Testimonies and Experiences
Elder Porphyrios' conversations with Cypriots
One of my friends went to meet Elder Porphyrios. After they talked about her problems, he suddenly asked her how my son was, if he was well. My friend replied saying that he was very well.
He persisted and asked her if my son was well three more times. My friend assured him that he was very well all three times. However, it left such a great impression upon her that when she returned to Cyprus she insisted on asking me about the matter. She telephoned me with some anxiety to ask me whether or not my son was sick. When I told her that, thank God, his health was fine, she calmed down. However she still wondered why Elder Porphyrios persisted in asking her if my son was well.
I told my friend that there was nothing wrong with my son's health. That was true. I did not tell her what was really happening to my son. It was strictly a family matter, which I did not see fit to make public.
Elder Porphyrios, was as always absolutely right, because at that time my son was suffering from great internal torment.
The first time I went to Elder Porphyrios it was with the purpose and the intent of personally finding out to what extent all those things I heard about him were true. I wanted to find out if there was any element of exaggeration in those stories.
With my objective rationalism I decided that I was going to verify this in my own way. I did not tell any one about it. I would try to have my mind elsewhere for as long as the Elder was talking. I would think of other things to find out for myself if he really could understand what I was doing.
We entered his room. There were five of us. We kissed his hand. He blessed us. The others said a few things then suddenly he started telling us a story. I decided that then was the right time to try out my little scheme.
Then immediately Elder Porphyrios turned towards me. He called me by my name said, "Are you listening to me?"
"Yes, Elder, Pm listening," I answered. He took up the story again. Suddenly he said to me again, "Listen to what I'm telling you." This happened five times. Each time he would interrupt his story a little, turn towards me and say, "Listen to what I'm telling you"
My friends naturally thought that these continual appeals on Elder Porphyrios' behalf constituted some expression of special interest towards me. Maybe it was because it was the first time I had met the Elder. Maybe it was because he wanted me, especially, to hear the story he was telling us. Only he and I knew the real reason.
This is my personal testimony. The Elder Porphyrios could really read the minds and thoughts of each person who approached him, with that marvelous gift of discernment he possessed.
Thus, God made me worthy to 'place my finger in the imprint of the nails' and to marvel at the grandeur, in the person of Elder Porphyrios, of the Lord's gift to twentieth century humanity.
Our marriage began with the best of presuppositions and from the start Elder Porphyrios, whom we often telephoned, told us not to avoid having children.
A little later, after our child was born, we did not get along and we decided to get a divorce. We also had something against the Elder, may God forgive us. Instead of foreseeing our marriage dissolution with his gift of which we had personal experience, he encouraged us to have children.
However, when our infant began to grow up we became conscious of the fact that it would be criminal if we got a divorce. So we forgot our differences and decided to make up despite the fact that we would both have preferred a divorce. (We saw no other way out.)
Three years before his death, Elder Porphyrios told us,
"If you didn't have that child you would now be divorced and God only knows what would have happened to you. That's why I told you to have a child. You saved your marriage which is sacred, like all the sacraments of the Church,."
He continued, "You'll create a happy family if you always think of this image which I'll now describe to you. Your child will hold each of you by the hand. He will walk ahead to show you the road and you will follow."
I was studying in Athens. I visited Fr. Porphyrios many times alone or with friends of mine. We always received encouragement, helping us continue our difficult life in Athens.
During Easter 1981, I visited him with my fiance. We were soon going to begin our new life together. We wanted to ask the Elder about a lot of things and to receive his advice. However, we respected the fact that he was ill and confined ourselves to receiving his blessing only. He said to me as I was kissing his hand,
"Let me check your pulse a little." I gave him my hand.
"It is good," we heard him say.
He continued, "You are both good. You are Christ's."
Then, turning towards me, he said
"You are a tender soul and very sentimental. You easily become enthusiastic about things but later you're wounded and get upset. May you always be sensitive to whatever is good. That is the way Christ wants us."
Elder Porphyrios' words often helped me to overcome many things in my life such as sorrow caused by disappointment and my extreme sensitivity
I hasten first to make it clear that the only reason I am not signing this text is to avoid any possibility of my words being considered as a sign of haughtiness, pride, or boastfulness. Besides, the short story is what is important, not my name. I am nothing more than one of the many who through God's kindness got to know Elder Porphyrios.
It was a very beautiful spring afternoon. We reached Oropos with the usual manifest worry as to whether Elder Porphyrios was there, whether or not he was sick, if he would speak to us, if he was too tired from the many visitors on that day, etc.. We had these uneasy feelings every time we set off to visit him.
Arriving there, we found ourselves before a most unexpected scene. Glory to God! Elder Porphyrios was there. He was not in bed, but up and about. He was in good health. He was in a field (right next to the Convent that he later built), overseeing scores of people who had gone there voluntarily to plant different things in the field.
The scene was indescribably picturesque and biblical. The 'good shepherd' in the midst of his 'rational sheep'. The instructor of souls even demonstrating how tomatoes should be planted. So that everything would be as it should be, perfect.
Naturally, we didn't even consider approaching him to kiss his hand and to receive his blessing.
We stopped the car a good distance away from the area where the large number of people were working. We remained in the car and we tried to console one another and each person was saying:
"It doesn't matter, nature is so pretty here and the afternoon is so beautiful. Let's enjoy it at least."
Half an hour went by, and I felt the need to get out of the car and take a little walk in the forest nearby. I was so grieved because I would not talk to the Elder that I wanted to be alone and maybe to cry a little. I wanted to speak with him so much and to get his advice about the enormous problems that then burdened me. Besides, I went to Greece only once or twice a year. Who knows how many months would go by before I would see him.
As I was walking the length of the forest, my friends who had taken me there in their car came running towards me.
"Come on," they said to me, "the Elder is calling for you."
"Yes, he said to go up to him, he wants you." "You're joking?"
We had not told anyone that we were there. We didn't even speak to anyone from the time we arrived and parked the car here. No one took any notice of us because they were all so busy, and we were far away from them. The only way they could see us was with a telescope.
They practically dragged me to the Elder. I couldn't believe that Elder Porphyrios saw me. More importantly, he saw what was happening in my soul at that time.
I approached him. I kissed his hand, and he made me sit down next to him. He kept me near him for about an hour. He and I were talking while all the others around us were digging the ground and planting. This was happening to such an extent that I felt it was improper for me to receive preferential treatment. The others were killing themselves working and I was enjoying the seat of honour next to the Elder without my offering any help.
At that time I knew very little about Christ and I studied the New Testament very little. Only later, when I had been taught by Elder Porphyrios to study the New Testament and the Fathers of the Orthodox Faith, did I understand the meaning of his actions that day, "...and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (John 10:3).
The Gospel according to St. Luke gave me the answer, "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So He spoke this parable to them saying, 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I say to you likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:1-7).
A Cypriot lady.
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Article published in English on: 3-4-2009.
Last Update: 3-4-2009.