Elder Arsenios Spileotis (1886-1983) [with many pictures]

by Monk Joseph of Dionysiou Monastery

Elder Arsenios Spileotis (1886-1983), fellow struggler for more than 40 years with Saint Elder Joseph the Hesychast ( 1897-1959)

It is not easy to describe in a few pages the life and works of a great ascetic of the might of blessed Elder Arsenios. He was born in Pontos. While still young he was burning with Holy zeal. He decided to leave his country and walk from Russia to Constantinoupole and from there to the Holy Land, where he served at the Holy Sepulchre and at other Holy places for almost ten years.

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ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM

vatopaidi monk

With the development of monasticism in the Church there appeared a peculiar way of life, which however did not proclaim a new morality. The Church does not have one set of moral rules for the laity and another for monks, nor does it divide the faithful into classes according to their obligations towards God. The Christian life is the same for everyone. All Christians have in common that «their being and name is from Christ»[1]. This means that the true Christian must ground his life and conduct in Christ, something which is hard to achieve in the world.

What is difficult in the world is approached with dedication in the monastic life. In his spiritual life the monk simply tries to do what every Christian should try to do: to live according to God’s commandments. The fundamental principles of monasticism are not different from those of the lives of all the faithful. This is especially apparent in the history of the early Church, before monasticism appeared. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 3)

Continued from (2)

In the context of forbidding attitude of the Eastern Fathers toward mental images, it seems necessary to briefly mention elaborate and very imaginative Orthodox iconography.[5] Icons in the Orthodox Tradition are used for prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Yet, even during prayer before icons, which obviously present visual imagery, the use of mental imagery, according to the Orthodox Tradition, is to be avoided. St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) writes:

The holy icons are accepted by the Holy Church for the purpose of arousing pious memories and feelings, but not at all for arousing imagination. Standing before an icon of the Savior, stand as if before the Lord Jesus Christ himself, Who is invisibly everywhere present and by His icon is in that place, where the icon is; standing before an icon of the Mother of God, stand as if before the Most-Holy Virgin Herself; but keep your mind without images: there is a great difference between being in the presence of the Lord or standing before the Lord and imagining the Lord. (Works 2004, 1:76) Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 2)

Continued from (1)

In other words, according to St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), purposefully creating images in one’s mind, and even accepting those appearing spontaneously, is not only dangerous spiritually, but can also lead to the damage of the soul, or psychological problems, “which,” he says, “has happened to many.” Undoubtedly, here St. Ignatii refers to the spirituality of some Western saints: “Do not play with your salvation, do not. Take up the reading of the New Testament and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, but not of Teresa and other Western crazies…” (25) But cases of mental disorders facilitated by improper prayer or state of mind are also mentioned in various Orthodox literature, especially paterikons.

Saint Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022), writing in the late tenth to early eleventh centuries, warns against the method of prayer later used by St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Western saints as potentially leading to mental problems:

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MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 1)

a devoted monk in prayer

Just as there can be a properly trained voice, there can be a properly trained soul.[1]

—Fr. Alexander Yelchaninov

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

This presentation is based on the research that I undertook for a book titled Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, published in paperback in February of 2009 with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco. The work is an analytical comparison of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox attitudes toward mental imagery. In this presentation, I wish to focus specifically on the Orthodox tradition of prayer.

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Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (8)

Continued from (7)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

Being clairvoyant, the Elder knew what happened, and when the boy returned, Papoulakis repeated exactly the same words Abbot Agapios had used to «press» him: «Eat Dimitris. All day long grinding grain; in the evening we eat the bread.’ » The boy shook with fear, because Papoulakis always admonished him to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, as Dimitris was leaving after having delivered the letter, Dimitrios Paxinos, a resident of Lefki, gave him twelve pears for the Elder and four for himself. The boy was holding the pears in a kerchief, and before he said anything, Papoulakis opened the cloth, took twelve pears on his own, and left the four for the boy. He did this without saying a word, simultaneously correcting him for his violation of the fast. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (7)

Continued from (6)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

VARIOUS MIRACLES OF SAINT JOACHIM

A woman named Roza, of the Petalas family, was married in Akarnania. Her husband suffered from atrophy of his right arm, and this evoked repugnance within his insensitive spouse who openly expressed her revulsion for the afflicted man. After some time, however, she herself became ill with a more serious sickness, myelitis, which brought about a paralysis of the lower members of her body. Unable to raise herself from bed, she was moved from Akarnania to her paternal home in Exogi in order for her mother to take care of her. For three full years she suffered terribly, beyond any hope of human help. Realizing now the seriousness of her prior inappropriate behavior toward her spouse, she detested herself, recognizing that because of her callousness she had been abandoned to this chastisement by God. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (6)

Continued from (5)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

It is feasible for a person to know things and facts about the world through scientific research and comparison; but to penetrate into the heart of a spiritual person is not only unfeasible, it is impossible. Only if he himself wants it to be revealed will it become known. This mystery of the interior world of every human being is what the Lord was referring to when he said, «two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left» (Matt. 24:40). Divine Providence was now calling blessed Elder Joachim Papoulakis to enlighten and purify others as well, since he had arrived at perfection by means of the strict practical life he had lived, becoming «taught by God» (Jn. 6:45), «bringing out of his treasure things new and old» (Matt. 13:52). Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (5)

Continued from (4)

by Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

HIS RETURN TO HESYCHIA

When the tempest of the war subsided by the mercy of God, though only after a multitude of casualties in the liberation of the nation, blessed Joachim Papoulakis withdrew to his beloved hesychia. However, he did not return to Athos and Vatopaidi, the monastery of his repentance, but preferred instead the quiet areas of the land of his birth, Ithaki; but this was not by human design. Holy men always speak and act «not by their own will, but as they are moved by the Holy Spirit» (see 2 Peter 1:21). This devout athlete in the spiritual arena and instrument for the twofold love of God and man not only always disregarded his own interest, but also directed his every action to the benefit of the people; this was his reason for residing outside of Athos. Throughout the entire course of his lifelong struggle, according to those who knew him, he always linked compassion for others with his own personal asceticism. This is why he preferred to live the hesychastic life within the world, binding together these two callings. Having arrived in Ithaki, he chose to reside in the forest called Aphentikos Longos, meaning «Master’s Thicket.» He remained there for about five years in strict asceticism, barefoot and half-naked, living in fasting and hardships. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (4)

Continued from (3)

by Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

JOHN’S NEW WAY OF LIFE

John was now a novice at Vatopaidi. Although he was quite young, he was not ignorant of worldly vanity. He began working at a very early age and, because of his profession, had travelled about the various ports of trade of that time. He came into direct contact with life’s realities; consequently, he had no juvenile and dreamy fantasies about the world like others his age. For him, this was a solid base for the beginning of his new life, because he had acquired many spoils that would be useful in the upcoming combat and battles of the invisible warfare that the monastic life entails. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (3)

Continued from (2)

by Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

 

FORWARD TO ENGLISH EDITION SAINT JOACHIM PAPOULAKIS

It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God.

Tobit 12:7

Once again we shall be speaking about the good testimony of the wonders of God, Who throughout the entire expanse of time has shown Himself to be «wondrous in His saints» (Ps. 67:36 LXX). In the illustrious Monastery of Vatopaidi, one of the monasteries of saint-bearing Athos, we find the spiritual birthplace of our blessed and newly-revealed father Joachim — whom we shall be extolling in these pages — whose luminous and marvelous life illumines our lukewarm and humanistic generation.  Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »