By Archimandrite Paul Papadopoulos
Much has been written about the Holy Elder Paisios. People who knew him and did not known him have written about his words and his life. "The Elder told me this or that." Countless are the words and sayings of the Saint.
There have been many books written about the views of the Saint concerning the various issues he discussed with pilgrims that visited him. I did not have the blessing of knowing him, so I do not know anything about him from my own personal communication. What I know, I know from what I have read and heard.
One thing I have understood: Saint Paisios was a man of asceticism. He was a man who every day and every hour brought violence to himself. He had gifts which, as Saint Porphyrios said, he acquired with great labor, perseverance and patience, attracting the Grace of the Paraclete with his humility and simplicity.
Of the various biographies I've read about Saint Paisios I found that he did not do ascetic extremes. But he had a constant ascetic life. He did not like extreme situations or fanaticism. He was a man of the middle way. A man of silence but also discussion, of austerity but also fairness, with words of wisdom through pleasantries. He was a man of discernment.
Unfortunately there are many in our days who play Paisioses both within Mount Athos and outside of it. They try to imitate him in words, but not his life. They try to acquire "spiritual followers" and not friends and spiritual children. They try to frighten and not bring peace. They try to become Paisioses without asceticism, a clean life, prayer and hunger for God. They hunger for the glory of Paisios, but are not hungry for the ingloriousness he lived in his small cell. They crave for the recognition of the venerable Elder, but they do not crave his humility and simplicity.
To have as a purpose in your life the replacement of a certain Saint is a delusion. It is a delusion to think that by keeping external types the All Holy Spirit will come to dwell within you.
Saint Paisios is one of the most beloved contemporary Saints of Orthodoxy. And this is not an accident. We loved him because he loved much.
As Christians we are called to imitate him. To imitate his asceticism, his selfless love, his unceasing prayer, his simplicity, his patience in suffering and in pain.
Let us leave aside the "Elder Paisios said..." and let us see how Saint Paisios lived his life, because only when we see the life of a Saint will we understand his words, and maybe our lives will change as well.
Saint Paisios the Athonite is an example of life and not words.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.