Saint Gerasimus the New Ascetic of Cephalonia was born in the village of Trikkala in the Peloponessos. As a young adult, he became a monk on the island of Zakynthos. On the Holy Mountain he became a schemamonk and studied with the ascetics of Mt Athos. Receiving a blessing from the Elders, the monk went to Jerusalem to worship at the Life-bearing Tomb of the Savior. After visiting many holy places in Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Antioch, Damascus, Alexandria and Egypt, he returned to Jerusalem where he became a lamp-lighter at the Sepulchre of the Lord.
The monk was ordained a deacon and then a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Germanus (1534-1579). Saint Gerasimus maintained the discipline of an ascetic. For solitude he withdrew to the Jordan, where he spent forty days without respite. Having received the Patriarch’s blessing for a life of silence, Saint Gerasimus withdrew to Zakynthos in solitude, eating only vegetation.
After five years he was inspired to go the island of Cephalonia, where he lived in a cave. He restored a church at Omala, and he founded a women’s monastery where he lived in constant toil and vigil for thirty years. He prayed on bent knees stretched out on the ground. For his exalted life he was granted a miraculous gift: the ability to heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits.
At 71 years of age, the venerable Gerasimus knew that he would soon die. He gave his blessing to the nuns and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on August 15, 1579. Two years later, his grave was opened and his holy relics were found fragrant and incorrupt with a healing power.
Since the Feast of the Dormition falls on August 15, Saint Gerasimus is commemorated on August 16th. Today’s Feast celebrates the uncovering of his holy relics in 1581.