January 8, 2010

Mischievous Designs and Problematic Personalities

By Mr. Athanasios Rakovalis

Around 1992 rumors circulated that a great war will start, in which Greece would be embroiled, because during that time two paschal feasts would coincide, as prophesied by Saint Kosmas the Aitolian. Two important feasts, namely Easter and the Annunciation, did in fact coincide then, and this was considered by some as the interpretation of the Saint's prophecy. The rumors were also embellished with other details.... On the Holy Mountain (monks and laity) would pass on the rumors with some hesitation and reservation, while others found themselves in a state of alarm and would then spread the rumors as a certain fact, while others would refuse to listen to any of this and considered all these to be simply foolishness. The facts justified the latter.

Just before 2004 the rumor circulated that the Olympic Games in Athens would not take place because war would break out. Once again, these three categories of people reappeared. Some in fact began to hoard groceries.... Once again, rumors proved to be false. These are two of several other rumors of a smaller extent that reached my ears.

What is happening?... There are certain problematic and complex-ridden Christians (monks, priests and lay people) who have "a combination of piety and paranoia", as Elder Paisios would quip; who would pretend to be charismatic while they are not; who move along the boundaries of mental illness and deception; who seek the admiration and respect of the crowds, which is why they spread those rumors, even if subconsciously they know that this game has an expiration date. Are they being mocked by vainglory? Can they not perceive the immense damage they are causing to the Church and to the weak in faith?

Alongside them is also a category of people who delight in listening and believing such rumors, without examining the validity of the source that spreads them, without screening the information, without putting simple logic to work. Obviously such rumors create a spiritual arousal that pleases them, renders their life more exciting and even fills certain psychological voids. Where else could such immature behavior originate from? This was how I used to explain matters for several years.

Before Christmas of 2008 another rumor had circulated, of an exceptionally urgent nature. It said that war would break out in less than a month, during January 2009. They advised the people to hoard food and some money, in order to confront the difficult situation that would be created and would last between three to six months. They attributed the rumors to certain lay people but also to clergy. This time they even named the source. It was the Elder Ephraim from America. Because the Elder was well known and respected and had significant authority, the rumors spread greatly, throughout Greece. They even reached the point of circulating on the internet. Many people conformed to the instructions. Luckily there were also those who were not carried away by the prevailing atmosphere. The days passed and nothing happened. Two or three months later, the Elder Ephraim greatly surprised, issued a communique from the States and declared that he had never said such things. Had someone (we wonder who?) over-inflated and misinterpreted his words, or, even worse, begun this without cause? The name of Father Ephraim had been slurred on a broad scale.

What had happened? All those people who had attached importance to the name of Elder Ephraim now felt deceived and ridiculed. The merchants had profited from the naivete of the Christians, the authority of the Elder had received a severe blow, and the faith of the weak in the Church and the Saints was shaken. And the enemies of the Church had rejoiced, for - according to them - the naivete and the complex of Christians who believe in Saints and charismatic elders and their prophecies, had been triumphantly proven. The enemies of the Church and the devil were the ones who had clearly profited.

Father Ephraim had founded 17 monasteries in the United States, which are inhabited by people of every race in the world. He is the one who had brought the Orthodox, Hagiorite monastic spirit to the American continent. He enjoys immense respect among the Orthodox of America. The devil and certain people hate him and are opposed to his work. Couldn't all this be an orchestrated, underhanded war against him, but also against the charismatic Saints and in the final analysis against the Church of Christ?

During the exact same period, yet another scenario was being playing out, which concerned the Elder Paisios and was correlated to the scenario that they were trying to attribute to Fr. Ephraim.

It is a fact that the Elder Paisios had said that God will bring about the interests of the powers that be, in such a way that at the end the City (Constantinople) will be returned to us. They will fight among themselves and in the end they will agree to a compromise: "The City, neither we nor you will take it; we shall give it to the Greeks". These words I have also heard with my own ears and I know he had also said them to many others. In fact he had told a certain young man who visited him for the first time, "You will enter the City as a standard-bearer". It turned out that the young man was an officer of the Greek army. This story we have known about for many years and is absolutely true.

Fifteen years after the repose of the elder I heard this same story embellished with certain details which I had heard for the first time, and none of the Elder's closer students whom I had asked were aware of them either. This fact puzzled me greatly. "How is it that those close to Father Paisios did not know about them but others did?"

The details that remained closer to the true core of the story are the following: a) The name of the officer and b) that he was to retire in the spring of 2009. This immediately provided a dramatic specification, inasmuch as this prophecy had to be fulfilled during the Spring that had just passed. During the same period a ridiculous story had begun to circulate, about three letters which were supposedly written by Fr. Paisios and were entrusted to an unknown person with the instruction to deliver them so many years after his repose, to the President of Russia, the Greek Prime Minister and to the head of the Greek army. This too was extremely puzzling: for such an important topic, how was it that none of the acquaintances of the Elder knew anything? Who are those unknowns who had circulated this ridiculous and provocative story about the letters? What role were they playing? What was their objective? This had been combined with the alleged Fr. Ephraim scenario and both were circulated widely on the internet, causing many pious but naive people who had faith in the two elders to get sidetracked. Unfortunately, there were a number of Christians who had plenty of piety mixed with a small dose of faultiness, who reproduced these suspicious stories with an excess of levity, naivety and zeal.

Spring came and went, the officer retired from active duty, war did not break out, nor was the City handed over to us. Thus, with the help of those details that held true to the core of Elder Paisios' prophecies, they succeeded in presenting him as a liar and untrustworthy in the eyes of the people who do not know the situation up close. They seem to be purposely trying to damage the authority and the influence that the Elder Paisios has with Orthodox Christians.

From the method and manner of their propagation, and from the fact that they succeeded in spreading lies so widely, could we perhaps conclude that we are dealing here with something planned and well organized? If we consider how all these things are taking place at a time when the Church is systematically being attacked, and that there is a constantly evolving political de-Christianization of Greek society, one can surmise that all these are a part of a broader plan processed by mercenary psychologists, professional slanderers, mercenary manipulators of public opinion, agents who exploit the foolishness and the problematic personalities of certain Christians, to damage the authority of the Saints and of the Church.

Let us stand with fear and attention. Let us not allow ourselves naivety and foolishness. Let us become "prudent like serpents" and "pure like doves", because, as the blessed saintly Elder Paisios used to say - "we are living in the time of the Antichrist, and we sleep with our shoes on".

Source: Parakatathiki (Heritage), Issue: Aug-July 2009.