Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Personality of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian (2 of 2)



"Our Faith Is Not Sold"

He never took money for healings, nor did he touch it with his hands. He was accustomed to saying that "our faith is not sold"! For instance, as Elder Paisios records:

A. Once they brought to Hatzefendis, from Tsahiroudes, a newly-married, possessed Turkish woman, bound with chains, for him to read prayers over. Since he was in retreat that day, the poor soul's relatives begged the church wardens to persuade him to receive them, because, although they had her tied up, they still could not keep her under control. Father Arsenios received them, and signaled them to release her. No sooner was the possessed woman set free, however, than she rushed at Father Arsenios, grabbed one of his legs and bit it. He was holding the Gospel to read over her, but he did not open it, just tapped her gently three times on the head and the demon at once left the woman, who then started to cry and kiss with reverence Father Arsenios' leg which she had bitten. Her father also fell at his feet and begged him to accept his whole kese (purse) and said:

"Take all of it, it's yours, because you've saved my child."

Father Arsenios raised him up and said to him:

"Keep your money. Our faith is not for sale."

B. He did not even accept gifts.

Once, when a Turk took him two animals laden with bahsis (presents), because his barren wife had two children through the periapt which Hatzefendis had sent her, he told him off in no uncertain terms:

"Weren't there any poor folk in your village? What have you brought me this for? For me to say to you "aferim" (well done)? Well, I don't take bahsis."

C. In the church there was an arch where some would voluntarily leave money for the poor, and the poor would go by themselves and take however much they needed. They were frightened to take more in case God punished them.

D. The altar bread of the church he used to send secretly at night to unfortunate families with his chanter Prodromos.

E. He never gave anything to the idle.

One day, an idle drunkard went to Father Arsenios and asked him for some altar bread. Father Arsenios was in his cell and gave him a barley cake and said to him:

"That's what I eat."

The idle man would not take it, but insisted on altar bread. Then Father Arsenios said to him sternly:

"You should be ashamed of yourself, a young fellow of forty-five, in the best of health, and you sit around all day thinking wicked thoughts, getting drunk and begging."

Then he said to the chanter Prodromos:

"Go to the church, take three or four altar breads and go to the river. If that lazybones turns up there, then give them to him."

He also told the lazy man, in order to get his rusty engine working again:

"Go down to the river and get them. And get some fish, as well. There's lots of them."

Unfortunately, the lazy man could not be bothered to go, and, what was worse, went around the village saying:

"That Hatzefendis is a real miser. He doesn't eat altar breads himself and leaves them to get wormy, and then he sends Prodromos and he throws them in the river by the sackful and doesn't share them out."

Naturally, Father Arsenios was very pleased when people blamed him unfairly. This helped him a lot, since he himself often deliberately pretended to be idiosyncratic so that he would avoid being praised by people.

The Teacher of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis

Father Arsenios preached Orthodoxy correctly together with his Orthodox life. He wore out his flesh with asceticism due to his fervent love for God and he altered souls with Divine Grace.

As a Liturgist of the Highest he did not walk on the earth, and as a co-liturgist he sparkled to the people. God glorified him because through his holy life he continuously glorified the name of God, to Whom belongs all glory, honor and worship.

The Saint believed much and healed many, both believers and unbelievers. Few words, many miracles, many works. He experienced much and hid much. Within his hard shell, he hid his spiritually sweet fruit. He was very strict with himself, but a very consoling father to his children. He did not beat them with law, but with philotimo and the meaning of the law.

A. The Patriarch on the Ecumenical Throne held Hatzefendis in reverence, and often used to write to him to ask him to pray for the Ecumenical Throne, and Hatzefendis would take Prodromos and they would hold all-night vigils in the Chapel of our Panagia or in the Church of Saint John Chrysostom.

B. The Farasiotes hardly understood why Father Arsenios would give names to children of his choosing without listening to their requests. He would either give them monastic names or Hebrew names. He did not allow sponsors to give the name of a popular saint, especially one that had a celebration. Elder Paisios explains:

"Father Arsenios did this to cut off the many celebrations that took place on name days, and the episodes. This is why he preferred names that did not celebrate, such as Abraham, Isaac, Averkios, Jordan, etc. In this way he cut off the celebrations that accompanied name days, which often resulted in drunkenness and serious episodes, which was the reason for everyone carrying weapons. Thus they were forced to gather in their homes after the Divine Liturgy. They would rest a bit, then the oldest would go to the home of Father Arsenios who narrated to them the life of the saint of the day."

5. He Showed Love Even To Dumb Animals

Father Arsenios' great sensitivity would not allow him to tire animals and rest himself. Not content with walking everywhere, he usually went barefoot too. Once when he went on a fundraising trip with his chanter Prodromos, his feet became swollen and his chanter told him to sit for a bit on the donkey, but Father said to him: "Christ went on all His journeys on foot, and only once sat on an animal, Palm Sunday, because He had to. How can I, who am worse than the donkey, sit on it?"

6. A Modern "Fool For Christ"

With all the miracles which people saw Father Arsenios perform with the grace of God, it was only to be expected that they would revere him as a saint, which he was.

The only solution was for him time to time to play the "Fool for Christ" and to present the opposite of what he was by acting in an odd manner, which is what he did. So as not to be called gentle, he pretended he was irritable. So as not to be called a faster, he pretended to be gluttonous and many other things like that. If anyone said to him, "You're a saint," Father Arsenios would answer, "Your family is no family at all." When the other person heard him belittling his family in such a curt fashion, he would be very upset, and next time would say, not that Father Arsenios was a saint, but that he would be a saint if he were better behaved.

Often, however, when he was about to pretend to be irritable, he did not manage very well, because his smiling eyes gave him away. But he continued to try to convince people by his words, too, that he was a sinful man of many passions. He used, in fact, to say this:

"There you are, you see what kind of man I am. Now what do you think? That I'm a saint?"

To women especially he used to appear stricter and more peculiar, because they held him in greater reverence and would go mad to be the first to look after him and bring him food.

So when some woman brought him food, he would sometimes tell her curtly that it was too little, and not take it, and at other times, again in a short tone, would say that it was not well cooked and again would send her away. The poor women were at a loss because they did not know where they were with him. Almost everybody was of the opinion that Hatzefendis was very strange, but also very much a saint.

Once a Farasiote woman sent him a pot full of food. No sooner had Father Arsenios set eyes on the child who was carrying it than he asked:

"What's that?"

"Food," replied the child. "My mother gave me it to bring to you."

Father Arsenios pretended to be severe and said to the child:

"What am I going to do with one pot? Not even seven like that would be enough to fill me."

When he brought him food again in a large container, Hatzefendis lifted up the lid, supposedly to see if it was properly cooked, wrinkled his nose and said to the child:

"Ugh! Food like that you can take away and eat with your mother."

In this way, Father Arsenios, who was very humble, used foolishness to conceal his saintliness and ensured a peaceful existence in order to be able to continue his monastic discipline, which was not easy for lay people to understand.

7. His Gift of Foresight

In addition to other spiritual gifts, he also had the gift of foresight. He had been informed by God that he and his flock would leave for Greece, and this took place on August 14, 1924 with the exchange of the populations. He also knew beforehand when he would die, and that it would take place on an island, which was true.

Conclusion

Today we have great need for miraculous saints like Saint Arsenios. Our hearts have become burdened with the worries of our everyday lives, that only impressive supernatural phenomena can cause the awakening of our sleeping consciences. But if the sensibilities of the soul are dead, they will not change even if someone rose from the dead.

So in a time of spiritual confusion where even the very elect are in danger of falling into delusion, the presence within the Church of such a great ascetic father is a true blessing, because he teaches us with his life and disposition. The people are tired of meaningless theological verbosity and the emptiness of words without experience, that it tends to affect the genuine patristic spirit. In essence, of course, this alters the teachings of the Gospels.

The truth is that no one enters the kingdom of heaven with comfort. The saints arrived at the resurrection after previously treading the path of martyrdom. And they practically taught that without suffering, without unceasing prayer, without humility, without the purification of the passions, without love for God and others, you cannot rejoice in the joy of Christ. This is certified for us in the life of Saint Arsenios, that holiness is inseparably tied with asceticism. And those who evade this pursuit, even if they venerate the saints, they fall into a spiritual schizophrenia.

With his spiritual struggles, deep humility and double love for God and others, the Saint became a chosen vessel, received the grace of wonderworking, and with his spiritual light he shined in the Church of Christ in our times.

May Saint Arsenios intercede on our behalf!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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