Elder Paisios and the Boiled Milk during Great Lent

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Have a good Lent everyone!

Kαλή Σαρακοστή!

At Panagouda, the Cell of Elder Paisios.
An instructive story in English and Greek.
There are two visitors from Thessaloniki. They stand, leaning on the chestnut tree. Both in their fifties, pale and cantankerous. They seem to be from a ‘quasi/pseudo-ecclesiastical’ (1) organisation, because they are looking reproachfully at the Elder, and are making comments to each other quietly.
The children are playing, making noise – at which Paisios turns and says quietly:
“Do not make noise, because beside here, beneath the earth (2), Americans are hidden and we will wake them, and they will come to interrupt our silence.”
The children stop, and instantly become silent, puzzled.
At the opposite end, John is leaning sideways against the rock, atop his sack. He is lighting a cigarette. The two visitors, who appear to be harsh pietists, continue to look at the Elder with disapproval as he is boiling milk and is taking care not to spill it over. One of them can’t stand it anymore and turns to the monk:
“Elder Paisios, we are in the first days of Great Lent, we have a strict fast, and you are boiling milk to drink?”
The Elder is silent. He does not respond. He grabs the pot and lowers it, since the milk is boiled. He then goes into his Cell, brings six small, old china cups, puts them next to each other, and carefully pours the milk into each one. He waits a bit for it to cool off, while everyone looks at him with amazement and silence. The two pietists observe this with disgust, thinking that since there are six visitors and six cups, perhaps the monk will dare to offer even to them milk, during these strict days of the fast.
Elder Paisios takes the full cups one by one, places them on a wooden tray, and carries them seven meters away, where he places them down on the dirt, at the edge of a bush.
He places them there in order, then he comes, sits next to us, and begins to do something with his mouth silently, an eery whistling, while looking towards the bushes. Not a few moments pass, and over there, from the bushes, comes out a viper, very carefully, with five small snakes  – her children. I hold my breath.
The snakes are coming, all of them approaching, one by one, slithering, passing right next to us, and they go slowly to the cups, and begin drinking calmly, slurping their morning milk …
By George Skambardonis 

(1) For such organisations in Greece and the charges against their “Westernizing” of Orthodox Christianity and their “Pieticism”, go here and here (The Orthodox ChurchBy Kallistos Ware (Bishop of Diokleia)

(2) a reference in jest to the two hemispheres of the Earth: people in Greece seem to be “upside down” from the US, and when they are awake in the morning, it is night for the Americans and they are fast asleep!
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Γέροντας Παϊσιος: Ζεσταίνοντας γάλα εν μέσω σαρακοστής

 

Παναγούδα, το κελί του Γέροντα.
Πιο εδώ είναι δυο επισκέπτες, κι αυτοί από τη Θεσσαλονίκη. Στέκονται όρθιοι, ακουμπώντας στην καστανιά. Πενηντάρηδες κι οι δυο, χλωμοί, στρυφνοί. Φαίνονται να είναι από κάποια παρεκκλησιαστική οργάνωση, γιατί κοιτάζουνε αυστηρά, κάπως επιτιμητικά τον γέροντα και σχολιάζουνε μεταξύ τους χαμηλόφωνα.
Τα παιδιά παίζουνε, κάνουνε φασαρία –οπότε γυρίζει ο Παΐσιος και τα λέει ήρεμα:
«Μην κάνετε θόρυβο, γιατί εδώ δίπλα, κάτω απ’ το χώμα, είναι κρυμμένοι Αμερικανοί και θα ξυπνήσουν και θα ‘ρθουν να μας χαλάσουν την ησυχία μας».
Τα παιδιά σταματούνε, σωπαίνουνε παραξενεμένα.
Ο Γιάννης, απέναντι, γέρνει πλάγια στο βράχο, πάνω στο σάκο του. Ανάβει τσιγάρο.
Οι δυο επισκέπτες, που φαίνονται σκληροί ευσεβιστές, συνεχίζουν να βλέπουν με αποδοκιμασία τον γέροντα που προσέχει να μη φουσκώσει και χυθεί το γάλα. Ώσπου ο ένας δεν αντέχει και λέει στον καλόγερο:
 Ταίζοντας τα πουλιά στο κελί του…
«Γέροντα Παΐσιε, είμαστε στις πρώτες μέρες της Σαρακοστής, έχουμε αυστηρή νηστεία, κι εσύ βράζεις να πιεις γάλα;»
Ο γέροντας σωπαίνει. Δεν απαντάει. Πιάνει και κατεβάζει το κατσαρόλι, γιατί το γάλα έβρασε. Μετά πάει στο κελί, φέρνει έξι μικρά, παλιά, πορσελάνινα φλιτζανάκια, τα βάζει μερακλίδικα στη σειρά κι αδειάζει με προσοχή το γάλα μέσα σ’ αυτά. Περιμένει λίγο να κρυώσει, ενώ όλοι τον κοιτάζουνε με απορία, σιωπηλοί.
Οι δυο ευσεβιστές τα βλέπουνε όλα αυτά με αποστροφή, γιατί σκέφτονται ότι αφού είμαστε όλοι εδώ οι επισκέπτες, έξι και τα φλιτζανάκια, άρα και σ’ αυτούς θα τολμήσει ο καλόγερος να προσφέρει γάλα, τέτοιες μέρες σκληρής νηστείας.
Ο γέροντας Παΐσιος παίρνει τα γεμάτα φλιτζανάκια ένα-ένα, τα βάζει σ’ ένα ξύλινο δίσκο, τα κουβαλάει και τ’ αφήνει σε απόσταση εφτά μέτρων, στο χώμα, στην άκρη ενός θάμνου.
Τ’ ακουμπάει όλα εκεί, στη σειρά, έπειτα έρχεται, κάθεται δίπλα μας και αρχίζει να κάνει με το στόμα του κάτι σιγανά, παράξενα σφυρίγματα, κοιτάζοντας προς τους θάμνους.
Δεν περνούνε λίγα λεπτά, και πιο εκεί, μέσα από τα τσαλιά, βγαίνει πολύ προσεκτικά μια οχιά και ύστερα πέντε μικρά φιδάκια –τα παιδιά της.
Κρατάω την αναπνοή μου.
Τα φίδια έρχονται, πλησιάζουν όλα, ένα-ένα, σέρνοντας, περνούνε δίπλα μας, πάνε σιγά-σιγά στα φλιτζανάκια, κι αρχίζουν ήρεμα να πίνουν, να ρουφούνε το πρωινό γάλα τους…
Πηγή: ΓΙΩΡΓΟΥ ΣΚΑΜΠΑΡΔΩΝΗ, Επί ψύλλου κρεμάμενος (Κέδρος 2003)
(1) For more information about such organisations in Greece and the charges against their “Westernizing” of Orthodox Christianity and their “Pietisticism” go here and/or study Kallistos Ware ‘s (Bishop of Diokleia) analysis in his book The Orthodox Church, here 
(2) A reference in jest to the two hemispheres of the Earth, where Greece is apprarently “upside-down” to the United States, so that when Greek people are awake and at work, Americans are fast asleep, and our noise might wake them up 🙂
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A Caress from Eternity

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On Thursday, February 8, 2018, at 5:30 AM, the renowned elder and spiritual father Nektarios Vitalis, the elder of Saint Athanasius Monastery in Kouvaras, reposed in the Lord. I wrote about his holy life in a previous post. Today I would like to share with you a miracle which took place on the day of his funeral, February 9 at the Monastery of Saint Athanasius, sealing a life full of heavenly visitations. The Youtube video which follows, shows, from 1:38 onwards, how his corpse is not stiff (ie. rigor mortis) but shows signs of flexibility, as if he were only sleeping. Pay attention to how a spiritual child of his fondly kisses and gently caresses his Gerondas’ hand, seeking his final blessing. God is glorified in His Saints!
Father Nektarios’ ‘flexibility’ is the first supernatural event to occur after his demise and has been a great consolation to everyone.
May we have his blessings……!!!
He was known for his simplicity, purity, faith and deep connection with St. Nektarios of Aegina. In 1980, the sacred Elder had an astonishing conversation with St. Nektarios, and during this, he was healed of an incurable illness… A few days later, the general director of the Cancer Hospital “St. Savas” was astonishingly informed him that his cancer had disappeared. In Kamariza the bells rang joyously at the joyous news of the miracle.

Icon of St. Nektarios embracing and healing Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, along with the two women bearing witness to this to the left, and the doctors confirming the miracle to the right. The icon is from the Chapel of Saint Nektarios in Aretaieion Hospital.

Before this, in 1965, he suffered a stroke, and his situation was dire, but Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker granted him healing. As soon as he became well, he moved to Lavro. A short time later, he again saw Saint Nektarios in his sleep, who asked him to build his “house” in Kamariza, Lavro [a famous pilgrimage of the saint, where many miracles have occurred], and who informed him that he would help him.
Excerpt from a short encomium written by Mr. Manolis Melinos, who wrote several books on St. Nektarios, his life and miracles, and spent 30 years together with him:
  
ELDER NEKTARIOS
The sweet, the simple, the father,
The brother, the fellow man,
The consoler, the humble one,
The child among children, the great one among the great, the elder among the elders, in other words, the child-elder, reposed today, February 8th, 2018 at the age of 88. Now he is an intercessor for us at the heavenly Altar, together with St. Nektarios, near the Great High Priest Christ, to Whom he gave everything! 
Manolis Melinos,
Orphaned of a “Father” 
(source)
The Memorial Service and the Burial:

 

 

+ Fr. Nektarios Vitalis — Memory Eternal

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+ February 8, 2017

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis is at long last with our Saviour Christ and his beloved patron Saint, St. Nektarios. May he pray for us! His was a life full of visions, visitations and miracles with his patron saint, even near-death, after-life  experiences! Miracles and signs of Holiness even during his Memorial Service and Funeral!

Καλό Παράδεισο, Γέροντα! Καλή αντάμωση στην Αιωνιότητα!

Greek traditional wish for the departed: “A Blessed Paradise, Gerondas! Until we meet again in Eternity!

Below follow Fr. Nektarios’ recalling of his miraculous healing of cancer by St. Nektarios, a few youtube videos where he tells of St. Nektarios’ visitations to him and his near-death, ‘after-life’ experience, and his final will, testament and tomb.

Miracle of Saint Nektarios: The Healing of Fr. Nektarios Vitalis of Cancer

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, well-known in Lavrio [a city in Attika, Greece] for his deeds and his sympathy to the poor and those written-off by the world in these difficult times, retells the following incident from when he was dying from cancer. What is said below has been told elsewhere, repeatedly, including in the book I talked to Saint Nektarios (Athens 1997, by the renowned writer Mr. Manolis Melinos).

Fr. Nektarios Vitalis recalls:

“I was suffering from a serious form of cancer. My chest was an open wound that was continuously running blood and pus. I would tear my undershirts from the pain. It was a tragic situation, and I was headed directly to death. So you understand, I had even prepared my grave clothes….

“On the 26th of March 1980, in the morning, I was talking in my office in the basement of the Church with Sofia Bourdoy (the church care-taker [a woman who cleans the church]) and the icon painter Helen Kitraki, when the door suddenly opened and an old, unknown man entered. He had a snow-white beard, was short and was slighty bald. He looked exactly the same as St. Nektarios appears in photographs. He took three candles without paying and lit only two. He venerated all the icons of the church, but passed over the icon of St. Nektarios without venerating it. He did not see me where I was. I had terrible pains when they pulled aside the curtain of the office and went to see the old man. He faced the Beautiful Gate [the Royal Doors in the Holy Iconostasion], crossed his palms and without looking around he asked: ‘Is the Geronta [Elder] here?’

“The church care-taker knowing my disease wanted to protect me…: ‘No, no…he is at home with the flu….’

“He replied: ‘Never mind. Pray, and have a Good Resurrection,’ [the traditional Orthodox greeting during Great Lent in anticipation of Pascha ‘Kali Anastasi’] he said as he left.

“The church care-taker came running to me and said ‘Father Nektarios, the old man who just left resembled St. Nektarios himself! His eyes flew flames. It seems to me that was St. Nektarios and he came to help you….’

“I thanked her thinking that she said this to console me. But deep down something was wrong. I sent her along with the icon painter to find the unknown man and quickly bring him back. I walked into the sanctuary and venerated the Crucified One [the icon of Christ on the Cross in every Holy Altar] crying, and once again asking Christ to heal me. Their footsteps stopped: ‘Father, the Elder has come!’

“I tried to kiss his hand, but out of humilty he did not let me. He bent and kissed my own! I asked him: ‘What is your name?’

“‘Anastasios, my son,’ he said, relating his baptismal name that he had before he become a monk….

“I led him to venerate the holy relics. He took out a pair of glasses with only one arm, and as soon as we saw them we were amazed! They were the same glasses of St. Nektarios that we had in the case with the holy relics. They were given to me by the old Gerontissa [Eldress] Nektaria of the monastery in Aegina.

“‘Belief is everything!’ said the stranger, as he put on his glasses.

“He began with reverence to embrace all the holy relics as the church care-taker showed, except for the relics of St. Nektarios, which he passed over….

“‘Geronta, forgive me,’ I said, ‘but why don’t you venerate the miraculous Saint Nektarios?’

“He turned and looked at me smiling. I asked him: ‘Where are you staying Geronta?’

“He showed me the ceiling, where we were building the new church [dedicated to St. Nektarios], saying: ‘My house is still not ready and I’m worried. My position does not allow me to live here and there….’

“‘Geronta, I must confess, you were told a lie earlier. I have cancer! But I want to get well, to make the Holy Altar, to finish the Church first, and then I can die….’

“‘Do not worry,’ he told me. ‘I’m leaving now. I’m going to Paros [an island in Greece] to venerate St. Arsenios and to visit Fr. Philotheos [Zervakos],’ he added, starting to leave and passing by the big icon without giving it a second thought….

“I stopped him and put my hands to his face.

“‘My Geronta, my Geronta, your face looks exactly like St. Nektarios who is honored here in our church….’

“Then, tears rolled from his eyes. He crossed me and embraced me with his hands. Taking courage I opened my hands to hug him. But when I spread out my hands, and while I was watching I could see him before my face, my arms closed back to my chest! The hairs then stood up on my arms and I crossed myself!

“I said again: ‘O my Geronta, I beg you, I want to live to do my first Liturgy. Help me to live….’

“He left from being close to me and stopped in front of his icon and said: ‘Oh, my child Nektarios, don’t worry. It is a passing trial, and you will be well! The miracle which you are asking for will happen, and it will be told to the whole world. Don’t be afraid….’

“Immediately he left us by walking through a closed door….

“The women ran to catch up to him. They reached him at the bus stop. He went inside and disappeared before the bus left!”

This story is always told by Fr. Nektarios Vitalis, a respected and reliable person, in the presence of witnesses. Fr. Nektarios eventually became well – to the amazement of doctors, radiologists, and forecasters of death. Because above all is Christ, our living God, and our intercessors before God, the Saints, plus our Mother the Panagia!

For “where God wills, the laws of nature are overcome….”

~From Mystagogy: The Weblog of John Sanidopoulos,(http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/06/miracle-of-saint-nektarios-healing-of.html).

 

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A Saint’s last Christmas with the Theotokos

 

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A visitation of the All-holy Theotokos in St. Valeriu’s prison cell

“Let us lift up the hearts!” Any visitation from our Lady warrants our immediate attention. I was not surprised by Her words “that deliverance will come, albeit through fire and devastation. The world still has to suffer….”. But these words put me to shame: “Today, the sons of darkness are bolder than the sons of light.”

For the complete narrative of the visitation, go here

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For the life of  St. Valeriu Gafencu the New Confessor of Romania (+ 1952), go here

 

Blessed Christmas all! May the light of Christ bring you peace and joy!

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The appearance of the All-holy Theotokos in St. Valeriu’s prison cell on the saint’s last Christmas

During the night of his last Christmas, toward dawn, Valeriu testified to his friend Ioan Ianolide:

Γέννηση του Ιησού Χριστού_ Рождество Христово_ Nativity of Christ-icone17af3c43e89991487750a4d5“This night, I kept vigil. I sang my carol to come. I wanted it to be very beautiful. I sang it in my head. I heard it in the high heavens, from where it descended. Rather difficult for me, since I don’t know musical notes and I have to sing by ear. So I was awake, lucid and serene, when all of a sudden, I noticed a photograph of Seta – the girl he loved – in my hand. Amazed by this, I lifted my gaze and at the head of my bed I saw the Mother of God, clothed all in white, vivid, real.
She was without her child. Her presence seemed material to me…

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A Refuge in the Storm

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“I wanted to find a new place to collect my thoughts, like a hunted bird that wants to fly into God’s embrace through prayer of the heart. I was alone and desolate …”

 

*

 

I went to Vatheia in Evia, to the Monastery of Saint Nicholas, and I stayed there for ten days. It had some tumble-down cells full of large mice. But what happened? For two days there was a great storm and heavy seas. It rained unceasingly and the rain hammered on the walls and rattled against the windows as if it were hail. The wind howled furiously up in the huge plane tree. I heard its branches hitting against one another. The storm raged relentlessly there in the utter wilderness. All the elements of nature were roaring. And I was inside the poor, tiny, fresco-covered church of Saint Nicholas – a church sanctified many times over years before by the souls which I saw and sensed were bending down before the saints and unlocking their hearts.

 

There, in the wilderness, in the cold north wind, I was like a hunted little bird of the air. Imagine, what would a little bird caught in such a storm have done? Wouldn’t it have sought to find a little nest, some cave to hide in? I did the same amidst the uproar and the storm, terrified by the elements of nature. I ran to find refuge; I ran to hide myself in the embrace of my heavenly Father. I sensed the pleasant warmth of Christ, my union with God. I felt great joy and exaltation and relief hiding myself away in God. I was unconcerned about the storm and the tempest, which are things of the world. My soul sought something higher, more perfect. I felt safe, comforted and at rest. I spent golden days there. I took advantage of a spell of dreadful weather.

 
That’s how we should think always. And that’s how we should live through difficulties and tragedies. We should see them all as opportunities for prayer, for approaching God. That’s the secret: how the man of God will transform everything into prayer. That’s what Saint Paul the Apostle means when he says, ‘I rejoice in my sufferings’,  in all the tribulations he encountered. This is how sanctification takes place. May God grant this to us. I ask for this fervently in my prayer.”
 
-Wounded by Love, pp. 47-48, Elder Porphyrios
 

The Noonday Demon

 

Audio Homily by St. Porphyrios (with English Subtitles)

+St. Porphyrios, 2 December

May God bless the person who took the prayerful effort to translate this into English. What a wealth of wisdom and divine illumination! May we have his blessing!

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A Year Between Heaven and Earth

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This year marks the eighth anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionary Moscow priest Daniel Sysoev, who was shot in the church he built by a Muslim who was angered by Fr. Daniel’s ability to convert followers of Islam, on the evening of November 19, 2009. He died in the hospital early the following morning.

Matushka Julia, Fr. Daniel’s wife, has agreed to share her memories of her husband. Her words here are a frank monologue, a canvas woven from her personal diary.

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Julia Sysoeva at the funeral of Fr. Daniel. Photo patriarchia.ru

 

“I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations.”

Memories of the events a year ago are very hard. The wounds remain, and my heart feels the pain. I remember that evening almost minute by minute—even what I bought in the store, what I was thinking about, when I got home, my last call to him, and his last words: “About forty minutes.” And forty minutes later, the cold dial tone on the line—he didn’t answer anymore. I called him a few minutes after he was shot. Then that first horrible night: the church, the police perimeter, the interrogation, the scarlet puddle of blood on the floor. His unfinished tea in his office, the open laptop. The sleepless night, sunrise, and further—the real horror. Here are excerpts from my journal—memorials of those sorrowful days.

“A year has passed and I have realized one thing that I was unable to accept and understand—in the ancient Church they congratulated you with martyrdom. I have felt with all my heart how good it is for Fr. Daniel there!—how he has enormous possibilities for work incommensurate with our earthly standards. Then I understood and realized that I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations. …”

“A priest once wrote these words in his last book: “The best end, which only a Christian can imagine, is a martyric death.” These words were written by the murdered priest Daniel Sysoev.”

“November 22, 2009

We stopped by the deserted apartment for a couple of hours. The whole night I was at his grave and at the early Liturgy.

I found the leftovers from our last dinner in the fridge. I had made sushi, and for some reason it hadn’t gone bad. Wednesday was the last time we had dinner together. Late, almost 12:00.

He didn’t come to dinner on Thursday. If someone had called me from the church immediately after it happened, I would have reached him alive! He lived—and it’s a miracle—almost an hour after being shot in the neck and right through his head. But no one called me!!! Why? I have more questions than answers. These days are lost time—it is continuous pain and sorrow.

It was a joy, almost like Pascha, when after vesting him in the morgue, they let me see his face. It was a miracle that, despite the perforating wound, the Lord preserved his face unharmed, without any bruising, as if alive.”

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Fr. Daniel’s pectoral cross, washed in his blood

For the rest of the diary, go here

For more articles and interviews about Daniel Sysoev of Blessed Memory, go here 

Also, “WHEN THEY KILL ME, DON’T CRY FOR ME, BUT PRAY FOR ME”

Remembrances of Fr. Daniel Sysoev by Archimandrite Melchisedek (Artiukhin)

By Matushka Julia Sysoeva