September 11, 2015

The Blessed Life and Death of Elder Arsenios Machairiotis (+ September 11, 2004)

The Saint-loving Blessed Elder Arsenios Machairiotis

By Archimandrite Ephraim,
Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery

The blessed Fr. Arsenios Machairiotis, in the world known as Nicholas Patsalos, was born in 1969.

In 1986 he went to study Theology in Thessaloniki. From a young age he loved God very much, which later in life increased even more.

He loved monasticism, and experienced this particular call and attraction from God.

Often he visited Mount Athos, especially New Skete and Vatopaidi Monastery, and he connected with the blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi.

This is how we came to know him personally, when he visited New Skete as a student. We remember that he would listen with much longing to the words of our Elder Joseph.

He became connected with and a spiritual child of Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol.

In 1992, with the blessing of our Elder Joseph and at the invitation of Archbishop Chrysostomos I of Cyprus, together with Fr. Athanasios, Fr. Isaac and Fr. Nicholas, he went to the Monastery of the Iereon in Paphos.

The next year, in 1993, they settled in the Sacred Monastery of Machairas, which they turned into a coenobium.

Fr. Arsenios lived a pure life, he had a pure heart. He loved the saints, he was a friend of the saints and he tried to imitate their lives.

He loved the divine services, he loved the Divine Liturgy, but he had an ascetic spirit.

Although he stayed for a short while on Mount Athos, he received a complete Athonite spirit. He was dedicated to the counsels and writings of the blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast, the spiritual founder of our brotherhood.

In Cyprus he accepted the grace of the priesthood. While in 1999, according to God's good pleasure, the Abbot of Machairas Monastery Archimandrite Athanasios, was promoted to Metropolitan of Limassol, Fr. Arsenios, without his request nor without seeking it, but in obedience, became the new Abbot of Machairas Monastery.

Despite his young age, Machairas Monastery spiritually advanced considerably in his days, and the brotherhood increased through the constant arrival of young monks to the Monastery, to such an extent that fathers of Machairas went in 2003 to settle in the Sacred Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Mesa Potamou.

On the 11th of September in 2004, on his way to visit Mount Athos in the company of the late Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria, in order to attend the celebration of the Honorable Belt at Vatopaidi Monastery, the helicopter carrying them crashed near the coast of Mount Athos, killing all occupants. Thus, apart from being a martyr of conscience, Father Arsenios became a martyr of blood.

His obedience and sacrifice made him a spiritual foundation for the Monastery. Every spiritual person is tested through the furnace of afflictions and temptations.

Fr. Arsenios gave a single exam and passed with honors through his martyric trial.

Likewise he also as an institutional body, a spiritual leader of his Monastery, became the cause for the spiritual rooting to obtain strong spiritual foundations for the monastic edifice of Panagia Machairas.

In 2005 our Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, wanting to commemorate his spiritual grandson, dedicated to him the publication of our Monastery titled "Experiences of Divine Grace".

May we have his blessings.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Abbot Arsenios Machairiotis: His Blessed End

By his Spiritual Father,
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

He was troubled about his journey to Mount Athos, as he constantly told me, and he looked for a way to avoid it.

But he was obligated to go, because the late patriarch asked him to accompany him to Mount Athos as he had experience of the ways and places of the Holy Mountain. So he could not do otherwise.

I remember, we had a Holy Synod meeting on Friday. He was at the meeting with us, because abbots from the stavropegic monasteries also participated.

As he was leaving, a brother who was with me found him in the yard and said, "Go Fr. Arsenios and come back quickly, as we now have voting to do."

He responded: "I will go but I will not come back. I will remain there."

"You will remain on Mount Athos?" the brother asked.

"I will remain there. You will vote by yourselves," he said.

The meeting ended and the brother, troubled, said to me: "It seems Fr. Arsenios is thinking about staying on the Holy Mountain."

I said to him: "I wish he would stay, but he won't stay. He has too much work here."

That night I was confessing till late at night, between 11:00 and 11:30 PM, inside the Metropolis building, because the Cathedral was under construction.

A brother came to me and said: "You know, Abbot Arsenios is calling. He wants to speak with you."

I said: "Arsenios is chore-free (as we say in Cyprus), having gone to Athens. I'm suffocating, losing myself, tell him I have no time."

He hung up and called 3 or 4 more times. The brother told me that he insisted on talking to me. I asked if anything happened to him, what was going on at this hour, what happened to him and what does he want, since he is going to Mount Athos tomorrow?

"Anyway, come on, since he insists, let me talk to him." The line was connected, and I said to him: "Arsenios, what do you want at this hour? I have many people here who want to confess, and time is passing."

He said to me: "Elder, I want to tell you that I'm very much afraid for this trip." I told him that if he was afraid then he shouldn't go. "Tomorrow you will be on Mount Athos, but we have a thousand jobs."

"I'm afraid of the helicopter," he said.

I didn't know they were going with a helicopter. "What helicopter?" I asked.

He said: "We are going with a helicopter from Athens to Mount Athos."

I said to him: "Whatever happens you will be with the patriarch. Don't be afraid you poor thing."

We talked for a bit. He was very troubled, very worried. We hung up. I did my cross, saying: "May God help them." I said to myself: "Although Arsenios is stocky, he's a bit of scaredy cat." He was afraid of the helicopter, and after a thousand thoughts passed through my head, I made it out to be somewhat of a joke.

Unfortunately however it seems that all this was a preparation from God that He was to bring him close to Himself. Until we heard the difficult news, that the helicopter was lost and what followed.

Then we entered into the human atmosphere of mourning. While they were searching for the relic of the patriarch and everyone else who reposed, I was at Machairas Monastery and found out that they found him.

An ascetic, a serious man, whose name I can't reveal, called me from Mount Athos and said that a neighboring ascetic saw Fr. Arsenios in spirit while he was praying, and he told the ascetic: "You know, they are looking for us in the sea, but we are in heaven. What are they looking for?"

This ascetic had never known him or seen him before. I said that no one doubts that he is in heaven.

It follows that their relics were found, he was prepared, and brought to Cyprus, there was a funeral service, and his presence was alive among us, without any doubt in our minds. I can say that we felt his prayers and his presence, as well as in the life of the monastery, in the life of the brotherhood and in my own personal life.

We feel that we have a man who appears before God and intercedes for us.

He who was my disciple and novice and younger than me, became a teacher and guide, because above all he taught me the vanity of human things, he taught us how vain things were in this world, and how fake everything was that took place in this world without the seal of God.

Thus the memory of his person and life became for all of us who experienced him, the greatest lesson.

He gave us the final lesson with his life and his holy end and with his holy relic which rests in the habitation of the Panagia Machairas, the monastery he would visit as a young child.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.