Monday, December 3, 2012

Greeks Seek Strength in the Powers of a Revered Monk to Predict Events ( Elder Paisios )

SOUROTI, Greece—Legend has it that nearly three decades ago, a bearded Orthodox Christian mystic visiting here made an unsettling prediction: Greece in the future would experience a "great disruption and confusion," followed by hunger and political turmoil.
Believers say this grim vision of Elder Paisios, an ascetic monk who died in 1994, was actually a prescient glimpse of the upheaval now gripping this debt-racked country—helping fuel a surge of interest in the Orthodox holy man by Greeks struggling to make sense of a brutal financial crisis.
Elder Paisios, who spent much of his adult life as a hermit on the monastic peninsula of Mount Athos in northeastern Greece, has become a popular sensation—with tales of his prognostications and miracles he is said to have performed posted online and recounted in popular books.


Alkis Konstantinidis for The Wall Street Journal
A book on Elder Paisios on display at an Athens bookstore.

On Saturdays, hundreds of pilgrims line up at Elder Paisios's gravesite here, waiting their turn to kneel, pray and kiss the wooden cross that marks his final resting place. They ask for help finding jobs, paying bills and surviving a downturn that has upended their lives.
"Paisios predicted many things, and his prophecies are now coming true," said Costas Katsaounis, a 41-year-old military officer on a visit to the shrine. "He foresaw the crisis. But he also said it would get better, that we will overcome and prosperity will return. He's helped a lot of people."
Elder Paisios's fame in some ways echoes that of Michel de Notredame, better known as Nostradamus, a 16th-century French apothecary who believers say foretold everything from the rise of Hitler to the terror attacks of Sept. 11.
"Figures like Paisios represent the shaman, the magician of the tribe," said Alexandra Koronaiou, a sociologist at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens. "They are the incarnation of a transcendental, invisible power."
With Greece's economy in the fifth year of a grinding recession that is expected to deepen further in 2013, unemployment above 25% and even middle-class families struggling to feed their children, many Greeks feel like their society is teetering on the brink of collapse, and they are seeking solace.
"When there is an event that brings an entire country to its knees, people look for a religious explanation," said Vasilios Makrides, a religious-studies professor and specialist on Orthodox Christianity at the University of Erfurt in Germany. "They are seeking support from the supernatural."
That is driving a fresh boom in all things Paisios. The elder's wizened and bearded face, peering out from below a black cap, adorns devotional banners and cards inscribed with inspirational messages.
Bookstores stock dozens of Paisios-related titles, from books detailing his spiritual teachings to volumes filled with his commentary on everything from the coming of the apocalypse to Greece's retaking of Constantinople, once the seat of Byzantine emperors and now Istanbul.

[image] Gordon Fairclough/The Wall Street Journal
A woman prayed at the mystic's grave in Souroti.

"They sell like crazy," said Ionnis Aivaliotis, who works at the Zoe religious bookstore in downtown Athens. "Even nonbelievers are starting to read them. It gives people courage to withstand what's coming."
There is a Paisios diet guide—he was very thin—and a kids' book, "Once Upon a Time, Children, There Was Elder Paisios."
Over the past two years, conservative newspaper Dimokratia has sold 350,000 copies of Paisios-related titles—from compilations of his prophecies to his views on education. Other newspapers carry accounts of his reputed miracles.
Elder Paisios, born Arsenios Eznepedis in central Anatolia in 1924, is part of a long tradition of monastic spirituality that believers say confers a power of divination—to see things others cannot, to interpret signs and predict the course of events.
Even before his death in 1994, he was well known in religious circles, drawing the faithful to Mount Athos for spiritual guidance and advice. Many expect that he will eventually be canonized. (A church spokesman declined to comment.)
But the recent increase in attention has prompted a backlash from skeptics and drawn cautions from some in the Greek Orthodox Church hierarchy.
"People are looking for somewhere to turn," said the Rev. Vasilios Havatzas, head of the church's charitable operations in Athens. "But some are overreacting. They are making him into some kind of prophet," he said, adding: "That doesn't mean everything he said is right."
But in a sign of the broad support for Elder Paisios, Greek police arrested 27-year-old Phillipos Loizos for creating a Facebook page that poked fun at Greeks' belief in the miracles and prognostications of the late monk. He was charged with blasphemy and insulting religion. The blasphemy charge was later withdrawn.
Police received thousands of complaints about the page on the social-networking site for Elder Pastitsios, a play on the monk's name. Pastitsio is a traditional baked pasta dish similar to lasagna. An ultranationalist lawmaker condemned the page in Parliament.
Mr. Loizos said he was using satire to criticize the commercialization of the monk and his message.
Many of Elder Paisios's purported prophecies resonate. "The people will be so disappointed by the politicians of the two big parties, that they will get sick of them," is one that rings true in an era when voter support for the country's two mainstream parties, blamed for the crisis, has dropped sharply.


Some of the elder's reported remarks hint at dark conspiracies—among them that the world is ruled secretly by a cabal of five people. He also predicted national triumphs for Greece, saying that Greeks would defeat Turkey, rule Constantinople and take part of Albania.
"Holy people like Elder Paisios are born once in a thousand years," said Nikolaos Zournatzoglou, who has compiled three books of the elder's pronouncements. "He was a gift from God and the Virgin Mary for humanity."
In Souroti, about 20 miles from the northeastern Greek city of Thessaloniki, busloads of pilgrims arrived one Saturday recently to see the elder's grave. Young and old, they prayed and took pictures. Some plucked a leaf of basil from a plant growing near the simple cross at his head.
Afterward in a gift shop in the basement of the rough-hewn stone church, visitors bought postcards, plaques with images of Elder Paisios and books by and about him, along with icons, crosses and other religious paraphernalia.
"There's a lot of uncertainty now. We don't know what is going to happen," said Anastasia Constantinou, a waitress visiting the shrine who said her family has had to cut back on meat, on driving their car and on other normal activities as their income has fallen amid the downturn.
"People find consolation in faith," Ms. Constantinou, 32, said. "Even though everyday life is difficult, Paisios gives strength to people. He helps them hold on."

Holy Relics kept at Athonite Monasteries.

The tomb of St. Athanasios the Athonite, founder of The Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra and organised monasticism on Mount Athos.

The holy gifts, given to Jesus by the three wise men in Bethlehem in their reliquary kep at the Holy Monastery of Agiou Pavlou, Mount Athos.

The largest piece of the Holy true Cross in the world, kept at the Holy Monastery of Xiropotamou, Mount Athos.

A piece of the Holy Skull of St. Andrew the first called Apostle, kept at the Holy Skete of St. Andrew, Karies, Mount Athos.

The Holy Skull of St. John Chrysostom, with his ear still intact. It is said that his ear has remained incorrupt because an Angel of the Lord would whisper into this ear whilst he was writing his numerous works. It is kept at the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou, Mount Athos.

The incorrupt right hand of St. John Chrysostom, kept at  the Holy Monastery of Philotheou, Mount Athos.

The Holy right arm of St. Andrew the first called Apostle, kept at the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou, Mount Athos.

The Holy leg of St. Panteleimon, kept at the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou, Mount Athos.

The Holy right hand of St. John the Baptist, kept at The Holy Monastery of Dionysiou, Mount Athos

Η προσευχή θα σας κρατάει σε επαφή με το Θεό

Ρίξτε το μεγαλύτερο βάρος του αγώνος σας στην προσευχή, γιατί αυτή θα σας κρατάει σε επαφή με το Θεό. Και η επαφή αυτή πρέπει να είναι συνεχής.
Η προσευχή είναι το οξυγόνο της ψυχής,είναι ανάγκη της ψυχής και δεν πρέπει να θεωρείται αγγαρεία.
Η προσευχή για να εισακουστεί από το Θεό, πρέπει να γίνεται με ταπείνωση, με βαθιά συναίσθηση της αμαρτωλότητάς μας και να είναι καρδιακή.
Εάν δεν είναι καρδιακή, δεν ωφελεί. Ο Θεός πάντοτε ακούει την προσευχή του ανθρώπου, που είναι πνευματικά ανεβασμένος.
Η μελέτη της Αγίας Γραφής βοηθάει πολύ την προσευχή, γιατί θερμαίνει την ψυχή και την προετοιμάζει".

 Γερ. Παϊσιος

Η εναέρια προσευχή (Όσιος Σεραφείμ του Σάρωφ).


Η πριγκίπισσα Ε.Σ. είχε ένα ανηψιό που υπόφερε από τέτοια αδυναμία, ώστε δεν μπορούσε να περπατήση μόνος του. Τον έφερε λοιπόν με φορείο στο Σάρωφ και τον οδήγησε στον όσιο
Ο στάρετς εκείνη την ώρα στεκόταν στην πόρτα του κελλιού του, σαν να περίμενε τον άρρωστο.
Αφού μπήκαν μέσα, του είπε:
-Θα προσευχηθούμε και οι δύο, χαρά μου, κι εσύ κι εγώ. Πρόσεξε όμως! Θα μείνης ξαπλωμένος όπως είσαι και δεν θα γυρίσης από το άλλο πλευρό.
Ο νέος έμεινε πολλή ώρα σ' αυτή τη θέση, μέχρι που εξαντλήθηκε η υπομονή του και θέλησε από περιέργεια να δει τι κάνει ο όσιος. Γυρίζει λοιπόν και βλέπει τον άγιο να προσεύχεται μετέωρος, στον αέρα! 'Ηταν τόσο ξαφνικό και
ασυνήθιστο το θέαμα, που έβαλε τις φωνές.
Ο στάρετς τελείωσε την προσευχή, πλησίασε τον άρρωστο και του είπε:
-Τώρα λοιπόν θα πης σε όλους ότι ο Σεραφείμ είναι ένας άγιος και προσεύχεται στον αέρα ...;
Πρόσεξε! Μέχρι να πεθάνω, μην πης σε κανένα αυτό που είδες, διαφορετικά θ' αρρωστήσεις πάλι.
Ο νέος σηκώθηκε από το κρεβάτι. Στηριζόταν βέβαια σε άλλους, αλλά βγήκε από το κελί περπατώντας. Στον ξενώνα τον πολιόρκησαν με ερωτήσεις:
-Τι σου έκανε, τι σου είπε ο π. Σεραφείμ;
Προς γενική όπως κατάπληξη δεν τους είπε ούτε λέξη. Στην Πετρούπολη έφθασε τελείως υγιής!
Μετά από καιρό, αφού πληροφορήθηκε ότι ο όσιος εκοιμήθη, φανέρωσε την εναέρια προσευχή του αγίου.

(Όσιος Σεραφείμ του Σάρωφ).

Awakening the Sinner from the Sleep of Sin ( St. Theophan the Recluse )
The awakening of the sinner is that act of divine grace in his heart, the consequence of which he, as one awakened from sleep, sees his sinfulness, senses the danger of his situation, begins to fear for himself and to care about deliverance from his misfortune and salvation. Previously, he was like a blind man, unfeeling and uncaring with regard to salvation; now he sees, senses and cares.
However, this is still not change. It is only the opportunity for change and the call for it. Grace is only telling the sinner at this point, "See what you have gotten into; look then, take measures for salvation." It merely removes him from his customary bonds and sets him beyond them, thereby giving him the opportunity to choose a completely new life and find his place in it. If he takes advantage of this, it is to his benefit; if he does not, he will be cast again into the very same sleep and the very same abyss of destruction.
This divine grace is achieved by exposing to the consciousness and feeling the insignificance and shame of that to which a person is devoted and values so highly. Just as the word of God pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12), so does grace pierce to the division of the heart and sin, and breaks down their unlawful alliance and relationship. We saw how the sinner with his entire being falls into a realm where there are principles, ideas, opinions, rules, customs, pleasures and ways that are completely incompatible with the true spiritual life for which man is intended.
Once he has fallen into this place, he is not there in isolation or detachment. Instead, he is permeated by everything, mingles with everything. He is completely immersed in it. Thus, it is only natural that he not knows or thinks about its incompatibility with spiritual life, and he has no kind of sympathy toward spiritual life. The spiritual realm is completely closed off to him. It is obvious from this that the door to conversion may be opened only under the condition that the spiritual way of life be revealed to the sinner's consciousness in its full light, and not merely revealed, but that it touch the heart; that the sinful way of life be discredited, rejected, and destroyed. This also takes place in the presence of consciousness and feeling. Only then can the care arise to abandon the old ways and begin the new. All this is accomplished in the single act of the sinner's arousal by grace.
In its course of action, the arousing divine grace is always connected not only with the bonds in which the sinner is held, but also with the overall condition of the sinner. In this latter regard, one must above all keep in mind the difference in the way the action of grace appears when it acts on those who have never been aroused, and when it acts on those who have previously experienced such arousal. For someone who has never experienced spiritual awakening before, it is given to him freely, like some all-encompassing, preliminary or summoning grace. Nothing is required from the person beforehand, because he has a completely different orientation.
However, grace is not freely given to the person who has already experienced spiritual arousal, who knows and senses what life in Christ is, and who has fallen into sin again. He must give something himself first. He must still be worthy and beseech. It is not enough merely to wish; he must work on himself in order to attract spiritual arousal by grace. Such a person, in recollecting his previous sojourn in the virtuous Christian way, often desires it again, but has no power over himself. He would like to turn over a new leaf, but is unable to gain self-mastery and conquer himself. He has abandoned himself to helpless despair because he previously abandoned the gift and reproached and trodden underfoot the Son of God...and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29). Now he is allowed to perceive that this power of grace is so great that it will not be granted immediately. Seek and labor, and learn to appreciate how difficult it is to acquire.
Such a person is in a somewhat agonizing condition: He thirsts but is not given drink, hungers but is not fed, seeks but does not find, exerts himself but does not receive. Sometimes a person is left in this condition for a very long time, to the point where he feels divine reproach, as if God has forgotten him, turned away and betrayed His promise. He feels like the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it...but...which beareth thorns and briers (Heb. 6:7-8). But this slow touching of grace to the heart of the seeker is only a trial. He goes through the period of trial, and thanks to his labors and agonizing search, the spirit of arousal once again descends on him as it descends on others as a gift. This course of action of salvific grace shows us two things: First, the special actions of divine grace in arousing the sinner; second, the usual way of acquiring the gift of arousing grace.
An Excerpt from The Book "The Path to Salvation"A Manual of Spiritual Transformation. By St. Theophan The Recluse .

Lust, Born from Thoughts

“A brother overcome by lust went to see a great old man and besought him, saying, ‘Be so good as to pray for me, for I am overcome by lust.’ And the old man prayed to God for him. A second time he went to the old man and said the same thing, and once more the old man did not omit to beseech God for him, saying, ‘Lord, reveal to me the manner of life of this brother and whence comes this action of the devil, for I have already besought you and he has not found peace’. Then God revealed this to him about the brother: he saw him sitting with the spirit of lust beside him and an angel, sent to his aid, was standing beside him and becoming angry with him because he did not fall down before God but, taking pleasure in his thoughts, delivered up his spirit completely to the action of the devil. So the old man knew that the cause came from the brother, and he told him, ‘It is you who are consenting to your thoughts.’ Then he taught him how to resist thoughts, and the brother, restored by the old man’s prayer and teaching, found rest.”

From the Desert Fathers
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