With the Eyes of the Soul

 

PREMIERE: “With the Eyes of the Soul”, the long awaited release of a video on the life of Saint Porphyrios, one of Orthodoxy’s most well known contemporary elders who happened to live most of his life working as a priest in a clinic chapel in Athens, Greece.  This video uses multiple voice actors and presents both a linear narrative about his life intertwined with accounts of healings and wonders that occurred at various times. 

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Overcoming Depression

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A few case studies analysed by St. Porphyrios at a rare audio recording and a chapter from his book “Wounded by Love”

“Nowadays people often feel sadness, despair, lethargy, laziness, apathy, and all things satanic.  They are downcast, discontent and melancholy.  They disregard their families, spend vast sums on psychoanalysts and take anti-depressants.  People explain this as ‘insecurity.’  Our religion believes that these states derive from satanic temptation. 

Pain is a psychological power which God implanted in us with a view to doing us good and leading us to love, joy, and prayer.  Instead of this, the devil succeeds in taking this power from the battery of our soul and using it for evil.  He transforms it into depression and brings the soul into a state of lethargy and apathy.  He torments us, takes us captive and makes us psychologically ill.

There is a secret.  Turn the satanic energy into good energy.  This is difficult and requires some preparation.  The requisite preparation is humility.  With humility you attract the grace of God.  You surrender yourself to the love of God, to worship and to prayer.  But even if you do all in the world, you achieve nothing if you haven’t acquired humility.  All the evil feelings, insecurity, despair and disenchantment, which come to take control of the soul, disappear with humility.  The person who lacks humility, the egotist, doesn’t want you to get in the way of his desires, to make any criticism of him or tell him what to do.  He gets upset, irritated and reacts violently and is overcome by depression.

This state is cured by grace.  The soul must turn to God’s love.  The cure will come when we start to love God passionately.  Many of our saints transformed depression into joy with their love for Christ.  That is, they took this power of the soul which the devil wished to crush and gave it to God and they transformed it into joy and exultation.  Prayer and worship gradually transform depression and turn it into joy, because the grace of God takes effect.  Here you need to have the strength to attract the grace of God which will help you to be united with Him.  Art is required.  When you give yourself to God and become one with him, you will forget the evil spirit which drags at you from behind, and this spirit, when it is disdained, will leave.  And the more you devote yourself to the Spirit of God, the less you will look behind to see the spirit that is dragging at you.  When grace attracts you, you will be united with God.  And when you unite yourself to God and abandon yourself to Him, everything else disappears and is forgotten and you are saved.  The great art, the great secret, in order to rid yourself of depression and all that is negative is to give yourself over to the love of God.

Something which can help a person who is depressed is work, interest in life.  The garden, plants, flowers, trees, the countryside, a walk in the open air — all these things tear a person away from a state of inactivity and awake other interests.  They act like medicines.  To occupy oneself with the arts, with music and so on, is very beneficial.  The thing that I place top of the list, however, is interest in the Church, in reading Holy Scripture and attending services.  As you study the words of God you are cured without being aware of it.

Let me tell you about a girl who came to me.  She was suffering from dreadful depression.  Drugs had no effect.  She had given up everything — her work, her home, her interests.  I told her about the love of Christ which takes the soul captive because the grace of God fills the soul and changes it.  I explained to her that the force which takes over the soul and transforms the power of the soul into depression is demonic.  It throws the soul to the ground, torments it and renders it useless.  I advised her to devote herself to things like music which she had formerly enjoyed.  I emphasized, however, most of all her need to turn to Christ with love.  I told her, moreover, that in our Church a cure is to be found through love for God and prayer, provided this is done with all the heart.”

By St. Porphyrios
+2 Dec

 

Like a swift sparrow

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O much-suffering Stephanie, * with the crown of the gifts of grace * hath the Lord now crowned thee, who gavest up thyself * to willing torments and pains in the nobility of thy soul: * ’twixt two palm trees thou wast bound, * and thereby thou wast rent in twain, * spreading out thy wings, * flying up unto God like a swift sparrow and forsaking to the fowlers * thy mortal body, O wondrous one. [Ainos (Praise) from the Orthros November 11]

*It is said that + Martyr Stephanie in Damascus was 16 years old at the time of her martyrdom.
*

Isn’t that an amazing transfiguration of a horrid death? What a stunning testimony to the transformative power of Christ’s Resurrection! This hymn reminded me today of St. Porphyrios and his precious advice on immersing ourselves in the Church’s hymns for their great healing power to overcome all the gloom, the sadness, the failure, and the death that seem to surround us.

*

The Elder Porphyrios once asked a pilgrim visiting him:

— Do you know the troparion that begins, “We celebrate the slaying of death …”?

— Yes, elder, I know it.

— Then say it.

—“We celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell, the beginning of another way of life that is eternal. And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.”

—Do you understand it?

—Certainly I understand it.

I thought that he was asking me for a translation into modern Greek.

The Elder then waved his hand dismissively saying,

— Little George, you didn’t understand anything at all! You said it quickly like a chanter in a hurry. Listen to what awesome things are said in this hymn: Through Christ and His resurrection, we do not get across a river, a gorge, a canal, a lake, or even the Red Sea. We have moved across an abyss that no human being could cross on his own. Ages came and went with the world waiting for this Pascha, for this passage. Our Christ passed from death to life! That’s why today “we celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell.” Death is no more. We celebrate today “the beginning of another way of life that is eternal,” a life with Him.

Speaking with enthusiasm and conviction, the Elder was clearly moved. The elder paused and continued more energetically:

— Now there is no more chaos, no more death, no more slaying, no more Hell. Now everything is joy, thanks to the resurrection of our Christ. Human nature is resurrected with Him. Now we too can rise again that we might live with Him eternally … What bliss is contained in the Resurrection! “And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause.” Have you seen how young goats now in the spring frolic on the green grass? They drink some of their mother’s milk and then prance about leaping for joy, and so do we celebrating the ineffable joy of the resurrection of our Lord.

He then stopped speaking. Pure joy was now in the air. And the elder continued,

—Can I give you some advice? In every sorrow, with every failure, in anything that causes you pain, collect yourself for half a minute and slowly say this hymn. Then, you will see that the most important thing in your life and in the life of the entire universe has already been accomplished with the resurrection of Christ. It is our salvation. And then, you realize that all our setbacks are so insignificant, that you don’t need to allow them to spoil your mood.

— St. Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

Saint Porphyrios’ Mobile Phone

By Nun Porphyria (Spyridoulas Moschou)
Because the Elder calls me on the phone every day from 4:00 to 6:00 in the morning and we read Matins, I thought that since the phone call is long-distance, he must be paying a lot of money to OTE [Hellenic Telecommunications Organization]. This is why when I got paid I put 50,000 drachmas in an envelope to give him.
“Elder, I brought some money, because your OTE bill must be big.”
“What are you talking about, foolish one? Here we are building a church and we’re gonna give so much money to OTE? Put it in the box we have for the building of the church.”
I put it in the box. But my thoughts kept telling me: It seems like OTE granted him a line of communication or someone else is paying for it.
“Lift me up. Give me my shoes to put on and tie them.”
He then took his cane and said to me: “Let’s go.”
I was surprised. As I held him I thought: Where are we going? We walked out of the balcony door and headed for the new building which was still a worksite. We went up some stairs and he showed me the new cells. He showed me the lightweight concrete that was being put as insulating material.
We then went up to a cell that had a built-in-bed where from the window was a view of the sea.
“Do you like it here?”
“Yes, it’s very beautiful, ascetical.”
“I love the ascetics very much. This is why my mind is constantly at Kavsokalyva, but they don’t let me go. One day I will go and stay there.”
We returned to the balcony door and I waited for him to want to lie down and rest. He proceeded however towards the entrance of the cell and said to me:
“Now we will go to the old cells that are empty.”
Outside at the corridor many people were waiting and they thought I was in his cell with him all this time. They were waiting for me to leave that they may come in. When they saw the Elder standing in the corridor, they lost it. For some of them it was the first time they saw the Elder standing up. They were shocked and ran to receive his blessing. We proceeded forward and went up to the second floor. The doors of the cells were shut.
“In this cell they have incense.”
I thought: Perhaps he smelled it. He read my thoughts and saw my lack of faith.
“Here they spread out washed wheat to grind it for prosphora.”
Again my thoughts told me: Well, wet wheat also has a certain smell.”
The Elder caught my thoughts again and said about the third cell:
“Here the toilet tank has rusted because we don’t pull on it to flush. Go pour a little water inside.”
Indeed, I opened the door and when I pulled on the toilet tank, the water came out rusted. So I thought: Rust doesn’t smell.
As we returned I heard him answer a telephone call from someone.
“Hello, Go ahead! Yes, yes, do it like that….”
He was giving advice to someone. But there was no telephone in his hands. It was just the two of us. I was motionless. How is he talking to someone without a telephone? I asked myself.
“Alright, hang up now, and come by some day so we can see you.”
He then said to me:
“See, foolish one. He had need of asking me something. He was calling me downstairs in my cell, but since I wasn’t there, I answered it here.”
Then I woke up. Then I understood that the Elder was not talking to me through OTE. He talked to me in a spiritual manner, which is why he told me to put the money in the box for the building of the church.
“Come on, let’s go now.”
Source: From the book Μαθητεία στον Άγιο Πορφύριο, έκδοση “Η Μεταμόρφωσις του Σωτήρος”, Μήλεσι, 2017. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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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St. Porphyrios’ Farewell

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Such profound humbleness!


While at the Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia on Mt. Athos, the Elder Porphyrios had given orders for his grave to be dug.
Through a spiritual child of his, he dictated a farewell letter of advice and forgiveness to all his spiritual children.

Here is the letter as it was sent to us from the Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Savior.
It is dated June 17, 1991. It was found amongst the monk’s garments that were laid out for his burial on the day of his departure.
It indicates his profound humbleness.

My dear spiritual Children,

Now that I am still in charge of my faculties, I want to give you some advice.

Ever since I was a child, I was always in sin. When my mother sent me to watch the animals on the mountain, (my father

had gone to America to work on the Panama Canal for us his children, because we were poor), there, where I shepherded

the animals, I slowly read, word by word, the life of St. John the Hut-dweller and I loved St. John very much. 

I said a lot of prayers, like the young child that I was, twelve or fifteen years old, I don’t remember too well. I wanted 

to follow his example. So, with a lot of difficulty, I secretly left my parents and came to Kavsokalyvia on the Holy Mountain. 

I became obedient to two elders, the true brothers, Panteleimon and loannikios.

They happened to be very devout and full of virtue, I loved them very much and because of that, with their blessing,

I gave them absolute obedience. That helped me a lot. I also felt great love for God and got along very well. 

However, because of my sins, God allowed me to become ill, and my elders told me to go to my parents in my village 

of St. John, Evia. Although I had sinned a lot from when I was a small child, when I returned to the world I continued

to commit sins which, today are very many. The world, however, thought highly of me, and everyone shouts that I’m a saint.

I however, feel that I am the most sinful person in the world. Of course, whatever I remembered I confessed, and I know God

has forgiven me. But now I have the feeling that my spiritual sins are very many and I ask all those who have known me 

to pray for me, because, for as long as I lived, I humbly prayed for you, too. Now that I’m leaving for heaven, I have the 

feeling that God will say to me, “What are you doing here?” I have only one thing to say to him, “I am not worthy of here, Lord, 

but whatever your love wills, it’ll do for me.” From then on, I don’t know what will happen. I however, wish for God’s love to act

I always pray that my spiritual children will love God, Who is everything, so that He will make us worthy to enter His earthly

uncreated Church. We must begin from here. I always made the effort to pray, to read the hymns of the Church, the Holy Scriptures 

and the Lives of the Saints. May you do the same. I tried, by the grace of God, to approach God and may you also do the same.

I beg all of you to forgive me for whatever I did to upset you.

Hieromonk Porphyrios
Kavsokalyvia, June 4/17 1991

 

And

 

That phone ring 🙂 At 14:35′ onwards 🙂 This Elder was sought after by the whole of Greece and all mankind. His whole life was dedicated in service to the faithful. I imagine that phone never stopped ringing, just as pilgrims never stopped coming. A saint receives everyone, that is his vocation. May we have his blessing! +2 Dec.