Sunday, July 4, 2010

Elder Joseph the Hesychast on St. Athanasios the Athonite

St. Athanasios the Athonite - Commemorated on July 5th (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Elder Joseph the Hesychast on St. Athanasios the Athonite (amateur translation)
"And he implemented practically the similar words of Paul “he serves in his serving…he leads with diligence” (Romans 12:7-8) and in a certain sense “hesychazon [engaging in hesychasm] in nepsis”. Because of this for us monks of the Holy Mountain, St. Athanasios, is not simply a Saint, among the so many, but he is exceptionally the spiritual Father of all. In his personality, in his paternal care and affection, in his illumined mind, in his discernment, each one of us finds, throughout all of the generations, that which is analogous, and can easily and seamlessly continue the path of blessed hope that is attained in the monastic life.

Two things characterized this great light exceptionally. The one is utter philoponia, the continual taking-up of the cross, which is considered the most essential element, as the backbone of monastic education [αγωγής]. Among other things, the hesychastic regimen, which he continued from the beginning, before taking up his great responsibilities later. He was so won over by by the ascetical disposition which many presented that without it being his desire, he abandoned so many social concerns natural to the monastic idiom. He eagerly desired to be without cares, and to continue according to his desire, the monastic life alone, which many times he pursued in his cave, which is found outside of the southeast side of the Lavra, in the area known as Viglan.

The second thing is the element of love, community and solidarity. Although he was to himself an austere ascetic and a most lover of pain, to others he was always caring and full of love. And his much love and affection, indeed has and continues to unite Athonite monasticism and we believe it will continue until the end of the world, from all that is shown by Divine Providence, amidst the unsleeping intercessions of this great luminary. Of course if we make use of this, let us write about it, let us acknowledge it. But least of all, like an unpayable debt we presented these, that each of us may wake ourselves up and imitate something from the many-varied, and many-myriads of his virtues. So was his provision of support to the flock that as he sat on the left site of the Holy Bema and even at the hour of the service, gave himself to confessing the brothers, not only of his monastery, but many others.

In the all-free spirit of his fatherly affection, to give rest to all personalities and be pleasing to all characters, both to the most weak and most powerful, he did not neglect to use human knowledge, in the invention, to change and make a higher life, and that the most sick and weakest in character would boast in their monastery individuality, and not be discouraged. He created, within the breadth of his fatherly providence, a schedule, which up till then did not exist, but according to the tradition of the isolated way of monastic life on Athos, was perceived as reprehensible. He built ports, roads, warehouses, vineyards, gardens and anything else he could through instruments, through basic comforts for all people who would be able and would desire to become monks. But this created misunderstandings, and as is mentioned in his life, he is perceived as an “entrance for new demons”. He continued to be slandered and moved against by the administrative beginning of the Holy Mountain. They tried to judge him, for they they alleged that he violated the programs and way of hesychia of the Fathers.

Then in reality, our Lady the Theotokos intervened personally and granted them hesychia, and strengthened him to continue and to not be fainthearted and abandon his work. In his of course trying difficulties, when economically he couldn't complete that incredible task which he began, then our Lady appeared to him, and gave him courage. Her promises were so alive, palpable and certain, that once, when there was nothing left in the warehouse or in the stores, She appeared herself and said “I will be the Oikonomos [Steward or Caretaker] of the Monastery from now on, that you might not have any cares.” And in reality, many times She gave Her blessing and all of the stores would fill with food, at a difficult time when many workers and the multitude of monks wouldn't have been enough. And from then on, this Most-Holy Monastery has never had an oikonomos, as in other Monastery systems, but a paraoikonomo [person beside the steward]. And one of her icons, which is in the storehouse and depicts the miracle, is called Oikonomissa; many miracles have occurred before this icon, and the monks give thanks with special reverence. Many times she appears to bless and increase the various material needs of the Monastery.

This is, in a few words, that which I wanted to remind you of today, that which you know already. Furthermore, however, turn your care and reverence to this, for, though there are various and typical pious elders here, mysteriously for each and all of us, the great Elder and protector and abbot and spiritual father is our most-righteous father Athanasios, who is the continuer, the provider of this place, let alone all of eastern monasticism.

Through his holy intercessions and that of our All-Pure Lady the Theotokos, Lord Jesus Christ God, have mercy on us and save us."

No comments: