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Saints and Feasts of September 17

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Piety and Respect Toward the Venerable Fathers


Excerpts from the sayings and deeds of the Holy Fathers:

- The fathers of earlier times were pious, careful and strict. They were unconcerned about their outward appearance, their face and hair, caring not whether their face or hair looked good. Their rasos were short. They kept their heads down with piety and respect and avoided a direct gaze at anyone's face. They were shy. They did not converse or laugh. In the church they wore slippers.

- Once the monk Modestos had a new pair of shoes that made a noise when he was walking. The other monks called to him and asked that he wear the new shoes when he was at home and the old ones in church.

- "We were afraid to look up at the elderly fathers" an ascetic said, meaning that there was fear, respect and piety towards them. "It used to be so. How is it now? O what times these are!"

- Elder Antonios the Kafsokalyvitan was a perfect example of order and exactness in Hagiorite rules. He was a pious monk, simple and humble. He was always uttering "God bless," or "may it be blessed," or "through the prayers of our Holy Fathers." He always wore his raso. All the elders remember him with nostalgia.

- Once we asked an ascetic who was over eighty years old to tell us something that would benefit us, about the fathers of the past. He then replied laconically: "What can I tell you? The past fathers were different. They were pious."

- There was a blessed group in Vigla's hut of the Three Holy Children. The pious elder M. from Kerasia told me all about this group. Their elder Dositheos was very strict. The most senior subordinate to him was the monk Agathodoros. The most pious of all was Father Akakios, who had a beard which reached to his waist. He predicted his own death, and most of the time he had tears of joy in his eyes. When there was a visitor he would sit down with his hands crossed. The were all reverent and silent. Only the elder would speak. "A dead person does not do anything," they would say. Until the elder told them to do so, they would not offer any thing to their guests. They knew nothing of anger. They judged no one. They were filled with inner prayer, joy, happiness. Even in their sleep they saw Christ.

- On the eve of a monk's tonsure, the ever memorable hegumen Gabriel ate olives. For that reason, the tonsure was postponed, as he told us. He should have eaten plain bread, as he did the following day, even though it was the Feast of the Annunciation.

- Even though the seventy-nine year old Dionysian monk Nikephoros was dying, suffering as he was from asthma and myocarditis, he refused to take a bit of milk or fish during the Great Fast. "If I ate, Elder," he said "would I not die? I thank you for your fatherly love, but for sixty years now I have not spoiled a Great Lent. It does not feel right to do it now. A little bit of soup made with oil is good enough for me. Give me the Mystery of Holy Unction, for in five or six days I an departing to the Lord."

- Venerable Elder lakovos of Dionysiou was famous for his piety. The ever memorable hegumen Gabriel and Father Lazaros told us all about his admirable life. One year while Elder lakovos was typikaris, during a feast day his fellow monks offered him a glass of wine after the meal in the wine cellar of the trapeza, which they call "spolokanis," but he refused. They insisted, but he kept telling them that it would be harmful to him. They accused him of pride. Finally the simple elder, who was very exact in his monastic rules, to prove to them that they were pressuring him because of the devil, picked up the glass full of wine with his left hand and made the sign of the cross over it with his right. Immediately the glass shattered, and before everyone's eyes, all the wine poured out of it. Elder lakovos explained that while he was being pressed to violate his rule and drink the wine, he could see the devil in the glass, boldly making fun. It was then that he realized that the devil was behind the brothers' supposed kindness.

- There are monks who feed spiritually on saints' lives. They constantly communicate with the saints. They talk with them. They feel the presence and activity of all the saints of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic triumphant Church They are scholars of saints' lives, experts in chanting, in typikon, in feasts and vigils, in miracles. Such was the most simple Elder Theoktistos from Dionysiou, who was bent over by years of ascetic labour.

- There is no pilgrim to the Monastery of St. Dionysios who will not be taken willingly or unwillingly by Theoktistos to visit the cell of St. Niphon and venerate the icon of Christ on the wall there. With child-like love and piety, Theoktistos will draw the visitor to this icon, which had been revealed to St. Niphon in a vision. He will also bring him to the nearby cell of St. Nikodemos.

- Because Elder Theoktistos is from Epiros, he especially favours Epirotan saints — all of them, of course. He reads the saints' synaxaria every day, being careful not to miss even one, not even any of the neomartyrs. He is willing, meek, and never angry about working at any task.

- I remember when Elder Lazaros was still living, he who worshipped the divine Name of Christ and said always the Jesus Prayer. He had the junior Father Theoktistos under his protection, because the latter was tested by many who scolded him, thinking him either stupid or crazy. But this simple monk would endure these tests with rare patience, rejoicing at all his sufferings. Elder Lazaros once told me in confidence that he knew a monk, who is still living, out of whose hands wild birds would come and eat. I think I understand whom he meant.

- Always there were, and there still are, ascetic Hagiorite monks who keep strictly all the typikon, all the fasts, all the vigils, all the traditions. Such a one was Father Neophytos. He celebrated in New Skete's huts. His constant desire was to liturgize. Once Deacon Seraphim, one of the Abrahamite fathers, fell asleep during a vigil. Father Neophytos would not allow him to participate in the Liturgy. He said to him the same thing he would have said to any of the clergy: "Father, you cannot celebrate in the Liturgy because you slept during the vigil, and you have not read the prayers before Holy Communion."
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