Monday, July 21, 2014

A recent miracle of St. Luke the Surgeon

St. Luke the Surgeon (source)
 
My name is X. M., and I am 38 years old and from Kavala, married and the mother of two boys, 13 and 8. I wanted to spread among you a story, my experience of a miracle...

From a young age I had health problems. In high school I had problems with my knees. Working as a hairdresser (20 years old), I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. After my first pregnancy (25 years old), the great problems started. Osteoarthritis, sacroileitis, tendonitis in many places of my body, spondyloarthritis, hypothyroidism...

Over the next ten years and after my second pregnancy, the state of my health had clearly worsened, and the last three years I was a "walking pharmacy": injections, pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and other things to fight the pain that I was fighting on a daily basis. And furthermore, on a daily basis: moaning, crying and anxiety.

Christmas of 2013 I visited a Neurosurgeon, who after all of the tests "discovered" a bulging disc in my spine. I believed that with surgery, I would get well! When, however, the doctor saw the MRI, he found that the bulge was so small that despite surgery, my problem would not go away. He suggested that I look elsewhere for my problem. I was going crazy, and believed that I was sick in my head, and I cried for two days straight...

I looked online to find some site, and I came across a site from two doctors with the phrase: "Fibromyalgia". Studying the symptoms of this syndrome, I found that I had all the symptoms! Pains in my muscles, in my joints, insomnia, depression...pain everywhere...During that period I began to read about the miracles of St. Luke the Surgeon, from a book that my husband had brought from Mount Athos. That was my first sign that the Saint was and is near me.

One night, as I was reading from his miracles, and as I was half-way through the book, I began to doze-off and as I had begun to sleep, left the book in the corner and tried to sleep. It was futile, however. I then had a clear sense that something was fragrant in my room, which only I could smell! When I learned that the fragrance was "myrrh", I took the book and continued to read. The fragrance left as soon as I finished reading the miracle!!!

Up to Pascha of 2014, the pains had become unbearable. I could not sleep, couldn't drive, couldn't cook...and the worst of all was that I couldn't hug my children, because every encounter with them was painful. I was in great pain and cried continuously...I couldn't bear this state any more, so I decided with my doctor to perform a series of injections, which had many severe side effects, and could even cause cancer. In light of the therapy with the injections, my husband, who was beside me all these years, and who I truly could not life without, suggested to me that we visit the Monastery of Sagmata in Thebes, to venerate the holy relics of St. Luke the Surgeon, and to pray for the intercessions of the Saint! Despite my terrible state, he did not have to ask me a second time...

The next day, May 3rd 2014, we left the children at my cousin's house, who was a great support for me throughout all these years, and traveled to Thebes. As we approached the Monastery, for some reason I was continuously tearful, and when I venerated the relics of the Saint, I began to cry even more. I entreated him to take away half of my pain (that would be enough), while my husband prayed that I not suffer all of the side effects of the injections. As I left, and as I heard the bells of the Monastery, I began to cry again!

Reaching Chalkida, where we were staying the night, we had dinner, and immediately returned to the hotel. I was worse than ever before, with heavy breathing and pain. I lay down at 8PM, and reading the life of the Saint, and I was able to sleep around 2AM. At 2:30AM, I awoke and complained: Oh, my God, I only slept half an hour!!! I tried to get up, and found that nothing was wrong, I had no pain anywhere!!! The fibromyalgia was gone! The help of St. Luke came unexpectedly quick! In the morning, when my husband awoke and saw me with a huge smile, he understood immediately what had happened.

When I returned and hugged my children, they understood what had happened, and began to dance from their joy. My cousin and my koumbara understood the difference over the telephone as soon as they heard me, without even seeing me. My doctor told me that I gave him the greatest gift, that he did not have to give me injections any more.

My spiritual father, Fr. T., my mother, and some of my close friends knew what I experienced, and they were next to me all these years, and they couldn't do anything other than rejoice at what occurred, and making my joy even greater. The moaning and weeping has ceased. I gained my life back again.

I will always be grateful to St. Luke the Surgeon, and I thank him for his immediate and unexpected prayers...

X. M., Kavala
   
(Amateur translation of text from source)
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

St. Porphyrios' Advice to a Pediatrician


St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
  
St. Porphyrios once told a Pediatrician: "Listen to what I have to say to you. Every time you examine a child*** you should offer a fervent prayer with love: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant."

As he said this he took a deep breath while he opened his hands. "It is in this way that you should pray for every child. God has sent a precious soul into your hands. As you place your hands on them pray fervently within yourself that the grace of God will be transfused into the soul of the child.

"Do all this things spiritually and in secret. The others who are present won't understand anything. You will prescribe to them medicines which science dictates but in the final analysis Christ will heal the child."
(source)
   
***Of course this beautiful advice can apply to anyone in healthcare, for any age.
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, July 14, 2014

120,000 people visited the Grave of Elder Paisios

The humble grave of Elder Paisios of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti (source)
 
On the 20th anniversary of the repose of Elder Paisios, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti (outside of Thessaloniki), where the Elder is buried, as usual holds a vigil service along with memorial for him. This year estimates hold that 120,000 of the faithful visited the Elder's grave. Some patiently waited up to four hours in line...

These thousands of people (including many young people) were present, and even though the church was open, it could not hold all of this sea of pilgrims, so many prayed in the courtyards of the Monastery. According to Police, 50,000 people remained for the vigil service, while a total of 120,000 people visited the grave of the Elder on July 12th.
(source)
 
May we have his blessing!
   
The multitudes of people waiting to venerate the grave of Elder Paisios (source)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Excellent Documentary on the life of Elder Paisios

 
Here is an excellent and extensive (3 hour long) documentary on the life of Elder Paisios. It has Greek narration, but English subtitles, with many excellent icons and pictures of places associated with the life of the Elder. They discuss the Elder's life, teachings and miracles before and after his repose. The official title is:
Elder Paisios the Athonite (1924-1994): "The Signalman of the Army and of God"

May we all have his blessing!

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Elder Paisios on those who suffer for the world

An icon depicting Elder Paisios receiving pilgrims, taking up their burdens and preaching to them the Word of God. His scroll reads: "We must struggle with philotimo, that we may be saved, and so that we not sadden Christ..." (source)

Those who suffer deeply for the salvation of the whole world and help in their own way (as strugglers) and humbly entrust themselves to the hands of God, feel the greatest joy in the world. Their life is a constant doxology, for they flutter about internally like angels, glorifying God day and night. Those, however, who neglect the salvation of their souls and try to find joy and rest in this vain life, are continually tortured and entangled in endless worldly machinery and live in hell in this life...Those who have philotimo, because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, joyfully accept their trials as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessing from everything and are melting internally out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God.
-Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (+ July 12th 1994)
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Two additional recent healings by Elder Paisios

An icon of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (+ July 12th, 1994) (source)
 
1. "I, six years ago", a young man confessed to many, "was an anarchist. I wore earrings and took drugs. One of my friends had a book on Elder Paisios.

In December of 1996, this friend of mine was found at the bookstore of Souroti Monastery, where there was a couple with their little girl, and their father, two middle-aged women, and a young man. Straightaway, there was heard a loud cry. One of the middle-aged women, who was a large woman, collapsed to the floor and began to hit and cry out wildly. She swung her head here and there. The sight was truly terrible. The woman with the little child went out, while the rest approached her to try to help her. The woman bellowed and said with a wild, unbelievable and male voice: "I will take care of you guys who don't believe, I will show you...Now, a short time more and I will put the 666 on all your hands...You will all worship me...You losers and idiots..." and other insults.

Then she began to sputter and appeared afraid. "Paisios, don't burn me, don't burn me. You want to send me back to Tartarus...And this loser brings me to all these monasteries...why are you helping her? You're burning me, you're burning me." And she squealed even louder. She was hitting herself so strongly that we were afraid that she would break her skull. It was clear that she was being troubled by a demon.

"A...aaah" she cried again, "Now Maria has come too...you're burning me, Paisios." She let out a loud cry and became motionless, as if she fainted.

Those standing around approached tentatively to help her, while the women covered her with their clothes. As soon as she was settled, they lifted her up from the floor. She had opened her eyes and cried calmly and silently. She gave thanks from the depth of her heart. "I thank you, Elder...I thank you, my God. She said this over and over again with great gratitude.

She got up and went before an icon of Christ and Panagia and let out loud cried: "My God...My God. How did you accept me, who am unworthy...I thank you, my God. I thank you, O Elder...I am not worthy, my God, of this help."

The scene was very moving. Later she greeted my friend with gratitude and left. The woman had a demon. As she left, she mentioned that the previous night she saw Elder Paisios in a dream tell her: "Come to my grave, and I will make you well." She came to the Monastery and asked where was the grave of the Elder, she venerated the grave, and then went to the bookstore, where the above event occurred...

2. The following is from Ms. L.N.M., a Russian Physician from Moscow: "I suffered an accident, with the result being that my left eye became blind. They brought me to the General Hospital of Moscow. The rooms were full, so they put me in the hallway. That night, I did not sleep at all. I prayed and was very worried. Towards morning, as I was in a state between sleep and awake, Elder Paisios came. I saw him clearly and I recognized him, because I had read a book on his life. He covered my head with a handkerchief and disappeared. At that same instant, I understood that I was seeing from my blind eye. The doctors did not have to do anything. I was kept in the clinic from February 4th to the 11th, 2002...

I thank God for His mercy to me, and Elder Paisios for his help."
 
(Amateur translation of text from source)
 
For more miracles of Elder Paisios, see here.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (+1994)


Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (+ July 12th, 1994), right, depicted with his spiritual forefather, St. Arsenios of Cappadocia (+ November 10th, 1924), who baptized him (source)

Note: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the repose of Elder Paisios the Athonite. Of course much has been written of this great man who during his life helped hundreds on a daily basis with his prayers and spiritual instruction, and after his repose, helps even more. Thousands flock to his grave at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti (outside of Thessaloniki) to receive his blessing, and many miracles continue to occur through his prayers (though he has yet not been officially canonized, he is held by many to be a Saint, and many anticipate his canonization soon by the Ecumenical Patriarchate). His life and writings continue to inspire, instruct and lead many to repentance and a more spiritual life. Below is a short summary of his life with a small selection of his teachings. We pray that we might all have his blessing!
 
Early years
Elder Paisios was born on St. Anne’s day, July 25, 1924, in Farasa of Cappadocia, Asia Minor. His father, Prodromos, a pious man, was the mayor of Farasa. He was characterised by a strong sense of patriotism and his life was many times put in danger by the Tsetes, who were a constant threat to the town of Farasa. Prodromos felt a deep devotion and love for Father Arsenios, the spiritual father of the family; he was recently canonized by the Church because of the numerous miracles he had worked, even before his death. Impressed by St. Arsenios’ miraculous life, Prodromos kept a notebook where he recorded the saint’s miracles, which he either heard, or experienced himself, for the benefit of both his children and his own. The Elder’s mother was called Eulambia and he had nine brothers and sisters altogether.

On August 7, 1924, a week before the big emigration from Farasa (Turkey) to Greece, St. Arsenios decided to have all the children baptized including Prodromos’ son. The boy was supposed to be named Christos, after his grandfather, according to the old Greek custom. However, Fr. Arsenios refused to name him so, as he wished to give him his own name. So, he said to his parents: “I understand you wish to leave someone in the grandfather’s shoes. Shouldn’t I wish to leave a monk in my shoes, too?” Then, he turned to the godmother and said: “Arsenios will be his name!” Thus, St. Arsenios had predicted the Elder’s calling who, since his early childhood, was chosen to become a receptacle of the Holy Spirit.

On September 14, 1924, the day of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, after many hardships, the immigrants from Farasa finally reached the harbor of Piraeus, Greece. They stayed in Piraeus for three weeks and then went to the island of Corfu, where they temporarily settled down at a place called Kastro. Saint Arsenios, as he himself had predicted, lived on the island for just forty days. On November 10, in the age of eighty, he fell asleep leaving behind, as a worthy successor and heir of his spiritual wealth, young Arsenios, later to be called Elder Paisios.

Young Arsenios and his family spent a year and a half on the island of Corfu and then moved to a village near Egoumenitsa (Northeastern Greece). Their final destination was the town of Konitsa in Epirus. Young Arsenios’ heart and mind were totally devoted to Christ and the Virgin Mary and his strong desire to become a monk dominated his life. He loved to walk in the woods and pray all day long holding a wooden cross he himself had made.
   
Elder Paisios as a layman during his military service (source)
   
After completing elementary education, he worked as a carpenter, in Konitsa, until the time of his military service. As a man of prayer, he was also a very sensitive and loving person. When someone passed away and he was assigned to make the coffin, he never accepted money from the relatives. In doing so, he was contributing, in his own way, in easing their pain and sorrow.

In 1945, he was drafted in the army, where he was distinguished for his ethos and bravery. He always wanted to be in the front line, or take part in the most dangerous operations, as he wished to put his own life into danger first. He was especially concerned about his fellow soldiers who were married and had children. He used to tell them: “You have your wife and children waiting for you, whereas I have no one; I am free.” Many times, he nearly lost his life in order to save someone else’s. For the most part of his military service, he served in the department of communications. In 1949, he was discharged from the army.

 
Elder Paisios as a young monk (source)
 
The first years of the Elder’s monastic life
After the end of his military service, he immediately left for Mount Athos as he had already decided to become a monk. He only stayed for a few months, however, because his mind was preoccupied with the future of his sisters who were still unmarried. So, he left to return to his family for just a short while.

In 1950, he went back to Mount Athos. He spent his first night at the cell of St. John the Theologian which belongs to the Great Lavra Monastery situated close to Karyes. Then, he went to the Skete of St. Panteleimon at the cell of the Entrance of the Holy Theotokos, where Father Cyril resided, a very spiritual and virtuous ascetic. Later on, Father Cyril became the abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery.

Father Cyril’s conscientious efforts in fasting and long vigils greatly benefited young Arsenios, who wished to stay by his side for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, circumstances did not permit him to do so. Father Cyril sent him to Esfigmenou monastery, a very hospitable one, which had not yet been involved in the old-calendar movement. He first set his foot there in 1950 and in 1954 he was tonsured a monk. His new name was now Averkios.

Young Averkios displayed great zeal in practicing obedience. When all the monks were involved in various communal tasks, he tried to remain alone and quiet, in order to be able to pray. For instance, when everyone was working in the olive groves, he would stay a hundred meters away, conscientiously completing his task, while at the same time he was in a state of spiritual contemplation.

He thoroughly studied the lives of the saints of our Church, the Gerontikon (a collection of brief stories and wise sayings of the desert Fathers) and the book of St. Isaac the Syrian; he always kept his book by his bedside, under his pillow. When Averkios completed his task (assigned by the monastery), he did not go to his cell to rest. Instead, he helped the rest of the monks to quickly finish their own tasks. He could not tolerate the privilege of enjoying the peace and quietude of his cell, while the others were still working late. He offered his services to the weakest ones and avoided those who were wasting time in useless tasks. He loved everyone without distinction and humbly obeyed all of them always considering himself the least important.

Averkios did not trust his own judgment or will. He unhesitatingly asked his spiritual father for advice on all matters. He prayed to God to always enlighten him, so He would guide him according to his own will.

His heart was full of gratitude, as he always thought about all the good deeds God was doing for him and the rest of the world. His love for God, originating from his inner gratitude, was continuously growing along with his effortless, unceasing prayers. The sole aim of his heart was to thankfully respond, even in the least, to God’s benevolence. He believed that the grace of God was the only cause of every good; for every evil, he blamed himself out of his deep sense of humility. When he saw someone falling into sin, refusing to repent, or having no faith in God, he thought: “It is my fault that one of my brothers has found himself in this difficult situation. If I were acting according to Christ’s will, then He would listen to my prayers and my brother wouldn’t be in this unpleasant state; my wretchedness is causing my brother’s misery.” He always thought this way and tried to make the world’s problems his own. He constantly prayed to God to help all the people who, as he humbly thought, suffered due to his own negligence and spiritual indolence. God, who listens to all humble people, always responded to Averkios’ prayers that gushed out of his burning heart; a heart full of gratefulness and humility.



Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
   
Averkios liked visiting elders and spiritual fathers, who were full of grace and the Spirit of God; he loved to ask for their blessing and listen to their spiritual advice. His pure and childlike soul embraced, without any doubts or hesitation, whatever he heard from these elders, the so-called “beautiful flowers” of the Virgin Mary. He wholeheartedly believed in them, and never examined their words by passing them through the sieve of his own logic. Instead, he faithfully followed their advice by humbly giving up his own way of thinking or logical investigation. He very well knew that one must not try to use his common sense to understand spiritual matters; it is like trying to grasp air with human hands.

While he was still young, he visited many monks, and like a bee he collected their “spiritual pollen” so that he may produce later on his own “spiritual honey”, which many of the people in grief were able to taste.

In 1954, circumstances (as well as his spiritual father’s advice) led him to leave the Monastery of Esfigmenou to go to Filotheou Monastery, where his uncle was also a monk. The monastery was then idiorrythmic. Averkios became the disciple of Father Symeon who was a very virtuous man. In 1956, Father Symeon gave Averkios the small schema and his new name, Paisios, in honor of Archbishop Paisios B’ the Caesarean who also came from the town of Farasa in Cappadocia.

In Filotheou Monastery, he became acquainted with Elder Augoustinos, the ascetic, who resided at the cell of Filotheou Monastery “The Entrance of the Holy Theotokos.” His simple-heartedness and humility greatly benefited the Elder.

Elder Paisios continued his zealous spiritual struggle and always assisted the monks in the monastery in any way he could. Following is an incident indicating the Elder’s strong desire to constantly assist the others. One of the monks had committed a sin but was embarrassed to confess it. As a result, he withdrew to himself, and being in despair, he started thinking of committing suicide. The Elder foresaw his situation and tried to help him. One day, he found him alone and started telling him about his own sins, mentioning on purpose, the same sin he had fallen into. Unfortunately, the monk reacted negatively to the Elder’s effort to make him go into confession. Instead, he started going around the monastery telling everybody that Paisios, whom you love and praise, is a very sinful person, and reported word by word whatever the Elder had told him. Father Paisios, of course, did not try to find excuses for himself, and the monks, who understood his loving and caring intentions, justified his act and praised him for it.



Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
   
He strove daily for the purification of his soul. He did not ask anything from God, as he very well understood that God had given him, through the mystery of Holy Baptism, the most precious thing in the world, the grace of the Holy Spirit. He was not jealous of the talents and gifts of others, as he knew that the same ones were also given to him by God through Holy Baptism. He was not proud for them either, because even though he knew he had these gifts, he admitted they were gifts of God’s grace in him through his zeal and humility, and make it function the soonest possible. For this reason, he constantly looked after the purification of his soul.

He erased every trace of evil thoughts or negative dispositions from his soul and grew in their place good and positive ones. It was fascinating to see how, without any efforts, he always developed good and positive thoughts for every kind of situation, no matter how difficult and complicated it was; for he allowed God’s grace, which “is not irritable or resentful” (1Cor 13:4) to act on his behalf. He could then skillfully cover the faults and mistakes of other people, as it is clearly shown in the following incident:

In one of the monasteries, there was a monk who was spreading around deluded stories. The visitors, who heard the stories, were scandalized and asked the Elder: “Father Paisios, one of the monks in this monastery is saying weird stories. What exactly is going on?” The Elder promptly answered: “Be careful not to judge others, because our brother is a pious one; when the monastery has visitors, he pretends to be a fool for Christ, so God will reward him.” The Elder’s answer calmed the visitors down.

His kind heart was gradually embracing and protecting everybody in the same way God tactfully covers up all our sins, so they are not exposed to the rest of the world. While he was at Filotheou Monastery, he used to visit Father Cyril in his Skete and seek his advice on various subjects. Father Cyril, with the help of God’s grace, had greatly assisted the Elder. Very often, he used to give solutions to his problems, before the Elder had even had the chance to discuss them with him. He was almost always “informed” by God of his arrival and had the answers ready. Sometimes, he had even found the answer in one of his books, and had underlined it to show it to Fr. Paisios upon his arrival. The Elder expressed his admiration and after asking for his blessing, he left full of joy and spiritual profit.

In 1958, the Elder was asked to leave Mount Athos and go to Stomio, in Konitsa, to assist with the protection of the area against protestant proselytism. As he felt that this was truly God’s will, he left for Stomio where he stayed at the Monastery of Nativity of the Holy Theotokos. With the help of God’s grace, he offered assistance to many people. In 1962, for spiritual reasons he departed for Sinai, where he stayed at the cell of saints Galaktion and Epistimi and spiritually nurtured many people in the area. The Beduins loved him very much. He used to work many hours during the day carving wooden articles. After selling them, he bought food and gave it to them.

In 1964, he left Sinai and returned to Mount Athos where he settled down at the Skete of Iviron, at the Archangels’ cell. In 1966, he fell ill and was hospitalized for a few months in PapaNikolaou Hospital in Thessaloniki. He was operated on and a large section of hislungs was removed.

 
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
 
His acquaintance with the Convent of St. John the Theologian
At this point, I would like to describe how God’s providence led Father Paisios to become acquainted with the nuns of the Convent of St. John the Theologian. The Elder 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.


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. By the end of 1967, he went to Katounakia in Mount Athos, where he settled down at the cell of Ypatios of Lavra. Living alone in this deserted area, many times he experienced God’s presence and consolation, which contributed to his spiritual growth, enabling him to comfort thousands of people in pain.

At Stavronikita Monastery
In 1968, Father Paisios went to Stavronikita Monastery, where he assisted in its renovation by offering labor work as well as spiritual advice. In the Holy Cross cell of Stavronikita Monastery, located near by, lived Father Tychon, the ascetic, who was also a spiritual father. (Fr. Tychon, the ascetic, who was also a spiritual father. (Ft. Tychon was born in 1884 in Novia Mihaloska of Russia. He was a very gifted man and lived a strict ascetic life). Elder Paisios often visited him for spiritual advice and helped him with the service of Divine Liturgy by serving as chanter. Quite frequently, the service was in spiritual contemplation, which sometimes lasted half an hour. He saw, as he himself confessed, the orders of the angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim glorifying God. Father Tychon tonsured Elder Paisios and gave him the Great and Angelic Schema.

When Father Tychon’s life was coming to an end, (ten days before he passed away), he asked the Elder to stay by his side and take care of him. Paisios served Father Tychon with great self-sacrifice, offering him anything he could to comfort him. Father Tychon used to tell him: “Paisios, our love is precious. My sweet Paisios, our love, my child, will last unto the ages of ages.” He asked him to stay in his cell after his death and promised that he will visit him every year. Father Tychon fell asleep on September 10, 1968, two days after the celebration of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos, as he himself had predicted, being well equipped and ready for his journey to eternity.


Father Paisios settled down at the cell of the Holy Cross, according to the wish of Father Tychon, where he stayed until 1979.

   
Elder Paisios sitting and talking with pilgrims (source)
   
At Panagouda cell
On May 13, 1979, Father Paisios went to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou where he registered as a monk. He settled down at its hermitage, Panagouda (Nativity of the Holy Theotokos) after it was converted into a cell.

While living in Panagouda, the Elder assisted many troubled souls. All day long, from dawn to sunset, he gave advice to people, consolation and solutions to their problems, took away their sorrow and filled their souls with faith, hope and love for God. He dedicated the day to people and the night to God. He managed to rest only during the early morning hours, for 2-3 hours, so he would be able to survive through the day’s fatigue. During the night, he spent quite some time reading the letters he received by the dozen on a daily basis.


The Elder was very distressed by the content of the letters and by what the visitors used to tell him. Almost always, people spoke about broken marriages, mental illnesses or deaths caused by cancer. Elder Paisios was transformed into a spiritual magnet drawing out the sorrow of people in grief.

The mental fatigue and pain of his visitors, his extremely sensitive soul, his physical exhaustion arising from the many daily visits, as well as his unceasing prayers contributed to his gradual physical weakness and vulnerability to various illnesses.

 
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
 
The illnesses of the Elder
The serious problems of the Elder’s health began in 1966. As mentioned above, Father Paisios suffered from a disease of the respiratory system which made him very weak. The constant visits of the people, the heavy load of their problems and worries, which he always carried on him as if it were his own, but also the physical fatigue of the hospitality duties, resulted in his exhaustion. He had very few hours left to rest during the day as he dedicated the night to praying.

The Elder made small icons using a metallic mould that he himself had carved. He gave these icons (The Crucifix, the Holy Theotokos, St. Arsenios of Cappadocia) to the visitors as a blessing. This task was an additional burden to his already tight schedule, especially when he was using the press that required a lot of physical effort; as a result, he developed hernia. He systematically refused to be operated and tried to invent his own ways to relieve the pain, which were not very successful. He suffered when he was sitting down, but even more so, when he was standing up. When I was at the Convent of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, I remember once that he remained standing up for hours, so everybody could come by and take his blessing. He did not sit down even when he had turned pale and was sweating out of extreme pain. For five years, he endured with exemplary perseverance the painful disease of hernia, thus demonstrating in practice the great virtue of patience to both laymen and the clergy.

When a group of close friends, who were doctors, visited him in Souroti, they literally kidnapped and took him to the hospital to be operated.

The last illness of the Elder
Since 1988, Father Paisios was facing rectal problems. In 1993, during the period of the Great Lent, he was very weak as he was fasting strictly. He could not get any rest during the night due to the unbearable pain and constant bleeding. Although he told the visitors he was very ill, many insisted to see him. He felt so exhausted that he sometimes fainted. Ignoring the poor state of his own health, however, he accepted to see his visitors and relieved them of their grief.

When I was at the monastery, I undertook some nursing duties. One day, I went to the Elder and told him: “I brought you some vitamins and iron tablets. I believe these will help raise your hematocrit.”
He answered: “Father, vitamins won’t do me any good as my blood is in a very poor condition.” And then he added jokingly:
“Besides, Father Theoklitos is in need of large amounts of iron, for he is doing some construction works in the monastery. I do not wish to put him in a difficult situation by taking away from him all the iron. As I understand, iron is useless for me; what I really need now is steel.”

He stood up laughing, took a glass of water and dropped in an effervescent vitamin tablet and said: “My experience with medicine is a very negative one, so I do not wish to start taking pills again. I am willing, however, to take one’s advice on what to do protect myself, and I will indeed be very grateful to him.”
When the effervescent tablet was dissolved, he took again the glass and added laughingly: “Everything will be taken care of once I am buried in the ground!” He shook the glass as if to propose “in good health”, but instead made the following wish: “Let’s all rest in peace, Father!”

While listening to the Elder’s words, I knelt by his side and begged him to go to Thessaloniki to have some medical tests done in order to diagnose his disease. The Elder asked me to stand up and said: “Listen, Father. My health’s condition is a great benefit to my spiritual life and I do not really wish to alter it. These are the reasons why I do not wish to go to Thessaloniki for medical tests:
1) Christ knows the condition of our health. Since he is the best doctor, we should have trust in him. If it is for our own benefit, He will act accordingly and cure our illness.
2) Since I believe that I have developed a tumor in my intestine, it is best to leave it as it is; otherwise, if we “play around” with it, it will get worse.
3) In our days, everybody suffers from three things: cancer, mental illnesses and divorce. The dozens of letters I receive every week talk about these problems. “I do not suffer from any serious mental illness,” he used to say laughingly; I have nothing to do with marriages and divorce. At least, let me suffer from cancer as a consolation to people in distress. Things do not look too good when everyone in the world is in pain and sorrow and one of us has nothing to worry about. Now, thank God, everything is just fine.
4) God is deeply moved when someone, who has cancer or some other serious problem, does not complaint about it, but instead prays for his fellow men. Then, one may dare say to Christ: “You see, I am not asking any help for myself, but please do help the others.” And God does help. So, my Father, do not worry too much about me.”

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
 
During the Great Lent of 1993, Father Paisios had a tendency to faint due to his low hematocrit. Often, while standing up he fell, unconscious. But he did not despair and faced his illness with great patience, perseverance and courage.

One Sunday, he asked a priest and two other monks to come and serve the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Although he was very weak, he was assisting the priest in the Holy Altar. As he was standing at his stasidion (church seat) praying, suddenly he developed difficulty in breathing and started trembling. Then, he lost his balance and almost fell down unconscious, but fortunately the monks managed to catch him in time. They lay him on the floor where he remained unconscious for a few minutes. After a while, he recovered and they helped him get back to his seat. When they tried to lower the stasidion, so he could sit, he refused to do so. He was standing up during the whole service, even though his face was as pale as the pure candle. He was distressed because his health condition did not permit him to receive Holy Communion. After a while, he fainted again. When he recovered, they forced him to go and lie down, but he refused; not only he did not lie down, but he also refused to stand at the stasidion, and he continued to stand up. In a little while, he went to prepare the zeon, and for the third time he fainted. When he recovered, he asked: “Is the zeon ready?” completely disregarding the incident. He decided not to receive Holy Communion, as he was afraid he might vomit.


When the service was over, the monks sat in the small guestroom to have a sweet and Father Paisios (as usually) went to his cell to light up the oil candle. He stood on a stool- because the oil candle was high up- and the next thing they heard was: “Oh, Virgin Mary” followed by a loud noise. They were frightened and ran inside to see what was going on. They found him lying on the floor unconscious. When he recovered, he told them to leave. They said: “Father Paisios, how can you stay alone after having fainted so many times?” He answered: “There’s nothing to worry about! Go now, I feel better.”

The monks obeyed and left, being very concerned about his well-being. This situation went on until October 1993. He had constant hemorrhages, fainting, a tendency to vomit; in addition, the pain in the intestine made it difficult for him to sit down.

October 22 (November 5 according to the new calendar) was his last day on Mount Athos; he left and went to the Convent of St. John the Theologian in Souroti to be present at the vigil service of November 10 performed in honour of St. Arsenios. He stayed at the convent for a few days, as he always used to do; when he was ready to depart for Mount Athos, the doctors diagnosed the presence of a tumor the size of a small orange in the last section of the rectum. They decided he should undergo radiation therapy to reduce its size and then be operated. The CT-scan confirmed the metastasis of cancer in the liver and lungs. Despite these findings, the operation was considered necessary in order to prevent the total obstruction of the intestine by the existing tumor.

Around 1:30 p.m., when the operation was completed, the Elder was taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Only very few people were allowed to visit him. We remained by his side until he regained consciousness. He opened his eyes for a short while and then fell asleep again. When he finally woke up, I asked him: “How do you feel?”

He answered trying to smile: “Don’t you see, like an astronaut.” (He had an oxygen mask on his face, intravenous serum in his two arms, the wires of the cardiograph on his chest, a nasal-gastric catheter in his nose, a urinary bladder catheter, and a special converter for the measurement of the partial oxygen pressure).


With great effort, he continued: “I was also given a medal, and he pointed to his chest where the wire of the cardiograph had been installed; but I don’t really know the rank I was given. Am I a colonel or a general?”


Then he turned around to an old friend, a doctor, who had been greatly benefited by the Elder, and asked him: “Costa, what did they finally find inside me? Are there any metastases as the tomography indicated?”


“Yes, Father,” the doctor answered. “The liver as well as the lungs have been affected.”
“I don’t mind where the metastases are as long as this remains clean.” (And he pointed to his head).
He had a short discussion with the doctor and when he left, I stayed alone with him.
Among other things, he told me: “Honestly, my Father, if the hemorrhage could stop for just a couple of hours so I could be present at the service of the Divine Liturgy, I wouldn’t be bothered at all. By the way, I just recalled that I had asked God to make me suffer from cancer.”



Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Source)
   
I had some personal problems that Father Paisios knew about. I was deeply moved by the fact that in spite of his post-operative condition and unbearable pain, he tried to find solutions to my problems. He did the same thing for everyone else, disregarding the state of his very poor health. One could feel the sincere love he felt for all. 

Many people were distressed, because they could not visit him at the hospital. The reason was not because the Elder wanted his peace and quietness, or he did not wish to see his visitors; being a monk with a very sensitive and discreet soul, he did not want to accept people’s consolation and comfort, while the patients next to him had no one by their side. Moreover, he did not wish to disturb the hospital’s daily routine, as some doctors disliked the coming and going of many visitors.


He used to say to those who informed him that someone is waiting to see him outside: “Visits are of no use to the patient. Peace and quietness are.”
He remained at the hospital for ten days, and then was transferred to the Convent of St. John the Theologian for recovery. In the meantime, the doctors informed him that the prognosis was not so good, and his lifespan was not more than four months. When the Elder heard about it, he said smiling: “Do I have to wait for that long? Can’t it be earlier than this?”
He suffered from acute pain, which at times was getting unbearable. He endured with exemplary patience and joy the terrible pain, thinking as he used to say, of the martyrdom the holy martyrs suffered for the love for Christ- while he suffered only in order to recover!
Father Paisios had irrevocably decided to return to Mount Athos. He had set his departure for Monday, June 13. Meanwhile, he developed high fever with difficulty in breathing and was forced to cancel his trip. His health condition was gradually deteriorating. According to a scan, the metastasis now occupied the biggest part of the liver which was significantly swollen. Every now and then, he had to use an oxygen mask to facilitate his breathing.


As time went by, his anorexia and difficulty in breathing were steadily increasing, as well as his abdominal pains, which were now becoming more acute and frequent. On top of all this, he periodically developed high temperature and serious tachycardia; his abdominal meteorism created great discomfort, as he could not comfortably lie in bed. During all the stages of his illness, he never ceased repeating that we must be patient, while his very own patience was an excellent example to all of us.


St. Euphemia the Great Martyr and All-praised, depicted as she had appeared to St. Paisios (source)
   
Towards the end of June, the doctors informed him that he had about 2-3 weeks left. On Monday, July 11, on St. Ephemia’s day, Father Paisios received Holy Communion for the last time, kneeling in front of his bed. During the last 24 hours, he was very serene, and even though he suffered, he did not complain at all. He did not wish to take any more medication. The only medicine he accepted was cortisone, because, according to the doctors, it would not prolong his life span, but it would only give him some strength. On Tuesday, July 12, Elder Paisios humbly and peacefully rendered his soul to God, whom he had deeply loved and served since his early childhood.
Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”
Holy Mountain
(
source)


A few quotes of Elder Paisios:
"We once asked Father Paisios:
- Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem: Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?

The Elder started telling us:
- I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.” This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface. When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.

Elder Paisios was constantly stressing the importance of pious thinking in spiritual life. He used to say that a single positive thought equals a vigil in Mount Athos."
   
"In former days, the Holy Fathers first withdrew into the desert, becoming themselves a desert void of their passions by struggling. Without plans or programs of their own, they left themselves in the hands of God, avoiding honors and power, even when they arrived at measures of sanctity — unless Mother Church had need of them. They did obedience to the will of God, and they glorified the name of God with their holy life. They became spiritual blood donors, for they had acquired good spiritual health in the desert with good spiritual food and vigilant patristic watchfulness.

In our day, however, many of us, who are unfortunately influenced by worldly love, which can make no spiritual pledge, supposedly venture to do good, to donate blood, but our blood is full of spiritual bacteria and we do more harm than good.

If, however, we were living patristically, we would all have spiritual health, which even all the heterodox would envy, leaving their sick delusions aside to be saved without preaching. Now, however, they are not moved by our Holy Patristic Tradition, for they want to see how we continue the Patristic Tradition, to see our true kinship with our Saints.

Unfortunately, in our day, words and books have multiplied and experiences have diminished, because the worldly spirit, which pursues all conveniences and avoids all bodily effort, influences people. Most of us find rest in much reading but little or no implementation. We simply marvel at the holy athletes of our Church without realizing how much they’ve labored, for we have not toiled so as to be able to understand their toil, to love them and to struggle out of philotimo in order to imitate them.

Those, however, who struggle with philotimo and do not give themselves rest, removing their egos from every one of their actions, help very positively. For only then are the souls in need of help given rest, and only then will their own souls find inner rest, in this life as well as in eternity."

"One should not struggle, however, with sick scholastic meticulousness and be choked by stress (fighting with thoughts), but should simplify his struggle and place his hope in Christ and not in himself. Christ is all love, kindness and consolation, and He never stifles man, but possesses an abundance of spiritual oxygen — divine consolation. Thorough spiritual work is one thing and sick meticulousness is another; the latter chokes with its inner anguish (due to thoughtless external strain) and afflicts the forehead with splitting headaches."

"People who struggle hard, with much devotion, and have reached the angelic state to a certain extent and are nurtured with celestial honey, nevertheless offer nothing significant to God compared with what He has offered us. For they eat honey while offering Him wax. They eat sweet fruits and offer God tree resin with the censer. Therefore, we do nothing and offer nothing to God, compared with His great loving-kindness. For, while the Good God produces beautiful fruit with our rubbish or even with manure, in order to feed us, we wretched people turn beautiful fruit into manure."

"Blessed are those who have Christ as their hearts’ axis and joyfully revolve around His Holy Name, noetically and unceasingly repeating "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me."

"The elder said: It's not only that we become accustomed to saying the prayer. The purpose is for the person to know himself and sense his sinfulness. If he only slapped someone, he's a sinner because he shouldn't have done it. We are all sinners. Consider what God did for us and what we do for God. After thinking of that, even if the heart is granite it will soften. Let's think a little logically. God could have made me a mule and given me into an undiscerning hand which would load me with 150 kilos of wood and beat me. Finally I would fall into a pit and the dogs would open my belly and those who pass by would cover their noses for the stink on the road. Just for that should I give thanks to God? I don't thank Him. God could have made me a snake or a scorpion. But His love made me a human being. God was sacrificed for me. With one drop of divine blood He washes away all the sins of the world. If a person thinks of all this; on one side the good work of God and on the other his own sinfulness and ingratitude, even if the heart were granite it would soften. And then he senses the mercy of God. The heart must gain rest with "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me." The prayer refreshes, not wearies. When we do not proceed in this manner, we acquire only the habit although the elder, the old self, remains within and we follow the way of delusion."

"Theology is the word of God, which is apprehended by pure, humble and spiritually regenerated souls, and not the beautiful words of the mind, which are crafted with literary art and expressed by the legal or worldly spirit."

"Theology that is taught like a science usually examines things historically and, consequently, things are understood externally. Since patristic ascesis and inner experience are absent, this kind of theology is full of uncertainty and questions. For with the mind one cannot grasp the Divine Energies if he does not first practice ascesis and live the Divine Energies, that the Grace of God might be energized within him...Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mysteries of God through external scientific theory, resembles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope."

"If we could go out of our self (the love for our self), we would also escape from the gravity of the earth and see everything in reality, with a divine eye, clearly and profoundly. That is why it is necessary for one to leave the world for the desert, struggle with humility, repentance and prayer, be deserted by his passions, remove his spiritual "rust" and turn into a good conductor in order to receive Divine Grace and become a true theologian...If we don’t remove the rust from our spiritual cables, we will constantly be short-circuited, full of worldly theories, doubts and questions. Then we cease to theologize, being found in a condition of worldliness, but will speak historically, or examine things legally and mathematically. Namely, we will examine how many nails were used to crucify Christ and how many soldiers were present when He was crucified without proceeding to the essence of things: that Christ was crucified for our own sins, in order to redeem us, and suffered more than all of the Holy Martyrs put together. Although He helped the Martyrs with His divine power, He did not employ His divine power for Himself at all and suffered terrible pains out of love, having His two hands and His two legs pierced with nails. Whether they crucified His two legs with one or two nails has no importance, inasmuch as both were nailed and He suffered the pain and drank the vinegar, that He might sweeten us again in Paradise, eternally close to Him, as our Loving Father."
   
For more sayings of Elder Paisios online, see here and here.

For the full biography of Elder Paisios, see this incredible book written by his spiritual son, Elder Isaac (of blessed memory), and recently translated into English.

Also, for more substantial publications of the Elder's teachings on many different subjects, see the series published by Souroti Monastery: Spiritual Counsels of Elder Paisios (Volume I: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, Volume II: Spiritual Awakening, Volume III: Spiritual Struggle, Volume IV: Family Life, and a 5th volume yet to be published in English). These are available several places online.
  
Icon of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (source)
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!