Metropolitan of Morfou Neofytos: ” Saint Paisios as I Experienced Him”

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Moving on — at the request of this blog’s followers — to the second part of the Metropolitan Neofytos’ of Morfou trilogy, an outline of the sacred personality and life of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos as he experienced him. The first part was St. Porphyrios, my previous post, and the third one will be St. Iakovos Tsalikis, all recently canonised modern Greek Saints he was blessed to meet early in his life. It is such a pity that so few of this Metropolitan’s homilies have English subtitles because at every one of them so many “secrets” and holy mysteries of these recently canonised, modern saints are revealed!  Metropolitan Neofytos had complained to God in his youth that he had lost his father too young, and our Lord has “punished” him with 7 Fathers, 3 of which have already been canonised, and the remaining four are all due. Oh, he fathomless, bottomless Love of Our Lord and the Wisdom of His Providence!

Currently, Metropolitan Morfou is under fire and faces persecution and prosecution by both church and state officials, as St. Paisios had prophetically warned him and blessed him to become worthy of the Seven Holy Maccabees’ bold Confession of Faith and Martyrdom, together with that of their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar.

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Saint Paisios’ Konitsa home and Stomio Monastery

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St Arsenios’ monastery July pilgrimages — a photo journal and vlog

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First, a bit of mountain trekking: Prophet Elias church on Olympus’ summit (2800m.)

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 Then,  Molyvdoskepasti

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Moni Stomiou, Konitsa

Path to Stomio monastery:

 

+Memory Eternal, Elias! May you feast in Paradise with your beloved Saints, St. Paisios and the prophet Elias! (Elias, a family acquaintance, precious friend and father of 4  lost his life at 39, about a month ago; he fell in a gorge on these mountains during a mountain trekking/pilgrimage .)

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Ilias to Prophet Ilias

 

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Finally, Saint Paisios’ home:

 

 

 

Saint Paisios the Athonite and the Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki

The Gate to the Monastery of Souroti. Beautiful mosaic with Christ, and St. John the Theologian and St. Arsenios of Cappadocia praying to Him

Right now in Greece:

and:
My heart beats faster in Greece. Right now, I am there in spirit. Together with the Saint of my heart, Saint Paisios, my spiritual grandfather. God is glorified in His Saints!
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The Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki
Souroti is found around 28 kilometers from Thessaloniki, not far from the central road which links the city with the capital of Chalkidiki, Polygyros.The Holy Monastery is dedicated to St. John the Theologian and to St. Arsenios of Cappadocia. In the Monastery are the Relics of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, which are found in the Katholikon, along with the grave of St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain, who reposed on July 12th 1994, and was buried next to the church of St. Arsenios.

The beautiful church of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, in Souroti Monastery

Every year, from July 11th-12th, the anniversary of the repose of the Saint, the Holy Hesychasterion serves a vigil service, with thousands of the faithful taking part. For example, on the anniversary of St. Paisios’ repose in 2014 (and before he was canonized a Saint), an estimated 120,000 people came to venerate his grave. Many miracles occur through the Saint’s intercessions and through the soil from his grave, which pilgrims often take as a blessing.

The humble yet wonderworking grave of St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain, behind the church of St. Arsenios, Souroti Monastery

St. Paisios’ acquaintance with the Monastery
Once, the Elder sick and was in great need of blood for his surgery. He had no relatives by his side (as he himself wished) and a group of novice nuns donated as much blood as he needed. He was very grateful for their support. Wishing to express his deep gratitude, he used to say that their kind support resembled a woolen sweater embracing his bare flesh; he wished to take it off and offer it to them in return, as an expression of his heartfelt gratitude.

The grave stone of St. Paisios, engraved with beautiful and humble poem written by him. In English, it reads:
“Here life has ended,
Here and my breath (has ended),
Here the body will be buried,
And my soul will be happy.
My Saint lives, that is my honour.
I believe that he will pity my miserable soul.
He will pray to the Saviour

To have the Virgin Mary with me.”

The Great Deisis: Christ, entreated by the Theotokos, St. John the Theologian, St. John the Russian and St. Paisios the Athonite

He sympathized with the nuns who were facing insuperable problems in their effort to build their convent. So, he personally took the initiative to find a suitable area for its construction. He offered his assistance in every way he could; along with the building’s foundations, he also laid its spiritual foundations by giving instructions for the proper functioning of the convent. Thus, the Elder established a strong relationship with the Convent of St. John the Theologian and remained by its side until his death.

St. John the Theologian
For more on St. Paisios’ role in the founding of the Monastery, and on his relationship with Fr. Polycarp, see here.
Hours of Visitation at the Monastery (source)
Please note that the Monastery is closed to pilgrims Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the schedule for the rest of the days is according to the following hours:
Winter hours:
Daily 10 am-1 pm and 3 pm-6 pm
Summer hours:
Daily 10 am – 1 pm και 5 pm – 7 pm 
Tel: (+30)2396041320 and (+30)2396041315
Please contact the Monastery with additional questions or for the most up-to-date info.
Beautiful gardens, planted with prayer, at Souroti Monastery
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Causes of Sorrows and Trials

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There are many causes which generate trials and sorrows in our life. Besides that, their combinations can be quite complex, so we are in a labyrinth of factors.

However we can distinguish four big categories of influence which will help us to avoid and protect ourselves from unwanted happenings in our life.

Sorrows Because of our Sins. When we sin, because the sin is an existential distortion, spiritual law will try to re-establish the equilibrium. If we will try by ourselves, through repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness to fix our mistake, then sorrow will not come. Otherwise, it will happen after a certain time when it will be clear that we didn’t have an analogous repentance.

Blocking Trials. We make a plan and begin to follow it. However, we cannot see too much in advance. God, which knows everything, sees that in front of us is a deep tar pit, a trap which will harm us badly. That’s why He will allow a blocking trial to happen in order to close our path towards the trap. That’s why the Holy Fathers say, “When God closes a door, don’t break the doorknob”. You will repent of it after.

Advancing Sorrows. Someone can advance spiritually but (s)he cannot or (s)he doesn’t want and/or (s)he doesn’t know how to advance. In such cases, God gives us a trial, a sorrow, in which we will gain virtues like prayer, patience, humility, and other qualities upon which we will advance spiritually.

Trials for Example. Everyone is a sinner but there are times in which we don’t do such sins in order to trigger the spiritual law in a big degree. Even then, God might put us in a trial in order to be an example to follow, a light for others. We have here the classical example of Job in the Old Testament period. In the New Testament period, there is, firstly, the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and, after Him, a lot of saints.

Based on Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, Saint Paisios the Athonite

Source: Ascetic Experience

How much do we really need?

Minimalism has always attracted me but will by necessity become central to my lifestyle from now on, if I am to survive what is to come… The word from my spiritual father was unequivocal this time. Life as I have known it will change drastically in the months to come: the little city hermit will constantly be on the move. Little did I know back to four years ago how prophetic this would be: “My Lifestyle – Suitcases, Lover of the Theotokos, Pilgrim, Traveller and a Little City Hermit. Belonging to Neither and Both.”

 

*

 

“Since I am a leader, I often visit different places, in luxurious salons and houses, and then I remember the cell of elder Paisios, in which there was nothing.

Do you know what this “nothing” means? Absolutely nothing, in the truest sense of the word. Some boxes and old blankets that he had found and attached were his “sofas.” He said about them:

– I specially ordered these sofas from France, from Louis! – so he told us laughingly.

At first, when we went to him, since I was young, he said to me:

– For you, pop, I have a special chair, you sit there because it is special, and I hold it for official guests!

And what do you think it was? The box was covered with a blanket, and another blanket was nailed to the wall so that you would not be cold when you lean against it.

He had nothing, the icons were paper, inserted in cellophane, there was a stool instead of a table; The old man put a board on his knees and wrote on it. Poverty. He didn’t have anything, not because he couldn’t, but because he didn’t want it. If he wanted, he would be rich, a millionaire – if he wanted, but he did not want it. All his goodness was placed in one chest, where there was a little bean, simple rice and what was sometimes worn from monasteries: some dried fruit or Turkish delight, which he treated visitors to. No pans, nothing, that is, those things that for us are self-evident, were a luxury for him.

Once the old man prepared tea for one person – what do you think? In a canned food can. Remember, grandmothers once did that? He put a few pieces of grass into it and brewed tea, and then, when he poured it into another can, all the tea leaves fell out. The man went and bought him a sieve, and he said to him:

– But, my child, why did you bring it? Do we wish luxury now?

– Geronda, one tea strainer – is it a luxury? So that tea leaves do not get into tea … What is this luxurious?

And he answered:

– Why did you bring it? Now I will have to wash it, I will need a nail to hang it, a hammer to nail it, I will have to take care of it … Why do I need all this stuff? You take this your strainer, I do not need it, I do not want it.

Such simple things were a luxury to him. But I confess to you that I would exchange all the salons in the world for this cell, infinitely poor, modest, which, however, was full of God, even the dust in it – everything in it was filled with God.

I was told what some people from America had done: they went and took a rag, about which the elder wiped his shoes, before entering the cell, cut it into many pieces and distributed them to people, and they faithfully and reverently kept this rag , with which he wiped his feet, and miracles were performed. So you say to yourself: this is what God’s man means! Even the dust from his feet will be honored.

So who succeeded now? Whether the one who lived in the palaces and the memory of him perished, and it is unknown whether even children remember him — or this extremely poor, uneducated ascetic in the middle of the mountains, who, however, was filled with blessing from God with happiness, optimism, the former like a source from which happiness and joy exuded? And we all walked, like all suffering people, drank and were saturated with this water, flowing from this poor man, who often had nothing to eat.

I remember once, when I went to Thessaloniki, I bought some dry milk for the old man, because he had problems with his stomach, and brought him to him.

– What is it?

– Geronda, for your stomach! A little water and a spoonful of powder – and it turns out milk!

– Well, leave it over there!

After a year or two, I had to do something there and found a bag of milk in the same corner. He did not even open it, did not touch it. The way I bought it, so it was.

“Geronda blessed, did you leave it there?”

And he answered me:

– If I wanted it, I would have bought it myself! I did not ask you to bring it to me!

“I don’t have it, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want it, I decided that my life would be like that. If I wanted to, I could live differently. ”

This, naturally, I am not saying so that we imitate him, because, probably, in the world where we live, we don’t need and we can’t even do such things because of our obligations. But let our heart be free, wise, and we need to learn what matters in our lives: for ultimately only God matters.

You say: “I did not succeed in one thing, did not succeed in the other, did not become what I wanted.” Why do you want this? All this is transient, vain. Achieve what has value. Have you attained God? Do you have God in your heart? Do you have the expectation of the kingdom of God? That is what has value. And everything else – for a short time.

Well, add everything else, and what happened? Those who have should be as not having. You will not be with this for long, you will lose it, you will not have it all your life. Even the most expensive things, even they will not be with you in the hour of your difficulty. God is here Who will be with you always, you need Him, you need Christ. We will look for Him.”

Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol

Saint Paisios on the Arena of Great Lent

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St. Paisios: “A layman once went to a monastery in the beginning of Lent and a certain monk there was abrupt and rough to him. However, the poor man had good thoughts and justified him. He later came to me and said:
 
‘I do not blame him, Father. After all, he had just completed the Three Day Fast!’ (1)
 
If this monk had done the Three Day Fast in a spiritual way, he would have had a spiritual sweetness and would have spoken to the layman with kindness. But he pushed himself egotistically to do the Three Day Fast, and so he blamed everybody for everything.”
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A nun: Elder, what should I reflect on during Great Lent?

St. Paisios: You should reflect on the Passion, the Sacrifice of Christ.
 
During Great Lent, we are given a greater opportunity  to struggle and participate more intensely in the Saving Passion of Christ: 
with our repentance and prostrations;
with the cutting off of our passions;
with a reduction of our food intake.
For the love of Christ.
Another nun: Elder, how can I struggle more with temperance during Lent?
 St. Paisios: Now, during Lent, those in the world take greater care to cultivate temperance, but we monks must always be careful. What is more important, though, is to be careful with the passions of the soul and then the body’s. Because if one prioritizes bodily asceticism over them and does not struggle to eradicate the passions of the soul, he will accomplish  nothing.
 
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We must make use, as much as we can, of all the opportunities this spiritual arena offers to us, in order to approach closer to the Crucified Christ. Then, we will helped by Him and rejoice spiritually at His Holy Resurrection , since we would have experienced more spiritually Great Lent.
 
Ι pray that God gives you strength during Great Lent, so that you may climb Golgotha and be near Christ there, together with the Theotokos and your patron Saint, John the Theologian, and that you may be granted worthy to participate in the awesome Passion of our Lord. Amen.
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(1) The Three Day Fast (Ιερὸ Τριήμερο)With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord’s fast in the desert. Strictly observant Orthodox hold this day (and also Clean Tuesday and Wednesday) as a strict fast day, on which no solid food at all is eaten. Others will eat only in the evening, and then only ‘xerophagy’ (lit. “dry eating”; i.e. eating uncooked foodstuffs such as fruit, nuts, halva, bread and honey, etc). For those who are able and willing, and always with the blessing of their spiritual father, it is encouraged by the Orthodox Church to keep a three day strict fast where neither food or water (if possible) is consumed until Clean Wednesday when one partakes of Holy Communion at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some of the strictest faithful even go so far as to do this for the entire Clean Week, accepting only Holy Communion during the week. This is an excellent way to mark the beginning of a holy struggle against one’s passions and weaknesses.

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From the sixth volume of the series ‘Spiritual Counsels of the Elder Paisios of Mount Athos’: About Prayer.
Γέροντος Παϊσίου Αγιορείτου Λόγοι ΣΤ΄ «Περί Προσευχής», εκδόσεις Ιερόν Ησυχαστήριον «Ευαγγελιστής Ιωάννης ο Θεολόγος» Σουρωτή Θεσσαλονίκης 2012, σελ. 199-200. 
Transl. by the little city hermit

Saint 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 about fasting.
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 
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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Unfading Bloom

 

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Flowers sheltered like cenobitic monks in a crevice at the summit of Mt. Athos.

“How can I plead empty-handed?”

St. Paisos would always cut a few wild flowers outside his hut and take them to the Theotokos icon, whenever he wanted to pray to Her.

Indeed, he urged everybody to always make an offering to Panagia, even a little one, anything within our power

 

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At the hut of St. Paisios

 

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