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May 2, 2020

Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi and the Study of the Church Fathers

By Archimandrite Ephraim of Vatopaidi

Once, in order to encourage us to study the writings of the Fathers, Elder Joseph said that benefits came not only from their teachings and paternal instructions, but also from their intercessions. We have to invoke them while we study their works.

In his hesychastic cell at New Skete, while studying the works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and praying at the same time to the Saint, the presence of the Saint became so noticeable that it caused him to be modest and shy. "I stopped myself," he said, "lest I touch him."

He studied the Holy Fathers diligently, systematically and in depth. He always read from the original text and avoided translations.

Books inaccessible to many, such as Saint Gregory Palamas and Saint Maximus the Confessor, were for him not only understandable but his main spiritual food, although he did not even have an elementary education.

He had a lively communication with the Fathers, whose texts he studied.

He had told me that he once did not understand a difficult passage of Saint Maximus the Confessor, and the Saint himself appeared and interpreted it for him.

Many times the same divine Grace interpreted some things or unknown words that he encountered in reading.

Another time, when we were discussing a subject, he mentioned a word to me - I don't remember what it was now - which is in one of the iambic canons of Saint John of Damascus, and he told me that it was at that moment that Grace gave him the definition which he also told me. As a confirmation, he even made me look at the dictionary we had, and we found that the dictionary gave exactly the same definition as the Elder.

Source: Γέρων Ιωσήφ Βατοπαιδινός, (1.7.1921-1.7.2009), έκδοση Ιεράς Μεγίστης Μονής Βατοπαιδίου. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.