4. The Move to St Basil and the Death of the Elder Ephrem
Any move is in itself not pleasant. But when it becomes essential or useful for the overall goal, then it is the preferred option and is carried through. This is what one finds in most of the Fathers. The prince of evil who schemes against our salvation leaves untried none of the means at his disposal in his war against us, in his efforts to impede our progress towards our spiritual goal. He makes use of locations, places, our limbs, people, things, the inner, the outer, things around us and whatever else you can think of – he turns it all against us so as to lessen our faith in God, to overturn our beliefs and disappoint our hopes. But it is with a particularly frenzied fury that he attacks those who are making progress in the work of the heart and spiritual intellect. Abba Isaac the Syrian refers to something of this sort in his discourses when he says, ‘When the devil sees that progress of this kind has begun, he will stir up some person or some occasion even from the other end of the world to create an obstacle, to prevent the intellect perceiving the experience of grace.’
3. Settlement in Katounakia with the elder Ephrem
They thanked the Elder and promised obedience. Once they had received his blessing, it was not long before they discovered the elders Joseph and Ephrem at the nearby hut of the Annunciation. These were brothers according to the flesh from Albania, and were both very old. They had lived in that spot since their youth, striving well and with arduous ascetisism, according to the tradition of Athonite monasticism. These Elders were successors of the first monk to live at the hut, Nicodemus of Dionysiou, a scholar, writer and hesychast.
2. Initial Difficulties and Aid from Grace
asion that presents itself arouses enthusiasm and interest. The remote and peaceful surroundings of Vigla, untroubled by any care or noise, especially attracted the attention of the young ascetic. He at once began a more detailed search for a place in that general area where he could stay longer. His first impressions from the lives of the Fathers that he had read had left a deep mark on his imagination, and he could not believe that there did not still exist the same conditions and the same ways of life as then. To inexperience and fervour, everything is possible. He believed that there must be inaccessible ascetics, naked, free from care, concerned solely with prayer and contemplation. Fantasy arising out of ardent zeal is an acute temptation for the inexperienced, until experience changes their frame of mind. So because he needed to be independent in order to carry out his search and make a mature choice, he did not want to undertake obedience at once to the existing Elders, but wanted to remain free for the time being. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »
Part I: The Life
1. Childhood and Youth
The Elder’s homeland was Paros in the Cyclades; a small island, but peaceful and, at that time, a place with strict moral standards. His parents were simple people and not well off, so that the children were obliged to work for a living from a young age. His father, George, did not live to bring up all his family. So the children, already poor, were now orphans as well – something not that uncommon in poor families. His mother Maria, a real woman of God in all her natural and acquired character traits, was, in the words of the Lord, ‘an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile’ (Jn 1.48). This blessed soul had such simplicity and intregrity that many times in her life she saw supranatural phenomena, and believed that everyone else must be seeing them too. This happened especially when she went into churches, whether for services or just to take care of the church.
It is only natural for noble memories to be recorded, so that they remain forever as glowing landmarks in spiritual history. This is the more necessary these days, when life is in a state of flux and rapid change so that the traditional foundations are almost totally transformed. Anyone of an advanced age will have something to say from his experience of the past, as a witness to events and a source of reliable information. But this is also an obligation which creates history. This is how knowledge about the lives of former generations is handed down to us – of how they lived, how and what they thought and what their social and spiritual life was like.