Testimonies and Experiences
Prologue to the 2nd Edition - Preface to the 1st Edition
Prologue to the Second Edition
The first edition of this book sold out almost immediately. Therefore, in response to the requests of many people, our Convent has taken upon itself the publication of this second edition. We also took the opportunity to enhance and improve the book. The following significant changes were made.
a) Text was changed to follow the traditional system of Greek spelling (polytonal), as requested by most contributors.
b) Except for the few we were unable to contact, all the contributors had a chance to see the text. Some of them gave us new texts which replaced those in the first edition.
c) Some names were omitted to avoid embarrassment or invasion of privacy.
d) We re-wrote the short biography of the Elder.
e) The text was enhanced with some new contributions. However, we didn't add too much, in order not to make the book too large or difficult to handle.
Thus, we deliver this book into your hands with the hope that it will satisfy your desire to learn even more about the ever-memorable Elder Porphyrios.
He was given to our generation through God's love.
Elder Porphyrios, who often stressed that Christ is Everything, will
help you to love Christ even more.
Everything that is written in this book and everything that ever will be written about Elder Porphyrios, from people who knew him, does not and will not show us the depth of his spirituality. This is because they, like all of us, do not have the Elder's holiness and spiritual way of life. We are merely presented with his external appearance, the outward reality of his spiritual life, certain fruits of the spirit, certain things he said and did. We are not shown his true inner life about which we, the uninitiated, can only conjecture.
Here, as a confirmation of the above, are some excerpts from a particular telephone call made by Elder Porphyrios in 1989 (and tape-recorded). He says:
"Really, to understand these things, one must go through them. Otherwise it can't be understood. That's why you think the way you do, but it's not like that"
"Nobody can explain this state. Only he who lives through it, really lives through it, feels it, but he can't write it down himself. Do you hear me?"
"Maybe if he was a novelist, he could write it down. That doesn't tell us anything. Do you hear?"
It is obvious that the Elder was speaking from his own experience. Whoever wishes to speak about the inner spiritual life of a saint, must be a saint himself.
We, the writers of this book, are not saints. We are confined to what we saw and what we heard. We are amongst those many others, who, as St. Luke the Evangelist says, have "taken in hand to set in order a narrative." We are not trying, with our poor and futile speech, to describe the life of a contemporary saint, but rather we are falteringly trying to express our joy in having met a saint; our joy that Christ lives yesterday, today and forever; our joy that holiness is not a thing of the past, that grace can be felt next to us, that our hands touched a "little father" who really lived the expression "I no longer live, for Christ lives in me."
Until the Lord reveals the servant who was Elder Porphyrios' eye-witness, who observed him throughout his life and in all his works and will write about his life accurately and fully, we are forgiven. For we have only seen "in part." We describe, write about and speak of the miraculous things that God did for us through His servant, Porphyrios. We are in danger of making mistakes through ignorance, for which we ask forgiveness from our long-suffering Lord, our Friend and Brother, to whom we offer our poor words as a sacrifice of praise.
We would like to express publicly our gratitude to Klitos Ioannides who took the initiative and gathered together the many parts that make up this book. We also wish to thank all those who allowed us to publish their conversations or their notes, and all those unseen contributors who helped make this edition a reality. We ask all of you to pray for us.
The Holy Convent of the
Transfiguration of the Savior
Preface to the First Edition
"When saints go to sleep we have an obligation to write down and tell as much as we know about them." These were the words of encouragement given during a telephone conversation, three days after the departure of Elder Porphyrios, by hieromonk Athanasios of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi. This statement gave us the greatest impetus and was the determining factor in the compilation of the initial material for this edition.
Our initial aim and intention was to offer the faithful of Cyprus some testimonies, both from the spiritual children of the great Elder, and from those people who knew him quite well. This was to be done through the radio program "Orthodoxy Today," relayed by the First Program of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CBC.)
We soon realized however, that the great number of testimonies being sent to us could not possibly fit into the time-requirements of a radio program. So through the prayers of Elder Porphyrios and at the instigation of his many spiritual children, both in Cyprus and Greece, we started to collect more material. This led to the preparation of this present edition as a "sweet smelling spiritual fragrance."
Neither the making of nor the realization of such a decision was easy. May God, who allowed this edition to be completed, grant even unto us, the least of all people, his boundless mercy.
Certainly nobody can really write about the life and works of a spiritual figure of the standing of Elder Porphyrios, however much one saw him and heard him, however close one lived to him. In this present edition we simply offer some testimonies from people who knew the Elder. However, that great chapter called Elder Porphyrios is only now starting to begin.
We would like to make it clear that this book is not a biography of Elder Porphyrios. That will be left to other people. This volume exclusively contains some noteworthy testimonies and experiences as they were given to us by our brothers and sisters in Christ who had the great blessing of having known Elder Porphyrios. I personally accept responsibility for everything that is written in this book.
If there are any objections from atheists, rationalists, people who are spiritually cold or lukewarm, there is only one answer. The realm of the sacred and the transcendent, as expressed by that child of God and true man, Elder Porphyrios, belongs to the category of the unbelievable. It can however become believable because, "sin does not prevail where grace abounds". Elder Porphyrios was a person filled with grace, a bearer of the power of the Holy Spirit, a child of the Kingdom, a genuine and true tree of paradise.
Maybe there are those who either through ignorance, misinformation or intent, would like to give their own interpretation of what is contained in this current edition. This neither grieves nor disheartens us. The Lord is the only Truth. As Elder Porphyrios often told us, he never spoke on his own authority but always spoke from the Gospels; his words were Christ's words.
May Elder Porphyrios, the spiritual beacon and guide for thousands of people, allow us, from the heights of heaven, where he can be found, to convey some conversations that were held with him:
"Elder, where can we find the solution to our problems?"
"Only holiness will solve your problems."
When we asked if it was difficult for anyone to become a saint, he smiled and said, "It's the easiest thing to do. You just have to think of God constantly."
Sometime afterwards, replying to our request for a beneficial word, he just quoted the Apostle Paul saying: "It is no longer I that live, for Christ lives in me."
Another time, when we asked him if our relationship with Christ was one of love (eros), he reminded us of St. Maximos the Confessor, who speaks of "love of the mind" (eros nou). That divine love of the soul, which yearns after the heavenly Bridegroom, and which is acquired after long and sustained practice of the remembrance of death is a kind of contemplation which is equal to contemplation of God.
Since he was aware of my poetic ability, he explained to me that Christ does not want roughly hewn people, but sensitive people. He added "The saints are poets. Look at how much poetry there is in the scene of the Lord there by Lake Tiberias, together with his disciples. There, where he taught, ministered and healed the people."
Elder Porphyrios was a true Father of the Church. He performed his pastoral duties with a warm heart and a wise discretion, which he disposed of in such a unique way.
We also had the blessing and joy of seeing his gift of discernment (diakrisis). By simply checking my pulse he discovered the extreme tiredness from overwork that I had whilst a student in Paris. This was eleven years before I even met the Elder.
With every encounter with Elder Porphyrios we had a new opportunity to see the inner workings of heaven. For a little while he would open heaven up for us. In some way he had acquired the keys to the Kingdom. We would look for a short while and then, sinners that we are, we would return to our old ways. The sacred memory of Elder Porphyrios is connected with those heavenly scenes, with that taste of paradise.
This volume contains the testimonies and experiences of Elder Porphyrios' spiritual children, both in Greece and Cyprus. Besides these, there are testimonies from others who had the blessing of speaking with him. Each one of these people desired for their own reasons, which we respect, to remain anonymous. All of them witnessed the words and acts of the Elder, expressing the words of St. John the Evangelist in his First Catholic Epistle, "that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled..."
The pictures of Elder Porphyrios on pages 10 and 364 were received under the following circumstances.
Almost from the very beginning of my acquaintance with the Elder a desire arose within me to have a photograph of him. Living in Cyprus, I felt that during difficult times in my life just having his holy face before me would give me strength, even if it was only a paper picture.
I told some spiritual children of the Elder about this. They discouraged me, saying that the Elder would be upset if we asked permission to photograph him.
The years went by until three years before the Elder passed away. I crossed myself and asked God to make me worthy of this gift. The Lord heard my prayer. Elder Porphyrios immediately accepted my request to photograph him. What humility he had! Lying in his bed, as was usual during the last years of his life, he put on his cross. While I was getting the camera ready he closed his eyes and repeatedly said the prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me."
True to the promise 1 gave him, I didn't tell anybody anything about it and I didn't show the photographs to anybody while he was still alive.
The Holy Authorities of Mt. Athos sent us all the photographs of the Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia, Elder Porphyrios' hut and the bed in which he died. We thank them warmly for this gift for this edition.
We are greatly indebted to hieromonk Athanasios of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, the Principal of Mt. Athos from 1 June 1991 to 31 May 1992. He encouraged us with much love in this effort of ours. He helped us and supported us in various ways.
We thank from the bottom of our hearts all the contributors to this edition for their complete confidence in us. We owe the same debt of thanks to the Holy Convent the "Transfiguration of the Savior" for the help they gave us in sending us the short biography of the Elder. They also introduced us to individuals who knew the Elder very well, and could speak to us about him.
We thank our brothers and sisters in Christ from Greece through whom we got to know the Elder, and those who also made it possible to meet him many times, despite the unfavorable conditions.
We are indebted to the Holy Convent of St. Marina and
St. Raphael in Xylotimpou and the Protopresbyter Kyriakos Panagiotou, a
theologian and the priest of Xylotimpou, who is responsible for the
Convent. He took upon himself the financial outlay incurred in
production of this book by the Convent.
Finally, we would like to thank CBC for the
opportunity it has given us to convey to the faithful of Cyprus the
testimonies and experiences of distinguished Greeks and Cypriots who
knew Elder Porphyrios. Almost immediately after his passing away these
testimonies were broadcast during the weekly editions of "Orthodoxy
Today," on CBC's 1st Program. These radio-programs were produced by Mary
We thank God for this great gift that has been given
to us, that we have known and can write about a holy man of our time. We
pray that the Lord's mercy will also come upon us, here in Cyprus, the
island for which the Elder always expressed a special love. He expressed
particular concern for its troubles and prayed for Cyprus continuously.
With fear of God we offer this book to His people, with the hope that it will give Christ's nourishment to those souls who hunger for God. Blessed is the God of our Fathers!
Nicosia, 21 March, 1992.
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Article published in English on: 7-1-2009.
Last Update: 7-1-2009.