August 26, 2013

Elder Porphyrios and the Need For Asceticism

There are some who criticize Elder Porphyrios for not teaching the need for asceticism in the Christian life. The following excerpt is proof, among many others, that this criticism is far from true.

By Elder Porphyrios of Kapsokalyva

Do not feel sorry for the body. Chastise it. You cannot understand what is the fire of love? You must do sacrifice, asceticism. Spiritual and physical asceticism. Without asceticism, nothing happens. Be obedient to your spiritual program, such as your rule, the services, etc. and do not neglect them. Do not put it off for tomorrow. Do not even let sickness ruin it, unless it is a sickness unto death. When I was young I did three thousand prostrations a day and I never tired, for I was hard built. I chastised myself, despising the effort.

Let me show you how I did the prostrations. I did them flat and quick, without putting my knees to the ground. First I made the sign of the cross hitting hard my forehead with my fingers, then my knees,and then up to my shoulders symmetrically. Then I put my hands to the ground and lifted myself quickly. At that time I pressed down a little bit with my knees. Do you see how involved together is the body and soul in the worship of God? The nous and heart to Christ, and the body to Christ. Make prostrations with reverence and love and do not count them. It is better to do ten good ones instead of many without zeal, without worship and without divine eros. Do as many as you can, depending on your mood, but not pseudo-prostrations and pseudo-prayers. Do not do typical things with God. God asks that we strive for Him, and for it to be "with all our soul and all our heart."

Prostrations are also exercise. And even though we should never think of this, there is no better exercise than this for the stomach, intestines, chest, heart and spine. It is very beneficial, so why not do it? When this exercise is done with the worship of God and the soul achieves this worship, it is filled with joy, calmness and is at peace. This is everything. And of course, on the other hand, it follows that it benefits the body. Do you understand? Peace and tranquility come to the soul and the proper functioning of our organic system comes to the body, such as the circulatory, digestive, respiratory and endocrine, which have a direct relationship with our soul.

From ΓΕΡΟΝΤΟΣ ΠΟΡΦΥΡΙΟΥ ΚΑΥΣΟΚΑΛΥΒΙΤΟΥ ΒΙΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΛΟΓΟΙ (Elder Porphyrios Kavsokalyvitou: Life and Counsels). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.