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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 19 July 2013

ELDER PAISIOS: A MODERN ORTHODOX SAINT


By His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Fthiotidos

That which is happening with the blessed Elder Paisios the Hagiorite has no precedent in the Orthodox Church.

And when he lived, as well as after his venerable repose, the unanimous conscience of the Church believes and already considers him to be a saint.

In Greece as well as other homodox lands everyone speaks of his teachings, his miracles, and his clairvoyant charisma, through which, as a heavenly telescope, he knew the innermost parts of souls and offered to pilgrims the medicine of salvation.

This man had wisdom from above, who, although uneducated, took his place among the chorus of ecumenical teachers.

His words were wise, his advice was sweeter than honey, his love with which he embraced every person was divine, his mind and heart emitted the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit.

In his person we came to know holiness in all of its depth and width. His words were "words of eternal life". His graceful jokes were full of wisdom and delight.

Everything he said was a gospel. His affectionate and compassionate style calmed every troubled soul.

No other spiritual father delivered such a great work, like Elder Paisios.

No other physician healed as many sick people, like the physician of souls Monk Paisios.

No other shepherd led their logical sheep so worthily along the way of salvation, like this humble Hagiorite Monk.

His boldness before God transcends even that of the great saints.

His presence in our time was a gift from God for afflicted people.

The conscience of the Church believes him to be a great saint. His name has reached the ends of the universe.

The day of his canonization to sainthood is very near. It is very significant that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew himself, in a recent homily in Nigdi of Cappadocia, numbered Elder Paisios among the saints of Cappadocia.

The day of the official recognition by the Venerable Head of Orthodoxy of the sainthood of Elder Paisios will be a triumphant day of the Faith and of the life in Christ.

May he intercede before the Lord on behalf of us all.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

 In Orthodox tradition, an elder is not simply a person of advanced age. An elder is one who has attained the highest rank of spiritual struggle. When a person ascends to that height, the fruits of his many years of fasting and prayer vigils become readily apparent.

From the new book, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, by H. Middleton.

On July 25, 1924, the future Elder Paisios (Eznepidis) was born to pious parents in the town of Farasa, Cappadocia of Asia Minor. The family’s spiritual father, the priest-monk Arsenios (the now canonized St. Arsenios of Cappadocia), baptized the babe with his own name, prophesying his future profession as a monk. A week after the baptism (and barely a month after his birth) Arsenios was driven, along with his family, out of Asia Minor by the Turks. St. Arsenios guided his flock along their four-hundred-mile trek to Greece. After a number of stops along the way, Arsenios’ family finally ended up in the town of Konitsa in Epiros (northwestern Greece). St. Arsenios had reposed, as he had prophesied, forty days after their establishment in Greece, and he left as his spiritual heir the infant Arsenios.

The young Arsenios was wholly given over to God and spent his free time in the silence of nature, where he would pray for hours on end. Having completed his elementary education, he learned the trade of carpentry. He worked as a carpenter until his mandatory military service. He served in the army during the dangerous days of the end of World War II. Arsenios was brave and self-sacrificing, always desiring to put his own life at risk so as to spare his brother. He was particularly concerned about his fellow soldiers who had left wives and children to serve.

Having completed his obligation to his country, Arsenios received his discharge in 1949 and greatly desired to begin his monastic life on the Holy Mountain. Before being able to settle there, however, he had to fulfill his responsibility to his family, to look after his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. Having provided for his sisters’ future, he was free to begin his monastic vocation with a clean conscience. In 1950 he arrived on Mount Athos, where he learned his first lessons in the monastic way from the virtuous ascetic Fr. Kyril (the future abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery); but he was unable to stay at his side as he had hoped, and so was sent to the Monastery of Esphigmenou. He was a novice there for four years, after which he was tonsured a monk in 1954 with the name Averkios. He was a conscientious monk, finding ways to both complete his obedience's (which required contact with others) and to preserve his silence, so as to progress in the art of prayer. He was always selfless in helping his brethren, unwilling to rest while others worked (though he may have already completed his own obedience's), as he loved his brothers greatly and without distinction. In addition to his ascetic struggles and the common life in the monastery, he was spiritually enriched through the reading of soul-profiting books. In particular, he read the Lives of the Saints, the Gerontikon, and especially the Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.

Soon after his tonsure, Monk Averkios left Esphigmenou and joined the (then) idiorhythmic brotherhood of Philotheou Monastery, where his uncle was a monk. He put himself under obedience to the virtuous Elder Symeon, who gave him the Small Schema in 1956, with the new name Paisios. Fr. Paisios dwelt deeply on the thought that his own spiritual failures and lack of love were the cause of his neighbor’s shortcomings, as well as of the world s ills. He harshly accused himself, pushing himself to greater self-denial and more fervent prayer for his soul and for the whole world. Furthermore, he cultivated the habit of always seeking the "good reason" for a potentially scandalous event and for people’s actions, and in this way he preserved himself from judging others. For example, pilgrims to Mount Athos had been scandalized by the strange behavior and stories told by a certain monk, and, when they met Elder Paisios, they asked him what was wrong with the monk. He warned them not to judge others, and that this monk was actually virtuous and was simply pretending to be a fool when visitors would come, so as to preserve his silence.

In 1958 Elder Paisios was asked to spend some time in and around his home village of Konitsa so as to support the faithful against the proselytism of Protestant groups. He greatly encouraged the faithful there, helping many people. Afterwards, in 1962, he left to visit Sinai where he stayed for two years. During this time he became beloved of the Bedouins, who benefited both spiritually as well as materially from his presence. The Elder used the money he received from the sale of his carved wooden handicrafts to buy them food.

On his return to Mount Athos in 1964, Elder Paisios took up residence at the Skete of Iviron before moving to Katounakia at the southernmost tip of Mount Athos for a short stay in the desert there. The Elder’s failing health may have been part of the reason for his departure from the desert. In 1966, he was operated on and had part of his lungs removed. It was during this time of hospitalization that his long friendship with the then young sisterhood of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, just outside of Thessalonica, began. During his operation he greatly needed blood and it was then that a group of novices from the monastery donated blood to save him. Elder Paisios was most grateful, and after his recovery did whatever he could, materially and spiritually, to help them build their monastery.

In 1968 he spent time at the Monastery of Stavronikita helping with its spiritual as well as material renovation. While there he had the blessing of being in contact with the ascetic Elder Tychon who lived in the hermitage of the Holy Cross, near Stavronikita. Elder Paisios stayed by his side until his repose, serving him selflessly as his disciple. It was during this time that Elder Tychon clothed Fr. Paisios in the Great Schema. According to the wishes of the Elder, Fr. Paisios remained in his hermitage after his repose. He stayed there until 1979, when he moved on to his final home on the Holy Mountain, the hermitage Panagouda, which belongs to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.

It was here at Panagouda that Elder Paisios’ fame as a God-bearing elder grew, drawing to him the sick and suffering people of God. He received them all day long, dedicating the night to God in prayer, vigil and spiritual struggle. His regime of prayer and asceticism left him with only two or three hours each night for rest. The self-abandon with which he served God and his fellow man, his strictness with himself, the austerity of his regime, and his sensitive nature made him increasingly prone to sickness. In addition to respiratory problems, in his later days he suffered from a serious hernia that made life very painful. When he was forced to leave the Holy Mountain for various reasons (often due to his illnesses), he would receive pilgrims for hours on end at the women’s monastery at Souroti, and the physical effort which this entailed in his weakened state caused him such pain that he would turn pale. He bore his suffering with much grace, however, confident that, as God knows what is best for us, it could not be otherwise. He would say that God is greatly touched when someone who is in great suffering does not complain, but rather uses his energy to pray for others.

In addition to his other illnesses he suffered from hemorrhaging which left him very weak. In his final weeks before leaving the Holy Mountain, he would often fall unconscious. On October 5, 1993 the Elder left his beloved Holy Mountain for the last time. Though he had planned on being off the mountain for just a few days, while in Thessalonica he was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate treatment. After the operation he spent some time recovering in the hospital and was then transferred to the monastery at Souroti. Despite his critical state he received people, listening to their sorrow and counseling them.

After his operation, Elder Paisios had his heart set on returning to Mount Athos. His attempts to do so, however, were hindered by his failing health. His last days were full of suffering, but also of the joy of the martyrs. On July 11, 1994, he received Holy Communion for the last time. The next day, Elder Paisios gave his soul into God’s keeping. He was buried, according to his wishes, at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti. Elder Paisios, perhaps more than any other contemporary elder, has captured the minds and hearts of the Greek people. Many books of his counsels have been published, and the monastery at Souroti has undertaken a great work, organizing the Elder’s writings and counsels into impressive volumes befitting his memory. (Volume One: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, is here.) Thousands of pilgrims visit his grave each year, so as to receive his blessing.

* * *

“Kindness softens and opens up the heart, as oil opens a rusty lock."

“Those who come close to people in pain naturally draw near to God, because God is always by the side of His children who are in pain.

 “When someone gives his heart to God, then the mind of this man is also seized by the love of God. He is indifferent towards worldly things and continually thinks about the Heavenly Father, and being divinely in love, he glorifies his Creator day and night like an angel.”

“Ask for repentance in your prayer and nothing else, neither for divine lights, nor miracles, nor prophecies, nor spiritual gifts—nothing but repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the Grace of God, and God will have in His Grace everything you need for your salvation, or anything you might need to help another soul.

 “Things are very simple, and there is no reason why we should complicate them. If we regard matters in this way, we will feel the Jesus Prayer as a necessity and will not grow weary. We will be able to repeat it many times and our heart will feel a sweet pain, and then Christ Himself will shed His sweet consolation inside our heart."

“Thus prayer does not tire but invigorates. It is tiresome only when we do not enter into its meaning and do not understand the sense given it by our Holy Fathers. Once we comprehend the need of God’s mercy, the desire of this hunger will compel us, without pressuring ourselves in prayer, to open our mouth like a nursing infant, and we will feel, simultaneously, all the security and joy of a baby in its mother’s embrace.”

“Now that conveniences have exceeded all bounds, they have become inconveniences. Machines have multiplied; distractions have also multiplied and man has been made into a machine. Machines and iron order men around, which is why their hearts have become as hard as steel.”

"Humility is acquired after struggles. When you know yourself you acquire humility, which become a (permanent) condition. Otherwise one can become humble for a moment, but your thought will say to you that you are something although in reality you're nothing. and you'll be deluded like that to the moment of death. If death finds you with the thought that you are nothing, then God will speak. If however your thought says at the hour of death that you are something and you don't understand it, all your effort goes to waste."

"Conscience is the first law of God, which He deeply carved in the hearts of the First Created, and consequently, each one of us takes it as a "photocopy" from his parents when he is born. Those who have managed to sensitize their consciences through the daily study of themselves feel themselves estranged from this world; and, as a result, worldly people are dumbfounded by their discerning behavior. Those, however, who do not examine their consciences are neither benefited by spiritual study nor by the advice of the Elders, nor are they even able to keep God’s commandments, since they quickly become insensitive."

"Those who are sensitive and have philotimo, and who observe everything with precision, are usually wronged by the insensitive ones due to the constant concessions they make for them out of love. However, God’s love is always on their side. Oftentimes, they wrong themselves due to their hypersensitivity, overemphasizing their minor sins or bearing the burden of others’ faults; but once again, God comforts them with His heavenly kindness and, at the same time, strengthens them spiritually."

“The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking, criticism. Therefore we should not trust our logical minds. Never believe your thoughts."    

“Live simply and without thinking too much, like a child with his father. Faith without too much thinking works wonders. The logical mind hinders the Grace of God and miracles. Practice patience without judging with the logical mind.”

 “To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ.”

"The person who asks for miracles, in order to believe in God, lacks dignity. God, if He wishes to, can make with one of His miracles everybody instantly believe. However, He does not do so, because He does not wish to exercise force on man’s free will; man will then end up believing in God, not out of gratefulness or due to God’s excessive kindness, but due to His supernatural power."

"Oh, if we could only understand the great forebearance of God! It took one hundred years to make Noah's ark. Do you think that God could not have made an ark any faster? He let Noah suffer for one hundred years so that others may understand and repent. Noah would tell them, "Repent, a deluge is coming!" But they would only mock him. "he is making cages, " they were saying and went about their business. And now God could shake the world in two minutes, and change people into believers, super believers. How? All he has to do is turn the earthquake button from five, six  or seven on the Richter scale. At eight on the Richter scale, high rise apartment buildings will be falling upon each other like drunkards in the street. At ten everyone will be screaming "We have sinned, please save us."  They may even say, "We will become monks!"  But as soon as the earthquake is over, while still shaking but standing, they will again run to the bouzouki clubs. Their return to God will not be from true repentence but they would just say it temporarily to be saved from disaster."

"When in the course of our spiritual struggle, we feel anxiety we must know that we are not moving in the realm of God. God is not a stifling tyrant.  Each one of us should struggle according to his strengths and cultivate his philotimo so that he grows in his love of God. Pressed by philotimo, his struggle , all those prostations, fasting and so on will be nothing else than the pure outbursts of his love and his path would be a path of spiritual valor."

Geronda (Old man) say something....

"What should I say?"

Whatever your heart is telling you.

"My heart is telling me to take a knife, cut it into little pieces, give them to people and then die."




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