Testimonies and Experiences
Elder Porphyrios – Prophet of our time
Some introductory remarks, written by the Holy Convent
"The Transfiguration of the Saviour," for the reader to correctly understand the
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts' says the Lord.(Is.55:8) And the Holy Prophet inquires "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, as his counselor has taught him?" (Is.40:13)
The Lord, who is all-wise and sinless, was misunderstood many times. He was the subject of gossip and the butt of rebuke. He was denounced for going into a sinner's house as his guest (Lk.l9:7); because He ate with publicans and sinners (Matt 9:11); because He accepted myrrh, instead of insisting that its price be given to the poor (Mk.l4:4); because He healed on the Sabbath (Jn.9.16); because He forgave sins (Luke 5:21); because he said that he would rebuild God's temple in three days (Mk 15:29); because He taught that we must eat of His flesh if we want to be saved (Jn.6:48-69); because He allowed His disciples to eat with unwashed hands (Mk.7:2); because He allowed a sinful woman to touch Him (Lk.7:39); because He did not get down from the cross (Matt.27:40-41); because He did not fast (Matt.9:14); because...because...because.
Therefore it is not unusual if God's friends are also misunderstood by their fellows, by people who are unable to understand the deeper meaning and ultimate purpose of their actions. Neither is it unusual for the actions of Elder Porphyrios, which are discussed later by the theologian N.N. to have been misunderstood by some of our fellows. That is to say NN went to Elder Porphyrios at the request of others, to show them exactly where they could find some hidden money. Let us, dear friends, look upon this in a good light and let us think about the good and hidden reasons which the Elder looked to. Let us not accept the evil thoughts, presented to us by the Evil One, supposing that he went there because he was greedy for money. Who knows if his involvement in the whole affair was not grounds for some people to get to know Christ better and to become more faithful members of the Church.
Let us remember what Paul the Apostle tells us, "Yet he who is spiritual judges all things yet he himself is rightly judged by no-one." (1 Cor.2:15). That is to say nobody can uncover the depth of the soul and reasoning of the spiritual man who lives in the Holy Spirit. Let us put our minds at rest, accepting the fact that the Elder had a good reason for doing what he did when he did.
We should accept it, because another time he did something quite different. Once he was walking among the trees he had planted, at his Convent in Milesi, and talking to his visitors in turn. Suddenly two or three well-dressed gentlemen arrived in a great big Mercedes and went up to him. However, because he was talking to someone else they waited until he finished. Then the Elder started to tell that person the following story:
There once was a patient at the mental hospital in Daphni, who had a bucket of water and a paintbrush and "painted" some wall with water. A visitor who noticed him was puzzled and asked him what he was doing. The patient answered, "Can't you see? I'm painting."
The 'healthy' man gaped at him. The 'mentally ill' man then started up a conversation. He told him the following:
"Look at me, my relatives shut me up here so that they could waste my money. I had a lot of money, thousands of pounds, but I'm smarter than them, and I've caught them out. Do you see that little tree up there on top of the hill? Hey! I dug around the roots and buried the money. I'm waiting to get out to go and get it."
The 'healthy' man's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he looked at the hill and the tree. He nearly fainted from his desire to get hold of the hidden money, but he kept calm and acted casually.
"What's that you're telling me? Are you telling the truth?"
Then the 'mentally ill' man answered, "Of course I'm telling the truth. Why should I lie to you?"
The 'healthy' man left shortly afterwards. However, as he left he did not take his eyes off the hill and the little tree, so that he would not lose its location and would be able to place it again. That night he took a pick and shovel and dug all around it to find the gold sovereigns, but he didn't find them. He couldn't believe that all his hopes were in vain, so he went to Daphni again, the very next day. There he found the 'mentally ill man doing the same job, painting with water. He casually started up a conversation. At one point he said, "Under what tree did you say you hid the money, yesterday?"
"There, under that one." the patient replied, and pointed to the same tree that he had shown him the day before. Then the 'healthy' man said, "Hey, you didn't make a mistake did you? There's nothing there. I dug all night long and I didn't find a thing."
Then the 'mentally ill' man answered him with depth, saying, "Take the bucket and start painting." (Meaning - you are the same as me, and you should also paint with water, without getting results.)
The lady who was being told this story by the Elder, could not understand what relevance it had to her. She was puzzled and asked why she was being told it. However, before the Elder could reply, he was interrupted. The well-dressed gentlemen who had arrived in the Mercedes were standing nearby and heard the story. They said, "He was talking about us. We understood."
These men really were looking for treasure, they heard that the Elder could 'see' with his gift of discernment, and they went to him to get the details. They got their answer from the Elder without even asking for it. They left satisfied and were persuaded that the Elder really did see their hidden thoughts.
K.I.: When and under what circumstances did you get to know Elder Porphyrios?
N.N.: The circumstances in which I met the Elder go back to 1956. At that time, in Thessaly, where I lived, they were making the preparations to dam up the Megdova Lake. Partisan and Allied forces had stayed in that area during the time of the German Occupation and they received a lot of money. However, since the Germans hunted down the English and the Partisans, they were often forced to bury their money, their gold sovereigns, and to leave.
After the armistice - after 1950 - people started returning to their villages. Many people from that region had left and gone to live abroad in Tashkent.
One gentleman wrote a letter to his wife saying that in some field of theirs (he stated the precise location, under a particular tree) there were two barrels of yellow corn.
His wife, of course, didn't understand what 'yellow corn' meant. She showed the letter to her brother-in-law, her husband's brother, and asked him what her husband meant. "It means," he told her, "that there are two barrels full of sovereigns in that spot."
Many years had passed, and nature had transformed the place, the trees had grown and they were unable to tell which tree it was that marked the spot, where the buried barrels could be found some meters away. The man's brother started searching.
He was seized by the guards there, that is to say the Home Defense Force (M.E.A.). They arrested him because they said that he supposedly had left-wing connections and so on, and they thought that he was looking for guns.
When they went to the captain, the commanding officer, the brother told the truth and explained exactly what was going on. He even showed them the letter that his brother had sent him. The commanding officer, the captain, reprimanded him and then released him. His intentions, of course, were wholly dishonest, since he had read the letter, and now knew the location of the money.
Here I must add that there were other people who knew that money was hidden during the retreat from the Germans. Afterwards, some found money and others did not. Now that the lake was in danger of being dammed up, and of the whole area being flooded with water, everybody who could hurried in the fastest way possible and with the means then available to them to find the money.
The captain came to an understanding with some teacher, who was also a partisan, but one of Zerva's men, along with a second cousin of mine. The teacher knew about the instances of hidden money. The three of them had gotten hold of a metal detector and looked for the exact location, but they were unsuccessful.
During that period of time, we are talking about the year 1956 now, they learnt that there was a priest at the chapel of St. Gerasimos, within the Polyclinic, who had a gift and was able to find water and even money.
Therefore, since the metal detector was no help, they contacted, and later visited, Father Porphyrios. They told him about the situation, and he saw, with his gift, (Even though he could be found in Athens, he was able to transport himself and to examine the place, that the others had described to him) that there really was money in that place, and that it ought to be found.
They told him that the money could not be found. They had tried but to no avail. I don't know how the others managed it, but in this particular situation those three could not find the two barrels.
They met the Elder many times and the three of them pressured the Elder into going there. Then one day they actually took him and drove him up to Karditsa, because Megdova falls within the area of Karditsa, up to the village there in the area of Mesinicola. So they took the Elder to Karditsa and put him up at the hotel "Ami," as it was called then -and is still called today. They booked a room for him for the night with the agreement that in the morning they would get up and go to Megdova to find the money.
The three friends, the captain, the teacher and my cousin, who worked here in Athens at the hotel "Kypros," which can be found today in Kotzias Square (the offices of the Postal Service), went home. They intended to get up in the morning, to collect the Elder and to go to the area of Meqdova to find the money.
However, in the morning, the Elder woke up very early, and caught the bus before the other three got there.
The three met up and went to fetch the Elder, without knowing that he had gone. When they arrived at the hotel, they were informed that the Elder had woken up very early and had left. They had no idea where he had gone. However, the bus company told them that Father Porphyrios Bairaktares had left for Athens on the first bus from Karditsa.
They were understandably upset and started asking one another why this had happened to them. In the midst of the discussion, as they later revealed to me, the notion prevailed that perhaps it was because they didn't talk about spiritual matters with the Elder, but always about money. Maybe the Elder had become tired of the matter and wanted to find some way of avoiding their company. They thought of lots of other things. Each one of them offered his own opinion.
However, in the end the opinion prevailed that he probably left because it was impossible for him to understand them. Maybe someone who had something to do with theology would be able to communicate with and convince the Elder. Time was running out and the lake would definitely be dammed up and the water would soon cover everything.
My cousin remembered me. I was then a high-school teacher in the town of Trikala. He said to them, "I've got a cousin who is a theologian. I think that he'll be able to approach the Elder and speak to him, convincing him to find us the money."
That was the solution they ended up with. They sent me an urgent telegram, from Athens, telling me to come down there immediately.
I didn't know the reason for my invitation, but since our families were on good terms I had to travel down to Athens after school, even though it was Saturday.(At that time schools were open on Saturdays.) I took the bus from Trikala straight after class. I went and met up with my cousin, at the Hotel Kypros where he worked, with the idea that something serious had happened.
When he saw me he said, "You know, I have, we have, great need of your presence."
"Why, what's up? What's the matter?"
He then told me the whole story, just as I've now told it. "And now what do you want with me? How can I be useful?"
"I would like you to approach that priest, and if possible,
try to convince him with your manner to come with us to find the money."
At first I thought that it was certainly going to be a little difficult. How was I going to convince him, since the others had contacted him and talked to him about it, and he had simply gotten up and left them? Neither could I understand, young man that I was, how someone could possibly locate a place that had water, or where water could be found, or other different objects and so on. How he could point out specifically where these objects were. Or the fact that many people in Attica had invited him to different places to find water etc. and he had, as my cousin told me, helped them.
I was convinced, and the following Sunday (I don't remember the exact date, but it was September) I went to St. Gerasimos' very early in the morning. The Elder could be found at the credence table and was making preparations for the Divine Liturqv.
I was used to helping at the altar so I went to the altar. The Elder was completely occupied with the preparation of the Holy Gifts. I waited for the moment when the Elder would finish and I could greet him, that is to say, to kiss his hand and to come into contact with him for the first time.
Then, after a very long time, when he had covered over the credence, I also turned, bowed down to him and kissed his hand.
The Elder greeted me with these words: "Welcome, Are you a theologian?" "Yes, Elder."
"Since you're here, you'll speak to us." "If I have your
Of course, I answered like that because I was thinking craftily. I wanted to create a pleasant situation and in some way I would get the chance to approach him and bring up the matter, which I had taken in hand.
The Elder's suggestion that I should speak was a great opportunity for me. So I thought. However, certain other thoughts and ideas came to mind. How does he know me? Has he seen me someplace before? How did I give him the impression that I'm a theologian etc. ? Was it only from my external appearance or was it because I turned up at the altar?
I was troubled and kept questioning myself. Unfortunately, however, my crafty plan was to use his suggestion as a point of contact and to talk to him about the
matter which I had undertaken. So I agreed to the suggestion and started to think about what I should say.
I hadn't thought about the Gospel reading for that day, so after a moment's reflection I said to him, "Elder, may I look at the Gospel reading? The sermon shouldn't be a last minute thing. One really ought to prepare, however since you suggested it, I'll do it."
He gave me the Gospel, I read the passage and after I had finished he came up to me and said, "When are you going to speak? After the Gospel reading or after communion, when more people will have come, so more can benefit?"
Our conversation continued and he started to become more familiar, without even asking me what my name was.
We came to an agreement and the Divine Liturgy continued. Here, I must add, that it was the first time that I met Elder Porphyrios, and I really felt his presence in the Divine Liturgy.
He had a brilliant countenance and he made a great impression on me. Of course he always had it. He was full of light, he had a bright face, but during the Liturgy, he had something, let us say, marvelous. It was the first time I had met him and I thought that it was something quite natural.
The second thing that made an impression on me was the way he prayed. He did it in such a manner, that it appeared as if he was talking with someone he saw opposite him.
All the above helped me with my ideas and my preparation.
Finally, the time for communion came. I received his blessing and gave the sermon. At the end of the Liturgy he gave communion to the faithful and then consumed what remained. While he prepared to remove his vestments, he came to where I was sitting and without saying anything else called me by my Christian name.
"Hey Nick! How did they manage to send you here today?"
Then, when I heard that piece of information, which was known only to the other three and myself, I was completely lost. Nobody else knew about it.
I wanted to justify myself, but before I could say anything, he said to me, "Because you didn't come to Church here on your own accord. They sent you and you came."
I suddenly answered him at that moment, "Yes, Elder, that's the truth." I then told him how it all happened.
"Listen to what I'm telling you. Those people are no good."
"I don't think so, Elder. Why?"
I was judging from my knowledge of my cousin; I hardly knew the teacher, hardly at all.
"No' he said to me, "they're not good people...You know...(he
recounted all the effort they had made to convince him.) They came and asked me
many times. There really is money in the area of Megdova in the exact spot that
they talked about. Seeing that they had asked me, I said 'I might as well go and
help them out. The money exists and we've got the details in the letter from
Tashkent. The money ought to be found so that it won't go to waste.' Because all
of the money and many other things which could be found around will be lost
along with the lake.
I asked him why he said they were bad. He said to
"They'll have told you that 1 agreed to go with them. I got as far as Karditsa. That night that I stayed in the hotel, and they went home. What they won't have told you is that one of them was thinking about killing me the following day, -after finding the money. He wanted to make sure of their share in the money and that I wouldn't turn them into some authority who would arrest them for the money they took. That moment, I thought about whether it was right for a soul to be lost because of the money (because he would commit murder.) That's why I decided to leave by bus first thing in the morning. That's why I'm telling you that they're bad people. They are not good people..."
When the Elder told me that I was stunned. I couldn't bring up any more arguments to convince him that it really wasn't like that, that things were somewhat different and that he really ought to agree to go and find the money. I became silent. He gave me his blessing. He also gave me some more information that I asked for, but the fact that he revealed those things to me put me in a difficult position. I was embarrassed. I received his blessing and left. However, he told me that he wanted to see me again.
I, with inner curiosity and let's call it disbelief, was unable to imagine that one person could do good and that another person could think about doing evil to them.
I didn't want to reveal anything to all the others. I went to the place where they were waiting for me after the liturgy and told them that under no circumstances would the Elder agree. Each one of them gave their opinions. Unfortunately, they expressed them a little improperly.
After the other two had left, my cousin persisted and said to me, "What happened? What did he tell you? Only that? Why did he leave?"
Faced with my cousin's persistence I told him exactly what happened. I told him how the meeting went, how I got my chance, how it all sprung from the Elder with his gift, and which, of course, up until that time (I'm obliged to say) I didn't realize he had. I saw him; I heard him; I inwardly believed; I was shaken by what I heard, but I was unable, at that moment, to comprehend Elder Porphyrios' holiness.
However when I told my cousin he denied it and said "no way." He was also an honest man and I swore him to secrecy, saying to him, "Promise that you'll tell no-one. Did you think about doing such a thing?"
"No, no way"
"Well then, out of respect towards the Elder, you'll tell me, from the contact you had with the captain and the teacher, did either of them have those intentions?"
My cousin later told me that, many days later, during the meetings and conversations, which the three of them had about the whole matter together, the teacher said to the other two, "I was right in thinking that the priest would turn us in to the police. I also thought about slitting his throat as soon as we found the money."
My cousin was stunned and after a long while he told me about it. So, what exactly happened between those three and the Elder was confirmed for me. It was all true and all very revealing. It helped me clear up some doubts that I had and to accept Father Porphyrios' holy capabilities.
The truth is that the teacher continued to look for money in other areas. He was killed in an automobile accident, in the area of Amphikleia, two months later, in December. The accident shook up the other two, because only then did my cousin reveal what actually happened to the captain.
These were the circumstances under which I got to know the Elder and with the passing of time I became very close to him. He became my spiritual father and my whole family and I had the particular good fortune to receive his blessings.
K.I.: Those stunning events happened in 1956, Mr.N.
N.N.: From then on I saw the Elder often. He also always reminded me from then on about that sermon in the chapel of the Polyclinic. He would say to me, "Do you remember how we met, Nick?"
I must admit though, that during the first years of our acquaintance, I didn't understand a lot of things. We were used to considering that saints were something that belonged to the past, even at Theological School. I was unable to imagine that there was a saint right next to me.
One day many years later, when I had finally reached the point of understanding, I asked him, "Elder, I've known you for so many years, you've told me so many things, a lot has happened, but I wasn't able to grasp everything completely. Since you loved me so much and gave me so much advice, why didn't you tell me about it?" His answer was this, "You couldn't bear it then. Now that you can bear it, I can tell you."
K.I.: Mr. N., you knew the Elder for thirty-five whole years. After knowing him for so long you must be an inexhaustible source of experiences and information about that holy man.
N.N.: I told you about my friendship with the Elder.
I'll now tell you about two further events. So many things happened between the
first time and the last time that we met, that I would prefer to keep to those
K.I.: As you wish.
N.N.: In October 1990, I was not in a good spiritual state because of various problems, and I was tried by unbearable temptations.
I didn't even have the strength to pray. It was a peculiar thing; for days on end instead of any other prayer. I said, "My God , I am a sinner. I don't know how to talk to you."
Then, I remembered what the Elder often told me, "Do you know what a great gift God gave us, Nick, when he gave us the right to talk to Him every hour, every moment, in whatever situation we found ourselves? It's the greatest honor we have. That's why we ought to love God."
Finding myself in such a sad spiritual state, I went to see Elder Porphyrios with three friends of mine. The others went in first and I followed.
When I went in, he said to me, "Sit down, sinner." When he said that, I realized that he had been following the spiritual state that I'd been reduced to.
While lying on his bed, a sickly man, with numerous illnesses, he found the strength to get up and he spoke to me, as though he was angry, "Say something else, Nick, instead of saying 'I am a sinner, I am a sinner.' all the time." He continued, as if he were angry, "Say something else to God. Pray. Don't you understand that it was from temptation? Couldn't you resist?"
Upon leaving, I told one of the three friends, who had gone with me that day, what Elder Porphyrios had said to me. My friend told me that the Elder had corrected a word in
the prayer he said. He told him, "John, that word shouldn't be said like that, but like this."
K.I.: He was interested in everything and cared for everybody.
N.N.: Let me tell you about one more experience with that holy man.
K.I.: We're listening with great pleasure and undivided interest.
N.N.: A young lady, a friend of mine, was engaged. At one stage, some differences between her and her fiance cropped up. Neither the girl, nor her mother, who knew about the whole affair, told the father what was happening. At one particular moment, during the course of things, it looked like the engagement was going to be broken off.
One afternoon, Elder Porphyrios called my home. I was absent at the time, he told my wife to tell me to go and see him as soon as possible.
I went to the Elder straight away, who started talking about the girl's fiance, as soon as I went in. He started describing his character to me and telling me that he was a reliable fellow. I had no idea about the differences that the girl had with her fiance and couldn't understand why he was telling me those things. "Elder," I asked, "Why are you telling me this? What's happening?"
He replied, "Her parents are a couple of egotists and they gave birth to another egotist. Instead of doing what she should do, before God, she judges everything in a worldly way. That's why she misunderstood certain things and is now ready to break off her engagement. Her fiance may have been a little misled by his family, but he's basically a good chap."
When I returned home I called the girl's mother and the girl herself. I told them what Elder Porphyrios had told me. I asked them both to go and see the Elder the next morning and to talk with him. They went; the matter was sorted out, and the girl got married. She now lives happily with her husband and children.
That was Elder Porphyrios to whom I owe so much. He has left this world. However, I firmly believe that he is always watching over us and strengthening us. Both my family and I feel that he is now even closer to us - very very close to us - even regarding solutions to our problems.
K.L: Mr.N., Please accept our warmest thanks for everything that you had the kindness to tell us, during our discussion. What you told us once more clearly confirms the words from the Wisdom of Solomon, "Grace and mercy are found in His saints, and oversight (authority) in His elect."
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Article published in English on: 18-2-2009.
Last Update: 18-2-2009.