The Return to God from Earth to Heaven
Elder Paisios of Mount Athos
Elder Paisios, whose real name was Arsenios Eznepides, was born in Farasa of Kappadokia, in Asia Minor, on July 25th 1924, on the day of Saint Anna. His parents were devout people. His father’s name was Prodromos and he was the president of Farasa. His mother’s name was Evlogia.
On August 7th, 1924, just before their departure for Greece according to the rules of the Exchange, he was baptized by Saint Arsenios in Farasa, who gave him his name. On September 14th, 1924, his parents arrived to Pireus. After several problems and after remaining for a while in Corfu, they ended up in Konitsa, where Arsenios as a child finished primary school. Until the day he joined the army, he was working as a carpenter.
In 1945, he joined the army, where he was distinguished for the integrity of his character, for his spirit of self-sacrifice, for his bravery and for his great offer to his country during the military operations of the guerrilla war. He was dismissed in 1950.
In 1953, he left for Agion Oros where he successively remained as a monk in the Monasteries of Esfigmenou and Filotheou. In 1958, he went to the monastery of The Birth of Virgin Mary at Stomio Konitsa and in 1962 he departed for the monastery of Sina where he remained for a decade. In 1964, he returned to Agion Oros (Iveron Skete) where he was spiritually connected to the Russian priest-monk Tychon. After his hospitalization in a hospital of Salonica, where he was operated in the lungs in 1996, he returned to Agion Oros, to Katounakia. In 1968, he went to the monastery of Stavronikita (cell of Timios Prodromos) and in 1979, he moved to the Koutloumousian cell of Panagouda, where thousands of souls visited him and received help.
On November 4th, 1993, he exited Agion Oros for the last time in order to attend, as he used to do, in the vigil of the feast of Saint Arsenios (November 10th) at the monastery of Souroti. He remained there for a short period of time and decided to return to Agion Oros. While he was preparing to leave, his health rapidly aggravated. He was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in the large intenstine and doctors decided to operate on him on February 4th, 1994. He remained at the Theagenio Hospital for ten days and then, he was transferred to the Convent of Saint John the Theologian Souroti for recovery. However, the condition of his health aggravated severely due to metastasis of the cancer to the liver and lungs and his transportation to Agion Oros was impossible.
On July 12th, 1994, at 11.00 a.m, Tuesday, Elder Paisios surrendered his holy soul into the hands of our Lord. Elder Paisios died and was buried in the Holy Convent of Saint John the Theologian in Souroti, Salonica.
The Return to God
from Earth to Heaven
The Good God created angels, but some of them became demons due to their pride.
Then, God made man to complete the ranks of the fallen angels
and left the demons free, to a certain extent and for a certain time, to help us
through their wickedness, meaning, to take examinations here on earth
and pass into the eternal life of Paradise.
As long as man is alive, he has every right to take spiritual examinations.
There is no re- examination.
Let us, therefore, struggle to get at least the spiritual pass mark and enter Paradise. Amen.
He, who struggles spiritually, fights against the enemy, devil, and so it is only natural that he will also be fought back. Those, who defeat the noetic enemy, shall be crowned by Christ.
Experience is acquired through the fire of the demons, which the soldier of Christ comes under during the spiritual battle.
The enemy, before starting the battle, begins the bombardment with thoughts.
The Jesus prayer is the heaviest weapon against the thoughts of the enemy.
The spiritual prosperity of the person engaged in the struggle will not depend on how good the Spiritual Father is, but on the good thoughts of the disciple.
The disciple, who allows himself a wicked thought about his elder and withdraws his confidence from him, collapses all by himself, just as the dome falls down, when the central stone, the key- stone, is removed.
In order to cleanse the mind and the heart, man must neither admit wicked thoughts nor think badly. He should act simply and humbly and fight with a keen sense of honor.
Pure thoughts have greater spiritual power than any other ascesis, fasting, vigil etc for those who fight to preserve their spiritual and bodily purity.
When there is no pride, the natural struggle of the flesh recedes through fasting, vigil and prayer.
When a wicked thought conspires to act with the old self, it does double damage to the soul, in the same way as when the devil conspires to act with people, he does double damage to the world.
However blasphemous thoughts come from the devil and not from humans.
With blasphemous thoughts devil usually torments sensitive people, in order to distress them and bring them close to despair.
Blasphemous thoughts are like airplanes that annoy us with their noise, against our will and without being able to do anything to prevent it.
The heavy flak is psalmody, because it is both prayer to Christ and disdain for the devil.
At the beginning of spiritual life, the struggler casts out wicked thoughts
through spiritual reading, unceasing prayer and ascesis combined with a keen sense of honor.
After this, only good thoughts come. Later on, even the good thoughts stop and man feels empty; then, divine enlightenment comes.
A man of God knows the evil one but the evil one does not know the good thoughts of men.
The greatest sickness of our times is the vain thoughts of secular people, which bring stress. Only Christ can provide a cure with spiritual serenity, along with eternity, provided man repents and turns to Him.
A great sinner has much of which to be humbled and great humbleness receives Divine Grace, provided man avoids in the future occasions and causes (of sin) in order to preserve it.
Desert is a great help in erasing the passions of the soul, because weeds don’t thrive in the arid wilderness, while in a fen, they grow like reeds. Do not admire those who go near the moon, but those who avoid the secular belief and approach God and rejoice.
Man, who draws away from God, cannot find rest in his soul either in this fleeting life or in eternity.
Because, he who does not believe in God and in the future eternal life, remains inconsolable in this life and condemns his soul eternally.
The more people withdraw from natural simple life and move towards luxury, the more human stress increases. And as long as secular politeness expands, simplicity, joy and the natural human smile are lost.
God is infinite intellect and man, through his intellect, approaches Him.
God is infinite love and man, with a pure heart, experiences God. God is simple and man believes with simplicity and struggles humbly and with a keen sense of honor experiences the mysteries of God.
Years go by, people grow old. So, do not sit at the crossroad. Choose a Cross depending on your sense of honor and walk one of the two paths of our Church, and follow Christ to the Crucifixion, if you want to rejoice in the Resurrection.
Human crosses are just small crosses that help us towards the salvation of our soul, while the Cross of Christ was very heavy, because did not use His divine power for Himself.
The best medicine for every ordeal of us is the greatest ordeal of our fellowmen, if we can only call it to mind.
Jesus is sweet and if you lay the bitterness of your pain on Christ, bitterness is transformed into sweet syrup.
Do you want your prayer to become a prayer of the heart, in order to be welcomed by God?
Make the pain of your fellowman your own. Even just a sigh from the heart for your neighbor will bring you positive results. The divine information of your welcome prayer is the divine consolation man feels after praying.
Peaceful prayer at night helps a lot with its calmness and is also more effective for our spiritual growth, just as the silent rain at night is of great benefit to growing plants.
Sleep after sunset is of great benefit to the body. But also vigil after sunset is of great benefit to the soul, along with devout prayer.
Use your komboskini all the time, until the spiritual oil warms up and the spiritual engine starts, so that the heart can work on the prayer on its own.
Man shall receive divine aid according to the sacrifice and prayer he undertakes for himself or for his fellowman.
Having trust in God for things that are not humanly possibly is a secret continuous prayer with positive results.
He, who trusts in God, sows glorification and receives divine joy and eternal blessing. He, who sows misery, reaps misery and stores up stress.
Sweet life is not experienced by those who enjoy it in a worldly way, but by those who live spiritually and accept bitterness with joy, like a healing herb for soul’s health, and eat only for the preservation of their body.
If your neighbor is hungry, give him your food. If there aren’t any hungry people, give your food to hungry animals, because you will be spiritually benefited from fasting for Paradise, while poor animals do not have Paradise; the good thing for them is that they don’t have Hell either.
The joy man feels, when he receives material blessing, is human joy. But the joy man feels, when he gives, is divine. Divine joy comes with giving!
The spiritual change the soul receives from a small act of charity or kindness to its fellowman, along with the rejoicing of the heart, cannot be given by the greatest cardiologist, even if you offer him a sack full of dollars.
He, who tires himself for his neighbor out of pure love, shall find rest in tiredness. While he who loves himself and is lazy, gets tired just by sitting.
The hard working man, whether a monk or a layman, will spiritually prosper because he will work with a keen sense of honor. While the person who does not cultivate the sense of honor given to him by God, will be good for nothing in both secular and monastic life.
Poor animals have better manners than insensitive people, because they are bought by both good and bad people and obey inconsiderately. They also work hard and show patience without any complaint or reward. Therefore, animals are better than us in poverty, patience and obedience.
Greater love has the one who carries the load of his neighbor’s fault than the one who carries the heavy bag of his co traveler.
Accept injustice as a great blessing, because you save up heavenly blessing from it.
However, don’t’ go looking for injustice, because this hides a subtle depravity.
When someone wrongs you, do not say: "May God bring him the same misery ", because you curse with politeness.
Whenever someone errs and then sincerely asks forgiveness, forgive him each time he errs with kindness and love him. The cunning person, however, who pretends to ask forgiveness in order to gain what he wants and continuously involve you in things that are spiritually harmful to other people, you should forgive seventy seven times and from now on love him but keep him at distance and pray for him.
Accept injustice with joy, as long as it does not harm you spiritually. The more spiritual a person is, the fewer rights he or she has in this life, because the rights of the righteous are held by Christ in heavenly life.
The more you tire your body for Christ, the more your soul rejoices close to Him and your contribution towards your fellowmen is more effective, since it is spiritual.
The compassionate man puts himself in the position of the person in pain, prays for him, comforts him and is himself rewarded by Christ with divine consolation in proportion to his own pain.
On the contrary, the hardhearted man seeks to take someone else’s position; when he occupies it, he is himself occupied by stress and lives a measure of Hell even in this life.
Within our love for our neighbor lies concealed our great love for Christ. Within our devotion to Our Most Holy Lady and the saints lies concealed our great devotion, again, for Christ- the Triune God.
The holy angels praise God unceasingly in winged devotion: Holy, Holy…
In order for man to fly like an angel, he has to get rid of all his passions and give his material goods to the poor. For where there is material wealth, there is spiritual poverty.
Even a robber has compassion for and helps a poor man, while the same robber makes a rich man poor in a nasty way. It is good for people to willingly become poor, through the Gospel of Christ, in order to inherit His heavenly Kingdom. Since the heavenly life of human beings will be angelic, some youngsters make a start from this life with a keen sense of honor by becoming monks and living in poverty, chastity and obedience.
There is only one angelic habit for both monks and nuns. “There is neither male nor female”.
In order for the monastic mentality to grow in our hearts, our secular mentality must first die and become leaf-mould. For the passions to die, we have to think of death, the judgment day and suffer out of keen sense of honor for Christ, who suffered even unto death in order to redeem us!
It is good for a monk to die in his place of repentance, but in repentance.
If you know the great value of the angelic habit, you won’t seek other ranks and titles. If you become a proper monk, you will rejoice like an angel on earth and in heaven. Otherwise, worldly people will mock you and the angels will be saddened.
A monk who lives in a worldly way is tormented and unsuccessful in his life. Where to place him in the next life will be a problem for Christ. Is he to be placed with the monks or with the laymen?
A Monk is light, a lighthouse on the rocks and not a lantern for the world.
When a monk doesn’t see people for the sake of Christ, then he sees many people and helps in a divine way, by praying for things that would be humanly impossible.
Monks are the “radio operators” of our Church and for this reason, they withdraw from the noises of the world- in order to tune in with Christ through prayer and be able to help.
If a monk proudly compares himself to the laity, then he will fall and become a layman. If he humbly seeks the mercy of God, struggles and sees all people as good and saintly, then he is imitating the saints.
In order for his soul to be spiritually resurrected, man must be crucified; the passions of the soul must die, particularly egotism, the anarchic child of pride, which is a hindrance to divine grace and destroys people.
If a monk wants to prosper spiritually, he must abandon logic, humble himself and work with his heart. If a nun wants to prosper, she must abandon jealousy, become spiritually mature and give precedence to logic, in order to stop her heart.
Don’t consider spiritual work on yourself as time wasted, because it is a spiritual prerequisite for yourself and for the positive assistance to your fellowmen.
Be very careful not to acquire a good name for yourself, because then your name will be the greatest enemy of your quietude. A monk should be even more careful not to get a good name for his meticulous spiritual life, because then all his labors are wasted due to the praise of lay people. When someone repents for his careless life, then he pays off a sin or two since he has fallen in the esteem of other people.
If you make your good acts known and are proud of them, they are crossed off. You have labored in vain and will fall into sin.
A Monk who thinks in secular terms seems to have lost his way. Although he started out to get to Christ, his soul is going into the world.
Monks, who are always involved with superfluous buildings and worldly embellishments, reveal that they are earthly- bricks and mud- and not at all of the divine intellect.
Simple dwellings and humble objects spiritually transport the monks to the caves and unadorned hermitages of our holy fathers and in this way, they are spiritually benefited. Worldly objects, however, recall the world and make the monks worldly in their souls.
The Athonite saints were people like us. Athos was a wild mountain, like the other mountains. Our fathers struggled with a keen sense of honor and sanctified themselves and the mountain, which became known as the Holy Mountain. And now we boast of being Athonites!
Our holy fathers sanctified the desert and transformed it into a spiritual commonwealth. We, unfortunately, have transformed it into a secular commonwealth.
Each secular style order in Monasticism is also a great spiritual disorder.
Do not try my brother to adapt the tranquil desert to your restless worldly self but respect the desert and it will help you with its tranquility to become deserted by your passions and then, Christ shall shed His grace upon you.
If you want to become a hesychast and live in quietude, first acquire internal disquietude through good thoughts. The beginner who cuts himself of the brotherhood in order to become a hesychast is like an unripe fig that is cut from the tree but still oozes milk. It seems he is still in the need of milk.
In the old days, there were more elders and so, the younger monks progressed spiritually. In our days, when most of us are simply old, what can the young ones do?
In the old days, our fathers had a fighting spirit. They fasted a lot and preferred their food plainly boiled and insipid, which is why they had sanctity and bodily health. In our days, by avoiding asceticism and plainly boiled food, we become insipid ourselves. Even the hen, hadn’t it kept searching around for food and instead got rid of its fat, would be able to fly and then the hawk wouldn’t have caught it.
When you carry a bag around, you can’t wait to put it down. How much more so, if you constantly carry around extra weight, which increases with gluttony and is harmful to the health!
An ascetic man sees his skeletal body as a friend of his soul that helps him sanctify it. A well-fed man, however, makes his body the enemy of his soul and sets them at odds. The evil one will then seek an opportunity to bombard him with obscene thoughts.
After the fast, the bread is sweet. After the vigil, sleep is sweet. And after tiredness, even a bare stone can give us better rest than an armchair.
The more you avoid human consolation, the more divine consolation draws near you.
If people lived simply, in accordance with the Gospel and close to Christ, they would be sweetened spiritually by Him and not be stifled by worldly stress. Then, they wouldn’t be embittered by taking pills for the nerves and feeling like vegetables.
Now that conveniences have exceeded all boundaries, they have become inconveniences. Machines have multiplied, distractions have also multiplied and man has been made into a machine. Machines and iron order men around and this is why their hearts have become as hard as steel.
Secular evolution, along with the sinful freedom, has brought spiritual slavery. Spiritual submission to the will of God is freedom for the soul and spiritual supervision brings divine security.
The responsibility of the spiritual father depends on the degree of his disciple’s obedience.
The beginner is like an empty tape- recorder cassette; the elder will be held responsible.
Submission is not the formal obedience of the disciple but rather, the joyful submission of his way of thinking to the spirit of his elder. If you retain your own will, you cast out the will of God and hinder divine grace.
A humble person does not have errand and egoism, he accepts humbly the advices, and becomes even philosopher.
To subjugate someone, he must either respect or be afraid of his fellowman. The subjugation by devotion is intellectual, by fear is military discipline.
If each of us does not try to be correct he, in order to multiply the good things , how can predominate in a good way?
Do not stress yourselves , beyond your forces, and create stress. Christ is an affectionate Father and not a tyrant. Our conscientious work makes Christ happy .
If we cannot fight a lot or by no means, at least we must accept it humbly and ask Gods mercy. If would help not to accept it Christ would not ask it.
In order to listen Gods Speech, we should synchronize ourselves in the same frequency that emits Christ via the Holy Gospel, and work out His divine commands with devotion.
Since humble people have no will of their own and no egotism, they humbly accept advice and they become philosophers as well.
If you submit to someone, you either have to hold him in respect or have fear of him. Submission out of respect is spiritual, while that out of fear is military discipline.
If each one of us doesn’t improve himself so that there will be more goodness in the world, how will goodness ever prevail in a good way?
Don’s force yourself beyond your strength, out of egotism, and create stress. Christ is a loving Father, not a tyrant. Christ rejoices when we struggle with a keen sense of honor.
If we can’t struggle much or even not at all, at least let us humbly recognize this and ask for God’s mercy. If this recognition were not for our own benefit, Christ wouldn’t ask it from us.
If you want to hear the divine message of the Word of God and undergo a change, you have to tune in to the wave- length Christ is transmitting through the Holy Gospel and apply His divine commandments devoutly.
Devotion is one thing, reverence is another. Eastern Orthodox devotion differs from Western European reverence. Devotion has divine grace, while reverence is of the human mind.
Today, when there is so much confusion in the brain, we have abandoned patristic books and taken up magazines that confuse people even more. Most of us, whether we are experienced or not, have abandoned the Holy Gospel and are rushing to grasp the Rudder and this is why the sacred vessel, our Church, is being tossed by the waves.
It is good for people to read spiritual books but it is even better to apply them by living spiritually.
In the old days, people had value in their lives, sincerity, integrity and so on. Material things were cheap then, too. Today, unfortunately, we no longer have any value in our lives and instead, material goods have gone up in value.
In the old days, Christians would make the sign of the cross before doing anything and pray hard before tackling an important matter. Today, unfortunately, most of us not only fail to pray about important matters but we don’t even think. So, other people end up paying for our thoughtlessness.
Every good idea that enters the human mind is from above, from God. The only thing that is ours is the mucous that runs from our nose when we have a cold.
Whether you are a mirror or the lid of a tin can, you won’t dazzle unless the sun’s rays fall on you.
Don’t be distressed if you have inherited faults and don’t boast if you have inherited virtues because God will examine the efforts people have made on their old life.
If a mild temper helps in achieving spiritual progress, then a fretful temper helps even more provided the power of anger is directed against evil, against the passions of the soul.
Just as there is endless work in a carved wooden icon, when it is done with a magnifying lens, so is there endless work to be done in people’s souls, when the eyes of their souls are cleaned and become telescopes.
If, on occasion, you don’t find anyone in whom to see your spiritual reflexion, leave your cell for a moment and look at yourself from a distance, as if you were a different person and you will find lots of faults. .
Unless you get to know your old self so that you can be humbled naturally, humbleness cannot become a state of being, so that divine grace can abide in you.
Do not seek to become an elder because even the thought is doomed to fail. Nor should you want to act like an elder, if you haven’t first been a disciple.
If you have become a captain by yourself without first serving your time as a deck boy, then at least seek the advice of navigators, so that you and your crew don’t sink (namely, you don’t mess things up).
He who seeks distinctions on his own will also struggle on his own for his whole life. If other people promote him, he will have people standing by him. While, if he is being informed by God, he will have God standing by him.
If by any chance anyone of us the elders is spiritually squint, then let us not ask for blind obedience from our monks, for we shall all fall over the cliff together, as it is written: “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mt. 15:14).
Don’t hurry into a monastery before you have untwined all your skeins of wool in the world, if you want to intertwine smoothly within the brotherhood.
Before you leave the world, make a heart-felt prayer to Christ and entrust your parents and siblings to God. Don’t think of them at all after that and then Christ will be obliged to help them.
A beginner, who thinks of his parents and siblings, hinders divine help. If he also thinks of the world, it means that he has very quickly forgotten what he went through to detach himself from it.
If you can’t detach yourself from the world, at least struggle to uproot the worldly mentality inside you.
It is difficult to uproot the world from within us, if we don’t first uproot ourselves from the world and its seductions.
It is difficult for people to acquire divine love unless they get rid of their love for their small family and enter our big family- the one of Adam- God’s family.
A beginner should not inhale a worldly way of thinking at the beginning of his monastic life, because then he will sizzle like a candle with a wet wick.
A young monk, who is bumptious and egotistical should not be humbled suddenly by his elder, because then, he will push out off-shoots like a young tree that is full of sap when it has been pruned too hard. While your spiritual tree is still small and its branches are low, accept spiritual fencing and the binding of restrictions with joy so that you won’t be cropped and made useless by the goats. Be patient and you will grow spirituality, so that you can nurture others with your fruit and cool them with your shade.
A small tree is gently tied with grass, not with wire; otherwise, its bark will get injured and become stunted. Restrictions on a beginner should also be gentle and applied with kindness, so that he is not stunted spiritually.
A spiritual child should not give spiritual rights to anyone else than his elder, nor should he tell his innermost thoughts to worldly people and humble himself before them, because he will be harmed spiritually by people who don’t know the great virtue of humility.
The war against the flesh is not an impediment to a young person wanting to become a monk, just as long as he is not contemplating marriage. With a little ascesis, fasting, vigil and prayer, the body submits to the spirit- when of course there is a humble way of thinking. At the same time, the young person also sets aside a heavenly reward from his struggle.
Don’t start out on the monastic road unless your heart is entirely your own, otherwise you will fail.
A young man who gives his entire heart to Christ and entrusts himself to an experienced spiritual father, puts off easily the old nature, just like a new potato that is easily peeled. But an older man, unless he is very simple and humble, is like an old potato that is hard to peel. Even if it boiled, you still have to peel it hot.
The cleanest (monastic) habit is the one that was put on at an early age, even if it has become a little dusty over the years, rather than that of an elderly monk, who takes it clean and ironed from the tailor at his last moments and goes straight to the grave in it.
The greatest remembrance service for the people in the world and our forebears is our spiritual progress, because only then they are entitled to divine help. This is apart from our prayer, which is bold before God and the joy our grandparents feel over us, who are their pride and joy. But if we live a bad life, they suffer threefold.
The greatest and best parent of many children is the person who has been reborn spiritually and helps with the spiritual rebirth of his children, to ensure their souls attain Paradise.
Those who have been born crippled or have become so through their own or someone else’s carelessness shall be ranked with the confessors if they don’t complain but humbly glorify God and live close to Christ.
The Good Lord is full of a keen sense of honor and is moved even by our worthless offering! While we eat the sweet honey and offer God the wax, He still rejoices over our offering!
While God feeds the trees on garbage and manure and they make beautiful aromatic fruits for us and He gives us His blessings in abundance, we poor people, with our ingratitude, although we are first nourished with these beautiful fruits and then make them mature, are still as proud as ever!
Everyone receives the rich blessings of God but only a few people thank Him and are grateful and joyful, close to Christ.
Although many people have everything, they are sorrowful, because they don’t have Christ.
The Birth of the Mother of God, September 8th, 1980.
The Coutloumousian Cell of the Panagouda
The Holly Mountain
The End and to God Be Glory