November 10, 2022

Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia was born in 1840 in Farasa of Cappadocia, to pious and virtuous parents, Eleutherios, who was a teacher, and Barbara. He was orphaned at a young age and an aunt, who loved Christ and the Church, undertook to raise him and his brother Vlasios.

Theodore, that was his baptismal name, was sent to study in Nigde and Smyrna. He became a monk at the age of 26, in the Sacred Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Flaviana (Zincidere). After about four years, because there was a shortage of priests, Metropolitan Paisios of Caesarea ordained him Deacon and Presbyter, elevated him to an Archimadrite and placed him in Farasa. He also entrusted him with the function of spiritual fatherhood.

Saint Arsenios, or Hadjiefendis, as he was called, from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was for the inhabitants of Farasa a spiritual father, brother, friend, teacher, but also the doctor. Because in Farasa at that time it was not easy to find a doctor, the inhabitants of the village, but also of the surrounding areas, flocked to the Saint and asked him to heal them. And indeed, he cured their physical, mental and spiritual illnesses with his God-persuading prayers, without ever discriminating between Christians and Muslims. He benefited everyone without exception and everyone respected and loved him. The residents of Farasa said that they met doctors for the first time when they came to Greece.

He would make the sign of the cross over the sick with the Sacred Gospel and then read them prayers from the Euchologion. Because, however, the Euchologion has several prayers, but it does not have specialized prayers for every illness and every occasion, that is why he also used the Psalter. In fact, he identified the 150 Psalms of the Psalter for every illness and every occasion. For example, he read the 8th Psalm to those who "suffered harm from demons or wicked people". With the 71st Psalm he prayed "for God to bless the goods of the new harvest that the farmers brought home". With the 78th Psalm, he begged God "to protect the villages from the robbers and destruction of the enemy troops". With the 101st Psalm he prayed "that God blesses the people who hold positions, so that they help the world with kindness and understanding". With the 130th Psalm he begged God "to give repentance and consolation with hope to men so that they may be saved". Reading the 150th Psalm, he begged "that God give joy and comfort to our sorrowful brothers who are in foreign lands and to our reposed brothers who are in the farthest foreign countries", and so on.

When in 1924 the inhabitants of Farasa fled their homeland - they were among the last refugees of Asia Minor - Saint Arsenios led his flock on the road of refuge, and with the Grace of God and God-persuading prayers they all arrived safely and unharmed without any obstacle on the road, as he had told them before and reassured them, that they will not meet Çetes on the road and will not be in danger.

Before their departure, however, from Farasa, Saint Arsenios baptized all the unbaptized children, among whom was Saint Paisios the Athonite, to whom he gave his own name, that is, he called him Arsenios, saying that he wanted to leave a monk in his place. The prophecy, of course, was verified and Arsenios (Saint Paisios) was shown to be "a glorious son, of a glorious (spiritual) father". Saint Arsenios, as he predicted, lived in Greece for forty days and reposed in Kerkyra on November 10, 1924. In October 1958, Saint Paisios made the transfer of his sacred relics, and then wrote his life.

His life and his conduct give us the occasion to emphasize the following:

First, the refugees from Asia Minor brought with them to Greece, apart from the crosses, the icons and other holy relics, another precious treasure, perhaps the most precious, and this is the Roman Orthodox tradition. A tradition that was preserved unadulterated in difficult conditions, and which was the main reason why the Christian populations of the subjugated Christian Roman Empire maintained their language and their faith "through the long bitter slavery", and were not assimilated by the Muslim populations. Of course, there were also cases of change of faith, since there are always exceptions, which, after all, confirm the rule. The preservation of this spiritual treasure, that is, the Roman Orthodox tradition, is due mainly to the Confessors and Martyrs of the faith, namely the New Martyrs, but also to the revered pastors and teachers of the Church, who preserved it as the apple of their eye and passed it on to their flock.

Second, the matters related to the value and importance of the Psalter, this "spiritual clinic", were noted in a previous article. Here it will be emphasized that the Psalter is, among other things, also a "refuge from demons". Characteristic are the words of a modern ascetic, Fr. Theodoros, who lived in asceticism in Agiofaraggo of Crete, and reposed under the name Neilos: "If you asked me to tell you what I understood after so many years in the desert, I would answer you with one word: the power of the Psalter. If I were to start my life now, I would strive to do one thing, to memorize the Psalter. This is the parental womb of noetic prayer. This is the fertile soil, where the seed of the Prayer thrives. This plagues the demons." And then, describing how the devil tried in various ways to prevent him from reciting the Psalter and praying with it, he said: "When I was reading the Psalter in my vigils, the demon would come roaring like a wild boar in my ear. Especially when I was saying the verse 'Let God arise...' and the verse 'You are my Lord and God'. He was raging, grabbing me by the neck, choking me. He was confusing my words too, so that I wouldn't say it. This is how much it would burn him."

Orthodox Roman tradition means love for God and love for mankind, a sacramental life, asceticism and unceasing prayer. As well as, also, patience in the temptations, difficulties and adversities of life, hope in God, noble love, philotimo, inner peace, fullness and meaning of life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.