November 10, 2014

The Personality of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian (1 of 2)

In 1986 the Ecumenical Patriarchate officially recognized the holiness of Saint Arsenios the New and Wonderworker (+ 1924), the godfather of Elder Paisios the Athonite, and established his memory to be celebrated on November 10th, the day of his repose.

The disposition of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian recalls the teachings of the Gospel he applied throughout his life.

By the grace of God he showed himself to be a Gospel in the flesh. He evaluated everything, both earthly and heavenly, always having Christ as the measure. Whatever was not pleasing to Christ, he rejected as chaff and an abominable thing.

1. He Loved God and Man

With abundant Divine Grace he was endowed by God to heal the souls and bodies of afflicted people. He had much love for God and for His image, because when he saw much pain and Turkish oppression in Cappadocia, his love removed him from himself and his village and he embraced the surrounding villages. He healed human pain, whether he encountered it among Christians or Turks. For the Saint it didn't matter, because he saw in their persons that they were fashioned in the image of God with much love.

2. He Was a Physician of Souls and Bodies

His entire life was a miracle, as was all the great children of the Church who conquered "the world" and sinful human nature and reached the "unending perfection of the perfect". This is why he was given the grace of wonderworking to heal and power against unclean spirits.

"In Farasa of Cappadocia and in the whole region there were no physicians, except for Father Arsenios himself, who was a teacher and physician of souls and bodies." (Elder Paisios)

Innumerable are the miracles done by the Saint by the grace of God. Barren women gave birth to children, since he read a prayer over them or gave them an "amulet" which was a piece of paper on which was written certain prayers he wrote himself. In serious cases he would read the Holy Gospel, such as for the blind, the dumb, the lame, the paralyzed and the demon possessed, and they would become well as soon as he completed the reading. Many Christians and Turks were healed after they took soil from the backyard of his cell and mixed it with a little water to drink believing that they would be healed, and the faith they had in the Saint did the miracle. Of course he never took money, nor did he touch it with his hands. He was accustomed to saying that "our faith is not sold".

As someone from Farasa said: "We in the fatherland did not know what it meant to have a physician, we did not know. We would run to Hatzefendi [this is what they called the Saint]. It wasn't until we arrived in Greece that we learned about physicians, but if we say this to the locals, it seems strange to them."

3. He "Suffered the Divine"

He completely experienced and "suffered the Divine". He lived selflessly, at very first towards God and after towards His image, his neighbor. Through bloody struggles and efforts he preserved his fellow villagers and countrymen in the faith of Christ, in the Orthodox faith, so they would not be shaken and change their religion in those grievous days and times, from the many various pressures they endured from the Turks, as well as others who were wolves in sheep's clothing, the Protestants, who were causing ruin to the flock of Christ.

4. A Model Neptic Father, Shepherd and Teacher

His house was a ramshackle building and next to it was another small individual cell, without a floor, but dirt. His small plain cell was in the midst of the world, but he was able to manage to live outside of the world. There he would spread out two blankets and prayed all night. In the eastern part of his cell he had a shelf and on it was his shrine with plenty of icons.

In this, together with his divine feats, he was much helped by two days (Wednesday and Friday) on which he would remain secluded in his cell, praying. In those days these two days bore more fruit, because they sanctified the work of the other days. For hours he would pray on his knees to God for His people, entrusted to the ascetic hands of His servant Arsenios.

To children he taught the noetic prayer, the "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me", and whenever one of them committed a wrong, he taught them to say "I have sinned my God".

The usual food of Father Arsenios was barley petoura, which he himself baked on a tray. On all the fasts, even those of Wednesday, Friday and Monday which is dedicated to the angels, he would not even drink water until the setting of the sun.

His rule of services was as follows: On all the Great Feasts he did an all-night vigil, which took place from sunset to sunrise. As for how he slept or for how long, God knows. Wednesday and Friday he would remain secluded in his cell. On these days of his seclusion, he not only pulled in divine heavenly powers in his prayers, but he was pulled into the heavenly angelic powers.

Many who happened to see Hatzefendi praying with his hands lifted up, supplicating God and crying out praying "My God, My God!", would say: "It was as if his heart was leaving in that hour, and as if he was holding on to the feet of Christ and not letting go unless He fulfilled his request."

His distinct asceticism was always accompanied by love for others and with humility in himself. Yet no matter how much Father tried to hide, it was not easy. The grace of God that lived within him betrayed him.

His holy personage continuously scattered grace and comfort. His face would shine from its ascetic glare, that resembled the color of a ripe quince. He became practically exhausted from his supernatural spiritual struggles for the love of Christ, as well as his many labors out of love for his flock, which he pastored for fifty years like a good shepherd.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.