April 12, 2012

Fr. Mitrophanes, Guardian of the Holy Sepulchre (3)

Many times when in the morning I would visit him, this would happen. Usually every Thursday I would first find him "almost dead", but when I would leave he would be like an "18 year old lad". Such grace showered his face, such a change would happen with the Elder, that he talked about the greatness of God. He ardently desired to be in constant communication with the world, to narrate the greatness of God which they granted him. He wanted this grace to transfer to his guests, and he did this one hundred percent, because no one ever left from him without changing and without being moved, after hearing his grace-filled words which came out of the blessed mouth of the Elder.

His Rule he did continuously and without fail. At 5:00 am he would arise with difficulty and with his walker he would go to the basin of water, wash his hands, dry them off good, and immediately grab his prayer rope. Several times the chambermaids would find him lying down on the ground. And despite being 97 years old, he would continuously stick to his Rule. From the day, however, when he could no longer arise from bed without help, he took a "downward spiral", and saw a defect in his Rule. But even prostrate, he would not stop with the same faith and effort to speak of the greatness of God, full of grace. He would often say: "Whoever has faith in God, love for his fellow man, and his thoughts on the memory of death and the memory of Paradise, should not fear anything." Other times, again, I would urge him to speak of a few of his experiences in the All-Sacred and All-Holy Sepulchre. And he, immediately and without delay, would begin to tell us a great narrative about all the wonders he lived, and his face would shine with the grace that showered him.

Once in a while he would ask: "Can you hear me? Can you understand me?" He was afraid that whatever he said that was beneficial and with grace could not be heard or understood, lest his effort be lost due to his not so good articulation of speech. But whatever came out of his grace-filled mouth was so understood by those thirsty in soul that he immediately moved them, and they would break out with tears of repentance and relief. Whenever I would bring to him faithful people, which was often, roughly every Saturday and Sunday, they would see in the face of the elderly Holy-Tomb-Dweller Elder Mitrophanes a change from the grace which showered him. A grace, which in turn, was transferred to all the faces of his guests. Such was the spiritual change that would happen with the pilgrims, that it became a habit for me to bring guests every Sunday so I could often live these sacred and unforgettable moments, watching analytically their faces changing by the grace of the Elder.

To the girls he would say: "Find a good Christian, not a handsome man, because only a Christian is for the home."

To a novice nun who visited him, he said: "O, you have made the best choice, to be a bride of Christ. What else do you want? This is perfection."

To another female visitor who had come from Athens to take care of him and groom him, and to give him whatever he wanted in his old age, he said: "Thank you, my daughter, for everything. You have received your reward as you would have received it, and if I was going to come to Athens with you, I could not follow you, because tens of thousands pass from here every day, who invariably have the same need, the same passion as you, to hear of the greatness of God by me a sinner. You see, they even need me here, which is why I am waiting here."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos