September 19, 2015

A Letter of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi to the Seminarians of Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston in 1959

Elder Jospeh of Vatopaidi in 1961 at New Skete

I have translated a letter below from the archives of Vatopaidi Monastery that was written by the late Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi (+ 2009) which he sent to the students of Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1959 at the request of a certain professor of this school. The request was made for the renowned Elder Joseph the Hesychast to write the letter to the students, but due to his failing health which brought about his repose a few months later (August 15, 1959), he had his disciple the monk Joseph write it. We do not know exactly the professor who requested this letter, but three professors who had deep ties with Mount Athos that could have requested this letter at the time were Fr. John Romanides, Dr. Constantine Cavarnos and Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos.

Mount Athos - March 10, 1959

To the pious young students of our dearest expatriates in America, beloved in Christ and our genuine brothers in the Lord, greetings.

Dearest, with much enthusiastic desire we see what has already come true, and we remain constantly grateful to our good Master, that He has not left us inconsolable in such a critical and sterile generation. Yes indeed, for we see that even in the farthest parts of the world we find enlisted souls who carry the cross-bearing flag of our Lord Jesus. How can a poor letter such as mine be able to interpret such a vision!

This vision springs from the sweet words of our Lord Jesus Christ as the capping-stone of all promises, which constantly whispers in the ears of all the called of the heavenly kingdom: "Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

The constant desire of which I wrote of above is as follows:

We, the worthless orphans of the world, voluntarily remain wherever we are for the sake of our primary objective, and do not forget even for a moment our brethren. And whoever among us gains courage and boldness before our beloved Jesus, so much also does our zeal for the benefit of our neighbor increase. In my opinion, O dearest youth, no one who tastes of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, yes, I say no one who tastes of the good words of the Lord, with the power of the future age, can possibly hide it and not proclaim it to one's neighbor like the First-Called disciple to his beloved relative. Therefore, this necessary desire of ours and objective which we sought to accomplish we see already in your faces, prior to our particular effort. We are therefore vindicated in our special joy.

May God, O beloved, Who heals the sick and supplies for what is missing, visit your delicate souls and nurture you in His goodness, that you may become honorable and useful vessels, receiving the entire inheritance of future salvation in the present course of our life. But also taking into account the height of our own election by the Father of Lights, we sincerely praise you. And what do you think is better, O dearest youth, in our present Christian life, than to be made worthy to profit a little its youth?

However, O good fellow-soldiers, before you begin to do this good, as well as finish this good, there lies the true philosophy, and it is fitting to make the required preparation that we may not fail our intended purpose. I, the worthless one, write these things with sincere love and stand together with you in this bloodless battle, for our purpose is only one thing according to the divine Apostle, and that is for us to be perfect. Taking courage once again in your love and that you tolerate my folly, I dare recall those things which you have long known, hoping thus to contribute to your pious effort.

Throughout your course, and especially in the beginning, O pious youth, let the fear of the Lord never fade from you. Having this now, you will not be in danger. With the fear of the Lord, all evil deviates. If you begin with this introductory fear, which is also called punitive, then hopefully you will attain the perfect fear of love. Thus our venerable Fathers write, that if in the beginning you keep the commandments out of fear of punishment, then you will come to keep them in fear of saddening the heavenly Father, Whom you completely love. Let it not escape your notice, O youth, that your position is to be like light, a lamp, shining your light before the world. You will be as salt - O how many properties does salt have! and how much more according to Christ and according to the Church.

Take into account, O youth, what is to your benefit and progression, but also your studies, for the good which it may bring about as a conscientious and virtuous leader of a society which seeks for something like this in such a time. Today, unfortunately, this is a great scourge of societies. May I not seem heavy in presenting the fiery example from my homeland, with the august hero Digenis. You know what follows and I will repeat it back to you. See what is a good example of a leader? And you, who have been granted to be worthy of this, choose the providence of God above. Have as an objective what is above, consider what is above, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. See what bravery, patience, hope, disinterestedness, modesty and dedication to a task accomplishes? All of you, with the power of your observation, take into account the consistency of such a godly sacrifice, which the elder George Grivas rendered to his homeland, and which will come to a conclusion when our own particular strength and energy is above all spiritual. And there is the other thing: The sacrifices of this world, no matter how successful, will last up to our death and then produce the shape of this world, for both our present glory and that in the future which is incomparably more perfect and lasting.

In conclusion to my humble reminder, O dearest and beloved, I will present to you what comes out of the mouths of more spiritual persons who have come to know and taken these spiritual things, and received much. These blessed ones always told me that the essential and primary points which a cleric and in general all orders of Christian leaders must keep is wisdom and lack of avarice. Since then wherever I lack the presence of such God-bearing men, I will not cease every day to recollect these commands and to validate them every day with newer findings that are indeed true.

Having together with them also the above supplies and everything else that our army demands, beloved brethren, take courage and do not fear. Indeed, "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 Jn. 4:4). And we also the worthless, if you allow us, will not cease praying on your behalf who are on the straight and narrow path, conducting to the utmost the entire objective, through our poor letter and reminder, and whatever else depends on us.

May the Grace of our Lord, no matter how inconspicuous and small, work great things and strengthen us in the struggle set before us. Amen.

We kiss you all in Christ.

With love,

The little Joseph

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.