July 12, 2014

Concerning the Book "Elder Paisios of Mount Athos" by Hieromonk Isaac (1 of 3)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

With this title an amazing book was recently published that describes the Life and Disposition of the venerable Elder Paisios, whom I was made worthy by God to meet and to listen to his divinely wise teachings.

The author of the book is the ever-memorable Hieromonk Isaac, with the help of his Brotherhood, both before and after his repose, and its primary distribution is through the Holy Convent of Saint John the Forerunner in Metamorphosis of Chalkidiki.

1. The Content of the Book

It is a "systematic biography" of Elder Paisios and in fact his "autobiography", with the chief source of information being Elder Paisios himself, since the Elder guided his spiritual children with his own great spiritual experience, thus revealing some spiritual aspects of himself. Besides, the spiritual and monastic life is essentially a polemical - military science.

The material collected, as stated in the Prologue, was quite large, which is why "teachings of the Elder were omitted, which could fill several volumes, as well as numerous letters and over 200 attested miracles of his."

The Brotherhood of Elder Isaac writes in the Prologue: "More than his miracles we have been moved by his great self-denial, his honor-loving struggles for the love of Christ, his monastic exactitude and delicate sense for the spiritual life, his rare discernment, his sacrificial love for all men and paternal mindset that gave rest to all."

Many books have circulated regarding the ever-memorable Fr. Paisios, and we have in our opinion his most authentic words on various issues of the spiritual life through those that were published by the Sacred Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Souroti, as well as other conversation with various pilgrims that have appeared. But this book we are presenting presents the infrastructure of this teaching of who Fr. Paisios is, since it markedly describes what he did to achieve in having an authentic theological word. Without the infrastructure of a life, words are empty.

The book Elder Paisios of Mount Athos is divided into two main parts.

The first part describes "His Life" and is divided into fourteen chapters with sub-sections, with titles like: "His Ancestors According to the Flesh and to the Spirit"; "In Training for the Spiritual Life"; "Military Service"; "Searching and Preparing"; "Coenobitic Life in the Monastery of Esphigmenou"; "Life in the Idiorhythmic Monastery of Philotheou"; "At the Monastery of Stomio in Konitsa"; "A Hermit on the God-trodden Mount Sinai"; "At Iveron Skete"; "In Remote Katounakia"; "At the Hermitage of the Holy Cross"; "At Panagouda Giving to the Suffering"; "Illness and a Blessed Repose"; "Miracles After His Repose".

The second part is titled "Themes" and is divided into three chapters. The first is titled "Virtues", the second "Spiritual Gifts" and the third "Offerings".

The last part of the book is an "Addendum" that presents three themes: "The Elder's Appearance, Character and Natural Gifts", "His Message" and "The Elder's Spiritual Will".

If the first part of the book presents the "wide life" of the Elder and we see his journey and spiritual battles, the second part presents his "deep life" describing systematically his sanctified personality.

Both parts have their uniqueness. In the first part one admires his struggles and asceticism, as well as the experiences of the Elder, and in the second part one is shattered and dizzied by the depths of his personality.

Saint Maximus the Confessor writes that the Holy Spirit causes those to be pure who are worthy of purification, through fear, reverence and knowledge; and He causes illumination of the knowledge of beings to those who are worthy of the light, through strength, will and prudence; and He also gives perfection to all those worthy of theosis, through all-enlightening, simple and complete wisdom. The ever-memorable Elder was worthy of purification, illumination and theosis, and God granted him all the goods of his blessed state, since he became a spiritual father and helped people in many ways, with his words and his silence, with his prayers and his miracles. For this reason when his words are read, they feel to be words of wisdom and prudence, words that create a renewed and revised personal life.

2. Empirical Ecclesiology