Testimonies and Experiences
Conversations with Greek and Cypriot friends
of the Holy Skete of St.Panteleimon, of Mt.Athos, writer.
K.I.: Fr. Moses, as one can ascertain from reading your books, the question of suffering is a subject that has occupied you a great deal, and you have seriously thought about this important topic?
Elder Porphyrios, whom you knew, was a man who suffered much and loved much.
Br.M.: I thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about an Elder, truly, of suffering and love. I also thank you for putting it like that, because we sometimes talk about some wonderful events in the life of some virtuous figure and we're either impressed or we're filled with enthusiasm or even with ecstasy. We forget that in order to get there they had a long, humble, and determined ascetic struggle.
This asceticism is certainly not an aim in itself but it's a means of achieving the end, which is holiness, theosis, participation of man, by grace, in God. So that this poor little person can become like iron that falls into the fire and itself becomes fire.
As the patristic texts tell us, you must give blood to receive spirit. Spiritual life is not salon-talk, a philosophical conversation about God without having felt God. In order for us to become free and to attain God's blessing as his children in the grace and joy of His beloved, a long and determined struggle of obedience within the Church is needed.
Fr. Porphyrios really was a man of virtue. With great modesty and thrift we must talk about the events that adorn his life without exaggeration, without falsification, but with a sense of responsibility and sobriety, citing those things we know well.
We first need to realize that saints live in our century, that saints are next to us, that holiness is attainable and is accomplished after a discreet, humble and ascetic struggle.
Fr. Porphyrios reached a high level of virtue. He reached it because he maintained great purity in his life. He reached it because he was very humble. He reached it because he was very obedient. He lived with demanding elders at Kavsokalyvia on the Holy Mountain. Until serious illness separated him from his dear Holy Mountain and brought him near the world, to become a healer of people, not only from their spiritual sickness and sin (because he was a good spiritual father) but also from their bodily ailments.
He had a lot of love that first flowed from his love towards God. Christian love always has two natures: you can't love Man, if you don't love God and you can't love God without loving Man.
Thus, Elder Porphyrios, especially towards the end of his life, was devoted completely to people. They came to him in tens and hundreds to be comforted by his advice and by his gift of foresight which God gives to the pure and worthy. It is a gift of God, which He gives to the humble and to those who know how to guard it well. God doesn't grant this gift to the unworthy, for then it will become a murder weapon.
Fr. Elder shows us in the strongest way that holiness exists in our century. If the world lacks saints, then the world lacks meaning. The saints uphold the world and the world's greatest need is holiness. We are sustained by holiness, we are sustained by saints. Do you see what power and what wealth a holy person like Elder Porphyrios constitutes for the Church and for the world?
I'll say something about my meetings with Elder Porphyrios.
K.I.: We'll listen to whatever you have to tell us about Elder Porphyrios with great pleasure. I am really moved, Fr. Moses, by what you've told us about Elder Porphyrios.
Br.M.: My encounters with Elder Porphyrios left me with those things that I've just mentioned.
Once, when I was unwell, I went to visit him and to receive his blessing. He told me exactly what I was suffering from, even though the doctors for many years had great difficulty in making a definite diagnosis. When, having returned from the doctors, I visited Elder Porphyrios again, he said to me, "The gift, my child, is not my own, it's God's. I say that which God says to me, and not what my mind, my imagination, my opinion, or my other capabilities say."
Afterwards he told about the following incident, "Many days ago a university professor visited me and complained about some problem that he had. I said to him, 'Professor, those problems are from your mother's womb.' The professor started to cry. I said to him,
'You, a university professor, crying?'
'You're right, Elder,' he replied 'but those words of yours have a deep meaning for me. My mother told me that when I was in her womb, my father kicked her there so that she would miscarry.'" Then Elder Porphyrios added, "Was I, my child, in the womb of the mother of that professor? God enlightened me to say that which I say."
There are so many things to say about Elder Porphyrios that we could talk for hours on end.
I would like to reiterate that Fr. Porphyrios was a humble man. His humility was so great that when he foresaw his end he removed himself from the world so that he wouldn't be honored upon his death, returning to the place where he started his spiritual struggle at the Skete of Kavsokalyvia. This is one more proof of his richness of heart, which attracted God's grace and gave him rich blessings.
God's grace is necessary but our own personal struggle is also necessary. We need to take one step and God will then take ten steps. We need to work, but not to believe in our own good works, for as St. Mark the Ascetic also says, Man is not justified by his works.
Co-operation is needed; Man's co-operation with God. We need to make our desire known and God will give Himself completely to us. He will give us everything, since we follow him kindly and faithfully.
K.I.: "Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all,
especially to those who are of the household of the faith."
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Article published in English on: 2-2-2009.
Last Update: 2-2-2009.