AN OBSTACLE FOR THOSE BENT ON
DESTROYING OUR LAND
by Leontios Monahos Dionysiates
01. An occasion for remembering the Elder’s contribution.
The occasion arises from the slanderous statements written against Elder Paisios by a miserable individual on Facebook, which was followed by support from individuals even more miserable.
From the news: “The 27 year old, according to the official announcement, was the administrator of a page on Facebook which contained blasphemous and defaming content against Elder Paisios and Orthodox Christianity. Regarding the defaming and blasphemous content of that particular page, the Electronic Crimes Prosecution electronically received thousands of complaints by residents from all over the world.”
Despite the post’s disgusting content, some people, in various places on the Internet, supportively wrote against the page’s removal… regarding the action as an affront to their “freedoms”… They most likely mean their “freedom” to defame rather than to argue. This is foreign not only to Christian thought but also to that of the ancient Greek philosophers, who were distinguished not because they insulted like uncivilized barbarians but because they were able to think and reason…
occurrence is not unique.
Blasphemous works are displayed
before every Christmas and Pasha…
Russia, a similar blasphemy was
committed at Christ the Savior
Cathedral in Moscow, from the group
“Pussy Riot” in February
2012… And there also came support
from some "Twittering parrots" who
are blatantly ignorant of the fact
blasphemy is not a means of
political libel (against
President Putin) and that the group
in question was tried with due
process of law. While in
02. Elder Paisios lived in the freedom of the Spirit.
Orthodox Christians have such a great freedom that no political party, religion, group or community can ever provide. This freedom is a gift from God and people can experience it in the world to a certain extent. But it seems that there are many who do not see the real conditions in which they live, because they live far from Orthodoxy; and so, they fear non-existent enemies while ignoring the real ones.
They think that their freedoms will be abolished; while they remain “slaves to corruption”, to the aspects of this world which have been deified [by the godless]. They vainly search for freedom where there is only erosion and corruption, which will not cease until “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors together with us until now.” Even Christians (who have the first-fruits of the Spirit), wait for the redemption of their bodies from the slavery of this world.” (See Rom. 8:21-23)
Since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17), the more one is close to God, i.e. the more he follows His commandments -because God shows no partiality- the more freedom one has. First in the soul, then in the body which follows virtuous works, because it is with these that the soul is nourished.
Even though elder Paisios was a great hesychast (one who practices the prayer of the heart according to Orthodox Tradition), he used the freedom gained by the Grace of God, in order to help those in need: “Of course, I am able to go anywhere to be silent (in Greek: hesychia, referring to the practice of hesychasm). Do you know how many people said that they would cover my expenses in order to go to California… to Canada? ‘We have a hesychasterion’ (a place where hesychia is practiced), they say, ‘you should come.’ If I find myself in a foreign place, it is like being in Paradise. No one will know me; I will follow my own schedule. I would live as a monk, as I wish. You see, though, that when the war is over, one is then dismissed. But now we are at war, a spiritual war. We must be in the front line. How many Marxists come; how many Freemasons, Satanists and many others! How many demoniacs, anarchists; how many deluded people come for me to corroborate their delusion!! And how many send these people to me, without having them examine themselves; others, in order to get rid of them; while others, that they may not ‘bell the cat’… If you only knew how much I am squeezed in from different directions! Inside me, though, I feel comfort. If I leave, I would regard it as leaving the front line, like I am retreating. I see it as betrayal. This is how I feel.”
When asked: “Elder, how can we help one who is indifferent?” He would reply: “We should instill in him a beneficial concern, causing him to examine himself, so that he may desire to seek help. It cannot happen by force. One must thirst in order for you to give him water. Give food to someone who is not hungry, force him to eat and he will vomit. When someone refuses, I cannot deprive him of his freedom, his free will.”
As a real Orthodox monk, the Elder saw freedom in a radically different manner than those who have worldly (and/or demonic) interests, just like those who slander others in their attempts to prevail upon them. The latter do not act “as though they were free, but as though they were concealing their evil under a cloak of freedom.” In other words, they act contrary to the apostle Peter’s counsels (1 Pet. 2:16).
God respects man’s freedom because it is He who gave it to man. He wants us to freely and willingly seek His aid: “In order for God and the Saints to help, one must desire it and ask for it; otherwise, they do not intervene. Christ asked the paralytic: ‘Do you wish to be healed?’ If one refuses, God respects his wish. If one does not wish to go to Heaven, God will not take him there… If someone asks for help, God and the Saints give it. In the wink of an eye they will have helped you. Often, you can’t even bat an eyelid before they have already helped you. This is how fast God comes to your aid.”
Porphyrios the Kausokalyvite
Kavsokalyvia on Mt.
Since freedom does not exist in those who live the lies inherent to worldly “values”, the Lord calls on us to know Him, who is Self-Truth, and He will then liberate us: “know truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
03. Elder Paisios and compassion.
“I have told you a number of times (he says to the nuns of the Souroti Monastery), how I was at the Kalyvi (cabin-cell) when I had a hernia… Whenever someone rang the doorbell, I would go to answer it, even when it was snowing outside. If the visitor had serious problems, I would not feel any pain myself - even though I had been in pain while previously in bed. I would treat him to something, holding the treat with one hand and clutching my hernia with the other. And during the entire conversation I would not lean on anything; though in pain, I did not want him to know it. When the visitor would leave I would then collapse from the pain.
It is not because the pain had subsided, that I was miraculously cured, but because I understood someone else’s pain and forgot my own. The miracle occurs when you participate in someone else’s pain. When your becomes the focus, you see him as a brother and labor for him. This pain "moves" God and works miracles. For nothing moves God more than nobleness, that is, sacrifice. In our times, nobleness is becoming rare because of self-love, of self-interest.”
And this particular example is but a small sample of the self-sacrifice of a man who, with half a lung, served hundreds of people daily. Moreover, he never accepted money for his service but rather, made handiworks for his sustenance…
From the Elder’s teachings:
One person goes to another to relate his troubles and that person does not want to hear them because he does not want to be made unhappy. He can pretend to be in a hurry or he can change the subject in order to be at peace. But this is completely satanic. It is like having someone die beside me and I go to leave him and to sing a song. Where is the Apostle’s counsel, ‘weep with those who weep’? (Rom. 12:15) Truly, when ecclesiastical matters are concerned and one does not, as a Christian, share in another’s afflictions, then that person does not participate in the body of the Church.” “If you share in an afflicted person’s pain and help him, think about what a sacrifice you would be making if that person were Christ! It is in this way that you would be tested. The faithful see the face of Christ in their neighbor. And Christ Himself says, ‘that which you do to an afflicted person, you also do unto me.” (Matt. 25:40)
04. Elder Paisios and almsgiving
“Wealth brings destruction upon people because they do not give to the poor for the benefit of their souls and of the souls of those who have passed away. Giving alms to the afflicted, widows, orphans etc. aids in the repose of the departed. Because, when someone gives alms for the sake of a departed soul, this causes others to say: "May God have mercy upon that departed soul. May his bones be sanctified.”The Elder related to me a story which explains how almsgiving can change an unbeliever or someone who is indifferent and make them conscious of Christ: “An acquaintance of mine from Switzerland once told the following: There was a rich atheist lady whose soul was in so much pain that she came to the point of giving her entire estate to the poor and the afflicted. All those who benefited from her charity worked to place that woman in the best nursing home. Despite her many good acts, though, she remained an atheist.
They went to speak to her about Christ but she refused discussion. She said that Christ was nothing more than a good person, a social worker, and similar ideas. Perhaps the Christians she came to know did not help her, that she may be moved by their lives. My friend advised me to pray for the atheist woman. He also prayed a lot for her repentance. After some time, my friend told me: ‘One day I went to visit her in the nursing home and I found her completely changed. ‘I believe, I believe!’ she cried. Something happened which changed her; she wanted to be baptized.”
Another story from the Elder shows the deep insight he had into people’s personalities -especially of those who give and receive alms- and into the spiritual law that oversees them:
“Once, when I was in Thessaloniki, a woman stopped me –she looked like a gypsy- and she asked for money for her children, because her husband was sick. I only had 500 drachmas and I gave them to her. ‘I am sorry,’ I said, ‘but I do not have any more to give you. If you wish, take down my address and write to me about how your husband is doing, and I will try to give you more money from
“Thank you for your kindness; I am returning the money that you gave me.” When someone takes pains to give alms, (continues the Elder) the beggar burns with the love of Christ and he will begin to share and not collect more. But even if the beggar is very hard-hearted, he will not enjoy all that he collects, and God will make sure that the money goes to its proper place. For that man there will be only fatigue and affliction for the “fund-raising” (let’s call it that) that he did for others.
05. The Elder’s patriotism
In addition to the monastic virtues, the Elder also acquired the virtue of patriotism, suffering along with the people of God, who from that time were in danger from the adventurism of its representatives, from those who submitted to foreign interests regarding our Faith and our Nation. And he justified his stance saying:
“Previously, if a pious person was concerned about the condition of the world, he was probably not well; he was fit to be put away. Today, in contrast, if someone pious does not care and is not deeply concerned for the condition of the world, he is considered fit to be put away.
Because, back then, those who governed had God within them, while today, those who govern do not believe. There are many today who seek to destroy everything: family, Church, youth. To be concerned with the state of our Greek Nation constitutes a confession of faith, because our State is at odds with Divine Law. It enacts laws that are opposed to the Law of God… I have heard spiritual Fathers to say: ‘Do not concern yourselves with these things!’ If they had been very holy and with prayer have become so care-free, I would kneel and kiss their feet. But now they are indifferent because they want to get along with others and to live with ease. If indifference is forbidden to lay people, how much more is it forbidden to spiritual people? An honorable and spiritual person must never do anything with indifference. The prophet David says, ‘Cursed is the man who does the works of the Lord negligently.’ (These excerpts are from the book, Words from Elder Paisios II)
gave people courage: “To someone who
worried about treacherous acts
against the Nation, he gave the
if they tell me that there are no
more Greeks, I will not worry. God
can resurrect one Greek. One will be
He even believed that
‘if only one Christian
remains, Christ will still carry out
His plan.’ When
others spread fear, speaking of
unpleasant developments in the Greek
Nation, the Elder imparted optimism
and hope. He spoke of a resurrected
As a radio operator in Greece’s civil war, he preferred to risk his own life so others may be saved: “In one battle,” he recounted, “I dug a small hole to go into for shelter. Someone came and asked, ‘Can I go in too?’ It was cramped and only with greatly difficulty did we both fit. I jumped out and left him in the hole. Suddenly, a shell scraped across my head. I was not wearing a helmet, just a hood. I ran my hand across my head but found no blood.
I ran my hand again: no blood. The shell had passed along my head and shaved my hair off, leaving a line six centimeters long. However, there was not even a scratch on my skin. I gave the shelter away with my heart. ‘It is better,’ I said, ‘for me to die once, than for someone else to die and for my conscious to kill me every day for the rest of my life. How would I endure it afterwards, when I would think of how I could have saved him, but didn’t?’ And, naturally, God greatly helps him who sacrifices himself for others.” Truly, God was with the Elder. In this way he was able to defy death.
“One day,” related his comrade, Mr. Pantelis, “we were on an elevation called Fonias [murderer, in Greek]. The partisans closed us in and we could not evade them because there was no way out. Arsenios [i.e. Paisios] was standing up! The shells were whistling and raining down on us. I grabbed him by the overcoat to get him to lie down, but he would not budge. He was looking up and had his hands crossed like this. It seems that the Almighty pitied us that day as our airplanes suddenly arrived and cleared a path for us. Upon leaving I asked him: ‘My good Christian, why didn’t you lie down?’ ‘I was praying’, was his reply…”
Fr. Isaac (+1998) comments: “What power his prayer had and how great was his faith, so that he could even defy bullets. It is most likely that he prayed for others to be saved even if he should die in the process. This is why he stood up and without cover. And the just God, seeing his self-sacrifice saved him along with the others…”
Arsenios (as Paisios was called back then) would call headquarters using the radio, but he would call for God’s help using prayer. The Elder related this to those who would ask, “What good do monks serve when they do not go into the world to help but instead remain in the desert?”
“Monks,” he replied,
“are the Church’s radio operators.
When they make contact
with God through prayer, God comes
and helps more. One more gun didn’t
make a difference, but when the air
force came, the battle was
[The three reports above are from
Hieromonk Isaac’s book, Life of
Elder Paisios the Hagiorite.]