Posted by: lostperception | 04/06/2012

Hermit Kallistratos

Posted by: lostperception | 04/02/2012

Interesting Video

Posted by: lostperception | 11/21/2011

On the Various Forms of Grace (Letter 35)

Letter 35

“My beloved little child and all the sisters in Christ according to rank, rejoice and be health in the Lord.
I begin once more to speak into ears which desire and seek to hear. “Ask,” says our sweetest Jesus, “and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” I honour your good intentions; I praise your zeal; I appreciate your love, and I emulate you.

So listen to me once more. First of all, the method of beginning your prayer that you mention, my child, is very good. With such thoughts you are able to keep your mind from wandering-by thinking that the prayers of the elder and the eldress ascend like a pillar of fire and they converse noetically with God. When the nous thinks and believes such things, it stops for a moment, the prayer is sweetened, and tears start to trickle. Then that grace which is found in beginners, which you mentioned, approaches and like a mother teaches her young how to walk. When she goes away and leaves them, they seek her. They cry shout, and look for her. After a little while she comes back, only to withdraw once more. Again they cry and shout; again she returns. Until she rears us, there is no way for her to stay with us because our passions prevent her.
The passions are a hard material. Ural mountains! Thousands of feet high! Grace is like the sun. The sun rises, but the shadow of the mountains does not allow it to warm the entire noetic man. As soon as a beam finds him, he is immediately set on fire with joy. The rest of his soul, though, is still beneath the shadow of the passions, and the Devil is able to act as soon as grace departs. Many times they obstruct it as clouds obstruct the sun’s light, for the shadow of the passions raises steam that obscures the little beam of light just dawning. This steam is the thoughts of despair you wrote about. Cowardice, fear, impudence, profanities, and other such things wither the soul and deprive it of its boldness towards God.

Every thought that brings despair and heavy sorrow is from the devil. It is the steam of the passions, and you must expel it at once with hope in God, with confession to the eldress, and with the prayers of those older than you, by thinking that they are praying and entreating God for you.
A small sorrow mixed with joy, tears, and consolation in the soul is from the grace of God. Thought out life, it guides us towards repentance whenever we err. A sin drives away boldness towards God, but repentance brings it back at once. Grace does not bring despair, but it continually brings to repentance a person who has fallen. On the other hand, the words of the devil bring despair at once; they blight him like hail falling upon delicate leaves that have just sprouted.

Now pay attention to this little lesson of praxis:
When you see grace acting and your soul rejoicing and tears falling effortlessly (because of the mercies that God has given you), if you are praying, be still. If you are standing, don’t move. If you are sitting, remain seated. If you are saying the prayer, keep saying it without any childish thoughts, and accept the rain of the Spirit for as long as it comes upon you. For even if it comes while you are working, if you get up to pray, it stops. It wants you to remain wherever it found you, so that you do not become its master. It wants to teach you never to trust in yourself, as long as you are in this life.

The rainfall of grace of a single day provides enough water for the things planted in the soul for the entire period that grace leaves.
The grace of the priesthood is one thing, the grace of the great schema is another, the grace of the Mysteries is different, and the action of grace in ascesis is also different. The grace of repentance, which acts in those who struggle, is a patristic inheritance. It is a divine transaction and exchange in which we give dust and receive heaven. We exchange matter for Spirit. Every drop of sweat, every pain, every ascesis for God is an exchange. The magnitude of this grace depends on how much his own vessel can hold. This grace of praxis is also called purifying grace.
Now then, illumination follows praxis. Illuminating grace is the second stage. That is, once a struggler has been trained well with the grace of praxis and has fallen and risen countless times, he is given the enlightenment of knowledge and clarity of the nous, which perceives the truth. He sees things as they are, without artifices and methods and human syllogisms. Everything stands naturally in its true state. However, many trials and painful changes are encountered before arriving at this point. But here he finds peace in his thoughts and rest from temptations.
Illumination is followed by interruptions in the prayer and frequent theorias, rapture of the nous, cessation of the senses, stillness, profound silence of the bodily members, and union of God and man into one. This is the divine exchange in which, if one endures temptations and does not stop struggling along the way, one exchanges the material for the immaterial…
The grace of “praxis” is likened to the radiance of the stars; whereas the grace of illumination is like the full moon; and there is also the perfecting grace of theoria which is like the midday sun traversing over the horizon.

So when grace abounds in a person, he attains great simplicity; his nous expands and has great capacity. Just as you tasted that drop of grace when much joy and exultation came upon you, it comes again in the same manner when the nous remains in prayer. But much more comes, like a subtle breeze, like a mighty gust of fragrant wind. It overflows thoughout the entire body, and the prayer stops; the bodily members cease to move, and only the nous is in theoria within an extraordinary light. A union of God and man occurs. Man is unable to distinguish himself. It is just like iron; before it is thrown into the fire it is called iron, but once it ignites and becomes red-hot, it is one with the fire. It is also like wax which melts when it approaches fire; it cannot remain in its natural state.
Only when the theoria has passed does he return to his former state. Whereas during theoria, he is not functioning in this world. He is totally united with God. He thinks that he has neither body nor a hut. He is entirely rapt. Without a body he ascends to heaven! Truly great is this mystery, for one sees things that a human tongue cannot express….
So receive, O God, Lover of good desires and Creator of every good thing, receive the divine inbreathing, which You breathed into our face, giving us thus a living spirit, and we shall decompose into clay once more…. (Pg 185)

From Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Posted by: lostperception | 08/02/2011

Unconditional Love – Dionysios Farasiotis

“Persistently and insistently, I strove to understand this pain and to find its cause. I couldn’t tell whether it was from a lack of love or an absence of truth.”

In this world, I hadn’t found any genuine love, or anyone who really loved me for who I was. Everyone had a motive for loving me. Girls would love men for an attractive face, a handsome body, and beautiful eyes. But if I had been in an accident resulting in the loss of a limb, or the disfigurement of my face, no woman would have cared to stay at my side, even though I would still have been the same person. No woman really loved me, loved or was even interested in the deeper core of my being; rather they were concerned only with the external apparition of our reality. And the guys who were my friends loved me for my mind, my ideas, my knowledge, and my wit; but if I hadn’t been educated, I would still have been the same person. Were I to have suffered a wound to the head and become a little slower on the uptake, the deeper core of my being, my soul, would still have been the same, yet no one would have still loved me. Even the natural love of my parents was not free from utilitarian motives. It was colored by certain expectations and desires for compensation in the future. They loved me because I was intelligent, because I was a good student , and because I would take care of them in their old age. No one loved me without guile, without self-interest, or without the expectation of something in return. My real self existed beneath the surface, apart from my being smart or stupid, handsome or ugly, good or bad. I longed for this core of my being to be loved without any reason or societal justification, but just because I existed.

To see how people would react, I began to cast off those existential attributes that enhanced my appearance. I began with the way I dressed, starting to wear clothes that were unattractive and in bad taste. Soon people became irritated. In fact, quite a few people became angry about this change and kept me at a distance. I was shocked to discover how false and superficial my relations with others were.  Although some of my closest friends were fed up with me, I was determined to persevere until I had cast off everything false and superficial and had completely stripped and freed myself from things external. It was the only way to know who really understood me deeply- whoever would remain by my side to the end would do so elusively for who I was.

In the end, no one remained by my side. I found the core of my being, but I was uttely forsaken and completedly alone. It would have been easy to return again to the life of superficiality. After all, I had been good at acting out different roles since childhood. I could again start playing the roles of lover, friend, and son, but I didn’t want to anymore. I wanted to explore and get to know my real self.

During this period of time, I suffered a greatly in the depths of my being from a deep, bone-crushing pain. My soul was in a state of mute horror, and I felt as though my mind would be shattered into a thousand small pieces. I could barely think rationally. I was unable to sleep. I was afraid to sleep. As soon as I would start to grow drowsy, and my reason would begin to relax its control over my emotions, my soul would suddenly become like a sore oozing with river of pain that threatened to destroy my existence. I would awaken in a state of alarm, trying to put a stop to that terrible agony. My ability to reason, that fine thread holding my mind together, was ready to snap at any moment. I was afraid I would lose my mind because of my inability to withstand the pain.

Persistently and insistently, I strove to understand this pain and to find its cause. I couldn’t tell whether it was from a lack of love or an absence of truth. Perhaps it was because my life seemed purposeless. I yearned greatly for an answer and struggled to find one, but I began to wonder if the search for genuine love in this world was an impossible quest. With this in mind, I went to see elder Paisios and opened up my heart to him. I impatiently waited for a response. He became serious and said, “Man is worthy of being loved just because he’s in the image of God. It doesn’t matter at all if he’s good or bad, moral or sinful. Man is worthy of being loved for what he is. Christ loved and sacrificed Himself for sinful corrupt people. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. We should be the same way: we should love everyone without making any distinctions. Just like the sun rises on everyone, intelligent and unintelligent, good and evil, beautiful and ugly, our love should be like the love of God – love that’s like the sun and shines on His whole creation without making distinctions.” As Saint Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans, The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who is given unto us. At last, I felt consoled. There was someone who agreed with me and understood me, and it was Father Paisios.

Nevertheless, when I returned home, the pain remained. At times, it was more than I could bear. During the night, I would wake up weeping and unable to speak. From the utter depths of  my being I would silently cry out, “My God, my God.” I would strike my head against my pillow in repentance, thinking about how I had gone so far ashtray and done so much that was wrong. “My God, my God” – during those dread nights I would struggle with despair over my entire life. (83)

Then, on one of those evenings, when I was praying alone in my apartment, I felt something approaching me. It was so present although it was invisible. It was immaterial but it was mighty. It was so unapproachable and intangible, although it was so near. It touched me, but not just on the surface. It touched the innermost depth of my being, uniting itself with me. I was intoxicated by this presence and felt I was becoming like fire. I wanted to be completely open towards this presence, without a single corner of my soul remaining hidden, no matter how ugly or filthy I was.I longed for every corer of my soul to be visited by this vast infinite Love coming from all directions and filling all things. As Saint Simeon the New Theologian cried, “O Deifying Love that is God!” This love holds the universe together, connecting every part of it, giving it the strength to exist, and being the very cause of of its continued existence…

At the same time, however, I felt so unworthy and so unfit to be with It that I fell to the ground with my face to the flood, in order to sink into the very concrete if I could. I was so full of vice, so unworthy to exist and to experience this unity that I wished I could stop living. I remained motionless, but this Love drew near to me, this Love that welled forth from the One Whose gaze is directed towards all things and Who pervades all things, the One Who has always existed. (84)

Because God loved me, He allowed me to approach Him, and He purified me and healed me, thoroughly and deeply, of all my pains and sores. He drew me gently, steadily, and safely from darkness to light, from filth to purity, from non-being into being. He granted me a more intense, true and vital existence, not because He had need of me, but because He is Love.

I do not know how long this experience lasted. It began and ended in a single night. I do know, however, that it healed my pain, brought stability to my thoughts, put an end to my danger, and answered my questions. I learned far more than I asked. This Love granted me sure and certain knowledge: even today, I can feel its effects. Due to  my careless living I slowly started to become more alienated from this presence yet the effects of its grace have helped me tremendously until today.

Now I know that, as human beings in synergy with God, we all have the potential to give birth in our hearts to such a love, that will ontologically transform us and deify us. Few of us give birth to this love, however, and we bear responsibility for not doing so on account of our slothfulness, fear, and involvement with trivialities. This love is the spiritual love that the Holy Spirit begets within the human soul, making human beings into partakers of the divine nature. It is far superior to any human love – even the love of a mother is insignificant when compared to it. This all-powerful love vanquishes death, overcomes the laws of nature, and is the source of order though the universe, for it is the very mystery of the universe. For God is love. This love has helped me so much through my life, it has sustained me, and I will return to it for support until my very last breath. (85)

From The Gurus, the young man, and elder Paisios – Dionysios Farasiotis

Posted by: lostperception | 06/16/2011

A Sorrowful Reality by Dionysios Farasiotis

“Come on, pal, we just want some small talk, so we can have a good time to get us comfortably though the day.” And, ultimately, this is how you pass your entire life. (16)

Modern man wants everything to fit within his own perspective and resents being awakened from his blissful stupor. This is why he sometimes mocks, slanders, distorts, attacks, rejects, and hates whatever lies beyond his own worldview. He does not want to think, because television has taught him to hate thinking. He does not want to ask himself questions, because it is too tiring to do so. He doesn’t want to struggle to go beneath life’s superficiality, because modern culture has made him comfortable as he lives the pampered life of a hungry consumer in a cage of materialism. In a state of spiritual death, his life is defined by the biological life of his body, and his interests are defined by his exclusive fixation on his bodily needs and desires, which only make his bonds to matter and material goods increasingly constricting. When man despises the immortal soul, the higher part of his being, and becomes deeply attached to his body, he becomes uttely carnal and condemns himself to a life that is degrading.  And so man, being in honor, did not understand; he is compared to mindless cattle, and is become like unto them. My prayer is that these poor people, so unfortunate in their wretchedness, come to know their misfortune and find help even as I found help.

There are, in fact, people who free their mind and soul from the mesmerizing charms of today’s materialistic lifestyle, who are open to spiritual worlds, and who have the strength and the disposition to change what needs to be changed for their betterment. These people have the courage and humble yearning to take the leap so that they might reach the spiritual source of the Holy Spirit. They are the ones who, in our foolish and vulgar age preserve in man what is most majestic. Before such people I humbly bow my knee as their servant, asking in advance that they forgive me for my omissions and failings. (19)

From The Gurus, the Young man and Elder Paisios

Posted by: lostperception | 05/14/2011

Light and Darkness by Dionysios Farasiotis

…An experience taught me that, just as God surpasses the human mind, so do His creations and His gifts. On its own, the human mind can only acquire a relative idea about these realities, producing hypotheses, conjectures, opinions, and imaginary presuppositions to justify its views. However with help from God, it can begin to fathom these mysteries. (241)

One afternoon at the beginning of Holy Week, having made a stop in Thessaloniki, I was by myself in our home there, when, suddenly, my surroundings vanished. There were no images to be seen, sounds to be heard, or objects to be touched. My five senses had ceased functioning. It was as though the light switch had been flicked and the room plunged into total darkness. (238)

My mind turned its full attention to this spiritual realm that it found utterly riveting and captivating. In one direction, I saw a soft but intense light – brilliant yet gentle. In the other direction, I saw a thick, cavernous darkness. Initially, I turned my attention towards the awesome, yet fearful, darkness. It made my flesh crawl, but I was overcome by curiosity, the desire to understand what it was. My mind advanced towards the darkness, and I began to sense the magnitude of its negation. The deeper i went, the greater this negation became, and the thicker the darkness. It had a vast power and, If I dare put it this way, a certain grandeur. It represented a negative perspective on reality, unhesitatingly extending into reality as depth, even as the light stretched infinitely into reality as height. On one side, there was immense love; on the other, immense hatred. The light was overflowing with unconditional altruism, while the darkness pulled away in utter self-centeredness.

Though I couldn’t see into the darkness, I could feel the presence of souls in it, leaping about and shrieking with insane, wicked laughter as they were pulled deeper and deeper into the ocean of darkness, until the sound of their voices disappear altogether. Frightened by this savage madness, I headed towards the light, seeking its protection. Just reaching its outskirts, I felt the relief of having been rescued from a grave danger.

Although I didn’t advance very far at all into the darkness,  I was able to feel the depths of its evil ocean. I could understand the very essence of the enticing power of sin to tempt, as well as its laughable powerlessness, utter dependence, and shadowy nonexistence. The darkness, I saw, is fearsome when it has won you over, but it is absurd and feeble when you reject it- it cannot defeat even a small child if he does not fall on his own. In the same way, I didn’t advance far into the light- only, so to speak, skating its edge- but even there I felt confident and comforted by a fullness of life, peace, joy, and knowledge. The light loved me greatly in spite of my unworthiness and granted me its gifts, gifts I never dreamed of existed.(239)

At this point, I realized that the light created the world and every living being. The existential space in which each person dwells is itself a creation fashioned by the light, which also fills and permeates these spaces. One being decided to stay outside of the existential space created by the light, thus creating a sort of space for itself, though only by denying the light, turning from it and driving it away.  The darkness has no existence of its own, but only in that it denies the ever-existing and sovereign light. That is to say, the existence of the darkness would have been impossible without the existence of the light; though the light had no need of the darkness for its existence, for its existence is self-sufficient. The light respected the free decision of its creation to reject it, and so kept its distance. In this way, a dark existential space made its appearance- the darkness, in a sense, became reality.(240)

Just as the light’s love wishes to unite all things, being the source of existence and creation, so the hatred of the darkness wants to divide all things, being the source of nonexistence and destruction. Just as the light extends out into the infinite beyond, so the darkness seems to extend into its infinite beyond. Just as there is a grandeur about the simple, yet infinite light of God, with all His attributes and energies, so there is a certain grandeur about the blunt, yet apparently infinite darkness of the devil, which all his deep-rooted and ferocious self-destructiveness, full of a stubborn and manic rage.

Having come to such realizations, I found myself, as with the flip of a switch, surrounded again by the familiar sights and sounds of my room. Within a matter of minutes, I had received a lesson of immeasurable depth. It was not only a revelation beyond words, of subtly differences of profound meaning and great importance, but also-and even more- a test and a trial of the deepest inclinations and intentions of my heart, to see whom I would follow and whom I would leave behind. Fortunately, although my heart initially moved towards the darkness, it ultimately found repose in the light- and, fortunately, the light still accepted me. (241)

From The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios

Posted by: lostperception | 12/07/2010

Elder Paisios and clairvoyance – Dionysios Farasiotis

Those who were more advanced spiritually were well aware of the elder’s higher gifts and made use of them for their spiritual benefit. Most of us had difficulty grasping or indeed even recognizing these gifts because they so far exceed our own capabilities. Nevertheless, the elder had other, “lesser” divine gifts that many of us could in fact notice.

Fox example, the elder knew, in a way known only to Christ, the people who came to visit him. He knew what they were thinking about, what problems they were mulling over, and the solutions to their problems. In the beginning I was impressed by this, but with the passage of time all of us near the elder observed these gifts so frequently, on a daily basis, that we came to accept them as natural part of life. Over time, it became a habit for me not even to refer to my problem, but to listen to his response right away (pg70).

… The elder changed many lives. I once met a man who told me that he used to make a great deal of money showing pornographic films. He was very suspicious of Christianity, and, when he first heard of Elder Paisios, he supposed that he was a charlatan and decided to go to Mount Athos with two of his friends to “expose that monk”.

When they arrived, the elder received them in his yard, saying, “Sit down and let me serve you something.” The elder served the other two gentlemen first, and then stood in front of the first man and turned the plate upside down, letting the sweet fall in the mud.

“I dropped it,” he said, “but that doesn’t matter. Pick it up and eat it anyway.”

The fellow was insulted: “How do you expect me to eat it when its filthy?”

The elder sternly replied, “And why do you give people filth to eat?”

Stunned, embarrassed, and in some fear, the man got up and left, but he went back again the next day and spoke with the elder. He told me he felt then as though the ground were shifting under his feet. The conversation was brief.

“What am I supposed to do?” he asked.

The elder responded, “First of all, shut down your business, then come back and talk to me again.”

He returned to Thessaloniki, closed the business, and began to look for new work.

After about a month he went to speak with Father Paisios, who told him to go to confession and taught him to put his life in order spiritually. I admired the man when I heard this – at just one call to repentance he had changed his life and followed Christ, just like Matthew the tax-collector in the Gospel (Matt. 9:9).

From the book titled The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis; p. 75.

Posted by: lostperception | 11/03/2010

Work and the Spiritual Life – Elder Paisios

Work is a blessing

Geronda, in the old days they would say, “Better to wear out your shoes rather than blankets.” What did they mean?

They meant, “Better to wear out your shoes by working than to stay in bed and be lazy.” Work is a blessing, a gift of God. It gives energy to the body, refreshment to the nous. If God had not given us work, man would have become idle. Hard workers do not stop even in old age. If they stop working while they still have strength, they end up suffering from depression; this is death for them. I remember one little old man in Konitsa, almost ninety years old, who worked continuously. He finally died out in the fields, two hours from home.

Besides, the state of bodily comfort which some people seek is never permanent. They may forget their stress for a time—have their food, their sweets, their baths, their leisure. But, as soon as this is over, they seek another form of comfort. They are constantly anxious because everything leaves them wanting; they feel an emptiness, and their souls seek to be filled. He who wearies from work, however, has a constant joy, spiritual joy.

Geronda, what if you have back problems and aren’t able to do just any work?

Fine, but doesn’t the back need exercise? Doesn’t work that exercises the back help? Listen, I’ll tell you: “If someone eats, drinks, and sleeps but doesn’t work, he starts unraveling; he wants to sleep all the time because his body and nerves slacken. Little by little he comes to the point where he can’t do anything. As soon as he walks a little, he falls apart. Instead, if he works a little and moves around, his hands and feet become stronger. Notice that those who love work don’t sleep much, and they don’t sleep from fatigue—they might not get any sleep for a time, yet they keep their strength: work has seasoned them, and they became strong in body.

Especially for a young person, work is health. I have observed that some pampered children become tough and seasoned when they go into the military. The military is good for them. Naturally, this happened more in the old days. Today they are afraid to push the soldiers, because with a little strain the veins are constricted and they suffer from nervous shock. I tell parents to pay someone to allow their children to work for them, to promote their health—this serves to give them a job they like, so that they will learn to like work in general. For, a young person who is energetic also has brains, and if he doesn’t work he will become lazy. Of course, when he sees others succeeding he is confused by his egoism and can’t take pleasure in anything. He constantly has disturbing thoughts and his mind is muddled. Later the devil goes to him and says: “Loser! What a good-for-nothing you are! So and so became a professor, and that other guy has his own business making good money, but where will you end up?” This makes him feel hopeless. If he had worked, however, he would have acquired confidence in himself, in a good sense of the word. He would see that even he is able to get along, and his mind would stay occupied on his job and free him from disturbing thoughts. That way it’s a win-win.

Excerpts from “Family Life”

Posted by: lostperception | 11/03/2010

Simplify Your Lives – Elder Paisios

Secular people say, “How lucky are the wealthy people who live in palaces and have all kinds of conveniences:” In truth, blessed are those who have succeeded in sim­plifying their lives and freeing themselves from the yoke of worldly progress, of the many conveniences that have become inconveniences, and have consequently rid themselves of the dreadful anxiety that plagues so many, people today. If man does not simplify his life, he will end up tormenting himself. But if he simplifies it, all his anxiety will go away.

A German man at Sinai told a very intelligent Bedouin boy, “You are intelligent, you can become literate.” “And then?” the boy asked. “Well, then you will become a car mechanic.” “And then?” the boy repeated. “Then you’ll open a car shop.” “And then?” the boy asked again. “Then you will grow up and you will hire others to work for you, and you will have your own staff.” “In other words,” the boy said, “I will pile one headache on top of the other. Isn’t it better now that my mind is free of worries?” Most head­aches are the result of all these thoughts we have about doing this and doing that … But if our thoughts were spir­itual in nature, we would feel divine consolation and be cured of headaches.

These days I stress simplicity to lay people too, be­cause many of the things they do are not necessary and they end up being consumed by anxiety. I speak to them of austerity and asceticism. I constantly scold them, “If you want to get rid of anxiety, simplify your lives!” That is how most divorces start. People have to do too many things, too many obligations and they get dizzy. Both parents work and abandon the children. The result is fa­tigue and nervousness, which causes small issues to turn into large quarrels and then to automatic divorces; that’s “where they end up. But if they simplified their lives, they would find rest and joy. Stress is catastrophic.

Once I was at a very plush house where they told me in conversation, “We live in Paradise, while other people are in such great need.” “You live in hell,” I replied. “God said to the rich man, Fool, This night your soul is required of you (Lk. 12:20). If Christ were to ask me, ‘Where should I put you in a house like this or in prison?’ I would reply, ‘In the dark prison.’ Because a prison would do me good; it could remind me of Christ, the holy martyrs, the ascetics who lived in the holes of the earth, it would remind me of monastic life. The prison would resemble my cell a bit and I would be happy. But what would this palace of a house remind me of and how would that help me? That is why I find prison cells much more restful than a worldly living room. I even find it more restful than a beautiful monastic cell. I would rather spend one thousand nights in a prison cell, than one day in a plush house.”

Once, when I was staying with a friend in Athens, he asked me to receive a family man who could only see me very early in the morning, at dawn, because that was the only time he had available. He arrived in a cheerful mood praising God in every other word. He was full of humility­ and simplicity and begged me to pray for his family. This brother, who was about thirty-eight years old, had seven children. At home, they were eleven souls, because his parents lived with him, and they all shared the same room. He spoke with great simplicity, “The room fit us all if we stand up, but if we lie down it is a bit tight. ”Thank God, now we are constructing a shed to use as a kitchen and we are doing fine. Father,” he said “at least we have a roof over our head, while other people live in. the open air.”

The man was an ironer. He lived in Athens and had to leave everyday before dawn to arrive in Peiraeus in time for work in a dry-cleaning shop. He was suffering from varicose veins as a result of having to stand up all that: time and his legs bothered him a lot, but his love for his family made him forget his pain and discomfort. In fact he pitied himself constantly for not having, as he said any love in his heart, because he did not do any acts of Christian charity and praised his wife for being charitable Apparently, besides taking care of her children and her parents in-law, she would wash the clothes of some elderly men in the neighbourhood, tidy up their homes and even cook a little something, like soup, for them. You could see divine Grace depicted on the face of this good family man. He had Christ in his heart and was full of joy, just like his one-room house was filled with heavenly bliss. Compare this man with people who do not have Christ in their heart; they are filled with anxiety. Take two of then and try to fit them in a house large enough for eleven people; they will not find a way to fit.

Even some spiritual people will sometimes not be able to live together, no matter how much space they ­have available, because they don’t have the fullness of Christ in their heart. If the women of Pharasa could see our luxuries, especially in some Monasteries, they would say, “We have abandoned God and He will send down fire to burn us!”

I remember them performing all their chores in matter of seconds. They had to take the goats out, first in the morning, and then tidy up the house. After that they would go to the Chapels or gather in caves and those who could read would read the Life of the Saints of the day. Next they would do their prostrations and say the Jesus Prayer. And they would work and work without getting tired. Those days, a woman had to know how to  mend clothes. And they would mend the clothes by hand; there were a few sewing machines in cities but no sewing machines in the villages and if I remember right, in the whole town of Pharasa there was one, maybe two they used to sew their family’s clothes and they were very comfortable to wear. They would also knit socks by hand. They had a caring taste (meraki) but they also had enough time for all these chores because they did things in a simple way. The people of Pharasa did not pay attention to details. They enjoyed the joy of monastic life. And if, for example, the blanket did not sit right from one side of the bed and you told them, “Straighten out the blanket,” they would respond, “Why, does it prevent you from praying?”

This kind of joyful monastic life is unknown today. Most people believe that they should not go into any trouble, or be deprived of anything. But if they thought in monastic terms and lived with more simplicity, they could find the peace they are seeking. Instead, they are filled with anxiety and despair. They say, “So and so was very successful because he built two apartment buildings, or because he learned five languages and so on. And I do not even own one apartment and I do not even speak one foreign language. Oh, I am good for nothing!” A person with a car thinks, “This man has a better car; I should buy one too.” So he buys the better car, but he feels no joy because someone else has an even better one. He buys even better car but then he learns that others have their own private aeroplanes and he is unhappy again. There is no end to this. But a person who doesn’t have a car re­joices when he praises God. “Thank God,” he says, “even if I do not have a car, I have strong legs and I can walk. How many people are there in the world who do not have legs and cannot take care of their needs and go for walks? I at least have my legs!” And a lame person says, “There are some people who are missing both legs,” and that makes him rejoice.

Ingratitude and greed cause a lot of harm. The person possessed by material things is always possessed by wor­ries and anxiety because he trembles at the thought that he may lose both his belongings and his soul. One suet wealthy man came from Athens and told me, “Father, my children will not listen to me anymore, I have lost them;” “How many children do you have,” I asked him. “Two” he said. “I raised them in luxury. They had everything they wanted. I even bought them a car,” In the course of  the conversation, I found out that he and his wife each had their own car. “Dear man,” I said, “instead of solving your problems you made them worse. Now you need a large garage to put all the cars and a mechanic to service them. You will have to pay him fourfold and moreover all four of you are in danger of killing yourselves at any time. On the contrary, if you had simplified your life your family would be united and you would have under­standing for each other, and none of the problems you are describing. It’s not your children’s fault. It is your fault for not trying to educate them in other ways.” A family ­does not need four cars, a garage and a mechanic and so on. Let one of you reach his destination a bit late. All these conveniences beget difficulties.

Another family man arrived at my Kalyvi (monk cell) once. He had family of five. He told me: “Father, we have a car and we are thinking of buying another two. It would help us a lot.” I said “Did you think of how difficult this is go­ing make your life? If you have one car you can easily park it somewhere; where are you going to put three of them? You will need a garage and an extra tank of fuel. And moreover, you will put your life in danger. It’s better to have only one car and limit your outings. You will have time to see your children. You will have peace of mind. Simplifying one’s life is the most important thing.” “I never thought of that,” he replied.

–  Geronda (Elder in Greek), a man told us that twice he could not stop his car alarm. The first time it was due to a fly and the second time, he tried to get in the car the wrong way.

– People’s lives are sheer misery because they do not simplify things. Most of the conveniences we have cause difficulties. Those who live in the world often suffocate from abundance. They have filled their life with gadgets and devices but this only makes it more difficult to enjoy it. If we don’t simplify things, one convenience will result into numerous difficulties and we will end up miserable.

When we were little, we used to cut off the spool at the end and put a wedge in it, turning it into a nice and enjoyable game for ourselves. Small kids enjoy playing with a toy car much more than their father enjoys his new Mercedes. If one asks a little girl, “What do you want, a doll or an apartment building?” you will see that she will say “a doll”.  But in the end, small children too get to know the vanity of the world.

– Geronda, what helps the most when one is trying to grasp the joy of austerity?

– It helps if you can grasp the deeper meaning of life seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mt. 6:33). Simplicity begins from there, so does every proper approach of life.

Taken from “With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man”

Posted by: lostperception | 10/28/2010

About Positive Thinking – Elder Paisios

“For perverse thoughts separate men from God” (Wis 1:3)

We once asked Father Paisios: – Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem: – Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?

The Elder started telling us: – I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.” This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface. When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.


elder Paisios with visitors

Once, a young man visited the Elder for advice. Being simple-hearted, however, he couldn’t restrain from listening to negative thoughts. These thoughts were acting as an obstacle to every good work he was trying to accomplish. Father Paisios, due to his discretion, realised that his negative thoughts were the cause of his problem and told him the following: -There was a man who used to say: “If I get married and have children, and my children are boys and there is war, they will have to join the army and finally they will get killed. So, there is no reason for me to get married.” Then, the Elder turns to him and says: – Isn’t that a silly thought? – Yes, the young man replied. The Elder went on: -Be careful, because you are doing the same thing. Bear in mind that you will never achieve anything good, if you think and act this way.

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