August 5, 2020

An Incident That Greatly Troubled Saint Paisios the Athonite

St. Paisios the Athonite recalled the following incident that greatly troubled him, after he was asked if a person must be punished when they commit a sin in order to pay for the evil that was done, to which he replied "No, if a person repents, they are not punished." But what if someone wants to be punished in order to atone for their sin?

I remember an event which took place when I was at the Monastery of Philotheou. Some monk, when he was still in the world, had burned a Turk in the oven for having killed his father. He later repented, came to the Holy Mountain, became a monk and made a good start. But, day and night, he prayed that God would permit him to die through fire.

At one time, the monastery caught on fire. I was then serving as keeper of the vessels. I prepared the vessels with water and we all ran to put out the fire. In the end, we found the monk had burned to death. The scene has remained indelibly in my mind. What had happened?

That monk was then eighty-five years old and was being ministered to by another monk who was seventy-five. On that day, in order to provide some relief from the pain of rheumatism, the seventy-five year old monk had rubbed the other monk's feet with petrol and placed him near the fireplace. A spark flew from the chestnut logs in the fireplace, starting the fire that burned both him and the monastery.

I was very troubled over the event, and could not find peace! Later, my spiritual father reassured me, "Do not be upset over this. This monk was asking in his prayers to be burned, in order to atone for his sin. It was a gift from God."

From Elder Paisios of Mount Athos: Spiritual Counsels IV - Family Life, pp. 263-264.