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May 12, 2012

In the Bible we read how St. Paul had it difficult with the Cretans. It is written in Scriptures that even a Cretan prophet, one of their own, said about the Cretans, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons and in Philippians 3:19 their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. In Titus 1:5 it states that the reason I (Paul) left you (Titus) in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. In the past, Paul was sending apostles to appoint elders, so that they may preach. We, on a very small scale with the help of God, create prayer groups in every new place Vassula goes. What was said in the past about Cretans cannot be attested to today. After all these years, Cretans are not like they were in the past. They are lovely people, most hospitable and kind. They still love to eat, but if you are with them, and they treat you to fresh fish, calamari and their specialties, you cannot remain uninterested in their offerings!

So this was the island that Vassula was called to give her testimony twice. Her first visit there was very successful and a good quantity of Cretans gathered to hear her. We were so very happy to see young people among the crowd. Vassula admitted that she was rather surprised how there was silence in the hall, compared to the experiences she had in Athens, where there would be someone with bad intentions in attendance to ruin the her witness talk with noise and shouting,  opposing all that Vassula had been saying.  The person who raises animosity is usually trying to raise people’s skepticism so as to support his/her view and create havoc.  Some of her meetings even ended with people knocking each other in fist fights. Those who opposed Vassula fought those who defended her, saying they did not want to lose the blessings that fell upon them while the opposite party was shouting out “heresy!” Obviously, this resistance is a means of opposing the openness of the Spirit who is free to call anyone He pleases. For some strong-minded Greeks, this freedom of the Spirit is very difficult to understand.

However, even though there was no havoc during her talk, the following day, the Church of Crete did not remain silent, but wrote a negative article against her in the local newspaper.  Again, as a background and for the sake of a clearer understanding of their reaction to Vassula, before we continue this report, let us look back a bit at the history of Crete.

The earliest references to Christianity in Crete are found in the Bible.  We read in Acts 2: 1-41 that Cretan Jews were amongst those in Jerusalem who were converted to Christianity at Pentecost.  We also read in Acts 27: 11-22 that, after he had completed three missionary journeys, Paul stopped briefly in Crete while being taken as a prisoner to Rome.  It was from Crete that his shipwreck voyage occurred.

Evidence of a Christian community on the island itself is found in Paul’s letter to Titus. Titus was left on the island around AD57 to organize the church and appoint elders.  The letter warns of false teachings, which could undermine the fledgling church and so consequently Paul had to furthermore give instructions to Titus about whom to appoint as elders.

The sizeable Jewish population in Crete at that time, which probably formed most of the early church, was of particular significance for the history of Christianity on the island, influencing the development of a church tradition and culture.  Records, mainly in the form of writings of the early bishops, suggest that the early church in Crete saw steady growth from the second century until the Arab conquest in the ninth century. 

Crete fell under the influence of the eastern world when in 732-3 it was removed from direct papal authority and brought within the see of Constantinople.

The subsequent history of the church in Crete was influenced by the many invasions and conquests the islanders saw right up until modern times.

In the ninth century, the Saracen conquest led to the suppression of Christianity and the destruction of many churches.  Crete was separated from the main body of the Church of Constantinople for about 135 years and plunged into darkness. In 961, the Byzantine Empire regained Crete and there was a second Byzantine era, which lasted until 1204.  Chandax (Chania?) became the political and religious center and the seat of the church in Crete.

This prominence came to an end following the sacking of Constantinople in the fourth Crusade, in 1204.  Venice acquired Crete by purchase in 1207, as part of her share in the partition of the Byzantine Empire.  During the Venetian occupation which lasted until 1669, the ecclesiastical situation in Crete changed once more.  The Venetians sent away the Orthodox prelates of the island, re-organized the church according to the Latin model and sought to convert the orthodox Cretan people to Roman Catholicism. However, the Venetian occupation was unpopular and the people resisted. The Venetians strictly prohibited the presence of orthodox priests in Crete, but the numerous orthodox monasteries of Crete maintained the Byzantine tradition and orthodox religion during the occupation. Today Orthodoxy rules the island.  

Now after putting this history into perspective, Vassula, who reflected upon the response she received from the Cretans said: “I won’t leave Crete with a stain on the Messages”, (meaning what the newspaper said.) “So, prepare yourselves for my next visit here.” Two weeks passed by after Vassula’s first witnessing talk in Rethymnon on March 31st 2012.  Despite the negative feedback, there were some Cretans who were eager to have Vassula back, but this time in another place by the name of Chania. The Holy Spirit must have made Vassula understand that she should not delay, but return back to Crete.

Not long after our return to our homes, we received a surprise e-mail from Vassula, informing us that she will not give up on Crete, and that “God wants to show His Mercy and Love to them.”

We chose Chania. It is quite a big city and very picturesque, where tourists from abroad love to spend their holidays. It is approximately 56 kilometers away from Rethymnon. We praised the Lord for insisting on Crete and so with great joy we began to work at once. We had invitations printed and filled a car with books and videotapes to take to Chania. Vassula had advised us to ensure that we distributed fliers were to the young people, which we did. The date was set for May 12th, and arrangements were made for the speech to take place at Akali hotel in the center of Chania. The week before the event, Theresa visited the venue to take care of every detail concerning seating arrangements and videotaping.

In addition to fliers, our Good Lord opened a wide door to us so as to have Vassula’s speech advertised on TV. Shortly before Vassula’s visit to Rethymnon, God had led us to a small TV station broadcasting over the Chania and Rethymnon area. The owner agreed to include in the station’s daily program half-hour recordings of Vassula talking on various subjects, including her guardian angel and the three persons of the Holy Trinity, all day long. The time and place of Vassula’s speech was also advertised. Many of the seventy people, who attended Vassula’s speech in the past, watched her on television and came to the meeting because they wanted to learn more about the TLIG messages.

The weather was on our side, and Vassula flew from Rhodes to Chania on Friday, May 11th accompanied by Chara. Some from the Athenian TLIG prayer group flew in from Athens to join us later, as this was a great opportunity for spiritual refreshment.

In the morning of the following day, Saturday May 12th, Vassula spoke to us about the invisible monks (called the wanderers), and how they indicate their presence in miraculous ways. Then we walked to the marketplace and distributed fliers to passers-by and to those in the stores. The bright blue sky, the picturesque “old town” of Chania and the relaxed atmosphere in the traditional harbor all added to our joy.

At seven o’clock in the evening, it was time for Vassula’s speech to begin. The place was beautifully lit with old-fashioned chandeliers, and, as always, icons of Jesus Christ and Our Lady were positioned on either side. As the crowd was new to the Messages, Vassula began by relating how her guardian angel had approached her while she was still living in Bangladesh, and how God had initially made her see her sins with His own eyes. She emphasized the importance of confession: if we do not confess our sins, they are stored until we can no longer distinguish between good and evil. She compared each person to a glass. When a glass is full of sins to the brim, then no room is left for the Holy Spirit to reside in us; but if we confess our sins, the glass becomes empty again, so that the Holy Spirit can fill it.

Vassula went on to say that we should not look upon God as a strict judge who wants to punish us. Having experienced God, she reassured us that He is all sweetness, tenderness, and kindness. He is alive and wishes to speak to us; we should not experience God’s presence as simply words printed on paper. God refers to us as His “seed” and wishes to imprint His words on our heart. Vassula also narrated how God had instructed her to recite the “Our Father”, advising her to speak slowly and feel every single word. Our prayers are more likely to reach God if we develop a deep sense of His presence, instead of reciting words mechanically.

Vassula spoke about God to the people: of His Mercy and Love.  She spoke for about two hours, captivating the hearts and the attention of the audience with God’s messages. Towards the end of the speech, she asked them if they felt tired, but they all replied that they wanted to listen to more. We were glad again to see that there were a large number of young people, and that they listened attentively. After Vassula’s speech had been completed, people who had watched Vassula talk about her guardian angel on TV asked her questions about angels. One young man wanted to know whether people who have not been baptized have a guardian angel. Vassula replied that everyone has a guardian angel, whether they are baptized or not, because God loves all of us and does not discriminate between people.

The next day, we said our goodbyes to Vassula who was flying back to Rhodes with Chara. The rest of us flew back to Athens. Before departing, Vassula told us that she will be similar to a hammer, pounding, knocking, ceaselessly on the barrier that the opposition has set, until it shatters.  That is, if it is in the Will of God. She plans to return to the Cretans and this time present the TLIG messages in Heraklion and Lassithi, thus spreading God’s message to all four prefectures of the island of Crete.


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