February 24, 2021

The Half-Blind Old Monk and the Flowerless Rose Bush

Nikos Gabriel Pentzikes (1908-1993) is a well-known Greek painter who first visited Mount Athos in 1933, the first of his 94 visits throughout his life, and it was there that he learned to paint and changed his occupation from being a pharmacist to a painter. In his book Approaches to the Holy Mountain (Προσεγγίσεις στο Αγιον Ορος, 1952), he wrote the following:

During my stay in a monastery I used to go and sit at a small church in the cemetery, in the gardens. I will tell you something I saw there one morning:

From the small door of the garden, from where they take out the monks who are sewn into their cassocks to bury them, I saw a half-blind old monk coming. He went to the edge of the garden, where there was an almost completely dried out rose bush without any roses.

When he arrived there, he left a flower he had brought with him among the flowerless branches and leaves, and said: "Take this so you can have it, lest you be despised."