My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
Elder Paisios: NOBLE LOVE
By Hieromonk Isaac
By Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
The apex and crown of all the elder’s struggles was NOBLE LOVE (agape). "I love everyone the same way I loved my family," he said. "I feel like they’re all my brothers and sisters."
Full of love for man and creation, the elder was aflame with divine love. From the time he was a small child, he gave alms, helping many people. When the poor of Konitsa needed something, they ran to him for help. Moved by their sighs, he would give away even the clothes on his back. He embraced the villages of Konitsa with his tremendous love, and he found ways to help the sick and needy.
At the beginning of the elder’s time on Sinai, when he would leave the monastery on Sunday evening to go back to his cell, the monastery’s steward would provide him with bread, flour, and other staples. The poor Bedouins who knew his schedule would stop him on the road and ask him for a donation. He would give them whatever food he had and then continue on to his hermitage with an empty bag.
He placed great value on alms-giving: as the elder saw it, a person’s charity showed whether he was worthy to receive divine mercy and salvation. "Someone might not be a Church-goer," he said, "but if he feels compassion for someone who’s sick, if he gives alms, don’t be afraid for him."
One time, he helped exhume the remains of elder Prodromos at the neighboring cell of Saint John the Theologian. The incident made an impression on him, because the bones were yellow, signifying holiness, even though elder Prodromos, a mule-driver, had been concerned mostly with the mules and not so much with monastic disciplines. "It looks like he gave alms," the elder commented.
He was saddened by social inequality. "What kind of Christians are we?" he said. "We have two or three houses and a place in the country, while other people don’t even have a place to lay their heads!"
He encouraged people to give to the poor because he believed that "When you receive something, you feel human joy. But when you give something, you feel divine joy. In the spiritual life, you receive by giving."
His charity knew no limits. He gave away everything and he knew each person’s needs even before he was asked for help. He distributed with discernment the food and clothes, which people sent him, to sick monks, the poor, and the students at the Athonite School. No one left empty-handed. Along with these simple but generous gifts, he also distributed blessings–crosses, prayer ropes, small icons, books, and so on–and he helped people spiritually. Visitors left consoled and happy.
When he would make trips into the world, he always carried a bag full of such blessings for people. "I have a piggy bank here in the cell," he said, "and every day I put in one or two thirty-three-knot prayer ropes. When I went to Athens I took all with me–five hundred or so — and it still wasn’t enough. And there were the little icons and crosses I made with the press, too."
"He was a man who always wanted to do good," Katie Patera recalls. "Not a moment went by when he didn’t help someone if it were at all possible." And the good he did had grace and beauty, because he was discreet. He didn’t want the person he was helping to feel indebted. He helped people as his brothers or sisters, and he set them at ease.
Appearances of Saints
Elder Paisios saw the Mother of God many times, as well as his guardian Angel, many of the Saints, and Christ Himself. He saw them, not in dreams, but during the day. He spoke with them; they venerated each other with kisses; and they gave him food with their own hands, healed him, made promises, and revealed mysteries.
He once told someone, "I read the lives of the Saints a lot when I was young, but reading their lives doesn’t help me as much now (meaning reading them), because I live them." He no longer needed that spiritual food, because he experienced something superior to it…Speaking of visions, he said, "When someone sees a vision, he sees with the eyes of the soul. Sometimes, when I was having a vision, I’d close my eyes, but I sould still see. So I saw with the eyes of the soul. When a Saint appears to someone, another person there might see the Saint, might only hear the Saint’s voice, or maybe neither. There’s no law."
A Professor of the Desert
The elder lived each of the forms of monasticism: in a coenobium, in an idiorhythmic monastery, in a monastery in the world, in the desert, in a skete, and by himself in a hermitage. He was under obedience, filled with the tradition of the Fathers of old, and he had much experience.
Out of humility, he didn’t desire to receive any distinctions or positions of authority, and he didn’t have his own brotherhood because of his spiritual sensitivity. "If I take on a disciple, "he used to explain, "he deserves two hours a day with me. But with all the people that I see, can I spare that much time? Really — should I take someone on as a monk and then turn him into everyone’s waiter? In spite of all this, though, the elder emerged as a professor of the desert and a practical teacher of the monastic life. (Source: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God