More on Elder biography and some of his writtings at: Elder Paisios
“It is good to have the intellectual powers that take man to the moon costing billions of dollars in fuel expenses and so on, but it is better to have the spiritual powers that raise man to God, his ultimate destination, with only a bit of fuel, a mere dried piece of bread” — Elder Paisios
”Spiritual Counsels” of Elder Paisios, A Spiritual Father for Our Times
The humble are like nightingales that hide in ravines and spread joy to the souls of men with their sweet songs.
We mustn’t despair when we struggle and continuously see nothing but the slightest progress. We all do nearly nothing, some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort He gives us an analogous token and so our nearly nothing becomes valuable and we can see a little progress. For this reason we mustn’t despair, but hope in God.
Unfortunately, in our days, there are many people who upset the mother Church. Of these, those that are educated have understood dogma with their minds and not with the spirit of the Holy Fathers. At the same time, those who are unlettered have grabbed hold of dogma with their teeth, which is why they grind their teeth when they speak about ecclesiastical topics. In this way, greater harm is caused by those in the Church than by those who battle it from without.
That which is asked of every Orthodox person is to instill a “good uneasiness” into the heterodox,’ that they might understand that they are in delusion. This is so they will not falsely calm their conscience and thus be deprived in this life of the rich blessings of Orthodoxy and in the life to come of the even greater and eternal blessings of God.
The person who is possessed by material things is always subjugated to unhappiness and anxiety, for on the one hand he trembles for fear that they take his things away from him, while on the other he trembles for fear that his soul be taken from him. Now, the miser whose hand is sore from his tight hold on things, also squeezed his own heart, and turned it into stone. In order for him to be healed, he must visit unhappy people, to suffer, so he will be forced to open his hand slowly, slowly, and his heart of stone will also start to soften. It will become a human heart and in this way the gates of Paradise will also open.
When a monk doesn’t find spiritual work, he cannot be helped even by his elder, and spends his time with external things. He becomes spiritually wild and, even if he was to be tied down in his cell, he could not sit still. He will always enjoy contact with people, to give tours, to speak about the domes and archeology [of the monastery], to show them the pots with various flowers, to treat them to rich, worldly meals, and to give rest only to worldly people.
The monk flees far from the world, not because he detests the world, but because he loves the world and in this way he is better able to help the world through his prayer, in things that don’t happen humanly but only through divine intervention. In this way God saves the world.
The monk is helped greatly when the monastery is far from the world, far from archeological areas and worldly noises. Even monasteries that are great sites of pilgrimage lose sight of their true goal, for many times from being a monastery they end up as a business. For this reason some bishops, very rightly, would like to have these sites, for monastics must love poverty, which they were ordered by God to preserve. Unfortunately, however, they do not limit themselves to the necessary, the simple, as much for themselves as, more generally, for the monastery. Nor do they refuse things from the faithful, or encourage them to help, on their own, our poor, suffering brethren. But what do they do instead? They gather the sweat even of the poor and fill the monastery with a huge amount of oil lamps and bells, thinking that God is glorified in this way. This type of piety, however, is like the piety which many Russian clerics had who became the cause, though they didn’t intend it, of the oil lamps, chandeliers and bells being made into cannons so as to hit the very Church of Christ.
When an elder doesn’t have much experience, but has a great deal of love and much humility, he is able to help his spiritual children by means of the guidance of more experienced elders, as well as by the grace of God, which he continually receives due to his great humility. However, the young cleric who gathers young people as his disciples reveals his great pride, which he has down to the marrow of his bones. He is like a baby born with a beard-a monster-and those that follow him reveal that they have an ailment of the brain or heart. Also, those clerics who study psychology so as to help souls using human contrivances are not spiritually well. The strange thing is that their teachers of psychology don’t believe in God or in the existence of the soul. If they accept the soul’s existence, they do so in their own unique way. In this way these clerics show that they are spiritually sick and that they need to be examined by the Holy Fathers. Having been healed, they would be able to discern, on their own, the sick spirit and would experience divine grace at the same time. Thus from that time forth they would use the divine energy for those suffering souls and not human contrivances.
Those who rush to be made spiritual fathers, though they still have many spiritual toxins, are like unripe, sour quince, which, as much sugar as we may pour on, never becomes a nice sweet; but, even if it does, it quickly gets sour.’ Sweet words and great truths have value when they come from genuine mouths, and are received only by those souls that are well-disposed and by those great people who have a pure mind.
One word of a humble and [spiritually] experienced man that is painfully born from the depths of his heart has greater worth than a bunch of clever sayings of an external mans that come out quickly from his educated mouth. His words don’t speak truth to the souls of men, for they are fleshly words and not the flames of the fire of Pentecost.
If a passionate man tries to correct an egotist, steel hits flint and fires are ignited! If he tries to correct a sensitive person, he hurts him greatly. It would be like a wild man taking a thick wire brush to clean out a little mucus from a baby’s eye.
What a wonderful thing it will be when we know ourselves! Then humility will be for us a state of being, and God will position us well with His divine gifts. Then the spiritual laws will cease working, and the one who rises the highest will humble himself, for we will all walk low, we won’t fall and we will continually receive the grace of God which is given to the humble.
Holy asceticism, together with its great self-denial, which is born from great faith in a burst of love for God, brings man to true joy. He is happy to live, for his heart flutters, glorifying his God of benefactions. He is also happy to die, for he thus goes close to God again, and will continue there his doxology.
Virtue has the habit of betraying man, wherever he may hide. Though he may act as a fool-for-Christ,’ still he will be betrayed, though it may bee later on, and he will help many souls.
The goal of reading is the application, in our lives, of what we read. Not to learn it by heart, but to take it to heart. Not to practice using our tongues, but to be able to receive the tongues of fire and to live the mysteries of God. If one studies a great deal in order to acquire knowledge and to teach others, without living the things he teaches, he does no more than fill his head with hot air. At most he will manage to ascend to the moon using machines. The goal of the Christian is to rise to God without machines.
Let us not expect the spiritual spring if we don’t first pass through the spiritual winter during which the spiritual vermin die. We mustn’t expect the divine to blossom within us if the human hasn’t first died.
Costly (fervent) love, which sacrifices itself and does not partake of the world, is itself consumed by the love of God from within. The life of man is then a continuous Lent and all of his days are a continuous joy of light. Costly love for God, with its sacrifices sweetens the heart to boiling, and divine love, which cannot be held in, like steam, soars and so unites to God. This state of spiritual madness not only takes man out of himself, but even the heart is taken from the flesh, that is, from the fleshly desires, and is clothed completely in, and refined in God.
Those who constantly partake of the love of God are often indifferent to material nourishment. Or, if they eat, they don’t taste the food, for even then they continue to feel God intensely and to partake of the sweet blessing of His love. When the heart becomes a furnace through the love of God, it is then able to burn up all vanity that approaches, and this brings internal peace when man passes through the fiery trials of his life.
There are no people more blessed than those who have made contact with the “heavenly television station” and who are piously connected to God. In the same way, no people are more wretched than those who have cut contact with God and wander, dizzy, around the world, flipping through the world’s many television stations so as to forget, if only for a short time, the anguish of the derailment of their lives.
It is very helpful to read a bit of the Gerontikon before beginning to pray. Then your heart will warm up, the lid will come down on your many worldly cares, and you will be able to pray without distraction.
In the hour of prayer, when our mind wanders to thoughts of bad things, or if these thoughts come without our wanting them, we shouldn’t wage an offensive war against the enemy, because, even if all the lawyers in the world joined together, they wouldn’t make any headway with a little demon. Only through ignoring them can one chase these thoughts away. The same is true for blasphemous thoughts.
If you want to grab God’s attention so He’ll hear you during prayer, turn the dial to humility, for God always works in this frequency; then humbly ask for His mercy.
My brother, don’t ask for anything in prayer except for repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the grace of God, and God will uphold you in His grace and will give you whatever you need for your own salvation as well as whatever is needed, should the case arise, for you to help another soul in need.
When man is spiritually healthy and distances himself from other people, so as to better help them through his prayers, then he regards all people as holy and only himself does he regard as a sinner.
If we haven’t got control of our mind during the hour of spiritual study we are not benefited at all. We simply yawn and tire ourselves without a goal, for we cannot remember anything. In the same way, when the printer doesn’t have his mind on his work and forgets to put ink in, the printing presses work without printing anything.
All evil begins in the mind, when it is interested only in science. Scientists don’t find their inner peace and their balance then. However, when their minds are attached to God, scientists use their science to cultivate their inner world and to help the world, for their minds are sanctified.
The mind, when it begins to spend time near God, oftentimes forgets, not only its dwelling, but even this dwelling of the soul, this earthen flesh.
In all things we must put forth good thoughts and refuse to accept evil telegrams” if we want to purify our heart and change the evil machines of the heart into good machines; then gold will be turned into holy chalices and broken bells into chandeliers.’ Even discarded paper will be turned into fresh napkins. When, however, the heart is evil and it views good gold as bronze, it will make it into bullets and cannonballs.
Oh, blessed desert by which created man is so greatly helped to be reconciled with his Creator, and is transformed into an earthly Paradise – as you gather once again the wild animals around the person you tamed!
As much as is possible, love the desert and the immaterial life, and fly from your material possessions to the fold of the poor. Simplify your life so as to be freed from worldly anxiety, so that your life might have meaning.
Conscience is the first law of God, which He carved deeply into the hearts of the first-created. In turn we each make a photocopy from our parents when we’re born. Those who manage to heighten their sense of conscience through daily study of themselves feel themselves to be foreigners in this world, and worldly people are baffled by their gracious behavior. Those who haven’t studied their conscience benefit neither from their spiritual studies nor from counsels from their elders. They won’t even be able to keep God’s commandments, for they have lost their senses altogether.
The soft life makes people useless. Without toil and struggle sanctification doesn’t come.
When one realizes one’s sinfulness and the great mercy of God, the heart cracks, as hard as it may be, and real tears fall of themselves and then man prays and weeps without effort. This is because humility works continuously together with philotimo and drills on the heart so that the springs increase, and the hand of God continually strokes the hard-working and philotimo child.
Let us struggle with all our powers to gain Paradise. The gate is very narrow, and don’t listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of satan so that we won’t struggle.
Christ is wholly love, goodness and consolation, and never suffocates. He has an abundance of spiritual oxygen.
[God allows temptations] so as to dust off our soul, for it to be purified through sorrows and weeping, so that we are forced to take refuge in God for our salvation.
Theology is the word of God that is comprehended by pure, humble and spiritually reborn souls. It is not the beautiful words of the mind which are formed with philological artistry and which are expressed with the juridical or worldly spirit. Created words can’t speak to man’s soul, just as a beautiful statue is not able to speak, unless the audience is very worldly and is satisfied simply by beautiful words. Theology that is taught as a [worldly] science usually examines things historically and consequently understands things externally. Because patristic asceticism and inner experience are absent, this theology is full of doubts and questions. With his mind man is not able to comprehend the divine energies unless he first struggles ascetically to live these energies, so that the grace of God might work within him.
Children contract their first spiritual colds from the open windows of their parents’ senses. The mother passes on her cold especially when she is not modestly dressed and scandalizes her children with her behavior.
The holy life of parents instructs the souls of their children and so they naturally obey them and grow up with piety and without psychological problems, and the children are pleased with their parents. The parents are gladdened by their children in this life and in life eternal, where they will once again glory in them.
Whoever is at peace in the material world and is not concerned about the salvation of his soul is like the senseless birds who don’t make a noise from within the egg, so as to break the shell and come out to enjoy the sun-the heavenly flight in the life of Paradise-but instead remain unmoving and die inside the egg shell.
The pretense of worldly politeness is very harmful, for it fools one and opens one’s heart to the worldly person, and in the final analysis it wastes one’s piety, for the worldly person doesn’t know what piety is. It’s like giving golden pounds to people that only know bronze pennies.
Blows are necessary for the salvation of our souls, for they cleanse the soul. The more one hits and rubs clothing, the better it is cleaned. Similarly, the more one hits octopus and cuttlefish, the more they are softened and washed from ink.
Live in constant glorification of and thanksgiving towards God, for the greatest sin is ingratitude and the worst sinner is the ungrateful person.
At the beginning of the spiritual life, out of love, God doesn’t allow anyone to realize either his sinfulness or the many benefactions that He bestows on him, so as to keep him from despair, especially if he is sensitive.
Those who are in the world must not despair when they are overcome by many passions, and when their nature is unruly and races passionately downwards. Rather, they must trust in the almighty power of God and turn the steering wheel of their powerful engine back onto the road toward God, upwards. Soon after they will pass other, slow-moving cars, which for years have been driving the road toward God.
On Spiritual Study
(An Excerpt from ”Spiritual Awakening”)
— Geronda (elder in Greek), what books should be read by those who are beginning their spiritual search?
— First, they should read the New Testament to learn the meaning of Christ, to be shaken up a little; later they can read the Old Testament. Do you know how hard it is when they have read nothing and yet they come to ask for help? It is like an elementary school child going to a university professor and saying, “Help me.” What can the professor tell him? “One plus one equals two”? Others, again, are not spiritually restless; they come and say, “Father, I have no problems and I am just fine; I only dropped by to see you.” Man can never say that he has no problems, no concerns; he will have something. The struggle for the spiritual life never ends. Or some people come and tell me, “Tell us spiritual things.” It is as if they went to the grocery store and said, “Give us some groceries.” The grocer is at a loss and needs to know what they need. They need to say, “I want so much sugar, so much rice, and so on, but they only say, ‘Give us groceries.’ “It is like going to the pharmacy and saying, “Give us medicines,” without first saying what their illness is, or whether or not they went to the doctor, and what he advised them to do. Go figure! You see, whoever is seriously concerned over his spiritual condition knows, more or less, what he is lacking, and once he seeks it, he benefits.
As a novice, when I read something I liked, I wrote it down so as not to forget it, and I would try to apply it to my life. I didn’t readjust to pass my time pleasantly. I had a spiritual restlessness and, when I could not understand something, I would ask for an explanation. I read relatively little, but I checked myself a great deal on what I read. “What point am I at? What must I do?” I would sit myself down and go through such a self-examination. I did not allow what I read to pass me by untaxed.
Today with so much reading people end up like tape recorders, filling up their cassettes with superfluous matters. According to Abba Isaac, however, Wisdom not based on righteous activity is a deposit of disgrace.  You see, many who are interested in sports read sports magazines and newspapers while they are sitting. They may be like the fatted calf, but they still marvel at the athletes. “Oh he is marvellous! He is great! Bravo!” But they don’t work up any sweat, and they don’t lose any pounds. They read and read about athletic events, and then they go and lie down; they gain nothing. They are satisfied with the pleasure of reading. Some worldly people read newspapers, others romantic literature or an adventure novel, still others watch a football game at the stadium and pass their time. The same thing is done by some people who read spiritual books. They may spend the whole night reading spiritual books with great intensity and be content. They take a spiritual book, sit comfortably, and begin reading. “Oh, I profited from that,” they say. It would be better to say, “I enjoyed myself, I spent my time pleasantly.” But this is not profit.
We profit when we understand what we read, when we censure ourselves and discipline ourselves by applying it: “What does this mean? Where do I stand in relation to this spiritual truth? What must I do now?” After all, the more we learn, the more responsibility we have to live up to what we have learned. I am not saying that we should not read so that we can plead ignorance and therefore be free of responsibility, for this is a cunning deception; I am saying that we should not read merely to pass our time pleasantly. The bad thing is that if someone reads a lot and has a strong memory, he may remember many things and may even talk a lot about what he has read, and thus deceive himself into thinking that he also personally observes the many things he reads. So he has created an illusion toward himself and others. So don’t be comforted by the thought that you read a lot. Instead, turn your attention to applying what you have read. Much reading alone will only educate you encyclopaedically. Isn’t that what they call it?
— Yes, Geronda.
— The goal, however, is to be transformed in a God-centred manner. I am not aiming to be a university professor where I would need to know many things. But if I ever need something from this worldly knowledge, I can easily learn it once I have acquired the God-centred knowledge. Do you see what I mean?
— When one has a distraction, is it beneficial to concentrate through study?
— Yes, one should read a little, something very demanding, in order to warm the soul. This keeps distractions and concerns under the lid, and the mind is transposed into a divine realm. Otherwise, the mind is diverted by whatever task is preoccupying it.
— Geronda, when someone is tired or upset, he usually wants to read something light and easy, a short story or a novel, perhaps, or something like that.
— Is there no spiritual book that is appropriate for such times? The purpose is not to forget one’s worry, but to be redeemed. Such light reading does not redeem. Novels, newspapers and television have no value in developing a spiritual life. Quite often even some religious periodicals are damaging to Christians, because they stir a foolish zealousness that leads to confusion. Take care. Do not read unnecessary things during your free time. Some reading matter is completely hollow, like a water-pumpkin; it is like looking in a haystack to find a kernel of wheat. Some people say, “Yes, but they relax me.” But how can they be relaxing, my good man, if they make you dizzy and cause your eyes to ache? It is better to rest by sleeping. You can learn much about a person’s spiritual state from what he reads. One who is very worldly will probably be reading indecent magazines. One who is less worldly will read less indecent magazines and newspapers. One who is religious will read religious periodicals, or contemporary religious books or patristic texts, and so on.
— Geronda, which spiritual books are the most helpful?
— The various patristic texts, which thank God are available by the thousands today, are very helpful. One can find whatever one needs and desires in these books. They are authentic spiritual nourishment and a sure guide on the spiritual path. However, in order to be of benefit to us, they have to be read with humility and prayer. Patristic texts reveal the inner spiritual condition of the soul, much as axial tomography reveals the inner structures of the body. Each sentence of the patristic texts contains a multitude of meanings, and each person can interpret them according to their own spiritual state of being. It is better to read the ancient text rather than a translation, because the translator interprets the original verse according to his own spirituality. In any case, in order to understand the writings of the Fathers one must constrain oneself, focus and live spiritually, for the spirit of the Fathers is perceived through and by the spirit only. Especially helpful are the Ascetical Homilies by Saint Isaac the Syrian, but they must be studied slowly so that they can be assimilated little by little as spiritual food. The Evergetinos is truly of great benefit, because it gives us insight into the Whole spirit of the Holy Fathers, it is helpful because it describes the struggles of the Fathers against each and every one of the passions, and, by learning how they worked on the spiritual life, the soul is greatly assisted. Also, the Synaxaria, the Lives of the Saints, are sacred history and very helpful, especially for young people, but they should not be read as stories.
We do not need great knowledge to be devout. If we concentrate and meditate on the few things we know, our heart will be spiritually embroidered. One may be profoundly affected by a single hymn, while another may feel nothing, even though he may know all the hymns by heart, as he has not entered into the spiritual reality. So, read the Fathers, even one or two lines a day. They are very strengthening vitamins for the soul.
6. See Saint Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 1, p. 8.
7. A familiar anthology of ascetic and patristic sayings and incidents, which were compiled by the Monk Paul the Evergetinos, the founder of the famous Holy Monastery of the Theotokos Evergetithos (Benefactress) in Constantinople.
A private letter Concerning Ecumenism
The Holy Mountain, January 23, 1969
Reverend Father Haralambos,
In as much as I see the great uproar which is happening in our Church because of the various movements of groups in favor of unification [of churches], as well as the interaction of the Oecumenical Patriarch with the Pope, I was pained as Her child, and considered it good, besides my prayers, to send a small thread (which I have as a poor monk), that it too may be used as a means of stitching together the multipart garment of our Mother. I know you will show love and share it only with your religious friends. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to ask forgiveness from everyone for being bold to write something when I am neither holy nor a theologian. I trust everyone will understand me, that my writing is nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the unfortunate stance and worldly love of our father Patriarch Athenagoras.
It appears he loved another modern womanwhich is called the Papist Churchbecause our Orthodox Mother has not made an impression on him at all, for She is so modest. This love, which was heard from Constantinople, caused a sensational impression of sorts among many Orthodox, who nowadays live in an environment of such meaningless love, in cities across the entire world. Moreover, this love is of the spirit of our age: the family will lose its divine meaning from just such kinds of love, which have as their aim breakup and not union.
With just such a worldly love the Patriarch takes us to Rome. While he should have shown love first to us his children and to our Mother Church, he unfortunately sent his love very far away. The result, it’s true, delighted the secular children who love the worldwho have this worldly love, but completely scandalized us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God…
With sadness I must write that among all the “unionists” I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.
I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are [genuine] theologians, like the Fathers of the Churchnot the legalistswho have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan
We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.
Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)
When He must needs, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.
In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.
If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churchesmay God protect us!we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.
If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.
Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions”and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma.
I would further like to say that there does exist another, third group, within our Church. They are the brethren who remain as Her faithful children, but who don’t have spiritual concord between themselves. They spend their time criticizing one another, and not for the general good of the struggle. The one monitors the other (more than himself) to see what he will say or write so as to ruthlessly nail him. However, if this person had said or written the same thing, he’d certainly have supported it with numerous passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers.
Great harm comes of this; for while the one injures his neighbor, the other strikes him back before the eyes of all the faithful. Often times, disbelief is sown in the souls of the weak, because they are scandalized by such people. Unfortunately, some from among us make senseless claims against the others. We want them to conform to our own spiritual character. In other words, when someone else doesn’t harmonize with our own character, or is only mildly tolerantor even a little sharpwith us, immediately we jump to the conclusion that he is not a spiritual person.
We’re all needed within the Church. All the Fathers, both the mild and the austere, offered their services to Her. Just as the sweet, sour, bitter and even pungent herbs are necessary for a man’s body (each has its own flavor and vitamins), the same is true of the Body of the Church. All are necessary. The one fills up the spiritual character of the other, and all of us are duty bound to endure not only the particular spiritual character, but even the human weaknesses we each have.
Again, I come sincerely asking pardon from all for being so bold to write. I am only a simple monk, and my work is to strive, as much as I am able, to divest myself of the old man, and to help others and the Church, through God, by prayer. But because heartbreaking news regarding our Holy Orthodoxy has reached even my hermitage, I was greatly pained, and thus considered it good to write that which I felt. Let’s all pray that God grants His Grace, and may each of us help in his own way for the glory of our Church.
With much respect to all,
Elder Paisios explains Philotimo
(from the book “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain” by monk Christodoulos of Mt Athos
Father Paisios told me an incident from his childhood years:
“When I was a child and my soul was still pure, I loved Christ very much. I used to walk in the woods carrying a cross in my hands, chanting and praying and wishing to become a monk. My parents told me that I should first grow up and then leave to go to the monastery. One day, as I was taking my usual walk in the woods, I met a fellow villager. When he saw me carrying the cross, he asked me; “what is this?” “The Cross of our Christ,” I replied. Since he did not have any positive thoughts in his mind, he said to me, “Arsenios, you are silly. You don’t mean to say that you believe in God. He does not exist. These religious stories are made up by some priests. We have evolved from the monkey. Christ was simply a man like all of us.
When he finished, he got up and left. His twisted thoughts filled my innocent soul with black heavy clouds. Being alone in the woods, I began to think that maybe God does not exist. As I was feeling confused, desperate and extremely asked, I asked Christ to give me an indication of His existence, so I could believe in Him. But He did not respond. Feeling exhausted, I lay on the ground to rest. Suddenly, a positive thought, full of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), entered my innocent soul; “Hold on for a second! Wasn’t Christ the kindest man ever on earth? No one has ever found anything evil in Him. So, whether He is God or not, I don’t care. Based on the fact that He is the kindest man on earth and I haven’t known anyone better, I will try to become like Him and absolutely obey everything the Gospel says. I will even give my life for Him, if needed, since He is so kind.
All my thoughts of disbelief disappeared and my soul was filled with immense joy. The power of my grateful thought (philotimo) dissolved all the ambiguous ones. When I started believing in Christ and decided to love Him as much as I could, solely out of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), I experienced a miracle that firmly sealed my grateful thought. Then, I thought, “I do not care any more if someone tells me that God does not exist!”
As the story of the Elder regarding his grateful thought did not completely satisfy me, I asked him with a certain curiosity to tell me about the miracle he experienced I the woods. Father Paisios was found in a difficult position and replied that he could not tell me about it. This way, he indicated that I, too, should not look for miracles, but rather trust my feeling of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), as it is the key which opens the door to every good.
Later on, Father Paisios told me that he had seen the Lord.
He had this to say about Philotimo:
“The righteous Christian does not practice good acts for his own benefit, i.e. in order to be rewarded or to avoid hell and gain paradise, but rather because he prefers good to evil. Everything else is a natural consequence of the good that fills our soul without having asked for it. This way, good has dignity; otherwise, it originates from the cheap attitude of “give and take.”
From the Miracles of Elder Paisios
A live shot of the Elder (taken from the movie dedicated to the athonite fathers of the Holy Mountain)
Please see other posts on my blog with Elder Paisios at:
– On The End Times
– On Common prayers (A Word on Ecumenism)
– On Raising Children
– On The worries of Life
“Last Days of Elder Paisios”
Eventually, Elder Paisios got cancer and was taken to the hospital in Thessaloniki. At the hospital, they looked after him as best they could. Nevertheless, his cancer spread so much that the end was very near. His departure for Heaven was a matter of time. He had been preparing himself for this journey all his life. Thus, for whatever time was left, he wished to stay at the monastery of St John the Apostle in Souroti. Mr. Christofer Oikonomou, now deceased, was near him and he describes in a letter Geronda’s departure from the hospital:
“Today, Fr Paisios left the hospital. There were many people there. We were told that he would give his blessing in the reception. Lots of people, women, doctors, nurses, even the ailing, were swarming besides him. He lifted up his hand and said goodbye to those sick in the other rooms. There was this man, who had the drip on his hand, who bowed to kiss Fr Paisios’s hand, but Fr. Paisios kissed his instead. While standing in front of the elevator, he blessed us all. He went into the elevator to go down to the street. We all ran down the stairs to see him for the last time. People surrounded the car while snowflakes danced on the street. The nurse was admonishing us so that people would let him get in the car, because he was sick and very weak.
“He finally got in the car after crossing himself. Everyone was trying to touch him, some were holding his hand, and some were touching the glass of the window. The car began leaving very slowly because there was a lot of traffic. Even then, doctors, nurses, all came down to say goodbye and were touching the car’s windows, since the car was moving very slowly. His car passed in front of my house.”
Mr Christopher continues:
“What was that all about? People were following him as if he was the Messiah. It was like something out of Palm Sunday, except that we had a car instead of the donkey! Everyone was moved, some women were crying. He himself was also touched because of the abundant love that people were showering him with. It was as if he was saying that he would pay everyone back with a lot of praying.”
“Does our generation owe little to the prayers of this man? He is a saint amongst us. He is the embodiment of the fulfillment of the Gospel.”
Source: Vatopaidi Monastery
“Holy Father Paisios pray to our Lord Jesus for us sinners!”