January 15, 2014

The Last Days of Elder Anastasios of Koudoumas (1 of 5)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Elder Anastasios Koudoumianos reposed on Monday, 2 December 2013, and the funeral service was chanted the next day, 3 December, in the Sacred Monastery of Koudoumas of the Sacred Metropolis of Gortynis and Arcadia, where he was a Hieromonk, with the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Gortynis and His Eminence Metropolitan Andrew of Arkalochorion, as well as clergy, monks and a crowd of people.

As we proceed I will relate some information regarding the last days of his earthly life and about my meeting with him in the hospital. I hope and believe that the Abbot and Fathers of the Monastery of Koudoumas as well as Archimandrite Fr. Antonios Fragakis will write about this wonderful venerable monk, about his venerable life, the alteration of his heart, the ascent of his spirit and the divine wisdom of his teachings.

An Empirical Theologian

Elder Anastasios was a fatherly figure, had empirical theology, but knew very well the theology of the Fathers, and expressed himself theologically and logically, even though he did not finish Primary School. But the monastic life, the asceticism in the cave, the unceasing prayer he had and the various visitations of divine Grace upon him gave him admirable theological knowledge.

I met him through Fr. Antonios Fragakis, and I had communication with him by telephone, by which he passed on to me his prayers and views and I was in admiration for the way by which he expressed himself, which was a reflection of his theological charisma, as well as his studies of the books of the Fathers of the Church, through his own experience. He spoke in an amazing way, "in the manner of the Apostles, not in that of Aristotle". He read my books and expressed his views. He loved me and I respected him very much. I took account of his speech, because he was a divinely-wise Hieromonk.

Previously I had heard a recorded oral speech he made to pilgrims of the Monastery in which he developed magnificently the binary relationship between pleasure and suffering according to Saint Maximus the Confessor. It was not a prepared speech, but it came out of his own experience and knowledge. Hearing this speech I was amazed at the flow of the patristic words, which were completely assimilated by the Elder, and I diagnosed most clearly that his words, although he had not himself studied theology, were eminently theological, structured and therapeutic.

God made me worthy to meet with him last April (04/15/2013), when I visited him at the Sacred Monastery of Koudoumas and we had a very interesting discussion, which I will post later. I was impressed by his empirical knowledge which he showed by his theological words, his penetrating glance, his bright face and his overall presence. This is why I dedicated to him my latest book which was distributed with the title Theological Events, with the following words:

"To the respected Elder Fr. Anastasios Koudoumianos, a spiritual antidron to the spiritual gift of his much love."

When I sent the book to the Elder, I wrote him the following:

Respected Fr. Anastasios,

I am in Athens for the Assembly of the Hierarchy of our Church.

Just now the new book came out of the printing press with the title "Theological Events", and I am sending you the first copy with deep respect and love in Christ. As you will find, this book I dedicated to you, because you are a theological event of our time.

Of course, not all the chapters of the book are at the level that is fitting for you. But there are chapters, such as "The Neptic and Social Teaching of Saint John Chrysostom" and the writings of the fourth section of this book which refer to "The Experience of Martyrdom and Theosis" from page 427 onward, which are specifically for you.

You know that I respect you very much, and I am moved by your spiritual struggles, and I recognize your empirical teaching. You are a theological witness of our times and I glorify God that I met you. For me, my communication with you was a celebration.

I fervently plead with you to pray for me that I remain in the living tradition of our deified saints, and that through your prayers my heart will be inflamed with the love of God and prayer, and especially that I may find mercy with our Lord.

I pray that God will keep you among us that you may strengthen us by your words, your life and your prayers.

I am primarily interested in participating in the heavenly uncreated Liturgy, even among the order of the "catechumens", to rejoice in the joy of others. Pray for this. I do not care about anything more.

With deep respect,

+ Of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou Hierotheos

Elder Anastasios, as soon as he received the book and the letter, said:

"Convey to the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos my deepest respect, gratitude and much love. Obviously he knows how much I respect him and love him and he dedicated his Spirit-bearing letter to my repulsiveness. There is no similarity between the spiritual depth of this book and my own stupidity. In any case, I accept it as an expression of his love."

When he read it, he movingly said:

"Convey to the Holy One of Nafpaktos my deepest respect and thanks. I cried, and was very moved. Who am I, the repulsive one, to be dedicated with such important books, and by such a writer? I accept it only as an expression of his love. I thoroughly kiss both of his hands. I thank him 'again and often'. I read it, and I sucked it in with my heart...."

The monks of the Sacred Monastery of Koudoumas said:

"The gift of the Holy One of Nafpaktos was the last that was studied by the Elder, though he imminently entered the hospital for his gallbladder, before suffering from the trauma of his hip. He wanted to first read it, then he studied it, was very pleased, and after a few days he entered the hospital indefinitely. It was the last theological essay he devoured, he who was most theological in his nous and a visionary of the divine...."

"In his last nights the Elder was completely vigilant, with extensive prayer, from 11 at night to 7 in the morning. After he remained calm, as always, and most sweet during Divine Communion. He communed with tears. He chanted words from a heart of love to Christ, as a "provision for life eternal", a "medicine of immortality", as an "antidote to not die". He was silent for the most part, then he prayed. He enthusiastically studied the book of the beloved Metropolitan of Nafpaktos.... Of the Mysteries which he lived, he spoke little to us. He said to Fr. Hilarion: 'Anthony the Great came fully alive. We spoke to each other.' 'I am in a state of exiting...I received a short extension...pray that I may be found in the Light.'"

I received two important messages that indicate the spiritual maturity of the Elder. He lived the internal noetic liturgy during the Divine Liturgy, and at the same time he desired the "bright-garment fitting above".

"The Elder said: 'The demon is furious. It cannot be written what he is doing to me, especially at night. This of course is external. Internally my nous is liturgizing in the chapel of the deep heart. Every morning the noetic liturgy of the heart awaits the fruit of the morning Liturgy of the Monastery - the Body and Blood of Christ. Christ, the Prince of Peace, is enthroned in my heart. Perfect rest.'"

"The Elder said: 'I am in haste to depart from this world of corruption. I also do not want to see the upcoming woes. However, will there be found for me, the unworthy one, a place in the bright-garment fitting above? I beg that the Holy Metropolitan of Nafpaktos will pray for my exit from this vain world and for my salvation.'"

I pronounced blessed the departed Elder and glorified God!

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.