July 13, 2014

Fr. George Kapsanis, Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery of Mount Athos (+ June 8, 2014) [3 of 3]

3. Ecumenical Teacher

In all the years he was Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Venerable Gregoriou, it became a prime attraction for millions of pilgrims from around the world, who travelled to Mount Athos to learn the inner workings of the monastic and ecclesiastical life, and they became stabilized in their married and social lives. Clergy and laity, monastics and married, Greeks and foreigners, would visit the Monastery of the Venerable Gregoriou to be taught the theological, ecclesiastical and monastic spirit of the Church. As Abbot of the Sacred Monastery he was literally spent, giving his blood to the ministry, not only to establish the monastic Brotherhood and lead it towards an authentic monastic life, with all the big problems created by such a ministry, but also for his ministry to the whole inhabited world. He did this through his written and spoken words, with his discussions and prayer, with his worship and pastoral ministry.

Thus, over a period of time, the Grace of God made him an ecumenical teacher, with his theological and ecclesiastical words, his athonite and monastic experience, with his wisdom and discernment. Certainly these interesting points will be revealed some time later by the Fathers of the Monastery of the Venerable Gregoriou.

At Conferences his personality was imposing, and in the most critical moments, with all the qualities that distinguished him, his solid theological knowledge, his kindness and his mild character, he was respected by all, even if they did not agree with his patristic views.

And when he realized there were no serious results from Conferences, then he made pastoral theology personal. He visited monasteries and distributed the light of his faith and zeal and offered his precious words to console and inspire the monks. He also did this with married Christians.

He earned the respect and honor of all, so that they would speak highly of the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Venerable Gregoriou or the Abbot of Gregoriou or of Fr. George Kapsanis, guaranteeing by his name their opinions.

Because he had clear and solid ecclesiological and theological criteria, that is why his words were always serious, firm and immovable. And as a monk he knew when to be silent in difficult moments and to patiently endure troubles and the temptations of the devil.

If I could liken Fr. George with a Holy Father, I would venture, by analogy, to compare him with Basil the Great, according to the description of St. Gregory the Theologian. Just like Basil the Great was an unsleeping eye of the Church and an ecumenical mind, the same was observed in Fr. George, who was an ecumenical teacher and an unsleeping theological mind of the inhabited world.

St. Gregory the Theologian writes of Basil the Great: "He removed all the thorns and stumbling blocks which were in our way, upon which the enemy relied in their attack upon us. He took hold of one, grasped another, thrust away a third. He became to some a stout wall and rampart, to others an axe breaking the rock in pieces, or a fire among the thorns, as the divine Scripture says, easily destroying the brushwood and those who were insulting the Godhead." "He carefully complied with the laws of obedience and spiritual order. Accordingly he visited him, with instruction and advice. While obedient to his wishes, he was everything to him, a good counsellor, a skilful assistant, an expounder of the Divine Will, a guide of conduct, a staff for his old age, a support of the faith, most trusty of those within, most practical of those without, in a word, as much inclined to goodwill, as he had been thought to hostility." With his holy conduct "in return for his love, he was requited with authority."

So also many of us felt who had the blessing to come to know the Abbot Fr. George. He was a father, brother, teacher, consultant, supporter, friend, support, consolation, rest and joy. I am thankful for many things, his theological words, his important presence in the Church and in my life, for his prayers and his love, as well as for his great sympathy for the problems I face in my Sacred Metropolis, since with his knowledge of canon law and his views on genuine traditional monasticism he took a clear position in favor of the Church and the Bishop, which others do not do. He invited me (in 2000) to the feast of his Sacred Monastery, to lend his support in these matters, with a heartfelt salutation (published in my book Orthodox Monasticism).

I will finish my words with a phrase from St. Gregory the Theologian for Basil the Great: "The holy man of God was a metropolitan of the true Jerusalem above." The same is true for the blessed George. He desired the city above, the true metropolis, and he lived for the acquisition of the Kingdom of God, and during the blessed moments of his life and with painful longing he was nostalgic for the above, so that he actually was and became a metropolitan of the Jerusalem above, where he will pray for his Brotherhood, his spiritual children and for all his friends, brethren, as well as all those who fought against him, but he will especially pray for the glory and stability of the Church for which he worked tirelessly both venerably and martyrically.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο Προηγούμενος της Μονής Οσίου Γρηγορίου Αγίου Όρους π. Γεώργιος (Καψάνης)", June 2014. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.