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A thief for Christ!

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mount Athos: On The End Times | OrthodoxWord

Source:  “Lectures” of the Elder (Geron) Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Vol.3, pages 74-77, 2nd Edition,

Published by the Holy Recluse “Evangelist John the Theologian”



In spiritual life, things are reversed.  If you keep the unpleasant things for yourself, you will feel wonderful.  If you give the unpleasant things to another person, then you will feel bad. When you embrace injustice and you offer excuses for your neighbour’s actions, that is when you will be receiving the exceedingly wronged Christ into your heart; that is when Christ will reside inside you on a permanent lease [1], and will fill you with peace and joy.  Just give it a try, won’t you my children?  Try living this kind of joy!  Learn how to rejoice with this kind of spiritual joy, and not the secular kind of joy.  Every day will then be like Easter Day!

            There is no greater joy than the one you feel when you accept being wronged.  I wish everyone would wrong me!  Honestly, the sweetest spiritual joy that I ever felt was inside the attacks of injustice. Have you any idea how much joy it gives me, to be called “deluded”?  “Thank God”, I say to myself; “I will receive wages from this insult, whereas if they called me a saint, I would be indebted”.  Nothing is sweeter than being wronged!

            One morning, somebody was knocking on the door of my hut tby apping on the little piece of metal hanging there. I looked out of my window to see who it was, because it was still too early to open.  I saw a young man with radiant features standing outside, and it was obvious to me that he must have spiritual experiences, since the Grace of God had made it so apparent in his countenance.  That was why, although I was preoccupied, I interrupted whatever I was doing, I opened the door and showed him in; I offered him a drink of water and very politely began to ask him about his life, because I could tell that he had a spiritual content.

What line of work are you in, my child?” I asked him.

What line of work, father?” he replied. “Well, basically, I grew up in prison. I have spent most of my years in there. I am presently twenty-six years old.”

My goodness, child, what have you been doing that made them lock you up in a prison?” I asked him

So he opened up his heart to me:   

Ever since I was a little boy” he said, “I was always deeply pained whenever I saw people living in misery.  I had come to know all of those who were suffering, not only in my own parish, but in other parishes also.  Well, seeing how the priest in my own parish was constantly collecting money with the other church council members and using it to construct buildings, offices etc., or spending it on various ornamental projects, I realized that all the poor families were being totally neglected.  I can’t judge whether these projects were necessary or not, but I could see that there were many unfortunate people around.  So, I would secretly go and steal the money that they collected through their fundraisers.  I would take quite a bit of the money, but I wouldn’t take all of it though.   Then I would go and purchase food and various other things, I would secretly leave them outside the homes of the poor, and then – before they could unjustly arrest someone else – I would immediately go to the police and say to them: ‘I stole the money from the church and I spent it’ and I would say nothing more. They then beat me and cursed me, calling me a tramp, a thief… but I wouldn’t say anything.  Then they would put me in jail This went on for years The entire town that I lived in – about thirty thousand inhabitants, as well as certain other towns - all knew me and they all called me a tramp and a thief.  I always kept silent, and I felt immense joy. In fact, I was imprisoned for three whole years at one time. Sometimes they would put me in jail by mistake, and when they eventually located the culprit, they would release me.  If they didn’t catch the culprit, I would remain in jail for as long as he had to stay.  That’s why I told you, father, that I have spent most of my life in jail.”

Having listened to him very carefully, I told him:

My child, no matter how good it may seem, it really isn’t a good thing to do and you should not repeat it.  Listen to what I have to say to you.  Will you listen to my advice?”

I will listen to your advice, father”, he said.

You must move out of the town that you live in”, I told him, “and go to another, unfamiliar environment, to the town of ……………. and I will ensure that you become connected to good people.  You must go to work and you must help –as much as you can- all the suffering people there, from your earnings, because that is more precious. But, even if one doesn’t have anything to give to the poor but his heart aches for them, then his charity is even more precious, because he is giving alms with the blood of his heart. Because, if he did have something and offered it, he would still feel joy, but, when he doesn’t have anything, he will surely feel pain in his heart.”     

The young man promised to heed my advice, and he left, feeling quite happy. Seven months later, I received a letter from Korydallos Prison, in which he wrote the following:

I am quite sure, my father, that you are surprised to see that I am writing to you from prison once again, after all the advice that you had given me and the promises that I had given you. You must know that this time, I am serving time for an imprisonment that I have already served; it is most probably on account of some sort of mistake. It is fortunate that human justice is nonexistent, because spiritual people would be shortchanged, as they would lose their heavenly wages”.  

When I read these last words, I truly felt great admiration for that young man, who had taken spiritual life so seriously and who had grasped the deeper meaning of life so profoundly!!  A thief for God!!  He had Christ inside him. He couldn’t stop himself from feeling the joy that he felt… He was enjoying a divine lunacy, a veritable festivity!

-  Geron, can there be joy, from within humiliation?

-   Joy came from within the injustice. This was a secular person; he hadn’t read any prayer books or Patristic texts, yet, while he was being unjustly beaten and thrown in jail as a tramp, a rascal, a thief and was indeed being humiliated, he wouldn’t say a word and would confront everything so spiritually!  Such a young person, yet he did not concern himself with his reinstatement; he only cared about helping others!  More often than not, the major thieves are never imprisoned, not even once, whereas this poor soul was imprisoned for the same thing twice, and was also unjustly imprisoned for other thefts, until the true culprit was found!  Ah, but the joy that he had inside him could not be found in all of the townspeople put together…. Thirty thousand joys couldn’t compare with his joy!

That is what I mean when I say that a spiritual person has no sorrows. When love increases to such a degree that the heart is aflame with divine love, there can be no place for sorrow. Our greater love for Christ overcomes all the pains and the sorrows that people bring upon us.




[1]  Permanent lease is a legal provision for those paying rent, giving them an indefinite extension of stay in the premises rented, even after the original lease has expired.


Source: “Lectures” by the Elder (Geron) Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Vol.3, pages 74-77, 2nd Edition, Published by the Holy Recluse “Evangelist John the Theologian”.


Translated by:  K. N.

Greek text

Article published in English on:22-6-2006.

Last update: 19-6-2022.