By Archimandrite Arsenios Katerelou
Now, with regards to Elder Paisios, when I was at the Theological School, particularly in 1993-1994, I would often go to Souroti and participated then in several services, liturgies, etc.
I remember when we did an Unction Service and when the time came for my unworthiness to anoint Elder Paisios, he, because of my priesthood and of course his humility, bowed and kissed my sinful hand. I then blushed and lost it, and the only way I could legitimately react was for me to spontaneously receive his special blessing, because I had before me a Saint, and to kiss his hand at the same time. However, as I moved to reach down and kiss his hand, there was a clash of heads! Only, one was full of mind, or rather, full of Divine Grace, and the other one was hollow, not only of mind, but also of Grace, and this was shown from the hit - this is of course a hyperbole.
Of course the pinnacle of my time at the Theological School was when Fr. Paisios invited me to stay at the Monastery of Souroti to do the services for Pascha in 1994, the last Pascha of the Elder's earthly life.
Now, as to how I received permission from my Bishop in Lamia, and how it was possible for a Bishop to allow a priest to take leave during Pascha is a mystery, it is unexplainable how the doors opened. Further, His Eminence Damascene told me then: "Leave immediately, I don't want you to explain to me any reason." Because I liked to joke, I then told him: "I'm leaving before you regret it."
Indeed, I left because I was afraid he would regret it and so he would not be affected by it. I had prepared to offer many arguments, in case he didn't let me go to Souroti, but they weren't needed.
And I remember everything that happened that Great Week in Souroti, it was most moving, and especially Great Thursday morning at the Liturgy and during the Service of the Resurrection, which were done without the presence of other people. Present were only the Elder that the Sisterhood there, in the Chapel of the Taxiarchae, the Archangels.
What can I mention first, as permitted of course. The manner in which Fr. Paisios took the Holy Light, and though he chanted in such a low voice, one would think he was crying out to the Lord. It was like when God told Moses "Why do you cry out to Me?", meanwhile Moses was speaking within himself. The way he silently chanted throughout the Service. The way he said "Truly He is Risen!" His reverence. His crosses. His style. His movements. His everything. The way he communed from my unworthiness. We were caught in a tremor. The fortitude he showed in his pain; his entire 'bring on the pain' attitude, for at that time he only had 25-30 kilos of weight on his body.
Of course, our last meeting after the Vespers of Love was unforgettable to me, where among other things he told me what the doctors told him. His doctors told him that the cancer had metastasized and it would go from organ A to B to C to D and all the way to N, everywhere. This is what the doctors told him, because he wanted to know the truth. And then Fr. Paisios responded joyfully, resurrectionally, thankfully: "Let the cancer go where it wants, as long as it doesn't go here," pointing to his head. He meant that as long as his mind wasn't bothered, in order for him to give a good defense. Because, he told me: "It doesn't matter when we leave. What matters is that we are always ready."
After this he told the doctors: "With this oxygen and the A and B you've made me into an astronaut. But now your mission is finished. Now the work of God begins."
He also told me other things.
But I conclude where I began. If I did not make the unreasonable obedience to go to Theological School, I probably, perhaps, would not have had these many and other blessings and spiritual consolations that I had - always unworthily - for which, of course, we are without excuse. However, I hope in the prayers of the Elder.
I have similar indelible incidents from the old man of course from Mount Athos, where he lived like a burning lamp. From there I have, for example, a cassette from the Service of the Resurrection in the Cell of Fr. Isaac, where the Elder always did his Pascha. I was then a novice, but other times also as a student I had the opportunity to do Pascha there. We were all moved by the presence of the Elder, who would come from the morning of Great Saturday and he would tell us pleasant and beneficial things.
The Elder, when he chanted, he chanted with the loving-heartedness of his heart. When some would tell him, "Elder chant something also", he would say, "Oh I don't want to chant something because I want to constantly chant". Indeed, he chanted silently throughout the entire Service there in the Cell of Fr. Isaac.
Also, there was a Lebanese man there - because of the twenty-five people there two were Lebanese - and Fr. Paisios told him: "Read from Acts also in Arabic." The Lebanese man responded: "But Elder, this would not be right, because all of you are Greeks and you won't understand anything in Arabic." And Fr. Paisios told him: "It would be better, so we won't have responsibility on the Day of Judgement." He said other such pleasant things.
At one point a Lebanese man asked him: "Elder, can I take a picture of you?" And the Elder told him: "You little deceiver, 'one' in Arabic means a hundred!"
It was Spring, he would hear the birds outside chirping and he would ask me: "What are the birds saying now?" "How do I know Elder?" I said. "Blessed one, they are saying the
'CHRIST IS RISEN!'"
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.