October 24, 2019

Elder Hieronymos of Simonopetra (1871-1957) - Part 3 of 3

...continued from part two.

The Spiritual Gifts of Elder Hieronymos

His discernment and humility was covered also by the gift of foresight and clairvoyancy of souls and the future. This was the result of his great love for God and the illumination he received from Him. He knew the secret depths of the human soul. He saw the entire human being. What he asked for most of those who went to confession to him was a sense of their sinfulness and humility. Full of love for suffering human nature he truly saved the souls he received, those who showed him their sores and pain. His wondrous stole, repentance, the fiery prayer of the God-bearing father for divine mercy and forgiveness, gave meaning to people's lives and opened paradisaical paths. He expressed himself not so much with terminology but with simple words. His illumined pure thoughts knew how to strengthen, bring joy and save. To all those who approached him he was a symbol of a wise spiritual father.

Services at the Ascension were daily, according to the Athonite typikon. At around two after midnight, which was the time the brothers at the monastery also got up, he went to the church to be by himself until five, when the service began daily. During this time he would remember certain names of the living and the reposed, because he did not have enough time during the proskomide. He had more than two and a half thousand names in his dyptichs. The daily services were simple, quiet and devout. The chanters were unselfish and honorable people.

The ceremonies of the Elder stood out. He transmitted grace to souls, with his bright face, peace and simplicity. Never did he sit down during the liturgy. As a liturgist, he was completely dedicated to his work. He appeared disembodied. During the time of the liturgy many children saw him standing above the ground. "The Father is flying," they yelled. They would see him a span above the ground.

After liturgy he would not see people right away. He wanted to sit a few minutes in his armchair to keep quiet and shut his eyes. As he said: "After the liturgy I am disturbed, how my sinful hands touched Christ, and I want to be still and calm down."

The relationship of the Elder with children, with whom he resembled in his love towards them, is one of the most beautiful pages in his blessed life. The descriptions of children then of this loving relationship are endlessly graceful and show, once again, his greatness. He talked to young children with great ease and seriousness about big issues. He trusted them, spoke to them like the elders, saying they understand more than we think, often in the plural. With the instructions he gave them, he opened their hearts to receive Christ and to keep Him there forever. With great sympathy he occupied himself with their school lessons, their educational progress, their health, their nutrition, their future, which he often foresaw, and tried to orient them towards their calling. He himself had a lot to learn by bending over the unpretentious childhood upheaval.

The charity of the good father remained proverbial. It reminded you of the lives of the great merciful saints. Almost all of the settlement of Byron was charitable from his hands, especially during the difficult days of the German occupation. He did not pay attention who asked, if they had need or not, but he gave generously to everyone. He tried to not keep any money in his cell overnight, which the love and respect of children offered him richly. When his money ran out, he borrowed money to help. When he had nothing he would say: "This is how it is, sometimes it is winter and sometimes it is summer." Often he would get on the bus and didn't have money for the ticket. His cassocks, his vestments, his undershirts and his shoes he would distribute when he had no money to give, so that no one would be sad. Such was his compassion towards his brethren. He would give with such joy it was as if he was the one who received them. He himself had extremely little, was a strict faster, was an example of having few things and self-sufficient. "A poor man from poor parents," he would like to say of himself. When he reposed, there were only seven drachmas in his drawer!

Pages upon pages would be needed in order for people who knew him to write stories that referred to his gift of foresight. Without knowing someone, he told them their history and their name. He saw their thoughts, their hearts, their past, their future, not delving deeply into their psychology, but in order for them to live a prosperous life of purity and truth. What was worthy of astonishment was how simply he spoke of these things. He didn't talk about events in the history of the world, of wars and so on. He spoke about the problems of struggling souls before him, to give them courage and comfort and dispel despair. He spoke in a mystical and allegorical way, as if it was natural to know the unknown.

He never spoke of his gifts. For him they were as if he didn't know he had them, if they were even his. Indeed it was in those moments that God spoke through his mouth. His submission to God made him a support for others. He looked beyond all possibilities. The first thoughts God gave him he would give to the one confessing to him, so that he never erred. His gift was an offering of help to the world.

The healings of physical pain and sicknesses by the Elder were not few. He never believed and did not allow others to understand that he did miracles. What he knew and what he tirelessly preached is that God is near to us and he hears the prayers of the faithful. The prayers of the Church, with the sacred services, the divine Mysteries, especially that of Confession, Holy Communion and Unction, the saints with their intercessions, their icons and their relics, especially the Theotokos and the honorable Cross, all have the power to heal. And first and foremost, the one who heals, redeems and saves is Christ when He sees fervent faith in people. "The Lord God is your healer." His weapons during these times of battle was his stole, his cross and his euchologion. Thus his hands took on great power. The faithful and unfaithful approached him and exclaimed: "We saw clearly that the Lord was with you." With all the fire of his faith the Elder prayed to the Lord, who told His Apostles and their successors: "Heal the sick,... expel demons."

The All-Good God, seeing the soul of the humble hieromonk Hieronymos, who from childhood gave of himself entirely, without keeping anything for himself, with asceticism, obedience, service to the brethren, how would He not give him the Grace to work wonders?

The miracles mentioned by devout people, his faithful spiritual children, are that which they saw and experienced near him. Many are still unknown as many have now passed away. Remarkably, some of them refer to witnesses who do not live so close to the Church. Their expressions reveal a secret appreciation to the true servant of God. The Elder's extraordinary help made everyone respect him.

Similar testimonies of miracles and interventions after his repose are not few. This is natural, since now he is closer to Him whom he loved so much and is now richer in grace. Now his elderly body does not tire to hasten to those who are sick. Now he blesses his children from heaven, in order to further glorify the name of God who gives the gift to of miracles and is greatly generous.

From his time here on earth, due to his great love, God covered him with His Grace and he could not hide, just like the sun in a clear sky. The fragrance of his virtue was sensed with the physical senses.

In 1938, the Elder was invited to the funeral of Archbishop Chrysostomos. Though he was put in the line with the order of married clergy, he didn't say anything. Next to him was a revered cleric who told him: "What is it with you Athonites that you are fragrant?" The Elder told him: "Shush blessed one, what do we have." But he insisted: "No, I sense it, the fragrance is coming from you, you have something on you."

Another spiritual child of his would say: "The further I got away from him the less was the fragrance, it was something between a carnation and a rose. I sensed a similar fragrance with Saint Nektarios."

In an age of pure anti-monasticism, the Elder succeeded in inspiring a love of monasticism, and he dressed over three hundred souls in the monastic schema, without distinction of age or social status. There are not a few families who entirely dedicated themselves to God, his being the first. He would send monks to Mount Athos and other places. Nuns he would send to various convents. Some, due to their very advanced age, he tonsured and left them at their homes. Others he would send as laymen to monasteries, while others he loved to dress in the schema, either at the Ascension or in chapels. He read the klisi, which was engraved in the hearts of his children and he prepared them their path. With his entreaties he helped increase the angelic order of monastics. Seeing this increase, he could only thank the Lord and the Theotokos.

His Blessed End on 6 January 1957

The blessed Elder foresaw and foretold his death in many and various ways. He had made preparations for the journey to heaven from his youth. His whole life was a preparation for the welcoming of death, which he was looking forward to.

He was 86 years old and the severity of his illness troubled him for several days, but he did not interrupt his prayer and often made the sign of the cross. With no complaints, with patience, with good reason and calmness the end came.

A few days before his death, he was transferred to a clinic in Piraeus. Four days prior, following a divine vision, he visited the Monastery of Saint Nektarios in Aegina, despite the bad weather, to venerate the sacred skull of the Saint. His beautified soul from the many years of struggle left his much-contested body at 11:40 in the morning, on a Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, 6 January 1957. His soul went up into the open skies. On the eve, the sacred Unction had been performed, and he received the Immaculate Mysteries. He made it also to drink Holy Water from the Great Sanctification of Theophany.

Immediately after his death, the political and religious press wrote much about his blessed life. The warm obituaries of many were hymns and thanksgivings to God, who granted them such a father.

A few days after the Elder was buried, some were sitting near his tomb, which is behind the Church of the Ascension, and they sensed a beautiful fragrance coming from him.

On May 8, 1965, his relics were transferred. Elder Gelasios of Simonopetra, who was sent by the monastery to receive his bones, said: "If the steward had not hidden them in the bell-tower of the temple I would have returned with an empty box." With sacred longing all the people fell upon his grave to receive as a blessing and amulet some soil and wood from his coffin. Many had the opportunity again to sense strongly the signs of God's grace. With astonishment they refer to the fragrance at the time of his transfer.

What he left behind as a picture and a sense of his face is remarkably described by the scholarly biographer Monk Moses the Athonite:

"The Elder was very simple. Short in stature. Even though he was a little bit euphoric he seemed disembodied and your gaze pierced him. His face was usually bright and stern, serious and kind. He would never leave off his monastic cap. The facial wrinkles on his face had a naturalness. His eyes were drooping, usually looking low, and rarely bright. It was difficult to look him in the eyes. He often wore simple eyeglasses. His look was graceful, warm, and he looked at you with an exact love. His smile had a special beauty. His beard was white, and in the middle it parted a little. It was usually pale. He was a simple monk with clean clothes and shoes, with great paternal gifts, kindness, tranquility, discernment and sympathy. The appearance of his face in general, underlined by the whiteness of his wavy hair, the simplicity of his clothes and his words, the grace of his meanings in warm phrases became a book of help to the anxious. 'Their character shows in the way they dress, the way they laugh, and the way they walk.' Watching him live in a continuous and uninterrupted kindness and serenity, this man of God, the simple old man, you cried out from your nostrils: 'It is a good thing to follow the Lord!'

Father Hieronymos lived as an earthly angel, a heavenly man.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.