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A copy of the original portrait of Elder Ephraim of Arizona (+2019), painted at Pantanassa Monastery, mounted on Timber and surrounded with a beautiful moulded frame.

Elder Ephraim (born Ioannis Moraitis) was born in Volos on June 24, 1927. He spent his childhood in poverty helping his father with his work, but he always followed the example of his mother (who later became a nun with the name “Theophano”).

At the age of 14, he decided to follow a monastic path, but his spiritual father did not give him the blessing to go to Mount Athos until he was 19 years old. Upon his arrival at Mount Athos on September 26, 1947, he went straight to Elder Joseph the Hesychast at the skete of Saint John the Forerunner, who accepted him into his brotherhood. Nine months later, in 1948, he received the name “Ephraim”. Elder Ephraim was subsequently ordained a deacon, and then a priest. The life in the brotherhood under Elder Joseph was very austere and ascetical, and Elder Ephraim made great spiritual progress under his holy Elder.

After Elder Joseph’s repose in 1959, Elder Ephraim continued to live in asceticism for many years until he became the abbot of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou in 1973, where he was able to revive the spiritual life in a short time. Due to the reputation of Elder Ephraim, the monastery’s brotherhood grew rapidly. Elder Ephraim was asked by the council of Mount Athos to revive and expand several other monasteries on Mount Athos which had a dwindling number of monks. These monasteries were Xeropotamou, Konstamonitou, and Karakallou. He was also asked to repopulate the Great Lavra but declined. In addition to these Athonite monasteries, Elder Ephraim also guided other monasteries, including the monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Serres, that of Panagia the Directress in Portaria (Volos), and that of the Archangel Michael, a formal metochion of Philotheou on the island of Thasos.

In 1979, Elder Ephraim became ill and needed a surgery. Then his spiritual children from Canada offered to do the surgery in Canada. The Elder agreed, the operation was successful. For more than a month Elder Ephraim stayed in America and met representatives of the Greek community. He got to know that the spiritual life in the Greek circles have been disrupted, people stayed for a long time without confession and with grave sins, were taking Communion totally unprepared, did not keep the canons of the Church. They forget the pious Orthodox life, Greek national traditions and were accustomed to vicious life.

Elder Ephraim decided to go to America more and more often. He first visited Canada: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and then he was invited to the United States. After much prayer, it was revealed to him that his future was in America, for the spiritual care of his flock and the revival of spiritual life in the Greek communities of North America. Soon after Elder Ephraim began established monasteries throughout North America, always after receiving permission from each Greek bishop of the area. The first monastery that was established by Elder Ephraim was that of Nativity of the Mother of God in Pennsylvania, near the city of Pittsburgh. The main monastery has the name of St. Anthony the Great and is located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Here Archimandrite Ephraim resided most of the time. He arrived to the desert in 1995 with 5 monks. There was no electricity, no water, no building materials. But the Elder was not afraid of difficulties and urged the brethren not to despair and believe in God. He said: “We came to build the temple and the monastery and, for our diligence, God will bless our work”. Soon people began to donate money and materials, the main church was built in just 4 months. The whole territory was planted with olive and citrus gardens. In his life, Elder Ephraim founded seventeen monasteries in the United States and Canada for women and men alike, as well as a nursing home.

On December 7th, 2019, Elder Ephraim fell asleep in the Lord at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona.

Background: Saint Anthony Monastery (Arizona) and the right is the arizona desert

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