Saturday, February 27, 2010

Revelations on the Calendar to Elders Joseph the Hesychast and Ephraim of Katounakia

Christ the True Vine with the Holy Apostles (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)

"When you want to learn the will of God, abandon your own will completely along with every other thought or plan; and, with much humility, ask God in prayer for His understanding."
-Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959)

Revelations on the Calendar to Elders Joseph the Hesychast and Ephraim of Katounakia
"When the New Calendar entered into the life of the Church after 1924, the entire Holy Mountain, for reasons of tradition, maintained the use of the Old Calendar, without severing communion with and maintaining dependency upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and consequently, with the other Orthodox Churches.

Because of this calendar change, some Athonite Monks -the self-titled "Zealots"- broke their spiritual communion with the Patriarchate and the rest of the Holy Mountain. They would participate neither in Liturgies, nor in festal celebrations, nor even communicate with the rest of the fathers.

Katounakia was one of the centers of the Zealots and Papa Ephraim was one of them. Moved by spiritual zeal, both he and Elder Joseph the Hesychast initially joined the extremist party of the so-called "Matthewites". When an issue arises concerning the faith, naturally fanaticism will rise up.

The grandiose Matthew, who so occupied Athonite monasticism, proceeded from another Matthew, a Cretan monk. Matthew had obvious rebellious tendencies, and thus they readily induced him to take hold of some authority on account of the calendar disorder.

Increasingly the degree of fanaticism surrounding the calendar change, and depicting the Church as lapsed, Matthew created that which pleased him. He became "super-orthodox" and worked up his followers with sermons and demonstrations. This still occurs today with some of his followers - a Fresh wound to the bosom of the Church.

As always, every source of scandal creates fanaticism and unrest - mostly from ignorance - until the true state of affairs is revealed. It was natural for the fathers in the desert areas to be found among the fanatics, since anxiety and ignorance were prevalent, and because they had an acute fear that perhaps they would betray their faith.

Then, in opposition to the Matthewite harshness, the Florinite moderation appeared. The Florinites avoided the severity of the Matthewites, maintaining a milder stance, even though they were still "zealots". The fathers then turned towards this faction. They chose the "lesser of two evils" as the better even though they were still not at peace with this.

The living Church, unjustly cast aside, was protesting with their consciences, causing them unrest. The solution for them was prayer.

Elder Joseph [the Hesychast] turned with insistence to his sure refuge of prayer, seeking an answer from on high. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me" (Ps. 48:15 LXX), something that the blessed Elder knew well from his ascetic life.

Falling to his face with tears, pain of heart, and deep humility, he pleaded:

"We have sinned and trespassed against You, O Lord, and we have betrayed Your Most Holy will. Justly You have turned Your face from us, for we have confused and mocked the light of Your Truth. We have closed our eyes to the bedrock of the Truth, Your unswerving and unshakable Church, Your All-Holy Body, which You established amongst us through Your own presence, and which we have handed over to the conjectures of human thoughts and speculation. Remember, All-Good One, Your compassion and mercy towards us, for they are from the ages unto ages."

With pain and persistence, he continued knocking on the doors of God's compassion and mercy, and the All-Good One did not turn away from his humble supplication. As our blessed Elder Joseph related to us:

"During this intense petition, I was overcome by sleep. I discovered myself suddenly alone on one piece of the mountain of Athos that was separated from the rest. It stood in the oceans trembling from moment to moment, in danger of sinking into the sea. I was frightened and thought to myself, ‘Since this has broken off from the whole and is trembling, in a little while it'll sink and I'll be lost.’ Then, with one mighty leap, I found myself on the stable part of the mountain. Sure enough, the small section of rock that I had been standing on was swallowed up by the sea, and I glorified God Who had saved me from destruction! Immediately, I tied in the dream with the issue that had been occupying me and about which I had been petitioning the Lord not to allow me to be deceived in my judgment."

Similarly, while he was praying, Papa Ephraim [of Katounakia] heard a voice that told him, "In the person of the Florinites, you have renounced the entire Church."

The fathers found peace with this revelation that the Church had not ceased in its living presence. Afterwards, Elder Joseph also heard a divine voice inform him that, "the Church is found in the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople."

When, at the suggestion of Elder Joseph, they left the zealots and returned to communion with the rest of the Athonite Fathers, they truly came to know the power of Grace in the Mysteries they celebrated.

Papa Ephraim always used to see Divine Grace consecrating the venerable gifts into the body and blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy. For the entire time he was with the zealots, he saw something like a veil in front of him, hindering him from seeing this Divine Grace distinctly. This veil was withdrawn when he returned to the living Church.

In speaking about this, Elder Ephraim said, "First I, then Old Joseph, received revelations spiritually regarding the calendar scandal; that is, that the living Church is in Constantinople and not in the faction of the so-called zealots. We returned then to the living Church, where the rest of the Holy Mountain also is."

After being reconciled with the Church once again under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in 1952 they went to the neighbouring brotherhood of Danielaioi to celebrate Pascha. The fathers welcomed them with much love: "Welcome, welcome. Elder Joseph, please take the stasidion [chair in church reserved for the elders]. Father Ephraim, please come and celebrate the Liturgy for us."

"The Danielaioi chanted the hymn 'Theotoke Parthene' (O Virgin Theotokos) on the soleas and I, standing in the sanctuary, could almost see the Mother of God; so great and so tangible was the grace I was feeling,' the Elder confessed with nostalgia.

But Father Nikephoros (a companion of the elders), accustomed to their zealot neighbours, started grumbling and getting very upset. The Elder found himself in a difficult position. While praying, he felt that the will of God opposed him. He was frightened then. He consulted Elder Gabriel, the Abbot at the Monastery of Dionysiou, as well as Father Gerasimos, the Hymnographer. They told him: "My brother, obey your spiritual father." In prayer it was even harder. He felt that God had imposed a penance on him. The dilemma was whether to maintain obedience or follow the Church. He was forced to choose the first option, which made us realise that obedience is fundamental to the Church; for the divine founder of the Church "humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8).

Then, he went through a crisis of conscience of another kind. He, who had been informed that he was subject to the Patriarchate, and that the word "Church" means love, which he found in the warm behaviour of Danielaioi; he whose heart leapt for joy when he said the word "Church" like a child's heart leaps when it needs its mother's hug; he who considered Elder Joseph and his brotherhood his own beloved family; how could he now abandon them? Fortunately, these doubts lasted only a few days. He then thought: "In spirit I will always be with the Church, but with my body I will be with the Zealots for a while, as long as my elder is alive."

Thus he made peace with himself. He waited patiently until 1975, i.e. for 23 years. He never gave anyone the right to criticise him. When he finally established his own brotherhood, he left the Zealots forever with great humility."
(Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, by Holy Hesychasterion "St. Ephraim", Katounakia, Mount Athos; p.56, English edition; http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/two-holy-fathers-on-calendar-issue.html)


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

8 comments:

Michael said...

I always think we should not be too hard on our Old Calendarist friends. Ine one sense, it is unfortunate that they are designated as "old calendarist" because it is often used to trivialise their concerns, which are much wider than merely a matter of 13 days.

I could not be an Old Calendarist because I could separate myself from the bosom of the communion of the Church. However, I when i hear of some of the things that some of our hierarchs and people do, I can well understand the struggles faced by our Old Calendarist friends, and am often left in a position of indecision myself.

It is only looking at how these matters have been dealt with historically that makes me realise that things are no different today. The heresy of the double-procession of the Holy Spirit was taught in parts of the Church for 450 years before communion was finally severed. I trust in Christ's promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church, and can only view the heresy of Ecumenism in light of that.

My Christ have mercy upon us.

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

Thank you for your comment. I must say that this is not something that I wrote myself, but I am merely quoting two great Elders of recent times, whose spiritual stature and view of church affairs I hold high above my own.

And I don't know if I would characterize this as being "too hard on our Old Calendarist friends". There was a reason that the Elders sympathized with them and joined them before they later returned to the rest of the Holy Mountain.

I understand that the Old Calendarists have concerns with Ecumenism beyond the Calendar. There have been statements and actions by some that undoubtedly have scandalized many. And I would think that when Elder Joseph and Elder Ephraim returned to the Patriarch of Constantinople that they are not validating every single statement or action that has been made by everyone.

Thus we are all called to "watch and pray so that [we] will not fall into temptation" (Mark 14:38). And if we are not enlightened or blessed to interpret and discern the dogmas of the Church, may we at least follow the Saints and Holy Fathers who throughout time have helped guide the Church with their lives and teachings.

Michael said...

Thank you for responding. Please accept my apologies for my careless typing in my initial response. Quite apart from the typos, I omitted the word "not" when giving my reason for being unable to be an Old Calendarist.

What you say is largely my own position. We must be vigilant and fervent, but also humble and non-judgemental, acknowledging that it is only through faith in Christ that we can overcome these temptations, while learning from those who have gone before us.

I often think to myself that I could never belong to the Constantinople or Antiochian patriarchates and maintain clear conscience, but I say that as somebody who has a plethora of jurisdictions on his doorstep, and I realise that this ability to pick and choose arises from a purely uncanonical situation. If I were in Greece, or on Mount Athos, or in Syria, what would I do? Well, the answer is that I do not know, and I cannot judge those who either remain obedient to the Constantinople Patriarchate or who feel that they must turn to Old Calendarism. The whole business just upsets me sometimes.

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

Thanks again for your comments. I love the following quote from Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos, from a letter in which he discusses the Calendar and Ecumenism:

"Let us be attentive! With humility, with prayer, with fasting, with solemnity, let us ask for enlightenment by the Lord, on how we must tread during the oncoming developments. The Church is faced with double trouble: on the one hand, there is satanically-driven Ecumenism, and on the other hand, there is soul-devastating Fanaticism, which eventually leads to horrific blasphemies and heresies and obscures the truth. Let us be fearful of both and flee from both. We must not deviate to the right or to the left. Let us walk along the middle and "royal" path, which is the path of unadulterated Orthodoxy that knows how to safeguard precision (akrivia) and is also aware of the displays of dispensation (oikonomia).

Rejoice, brother! And I shall again say "rejoice!" Rejoice, in the midst of every grief and every affliction. For Jesus "surrendered Himself for our sins, and was risen for our vindication" (Rom.4:25)."
(http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/02/ecumenism-and-schismatic-old.html)

Paradosis said...

Yeah, and why do u not mention all those who had "visions" and revelations that they should not go with the new calendar.

The list is very very long.....Even the Mother of God said:

Go with the old it is the correct one! Go with the old

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

You do not provide any specific examples to comment on.

In general, revelations to individuals need to be taken with a grain of salt, as satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

But I should mention that the sole reasons to stay with the Church and the New Calendar should not be just because Elder Joseph the Hesychast or Elder Ephraim of Katounakia had a vision (though they are perceived by countless thousands throughout the world, those that knew them and those who didn't, as grace-filled Elders, and modern Saints). Many do believe that their illumined perspectives hold meaning.

However, we also have the testimony and guidance of countless other Orthodox Elders of recent times who bring forth sound theological justifications and the church canons foremost, and secondly their enlightened experience to convince the faithful to remain with the Church.

From such clear testimonies, it should be clear that adhering to one calendar or another does not ensure salvation, but we must follow the Law of Christ and His Church in humility, obedience and love.

One may be against the new calendar and fight against ecumenism without separating one's self from the Church. An ideal example is the choir of the twenty canonical Athonite Monasteries, who maintain all the traditions (including the old calendar) of the Holy Fathers, fight vigorously against ecumenism, but continue to follow the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for to this day it has maintained the dogmas and faith of Christ.

See the following additional resources:

From Fr. Joel Yiannakopoulos (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/old-calendar-new-calendar-facts.html)

From Elder Philotheos Zervakos (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/elder-philotheos-on-schismatic-old.html, http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/on-validity-of-new-calendar-by-elder.html)

From Elder Paisios (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/04/elder-paisios-athonite-on-old.html)

From Elder Cleopa (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/09/spiritual-insignificance-of-church.html)

From Papa-Dimitri Gagastathis (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/papa-dimitri-gagastathis-and-old.html)

From Fr. Cyril, Abbot of Pantokratoros Monastery (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/clarification-on-calendar-issue.html)

May God have mercy on all of us and enlighten us to do His holy will!

Taita Wounded Bird said...

The Fathers have always told us not to follow our dreams , yet these two were attacked by confusion and fear, yet they undoubtedly obeyed their own dreams :-) yeah that's the way to handle it. What if the evil one tricked them ? Did anybody ever consider the dreams to be from the evil one ?

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

We must always be careful of dreams, especially we who are weak. But these two great Fathers and contemporary Saints had the discernment to know which dreams are from the Lord and which are from the evil one. The Lord does at times use dreams to reveal His truths (see, for example, the Angel appearing to Joseph in the Gospels).