Η εκπομπή « Εξήντα Λεπτά» πέτυχε μια εξαιρετικά σπάνια πρόσβαση στα μοναστήρια του Άθωνα, ίσως μια από τις αγιότερες περιοχές της Χριστιανοσύνης.
Ο Μπόμπ Σάιμον επιστρέφει πίσω στο χρόνο όταν καταφέρνει να αποκτήσει μια σπανιότατη πρόσβαση στους μοναχούς που διαβιούν σε αρχαία μοναστήρια σε μια απομακρυσμένη Ελληνική χερσόνησο, και που έχουν ζήσει μια «σπαρτιάτικη» ζωή προσευχής σύμφωνα με μια παράδοση που έχει μείνει σχεδόν αναλλοίωτη για χιλιάδες χρόνια. Κυριακή, 24 Απριλίου, 7μμ. ER/PT
Ύστερα από διαπραγματεύσεις δύο χρόνων, Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »
Date: 20. – 25.10.2011.
Organisator: Some friends of Mount Athos – Kleanthis Symeonides
Conduct: Kleanthis Symeonides, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Communication: English… Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »
Several herbs, endemic at the Holy Mount Athos, have been found to cure chronic illnesses like rheumatism, circulatory problems, allergies etc.
The Centre for the Research and Study of such herbs has been launched at the monastery of Vatopedi with the help of Italian scientists, most notable of which is professor Roberto Micinilli of the University of Viterbo.
— Geronda, what books should be read by those who are beginning their spiritual search?
— First, they should read the New Testament to learn the meaning of Christ, to be shaken up a little; later they can read the Old Testament. Do you know how hard it is when they have read nothing and yet they come to ask for help? It is like an elementary school child going to a university professor and saying, “Help me.” What can the professor tell him? “One plus one equals two”? Others, again, are not spiritually restless; they come and say, “Father, I have no problems and I am just fine; I only dropped by to see you.” Man can never say that he has no problems, no concerns; he will have something. The struggle for the spiritual life never ends. Or some people come and tell me, “Tell us spiritual things.” It is as if they went to the grocery store and said, “Give us some groceries.” The grocer is at a loss and needs to know what they need. They need to say, “I want so much sugar, so much rice, and so on, but they only say, ‘Give us groceries.’ “It is like going to the pharmacy and saying, “Give us medicines,” without first saying what their illness is, or whether or not they went to the doctor, and what he advised them to do. Go figure! You see, whoever is seriously concerned over his spiritual condition knows, more or less, what he is lacking, and once he seeks it, he benefits.
5. The Differences between the Trials
Trials (peirasmoi) are so called because they engender experience (peira), since in the unseen war they do indeed afford spiritual knowledge to those who are attentive. Anything is called a trial if it is in opposition to our struggle for faith and true piety while we are pressing on towards submission to God, but they are subdivided into various kinds, according to the understanding of the Fathers. There are the trials of those taking part in the struggle, so that they may make additional gains and progress in their struggle. There are the trials of the slothful and unwilling, to make them beware of things that are harmful and dangerous. There are the trials of those who are drowsy or sleeping, in order to wake them up. Then again there are the trials of those who have distanced themselves and gone astray, to make them draw near to God. Different again are the trials of the righteous and friends of God, so that they may inherit the promise. There are also trials of the perfect, which God permits in order to bring them forward in the Church for the strengthening of the faithful and as an example to be emulated. There is also another kind of trial, again of the perfect, such as those endured by our Lord and the Apostles, who fulfilled the law of communion with the world by taking up the trials which are ours.
4. On Trials and the Spiritual Law
The Fathers’ saying ‘spill your blood and receive the spirit’ could be described as the ever-memorable Elder’s permanent motto. Intrepid and courageous as he was, he left no room for queries or doubts in his life. But his ardent faith also contributed to this excellent combination, and so the results were always positive. Resolve and daring are the chief characteristics of man’s freedom which manifest his will, and with faith in God – which is all that is asked of our rational nature – they arouse and bring down upon us the divine energy which heals what is infirm and completes what is wanting.
3. On Regime and Disorder
Among the duties which the ever-memorable Elder taught us during the first days of our life under him was that of good order and keeping to a regime, while he described disorder to us in the blackest of colours. He often quoted to us the saying of St Ephrem the Syrian, ‘Those who have no guidance fall like leaves’ – which signifies, as he told us, the lack of any regime. He was also in the habit of referring to various incidents in the lives of more recent Elders and particularly of the Elder Theophylact from the hermitage of St Artemios, who was renowned for his virtue and spiritual gifts.
2. On Discovering the Will of God
Our life with the Elder had the character of childhood rather than a mature state. Our effort, in basic terms, was directed towards the monastic tradition, and we exerted ourselves as forcibly as possible in the obligations of our rule. What we lacked, essentially, was the discernment of an experience in discrimination so as to evaluate the situation, so that the spiritual scope of the Elder did not elude us in its depth and breadth and height. But is it perhaps usual and inevitable for disciples to discover their teacher ‘when he is taken from them’? (cf. Lk 24:31). Untiringly, the Elder made a constant effort to pass on to us everything that is spiritual and he did not fail in his aim, because ‘the wise man has his eyes in his head’ (Eccl. 2:14). It is true, however, that ‘for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter’ (Eccl. 3:1).
At a mature age, when the Elder was no longer with us, we understood the depth of his words and his actions even down to the details, whereas while he lived they seemed, to our inexperience, riddles that made no sense. We put all our meagre powers into our effort to be obedient and not to grieve the Elder. But we had virtually no comprehension of the meaning and main aim of the spiritual law which the Elder passed on to us with such fervour. I will not go into biographical details again, but I want to comment a little on the aforementioned subject of the spiritual law, which is what chiefly governs human beings.
We observed that the Elder never embarked on anything without first praying. We would ask him about something in the future or for the next day, and his reply was that he would tell us tomorrow. The object was so that he could pray first.
Our desire focussed on knowledge of the divine will: how should one recognise the divine will? He would say, ‘Are you asking about this, boys, when it is the most basic thing?’ We would encourage him with increased curiosity, ‘But, Elder, isn’t God’s will known in general terms through the Scriptures and the whole of divine revelation? Since everything in our life is regulated – what other question should we monks have?’ And the Elder replied, ‘May God give you “understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). St Nilus the Calabrian prayed that he might be granted “to think and speak according to
the divine will.”
Part Two: Teaching
1. On Sanctification and Dispassion
We have already said how difficult it is to describe spiritual figures. We repeat this once again, adding that it is a very bold undertaking to try to enter into the depths and breadth of illumined minds and spirit-bearing beings. But this attempt becomes even harder when the person undertaking it is ignorant and inadequate to the task. We have therefore ‘cast our anxiety upon the Lord’ (1 Peter 5:7) in order that ‘in the riches of His kindness’ (Rom. 2:4) He may make known to the hearts of our readers ‘what is the breadth and depth and height’ (Eph. 3:18) of the spiritual realm into which ‘all who are led by the Spirit of God’ (Rom. 8:14) enter and and in which they move, becoming and remaining sons of God. ‘For to all who received Him… He gave power to become children of God’ (Jn 1:12).
It would be an omission not to speak of the other basic characteristic of our ever-memorable Elder, the great love and sympathy he had for his neighbour. In particular he loved the poor and those in trouble, and even more those who were suffering in soul, and for this reason they never stopped visiting us.
His last days were very painful, because his advanced heart condition interfered with his breathing and he got very tired. For us, however, this was a lesson and an opportunity to practice patient endurance. We were aware of his struggle, and while we tried to give him some relief, he would console us in appropriate ways with practical examples, speaking especially of the vanity of the world. He told us, ‘The day for me to leave is getting near. The way I am now, I’m not good for anything, and I can’t struggle any more either.’ The ever-memorable Elder did not in the least forget his aim; and with various contrivances, at every pretext life provided he found a means to struggle and bring forth fruit. Being unable to move or to lie down because of his illness, he sat in a makeshift armchair – a folding one – and wept constantly for the vanity of life. He awaited his release from this life as the greatest happiness that could befall him and murmured troparia for the departed, when he was not having too much difficulty breathing. ‘Arsenios,’ he said jokingly, ‘When are we leaving? You’re not praying, it seems, and we’re delayed.’ For almost forty days, his last days, he ate nothing: he just received Communion every day and took a little water-melon.
11. The move to New Skete
‘Arsenios,’ said the Elder one day in June 1951, ‘it looks as if our stay here is over. The boys have fallen ill. Who’s going to look after who now – they us, or we them?’ It was true: even I had begun to weaken, although I was a country boy and somewhat used to a hard life. I had a constant pain in my chest, I was coughing up blood and having stomach haemorrhages and I felt almost permanently unwell. My younger brother Ephrem was weaker, and in consequence he too joined the list of those ‘on suspension’.
The Elder then called us and told us his opinion and his decision that we should move somewhere lower down and nearer the sea, as the needs of our life required. But the foremost reason, as I have already explained, was economy towards us. That made me wonder at his discretion, that he preferred to sacrifice his personal peace in order to make allowance for our weakness, whereas he was by temperament very hard on himself.
The Elder very often stressed the importance of vigil as the most practical method in the spiritual life, essential in all three states in the struggle. When the monk is starting out, at the first stage, which is the period of purification, all the systems of what is called practical work are used. At that stage, when the beginner is struggling with bodily afflictions, the most beneficial factor in subduing the passions and suppressing the actual commission of sin is keeping vigil. This applies particularly to unnatural movements, which are often intensified by the vigour of the body which is naturally overabundant in strong people. No other method of struggle helps as much as deprivation of sleep. Truly, vigil dissolves the body, as the ever-memorable Elder used to say.
Perhaps I am now making myself incomprehensible or exaggerating, in the view of those who do not know this language. But it would be an omission if we were to conceal the full truth in order to please people at large, and so downplay the reality of how men of God think and act. The Elder knew the inner state of each one of us, and explained to us in detail how and why each thing happened to us, whether it was thoughts or the operation of passions or even the operation of grace; and also the way to be cured and free ourselves of things that happened to us. He was full of the grace and illumination of God, and gave richly from the abundance of his heart, without contrivance or effort or specialised qualifications but out of the treasure of his life experience, and in a way that was simple and convincing. He offered this to each individually according to what was preoccupying him; and when some of his advice and teachings exceeded the disciple’s capacity to receive them, he would supplement them with his prayer. The ever-memorable Elder also had the invariable practice never to undertake anything without praying and receiving guidance, and this was why we did not receive an answer immediately when we asked him about something we had a mind to do.
10. From St Basil to Little St Anna
‘The solitaries lead a blessed life, for divine love gives them wings.’
Once someone’s heart is struck by the darts of this love, then nothing, no pretext or reason, can bind him or hold him captive. ‘Let’s go, Arsenios, let’s go! We have lost too much of our freedom from care and our stillness. Let’s go somewhere else to carry on our struggle, where we are not known, so that people can’t easily find us and deprive us of what we then lose, and they can’t even see!’
From information from older fathers of St Anna, they found out about some caves over by Little St Anna. These were below the hermitage of the ever-memorable Father Savas, the spiritual father, towards the sea; some Russian monks had lived there at one time, and two small cisterns were still preserved. When they had investigated the place and found that it really was a suitable and quiet place, isolated and hidden from the mass of people, they took up their poor clothes and a few books and settled themselves there. That was winter time, January 1938.
Although they stayed in their hut more than before, they did go out from time to time in the summer to various places of stillness, and would carry on their struggle in the peaceful environment they had chosen, which was suited for such a purpose. On one occasion they went to the kathisma of St Gregory Palamas above the Great Lavra, where there is a little church, and there is a tradition that at one time the saint stayed there to find stillness, when he was in the region of the Lavra. It was late afternoon when they went, and they intended to stay a week or so, because the Elder felt very much at ease in that place. In the evening, when they had rested and begun their vigil praying alone, as they always did, the demons began causing a disturbance and then shouting, ‘You’ve burnt us, you’ve burnt us! Go away, go away from here!’, and they cursed in a crude and wicked manner. This time Father Arsenios heard them too, and was frightened. He ran to the Elder and asked him, ‘Why are they shouting like that, Elder? Who are they?’ The Elder reassured him and told him, ‘They are temptations.
9. Various Trials and Manifest Aid from our Lady the Mother of God
The Apostle Paul informs the fullness of the Church about his trials and his affliction, which were so extensive the he ‘despaired of life itself’ (2 Cor. 1:8). He stresses that he was ‘utterly crushed beyond his strength’; and corresponding to this we have the patristic interpretation and practice which describes how terrible and numerous are the trials which lurk in the way of those who wish to be saved. Of course, there are also other passages in Scripture which deal with the same subject, and it may be said that the chief prerequisite for salvation is endurance of many trials. But it is the Apostle Paul in particular who reveals to us the mystery and the meaning of tribulations – the chief of the Apostles, the giant of the Church, the exact image of Christ. If he, Paul, who constantly urges us to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1), and who quite simply carried out all that has been commanded us (Lk 17:10), according to our Lord’s word – if Paul expresses himself in this way, saying that the tribulations that are for salvation and perfection can push one to despair even of life itself, then one can understand the furnace that our Fathers passed through, those who in ancient times and more recently have held to the same path (cf. Phil. 3:16).
8. The Trials grow more Intense
Any extra aid from grace, when it comes legitimately to those who labour systematically, is like a prize, a good mark or a promotion, upon which the faith of contemplation increases perceptibly, according to the Fathers. And for beginners this is a sign of the bitterest struggle, while for those who are advanced it is an extension of illumination.
I used the word ‘systematically’, and with fear I shall explain in brief the difference this makes. The grace of God give help, comfort and consolation to all believers who live according to conscience. It gives to each according to what he requires to strengthen or console him. These gifts are exceptional, without repetition or continuation, and belong to the overall, general providence of God by which He sustains His creatures.
7. The Discovery of the Hesychast Elder Daniel as Spiritual Father
From the very beginning of his venture, the Elder longed to find a spiritual father: a spiritual man, in the full sense of the word, who could teach him and guide him in this subtle and mysterious life. And despite all his disappointments, as he told us, he never ceased to search and hope. There was a rumour about ascetics whom most people never saw, who lived in obscurity and would present themselves from time to time to certain priests, themselves spiritual men, and receive Communion. For a long time this was a problem and a trial for the Elders, because they kept trying and searching constantly in the hope of meeting such people. In their persistent efforts they went round all the caves and huts, and any other trace of earlier habitation or place where there was evidence that some ascetic had once lived.
Hiermonk Benedict of Holy Mount Athos
12. Results of the thoughts.
When the thought ages inside us, we then become servants to attempt its accomplishment. Attempt is the attachment of a person to material items and his desire to obtain only these items. Thus, the person’s mind becomes detached from the eternal nourishment. And when the person’s mind withdraws totally from God, then «it becomes either ferocious or de- vilish». That is, the person becomes either as a beast or a demon. We observe this happening in today’s consumer society. The person’s mind has become adhered only to the earthly and has no thought whatsoever of heaven. The result is that the person is transformed into a beast and handicraft (technology) in whatever form, has been deified.