Tuesday, September 2, 2014
A Conversation With Elder Ephraim of Arizona
The following conversation was recorded by monastic spiritual children from Greece of Elder Ephraim of Arizona, formerly of Philotheou, who visited him in May 2014 at the Sacred Monastery of Saint Anthony the Great in Arizona. Elder Ephraim: Look at this photograph of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. I had a great spiritual father. He was fire – fire, a phenomenon of a man. He thought entirely of heavenly things; this is how he lived.
Two words he would continuously say to us – patience and prayer, and this is how the Providence of God helps us as much as He allows. Being in submission to him, we never fought amongst us. Others from the outside created problems for us, slandering the Elder, accusing him, but Elder Joseph would say: “Let them talk, we will say nothing”.
Interlocutor: Elder, we are very weak in all things. What will happen with us?
Elder Ephraim: We are living in different times now. God has other criteria for today. Elder Joseph had a spiritual university. I am pleased that you are in spiritual high school. Today there is such spiritual confusion. A large tornado drags everything away. Hold firmly to the tradition I gave you and know that today it is a confession to say that Jesus Christ is our God. The dark forces do not want this.
Interlocutor: Elder, after so many years of struggle, what has remained within your soul?
Elder Ephraim: Everything is secondary, all is secondary. The first thing is the name of our Christ and now, over the years that have passed, I saw in action how only with love can people win. My life was labor and pain, living in poverty during the time of the Germans, hunger during the occupation, temptations and sorrows in the monasteries. A great struggle. Only the name of Christ and our Panagia brought me through. Whoever does not say daily the name of Christ and our Panagia, is not a Christian.
Interlocutor: In other words, the prayer of Christ is the greatest?
Elder Ephraim: Of course, because then we continuously have the memory of our Christ. The Holy Fathers were illumined and left us these little prayers. A few words: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us” and “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. We don’t need to read encyclopedias, nor many books. With these two little prayers, all Christians are saved. Monastics who do not have worldly concerns, pray much and achieve heights. Our Panagia also helps much. It is like they are speaking into the ears of our Christ, because they are dedicated to the prayer and this is their primary work, and whoever has the gift of prayer in their heart, when they die they are not bothered by the toll-houses. Immediately after their death they go straight to Christ. There are no hindrances, because the name of Christ has power. God is fire.
Interlocutor: And the Akathist to our Theotokos, is it a powerful prayer?
Elder Ephraim: Of course. When we say them we have joy and illumination from our Panagia. Our Panagia helps me very much. She delivers me from many dead ends.
Interlocutor: Today we suffer from despair and impatience.
Elder Ephraim: Despair is always from the devil and whoever despairs loses their strength. The basis of life is patience. When we don’t have it our life dissolves.
Interlocutor: Elder, the world, we, are in a difficult position with all that is taking place and all that we hear about. There is fear.
Elder Ephraim: Yes, we feel things will be catastrophic and they happen daily. This is why we run to the monasteries and churches, but we must not fear. Just think, if one order of angels became demons and did so much damage, how much help do we receive from the nine orders of angels. One time I saw Christ on His throne and next to Him was our Panagia and the orders of angels and the saints. They waited for a nod from our Christ to help humanity in this new situation. When we fill our hearts daily with Christ our faith strengthens and we face everything. Our Panagia pleads for us and intercedes constantly so that we will have strength and optimism.
Interlocutor: Elder, at the age you are at now, can you pray as you did at first, or is it different?
Elder Ephraim: I pray better now than I did at first. Of course I do not have the intensity of the prayer of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, but I have strong prayer and this comforts my little soul in all that I have gone through and go through.
Interlocutor: Many times holy relics are fragrant.
Elder Ephraim: It’s like they are saying we are relatives.
Interlocutor: Cancer is widespread today.
Elder Ephraim: Cancer patients are martyrs. I try to strengthen them by my prayer, my advice, and when I can I visit them.
Interlocutor: Many people are going through difficult trials, either due to the malice of others or their own misdeeds. It is so difficult, it’s as if they are living in hell here.
Elder Ephraim: When people live hell here and give value to this situation with spiritual criteria, then when they die they will not be judged at all, but they will immediately go into the arms of Christ. But if they do not give it value with spiritual criteria, this hell will also be suffered in the next life.
I wanted to say something to you about Paradise. Before I became eighty years old, I would often go to Paradise. And now also of course, but age plays a role. One time the Lord took me by the hand and said to me: “Here you made a church, here you confessed and saved a soul, here you comforted, here you admonished….” In other words, He would say to me everything and with this He gave me joy, together with His word, so much joy that I said: “My sweet Christ, I cannot take anymore. I cannot take anymore. I will explode. Return me.” Then I would be in my room again.
Another time in Paradise, I saw a wonderful young man of chivalry (leventi). Next to him was a horse with a spiral tail, most beautiful. Within me I was jealous for it. I also wanted to have such a horse. He yelled at me and said to me, in the tone of a commander: “Go and tell the army, that the back is unprotected and the rebels will go there [the demons, that is].” So I ran and told them. I returned running to say I did it. He hugged me, kissed me, and mounting his horse with a smile he left.
Interlocutor: In other words Elder, many things take place from behind that we do not catch?
Elder Ephraim: Of course. This is why we must be careful from everywhere. Great caution. We will go through a fearsome trial.
Interlocutor: What is hell like?
Elder Ephraim: What’s it like? Horror, horror. May even a bird never go there. Just as people drown at sea, so also they drown in the torments of hell, accompanied by demons. We must pray for the dead. It is a great act of mercy. My mother was a virtuous woman. I based my childhood on her words. Before she died she was bedridden for two years and would say: “Father, tell God to take me. I am tired.” But before she departed she battled.
Interlocutor: Who did she battle with?
Elder Ephraim: Demons.
Interlocutor: Did you see them?
Elder Ephraim: Yes, like I see people.
Interlocutor: Didn’t the Archangel help her?
Elder Ephraim: He was behind her. He stood back so she could battle alone and receive a crown.
Interlocutor: We hear of so many disasters coming, what will happen with us who seek the help of God?
Elder Ephraim: God will do according to His plan for each person to save each person. My! My! What we will go through! Great difficulties. Athens has many hidden saints, but Mount Athos together with Saint Demetrios support Northern Greece. I have a special love for Saint Demetrios. I sleep with his Holy Myrrh. Greece has turned its back on Christ. This is why it will suffer much. The children in Greece are either very illumined or very darkened. The children of virtuous parents are the leaven of Christ and the future of Greece.
Interlocutor: Many women suffer in families today.
Elder Ephraim: Christ is very close to the souls that are scorned.
Interlocutor: Some people have a special spiritual gift. How does this happen?
Elder Ephraim: These people have either been very wronged, slandered or reached such a depth in this field that they were given gifts. As we entone God, so also does He chant for us.
Interlocutor: Lately in Jerusalem wondrous things have happened.
Elder Ephraim: I also wanted to see these things. The basis of our Christ is there. The Holy Light is daily in the Most Holy Tomb, but at Pascha a gift is given generally to all. You should go to Jerusalem. There we see what Christ endured for us, and we thank Him as much as we can and respond to His love. I also went a few times in the olden days.
Interlocutor: Sometimes misunderstandings take place between us.
Elder Ephraim: These are human. They will never go away. We must go beyond them and run towards Christ. We must think about what Christ has prepared for us, in the good good Paradise, after the Second Coming. Now we go to the narthex of Paradise, but it cannot enter the mind of man what the good good Paradise is like. All light! All fragrance! Joy unspeakable! Blessedness! Nothing will grow old! Christ wants everything new in His Kingdom. Nothing odd. My mother died at 95 years old and I see her in Paradise at thirty years old.
During the occupation we had a neighbor that was absent minded. There were two children. We played and they still were walking towards us, even though we embarked together at the same time. I found them in Paradise, because they died during the occupation due to hunger while they were still young. I said to them: “What do you do here? How do you spend your time?” They told me: “Ephraim, here we do not speak. Here we only read, we study.” They did not know how to write their name and in Paradise they studied. This shows the perfection of Paradise.
Interlocutor: Many people help the monasteries with their needs.
Elder Ephraim: Whatever they do, all is written in heaven. May they have peace and health and blessings on their homes.
Interlocutor: In church there were people from all over the world. How beautiful Elder your work is, like the Holy Apostles. “Teach all nations”.
Elder Ephraim: I am a hollow walnut. I did nothing.
Interlocutor: What do you think about now at your age?
Elder Ephraim: I think about cementing my work here, because many people have been saved, many little souls. And how can I go and meet with the Lord? Where will I, the wretch, go?
Interlocutor: The Lord will send His angels to take you.
Elder Ephraim: I don’t know about that, how the Lord will judge. My little head fit the entire universe. Now my health won’t help me, I am old.
Interlocutor: Elder, Mr. P… died on the day of a great saint.
Elder Ephraim: He opened for him the doors of Paradise so he will enter. When someone dies and their little soul is saved, the saint that celebrates on that day receives him in Paradise, because it is their day, their feast that is.
Interlocutor: Many people die suddenly.
Elder Ephraim: Yes. Every day we must have our passports in our hand. We don’t know what can happen. Once I confessed someone in a hospital with nods then they died. He did something good in his life and was saved at the last moment. In my life I went through many hardships and I saw that Divine Providence directs everything for the good of man. May the memory of death never be absent from us. Read the Gerontikon, the dialogue between Saint Macarius with the skull.
Once in a vision I saw myself dressed very beautifully. With vestments, like on feasts, and I was up on a platform and girls were below me whom I had confessed, and they yelled: “Elder, Elder, we also want to be there with you”, but they were not allowed. This shows my responsibility and the grace of the priesthood. This is why you should pray for me. Have order and carefulness. Struggle every day, as much as you can. Our Christ loves the order of monastics, because they are His army.
Interlocutor: Elder, when you go to Paradise and have this communication with the Lord, will you also speak about us your monks and nuns and for the people who want your help.
Elder Ephraim: Of course I speak with Him.
Interlocutor: How does He respond?
Elder Ephraim: O.K. I will take care of it. O.K.
Interlocutor: Elder, if you die and we happen to be alive, do not forget us when you are having a good time with our Christ and we are here battling.
Elder Ephraim: (laughing) No, that will not happen.
Interlocutor: We are leaving tomorrow Elder. Tell us a final word.
Elder Ephraim: May you have a good and blessed journey. May you have my blessing. May you have health and come to us. Everyone knows what they have on their shoulders, but the Testament I leave you is to come to know the Holy Spirit. Work and build Him within you, keeping the commandments of the Gospel and having peace in your soul. Have love, concord and shout the name of Christ and our Panagia. May the angels accompany you.
How do they call those who are marrying illegally here?
Interlocutor: Do you mean homosexuals?
Elder Ephraim: Yes them. The Old Testament says: “My spirit will not remain with man because they are flesh.” This applies today. Sodom burned just like a nuclear bomb. Christ does not tolerate such sins. Everywhere the sins of the flesh are worshipped. There is no repentance. The Venerable Mary of Egypt repented. All homosexuals will be eliminated. Everything will become dirt, nuclear, all dirt. The war will begin because of our sins.