The Hitler Icon: How Mount Athos Honored the Führer

 

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An image of Adolf Hitler greeted visitors to Mount Athos in 1941 (Source: Mönchsland Athos)

NOTE: Political instability in Greece during the mid-20th century that affected Mount Athos included Nazi occupation from the Easter season of 1941 through late 1944, followed immediately by the Greek Civil War in a struggle where Communist efforts failed. The Battle of Greece was reported in Time Magazine [see the end of this article]. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, and Hitler agreed. Mount Athos survived World War II nearly untouched, and for the remainder of the war, the monks of Mount Athos referred to Adolf Hitler as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” (German: Hoher Protektor des heiligen Berges).

In an attempt to defend and justify Mount Athos’ allegiance with Hitler during WWII, Greek Orthodox apologists state that it was simply a strategic measure to protect the mountain from Bulgarian occupation and de-hellenization.1 They criticize the jouranlists who write “negatively” about this incident in Athonite history as “slanderers” and “accusers” of the Church; purposely hiding this important information in an attempt to tarnish Mount Athos’ image. However, these Orthodox apologists fall into the same “sin of concealing facts.” The defenders of Athos fail to mention that in the time leading up to the war—especially during the 30s—the Hagiorites were consumed with fervor and anticipation for Constantinople’s liberation as foretold in spurious prophecies that are not officially accepted by the Orthodox Church or the Church Fathers. Yet, the majority of Athonite monks during the 30s not only believed in them, but felt that they were living through their fulfillment.

The Anonymous Prophesy of 1053,2 was a popular prophecy on everyone’s lips before and during the war. This prophecy was virtually unheard of in the Orthodox world until 1914.3 There was a belief that Germany would be the first country to become Orthodox after the “New European War.”4

A common belief of Athonite monks during the 30s, as conveyed in various publications by pilgrims of that era was:

“You know Germany is going to become Orthodox very soon. The Holy Fathers have prophesied it. It is said that there is now a great king ruling in Germany, who slaughters all the Jews and Bolsheviks. We love him for that. It is the beginning of the prophecy.”5

The Triple Occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers (1941-1944)
Germany (red), Italy (blue), Bulgaria (green).

THERE IS A PIOUS notion out there that organized religion, if practiced devoutly enough, can preserve human beings from immoral thoughts and actions, particularly those stemming from the seductions of supposedly secular political ideologies. The Protestants have their “mighty fortress” of Lutheran song and liturgy, the Catholics have their eternal Vatican, and the Greek Orthodox Church preserves its theological purity in the twenty monasteries of Mount Athos, “the Garden of the Virgins,” on a peninsula in northern Greece, where all females – including dogs and cats – are banished from the premises so as to protect the monks from any impure sensations.* However, even the most cursory glance at the historical record reveals that the devout are not only as likely as anyone else to fall for a totalitarian bill of goods, they may even be more susceptible than the average citizen.

Mount Athos can serve as a case in point. In the summer of 1941, just months after the German invasion and occupation of Greece, Professor Franz Dölger led an official Nazi expedition to the holy mountain.6 The journey, which focused on historical and theological issues, was officially sponsored by Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and was generously supported by the Wehrmacht. Dölger himself was a distinguished professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Munich from 1931 until his retirement in 1958.

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The expedition report Mönchsland Athos (Athos, Land of Monks), published in 1942

Dölger and his companions, both academic and military, encountered a religious community that was more than willing to embrace Nazism. In fairness to the residents of Mount Athos, we should note that they had good reason to despise Hitler’s nemesis, communism: Stalin was busy confiscating the Russian Orthodox Church’s property and deporting its priests to the gulag, and he had also halted the previously reliable flow of Russian contributions to the monasteries’ upkeep. According to Time Magazine report from 1941, the remarkably naïve monks only knew of Hitler as “a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews – a fulfillment of prophecy.” In this, they differed little from the bulk of Catholics and Protestants in Germany and many of the occupied countries. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, a request with which the Führer gladly complied. Mount Athos survived the war nearly untouched, which is more than can be said for the rest of Greece, which lost 11 percent of its population, including virtually all of its Jews.

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Wehrmacht soldiers posing with Greek Orthodox monks in Karyes, Athos Peninsula, Easter 1941

In gratitude for his protection, the monks displayed and revered Hitler images, including not only the one described further down but also a portrait hung directly in the center of a wall of paintings in the great reception room of St Panteleimon monastery, directly beneath a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II (see video clip below).

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Hitler in a place of honor at St. Panteleimon Monastery (1942)
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This picture is taken partner after the Second World War. The portrait of Hitler is Replaced by portraits of Queen Frederica (1917 – 1981) and beside her king Paul (1901 – 1964).

The following is my translation of an excerpt from Prof. Dölger’s account of his visit to Mount Athos as printed in the book Mönchsland Athos (Munich: 1942), the official report of his 1941 visit to the holy mountain:

At the monastery of Konstamonitou, at the place of honor in the reception room, we encountered the image of our Führer.  A monk had discovered a picture in an illustrated magazine and created a pencil drawing based on this model. Elsewhere too we could observe how strongly the personality of the Führer and the Greater German Reich impressed itself upon the imagination of the residents of Mount Athos, at least among those who had not entirely turned away from the world. Upon our arrival at several monasteries and, upon our departure from one (Dionisíu), when we sailed out onto the sea in our little ship, we were greeted by the swastika flag. The Führer is regarded by a great many monks as the “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” who will also hold his protecting hand over the Holy Mountain in the reordering of the world.

We had a delightful experience as we photographed a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary. From the point of view of Athos, it represented an immense concession for us to receive permission to photograph the sacred icon, and monks even helped us in our preparations. One old monk who joined us observed these preparations, shaking his head. Turning to us, he said: “If you want to photograph the Panajía [Virgin Mary], then you will have little luck; for the Panajía has never yet allowed herself to be photographed.” – “But it could be,” he added in a trusting and good-natured manner, “that the Panajía may make an exception for you Germans and allow herself to be photographed, because you Germans, after all, are waging a holy war against Bolshevism, the enemy of God.”

*Banishing the opposite sex from the peninsula might sound like a recipe for boredom, but it appears that the monks knew how to keep busy. According to a Time Magazine article in April 1941, “[a]n alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole ‘Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.’ The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.”

Franz Dölger's Diamonitirion
On the recommendation of Georgios Tsolakoglou, 1st Greek Prime Minister of the occupation, Dölger received a special residence permit.

TWO ARTICLES FROM TIME MAGAZINE

MOUNT ATHOS: Failing Light

Monday, April 28, 1941
TIME Magazine

The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos. The motorized Nazi hordes rumbled across the Salonikan peninsula, but they did not invade its 40-mile-long eastern cape where the holy and historic Mount towers in misty beauty above monasteries perching like fabulous castles on crags above the sea. Surrounded by flower-scented glens and gorges, veiled with pine and cypress and chestnut, are great Lavra Monastery, Vatopédi, Simöpetra, bastioned Dionysiou (which proudly possesses the brain and right hand of Saint John the Baptist) and many others, each with its fusty library and gilded Byzantine church.

Last week Adolf Hitler gave no hint of what he proposed to do about this great religious prize which was his for the taking—the autonomous ecclesiastical republic of Mount Athos, 1,000-year-old capital of Greek Orthodoxy, governed by a council consisting of one monk from each of its 20 stony retreats.

The 5,000 bearded, black-robed Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Rumanian monks who live on Mount Athos arrived there for many reasons—religion, disappointment in love, political conspiracy, seeking sanctuary against political or criminal punishment. They include several former Greek lunchroom proprietors who fled the clatter of U.S. civilization. They live in two kinds of monasteries: cenobite (communistic) and idiorrhythmic (allowing private property, which reverts to the monastery). Many of them lead a truly monkish life of prayer and Church scholarship, a shabby life without bathing or toothbrushing, with a meatless diet and only brief snatches of sleep, because “sleep inflames the body.” They live on contributions and on the making and selling of wine, farm products, religious paintings and trinkets. Some are so ignorant or unworldly that they have heard only vaguely of Adolf Hitler—”a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews—a fulfillment of prophecy.”

But in recent years the world has been altogether too much with Mount Athos to please its pure in heart. For one thing, the world’s sad economy has impoverished the religious life even more than need be. Joseph Stalin has stopped the steady flow of Russian funds into Mount Athos, and war and world depression have sharply cut all other income. The ancient sins of luxury have been increasingly apparent both outside and inside the holy ground. Vigorous young monks are rare. “We need young men today more than ever,” one Athonite has said, “but they prefer to fatten their ephemeral bodies and clothe them in silk shirts and ties.”

On the Mount itself, one of the wealthier monasteries has permitted itself all manner of worldly indulgences—central plumbing, mirrors, electric lights, newspapers, motorboats, wine-pressing machinery (instead of the industrious barefoot method). An alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole “Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.” The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.

Today many Greek laymen regard Mount Athos as a senile, decadent, insufferable vestige of its past. If Adolf Hitler decides to dim this “Lighthouse of the Aegean,” this greatest of world monastic experiments, he may well be doing only what the Greek Government would presently have done itself.

The Tragos ('Magna Carta') of Athos opened for Dölger.
The Tragos (‘Magna Carta’) of Athos opened for Dölger.

GREECE: Flight from Mt. Athos

Monday, July 13, 1942
TIME Magazine

Peter the Athonite came first to Mount Athos in the 9th Century and lived there for 50 years, battling devils and beasts in a cave high above Homer’s wine-dark sea. Then came Euthemius and Joseph, who sought eternal bliss by moving about on their hands and knees eating grass. All this was centuries after Xerxes’ legions invaded Greece, and, of course, centuries before Nazi Panzer divisions.

From the time of Peter the Athonite to Adolf the paper hanger, the great rocky promontory of Athos, jutting into the Aegean like a prong of Poseidon’s three-forked scepter, has been a place of refuge -for men only. No woman has knowingly been allowed to desecrate by her presence the huge cluster of monasteries atop the Holy Mountain, where bearded, black-cowled priests withdraw from worldly pleasures in the spiritual home of the Greek Orthodox Church. Even female cats and dogs and beasts of the field are barred, “so that their mating may not furnish an outlandish spectacle to souls which detest all forms of indecency. . . .”

Last week, from three priests who fled to an even more ancient home of Christian religion, there came the first account of what Europe’s new barbarians had done to the cloistered life of Mount Athos. For some 90 days & nights the priests had navigated nearly 1,000 miles of island-cluttered seas, and at last beached their 15-ft. open boat on the sands near Haifa in Palestine. There they told how ruck-sacked Nazi youths in peacetime had accepted the monasteries’ humble hospitality and returned as soldiers to pillage and defile. Great iron bells that for centuries sounded matins and vespers had been carried away, to be melted down for the Nazi war machine. Priceless icons, illuminated manuscripts handed down from Byzantine emperors, and religious treasures* had been gathered as loot and shipped to Berlin. These things had driven them, sick at heart, from beloved mountain valleys thick with arbutus and carefully laid out for the husbanding of vineyards and olive groves within sight of the slopes of Mt. Olympus and the plains of Troy. At the islands where their boat touched, peasants fed them and gave them shelter.

Greek Orthodox Church officials, believing the perilous voyage of the priests was divinely guided, ordered that their fragile boat be taken overland and placed as a shrine in the waters of the river Jordan, a trumpet’s blow from Jericho.

But German bombs last week struck in Haifa and there was a clash of great armies in the land of Egypt.

Possibly these were omens that the new shrine might soon, in 1942, have no more power to stop warring men than had the words of Him who, some 1,900 years ago, had gone up from the multitude and proclaimed: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos
Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos

During the occupation, a German plane Juncker damaged 57 landed on the beach in front of the St. Paul’s Monastery. Among the crew of the plane there was also a female soldier. To respect the rule of Avaton, the female German had to stay in an old fisherman’s hut on stilts near the beach of the plane, during the repair time. This cabin was then declared as not belonging to the monastic community. The German therefore have not touched the ground of Mount Athos, the rule of Avaton was respected even by the Germans during the war.

*Most famed of Mount Athos’ religious relics: the camel-hair girdle which legend says the Virgin gave to doubting Thomas; pieces of the True Cross; the skull of St. Basil the Great; the brains of St. John the Baptist; the three gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)
German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)

NOTES

  1. See: Η επιστολή του Αγίου Όρους προς τον Χίτλερ
  2. The Anonymous Prophecy of 1054 is a manuscript found in the Library of Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mt. Athos.
  3. Archimandrite Neilos Sotiropoulos writes in his book, The Coming Two Edge Sword: “The prophecy texts preserved are found in Northern Epirus, Epirus, and western Macedonia. They were found and are located in the Holy Monastery of Naum, Ochrid. It was found in Northern Epirus by the priest-monk, Archimandrite Neophytos Kalofountis, who served there as a soldier in 1914 after the liberation of Ioannina.
  • The ever-memorable lay-preacher, Demetrios Panagopoulos recorded another copy in his book, Saints and Sages Concerning What Will Happen in the Future. The text is continuous and not divided into verses or enumerated. He mentions that “it is found at the Holy Monastery Kozani.” This copy of the prophecy is obviously by an uneducated writer [i.e. not Panagopoulos, but the prophecy text he used]; it inadvertently has spelling errors and variations in a few words, though without changing the meaning. It was found written on a papyrus. At the end of the text, it bears the timeline of being written in 1503 AD, while in the caption it states 1053 AD.
  • The Old Calendarist Bishop of Kalamata, Gregorios, records another copy of the prophecy text in his book, “What We and Our Children Will See.” It reports that it is found in the Holy Serbian Monastery, Kozani. The text has minimal differences from the previous in words and spelling errors without changing the meaning.
  • Another text is found in a village of the prefecture of Kozani and is also written on papyrus. In 1937, a Gendarme appeared at a village house to collect tax. An old woman, the only inhabitant of the house, told him she had paid the tax. The Gendarme asked for the receipt. The old lady, not knowing letters advised him to search the chest to find it. He emptied all the documents onto the floor. He found the receipt and congratulated the old woman. He also noticed an ancient document of prophecy amongst the papers. He took it, copied it and circulated it in many copies. In 1962, a Macedonian journalist published the text of this prophecy in a pamphlet with still more annotations. A Thessalonian gave me this booklet in 1972.
  • Also, the Hagiorite Monk, Nektarios Katsaros’ small booklet, “Prophecies Concerning Constantinople’s Liberation” also contains this prophecy. I bought this book in 1957 at Karyes, Mount Athos where I went and was tonsured a monk.”
  • Some books state that there is a copy of this prophecy in the Library at the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos.
  1. The “New European War” is now considered to be a prophecy of World War II as it occurred after the “Great European War” which is considered to be a prophecy of World War I.
  2. Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, p.
  3. “In the spring of 1941 the Germans invaded and occupied Greece”, Father Maximos said to Bob Simon.
    They marched up the Acropolis, raised the swastika beside the Parthenon and were about to invade. The monks asked for a meeting with Nazi officers who told them to appeal to Hitler himself.
    The monks wrote Hitler a letter. “And in the letter, the monks identified themselves. They said, ‘This is who we are.’ And they asked Hitler to place the Holy Mountain under his personal protection,” Father Maximos said.
    When asked what kind of response they got, Father Maximos said, “It seems that Hitler liked the idea. He accepted the invitation to become the personal protector of the Holy Mountain.”
    Hitler sent a team of German academics to Mount Athos. They took 1,800 pictures of the mountain’s treasures, and it wasn’t because they enjoyed photography – Hitler wanted the monasteries’ riches in Berlin.
    “The professors were sent as an advance team to catalogue the treasures of the Holy Mountain so that a selection of things could be looted”, Father Maximos explained.
    But it didn’t happen that way and not a single item was taken.
    Father Maximos believes they have the Russians to thank for that: by the time the Nazi scholars completed their work, Hitler was bogged down in Russia and wasn’t thinking about icons.
  4. 1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
    1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0tYWPPl4qE
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The monk who left the Holy Mountain to destroy a statue of Neptune in the Ministry of Education with a sledgehammer! (1976)

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Poseidon holding a trident. Corinthian plaque, 550-525 BC. From Penteskouphia.

NOTE: The following article is taken from “Time Machine,” July 23, 2015. Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδῶν) was one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain was the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard. Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance, while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis.

http://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/o-kalogeros-pou-efige-apo-to-agio-oros-gia-na-katastrepsi-me-variopoula-to-agalma-tou-posidona-sto-ipourgio-pedias-ton-oplise-to-pirino-arthro-mitropoliti-gia-ta-edia-tou-idololatri-theou/

 

 

An unprecedented incident of religious fanaticism made headlines in April 1976.

The protagonist was a monk from Mount Athos, who went to Athens in order to destroy the statue of Poseidon that stood at the entrance of the Ministry of Education.

Poseidon

It all started from an article by the Metropolitan of Florina, Augoustinos Kantiotes, “concerning the genitals of the pagan God and the shame of Athens,” which enraged the monk. In the article, Kantiotis mentioned—among other things—the plaster copy of the Poseidon statue that adorned the entrance to the Ministry of Education. The monk was furious and decided to act. He got a car and traveled from Athos to Athens to eliminate what he believed was the Ministry’s shame.

He invaded the building early in the morning and started hitting the statue with a large sledgehammer. The Ministry officials tried to stop him, but did not manage.

The monk was furiously beating Poseidon shouting: “Down with the idols.” 

The monk broke the statue’s hands and feet. Police officers arrived at the Ministry and arrested him before he could shatter the head. “It was a corruptive idol; disgusting and shameful. Those who set it up in the Ministry of Religious Affairs are not Christians,” the monk said to justify his action. Reporters gathered and submitted questions at the police station where he was led.

“What bothered you most about the Poseidon statue? Perhaps his nakedness? -That too. Why do they have the idol in the ministry? Do they want to restore paganism, as did Julian the Apostate? No, they will not succeed in that.”

The monk was not penitent. Rather, he said to himself: “Oh I did not have the honor to also break its head with the hammer.” The monk even threatened to return to Athens at night with two cases of dynamite and turn Poseidon to ash. According to his plan, he would break the glass and enter the Ministry with the wicks ready for firing. In an emergency, as stated, he would be killed together, like Samuel in Kougki.

The case was brought to justice. People who supported the monk had gathered in court. When the accused asked the chairman what he had to say about the matter, he replied calmly: “I accept. I broke the statue because it was the shame of the city and caused the indignation of Christians.” When they asked him if he sought exemption from the charges, he categorically said no. The court sentenced the monk to prison for eight months, but he appealed and was released.

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St. Nicholas destroys idols, 13th c. fresco

 

Saint George topples the pagan idols (Decani, 14th c.)
Saint George topples the pagan idols; Decani, 14th Century
Saint Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of pagan god Veles (11th century)
St. Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of the pagan god Veles (11th century)

 

 

St. Anthony’s EVOO (Gwen Ashley Walters, 2016)

NOTE: The following article is taken from Phoenix Mag, Issue: January 2016:

 

South of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, smack dab in the middle of the desert with distant mountain vistas, is a serene Orthodox Greek monastery. Flagstone pathways meander around meticulously manicured grounds and storybook chapels.

St. Anthony’s Monastery, established in 1995, funds itself in part by selling olive oil its monks press and bottle on-site from an estate grove. The oil is exquisite, and a fine example of terroir in action: Olive trees flourish in the Sonoran desert. In the fall, monks handpick olives from Mission, Manzanilla and Sevillano olive trees, pressing them all together to produce a cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil that is raw, robust and a clear expression of the harsh ground from where it comes.

Visitors are welcome at the monastery, but check the website for hours and dress code. Women are required to wear loose-fitting long skirts and long-sleeve shirts, headscarves and closed-toe shoes. The bookstore sells the olive oil in addition to whole olives, hot sauces, and jams and marmalades made from the property’s orchards. You don’t have to travel to Florence to buy a bottle of this exceptional, unfiltered olive oil. Find the oil, sold by volunteers, at select farmers’ markets including Old Town Scottsdale, Roadrunner and Singh Farms, as well as at The Bodega at FnB and Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry. $9 for 250 ml; $24 for 750 ml.

St. Anthony’s Monastery
520-868-3188
stanthonysmonastery.org

PHM0116EBLP01

On Avarice (St. John Cassian, ca. 420 AD)

NOTE: The following article is taken from On the Eight Vices, which can be found in the Philokalia: https://archive.org/details/Philokalia-TheCompleteText

Also see the Saint’s book: The Institutes of the Coenobia: http://www.osb.org/lectio/cassian/inst/

 

Our third struggle is against the demon of avarice, a demon clearly foreign to our nature, who only gains entry into a monk because he is lacking in faith. The other passions, such as anger and desire, seem to be occasioned by the body and in some sense implanted in us at birth. Hence they are conquered only after a long time. The sickness of avarice, on the contrary, can with diligence and attention be cut off more readily, because ft enters from outside. If neglected, however, it becomes even harder to get rid of and more destructive than the other passions, for according to the Apostle it is ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Tim. 6:10).

kolasi-edited

Let us look at it in this fashion. Movement occurs in the sexual organs not only of young children who cannot yet distinguish between good and evil, but also of the smallest infants still at their mother’s breast. The latter, although quite ignorant of sensual pleasure, nevertheless manifest such natural movements in the flesh. Similarly, the incensive power exists in infants, as we can see when they are roused against anyone hurting them. I say this not to accuse nature of being the cause of sin – heaven forbid! – but to show that the incensive power and desire, even if implanted in man by the Creator for a good purpose, appear to change through neglect from being natural in the body into something that is unnatural. Movement in the sexual organs was given to us by the Creator for procreation and the continuation of the species, not for unchastity; while incensive power was planted in us for our salvation, so that we could manifest it against wickedness, but not so that we could act like wild beasts towards our fellow men. Even if we make bad use of these passions, nature itself is not therefore sinful, nor should we blame the Creator. A man who gives someone a knife for some necessary and useful purpose is not to blame if that person uses it to commit murder.

This has been said to make it clear that avarice is a passion deriving, not from our nature, but solely from an evil and perverted use of our free will. When this sickness finds the soul lukewarm and lacking in faith at the start of the ascetic path, it suggests to us various apparently justifiable and sensible reasons for keeping back something of what we possess. It conjures up in a monk’s mind a picture of a lengthy old age and bodily illness; and it persuades him that the necessities of life provided by the monastery are insufficient to sustain a healthy man, much less an ill one; that in the monastery the sick, instead of receiving proper attention, are hardly cared for at all; and that unless he has some money tucked away, he will die a miserable death. Finally, it convinces him that he will not be able to remain long in the monastery because of the load of his work and the strictness of the abbot. When with thoughts like these it has seduced his mind with the idea of concealing any sum, however trifling, it persuades him to learn, unknown to the abbot, some handicraft through which he can increase his cherished hoardings. Then it deceives the wretched monk with secret expectations, making him imagine what he will earn from his handicraft, and the comfort and security which will result from it. Now completely given over to the thought of gain, he notices none of the evil passions which attack him: his raging fury when he happens to sustain a loss, his gloom and dejection when he falls short of the gain he hoped for. Just as for other people the belly is a god, so for him is money. That is why the Apostle, knowing this, calls avarice not only ‘the root of all evil’ but ‘idolatry’ as well (Col. 3:5).

How is it that this sickness can so pervert a man that he ends up as an idolater? It is because he now fixes his intellect on the love, not of God, but of the images of men stamped on gold. A monk darkened by such thoughts and launched on the downward path can no longer be obedient. He is irritable and resentful, and grumbles about every task. He answers back and, having lost his sense of respect, behaves like a stubborn, uncontrollable horse. He is not satisfied with the day’s ration of food and complains that he cannot put up with such conditions for ever. Neither God’s presence, he says, nor the possibility of his own salvation is confined to the monastery; and, he concludes, he will perish if he does not leave it. He is so excited and encouraged in these perverse thoughts by his secret hoardings that he even plans to quit the monastery. Then he replies proudly and harshly no matter what he is told to do, and pays no heed if he sees something in the monastery that needs to be set right, considering himself a stranger and outsider and finding fault with all that takes place. Then he seeks excuses for being angry or injured, so that he will not appear to be leaving the monastery frivolously and without cause. He does not even shrink from trying through gossip and idle talk to seduce someone else into leaving with him, wishing to have an accomplice in his sinful action.

late-c15th-averice-pope-bisop-cardinal-monks-prince
Late 15th Century depiction of Avarice, with the Pope, a Bishop, a Cardinal, monks and a prince/king all receiving just punishment after death.

Because the avaricious monk is so fired with desire for private wealth he will never be able to live at peace in a monastery or under a rule. When like a wolf the demon has snatched him from the fold and separated him from the Hock, he makes ready to devour him; he sets-him to work day and night in his cell on the very tasks which he complained of doing at fixed times in the monastery. But the demon does not allow him to keep the regular prayers or norms of fasting or orders of vigil. Having bound him fast in the madness of avarice, he persuades him to devote all his effort to his handicraft.

There are three forms of this sickness, all of which are equally condemned by the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the Fathers. The first induces those who were poor to acquire and save the goods they lacked in the world. The second compels those who have renounced worldly goods by offering them to God, to have regrets and to seek after them again. A third infects a monk from the start with lack of faith and ardor, so preventing his complete detachment from worldly things, producing in him a fear of poverty and distrust in God’s providence and leading him to break the promises he made when he renounced the world.

Examples of these three forms of avarice are, as I have said, condemned in Holy Scripture. Gehazi wanted to acquire property which he did not previously possess, and therefore never received the prophetic grace which his teacher had wished to leave him in the place of an inheritance. Because of the prophet’s curse he inherited incurable leprosy instead of a blessing (cf. 2 Kgs. 5:27). And Judas, who wished to acquire money which he had previously abandoned on following Christ, not only lapsed so far as to betray the Master and lose his place in the circle of the apostles; he also put an end to his life in the flesh through a violent death (cf. Matt. 27:5). Thirdly, Ananias and Sapphira were condemned to death by the Apostle’s word when they kept back something of what they had acquired (cf. Acts 5:1-10). Again, in Deuteronomy Moses is indirectly exhorting those who promise to renounce the world, and who then retain their earthly possessions because of the fear that comes from lack of faith, when he says: ‘What man is there that is fearful and faint-hearted? He shall not go out to do battle; let him return to his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart’ (cf. Deut. 20:8). Could anything be clearer or more certain than this testimony? Should not we who have left the world learn from these examples to renounce it completely and in this state go forth to do battle? We should not turn others from the perfection taught in the Gospels and make them cowardly because of our own hesitant and feeble start.

30 pieces of silver.Shekels on 350 year old Hebrew Manuscript.Judas Iscariot betrayal
30 pieces of silver.Shekels on 350 year old Hebrew Manuscript.Judas Iscariot betrayal

Some, impelled by their own deceit and avarice, distort the meaning of the scriptural statement, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). They do the same with the Lord’s words when He says, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me’ (Matt. 19:21). They judge that it is more blessed to have control over one’s personal wealth, and to give from this to those in need, than to possess nothing at all. They should know, however, that they have not yet renounced the world or achieved monastic perfection so long as they are ashamed to accept for Christ’s sake the poverty of the Apostle and to provide for themselves and the needy through the labor of their hands (cf. Acts 20:34); for only in this way will they fulfill the .monastic profession and be glorified with the Apostle. Having distributed their former wealth, let them fight the good fight with Paul ‘in hunger and thirst . . . in cold and nakedness’ (2 Cor. 11:27). Had the Apostle thought that the possession of one’s former wealth was more necessary for perfection, he would not have despised his official status as a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 22:25). Nor would those in Jerusalem have sold their houses and fields and given the money they got from them to the apostles (cf. Acts 4: 34-35), had they felt that the apostles considered it more blessed to live off one’s own possessions than from one’s labor and the offerings of the Gentiles.

The Apostle gives us a clear lesson in this matter when he writes to the Romans in the passage beginning, ‘But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints’, and ending: ‘They were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them’ (Rom. 15:25-27). He himself was often in chains, in prison or on fatiguing travel, and so was usually prevented from providing for himself with his own hands. He tells us that he accepted the necessities of life from the brethren who came to him from Macedonia (cf. 2 Cor. 11:9); and writing to the Philippians he says: ‘Now you Philippians know also that . . . when I departed from Macedonia no church except you helped me with gifts of money. For even in Thessalonica you sent me help, not once but twice’ (Phil. 4:15-16). Are, then, the avaricious right and are these men more blessed than the Apostle himself, because they satisfied his wants from their own resources? Surely no one would be so foolish as to say this.

Ananias and Sapphira (4th c. tomb)
Ananias and Sapphira (4th c. tomb)

If we want to follow the gospel commandment and the practice of the whole Church as it was founded initially upon the apostles, we should not follow our own notions or give wrong meanings to things rightly said. We must discard faint-hearted, faithless opinion and recover the strictness of the Gospel; In this way we shall be able to follow also in the footsteps of the Fathers, adhering to the discipline of the cenobitic life and truly renouncing this world.

It is good here to recall the words of St Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. He is reported once to have said to a senator, who had renounced the world in a half-hearted manner and was keeping back some of his personal fortune: ‘You have lost the senator and failed to make a monk.’ We should therefore make every effort to cut out from our souls this root of all evils, avarice, in the certain knowledge that if the root remains the branches will sprout freely.

This uprooting is difficult to achieve unless we are living in a monastery, for in a monastery we cease to worry about even our most basic needs. With the fate of Ananias and Sapphira in mind, we should shudder at the thought of keeping to ourselves anything of our former possessions. Similarly, frightened by the example of Gehazi who was afflicted with incurable leprosy because of his avarice, let us guard against piling up money which we did not have while in the world. Finally, recalling Judas’ death by hanging, let us beware of acquiring again any of the things which we have already renounced. In all this we should remember how uncertain is the hour of our death, so that our Lord does not come unexpectedly and, finding our conscience soiled with avarice, say to us what God says to the rich man in the Gospel: ‘You fool, this night your soul will be required of you: who then will be the owner of what you have stored up?’ (Luke 12: 20).

Demon

 

The Gift of the Monks and the Economic Avaton of Athos (Dr. Michelangelo Paganopoulos)

Abstract

The proposed paper offers a re-evaluation of the relationship between the church and the state in Greece and the EU, focusing on the case of Mt. Athos. The paper argues that in order to reconstitute social and cultural cohesion between both Greece and the EU with the Orthodox Church, on the basis of diversity and heterogeneity according to the unified ideal of European solidarity, it is necessary in this process of transformation to highlight aspects of transparency and regulation. In Mauss’s terms, Athos is both a ‘gift’ to Greece: the carrier of the Modern Greek identity, and a poison (farmakon) to the Greek economy, symbolizing decades of corruption of a state that is still struggling to get over its feudal past. The paper further argues that it is vital to work collectively towards social and political cohesion through transparency and regulation in Greece, in order to confront the challenge of the European Unification and the unregulated market. The recent developments between the Cypriot monks of Vatopaidi and the Greek and Cypriot states regarding the issues of the avaton, metochia, and taxation, as well as, the impact of the UNESCO Heritage funding, the recent visits of Putin to Athos and public discussions over Russian investment to construct a railway that will directly connect Moscow to the monasteries, and further discussions regarding a wider future cooperation between Russia, Greece and Cyprus over energy policies and transport networks, all amount to a serious challenge to the European policy objectives for the environment and the Trans-European Transport Network operations undertaken by Structural Funds. In this context, Athos becomes a meeting place of contestation between various secular (i.e. ‘cosmopolitan’) forces, including those between the Greek state, the Church, and the monasteries, as well as, Europe. A re-evaluation of the relation of Athos to Greece and Europe could be then used as a strategic model for restructuring and regulating the relationship between secular and theocratic offices; the present and the past; change and tradition

The entire paper can be read here:

 

Guarding the Sense of Touch (St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, 1801)

NOTE: The following article is taken from Peter A. Chamberas (trans.), Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain: A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 120 – 131.

Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain - A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel sm

CONTENTS:

  • The Sense of Touch and Its Activities
  • One Should Not Even Touch His Own Body if It Is Not Necessary
  • A Hierarch Ought Not to Stretch Out His Hand to Receive Gifts out of Greediness, Nor to Strike Anyone or to Ordain Those Who Are Unworthy
  • The Use of Luxurious Clothing and What Its Use Implies
  • The Usefulness of Clothing. The Early Bishops Did Not Wear Expensive Clothing
  • The Present Things Are Vain and Temporal
  • Luxurious Clothing Is the Cause of Many Evils and All Clergy Must Avoid It
  • Luxurious Garments Are Scandalous to Both Men and Women
  • Soft Beds Should Be Avoided for They Are the Cause of Many Evils
  • The Clergy Must Not Play Games of Chance Nor Take Baths
  • Notes

 

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The Sense of Touch and Its Activities

We have reached in our discussion the fifth sense, which is the sense of touch. Even though the activity of this sense is generally considered to be concentrated in the hands, it actually encompasses the entire surface of the body so that every feeling and every part and every organ of the body both external and internal becomes an instrument of this sense of touch. Guard yourself then with great attention from such tender touches that arouse strong feelings, feelings that are mostly in the body and most vulnerable to sin. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in interpreting a passage in the Song of Songs, commented that the sense of touch is the subservient sense, the one most likely created by nature for the blind. It is most difficult for one to be free from the power of this sense, once it has been activated. This is why one must be careful to guard it with all his power.

Even though the power of the other senses seems to be active, it nevertheless seems to be far from the enactment of sin. But the sense of touch is the closest to this enactment and certainly the very beginning and the initial action of the deed.

One Should Not Even Touch His Own Body if It Is Not Necessary

Be careful not to bring your hands and your feet close to other bodies, especially of the young. Be especially careful not to stretch your hands to touch anything, unless it is necessary, nor upon members of your body, or even to scratch yourself, as St. Isaac the Syrian and other holy Fathers have taught. Even from such minor activities, the sense of touch becomes accustomed, or to put it more correctly, the devil seeks to arouse us toward sin and at the same time to raise up into our mind improper images of desire that pollute the beauty of prudent thoughts. This is why St. John Climacus wrote: “It so happens that we are polluted bodily through the sense of touch.”1 Even when you go out for the natural needs of your body respect your guardian angel, as St. Isaac has reminded us.2 Elsewhere this same father has written: “Virgin is not one who has merely preserved one’s body from sexual intercourse, but one who is modest unto oneself even when alone.”3

The pagan Pythagoras taught that even if there were no other spectator of human evils in heaven or earth, man should have a sense of modesty and shame for himself. When someone does evil, he dishonors and degrades himself. The ancient Athenians had a temple dedicated to the goddess of modesty that would act in the place of God upon the true conscience. Now, if these pagans taught this and had such shame for themselves, when alone, how much more should we Christians be ashamed of ourselves when we are alone in a closed room, or in an isolated lonely place or even in the darkness of night? For it is only right that the modesty and reverence we feel when in a holy temple be also felt for ourselves, since we are a temple of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit. “For we are the temple of the living God” (II Corinthians 6:16). Again St. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (I Corinthians 6:19). St. John Chrysostom has taught us also that our bodies are even more honorable and more revered than a temple. We are a living and rational temple, while a building- temple is lifeless and irrational. Moreover, Christ died for us and not for temples.4 Therefore it follows that more shame and modesty should be kept for ourselves and for our bodies than for the temple. For this reason, then, anyone who would dare to degrade the holy temple of his body by committing some sinful deed will in truth be more sinful than those who would desecrate the most famous temple.

Again, our pagan forefathers sought to teach men to avoid shameful deeds by asking them to imagine the presence of some important and revered person. If the imaginary presence of mortal men can avert one from doing evil when found alone, how much more can the true and abiding presence of the true and omnipresent and immortal God, who not only sees the external deeds of men but also knows the inner thoughts and feelings of the heart?

Most foolish then are those who are by themselves alone in an isolated or dark place and who have no self-respect and shame, nor remember the presence of God. They may say: “I am now in this darkness, who can see me?” God condemns such persons as being foolish. “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? . . . Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). “A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, ‘Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The most High will not take notice of my sins.’ His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord and ten thousand times brighter than the sun” (Sirach 23:18 – 19).

receptors

A Hierarch Ought Not to Stretch Out His Hand to Receive Gifts out of Greediness, Nor to Strike Anyone or to Ordain Those Who Are Unworthy

Be careful not to stretch out your hands to do evil. For as David said, “The righteous ought not to put forth their hands to do wrong” (Ps. 125:3), that is, to receive bribes, to be greedy, to be unrighteous, to be graspy. Moreover, it also means not to seek shameful profits, not to carry out shameful beatings, and not to ordain unworthy candidates to the priesthood. God himself forbids the taking of bribes. It is written in Holy Scripture: “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right” (Ex. 23:8). St. Basil too has written: “He who has not first placed true righteousness in his soul, but is corrupted by money or by considerations of friendship,5 he who defends enmity or besseches power cannot direct and obtain justice.”6

Do not stretch out your hands in greediness, in wrongdoing, in stealing, for the Apostle has written: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). Do not therefore stretch out your hands to acquire unlawful gain or to strike anyone. For according to the Apostle, “a bishop must be above reproach…temperate, sensible, dignified, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, nor quarrelsome, and no lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:2). Any hierarch or priest who strikes with his hand or with a rod anyone is deposed, according to the Twenty-seventh Apostolic Canon. “A bishop, priest or deacon who strikes the faithful who may have sinned or the unbelievers who may have done wrong, and who does this for the purpose of disciplining them through fear, must be deposed. The Lord has never taught us to do this. On the contrary, he was struck but did not strike back. He was abused but did not abuse others. He was beaten but did not threaten others.” The same discipline of deposition is required by the Ninth Canon of the Protodeutera Synod.

Do not be hasty to place your hands for ordination upon unworthy candidates. The Apostle again has instructed Timothy about this matter: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins” (1 Tim. 5:22). The bishops who have ordained unworthy candidates must render an account to God for all the sins that have been committed and may be committed by those whom they have so ordained. St. Chrysostom has also emphasized this point. “Do not tell me that the presbyter has sinned, or that the deacon has sinned. The responsibility of all these is placed upon the heads of those who have ordained such unworthy candidates.”7 Who then, as the Prophet David has asked, can inherit the mountain and the kingdom of God? He who keeps his hands pure from all these. “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4).

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

The Use of Luxurious Clothing and What Its Use Implies

The use of soft and fine clothing is another matter that we can relate to the sense of touch. Now, if I may be permitted to be more blunt, I want to emphasize especially to hierarchs and priests that they not fall into the error of fantastic apparel which unfortunately many experience because of their bad habits from childhood and the bad examples of others. St. John Chrysostom, first of all, reminded us that the very custom of covering the body with clothing is a perpetual reminder of our exile from Paradise and our punishment, which we received after our disobedience. We who were previously in Paradise, covered by the divine grace and having no need of clothing, find ourselves now in need of covering and clothing for our bodies. The forefathers were naked before the disobedience but not ashamed; after the disobedience they sewed fig leaves together and coverings for their bodies (Genesis 3:7).

Therefore, what is the reason for this reminder of our sin and punishment to be done with bright and expensive clothing? “The use of clothing has become a perpetual reminder for us of our exile from the good things of Paradise and a lesson of our punishment which the human race received as a consequence of the original sin of disobedience. There are those who are so affected in their vain imaginations that they say to us that they no longer know the clothing that is made by the wool of the sheep and that they now wear only clothes made of silk . . . . Tell me now, for whom do you so clothe your body? Why are you glad over your particular set of clothing? Why don’t you heed St. Paul who wrote: “If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Timothy 6:8).

Creation-Mosaic-Adam-and-Eve-600x600

The Usefulness of Clothing. The Early Bishops Did Not Wear Expensive Clothing

According to St. Basil the usefulness of clothing is to protect our bodies from the cold in the winter and from the heat in the summer. “What is the difference for one who is sensible to have long robes with a flowing train or to wear foolish and unnecessary clothing that do nothing to keep you warm in winter and to protect you from the heat in the summer?”9 For the clothes to be made of silk and other expensive materials is a vanity that derives from unreal fantasies and misleading desires of the heart. In other words, such vanity is a shadow, smoke, dust thrown into the air, and bubbles that are blown around and broken. Solomon at first experienced the use of expensive clothing but later condemned them. I agree with him when he wrote that they are a vanity of vanities and a deliberate choice of one’s spirit. But what is this choice of one’s spirit? St. Gregory the Theologian considered it to be “a desire of the soul that is irrational and a temptation of man deriving perhaps from the ancient fall.”10 Is it characteristic of a prudent person to follow such vanity? Should he ever allow himself to seek the shadow of dreams? No, please do not accept to do this. Perhaps you will argue the pressures of your youth is forcing you to do this. But what is youth? Solomon again has told us that “youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Eccl. 11:10). Therefore one vanity loves another vanity, but never prudence and right reason. Perhaps you will say that it is the office of being a bishop that prompts you to wear expensive clothes. Well! Take a look at those ancient bishops. See the poor garments of St. Basil and St. Gregory, the cape of St. Athansios and the cape of Bishop Serapion. Moreover, those blessed men traveled great distances on foot and alone. They did not use animals and horses of great value11 that were richly saddled, and without the accompaniment of many persons leading and following the procession. One can see from this vain fantasy that having expensive clothes is not a substantive element but rather a destructive one for the office of a bishop.

The Dormition of St. Anthony the Great
The Dormition of St. Anthony the Great

 

The Present Things Are Vain and Temporal

Leave such vanity, brother. Remember that according to the Apostle: “The form of this world is passing away, and those who deal with the world [live] as though they had no dealings with it” (1 Cor. 7:31). Remember also, “We look to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). For death comes and death is unknown. Judgment follows death and this judgment is quick. After judgment comes hell, an endless hell. When death comes, youth passes away, so does vanity. Every luxury of clothing and all the pleasant things of this life come to an end with the end of the life of each person. Where are your predecessors and those before them? Having the same vain imaginations, have they not played out the short scene of life and the empty sentiments? Are they not now also deceived by the shortness of life and are already earth and dust in a forgotten place, according to David? What do you think? Will you not in a short while follow them? Will you not follow the same way of life and will you not reach the same goal of the grave?

According to the psalmist David and St. Basil who interpreted him, this life is likened to a journey on account of the tendency to reach the goal of each created being. Listen to what he said: “Those who on board a ship are sleeping are nevertheless led to the harbor automatically by the power of the prevailing wind. Even though they may not be aware of it, their journey is continued toward its goal. So is it with us in passing the time of our life. In a certain unique movement that is continuous and ceaseless we are pressed on the unknown course of our life that is appropriate to each of us. You may be sleeping and yet time passes on. You may be awake intellectually active and yet your life is spent, even if it escapes our perception. We are all indeed on a journey, each of us running toward our appropriate goal. This is why we are all on the way. In the case of those who travel, once the first step is taken the next one will follow and the one after that in succession. Consider the affairs of life if they are not similar. Today you have cultivated the earth, tomorrow another person will do it.  And after him still another will continue. Therefore isn’t our life a journey on which we partake differently from time to time and on which we all succeed each other?”12

In the book of Job, Zapar the Naamathite, wanting to indicate the shortness of human life, said: “Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish for ever…Those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ He will fly away like a dream, and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night” (Jb. 20:7f.). These examples and even the mere meanness, the vicissitudes and the disorder in human affairs and good things, all of these I hope will convince you to turn down such a vain quest and irrational desire.

job20-zophar-talking
Zophar suggests that Job’s suffering could be divine punishment, and goes into great detail about the consequences of living a life of sin.

What are gold and silver and all those precious stones (as one moralist noted) but bright products of the earth? When these are kept locked up in treasuries they also hold therein the heart of him who has so locked them up and they thus prevail over their owner. What are those famous compliments and honors but smoky emissions which come out of the mouths of the public and are diffused in the air and which are often mixed with the criticisms of envy? What are those supreme, those hierarchal, those patriarchal offices and those great kingdoms, but great servitudes in which those who rise to them find also at the same time their fall? And those who seek after extreme honors find extreme catastrophes. What sort of thing is pleasure but a change that is irreconcilable with self-control? What is good health that we so desire, but a mild and well-tempered condition of the four liquids in our bodies that are always combated by the other four opposing qualities of the elements? What is life but a flow of successive moments in which one is born when the other dies, so that man begins to die just as soon as he begins to live? Finally, what is this body of ours that we so care for but transformed clay and an extolled hospital that contains more diseases than members and nerves? And, speaking in general, what are all the external and useful and so-called good things, but the common properties of the plants and the irrational animals? By the way, these irrational animals are in a sense more well off than we, by realizing less than we do that they can be deprived of these good things, which are after all always united with opposing suffering.

With all this in mind, St. Gregory spoke well when he said: “Do not marvel at anything that does not remain, and do not overlook anything that does. Do not moreover try to grasp at something that simply escapes us when held.”13 A certain wise man also said: “If you are a mortal, O great man, you will concern yourself with mortal things.” Another one said: “The shadow of glory is glory itself. No one who sees a loaf of bread in a painting will ever reach to take the drawing, even if he is a thousand times overcome by hunger. Now, if you want to receive glory, evade glory, for if you seek after glory you will fall away from it.”14 St. Isaac said: “He who runs after honor causes it to flee from before him. But he who avoids it, will be sought out by honor that becomes a herald to all of his humility.”15 Now, meditating on these things prudently, dear brother, say to yourself the words of the wise Joseph Vryennios:

“Soul, be a stranger to all these things; soul, you have been redeemed by the precious blood of the immaculate and spotless Lamb—Christ; soul, for you the good shepherd has offered his own soul; soul, raise up your eye to your Creator, be sober, see your redeemer, know and love the Savior; acquire a blameless conscience…Why do you stand before those things that do not exist? Why do you fret over the things that are corruptible? Why do you find joy with vain things? Why do you trouble yourself with what passes away? Why are you attracted by imaginations? Why do you delight in things that you will abandon as if you will not? And of whose vision will you be deprived in eternity? How long will you be deceived by the eyes, by the attraction of pleasures, by random preoccupations, by evil thoughts, by thoroughly vain glories—all of which cause you to be separated from the vision of the most sublime and desired spiritual reality?”

I find myself out of breath in struggling in every way, dear brother, to find supportive arguments and proofs to show you how empty and vain a thing it is to preoccupy yourself with fine clothing. For I love your salvation as I love my own. And in order to make my words more understandable, I bring the example of the reflux of water of Euripus where the tide changes so often that the ancients chose to refer metaphorically to the frequent changes in human affairs with the term euripus. What else is this troubled life but a strait of troubled waters that flow to and fro? A place where good and bad, happiness and misery, are always flowing and mutually replacing each other; sometimes sending man to the depths of goodness and happiness and sometimes leaving him on the dry shore and in misfortune. Therefore learn even from this name of Euripus and put an end from here on to the desire and the fantasy of these fleeting vanities.

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`The Crucified Monk` Icon

Luxurious Clothing Is the Cause of Many Evils and All Clergy Must Avoid It

Up to now I have assumed that luxurious clothing is a simple vanity. I am afraid however that it is more than that. It also nourishes vainglory; it is the mother of pride; it is the way to prostitution and it is the panderer of virtually all the passions. I said that it is the nourishment and the mother of vainglory and pride because the soul naturally has the tendency to be fashioned internally according to the body. Now, if the body, as it should, wears humble clothes the soul will also be humbled. If the body wears vainglorious and prideful clothes, the soul too will be vainglorious and prideful, as St. John Climacus has written: “The soul becomes similar to its external appearance and pursuits; it is impressed by what it does and fashioned according to such deeds.”16 I also noted that luxurious clothes lead to prostitution. St. Basil has said: “A person who beautifies himself and is so called is like being promiscuous and a schemer against other marriages.”17 St. Paul disallowed luxurious clothing in women, who are by nature beings who love beauty and who love to dress themselves up: “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Tim. 2:9). St. Peter too did not permit women “the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing” (1 Pt. 3:3).

If women are not permitted such luxurious apparel, how much more then are we to assume that this is not permitted either among men and especially among hierarchs, who are to keep modesty and propriety in all things. This is why the Sixth Ecumenical Council decreed, through its Twenty-seventh Canon, that the hierarchs and all the clergy be dressed modestly and not use secular and luxurious clothing. The canon says in part that “no one among the clergy should dress with inappropriate clothes while in the city or while traveling on the road. They should wear the apparel that has already been determined for the clergy, that is, modest and simple. Anyone who disregards this rule will be deposed for one week.” Similarly, the Seventh Ecumenical Council with its Sixteenth Canon decreed the following: “Every foolish beautification of the body is foreign to the priestly order. Those bishops and priests who dress themselves with luxurious apparel must be reprimanded and corrected. If they persist in their wrongdoing, they must be given a penance.”

From early times every priestly man was dressed with modest and moderate apparel. Everything that has no practical use but is merely cosmetic only adds to our condemnation, as St. Basil noted.18 They did not wear clothing made out of silk, nor did they add colorful decorations on the edge of their clothing. They heeded the sacred word saying, those who wear the soft and fine apparel are in the palaces of kings (cf. Mt. 11:8; Lk. 7:25). St. Basil once asked, “Have you ever seen a man of high principles wearing a flowery garment made of silk? Despise such things?”19 St. John Chrysostom also noted, “When you see a man wearing silken apparel, laugh him to scorn!”20 St. Isidore Pelousiotes also, explaining the seamless garment of the Lord, noted: “Who can overlook the simplicity of that garment which the poor Galeleans used to wear? In fact they had a special skill in weaving such garments. Imitate the simple garments of Christ. For if the roughness in apparel here on earth is foolishness, wearing the garment of light in heaven is certainly not.”21 The prophets of God too used modest humble and poor garments. Listen to what Clement of Alexandria said of them: “Prophet Elijah wore a garment made of sheepskins which he tied around his waist with a belt of animal hairs. The Prophet Isaiah went about virtually naked and with bare feet. Oftentimes he would wear sack cloth as a symbol of humility and mourning. Jeremiah too only wore a simple linen garment. As the strong members of the body are seen clearly when uncovered, so also is the beauty of virtue demonstrated magnificently when it is not entangled with a great deal of idle talk.” The Synod at Gangra in its Twelfth Canon pronounced anathema upon those criticized for wearing velvet and silk garments. Finally, the same Synod in its Twenty-first Canon decreed: “We accept and praise the simple and modest garments, but we avoid those which are soft and luxuriously ornamental.”

Geronda Epraim Great Entrance

Luxurious Garments Are Scandalous to Both Men and Women

Let me leave aside the sense of folly and looseness that is created on the body, especially on a body of a young person, by the luxury of clothing. I leave aside also the uselessness of such clothing, as St. Gregory the Theologian noted.22 I keep silent about the greed for money that is incited in those who desire to acquire such clothing. I also sidestep the vanity and pride and all the other passions that act as so many poisonous fruit of this death-bearing tree. And I consider only the common scandal that it is for both men and women. It is indeed a great scandal for men to see their bishop dressed in such luxury, and wherever they are they comment that the bishop is altogether given over to a desire for fine garments and an air of haughty pride. It is even a greater scandal for the women. For as they themselves often scandalize the men who look upon them and excite in them certain passions, in the very same way the men who are decorated in fine clothing, especially bishops and priests, scandalize the women and kindle the coals of passion in their souls.

Even if we assume that it is permitted for you to be so dressed, even if you guard yourself and are a prudent person in dressing yourself well, should you not take into account the scandal of those misfortunate souls? Should you not consider the evil desires and the spiritual harm that may be caused in their souls? Who will give an account for this? Certainly no one else except you, for in seeking to serve your foolish desires, it is you who have allowed all these evils to come into being. And this because you have not chosen to imitate the holy hierarchs of old, who dressed humbly and spent their days in great humility. I had the opportunity to know St. Macarius of Corinth, who in his diocese and in his later life always wore humble black clothing. How serious is the punishment for creating a scandal is noted by the Lord himself: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6). Listen to this story and be informed: When St. Anthony was about to die, he ordered his disciples to give one of his garments to St. Athansios and the other to Bishop Serapion. These two churchmen received the garments with all of their heart and used to wear them on the dominical feasts. These simple and coarse monastic garments did more to dignify them in a most reverent way than any royal garments ever could in all their luxurious splendor!

Having learned about the luxury of garments and the many evils which come from them, strive to avoid such luxury as harmful to the soul.

nun-procession-st-kosmas-monastery-2
Procession at St. Kosmas GO Monastery, Canada (Proper monastery dress codes not enforced)

Soft Beds Should Be Avoided for They Are the Cause of Many Evils

In this sense of touch we must also include the soft and comfortable beds and everything that has to do with our comfort. Inasmuch as these may contribute to our spiritual harm, they must be avoided by all, but especially the young. Such comforts weaken the body; they submerge it into constant sleep; they warm it beyond measure, and therefore kindle the heat of passion. This is why the prophet Amos wrote: “Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches” (Amos 6:4). Once a young monk asked an elder (monk) how to guard himself against the carnal passions. The elder replied that he should avoid overeating, avoid slander and all those activities which excite carnal passions. The monk however was unable to find the cure for his passion even after observing carefully all the admonitions of the elder. He would return to the elder again and again for advice until he became a burden for the elder. Finally, the patient elder got up and followed the brother to his cell. Upon seeing the soft bed where he slept, the elder exclaimed: “Here, here, is the cause of your struggle with carnal desire, dear brother!”23

Heracleides has also noted in the Lausaikon about Iouvinos, the famous bishop of Askalon, that on a very hot day near the Pelousion mountain he washed with a little water his hands and feet and laid out a camel skin to rest a little in the shade. This was done in the presence of his most holy mother, who directly began to reproach him. “Oh son,” he said, “you are most daring to flatter your body with such care and at such a young age. The more you fuss over it the more it becomes agitated like a serpent against you, seeking to harm you. I am already sixty years old, and I have not yet washed my face and feet in such a way, except for my hands. Even though I suffered certain illnesses and the doctors advised me to take advantage of therapeutic baths and other cures for the body, I have never entrusted in my body nor have I allowed myself to flatter it in any way, knowing full well the enmity that exists between it and the soul. For this reason, my son, I have even refused to recline in a soft bed to sleep.”

Behold what an ascetic reaction is prompted by the simple laying out of a camel skin to rest upon it. Behold how a little washing prompted such austere criticism by a mother to her son. Do you see, dear brother, what great exactness and care is needed and especially by the young? Once the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. John the Merciful, seeing that he had need of it, accepted a precious bed covering offered to him by a certain ruler. Throughout that night the blessed hierarch struggled with his thoughts and was most critical of himself for having accepted such a precious covering when so many poor brothers did not even possess a straw mat to lie on. He finally threw it away from his bed and in the morning had it sold in the marketplace, distributing the money to the poor. Notice well how what is for the comfort of the body, or (what amounts to the same thing) what is unnecessary and more than what we need, was used then by the hierarchs of that time.

In the Psalms the Prophet David has made a distinction between “bed” and “couch.” The bed is commonly used for sleeping, while the couch is in the area prepared for sitting. Now, if your sitting room is furnished with soft chairs and couches, this, I believe, is not harmful since it is also thus prepared for the comfort of guests.

blessed-repose

The Clergy Must Not Play Games of Chance Nor Take Baths

In this general sense of touch must be included the playing of cards and dice and all other such games that one plays with his hands. I beseech you as strongly as I possibly can to avoid these completely. Such games are improper and altogether alien to your high character and profession and they are the cause of much scandal among Christians. They may even become the cause for deposing someone from the hierarchy. The Forty-second Apostolic Canon decreed the following: “Any bishop or priest or deacon who spends his time playing the dice and drinking must either be defrocked or deposed.” Going even further, the Forty-third Apostolic Canon provided that a lay person who is involved in such games of chance is excommunicated. Why do I simply say that you must not play such games? You must not even look upon those who do. The law of Photios decreed the following:

“Any bishop or clergyman who plays the dice or other such games of chance, or who simply keeps company with those who do and sits beside them when they play, must be deposed from doing any of his sacred duties and must not receive any of the provisions given by his diocese for a certain period of time until he repents. If he should persist in his evil even beyond the given time for repentance, he must be entirely banished from the ranks of the clergy and may become a secular officer of some kind for the province where he had been a clergyman.”24

According to Aremnopoulos, the One hundred and twenty-third Law of Justinian requires that they clergy who become drunkards and those who play the dice must be confined to a monastery. I say nothing of all the harm that comes to those who play cards and other such games, about which St. John Chrysostom wrote the following: “The vice of dice brings blasphemy, anger, harm, abuse, and a myriad more evils greater than these.”25 Aristotle himself, even though a pagan, numbered the gamblers among the thieves and robbers: “A dice player, a thief and a robber are among those who are not free, for they acquire their gain shamefully and illegally.”26

You have already heard above from the holy nun and mother of Iouvinos how harmful even simple bathing can be, especially to the young. In the act of bathing the sense of touch is certainly sorely tested and tempted. As we read in the sayings of the Fathers there were many ascetic fathers who hesitated even at the crossing of rivers, not only because they were ashamed to bathe their bodies but also because they did not even want to uncover their legs. These holy men were often in a flash transported across the river by an angel of God. St. Diadochos, bishop of Photiki, has written that the avoidance of baths is a manly achievement. “It is a manly and prudent thing to avoid baths. This way our bodies are not effeminate by that pleasurable flow of water over them, nor do we come to a remembrance of that shameful nakedness of Adam, so that we too seek to cover the shame with the [fig] leaves of a second excuse. Those who desire to keep their bodies spiritually pure are especially required to be united with the beauty of prudence and chastity.”27 Of course, it is understood and acceptable that occasionally one must bathe out of necessity for the sake of health and the requirement of an illness.

Achilles and Ajax playing dice
Achilles and Ajax playing dices

Notes

  1. The Ladder, Step 15.
  2. Homily 26.
  3. Homily 56.
  4. Homily 14, On Ephesians; Homily 20, On 2 Corinthians.
  5. Cleon the king of Athens was highly praised when he was made king against his will and then proceeded to call all his most dear friends and with sighing and sorrow took his leave from them, fearing that he might be forced to transgress the law because of their friendship. As a prudent man he had realized that friendship and authority cannot sit together at the same time upon the same cathedra. He who would exercise justice must put friendship aside. The story is also told of Routelios, the dear friend of Skouros. When Skouros requested an unjust favor from his friend Routelios and did not receive it, he was disturbed and retorted: “And what need have I of your friendship if I cannot get one small favor from you?” To this reproach Routelios replied: “And what need have I of your friendship if I am to do for you unjust deeds?” And their friendship came to an end. Above all the praise goes to Pericles the Athenian, who was being beseeched by a friend to take a false oath in order to support him. Pericles responded with the famous saying: “Friend up to the sanctuary,” that is to say, “I want to be your friend but only until we come up to the holy sanctuary” (where it was customary to place the hand when taking a public oath). It is necessary here to grieve bitterly! For if these persons who were far from the grace of the Gospel were able to rise to such heights of virtue with only the natural law, you who are an Orthodox Christian, a leader, a bishop, a ruler, what do you think? Can you disobey the law of God? Do you think that you will be saved? You are deluding yourself!
  6. Homily on Proverbs.
  7. Homily 3, On Acts.
  8. Homily 18, On Genesis.
  9. Address to the Young Men.
  10. Funeral Oration to Caesarios.
  11. The Lord himself through his own example taught us to travel in a humble manner. He himself used the humble donkey to enter Jerusalem and not a stallion. However, when the road is difficult or long it is permissible for bishops and Christians in general to travel with horses and mules, but these should not be animals of great value nor richly saddled and adorned.
  12. Commentary on Psalm 1.
  13. Homily on the Lord’s Day.
  14. Quoted in the Life of Cyril Phileotos.
  15. Homily 5.
  16. Homily 25, On Humility.
  17. Address to the Young Men.
  18. The Short Monastic Rule, 49.
  19. Homily on the Hexaemeron.
  20. Homily 11, On 1 Timothy.
  21. Epistle 74 to Caton the Monk.
  22. Homily on the Birth of Christ.
  23. From the
  24. The first Book of the Codex, Statute 34, Title 9, ch. 27.
  25. Homily in the Statutes.
  26. Nichomachean Ethics, Book 4.
  27. Diadochos of Photike, ch. 52.

 

I Bought Psychiatric Drugs for 40 [Athonite] Monks (Fr. Porphyrios, 2001)

NOTE: The following are excerpts taken from “Radioparagka” show—the Radio Station of the Church Greece. The show’s theme was “Obedience and Freedom” and it was broadcast on November 10, 2002. Fr. Constantine interviews Fr. Porphyrios, a monk from the Hilander Cell of St. Isaac the Syrian. Since the interview has a lot of repetitiveness and superfluous banter, this article has been condensed and contains only the pertinent information.

Since the turn of the century, a few Hagiorite monks have spoken out about the abuses that take place in various monasteries on Mount Athos. These individuals were from different monasteries, under different Gerondas, and yet tell the same story: authoritarianism, sick forms of obedience being imposed, individuals developing mental illnesses after years in these environments, compulsion of monastics to see psychiatrists and take psychiatric drugs, monastics attempting suicides and monastics committing suicide. This “authentic” Athonite monasticism has been prevalent since at least the 70s and these irregularities are now accepted as a normal part of the genuine 21st century monastic experience.

MP3: https://web.archive.org/web/20070113233012/http://www.dorcas.gr/syn/porf.mp3

Text: https://web.archive.org/web/20060623070151/http://www.dorcas.gr/syn/porf.htm#40

Fr. Constantine: Do sick forms of obedience exist?

Fr. Porphyrios: I will disillusion you, Fr. Constantine. Yes, only sick forms of obedience exist today. I’m talking about Mount Athos; I’m speaking purely about Athonite matters and I’ll be speaking from my own experience.

An Abbot yells at his monks, “You don’t listen to me! I lost 500,000 [dr.] on Coca Colas and 7 Up! You’re going to make me explode! Does my money grow on trees?”1 Contemporary Elders are tilling and organizing over Greece towards wild novices. And the finale of these relationships is authoritarianism, which reaches schizophrenia. The difference with the Great Anthony is that he said, “My child, in order to sit near me, certain conditions must be met and above all, love Christ.” Whereas what we seek today on Mount Athos, dozens of times, is what is said and sucked like candy from Athonite abbots who, as you know, 90% of them didn’t do one hour of obedience.

cocapatriach
Patriarch Bartholomew & Archbishop Demetrios with the The Coca-Cola Polar Bear ( The World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. October 29, 2009)

Fr. Constantine: They weren’t subordinates beforehand?

Fr. Porphyrios: Never! Only the elders who came from Joseph the Cave-dweller previously did obedience.2 All the others, from the office or Brussels, with their collars and their trousers, became abbots on Mount Athos. Forgive me, but this is the reality. But, exceptions exist. Nothing is 100% absolute. Even on gold we write 999.99.3 Understand? And so, St. Anthony said, “You must love Christ.” Do you know what contemporary elders say? “If you leave my side, you will go to hell my evil child. You will be lost!” Understand?

Once, I was at a monastery and a student came to stay for fifteen days. After fifteen days, they placed him as my assistant. I saw him with a new pair of shoes. Hm! He smelt like gun powder to me. I asked him, “Are you engaged, will you go, this and that.” He said, “I thought that I would stay here.” Today, he is a schizophrenic! And the monastery boasts 120-130 monks. I don’t know how many monks they have but 40 of them are taking psychiatric drugs out of obedience…bad obedience!

ιερομόναχος π. Λουκάς
Hieromonk Lukas Gregoriatis (one of the monk-doctors who manages the use of psychotropic drugs in the monastery)

Fr. Constantine: Of course, when you say psychotropic drugs, there is a book written by a Grigoriatis monk who responds to such allegations. He mentions that psychotropic drugs are bought for Mount Athos. He also says that he buys them for the pilgrims that visit from abroad. Visitors come and say they need psychiatric drugs.” http://www.rel.gr/index.php?rpage=meletes&rpage2=showkeimeno.php&link_id=5

Fr. Porphyrios: Excuse me! I myself bought psychotropic drugs for 40 monks! Understand? I personally bought psychiatric medication for 40 monks when I went out of Mount Athos to run errands. I don’t know how many monks there are now who take psychiatric drugs.

I tread differently. I went asked someone once—one with no taste, from the bench, the university—and I asked him. We chatted a bit and he told me, “You will do this!” I said, “I cannot.” He replied, “You will do this, it is obedience!” I was coerced; the priest said it. Fr. Constantine, everyone has been trampled by disobedience. I was pressed by obedience. I did obedience and suffered AF [atrial fibrillation] and was put on a pacemaker.5

Fr. Constantine: This priest gave you that medical advice?

Fr. Porphyrios: No! He told me to do something that my conscience couldn’t allow me to do. I told him, “I cannot do that thing.”

Fr. Constantine: Was the obedience a sin?

Fr. Porphyrios: The obedience was a spiritual sin, not a carnal sin. My conscience would not allow it.

Fr. Constantine: You had the right not to do this obedience since it was a spiritual sin.

Fr. Porphyrios: Yes, of course. Also, this priest wasn’t my spiritual father. We chatted, I told him one issue. What else do you want me to tell you?

Fr. Constantine: Everything! You lived the events.

Fr. Porphyrios: A certain monk in a large monastery fell into some small offence. He was ashamed to tell the abbot and he told some transient, worldly spiritual father. All of Mount Athos to Daphne learned about it. And his geronda—the great and holy geronda—called him to the Assembly and told him, “Because you didn’t tell me this, for one year you will not receive a blessing and I will not give you my blessing.” Fr. Constantine, before the new elders, spiritual fathers, such as the ascetic Geronda Sofronius, came to the monastery every month to confess people. The old elders wisely decided that a spiritual father from another monastery could come every month so that we could say something that we couldn’t tell the abbot so as not to create a disagreement or discord. Understand? Today, this has been cut off. Now if you confess to someone other than the abbot, you’re excommunicated and expelled from the community.6

And I’ll tell you something else. I saw a “very pleasant” abbot beating a subordinate and I lost it! I got my stuff and left. The abbot told me, “Come here! Do you know what I’m doing? What Abba Dorotheos did!” Eh! I couldn’t bear it and told him, “Excuse me, Geronda, but as soon as you become St. Dorotheos and Abba Seridos, then you can hit children.”7 It broke my heart. Now this monk is in the wind. I went and he told me, “Porphyrios, I beg you to discharge me.” We both cried. This is obedience today, Fr. Constantine. But when we haven’t done obedience ourselves, how can we impose someone else to do obedience? Naturally, obedience is salvation!

dorotheos1-209x300
“But if one does not sincerely wish to do the will of God, then though go to a prophet, God might place in the heart of that prophet an answer corresponding to the man’s corrupt heart, as the Scripture says, And if a prophet should cause to err and should speak, I the Lord have caused that prophet to err (Ezekiel 14:9).”

I remember Geronda Gabriel told me the following, “Do you see that man? He came from Cambridge with a transistor in the armpit. And I said to him, ‘What did you come here to do?’ He replied, ‘I came here to be a monk.’ I asked him, ‘Do you know what it means to be a monk?’ I tell you to fall from the balcony and you fall.’ The man replied, ‘Be careful, Geronda. If you’re telling me a joke, you catch me by my feet because I will fall.’ Geronda Gabriel told me, ‘He is an angel.’

And Geronda Gabriel Dionysiatis placed someone as the supervisor and tells him after three-four sessions; the monk disagreed, ‘Geronda, I will resign.’ The Geronda asked, ‘Why, my child?’ ‘I cannot disagree with my Geronda.’ Geronda Gabriel told him, ‘Ah, pay attention. I placed you there for this reason. You will say your opinion in governing. You will do obedience in spiritual matters. Also, I want there to be a contrary voice.’

Today, whoever disagrees about the Hegumen council departs. And they’ve gathered all the idiots; those who never tread in the monastery, they are from outside and they’ve placed them, how do you say…

Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis a
Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis (†1983)

Fr. Constantine: This is sick. If there is no voice to be heard…

Fr. Porphyrios: No, no, no. Let me tell you something else—Speechless!—about an abbot who went to a new monastery that had an old brotherhood. ‘Oh well,’ he says, ‘are they dumb? Do they not have any other opinion than that from the Geronda?’ And Geronda Gabriel told Fr. Kallinikos, ‘You will stay, my child! Your objection is needed so we can find the right one.

Today, Fr. Constantine, the Geronda is the path (ο-δο) of salvation. And he is also our obstacle to arrive at Christ. ‘I am here (‘δω)!’ Understand? Things are tragic!

 

NOTES

  1. When Geronda Ephraim of Arizona was the abbot of Filotheou Monastery, on the Feast Day of Pascha he would traditionally bless the monks to have a can of Coca Cola for trapeza. He carried this tradition over to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ. In some of Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries, the monastics have soda frequently throughout the year.
  2. The following is a pilgrim’s impression of his visit to Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples in the 50s:

“Many times the Greeks have a weakness to make up stories, especially about people‘s alleged holiness, and as is often the case, once a story starts, it gets repeated and magnified and blown completely out of proportion. Others hear it and relate it in a different way, and it becomes another story, and soon someone has a reputation of being one of the greatest wonderworkers the Church has ever known.

“To some extent, this is what happened with this Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, and it‘s most definitely what happened to the other Fr. Ephraim, who took control of Philotheou Monastery, and who could not remain on the Holy Mountain, but resides in America. The three pilgrims came to Katounakia for a visit, and the meeting with Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia was quite eventless, other than the fact that Fr. Ephraim seemed like a reluctant prisoner, not one rejoicing in obedience. There was quiet talking, all in Greek, greetings and goodbyes.

“The outcome of this occasion was in stark contrast with the words of Fr. Ephraim in his book which recently appeared. Ironically, the book was named Obedience is Life: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, and in this very book this alleged Elder Ephraim records that he later forced his elder to begin once again commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch at a time when the Ecumenical Patriarch had openly espoused the heresy of Ecumenism. He thus recorded his own blatant disobedience in a book supposedly teaching obedience. The Elder Nikephoros, it is said, grieved very much that his disciple, Fr. Ephraim, had forced him to do something against his conscience. Three years before he died, however, the Elder Nikephoros returned to the church. http://www.archbishopgregory.info/chapter_06_first_visit_to_mount_athos.shtml

  1. 999.99 (five nines fine) The purest type of gold currently produced.
  2. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, it is taught that monastics lose their salvation if they leave the monastery–whether a novice, rassaphore, or great-schema. Unless, of course, they get a blessing. In 2000/2001 a monk from St. Nektarios Monastery was visiting St. Anthony’s once for an immigration appointment–when new monasteries were opened the immigrant monks who were transferred did not update their address and would travel back to Arizona when they had INS appointments. This monk did not want to return to St. Nektarios Monastery due to the angry and oppressive atmosphere that existed there at that time (as one of the Athonite Fathers said, “Do you want to destroy a monk’s spirituality? Send him to help establish a new monastery). Geronda Ephraim gave him a blessing to be a monk at St. Anthony’s but due to the fact that he didn’t first consult his Geronda [Joseph] and did it of his own volition, it was frowned upon by many of the other monastics in various monasteries. Some even believed that this act would greatly hinder his chances for salvation and that although Geronda Ephraim gave a “blessing,” he was actually doing obedience to this young monk, and the whole affair was really just an act of self-will not really covered by a blessing. In another case, a novice from Arizona received a blessing to go live at Filotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. Many of his brother monastics gossiped that in reality, Geronda didn’t actually bless it but rather this novice ceaselessly begged and harassed Geronda to allow him to go and in the end Geronda Ephraim did obedience to his will and “blessed” it. Later, rumors went around the monastery that he became deluded, was re-baptized at an old calendarist monastery, and was ordained a deacon. Afterwards, he left the monastic life and returned to the world. These stories are used as cautionary tales to scare young novices and remind them that if they don’t stay with their elder no matter what, and do absolute blind obedience, they will become deluded, leave, and lose their soul.
  3. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the only possible sin in obedience is disobedience; i.e. not obeying the command the elder has given. Both physical and spiritual obedience are expected, and it must be blind, without questioning, back-talk, murmuring, judging, etc. Thus, if the obedience is a “spiritual” sin (i.e. lying, perjury, falsifying records, gaslighting pilgrims to cover-up a scandal, etc.), the disciple is not sinning if he/she obeys the command. The Geronda or Gerondissa are responsible before God for the commands given (thus, if the order they give is a sin, it is their burden and sin). The disciple is only responsible before God for the obedience they did or did not do, regardless of whether it is a sin or breaking of the commandments. In doing obedience they have not sinned and will not have to give an account before God on why they broke His commandments. If they disobey the command, they will have to give an account for their disobedience, and possibly lose their salvation for this crime.
  4. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, a monastic does not have a blessing to confess to other spiritual fathers other than their own. I.e., a monk from Michigan wouldn’t ask the hieromonks in TX or NY if he could see them for confession. The only other person monastics can confess to other than their own spiritual father/mother in the monasteries is Geronda Ephraim in Arizona. A blessing is usually still required before this happens, though.
  5. Geronda Ephraim uses the story of Akkakios a lot in his homilies to his monastics. This story is meant to encourage moanstics to endure everything their superiors put them through with patience and without murmuring. “The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, St Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. St Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years. Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” [St. Akakios is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on July 7th].
  6. This is the kind of obedience required in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Similar to Abraham who didn’t question God when told to murder his son, Isaac, nor did he think twice about sacrificing him, so to should the disciple monk do everything Geronda asks without hesitation or a double mind.
  7. AKAKIOS111