Elder Joseph of Vatopedi: “The changes in spiritual life”

Question: In addition to what you have already told us, geronta, what else must we do when these changes appear in our spiritual life? Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Praying and fasting in our Orthodox Christian life…

We all understand how important prayer is for the spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian. But how are we to pray? Two forms of prayer are evident in the Orthodox Christian life: private prayers said at home and unified Church prayer. Each has certain special characteristics. Our Saviour gave instructions in the Gospel about private prayer: «When you pray, go into your room and shut the door, pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly» (Mt.6:6). Of course, home prayers are basic to us. Prayer is deeply intimate and heartfelt. Everyone who has sincerely searched for heartfelt and moving prayer, knows well how easy and natural it is to pray in solitude, in silence and peace. Moreover, our Lord firmly warns us against hypocritical prayer done for show, to elicit praise from people.

When a Christian prays to God, he must strive to contemplate the words of the prayers which he reads, and to concentrate his thought on the content of the. Everyone knows how difficult it is to struggle against the pressure of outside thoughts and images which tiresomely besiege the person who is praying. This comes to us both from our personal distraction and from the indirect action of the evil-one. The task of a Christian is to apply all his powers to persistently shake off all these side thoughts (which are sometimes impure) that torment him, and to pray piously and with concentration. One should remember that an extra pressure of thoughts and images—often vile and blasphemous—comes to us directly from Satan, and the struggle of resisting these thoughts is a direct struggle against evil. Consequently, one receives great benefit from such a struggle. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (12)

Continuued from (11)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi


As was proper and natural, the place of Saint Joachim’s spiritual birth assumed the duty of bringing to light and honoring its saintly offspring. In 1991, the Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, and fathers of the Monastery went to Ithaki and, with the help of the inhabitants of the island, identified the place of the Saint’s grave. They arranged with the Metropolitan Bishop of the diocese for the translation* of the Saint’s relics on May 23 of the following year, 1992. News of this forthcoming event soon became known to the people of Ithaki, as well as to the faithful throughout all of Greece.

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Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (11)

Continued from (10)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi


On March 1,1868, blessed Papoulakis was resting on his hard mat at the home of a Christ-loving man named H. Paizi Lianou in Vathy. He peacefully and calmly foretold that he was preparing for his eternal journey. Lying on his scanty mat on the floor, and now completely exhausted, he refused all food. His friend Maratos the doctor visited him and asked if there was anything that he needed or that he could do for him. The Elder replied, «There is nothing that I need; I’m getting ready to depart.» He called for the devout and virtuous priest-monk Agapios to draw near him for the last time. Having confessed, he then became silent, waiting to give over his spirit to its Maker whom he so loved and to whom he had devoted his entire life.

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Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (10)

Continued from (9)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

Olga Sophianou of Kionio recounts that a fellow villager of hers, an older woman named Garoupho, lived alone without any human consolation. Papoulakis felt sorry for her and would go regularly to visit her. A neighbor, however, began slandering her out of envy, saying that she was having a sinful relationship with the Saint. The woman heard these tales and became very upset, but she continued to welcome Papoulakis, without telling him anything, and also offering him food as always. The Saint received information by the grace of God, and told the old lady Garoupho, «Do not be sad. Mitsalou, who falsely accused us, will get ‘the carboni’ (i.e., bad pimple) inside the nose, and no one will be able to greet her besause it will stink». And indeed it came to pass just as the Saint had said.


Olga Sophianou tells us that a certain woman in Kionio violated the fast days of the Church. One Friday, as she was cooking meat, the Saint passed by her house and asked if she was cooking something. Out of shame before Papoulakis, she lied, saying that she was cooking only vegetables. The holy man instructed her, «Open the pot with the food.» She opened it and found the meat full of worms. Thus the Saint taught her in a practical way not to violate the fast.

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Papoulakis, Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (9)

Continued from (8)

by the Blessed Elder Joseph οf Vatopaidi

Agios Ioakeim Papoulakis

K. Koutsouvelis from Kionio recounted that a certain man from Anogi had been nurturing a bitter hatred for a fellow villager of his, for reasons of honor. Unable to free himself from this passion, he was thinking about taking the man’s life and was already planning in his mind how to carrying it out. No one suspected his intentions, and perhaps even the intended victim had no idea of his dis¬position. One day he was informed that his enemy was in Stavros, and that during the night he would be returning to Anogi. He saw this as a suitable opportunity to wait in ambush in a hidden place, and the moment the man passed by, he would shoot him with his gun. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »



Like so many other aspects of our spiritual life, emptiness cannot replace fullness. To trust in God and to rejoice in His goodness is an act of fullness, an act that fills the heart with good things.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

I admit to being a child of the 60’s (which means I was born in the early 50’s). I have lived through a period in American history marked by assasinations, abuse of power, incompetence and unrelenting and outrageous pieties from the lips of the impious. As such, like many in my generation, I am tempted by cynicism – an assurance that things are never as they seem but that things seem mainly because someone wants them to seem that way. Of course, cynics rarely have to repent because history frequently supports their suspicions.

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the chosen

In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear the parable of the Royal Son’s wedding feast.

In a direct historical sense this parable refers to the Jews, who were called, but who disdained the honor of their heavenly calling. However, just like the entire Gospel in general, this particular parable is not limited to a single meaning, but contains greater depths.

The image of the man who came to the feast without wearing wedding garments reveals to us the principle that for our salvation it is not enough to be among those who are called. We still need “our own” clothes, i.e. personal striving in life which transforms us from the “called” into the “chosen.” Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

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


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


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 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



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 »