“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.
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!
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.
Kavsokalyvia, June 4/17 1991
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.
Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, Hierotheos, speaks on Mount Athos’ secret cry: the Prayer of the Heart
As biological life is transmitted, so spiritual tradition is a whole life.
A guide speaks theoretically, but the Fathers beget spiritually.
The Holy Mountain is a living organism.
May the Lord find us worthy to hear its secret cry!
Already in his youth, Metropolitan Hierotheos was particularly interested in the Fathers of the Church, working for a time in the monastery libraries of Mount Athos, on the recording of the codices. He was especially interested in the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas.
The influence of Fr. John Romanidis, the study of the patristic texts and particularly those of the hesychast Fathers of the Philokalia, many years of studying St. Gregory Palamas, association with the monks of the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos), and many years of pastoral experience, all brought him to the realisation that Orthodox theology is a science of the healing of man and that the neptic fathers can help the modern restless man who is disturbed by many internal and existential problems.
Within this framework he has written a multitude of books, the fruit of his pastoral work, among which is Orthodox Psychotherapy. Some of these books have been translated into various languages, such as English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. With these books he conveys the Orthodox spirit of the Philokalia to the restless and disturbed man of our time.
- The Seer (2014). ISBN 9789607070838
- Empirical Dogmatics of The Orthodox Catholic Church. According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides. Volume 1. (2012). ISBN 9789607070753. Volume 2. (2013). ISBN 9789607070814
- Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man’s Healing in the Orthodox Church (2007). ISBN 9789607070609
- The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition (1993). ISBN 9607070186
- Life after Death (1996). ISBN 9607070348
- Orthodox Psychotherapy (1994). ISBN 9607070208
- Orthodox Spirituality (1994). ISBN 9607070208
- The Person in the Orthodox Tradition (1999). ISBN 9607070402
My heart has been very moved by a passage from Wounded by Love, the Life and Wisdom of Saint Porphyrios. It speaks to so much of my own life and the world around me that for this post I would like to invite you in to hear his wonderful story of one lone nightingale. May the Celtic Orthodox spirit of seeing God’s energia in His creation bring peace to you. Please let it sink deep into your heart, I know that I am trying to do the same. Holy Father Porphyrios, pray to God for us!
One morning I was walking alone in the virgin forest. Everything, freshened by the morning dew, was shining in the sunlight. I found myself in a gorge. I walked through it and sat on a rock. Cold water was running peacefully beside me and I was saying the prayer. Complete peace. Nothing could be heard. After a while the silence was broken by a sweet, intoxicating voice singing and praising the Creator. I looked. I couldn’t discern anything. Eventually, on a branch opposite me I saw a tiny bird. It was a nightingale. I listened as the nightingale trilled unstintingly, its throat puffed out to bursting in sustained song. The microscopic little bird was stretching back its wings in order to find power to emit those sweetest of tones, and puffing out its throat to produce that exquisite voice. If only I had a cup of water to give it to drink and quench its thirst!
Tears came to my eyes – the same tears of grace that flowed so effortlessly and that I had acquired from Old Dimas. It was the second time I had experienced them.
I cannot convey to you the things I felt, the things I experienced. I have, however, revealed to you the mystery. And I thought, ‘Why does this tiny nightingale produce these songs? Why does it trill like that? Why is it singing that exquisite thought? Why, why, why…why is it bursting its throat? Why, why, for what reason? Is it waiting for someone to praise it? Certainly not. No one there will do that.’ So I philosophized to myself. This sensitivity I acquired after the experience with Old Dimas. Previously I didn’t have it. What did that nightingale not tell me! And how much did I say to it in silence: ‘Little nightingale, who told you that I would pass by here? No one comes here. It’s such an out-of-the-way place. How marvelously you unceasingly carry on your duty, your prayer to God! How much you tell me, and how much you teach me, little nightingale! My God, how I am moved. With your warbling, dear nightingale, you show me how to hymn God, you teach me a thousand things beyond number…’
My poor health does not allow me to narrate all this to you as I feel it. A whole book could be written about it. I loved that nightingale very much. I loved it and it inspired me. I thought, ‘Why it and not me? Why does it hide from the world and not me?’ And the thought entered into my mind that I must leave, I must lose myself, I must cease to exist. I said to myself, ‘Why? Did it have an audience? Did it know I was there and could hear it? Who heard it as it was bursting its throat in song? Why did it go to such a hidden location? But what about of all these little nightingales in the middle of the thick forest, in the ravines, night and day, at sunset and sunrise? Who heard their throat-bursting song? Why did they go to such secret places? Why did they puff out their throats to bursting?’ The purpose was worship, to sing to their Creator, to worship God. That’s how I explained it.
I regarded all of them as angels of God, little birds that glorified God the Creator of all and no one heard them. Yes, believe me, they hid themselves so that no one would hear them. They weren’t interested in being heard; but there in solitude, in peace, in the wilderness, in silence, they longed to be heard, but by whom? None other than by the Maker of everything, the Creator of all, by Him who gave them life and breath and voice. You will ask, ‘Did they have consciousness? What am I to say?’ I don’t know if they did it consciously or not. I don’t know. These, after all, are birds. It may be, as Holy Scripture says, that today they live and tomorrow exist no more. We mustn’t think differently from what Holy Scripture says. God may present to us that all these were angels of God. We don’t know about these things. At all events they hid themselves that no one would hear their doxology.
So it is also for the monks there on the Holy Mountain; their life is unknown. You live with your elder and you love him. Prostrations and ascetic struggles are all part of daily life, but you don’t remember them, nor does anyone ask about you, ‘Who is he?’ You live in Christ; you belong to Christ. You live with everything and you live God, in whom all things live and move – in whom and through whom…you enter into the uncreated Church and live there unknown. And although you devote yourself in prayer to your fellow men, you remain unknown to all men, and perhaps they will never know you.
A Gaelic Blessing
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you