24/06/2009

ELDER PAISIOS


ELDER PAISIOS
On July 25, Arsenios Eznepidis was born in Farasa, Cappadocia, shortly before the population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Arsenios' name was given to him by St Arsenios the Cappadocian, who baptised him, named the child for himself and foretold Arsenios' monastic future. After the exchange, the Eznepidis family settled in Konitsa, Epirus. Arsenios grew up here, and after intermediate public school, he learned carpentry.

During the civil war in Greece, Arsenios served as a radio operator. He worried about his compatriots who had family, whereas he didn't worry for himself because he was single and had no children. He was noted for his bravery, self-sacrifice and moral righteousness. After the civil war ended, he wanted to begin the monastic life, but had to provide for his sisters. In 1950, this was accomplished, and he went to Mt Athos: first to Fr Kyril, the future abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery (Athos), and then to Esphigmenou Monastery (although he was not supportive of their later opposition to the Ecumenical Patriarchate).

Arsenios, having been a novice for four years, was tonsured a monk and was given the name Averkios. Soon after, Fr Averkios went to the (then) idiorrhythmic brotherhood of Philotheou, where his uncle was a monk. While there, he was in obedience to Elder Symeon. In 1956, Elder Symeon was to tonsure Fr Averkios to the small schema, giving him the name Paisios.
Early life

On July 25, 1924 the future Elder Paisios (Eznepidis) was born to pious parents in the town of Farasa, Cappadocia of Asia Minor. The family's spiritual father, the priest monk Arsenios (the now canonized St. Arsenios of Cappadocia), baptized the babe with his name, prophesying his future profession as monk. A week after the baptism (and barely a month after his birth) Arsenios was driven, along with his family, out of Asia Minor by the Turks. St. Arsenios guided his flock along their 400-mile trek to Greece. After a number of stops along the way, Arsenios' family finally ended up in the town of Konitsa in Epiros (north western Greece). St. Arsenios had reposed, as he had prophesied, forty days after their establishment in Greece, and he left as his spiritual heir the infant Arsenios.

The young Arsenios was wholly given over to God and spent his free time in the silence of nature, where he would pray for hours on end. Having completed his elementary education, he learned the trade of carpentry. He worked as a carpenter until his mandatory military service. He served in the Army during the dangerous days of the end of World War II. Arsenios was brave and self-sacrificing, always desiring to put his own life at risk so as to spare his brother. He was particularly concerned about his fellow soldiers who had left wives and children to serve.

Having completed his obligation to his country, Arsenios received his discharge in 1949 and greatly desired to begin his monastic life on the Holy Mountain. Before being able to settle there, however, he had to fulfil his responsibility to his family, to look after his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. Having provided for his sisters' future, he was free to begin his monastic vocation with a clean conscience. He arrived on Mt. Athos in 1950, when he learned his first lessons in the monastic way from the virtuous ascetic Fr. Kyril (the future abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery), but was unable to stay by his side as he had hoped, and so was sent to the Monastery of Esphigmenou. He was a novice there for four years, after which he was tonsured a monk in 1954 with the name Averkios. He was a conscientious monk, finding ways to both complete his obedience’s (which required contact with others) and to preserve his silence, so as to progress in the art of prayer. He was always selfless in helping his brethren, unwilling to rest while others worked (though he may have already completed his own obediences), as he loved his brothers greatly and without distinction. In addition to his ascetic struggles and the common life in the monastery, he was spiritually enriched through the reading of soul-profiting books. In particular, he read the lives of the Saints, the Gerontikon, and especially the Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.
Monastic Life

Soon after his tonsure, monk Averkios left Esphigmenou and joined the (then) idiorhythmic brotherhood of Philotheou Monastery, where his uncle was a monk. He put himself under obedience to the virtuous Elder Symeon, who gave him the Small Schema in 1956, with the new name Paisios. Fr. Paisios dwelt deeply on the thought that his own spiritual failures and lack of love were the cause of his neighbour’s shortcomings, as well as of the world's ills. He harshly accused himself, pushing himself to greater self-denial and more fervent prayer for his soul and for the whole world. Furthermore, he cultivated the habit of always seeking the "good reason" for a potentially scandalous event and for people's actions, and in this way he preserved himself from judging others. For example, pilgrims to Mt. Athos had been scandalized by the strange behaviour and stories told by a certain monk, and, when they met Elder Paisios, they asked him what was wrong with the monk. He warned them not to judge others, and that this monk was actually virtuous and was simply pretending to be a fool when visitors would come, so as to preserve his silence.

In 1958 Elder Paisios was asked to spend some time in and around his home village so as to support the faithful against the proselytism of Protestant groups. He greatly encouraged the faithful there, helping many people. Afterwards, in 1962, he left to visit Sinai where he stayed for two years. During this time he became beloved of the Bedouins who benefited both spiritually as well as materially from his presence. The Elder used the money he received from the sale of his carved wooden handicraft to buy them food.

On his return to Mt. Athos in 1964 Elder Paisios took up residence at the Skete of Iviron before moving to Katounakia at the southernmost tip of Mt. Athos for a short stay in the desert there. The Elder's failing health may have been part of the reason for his departure from the desert. In 1966, he was operated on and had part of his lungs removed. It was during this time of hospitalization that his long friendship with the then young sisterhood of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, just outside of Thessaloniki, began. During his operation he greatly needed blood and it was then that a group of novices from the monastery donated blood to save him. Elder Paisios was most grateful, and after his recovery did whatever he could, materially and spiritually, to help them build their monastery.

In 1968 he spent time at the Monastery of Stavronikita helping both with its spiritual as well as material renovation. While there he had the blessing of being in contact with the ascetic Elder Tikhon who lived in the hermitage of the Holy Cross, near Stavronikita. Elder Paisios stayed by his side until his repose, serving him selflessly as his disciple. It was during this time that Elder Tikhon clothed Fr. Paisios in the Great Schema. According to the wishes of the Elder, Fr. Paisios remained in his hermitage after his repose. He stayed there until 1979, when he moved on to his final home on the Holy Mountain, the hermitage Panagouda, which belongs to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.

It was here at Panagouda that Elder Paisios' fame as a God bearing elder grew, drawing to him the sick and suffering people of God. He received them all day long, dedicating the night to God in prayer, vigil and spiritual struggle. His regime of prayer and asceticism left him with only two or three hours each night for rest. The self-abandon with which he served God and his fellow man, his strictness with himself, the austerity of his regime, and his sensitive nature made him increasingly prone to sickness. In addition to respiratory problems, in his later days he suffered from a serious hernia that made life very painful. When he was forced to leave the Holy Mountain for various reasons (often due to his illnesses) he would receive pilgrims for hours on end at the women's monastery at Souroti, and the physical effort which this entailed in his weakened state caused him such pain that he would turn pale. He bore his suffering with much grace, however, confident that, as God knows what is best for us, it could not be otherwise. He would say that God is greatly touched when someone who is in great suffering does not complain, but rather uses his energy to pray for others.

In addition to his other illnesses he suffered from haemorrhaging which left him very weak. In his final weeks before leaving the Holy Mountain, he would often fall unconscious. On October 5, 1993 the Elder left his beloved Holy Mountain for the last time. Though he had planned on being off the mountain for just a few days, while in Thessalonica he was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate treatment. After the operation he spent some time recovering in the hospital and was then transferred to the monastery at Souroti. Despite his critical state he received people, listening to their sorrows and counselling them.

After his operation, Elder Paisios had his heart set on returning to Mt. Athos. His attempts to do so, however, were hindered by his failing health. His last days were full of suffering, but also of the joy of the martyrs. On July 11, 1994, he received Holy Communion for the last time. The next day, Elder Paisios gave his soul into God's keeping. He was buried, according to his wishes, at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti. Elder Paisios, perhaps more than any other contemporary elder, has captured the minds and hearts of the Greek people. Many books of his counsels have been published, and the monastery at Souroti has undertaken a great work, organizing the Elder's writings and counsels into impressive volumes befitting his memory. Thousands of pilgrims visit his tomb each year.

Elder Paisios was a very simple man, who believed in the word of the Gospel, making monasticism and the teachings of the Orthodox ascetical tradition his way of life. His general education was limited to primary school level. Despite all this he was distinguished by his “charming” simplicity and his intense anxiety to help his fellow man, who needed a spiritual guide. He himself was the example of a person dedicated to God, removing from himself personal aspirations and all personal wills. Obedience, practice (ascesis), humility, piety, a sense of honour and, above all, love and patience, were a way of life for him, as well as teachings for all who sought a word of comfort or a solution to a personal problem.

Teachings
Thoughts. The Elder gave great importance to thought. He always stressed that everything begins from good thoughts which drive away evil ones. We should think positive thoughts about our fellow men, not negative ones, otherwise guile and obstinacy enter our thoughts. He also mentioned that we should not trust our thoughts and rather give way to God’s will, because he who does this, always wins.

Sense of Honour. The Elder constantly mentioned that people should have noble love. “Whatever we offer or do”, he would say, “should always be done with a sense of honour and not out of necessity or selfishness. We should not follow out of fear but rather we should have good will and intention, as did Christ when He came to this world”.

Divine Justice. He always said that if we want to be like the Saints we need to enforce Divine Justice and not human justice. According to the Elder, human justice is blind and is there only to drive away evil and cunning people. Divine Justice however, aims to assist man who is weak and those who have need. When we enforce Divine Justice we avoid disputes, castigations and differences between with our fellow men.

Divine Providence. Divine Providence is unfathomable and uncharted and aims at the salvation of man and eternal life. He emphasized that we should not constantly concern ourselves with life’s needs, because God provides in such a way that He will give us want we desire, many times before we even ask for it, as long as our thoughts are on Him and we pray. When something bad happens to someone it is God’s concession, not sent by Him, so that He can teach man, because of His dispensation.

Humility. For the Elder, humility was the foundation element of the salvation of man and generally, the element which brings about good relations between people. He also said that God “is unable” to help when man is not humble and tries in every way to bring about this humility, through suffering. “Without humility”, he continued, “ there can be not Divine Grace, we close off our hearts to Christ and whatever it is that we gained, we quickly lose”.

Obedience. Total obedience, according to the Elder, brings about humility which is the beginning of all good. “We must obey even when we are unfairly treated, because God rewards patience in injustice”, he often said. “Today everyone is impatient, but those who are patient, according to Christ, will gain the kingdom of heaven”, he would say.







21/06/2009

God's cake...


This is about the best thing I've ever read as an explanation.

Sometimes we wonder, 'What did I do to deserve this?' or 'Why did God have to do this to me?' Here is a wonderful explanation! A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she's failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.
Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, 'Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.'
'Here, have some cooking oil,' her Mother offers.
'Yuck' says her daughter.
'How about a couple raw eggs?' 'Gross, Mom!'
'Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?'
'Mom, those are all yucky!'
To which the mother replies: ‘Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! '
God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!
God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.
If you like this, send this on to the people you really care about.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance! God's cake...
This is about the best thing I've ever read as an explanation.

Sometimes we wonder, 'What did I do to deserve this?' or 'Why did God have to do this to me?' Here is a wonderful explanation! A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she's failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.
Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, 'Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.'
'Here, have some cooking oil,' her Mother offers.
'Yuck' says her daughter.
'How about a couple raw eggs?' 'Gross, Mom!'
'Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?'
'Mom, those are all yucky!'
To which the mother replies: ‘Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! '
God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!
God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.
If you like this, send this on to the people you really care about.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance!

20/06/2009

SUFFERING IN OUR LIVES


Human life is integrally bonded with pain; sorrows, troubles, sadness, illnesses, deaths of loved ones take first place in our lives. Many times we ask “why?” For this reason, one of the greatest fathers of our Church has given us the answer. He is St John Chrysostom, who speaks not only as the “golden tongue”, or even as one with a deep knowledge of the human soul, but presents the experience of his own life. A life molded by pain, grief, persecution and slander. Suffering is what the Crucified Lord left us as an honour and a sign of recognition for His faithful. St John Chrysostom, however, ended his distressed and suffering life with his immortal words: “Glory to God for all things”. For the joys, and sorrows, successes and misfortunes – he glorified God for all.
Many accept that time, etc as the doctor of the philosophy of grief and pain; but these are false intercessors. Only God can ease and soften our suffering. In one of his letters to Olympias, his deaconess, Chrysostom wrote characteristically, during a very distressed period in his life while in exile, the following: “Leave people to live their comfort in the shadows. You must fervently ask Jesus whom you adore, to cast His eye on your grief and then your sorrows will instantly cease”. It is help from above which eases pain; divine comfort is given to us from God, if we ask for it, of course…
We must not forget, though, that suffering is often God’s invitation calling us to repentance…
Never think that if God loved someone, He would not allow him to be poor, says St John Chrysostom. “Forget superstitions. These sorrows are themselves the proof of God’s love”. Pain is given to the impious as a means of moving them to repentance, or as a punishment if their mind has been calloused. To the just, pain is allowed so that they may shine even more, as gold glows when it is heated by the fire. Also, though, for another reason: to glorify them for their patience and perseverance. That is why Chrysostom calls grief and pain “the medication of the soul”. As all medication has its effects and side-effects, so the effect this medication will have on us depends on our willingness to submit to the will of God. Either way, we need to endure our suffering and grief. If we can endure without complaint we will gain much; if we become angry with God, however, our suffering will become greater. It is in our hands to apply willingly the will of God, because then, within ourselves, we will be peaceful and content, praising God for whatever happens to us. However, when we are unwilling to do the will of God, we do not harm God in any way, but we do condemn ourselves to hell; for that is what hell is – our voluntary dissociation from God.
CAN WE COPE WITH SUFFERING?

Once again, Holy Chrysostom provides the solutions for us: Firstly, even with prayer, which is the most powerful antidote to pain, do you still hurt, grieve and suffer? Even then, praise God. These days, we humans have become used to comfort and we become indignant at even the slightest difficulty, so it seems inconceivable to us to praise God in our grief. Yet, from the example of Job and up to even St John Chrysostom himself, together with thousands of the other saints, let us struggle in prayer to glorify God with our hearts, for our suffering. Charity is yet another form of medication against pain. Are you distressed or suffering? Think of your grieving brothers. Give them some form of charity so that united with God through prayer and bound to your brothers through charity, you have strong support in the difficulties you have to endure. Prayer connects us to God, charity to our fellow man. The third form of medication then is self-examination which will connect you to yourself. You need to examine the depths of your soul well, without flattery and love of self. You will then see that you are not innocent and that is the reason for your suffering. Do not think that others are worse sinners than you yet are having a good time. Do not look at others. Look only at yourself. Maybe your own grief and suffering is a good way to pay off the debts of your sins. Then, as a tree which is deeply rooted in the earth remains unmoved by the strength of the wind, so a faithful person will not yield to the storms which he has to face, knowing that God knows what is good for him and loves him…This trust is the power which helps God’s faithful children to endure their present sorrows with perseverance and patience and so they will inherit future riches. God is aware of our troubles and sorrows and will never allow us to be faced with a temptation greater than our strengths. The fifth form of medication against pain is the desire and love of God. The soul turns its eyes constantly on God, does not fear poverty, does not complain when ill, does not lose courage when facing death, because God’s love conquers all… Holy Chrysostom brings us the living example of the Apostle Paul who, through his sorrows and temptations was as joyful as if he was in Paradise. Therefore, every faithful person who remains close to God’s love never falls into melancholy. Even with eyes brimming with tears due to suffering, a bleeding heart due to attacks and temptations, he steeps himself in God’s love. For, as Christ assures us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Finally, another way to face the difficulties and distresses of life with courage and strength, according to St John Chrysostom, is to view everything through the prism of eternity.
With our thoughts and desires on the heavenly kingdom we will not even feel the trials and disasters of this life. A businessman conquers adversity with the hope of profits. An athlete gladly accepts privations and limitations with thoughts of victory. So it should be with us. Looking at heaven and seeing the riches which await us there, and seeing that here on earth we are but temporary residents, let us bravely endure the struggles of this life.
Let us take strength and strong patience from the hope of future riches. Here, we are the brave novice fighters for life. In Heaven we shall enjoy the glory and radiance of God. Holy John Chrysostom again reminds us of the Apostle Paul who, by placing before us a non-earthly scale to weigh, on the one hand the pain of the present life and on the other heavenly enjoyment, says: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

St John Chrysostom

06/06/2009

JUNE 2009

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New Zealand
Holy Church of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, Christchurch




ΙΟΥΛΙΟΣ / JULY 2009

5 ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ SUNDAY +Δ’ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΥ. Αθανασίου Ο. εν τω Άθω.
+4th SUNDAY OF MATTHEW. Athanasios of Mount Athos.
Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

12 ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ SUNDAY +E’ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΥ. Πρόκλου και Ιλαρίου Ιρμ.
+5th SUNDAY OF MATTHEW. Proklos and Hilario the Martyrs.
Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

17 ΠΑΡΑΣΚΕΥΗ FRIDAY +Αγ. Μαρίνας Μεγαλομάρτυρος / St. Marina the Great Martyr.
Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

19 ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ SUNDAY +ΑΓΙΩΝ ΠΑΤΕΡΩΝ ΤΗΣ Δ’ ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΗΣ ΣΥΝΟΔΟΥ.
+HOLY FATHERS OF THE 4th ECUMENICAL SYNOD. Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

20 ΔΕΥΤΕΡΑ MONDAY +Προφήτου Ηλιού. +Prophet Elias. Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

26 ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ SUNDAY +Z’ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΥ.Ερμολάου ιερομ. +7th SUNDAY OF MATTHEW. Hermolaou . Θ. Λειτουργία D. Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 π.μ. / a.m.

27 ΔΕΥΤΕΡΑ MONDAY +Αγίου Παντελεήμονος / Panteleimon the Great Martyr. Παράκλησις
Supplication 10:30 – 11:30 π.μ. /a.m.

MALICE



A priest named Sapricius had a very close friend named Nicephorus, who was a layman. There was so much love between them that each thought that he lived within the soul of the other. However, the devil’s malice caused a situation which brought about all this friendship and made them enemies, so that neither wanted to set eyes on the other. Nicephorus quickly overcame the passion and with perseverance sought to restore the beauty of their friendship. At first he sent mutual friends to reconcile them, saying that he was to blame for all the causes of the disagreement and begging for forgiveness. Sapricius however remained adamant and hard and did nothing to dissolve the enmity, albeit that he was a priest. At some point Nicephorus approached Sapricius, felt at his feet and with tears begged for his forgiveness and asking that they become friends again. However Sapricius, with no feelings at all, walked past him quickly, without even speaking to him, without even looking at him.
That is how things were between them, when the Epmperor Julian began a new persecution against the Christians in his efforts to restore the old idolatrous religion. So when the order for the persecution arrived in the city in which both Nicephorus and the priest Sapricius lived, Sapricius was arrested first because he was a priest. The ruler of the city, after torturing him, asked him to deny Christ, putting him through many torments, but Sapricius would not deny his faith. Finally, the ruler sentenced him to death by the sword. Knowing all this, Nicephorus believed that now the time was right for their reconciliation. He appeared before Sapricius, knelt in front of him, embraced his feet and begged him before he dies to forgive him. However he continued his inhuman feeling and did not soften his heart at all at the emotion and lamentation of Nicephorus. With the wax of malice he had blocked his ears and quickly bypassed his friend. Again Nicephorus did not despair, but went to him again and with more fervent please begged his mercy, shedding many tears. Sapricius remained deaf and seemed to be made of stone when he arrived at the place of the execution.
As the hands of the executioners lifted the sword and Sapricius bent his neck to receive the torment, and the crowns which he was to inherit from Christ, were already above his head, something astonishing happened: Darkened by malice he seemed to not be aware of whose presence he was standing in and seemed also to forget why he had been arrested, and in total confusion having lost his mind, asked why he was to be executed. The executioners replied that he had ignored the royal commands and was not convinced to offer sacrifices to the gods. And then came the worst fall of resentment together with his denial of Christ and the true faith and his declaration that he would sacrifice to the gods.
As soon as Nicephorus saw this, his heart broke and with fervent words said to Sapricius:
“My brother and father, do not wish to betray the God who created you and to whom you will return after your death! Do not assail the laws of piety, or the confession which you made before God and the angels. Respect the previous torments which you underwent for Christ. Honour the great office of the Priesthood. I beg you, my friend, on bended knee, do not deny your confession of the Holy Trinity, now that you have in your hands the awards and almost upon your head the crowns of the athlete. But Sapricius became all the more harder and unfeeling, because his heart had been filled with malice and therefore could no longer contain piety. Then Nicephorus, bursting with zeal because of his own piety and that of his friend, and because he could no longer do anything for him, threw himself into the torment, confessed Christ and placed his neck under the swords of the executioners. So, in this way, Nicephorus the forbearing and forgiving, endured the martyred death by the sword and in a short time and with little effort earned the Kingdom of Heaven and was proved to be genuinely victorious. This example shows us that no physical struggles and labours can reconcile us with God as much as compassion and concern and love for our neighbour can, for this is the beginning and the end of all virtues…((Evergetinos Volume 2, Issue 42)

I said to the 80-year old Elder Ascetic…



“Tell me, my fathers, why on this earth, night and day are inseparable?

Why do the thorn and flower, laughter and tears grow together as twins?

Why do scorpions, vipers and cold poisons nest in the most beautiful greenery of the forest?

Why, before the delicate bud can emerge and open its beauty to the light, does a black worm come and stab it an leave it as a lifeless rag in its crib?

Finally, why does confusion and disorder push its way into the harmony of the world?...”

Lifting his right hand to heaven and with his deep voice, the ascetic replied:

“Behind those golden clouds, the Most Blessed One is busy creating a priceless piece of embroidery.

And as we walk down here on earth, we see the rear view of it, my child.

And it is obvious then that we will see errors at a time when we should be giving thanks and praise.

As a Christian, wait for the day when your winged soul will fly through the sky

And you will see God’s masterpiece from its proper view and then…you will see that all is methodical and ordered”.