November 7, 2009

Elder Joseph the Cypriot - An Example of Humility

We knew such a light-hearted Geronta (Spiritual Father), simple, humble, with great faith in Christ and the Panagia (Virgin Mary). He was from Rizokarpaso in today Turkish-occupied Cyprus and came to Mount Athos, at the time when it was also occupied by the Turks. He passed away twelve years ago at the age of one hundred and six. He was on Mount Athos for eighty-six years. He left the Mountain only once or twice, to go to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For eighty-six years he did not eat meat. For eighty-six years he did not see a woman. For twenty-five years he did not wash his plate. He was very healthy, temperate, smart, and kind. When he was one hundred and three years old he went up the roof of his cell to fix the tiles. "The Virgin Mary sends me everything I want", he said. "I have the icon of the Panagia Oikonomissa, and Her All-Holiness takes care of me. There, just now I wanted water and you came to bring it to me."

Once two young friends who were newly married came from Athens and asked me if there are still Spiritual Fathers (Gerontes) on Mount Athos like the ones found in the books Gerontikon and Philokalia. There are, I said, and I took them to the Geronta, monk Joseph the Cypriot. He was then one hundred and five years old. He was lying down and making a prayer. "These gentlemen", I said, "are from Athens and wanted to get your blessing". I saw that he had no wish for conversation. After exchanging two to three words, he made the sign for us to go. Upon leaving the men said to the Geronta: "Geronta, we have many problems, please pray for us". "I will pray", he answered, "but I want money in order for me to pray for you". Upon hearing these words I felt so ashamed, I was lost, I did not know what to say. I attempted to justify his reaction. I wondered why he did this. They went to a holy man and he asked for money in order to pray for them? This man who hardly knew the value of money and never gave it much importance? The men left and I felt so sad about what happened. The next day I went to see him, and he said to me: "Father Moses we did not gather virtue together. Do not bring people to see me in order for them to honor me. I asked God to honor me in the next life, not in this fake one". I was surprised. He belittled himself in front of his guests by seeking money, which he never had and never loved, he made me feel ashamed. How could I dare take people to him again? He spoiled his image as a great ascetic. He destroyed his fa├žade. Which one of us can do such a thing? He was humble. Above scandal. He only cared about what God would say about him, not people. When I told this to those friends, they were left speechless.

From the book The Talking Silence by Monk Moses of Mount Athos.