I dare to write about a holy person, of whom I’m not even worthy to think, although I wear and desecrate his name. I beg the saint to forgive me, bless me, and enlighten my thought so that I finish the writing of his short life story successfully, as my small gift and thankfulness towards him.
We come from the same city, even from the same neighborhood, but unfortunately, I do not remember him. I know that, when I started going to church regularly, when I started fasting, praying and reading spiritual literature they would compare me to someone called Mijalche. Little did I know then that he, Mijalce, was actually father Gavril of Athos and that one day I would be honored by God to inherit his name (it is interesting that when I wanted to become a monk, at my first stay in Vodoča, my spiritual father, Bishop Naum, without my telling that I loved him so much, gave me his name).
I have heard about him from my parents and my first neighbors, who knew him. They’ve told me that once, when he came to his parent’s house, he noticed our childish curiosity and took me and my friend to his house, gave us candies and talked to us. And after doing that for a couple of days, he left, and he never returned. To my joy or sorrow, that is my only encounter with this holy man, who was so close to us, and yet so far.
Monk in the world
The Bishop of Velica Gavril was born in 1926 in Shtip, to Orthodox parents, Metodij (later, as a monk, named Kiril) and Gorica Parnadzievi. He finished Primary and later High School in his hometown. From a young age, he was characterized by an exceptional gentleness and obedience. In studying he was witty and with a particularly inherited talent in art, which he crowned with a degree from the Belgrade’s University, majoring in sculpture in 1955. He was one of the best sculptors in the country. Later he was employed as a professor of art history and art education in Stip’s High School.
Since 1944 he was a participant in the National Liberation Movement. Early in the war, he was involved as a partisan, and after the fighting ended in 1947, he was rescheduled to the corpus of national defense, in the units stationed at the border, that is, in a special unit, consisting of selected fighters. At first he was at the border near Delchevo (its older name being Carevo selo, literally:Tsar’s village), then he was moved to Kavadarci, and in the end, at the border line on the Kajmakchalan mountain. In his unit he had a duty as a scribe, that is, a strictly confidential person. For a while he was a secretary of the youth communist organization (Skoevska). Because of his great zeal in serviing and his exemplary conduct, he was nominated for admission to the communist party – CPY, but because he was “going to church”, he never became their member. He obtained the rank of a sergeant and was awarded the Order of “Merit for people.”
After the demobilization, for some time he was serving in the People’s Committee in Stip. For two summers he participated in the work actions in New Belgrade and the highway Belgrade – Zagreb, where he received appreciations.
Then he enrolled at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade. After graduation in 1955, he worked as a professor of art and art history at the High School and at the Teachers’ School in Stip.
According to the assessment of the auditor, the famous artist Borko Lazeski, he was “one of the most capable teachers in Macedonia.”
Due to its highly developed activities outside school, the Shtip gymnasium was named the best High School in Macedonia. One of the students’ school activities was the publication of the school newspaper “Uchenichen glas” [“Children’s voice”], which in its time was quite successful and in many ways unique.
His students talk about him with joy, and describе him as a highly moral person. Even then, Father Gavril was seen with a beard and with a very quiet approach to everyone. “Everything he taught as a professor, he wanted everyone to know. What he wanted to hear from us, he had it written on a separate sheet of paper, for each student, so we could understand and remember.
In the spring days, we, his students, were negotiating to have a class in nature. We strived constantly to go out. He had never refused us. He always strived for us to be outside, not just to sit in the classroom, because outside, we have plenty of things to see, draw and learn”
Besides working in the school as a teacher, Bishop Gavril, along with his father Methodius (later monk Cyril) worked as a sculptor. Their wonderful exhibits can be found throughout the park in Shtip and its surroundings.He has contributed to a better aesthetic look of his hometown, for which he has got accolades from the president of the municipality, as well as from many others.
Several monuments made by the hands of Father Gavril have been preserved. Unfortunately, because of lack of maintenance, many of his works have disappeared, such as “The boy with the flute”, “The man who thinks” (this monument was located near the site where the first church dedicated to Holy Bishop Gavril Velichki, is now being built), and only pictures and memories of his art remain being kept by Shtip’s elders.
As long as his father, Methodius, was alive, the sculptures were maintained and kept in a good condition. Shtip’s famous artist Todor Maksimov tells about the works of Mijalce Parnadziev, that they are real masterpieces. This same Todor, later often visited him in the Lesnovo monastery. But during those visits Father Gavril showed no interest in sculpture, as he entirely dedicated himself to monastic life. Since he fully devoted to God through the practice of monasticism which means absolute repentance (metanoia) and humility, father Gavril rarely talked about art, although he was an academic painter and sculptor with а great knowledge of this subject. He stopped doing artistic work, and completely denying himself, he stopped his interest in art altogether. That inner urge for art, which for an artist is unthinkable and too difficult and painful to control, father Gavril managed to keep under control. Thus he showed how much he loved God and how strong his character was.
As a proven and tested teacher, he was proposed to be a Professor at the Pedagogical Academy in Shtip, but when the Academy commenced with work in 1960, he moved to live in Skopje. And there, he had also proven himself to be a quite successful freelance artist.
For the duration of his studies and his pedagogical activity, he stayed abroad twice. First as a student in the second year, he went for a scientific visit to Paris, and then (1959), with a group of educators, he was at the global art exhibition in Brussels.
Mijalce or later father Gavril, was always quiet and withdrawn, but also advanced and modern. Moreover, he didn’t trail behind his peers, he was even a step forward in many ways, for example he was the first owner of the famous car Ficho in Shtip.
While in the world, he had a daily habit to attend religious services in the church of St. Nicholas in Shtip. His life was monastic in everything, even before he became a monk. In his home he was constantly in his room, reading, praying and living for God. And when guests were visiting his home, he would greet them with manners and courtesy, and then retreat to his room. He considered virginity a major sanctity. At that time, although he lived in the strictest communism and atheism, with a programmed persecution of the Church, he didn’t give up on God. He was even instructing his students in the faith. For Easter, he would give each child a red Easter egg and tell them: Children, eat the eggs, smash the shell and scatter it through the city, so everyone can see that Christ is Risen!
On Mount Athos
In 1963 he leaves the world and his world service and goes with his whole life to serve God alone. He goes to Mount Athos.
His struggle to get alone on foot from Thessaloniki to Athos, expresses his zeal and desire, to give his entire life to Christ. After three days and three nights walking, he reached Mount Athos. Therefore he received a blessing to stay, right from the abbess of Mount Athos – the most holy Theotokos. It is said that when he arrived to the monastic state, he got to the shore of the White Sea, and he wanted to wash himself. At that moment he saw a woman who was meekly looking at him. After some time the woman went away just the way she came. He reconsidered and concluded that it was the most holy Theotokos, because on Mount Athos an access for a women is strictly prohibited. This further encouraged him in his efforts.
Just because he was Macedonian, during his stay at Mount Athos he was constantly facing political problems with the authorities, but God guarded him throughout that time.
Greeks, who are known to be inconsistent, promised him that whenever he wanted to go to Mount Athos, he could do that without any restriction. They told him, he could stay in the Serbian monastery of Hilandar, which enjoys the status of an autonomous Serbian territory under the wing of the Holy Mountain. He believed them, and he stayed there. But later, things changed.
Two such events are mentioned, when in two different occasions they wanted to expel him from Mount Athos. In one case, he entered a cave, where a spider knitted cobwebs so great that the pursuers were not able to see him, and in the other case, it was snakes that protected him.
Determined to take up a bold struggle, he decided to stay in the garden of the Mother of God, even without the permission from the official authorities. He left the whole matter and put it into the hands of God. So he lived in the desert and settled in a cave, and often he lived outdoors.
They openly expressed doubt that he was sent there by Bishop Dositej (later the first Archbishop of the restored MOC) to form a Macedonian monastery, as all Orthodox countries have their monasteries on Mount Athos. There he was received just as their brother and as an honest Orthodox believer. That attitude of theirs was a sign to other Slavic monasteries to never accept him officially in their fraternities. Thus, Bishop Gavril was free to go wherever he wanted to go and he was cordially received, but only as an honored guest.
Thus, he visited all the monasteries on Mount Athos, and his longest stay was in the Russian skete “Kamena”. There he struggled ascetically in a cave hermitage as a novice to the 84-year-old Russian monk, Father Tatjan Ivanov, who later became his spiritual father and elder and to whom he was perfectly obedient.
However, the old man was quite ill so father Gavril had to take him to the hospital in the main monastery of “St. Panteleimon”. There, in the monastery hospital, after about two months, the elder fell asleep in the Lord, and the monk Gavril inherited his hermitage.In the beginning, for the management of the hermitage, he got a great material aid, oil lamps, incense, etc., procured from the Russian monastery, then help came from the Serbian and the Bulgarian monasteries and also from the Greek convents “Monoksilit” and “St. Nicholas”. In all the monasteries, where he attended the church services, he was accepted as a true Christian.
Following the example of the great ascetics such as saint Anthony, saint Arseny, saint Pambo, he held that the approaching to God can best be realized through the distancing from people and therefore he didn’t nurture close relationships with anyone in particular. Throughout his entire stay on Athos, Father Gavril avoided contact with people.
For Liturgy and Communion he often went to the monasteries of Hilandar and St. Paul, where due to his vigorously quiet character, he won the title “the invisible”. They didn’t see his arrivals, nor his departs, they could only see him when he approached to partake in the Holy and salvific lifegiving mysteries of Christ.
The Greek monastery of “St. Paul” gave him a written guarantee, while the Ministry of Greece complied with some other laws other than the law of human brotherhood. In the same monastery, he become a monk, named Gavril, after the great heavenly general and archangel Gabriel.
After one energetic request of his – either to be given the document “elinopistos” – Greek citizenship requirement for staying forever on Mount Athos, or to return to Macedonia, the authorities, convinced that he was not their friend, definitely refused to approve his request so he had to return to his homeland.
Nobody knows his ascesis on Mount Athos, his spiritual struggle before God remained secret for the people, so we can only assume how eager he was, knowing his life after he returned to Macedonia in 1971.
In his native Macedonia
When he returned from Mount Athos in 1971, seeking peace to be able to constantly pray to God, he changed several monasteries: Holy Virgin – Matka, Our Lady – Pobozhje, St. Dimitrij – Markov Monastery, Holy Transfiguration – Zrze, and in 1975 he permanently settled in the monastery of St. Gavril of Lesnovo in Lesnovo – Bregalnica diocese, at that time Zletovo – Strumica diocese. There he used to withdraw from the monastery for days and dwell for some time in the two nearby caves where St. Gavril of Lesnovo, his predecessor, also has spent his ascetic life.
In the monastery of Matka, his father (who got the name Kiril when he became a monk) joined his ascetic life. Thus, the parent became a disciple of his own son, while the son, as an experienced spiritual father, calmly guided his father.
His father too, was a monk with a zeal and a powerful prayer. Once, Father Cyril prayed at the church for people who, tricked by the devil, came there, sent by mediums. Father Cyril tearfully prayed for them, that God may forgive their sin, “Lord, forgive to all who have sinned today. Out of ignorance and simplicity, they go there and they are being lied. They do not know, Lord, forgive them”. He prayed for everyone, and the prayer sent by this righteous man, was pleasing to our Most Holy Lady, that suddenly from her most pure image a great light came out, and shone throughout the Monastery, in a form of flame from the icon of the Mother of God. Father Kiril fell to his knees and began to rejoice and cry like a little child. This light shone tree times.
While they were in the monastery of Matka the following temptation happened to them. Early in the morning, around 2 o’clock after midnight, according to Mount Athos custom, father Gavrill and father Kiril were serving the holy service in the church.
After prayerful work, when they came out of the church, the police came to expel them from the monastery. Officers insisted that the fathers should leave the monastery: “Get out of the monastery, quickly gather your belongings and get going.” Father Gavril stood there with the prayer rope in his hands, silent with his head bowed, praying. One of the policemen knocked father Kiril, he fell on the ground, and shed a tear. Father Gavril was silent and he was still praying. Then the police left with a threat that they would come again the next day.
However, that night it snowed so much, that the whole city of Skopje was blocked and no one could go to work nor could the children go to school. Everybody was assisting in the cleaning the snow from the streets. Then Father Cyril told Father Gavril: “Gavril, you see, my tears didn’t fall in vain. Let them come now and persecute us.” Father Gavril again didn’t say anything. And it all happened as a revenge of some big officials, because he forbade them to do whatever they wanted to.
One of the greatest ascetics
For father Gavril we can freely say that he was one of the greatest ascetics of today. He never gave a rest to his body. In fact, he almost never slept, and when he was sleeping, he was always lying on the ground or on hard mat. He had only one blanket, embroidered with crosses. When he returned from Mount Athos, he was very thin, and he was wearing and old robe. He didn’t pay attention to his appearance. He didn’t bathe, and he almost never washed his clothes, except when it was raining, he used the rainwater for washing. Despite that, he never had an unpleasant smell, but instead a fragrance of incense and basil was spreading from him, and people were glad to stand beside Father Gavril.
When he would catch a flea, he didn’t kill it. He would release it in the nature, saying: “May every breathing creature praise the Lord”, even though his whole body was wounded by flea bites. For his struggle to be even greater, so as ”to be constantly reminded of the Lord, and to be thankful to Him, on his pants and monks belt, which he was wearing all the time, and at the bottom of his shoes, he sewed tiny stones. Only after his death, it was found out about this struggle of his.
He held the strictest fast. He almost didn’t eat anything except for dry bread, olives and tea. One prosphora was enough for the whole week. He never ate oil, except on Saturdays and Sunday mornings and on the major feast days, just to not violate the rule of fasting, he would dip his finger in the oil lamp, and then lick it. He held the entire Lent without eating and drinking.
He advised that if someone wants to hold the entire Lent without eating and drinking, they should reduce their daily movement and keep beside them a piece of bread and water in case they fell ill. “And not in any way, for 40 days, only 39. We are not worthy to be like our Lord Jesus Christ, who fasted for 40 days.” Be mindful to this, so that you won’t accidentally feel proud, and then lose your soul.
He didn’t use any heating or light. Even after his death, people found out that there was electricity in the church. When it was too cold, he personally covered everyone’s legs, with blankets, to get them as warm as possible, but he didn’t cover his.
The current bishop of Strumica father Naum tells about his first visit to the monastery of Lesnovo, during the Epiphany period. When he came, he was immediately given the task to read: Read-he told him, without asking him if he knew Church- Slavonic. Through humble obedience, God makes miracles, and he began to read fluently in Church-Slavonic. Bishop Naum, remembering those days says:” It was so cold, that when I would stand on the pulpit, previously I had to rub the fingers, and put them in between the candles, because eventually in time, they would quickly freeze and you couldn’t move them so you have to turn the pages of the book with the entire hand. After the service, all frozen, I was heading to the heated stove in the monastic cells, trying to “defrost”.
Hesychast and friend of angels
Despite the strict fast and being very thin, he possessed a great vitality and energy. Because he didn’t want to drive a car, he was usually walking. He walked very fast. He used to walk from the monastery to Probishtip, to Zletovo, and even to Shtip, which is 40 km away from Lesnovo.
It is said that angels were helping him to overcome these distances more easily. In one case, a priest from Strumica met him down in Zletovo and offered him a drive to spare him climbing on foot.
Certainly, Father Gavril refused the offer, and went walking through the wood. The priest was astonished when he arrived at the monastery, because Father Gavril was already there, greeting him at the gates.
He regularly served all services at the monastery. He knew by heart the whole Psalter, and most of the antiphons and Feasts verses, constantly endeavoring in the struggle of the mind-and-heart prayer.
Silence and solitude were his constant co-journers, therefore he often used the two nearby caves. And there’s one great story from Mount Athos. Near the cave where he struggled, there was a meadow. One day, horses played on the meadow, and they were loud and they were disturbing him in his prayer. He couldn’t bear this, so he got out and chased the horses out of there. When he returned, he saw a snake in the cave. He said to himself: “Good on you, Gavril. The horses were bothering you, now the Lord has sent you a snake. Don’t get rid of it, leave it, you’ll have to live with it.”
Even during his stay at the monastery, you couldn’t hear any idle talk from his mouth, but only advices for the path of salvation. When a large group of people would come, quietly and unnoticeably he would leave them, walking away from people’s uproar and empty talks.
Sagacious and miracle-worker
From God he got the gift of sagaciousness and wonderworking. To a lot of people, who came to the monastery for the first time, he knew their names, and even the origin, as was the case with a visitor who was a royal descent, and wanted to remain anonymous. Father Gavril through the gift of insight spotted that and he honored her as a Duchess.
Then there was this man who said that in his youth he was facing the questions he couldn’t answer, so he came to father Gavril for spiritual advice. Turned with his back, without looking at him, the father told him both his questions and his answers. The boy was so bewildered, that he was checking the questions he had written on paper personally, couple of times. There are numerous testimonies about the holiness of his life and his thirst for God.
Bishop Gavril was honored even during his lifetime as a bearer of the Holy Spirit and witness of God’s love. Despite the many gifts that he possessed, the Allsweet God gave him the gift of performing miracles and healing prayer.
He had a great faith and love for God, so whatever he would ask from God, he would receive it immediately. There are numerous examples of his miraculous prayer. Below we will mention some of them.
The grandson of one of his spiritual children, was very sick and facing a difficult operation and the doctors couldn’t guarantee that he would survive. In those difficult moments of sorrow, the spiritual child forgot about her spiritual father, and one day before the operation, while in extreme delirium, she was enlightened by a thought to go to her grandpa Gavril (as many called him). She went immediately, and at the gates of the monastery she was welcomed by father Gavril with the words: ”Go home, your grandson is healthy. And when she returned home, she was told about the miraculous healing, to which the doctors were at most surprised.
A boy, called Georgi, from a village of Strumica, couldn’t speak and his parents often took him to father Gavril, to pray for him. Once during the evening vespers he took him to the church and he read some prayers to him. The following day, Father Gavril served Holy Liturgy, and for the whole time he prayed for the child. After the boy partook in the communion and the Liturgy ended, he raised his hands up and spoke: “Mom!” All the people present in the church were amazed and rejoiced. They gave glory to God, Who makes wonders through His servants. The Venerable was very gracious and human-loving with his fellowmen. Once, one family came running and in panic, because a car has struck their son. Then Father Gavril entered the church, immediately began to pray and he remained inside for a long time. When he went out, he said: “Go, the child will be healthy and alive at home. But this happened because you worked on Sunday. Watch out for Sundays and the liturgy. Have you worked today? “Then they answered:” We worked, we worked … “” From now on you’re not going to work on Sunday,” the father replied.
For a long time, there was no rain in Lesnovo and the villagers came to Father Gavril to ask him to pray to God, to send them rain. “Come, let’s all pray to God …” and in the middle of the prayer, miraculously and joyfully for all, it began to rain. The villagers started thanking him for the prayers, and Father Gavril addressed them modestly with the words: “Never attribute the miracles on yourself … It’s not me … The monastery is miraculous and holy, and those who come receive a healing here!”
There are other such cases associated with this God-pleaser. As well as examples of testimonies of his prayers for childless parents, to whom God later gave children. There are also known cases of his prophecies, that were later realized.
Misunderstandings with the atheists
Because he lived in times of atheism, he was often exposed to temptations and disdain from worldly people, who did not respect the sanctity of the Orthodox Faith and monasteries. Thus, once an educational worker wanted to organize a worldly concert in the monastery, with what Father Gavril disagreed. Despite his most polite plea, she remained persistent in her intention. He withdrew, and went to pray. Just when they set the stage and the show began, suddenly a cloud appeared and a lot of rain poured out, and they all ran away.
On another occasion, a group of soldiers arrived in his monastery. Then he locked himself in his cell and for a whole week while they were there, he did not come out, remaining in the silence of the unceasing mind-and-heart Jesus prayer. They wondered where the “oldie” was, and what was going on with him, but he did not come out of the cell for a whole week. They even knocked on the door to see if he was alive. And many other similar examples in which he dutifully fought for the faith, despite the frequent controversies with them about faith and Godly life.
Renewal of the Lesnovo monastery
During time, the monastery in Lesnovo became a hive for all the God-seeking people at that time. People from a wide variety of profiles, professions and age were coming, from all over the country and from abroad.
Father Gavril became a beloved spiritual father to many who were seeking God. He taught them all in meekness, love, long-suffering, self-sacrifice, zeal for God, faith, prayer …
Father Gavril was a worthy builder. He raised the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Probishtip, which is the first and only church in the city. He also took up the renovation of the destroyed old monastic cells in the monastery. His biggest desire was to see the cells renovated, he liked talking about that, clearly rejoicing. He was fully committed to the renovation of the monastic cells.
Because it was an atheist time, some people knew to underestimate and mock the Father, and to delay things for him. Because of this, he often had to go personally to the Maleshevia district and negotiate, and even to stay there overnight. In one such case, it was winter and very cold. He came to the factory, and no one was there. A football match was on, and everyone was in the room where the TV set was. Because he was not interested in the match, he had to wait for them in the workshop. It was quite cold there and suddenly the fire in the stove just lit up, and the fire was so strong, that when the workers returned they praised him that he remembered to light the fire up, to warm the room. But he knew that the fire was not lit from him, and the Lord gave it to him as a comfort. The people still tell the case, when he asked a company to make window shutters for the monastery. The firm told him that they had too many problems due to the dry season and that the window shutters were not their priority. He told them that if they put the window shutters, the heavy rain would fall. That’s how it happened. Just when they put the shutters, heavy rain started falling.
When he started working around the monastery, he had no money. But the Lord himself was sending people to donate and help, and He even made miracles, to help him. It is said that, while he was constantly spending money on materials, his account at the bank did not decrease, on the contrary, the money on his account was increasing. How that happened, only Lord knows.
A respectable spiritual father and a holy father
He had a great love for the faithful people. He often collected people for the great feast days and held all night vigils. Once on such a vigil, the dome of the monastery began to shake a lot. Everyone was scared and thought that there was a storm outside. He knew what was that, he just embraced them, encouraging them not to be afraid, that is a temptation and it will pass.
He was strict to himself, and gentle toward others. He taught them all in meekness, love, long-suffering, self-sacrifice, zeal for God, faith, prayer. He taught them how they should behave as Christians in the society and to preach Christ with dignity, through their behavior, dress, speech and deeds. He encouraged the young people to study and complete higher schools.
He taught the families in an Orthodox spirit and how to raise their children. He advised the older people to go to church more often and to bring their grandchildren with them. He was doing everything according to the words of St. Ap. Paul: “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some of them“. He had a great heart and loved them all, and to himself he was strict, in every respect.
The doors of his monastery were wide open to any well-intentioned visitor.
Every visitor, who regularly attended services of worship in the monastery, was obliged to take upon them a task (diakonima).
He was particularly strict about attending the services of worship. He also gave everyone the opportunity to actively participate in them. There were also cases when all the keys and responsibilities for the monastery he would entrust to someone whom he was seeing for the first time. Such an openness from him, for those people was a turning point in their life, so the faith in God and man was growing in them.
Father Gavril with his God-pleasing ascetic life, illuminated as a bright, luminous star in the darkness of the communist delusion. His holy life contributed that a lot of communists began to respect and love him, seeing in him something holy and pure, something which is not from this world.
There is a great number of testimonies about the holiness of his life and his thirst for God. He was seen all in flame and lifted from the ground. Once a men who knew him well, said;” I have not seen a men who loves God so much’.”
His veneration was respected outside our Church too. Before he came to Mount Athos, the Serbs wanted to make him a bishop of their national church (SOC). He had close relations with father Emilian of Simonopetra, who was, at that time, the abbot of the Meteora, and wanted to keep Father Gavril as an abbot of one of Meterora monasteries, and later, they asked him to be the abbot of the skete of St. Chariton the Confessor in Jerusalem.
A tireless worker and literary creator
In addition to all his struggles and responsibilities, he studied and graduated at the Theological Faculty in Skopje (among the first ones). He wrote books and essays in several church newsletters. Apart from his artistic reviews, he is also the author of the collection of poetry “33 Songs for Jerusalem”, “Holy Mountain – Heavenly Land” (1978), “Before the Greatest Jubilee of Man” (1980), “The 2000th anniversary of Christianity is on the threshold “(1981). Both posthumously published works “Rules and Provisions of the Orthodox Church on Fasting” (1994) and “Father Cherubim” (1998). In his pastoral and spiritual activities, he had three goals: – Reconstruction of the Lesnovo Monastery;- Recovery of monasticism;- Celebration of the jubilee- 2000 years of Christianity.
Promotions, Ordaining and Last Days
In 1981, From the Synod of MPC he was promoted to the archimandrite rank on August 28th, on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, and in 1989, he was ordained the rank of a bishop with the title Velichki.
On August 28, 1989 Archimandrite Gavril Parnadjiev was ordained the vicar Bishop of Archbishop Gavril with the title bishop Velichki. The ordaining occurred on the previous day on August 27, and the ordination itself was on the day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, Whom he respected very much.
Although he personally did not want to, he received, out of humility and obedience, a ordination for Bishop in his monastery.
His tears flowed on their own, which also inspired tears in all peopele eyes present in the Church. The grace of the Holy Spirit filled the whole church.
Tears flowed from his big eyes. Tears moved by deep humbleness, that he was not worthy to bear this supreme rank and out of gratitude for God’s immense love and mercy.
But they were also another kind of tears. He knew that he would soon leave all those who had come to rejoice over him and that he would leave them as orphans. But he also wanted to leave, because for a period of time he was preparing for Jerusalem, as he used to call the Kingdom of God. He really liked the earthly Jerusalem, but now he was heading not to the earthly Jerusalem, but to the heavenly one.
Once, when one of his spiritual children came for a visit, she had found him alone in the room with a ready-made coffin, which was hidden under the blanket. When she found the coffin, she asked him where he was getting ready for!? He told her that he would travel to Jerusalem and that he would not return.
On the day of his Ordaining, after the Liturgy, while others were preparing to perpetuate this holy event with a joint photography, Father Gavril stayed in the church and for half an hour he could not hold his tears. To the few who remained with him, he said, “You came to my burial”, after which they rebuffed him not to speak that way for that day was a joyful day for everyone.
“No, no, today you’ve came to my burial,” were the words of Father Gavril.
A special gift from God is when we know the day of our death. It is given only to the great and few righteous men, as St. Gavril Velichki was. He foresaw his near death and served forty Liturgies himself. On the day of his death, he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. He was telling that the angels were singing at his last Liturgies.
He was a very economical man. How much an average Macedonian would spend in a month, and an Australian in a week, father Gavril would spend the same amount in a year.
On that day, people wondered when they saw him preparing bags of beans and everything else that was needed to make lunch for his burial, without telling anyone anything. He just left a message on a piece of paper that said “prepare the meal without oil”. He made his grave himself. It was an ordinary flat plate and plain cross-cut stone.
On 12th of January, he peacefully gave his soul into God’s hands, while praying. He had his gospel, that he read constantly, and the cross on his chest and the praying rope in his hand.
They found him dead after a while, and he was already stiff, they had to rub his knees to straighten his legs, to lay him in his coffin. At his funeral there were several bishops and numerous clergy. He was buried behind the altar part of the monastery beside his bodily father and spiritual son, monk Kiril.
The tireless pastoral labor, put a mark on his weak body, but it was not in vain. The meeting of many souls, who wandered and suffered in this world, with his spiritual books was decisive. And how much more you can talk about personal encounters with him! Among many of his spiritual children there are also those whom he introduced into the faith, proclaimed them with the gospel truths, and prepared them for Holy Baptism.
There are also those that he has pulled out of the mud of sin and vices. Some of them joined the Holy Orthodox Church. Others were sent to the lofty monastic road.
He had fallen asleep in the Lord, but he did not really leave his spiritual children. After him leaving to Upper Jerusalem, he appeared to many in their dreams, and to one of his spiritual children, who began rapidly to lose his sight, he appeared in a dream, cured him, and directed him to the church of Ascension of Christ in Shtip. In the home of one of his spiritual children, from his photography, which he gave to her while he was alive, a holy myrrh began to flow.
And to this day, there are also miracles on his grave, from where a pleasant fragrance is felt through the air, and the villagers say that after his repose in the Lord, on his grave, they saw light as a pillar of fire.
His holy, ascetic and most suffering life, the purity of faith, as well as the numerous miracles, during his life, and even after his death, is a sure sign that he is received in the saints’ settlements. There, in front of the throne of God, he prays for his spiritual children, for the faithful people of our Holy Macedonian Orthodox Church, as well as for all who are calling upon him with faith.
In the new churches of R. Macedonia almost everywhere, frescoes and icons of his holy image are painted, and his miracles are recorded.
His official life story, service, akathist are composed and his day of celebration is the day of his repose, January 12. After his holy relics were removed from the tomb in the Lesnovo Monastery, they were prepared for his official canonization which happened on 28 May 2017 in the church od St Nicolas in his native city Shtip. Now his holiness is officially recognized and his name is included in the diptych of the saints.
Through his holy prayers, God have mercy on us and save us. Amen
Through the prayers of our holy father Gavrill from Mount Athos, bishop of Velica, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us! Amen
Troparion, Ch. 8
Having the world’s glory, you have left the world.And on the way to Mount Athos, you received an abbots blessing from the Virgin Mary.
With fasting, vigil and prayer, you kept the chastity, God-fearing Gavril.
Pray now to Christ, our God, to multiply the monasticism,
To protect our Church and to save the world.
Father Gavril (Galev)