Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

Following the Holy Fathers: Timeless Guides of Authentic Christianity

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE!

Zisis_Fathers_Front_Cover_Final_2048x2048Author: Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis
Translator: Fr. John Palmer
Pages: 344  Binding: Sewn softcover

From the Introduction:

It must be clearly established in our minds that the Fathers of the Church, those wise and holy teachers of the Orthodox faith, are not the product of some by-gone age; they are not a thing of the past. This is greatly important since many contemporary Orthodox theologians, having fallen under the influence of non-Orthodox scholars, believe and teach that the mark of antiquity renders an ecclesiastical writer a Father of the Church; in other words, in order to be a Father one must have lived in some ancient era. Consequently, this view divides the Church’s indivisible history according to quality and spiritual depth; it treats the Church as if it were not Christ Himself extended unto the ages of ages, as if during particular eras – such as our own – it had ceased to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to produce saints, teachers and theologians. On the contrary, the Church continues on its course through history ever undiminished in quality, sanctifying through Christ its holy head and through the All-Holy Spirit, who remains eternally and continually within it…
—Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis 


From the Translator’s Introduction:
This book, then, represents a collection of valuable scholarship covering both a broad range of Patristic figures dating from apostolic times to the present day, as well as a wide variety of themes. Moreover, it paints a roughly representative picture of one of Greece’s most important modern Patristic scholars and effectively introduces him to the English-speaking world. Most importantly, though, this volume offers to show readers how an authentic Orthodox Patrologist relates to the lives, text, and teachings of the Holy Fathers.
—Rev. Dr. John Palmer

Rich enough in content to hold the interest of one who is theologically inclined but practical and approachable enough to be enjoyed by any reader.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

3.jpg

Below is an interview Olga Rozhneva (frequent contributor on pravloslavie.ru) conducted with a Russian monk at the Holy Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Arizona, Hierodeacon Seraphim. Originally in Russian, it was translated into English by Jesse Dominick and posted on Orthodox Christianity. A large portion is re-posted below; to read the full article click here

(Source—Fr. Seraphim, the providence of God is at work in the life of every man, but sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it clearly reveals itself in some kind of sign, remarkable encounters, or words. Did you have such signs—a clear manifestation of God’s providence for you in your life?

—You know, the Lord leads every man to Himself when the most opportune moment for him comes. I was born in Moscow. In childhood, like my peers, I was an Octobrist, Pioneer, and Young Communist. I graduated from the Moscow Aviation-Technological Institute with a diploma in mechanical engineering for aircraft engines. I started to get involved in various religious currents, but didn’t arrive at Orthodoxy.

In 1995 a professor of physics from Chicago, David Chesek, came to Moscow. He was a very good Catholic and wonderful family man with eight kids. He died two years ago. We got acquainted, having similar interests in physics, and he invited me to America to study and work. He helped me with my visa.

I was twenty-three and had the opportunity to travel to another country, live and study there, and receive some life experience. The Lord allowed me to do all of it.

Several American universities cooperate with various companies where the companies pay the universities for research. The university in Alabama, where I began to study, collaborated with automotive companies. They looked for students who would do research along with their studies, so they paid for my education and gave me a salary for work in the metal casting department. This was the most ideal option for me. I rented a small house from a family, studied for seven years and received my masters and doctorate. I was offered work at General Motors.

But the Lord already had other plans for me. In America I studied and worked, worked and studied, and was deprived of those human consolations I had in my homeland: interaction with my parents and relatives and friends. People who move to other countries lose these comforts they had at home.

Any Orthodox country is a country of collective communication. You know, you can just drop by a friend’s without calling, and you’ll drink some tea in the kitchen and have a heart-to-heart… But western countries are societies of individualists: “Hello,” “Goodbye.” There’s parties, but the conversation is very superficial. And no matter how well you speak English, you always feel that you’re from another culture.

Being without these human consolations, you begin to look for them in God. My mom, learning of my interest in faith, advised me to get baptized.

When the Lord wants to bring someone to Himself, He creates such circumstances, arranges meetings through which the man can begin to recognize Him. I made some Russian friends, and they turned out to be Baptists. I was always very curious, and here I wanted to immediately know: where is truth? After all, there can’t be several truths. I started to attend the catechumen courses at the Orthodox church and learned about Church history and doctrine. I compared and analyzed, and realized that the truth is in Orthodoxy. I received Holy Baptism.

My life changed dramatically. Prestigious work at General Motors didn’t entice me anymore. I didn’t want to stay with the university department—I had developed an interest in monasticism.

—And why did you choose the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great?

—Once my spiritual father, Archpriest Alexander Fekanin, the rector of the church of St. Symeon the New Theologian in Birmingham, advised me to go to St. Anthony’s Monastery. My first time there I was twenty-six. I met the founder of the monastery, Elder Ephraim—a spiritual child of Venerable Elder Joseph the Hesychast. I said to him in broken Greek: “Father, I want to become a monk,” and he blessed me.

I came here a few more times; I liked it, but I was confused: I wasn’t sure that I was supposed to stay in this monastery. I even wanted to return to Russia and enter seminary.

I had just graduated from my university in Alabama, and after my defense and all my work I felt tired, and my spiritual father blessed me to go on vacation to the west coast. California is a huge, beautiful state: mountains, the Grand Canyon, nature, monasteries… I went to St. Anthony’s and told the fathers that soon, after my vacation, I was going to Russia, and rented a car and drove to California.

I went to the convent of the Lifegiving Spring Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which Elder Ephraim had also founded, in 1993. There I met one mother, Schemanun Fevronia, who bore obedience in the guest house. We started talking, and I told her: “You know, I’m soon returning to Russia,” to which she replied: “You forget to add a phrase.” “What phrase, mother?” “If it’s God’s will”…

I spent three days there, and somehow Mother Fevronia, and she was a spiritually experienced person, began to talk with me about the monastic life. At the end of the conversation I felt like she wanted to tell me something, but she wasn’t saying it. It’s a sign of a spiritual person, to not enforce his point of view, but to wait until you ask. And if you ask, then he answers. That is, he speaks to those who are ready to listen.

I went to San Francisco and wrote a letter to St. John of Shanghai, requesting that he pray for me. Then I went to St. Anthony’s and immediately felt sure that it was “my” monastery. That’s how I wound up here.

You see, I prayed for several years, from the time I felt the pull of monastic life, that the Lord would teach me: to go to a monastery or not, and if so, which one. I prayed that the Lord would inform me about it in such a way that no doubts would remain about the correctness of my choice, and I received my answer at the most opportune moment—when I had graduated from college, when I was free to choose my path—that is, precisely when I needed it. There are many monastic testimonies that when they had chosen the monastic path in life, they couldn’t immediately leave for the monastery—some obstacles appeared for them. The Lord revealed it to me when it was most necessary, to secure my path.

It’s worth noting that when I would come to the monastery, being unprepared, I tried to meet with Elder Ephraim every time, but he didn’t want to receive me at all. And when I was finally ready to choose my path, the elder immediately received me. And moreover, he summoned me himself and instructed me.

elder2bephraim2bof2bphilotheou2bedited

—Could you tell us about the elder’s instructions?

—I told him I had been baptized as an adult, and he anxiously asked if I had been baptized by full immersion. It was obvious that it’s important to him. When I answered affirmatively he began to smile and joked about me being tall: “And where did they find some a large font?”

He gave me a few pieces of advice for beginning the monastic life. Perhaps they’ll be useful for your readers, because they can be applied to monks or to laypeople. The elder stressed the importance of preserving your conscience everywhere: at work, during our obediences. He advised me to keep that initial zeal with the help of obedience to a spiritual father and unceasing prayer. He said that ascetics have three enemies: the world, the evil one, and our own selves—our passionate nature.

He emphasized that, taking care for our salvation, we mustn’t waste time doing nothing. He gave the example of one nun (I suspect he was talking about his mother, Nun Theophano). When this nun would hear the chiming on the hour, she would say to herself: “Another hour has passed, and I’m another hour closer to death.” Thus she kept the memory of death, helping her to never forget the salvation of her soul.

In September 2002 I arrived at the monastery and became a worker, working in the kitchen. After four months the elder blessed me with the novice’s cassock and gave me an obedience in the bookstore: book orders, receive pilgrims. I speak in English and Greek, so I can also answer phone calls and take care of the mail. In 2012 I received the monastic tonsure and in January 2015 I was ordained a hierodeacon. Perhaps, that’s it… I can tell a few more stories about the providence of God.

—Allow me to thank you, Fr. Seraphim, for the interesting and soul-profiting conversation. What would you wish for the readers of Pravoslavie.ru?

—In Russia, especially amongst the laity, we lost the tradition of the Jesus Prayer. Even some priests look askance at laypeople who carry a prayer rope in their hands. They consider the Jesus Prayer with a prayer rope a monastic tradition, and are afraid of prelest.[1]

Our spiritual father, Elder Ephraim, blesses laity to engage in the Jesus Prayer, to the extent, of course, that their life in the world, work and family allow them. The elder explains that there’s no danger for those praying at the beginning stages of the Jesus Prayer, when a person says it orally, when he has a small prayer rule he does at home or on the road.

Usually our spiritual fathers bless laity new in the faith with a daily rule to do at home in the morning or in the evening. It’s about 50—150 Jesus Prayers with the Sign of the Cross at each knot, and 50—150 prayers to the Mother of God, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us,” also with the Sign of the Cross on each knot, and 20—50 prostrations with the Jesus Prayer and Sign of the Cross at every prostration. You should fulfill this rule given by the spiritual father, and not change it arbitrarily.

The rest of the day you walk around the streets, ride on the bus, in the subway, and pray to yourself, with a small prayer rope in your hand, or without one. When there’s no one else around, it’s useful to say the prayer out loud, quietly. It helps the mind to concentrate on the words of the prayer and not get lost in dreams. The main condition is a feeling of repentance. Don’t strive for spiritual achievements, but ask for mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Elder Ephraim also strongly recommends (and for us it’s part of the monastic rule) to read the Akathist to the Mother of God every day, that she might shield us from all evil, and also when we have to go somewhere.

We had a novice here in the monastery, a Greek (he’s a monk now). During obediences and at other times he often said the Akathist to the Mother of God aloud, which he knew by heart. One night he was walking around the monastery, praying his favorite Akathist aloud. He went a little beyond the bounds of the monastery, and not noticing it in the dark, stepped on a rattle snake. Usually if a snake touches you, it bites you. But a miracle occurred here: the Mother of God covered the novice and the snake didn’t bite him, but simply slithered away. That’s the benefit of reading the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos.

God bless!

Olga Rozhneva spoke with Hierodeacon Seraphim (Molibog)
Translated by Jesse Dominick Pravoslavie.ru 12/8/2016

Read Full Post »

Modern Saints: Elder Iakovos Tsalikis

In honour of the recent official canonization of St. Iakovos I’m reblogging this post – originally posted last year.

Now all that’s left is for the Ecumenical Patriarch to canonize Elder Joseph the Hesyhast and then Gerontissa Makrina shortly after. Please God!

A story about St. Iakovos and Gerontissa Makrina taken from a talk I gave in 2013:

While she lived many great contemporary spiritual elders recognized her purity of heart and the grace of God which dwelt in her. Elder Iakovos Tsalikis – who lived in St. David’s Monastery in Evia – used to say, “If I lived in Volos I would go on foot to kiss Gerontissa’s hand and get her blessing before going to work each day.”

lessons from a monastery

iakovosA Glimpse of His Holy Life:

From a young age little Iakovos (which was his name even at baptism) loved the Lord and His Bride, the Church. Born in Livisi, in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), he and his family were forced to immigrate to Greece during the exchange of populations. Eventually settling on the island of Evia, he lived with his family in a storehouse with other refugees, blankets separated the individual living quarters. Little Iakovos would lift these blankets in order to “cense” his neighbours with the toy censor he made out of a roof tile. His holiness was noticed very early, though he wasn’t fully understood and suffered a great deal of derision; children would call him “geronda” and “father”. He would arise in the night for vigil, chant throughout the day, and was even entrusted with the keys to the village church since a priest came…

View original post 349 more words

Read Full Post »

GE DIGITAL CAMERA(Source) It is believed that after the day of Pentecost, the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew preached the Gospel first in Palestine, and then in Syria, Media, Persia, Parthia and finally, Ethiopia. Tradition holds that the Lord appeared to Saint Matthew, giving him a wooden rod and instructing him to plant it in a particular place in Ethiopia. Upon his arrival at the place in Ethiopia described by the Lord, he met a Bishop named Platon. The rod was planted, as the Lord had instructed, and almost immediately it sprouted leaves and grew into a beautiful tree, the fruit of which was delicious. A spring also welled up nearby, the water of which could heal the sick. Many Ethiopians were won over to Christ, although the local sovereign Prince, Fulvianus, a dedicated pagan, was violently opposed to this and, by his order, Saint Matthew was arrested and burned at the stake. In time, however, Fulvianus came to doubt his action and agonized over his horrific act. His conscience beckoned him towards Christ. Ultimately, he embraced the Christian faith and was baptized, taking the name “Matthew.” When the elderly Bishop Platon reposed, Saint Fulvianus-Matthew was consecrated to the episcopacy and succeeded him. He spent his remaining years preaching the Gospel and winning his people to the Church.

Read Full Post »

st-nektarios

St. Nektarios icon painted for our domestic chapel

(Source) Saint Nectarius, the great wonderworker of modern times, was born Anastasius Kephalas in Selebria, Thrace on October 1, 1846.

Since his family was poor, Anastasius went to Constantinople when he was fourteen in order to find work. Although he had no money, he asked the captain of a boat to take him. The captain told him to take a walk and then come back. Anastasius understood, and sadly walked away.

The captain gave the order to start the engines, but nothing happened. After several unsuccessful attempts, he looked up into the eyes of Anastasius who stood on the dock. Taking pity on the boy, the captain told him to come aboard. Immediately, the engines started and the boat began to move.

Anastasius found a job with a tobacco merchant in Constantinople, who did not pay him very much. In his desire to share useful information with others, Anastasius wrote down short maxims from spiritual books on the paper bags and packages of the tobacco shop. The customers would read them out of curiosity, and might perhaps derive some benefit from them.

The boy went about barefoot and in ragged clothing, but he trusted in God. Seeing that the merchant received many letters, Anastasius also wanted to write a letter. To whom could he write? Not to his parents, because there were no mail deliveries to his village. Not to his friends, because he had none. Therefore, he decided to write to Christ to tell Him of his needs.

“My little Christ,” he wrote. “I do not have an apron or shoes. You send them to me. You know how much I love you.”

Anastasius sealed the letter and wrote on the outside: “To the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven.” On his way to mail the letter, he ran into the man who owned a shop opposite the one in which he worked. The man asked him where he was going, and Anastasius whispered something in reply. Seeing the letter in his hands, the man offered to mail it for him, since he was on his way to the post office.

The merchant put the letter in his pocket and assured Anastasius that he would mail it with his own letters. The boy returned to the tobacco shop, filled with happiness. When he took the letter from his pocket to mail it, the merchant happened to notice the address. Astonished and curious, the man could not resist opening the letter to read it. Touched by the boy’s simple faith, the merchant placed some money in an envelope and sent it to him anonymously. Anastasius was filled with joy, and he gave thanks to God.

A few days later, seeing Anastasius dressed somewhat better than usual, his employer thought he had stolen money from him and began to beat him. Anastasius cried out, “I have never stolen anything. My little Christ sent me the money.”

Hearing the commotion, the other merchant came and took the tobacco seller aside and explained the situation to him.

When he was still a young man, Anastasius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the voyage, the ship was in danger of sinking in a storm. Anastasius looked at the raging sea, and then at the captain. He went and stood beside the captain and took the helm, praying for God to save them. Then he took off the cross his grandmother had given him (containing a piece of the Cross of Christ) and tied it to his belt. Leaning over the side, he dipped the cross into the water three times and commanded the sea, “Silence! Be still.” At once, the wind died down and the sea became calm.

Anastasius was saddened, however, because his cross had fallen into the sea and was lost. As the boat sailed on, sounds of knocking seemed to come from the hull below the water line. When the ship docked, the young man got off and started to walk away.

Suddenly, the captain began shouting, “Kephalas, Kephalas, come back here.” The captain had ordered some men into a small boat to examine the hull in order to discover the source of the knocking, and they discovered the cross stuck to the hull. Anastasius was elated to receive his “Treasure,” and always wore it from that time forward. There is a photograph taken many years later, showing the saint in his monastic skufia. The cross is clearly visible in the photo.

On November 7, 1875, Anastasius received monastic tonsure at the Nea Moni Monastery on Chios, and the new name Lazarus. Two years later, he was ordained a deacon. On that occasion, his name was changed to Nectarius.

Later, when he was a priest, Father Nectarius left Chios and went to Egypt. There he was elected Metropolitan of Pentapolis. Some of his colleagues became jealous of him because of his great virtues, because of his inspiring sermons, and because of everything else which distinguished Saint Nectarius from them.

Other Metropolitans and bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria became filled with malice toward the saint, so they told Patriarch Sophronius that Nectarius was plotting to become patriarch himself. They told the patriarch that the Metropolitan of Pentapolis merely made an outward show of piety in order to win favor with the people. So the patriarch and his synod removed Saint Nectarius from his See. Patriarch Sophronius wrote an ambiguous letter of suspension which provoked scandal and speculation about the true reasons for the saint’s removal from his position.

Saint Nectarius was not deposed from his rank, however. He was still allowed to function as a bishop. If anyone invited him to perform a wedding or a baptism he could do so, as long as he obtained permission from the local bishop.

Saint Nectarius bore his trials with great patience, but those who loved him began to demand to know why he had been removed. Seeing that this was causing a disturbance in the Church of Alexandria, he decided to go to Greece. He arrived in Athens to find that false rumors about him had already reached that city. His letter of suspension said only that he had been removed “for reasons known to the Patriarchate,” and so all the slanders about him were believed.

Since the state and ecclesiastical authorities would not give him a position, the former Metropolitan was left with no means of support, and no place to live. Every day he went to the Minister of Religion asking for assistance. They soon tired of him and began to mistreat him.

One day, as he was leaving the Minister’s office, Saint Nectarius met a friend whom he had known in Egypt. Surprised to find the beloved bishop in such a condition, the man spoke to the Minister of Religion and Education and asked that something be found for him. So, Saint Nectarius was appointed to be a humble preacher in the diocese of Vitineia and Euboea. The saint did not regard this as humiliating for him, even though a simple monk could have filled that position. He went to Euboea to preach in the churches, eagerly embracing his duties.

Yet even here, the rumors of scandal followed him. Sometimes, while he was preaching, people began to laugh and whisper. Therefore, the blameless one resigned his position and returned to Athens. By then some people had begun to realize that the rumors were untrue, because they saw nothing in his life or conversation to suggest that he was guilty of anything. With their help and influence, Saint Nectarius was appointed Director of the Rizarios Seminary in Athens on March 8, 1894. He was to remain in that position until December of 1908.

The saint celebrated the services in the seminary church, taught the students, and wrote several edifying and useful books. Since he was a quiet man, Saint Nectarius did not care for the noise and bustle of Athens. He wanted to retire somewhere where he could pray. On the island of Aegina he found an abandoned monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which he began to repair with his own hands.

He gathered a community of nuns, appointing the blind nun Xenia as abbess, while he himself served as Father Confessor. Since he had a gift for spiritual direction, many people came to Aegina to confess to him. Eventually, the community grew to thirty nuns. He used to tell them, “I am building a lighthouse for you, and God shall put a light in it that will shine forth to the world. Many will see this light and come to Aegina.” They did not understand what he was telling them, that he himself would be that beacon, and that people would come there to venerate his holy relics.

On September 20, 1920 the nun Euphemia brought an old man in black robes, who was obviously in pain, to the Aretaieion Hospital in Athens. This was a state hospital for the poor. The intern asked the nun for information about the patient.

“Is he a monk?” he asked.

“No, he is a bishop.”

The intern laughed and said, “Stop joking and tell me his name, Mother, so that I can enter it in the register.”

“He is indeed a bishop, my child. He is the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Pentapolis.”

The intern muttered, “For the first time in my life I see a bishop without a panagia or cross, and more significantly, without money.”

Then the nun showed the saint’s credentials to the astonished intern who then admitted him. For two months Saint Nectarius suffered from a disease of the bladder. At ten thirty on the evening of November 8, 1920, he surrendered his holy soul to God. He died in peace at the age of seventy-four.

In the bed next to Saint Nectarius was a man who was paralyzed. As soon as the saint had breathed his last, the nurse and the nun who sat with him began to dress him in clean clothing to prepare him for burial at Aegina. They removed his sweater and placed it on the paralyzed man’s bed. Immediately, the paralytic got up from his bed, glorifying God.

Saint Nectarius was buried at the Holy Trinity Monastery on Aegina. Several years later, his grave was opened to remove his bones (as is the custom in Greece). His body was found whole and incorrupt, as if he had been buried that very day.

Word was sent to the Archbishop of Athens, who came to see the relics for himself. Archbishop Chrysostomos told the nuns to leave them out in the sun for a few days, then to rebury them so that they would decay. A month or two after this, they opened the grave again and found the saint incorrupt. Then the relics were placed in a marble sarcophagus.

Several years later, the holy relics dissolved, leaving only the bones. The saint’s head was placed in a bishop’s mitre, and the top was opened to allow people to kiss his head.

Saint Nectarius was glorified by God, since his whole life was a continuous doxology to the Lord. Both during his life and after his death, Saint Nectarius has performed thousands of miracles, especially for those suffering from cancer. There are more churches dedicated to Saint Nectarius than to any other modern Orthodox saint.

Read Full Post »

geronda2befraim2b23I feel only one thing rivals seeing and receiving the blessing of a living saint: being able to watch a crowd of people receive the same.

By the grace of God I was able to make a pilgrimage to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. While there I had the great blessing of seeing Elder Ephraim three times. He does not currently see people one-on-one like he used to, but he comes out almost every morning to greet the pilgrims. The fathers bring him in a car so that the elder (who is close to 90 years of age) can sit while greeting the people. Although the elder has become physically weakened in his old age the strength of his spirit, which is full of life and love for the people, in no way has diminished.

On the last day of our pilgrimage a significant crowd had gathered to wait for the elder as more pilgrims and nuns had arrived the day before. Just as on other days, the car pulled up so the people could receive the elder’s blessing. Each lined up to receive a cookie and an icon as they kissed the elder’s right hand.

3I have great love and reverence for Elder Ephraim, a person who works tirelessly for the Lord, a person who (I believe) will be able, at the end of his life, to say with Christ, “I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). So, you can understand that receiving his blessing means a great deal to me. But seeing others receive his blessing gives me even more joy.

You can tell a person is holy by the effect he or she has on other people. When you see the effect Elder Ephraim has on the people it’s impossible not to be reminded of St. Seraphim of Sarov’s famous quote: “Acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand around you will be saved”. This does not necessarily mean everyone will become a Christian, but it illustrates the depth of influence a person who has become holy has on his or her surrounding environment.

12

One just needs to look at the monastery gardens to be convinced that the natural beauty found there cannot simply be attributed to the monks’ commitment to water and weed. Driving through the Sonoran Desert – mostly bleak and barren – the lushness of the monastery’s gardens seems even more incredible. How is such a contrast possible? Because holiness has produced such gardens. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit (Who is the ‘spirit of peace’) not only affects the spiritual but the physical atmosphere. And so, the colourful and lush grounds and gardens of the monastery are a physical manifestation of the spiritual reality that has taken place: that because of one man’s commitment to the will and love of God he too has “made the barren desert fertile” as the apolytikion for the monastery’s patron, St. Anthony, reads.

15

I want to be like that man, to be like Elder Ephraim, who left the world he knew (the Holy Mountain) in order to labour in a foreign land (America) to share the sweetness of grace with his fellow man. Through his prayers I want to share the blessings I was given in Greece and elsewhere. But more than this I want to struggle to make the barren desert of my own heart fertile ground for the Holy Spirit so that myself and those around me may be saved.

 

Read Full Post »

“On the Personalities of Contemporary Charismatic Elders”

Met. Athanasios of Limassol (Cyprus)

Below is a transcription a friend did of a video of the Metropolitan speaking about the characters of holy elders. 

Because everyone who meets another person, especially an Elder, a Saint, has a personal view and personal experience which might be different from that of the next person or a colleague. I think what characterizes holy fathers is… their great virtues, their love for God, their humility and so on, but first of all that each one retained his personality. Elder Paisios was a different kind of character from Elder Ephraim of Katounakia. So were Elder Porfyrios, Elder Sophrony, and Elder Iakovos. They weren’t the same, but each one was who he was. Cleansed from the passions and sin, but still who he was, with his own age, knowledge, background, era and all that. And then these people, in my experience, were characterized by great balance, they were very well-adjusted people, not unbalanced. They were well-adjusted and charitable. They never presented you with a dilemma; they got you out of one. Nor did they present you with a God who’d be a problem, but one who’d be the answer to all problems. That’s why people flocked to them, but they found relief. People didn’t go to them to leave troubled and weary; they left relaxed and light-hearted. They were people who knew how to have their own views, but also how to exploit the potential of each person and to know how to arrange things for each soul, what each person was capable of, what they could do from where they were. And they’d each decide in accordance with their own situation. They didn’t say: “Look, I’m a hermit and to become the way I want you you’ll have to become like me.” They came to where you were; you didn’t go to where they were.

In general, I think that as time went on, I saw that everything they did brought them to perfection in Christ, which is in no way extreme but is a mean, an endless balance, and peace. There was no sharpness about them; it was something absolutely clear, something like a calm sea that you sail over with great joy. They weren’t at all sharp, those people.

It’s not the Gospel’s fault; it’s ours for the way we live out our misery and express it to others. As a continuation of what I was saying about these holy people, they showed us exactly the image of the person who is perfect in Christ. All those people were in harmony, balanced, not at all facetious. They didn’t make you feel: “But he’s a simpleton, he’s ingenious, he’s somebody who walks on the clouds, he’s not properly grounded,” because that’s no good either. It’s not a good thing to be fatuous, nor to be ingenious, or facile or obtuse. Just as it’s not good to be pessimistic and all miserable. At the same time as they mourned human pain, the saints were joyful, very sweet people who embraced everyone. They wouldn’t put up with darkness in people’s souls. You might say that it is easy for everybody. No, it isn’t! We’ve got a long way to go to get there; it’s not easy, nor can it be feigned. You can’t say: “What was Elder Aimilianos like? I’ll imitate him.” It can’t be done. You have to tread the path that Aimilianos trod and you have to be Aimilianos to do so. Because if you are not, you’ll be a caricature, you’ll be a poor imitation.You have to find yourself. You’re not Aimilianos. You’re Adrianos, you’re Athanasios, you’re Ignatios. You’ll become who you are given the qualities you have. Let the grace of God work in your soul without preconditions.

I don’t believe that the Gospel is there to batter the human personality or tread it under foot. The Gospel saves the human person, it doesn’t trample it down. It removes the toxins and the passions and the sin, but saves the person. This is why these saints accepted others so easily. Even people who are acknowledged to be spiteful and sinful are justified by them to such an extent that you end up thinking they are saints. Elder Paisios, for example, didn’t even want to be rude about the devil himself. He didn’t call him “the devil.” Ever. He called him “the poor thing” or “the unruly one.” You’d think he was some poor little bear you could be playing with that was so unfortunate and so charming. Poor little imp. To hear others, the thrice-cursed Evil One goes to Hell to boil and to heap coals. For the Elder, he was an unfortunate little thing. Once Elder Paisios was praying and the devil stuck his tongue out at him. The Elder simply felt sorry for him. Or when we went and told him about different things that were happening on the Holy Mountain or about monks who were less than careful in their lives, he’d find ways to justify things and you’d say: “Lord have mercy, the man’s a saint.” He’d find an excuse for them and put good thoughts into your head and say good things about them. He’d say: “Look, don’t concentrate on that. The man’s got good points,so that’s the least thing compared to the many good things he’s done.” Because he himself was such a man. The way God sees people, not the way we do. And he even called tears joyful. Yes. With my limited resources, I imagine he did so because mourning and tears cleanse people and he himself was purified. He was cleansed.

I don’t know, when I went with Elder Iosif to see Elder Sophrony, I really did say to myself that he was an image of the perfect person. He seemed perfect to me. That was my own personal feeling about this man. The saints aren’t facile, nor insensitive to the pain of others. They experience the pain and they experience the whole of our apostasy from God, but because they’re now in full health, they deal with things as God does. Does God not experience our pain? Does He just look on unfeelingly? Why doesn’t He get depressed and take pills? Because He’s God! He sees things in a different way, because He has a different perspective, He functions in a different realm, where reality isn’t denied but is seen as part of the direction of divine providence. These saints say: “Look, things may be like this, but God is greater than they are. God’s not going to abandon the world and it’s not me who’s going to save it. God will save the world.” And they aren’t concerned, nor are they seized with anxiety. They have trust in God with regard to all things.

Postscript:  Met. Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Church: “The saints, so far from displaying a drab monotony, have developed the most vivid and distinctive personalities. It is not holiness but evil which is dull” (247).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »