrounded by bushes, even though all the bushes around them were burned and all external pipes melted. The monastery was left without electricity and water. It was reported that two-thirds of the island has been damaged by this wildfire.
Located in the south-eastern part of Thassos, the Monastery of the Archangel Michael is under the spiritual guidance of Geronda Ephraim. Built on a cliff above the Aegean Sea with a view of Mount Athos (Agion Oros), the monastery is a convent and dependency of Philotheu Monastery on Mount Athos. The most valuable relic treasured at the monastery is a piece of the Holy Nail from the Crucifixion of Christ.
The exact year of the foundation of the monastery is unknown, but it is said that on the site the hermit Lucas built a chapel on the exact place where the Archangel Michael appeared to him in a vision. Saint Lucas built the chapel over the spring of holy water gushing from the stone that the Archangel struck with his rod. Once, a few Turks tried to defile the spring, but they failed due to the miraculous appearance of the Archangel Michael. Immediately, however, the spring dried up, and begun flowing in a new place, in a cave close to the sea. The holy water still springs there today and is a source of many great miracles and healings.
During the time of Ottoman rule, the monastery was completely abandoned and became deserted. In 1973 Geronda Ephraim was appointed Abbot of Philotheu Monastery on Mount Athos. The following year the first nuns and a priest-monk from Philotheu settled on Thassos and labored greatly in order to transform the sacred place. With their dedication and hard work, the deserted place was quickly restored to its former glory. It was the first monastery in Greece renovated from the abandoned state under the direction and the spiritual guidance of Geronda Ephraim. In the early 1980’s Elder Ephraim relocated his mother, Gerondissa Theophano (†1986), to this monastery, where she peacefully reposed a few years later and was buried in the monastery cemetery.
The tragedy caused by the fire obviously disrupted the sisterhood's well-ordered monastic life and is a big trial and a great challenge for them. Due to the current economic crisis in Greece, monasteries in general are receiving less support and donations from visitors. We set up this Fire Fund for anyone who would like to help the monastery to alleviate the effects of the disaster as quickly as possible.
Lastly, let us not forget that this monastery was the major provider of donations to build our American monasteries.
Thank you for your donations and for your prayers and may the Archangel Michael continue to offer you his protection and intercessions to God.