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November 10, 2010

St. Arsenios of Cappadocia Betrayed By Divine Grace

By Elder Paisios the Athonite

Father Arsenios often went to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. We know of about five times.

The third time he went, something happened in the Church of the Resurrection and the story was spread around Farasa by Father Arsenios' fellow-pilgrims (the Farasiote Hadjis):

"At the time of the Divine Liturgy, during the procession of the Great Entrance in which Hatzefendis* was taking part together with a large number of priests and bishops, his face was shining and they asked us to tell them about the sort of life our Hatzefendis led."

I had heard about this from old Prodromos and other Farasiotes in Konitsa, but I was not so interested in things which happened a long way off, since so much had taken place in Farasa itself.

In 1971, quite by chance while we were talking, I heard about this occurrence from the Elder Joseph of New Skete (on the Holy Mountain) who had read about it in a book by Father Joachim Spetsieris called "On Holy Communion", in which he states that he, too, was a concelebrant.

When I myself had read the copy of the book, I tried to find out if there were any children still alive of those Hadjis who had been on that pilgrimage with Father Arsenios.

I calculated from Father Arsenios' rule that he went to the Holy Land every ten years and that since he went for the first time after his ordination into the priesthood (in about 1870), it must have been this third time, that is about 1890, that this event happened, which is also known to younger Farasiotes, apart from the old ones, in Horisti in Drama (Moisis Koglanidis, Vasilios Karopoulos and others) and in Petrousa in Drama (Anestis Karaousoglou and others).

From this extract which follows concerning the narration of the miracles of Father Arsenios, it is not difficult to see that this, too, is imbued with the spiritual aroma of Hatzefendis.

(Copied from the book "On Holy Communion", by Father Joachim Spetsieris, published by G.K. Rodis, Athens 1937.):

"Another event which took place on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. The celebrant was Patriarch Nikodemos, and concelebrating were six bishops, twelve deacons and more than forty priests. Indeed, many of the priests were pilgrims from the East, from Russia and other parts. I was among the concelebrant priests, too. After the Great Entrance, and when the celebrating patriarch read the prayer and blessed the Precious Gifts, the face of one of the concelebrating priests shone brightly, which made a strong impression on me. This priest would have been past the seventieth year of his life. I asked other priests, saying: 'Where is this priest from?' They told me from Cappadocia and that he came as a pilgrim. After the Divine Liturgy I asked: 'Had others come from that place where this priest was from?' 'Yes', they told me, 'other pilgrims had come with this priest.' 'Please', I said to one of the deacons, ' call one or two of the pilgrims who have come with this priest.' The deacon called, and three came. I said to them: 'Are you from the same place as that priest who was a concelebrant today?' 'Indeed', they replied, 'from the same place, and that priest is ours.' Again I said to them: 'What sort of life does he lead? Is he a good priest?' They said to me: 'He is a holy man; he works miracles so that if he reads a prayer over someone who is sick, the patient becomes well, so that not only we but the Turks, too, consider him a saint, because he works miracles among them, also, and heals the sick...."

In the immaterialised person of Father Arsenios, the man of God, the spiritual laws prevailed: although he lived in secret and avoided the glories of the world, the Grace of God betrayed him.

* A name by which Father Arsenios was called due to his pilgrimages to the Holy Land; a Hadji is a pilgrim of the Holy Land.

From Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia, by Monk Paisios of the Holy Mountain, 1989, pp. 118-120.