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September 1, 2010

Elder Zosimas, Disciple of Elder Simon Arvanites

Recently the blessed Elder Zosimas, the disciple of the blessed Elder Simon Arvanites, fell asleep in the Lord on August 10th. An initial introduction can be read here.

Since prior to his becoming a monastic he was a builder, Fr. Zosimas helped build Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Penteli, Athens. It was here that he lived for a number of years with his elder, Fr. Simon Arvanites. Following the repose of his elder, he wrote five books on his life, teachings and miracles which nourished thousands of souls. He had left the monastery and for twenty years lived an ascetic life in a small house in Halandri, Athens. He was therefore an ascetic living in the world, often keeping all-night vigils and adhering fully to a monastic typikon.

He would commemorate hundreds of names in his prayers, typically in his evening prayers during the Supplication Service to the Theotokos. Daily pious Christians would come to his home, even bus loads, in order to receive his blessing. He would answer dozens of phone calls a day as well. Since he was a monastic he did not offer Confession, but his spiritual counsels nourished starving souls and he was responsible for bringing dozens closer to Christ and the Church. He would teach the following: "The most basic aspect of the Christian life is Confession, frequent Holy Communion, fasting, and the meditation of spiritual books." He also inherited a large Cross from Elder Simon, and with this Cross he would bless the faithful.

Whenever possible he would travel to Mount Athos. The first time he went to visit Elder Paisios, and when they saw each other for the first time, Elder Paisios told Elder Zosima: "The spiritual struggles which you have, I also have done". It should be noted that Elder Paisios visited Elder Zosimas previously, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in Halandri and they had a conversation, though in body Elder Paisios was still on Mount Athos. This was similar to when Elder Porphyrios visited Elder Sophrony in Essex, England through the grace of Holy Spirit, despite the former still being in Athens.

Many suffering souls would come to visit Fr. Zosimas and he would help them by taking on their burden. He would say to all: "Do not be sad when people criticize you or mistreat you. Pray and light a candle for those who criticize you, and thank them, because without these things you will not be saved". How many countless times did he pray with his prayer rope for those who criticized him. Criticism was a daily occurrence for him, much like as it was with St. Nektarios whom he held in great reverence. The more he would be criticized, the more he prayed for his accusers, and he bore his cross as a true servant of God with patience, silence and humility.

While Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos was being falsely accused of creating a scandal in the Church, Fr. Zosimas felt great pain over this situation and prayed about it fervently. He would say the following: "Fr. Ephraim (the present abbot of Vatopaidi) has done a great work. The 100 and more monks which he has under him is proof of his great spirituality, and the slanders and mistreatments which he endures, the Panagia upholds him in her hands." Elder Zosimas also had much love for Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol and suffered with him when he was mistreated years ago.

The life of Elder Zosimos was a life lived in the grace of Christ. Dozens can testify of his works, for his works testify of his life in Christ.

One pious Christian woman who was in correspondence with Elder Paisios was greatly saddened when he reposed. One night she saw in her sleep a sign saying "Towards Fr. Zosimas", similar to the sign which lead visitors to the Cell of Elder Paisios in Panagouda on Mount Athos. Not knowing who Fr. Zosimas was, she inquired and found him. Understanding that it was God's will, she revealed her burdens to Fr. Zosimas. It is such a testimony which reveals the greatness of Fr. Zosimas.

The Cypriot nun Maria Psili visited Fr. Zosimas and after doing a cross over the Holy Bible he gave it to her and told her to open it randomly for a spiritually beneficial message. Nun Maria, who suffered from many issues of health, opened the book and the verse she read said, "...take up your cross and follow Me...". It was exactly the medicine she needed at the time and she took great courage in bearing the cross in her life.

Fr. Zosimas also had many health issues, but he never complained and bore his sickness with courage.

At his funeral on August 11, 2010 at Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Penteli, countless people came to pay their last respects. Eternal be his memory and may we have his prayers.