March 10, 2017

The Forty Day Fast of Saint Paisios the Athonite for the World

By Archimandrite Christodoulos,
Abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery

The Elder used to come to the vigils of our Monastery and would sit in a stall across from our domestic icon, the Awesome Protection. The brothers would also visit him regularly, and of course many pilgrims that were hosted by our Monastery. However, for a period of forty days – it was the year where he had the first symptoms of cancer - he would not appear when people would come by. He neither opened the door to his hut nor did he show us a sign that he was alive. This worried us. One day I decided to go by myself to his hut. I knocked on the door but received no response. I managed, though, to force myself in. Even though I had arrived anxious, I strangely felt an unidentifiable and inexplicable calm the moment I had entered.

As soon as I reached his small room, I saw the Elder sitting on a pillow on the floor with his hands resting on a floor table. His face showed signs of exhaustion. In front of him were a bunch of grapes and a little bread. I noticed that the room gave off an unexplainable and unknown fragrance, and that there was a gentle calm. I spoke first, asking his forgiveness and explaining to him how worried we were. With gentleness and simplicity, and with a voice that barely made it out of his lungs, Elder Paisios said: “For all of these days I had been fasting and praying for the world regarding the future calamities. I became exhausted. The Panagia came and gave me the grapes and the bread. Try some!”

I took some grapes. They had the color of Rhodian grapes, with a particular taste and aroma that I had not known before. "Elder, what was the Panagia like?" I asked. Supporting himself, and with great difficulty, he got up to bring me a small framed icon. It was the Panagia the Jerusalemite.

"She always appears as the Jerusalemite," he said to me. We talked for a little while longer and I then left him in peace, because I judged that at times like those, one must not be intrusive.

From the book The Presence of Monasticism in the Contemporary World (Η παρουσία του Μοναχισμού στον σύγχρονο κόσμο). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.