December 28, 2010

Elder Athanasios of Grigoriou and a Monk With Unreasonable Zeal

By Archimandrite Cherubim Karambelas

The following narrative emphasizes the clairvoyance of the holy elder Athanasios [+1953], abbot of Grigoriou Monastery.

The zeal of the fiery Old Testament Prophet Elias ["I have been very zealous for the Lord of Hosts" (1 Kings 19:14)] is often seen in the monks of the Holy Mountain. At critical times in the past, when the faith and tradition of Orthodoxy have been seriously threatened, Mt. Athos has raised up fighters, confessors, and martyrs. We must confess, however, that there have been instances when the zeal of certain Holy Mountain monks, probably combined with ignorance, fanaticism, and lack of discernment, had caused serious harm to individuals and communities. The Scripture commands: "Turn not to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7).

Fr. E, a monk of Grigoriou, carried away by this unreasoning zeal, decided to leave his Monastery. His reasons had to do with the calendar question, combined with the visit and Liturgy at the Monastery by a certain Bishop. At night, therefore, without anyone knowing, he gathered his belongings, lowered himself from the window by a rope, and landed outside the enclosure. He then realized that he had left something important in his cell - his prayer book, a book he needed very much. So he hid in the bushes above the forecourt of the Monastery and waited for the gate to open at dawn. He had to get that book in any way possible.

The gate opened at the appointed time, and some of the fathers went out to go to work. Fr. E saw them all, but nobody could see him. A moment later, the Abbot also came out. Slowly and steadily he advanced toward the forecourt. He reached the spot directly below where Fr. E was hidden: "Fr. E, come down quickly! Come down!"

Fr. E was speechless. Confused, stunned and ashamed, making no opposition at all, he came down. He understood that something supernatural had just taken place with his Elder, and he returned to his cell in repentance.

From Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos (vol. 1), pp. 145-146.