Providence of God
God’s Providence For Man
СодержаниеThe Life of the Elder Providence of God Questions of Visitors and the Elder’s Replies. A person often tries to arrange everything without God. The blessing of miraculous Godly Providence. Entrusting oneself to Divine Providence. God uses everything for the good. God’s good deeds crack open the heart Gratitude to God for little and much
The Life of the Elder
Elder Paisius, (in the world Arsenius Eznepidis), was born in Pharasas of Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, on July 25, 1924, on the feast day of St. Anna.
As soon as his military service ended, he went to the Holy Mountain, for he decided to lead his monastic life there. He benefited greatly from living with papa-Cyril, who fasted a lot and served many vigils. Arsenius ardently wished to stay with Father Cyril forever, but – as he himself said, – unfortunately, there were some who did not permit a document (agreement) to be written for him for this cell. Then Father Cyril sent the Elder to the monastery «Esphigmen,» which was remarkable for its benevolence to strangers and did not yet weave «the deeds of envy.» He came to the monastery «Esphigmen» in 1950.
He visited many of fathers while still young, and, as a bee, gathered the spiritual nectar, in order to make spiritual honey in the future, which nourished many of those «being treated.» In 1954, he had to go to the holy Monastery «Philopheus» and submit to the Elder Simeon.
In 1956 he was tonsured in «lesser schema.» In the monastery «Philopheus,» the Elder Paisius did everything conscientiously, and helped his brothers as much as he could. The following case is very characteristic. One brother there committed a grave sin and was ashamed of confessing it. Consequently, he became withdrawn, began to despair and had suicidal thoughts. The Elder, who knew about it, undertook the following. Once, when he found that brother alone, he began to say that he had a lot of different sins, too, and among them, he mentioned the one, which the brother committed. But, unfortunately, the brother did not have any good thoughts, and as soon as he heard that, instead of helping himself and urging his soul to confess, he began to visit monasteries and say that Paisius, whom they respected and loved, had committed many sins, and repeated everything that the Elder had said, word for word. Naturally, the Elder did not justify himself. But the other fathers understood that the act was performed from the fullness of love, and justified and praised him themselves.
He attended to the cleansing of his soul daily. He did not ask anything of God, for he understood perfectly well that God had already granted him the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is everything, through holy baptism. That was why he was not envious about the gifts of the other fathers, for he knew that from the moment of the holy baptism they were in his soul, and did not take pride in knowing for sure that he had them, but professed them all to be the gifts of Divine grace! His only concern was how to activate this grace of the Holy Spirit in himself sooner, through conscientious effort and humility, and for that reason he cleansed his soul daily.
Thus, he, first of all, purged his soul from any trace of sly thoughts and consequently tried to have only good thoughts. Anyone could see, with delight, that good thoughts – and this due to grace, which «thinketh no evil,» – flowed effortlessly from his soul, even in the worst circumstances, with which he «patched» the flaws and deficiencies of others, as can be clearly seen from the example below:
In one monastery, a brother said certain things, which were considered spiritual delusion (prelest’). The lay-people, listening to him, were disturbed, and a few of them once asked the Elder: Father Paisius, in such and such a monastery a brother says such and such things. And so? The Elder answered them without hesitation: Heed to yourselves, that you do not judge. This brother is reverent, and when visitors come to the monastery, he pretends to be «a fool-for-Christ,» to receive his reward from God. Then the pilgrims «calmed down.»
While living in the monastery «Philopheus,» he visited the skete of Father Cyril and asked for his advice concerning different matters. Father Cyril, through God’s grace, helped him in everything, and often presented the solution to the problem, even before the Elder would tell him what was worrying him,. He was always «informed» by God, that the Elder was coming to visit him to ask for advice, and awaited him with a ready answer. Sometimes, he even gave him the underlined answer from the text of some book: when the Elder arrived, he would show him the answer and the Elder would be surprised, then, receiving a blessing, would go back, filled with joy.
In 1966, the Elder became sick, and was treated for many months in the hospital of «Papanicolau,» where he underwent an operation in which the greater part of his lungs were removed.
Divine Providence arranged for the Elder to become acquainted with the sisters of the Holy Isichastiry of St. John the Theologian in Suroti (Suroti is a picturesque place 20 km. from the city of Saloniki, Macedonia). During that period (of the Elder’s sickness in 1966), the priest of the Church of St. Sophia in Saloniki , Father Policarp Madzaroglu, learned of the Elder’s illness.
When the Elder came to Saloniki for the operation and was placed in a hospital, Father Policarp asked those spiritual sisters, who intended to become nuns and were under his direction, to assist the Elder with anything he might need during his stay in the hospital. During the operation, much blood was needed. He did not have any relatives nearby (for he himself did not want that), and the sisters gave as much of their own blood as was necessary.
Serious problems with the Elder’s health began in 1969. The Elder, as we said before, suffered from a disease of the respiratory system, which was exhausting him because of a high fever, a bad cough and much phlegm. The doctors whom he consulted made an incorrect diagnosis – the presence of tuberculosis.
So, the Elder had to take «handfuls,» as he put it, of anti-tuberculosis medicines, for a year and a half, which greatly exhausted him due to the side effects, which they caused.
After the operation he got sick from taking strong antibiotics and false-membranous colitis with sharp pains in the stomach, which caused an extreme sensitivity to food: most food caused him indigestion and pain.
The Elder was greatly exhausted. The constant visits of pilgrims, the burden of sorrows and problems of others, which he made his own, and the overwhelming fatigue from concern about them, wearied him; moreover, he left very little time for nocturnal rest, for he prayed at night as well.
Beginning about 1988, a new complication appeared in the intestine. First, the Elder started to suffer with frequent, unceasing diarrhea, which nothing could stop.
The doctors prescribed different things: eating rice, drinking European tea, etc. But the diarrhea did not stop. Then the Elder began to suspect, that something he was using every day was doing him harm, and that it was probably the water. So, he decided to go have a look at the spring, from which he took the water with the help of a hose. (There was no water in the Elder’s cell, and he took pains to obtain the water for him and the pilgrims here and there. Later, Father Chrysanthus gave him his small spring to use). The Elder, upon examining the spring, found that it was polluted. The stomach disorder disappeared several days after he cleaned out the spring.
Some time later, slight bleeding came from the rectum, which steadily intensified, becoming more frequent. In spite of the advice of familiar doctors, he did not want to go «out» for a medical examination.
Monday, the 11th of July, on the day of St. Euphimia, the Elder took communion for the last time, standing on his knees near his bed. He was very calm on the last day, though he suffered greatly, but he tolerated everything with no complaints. He did not want any therapy and did not take any medicine, except for cortisone.
On Tuesday 12 of July 1998 was full of suffering for the Elder. His extremities started getting cold and becoming blue, his breath became tense, but his heart was still working well. When it became obvious that the end was near, the sisters of the monastery came to take the last blessing. On that day the Elder gave his venerable soul to the Lord, Whom he loved so much and Whom he served from his youth.
The Elder was buried in the monastery of St. John the Theologian, in Suroti of Soluni. Many fell into temptation, thinking, why did the Elder stay there to die, and was not buried on the Holy Mountain.
Providence of God
The Providence of God embraces everything in the world. God provides not only for the great and the immense, but also for the small and apparently insignificant; not only over the heaven and the earth, angels and men, but also over the smallest creatures, birds, grasses, flowers, trees. The whole of Sacred Scripture is filled with the thought of God""s unwearying providential activity.
A heedless and absent-minded man can believe that things just take their normal course, and all events occur by accident and coincidence. It can seem to such an inconsiderate man that God, if He even exists, is somewhere high in the heaven and has no interest in this world, which is too small and insignificant in His eye. People who think so are called deists. Deistic teaching about God has become especially widespread in the West during the last centuries, when people started to lose live contact with God in the Church, Sacraments and prayer. Usually, these people are superstitious at the same time, attaching great importance to stars’ influence on human life, watching tokens and omens, e.g. cats crossing their way, scattering salt on the table, shaking hands across threshold, not sleeping with their feet turned toward doors and so on. Some people have immense numbers of superstitions, and it just complicates their lives wastefully.
It is best not to pay attention to these stupid superstitions at all, because everyone’s life in particular, and universe as a whole are governed by God.
We pray: «Our Father which art in heaven,» but at the same time we know that God is everywhere, because He is a genuine Spirit, who is «living everywhere.» That is why David the Psalmist exclaimed, «Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee» (Psalm 139).
Some agree that the world in general is not ruled by accidents, but by God. However, they think that God does not care about each and every one, because man is unworthy and negligible, and God will not look after this uncountable multitude of creatures. But this reasoning is incorrect and sinful. To express it in human notions, if God decided that microbes were worthy of existence and gave specific organization and form to all of them, why then these creatures would not be worthy of His care further on? God cared to give them life; He also cares about the continuation of their lives. Some say that there are too many living beings. But how dare we assign our limitations onto God, Who is infinite in perfection? Had He created billions of worlds with myriads of humans, beasts, insects and germs, it would not have worn Him out to take care about each particular life. One might say that these creatures are too small and insignificant, but we create our concept of sizes by comparison to ourselves. What is huge in our sight is negligible before the majesty of God, and what seems little to us is great for His goodness and love. The Lord provides for everything, gives life to all, and leads to the victory of truth and good.
The Savior said that even a sparrow shall not fall on the ground without the will of our Father (Matthew 10:29); all the more, nothing in our lives can happen without His will. Things that are good and kind are given from the Lord, Who is the eternal source of goodness. Things that are evil are not sent from God directly, because there is no even a shade of evil in God. For our benefit and salvation, though, the Lord permits evil to harm and hurt us. In this case, various troubles have the effect of bitter, unpleasant, but saving medicines. Almost all pills and medical operations are unpleasant for us, but we have to take them because we know they are necessary and health-giving.
Everyone should clearly know that only God is the source of happiness, peace and bliss. God created consolations and joys of the visible world for the sake of our corporeal nature. Man with intelligent soul, using everything moderately, should not forget God. The soul cannot be satisfied with anything worldly and tangible. In most cases we follow our bodily lusts insatiably, and absolutely forget about soul and its spiritual needs. Because God does not want us to step back from our vocation of children of God toward the degree of unintelligent beasts, He sends us sorrows. Getting beaten on things we were seeking irresponsibly, we slowly start to understand the futility of our activities and turn to God.
We should firmly know that God is infinitely good and wishes our happiness and salvation only; this is why we should also be thankful in accepting grieves from Him. Children do not stop loving parents when parents punish them unjustly, because they know that parents want better for them. The Scripture says that the Lord punishes him whom He loves.
If the Lord provides for us all the time, meaning that He always cares about our life and salvation, then we also have to learn how to follow His Providence in our lives. Sometimes we notice that things happen not as we want them to. We get angry and indignant, murmur about fortune, but after years pass we understand that what happened was to the better, and it would be worse for us otherwise. We Christians should thank God for our sorrows, rather than triumph over our success, because sorrows clean off our passions, while worldly success leads to forgetting God and the purpose of our life on the earth.
Below we present a number of thoughts and examples of the Elder Paisius about the Providence of God. These statements of the Elder are particularly worthwhile because they are drawn from his personal experience. The Elder’s statements are presented here in the form of questions from visitors and the Elder’s replies.
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Questions of Visitors and the Elder’s Replies.
«But seek ye first the Kingdom of God» (Mt. 6:33)
– Geronda! (i.e. spiritual father), Abba Macarius says that God will give us heavenly blessings 1 , and we believe in this. Should we also believe that He will give us earthly blessings, which are not so essential?
– Which earthly blessings?
– Those, which we need.
– Now this you said correctly. God loves His creation, His image, and will take care of what is necessary for it.
– We have to believe this and not worry?
– If a person does not believe this and struggles to gather these blessings himself, then he will suffer. But a person living spiritually will not be upset even in the event, that God does not give him the earthly and material. If we seek first the Kingdom of God, if the search for this Kingdom is our only care, then the rest will be given to us. Would God cast His creation to the mercy of fate? If the Israelites saved the manna that God sent them in the desert for the next day, it began to rot. 2 God arranged it this way, so that they would depend on Divine Providence.
We have not yet even understood the words «seek ye first the Kingdom of God.» We either believe [and entrust ourselves to God] or we do not believe [and therefore must work for the necessities ourselves]. When I went to live in the Sinai, I had nothing with me. But I did not think at all about what will happen to me in the desert among strange people, what I would eat and how I would live. I did not ask anything of the monastery, not wanting to burden it. Once, someone brought me bread from the monastery, I returned it. Why should I worry, if Christ said: «Seek ye first the Kingdom of God». There was the scantiest amount of water. I knew no handiwork. Now then, ask how I lived and how I earned my bread. The only instrument that I had with me was a pair of scissors. I divided them into halves, sharpened them on a rock, took a board and began to carve icons. I worked and performed the Jesus prayer. I learned to carve quickly, always carved the same image, and finished my five days of work at 11 o’clock. I not only lacked nothing, but even helped the Bedouins. During one period, I worked for many hours a day, and then came to such a state when I did not want to do handiwork, but at the same time saw how badly off the Bedouins were. For them to receive a hat or a pair of sandals was a great blessing. The thought came to me: «Did I come here to help the Bedouins, or to pray for the whole world?» Therefore, I decided to limit the handiwork, so that I would be less distracted and pray more. Do you think I waited for someone to help me? From whom would I get help? The Bedouins themselves had nothing to eat. The monastery was far away, and there were uninhabited places in the other direction. But the very day that I limited my work in order to pray more, a person came to me. At the time I was near my cell, he saw me and said, «Here, take these hundred gold coins. You will help the Bedouins, and you will follow your schedule and pray.» I did not restrain myself, I left him alone for a quarter of an hour and went into my cell. The Providence and love of God brought me to such a state that I could not keep from crying. See, how God arranges everything, if a person has a good desire? Because how much could I give these poor beings? I gave to one, immediately another one would come: «Father did not give me anything!» – then a third: «Father did not give me anything!»
– Geronda, but why, feeling the all-powerfulness of God many times, do we not see his Providence for us?
– This is the devil’s trap. The devil throws soot in a person’s eyes so that he does not see God’s Providence. For if a person will see God’s Providence, then his granite heart will soften, become sensitive and will pour out in praise. And this is not to the devil’s liking.
A person often tries to arrange everything without God.
– One person began to raise fish and for days on end would say: «Glory to Thee, God!» – because he constantly saw God’s Providence. He related to me that fish, from the moment of their fertilization, when they are still as tiny as a pinhead, have a bag of liquid, with which they are nourished until they grow and are able to independently feed on microorganisms in the water. That is, the fish receives a «dry ration» from God! If God provides even for fish, then how much more will He provide for humans! But man often arranges and decides everything without God. He will say, -"I will have two children (that’s enough).» He does not take God into consideration. That is why there are so many unfortunate instances and so many children perish. In most families, two children are born. But one is run over by a car, another sickens and dies, and the parents are left childless.
When parents, co-creators with God, have trouble providing for their children, no matter how hard they try, they should raise their arms to heaven and humbly ask the Great Creator for help. Then both rejoice, God who helps, and the man receiving His help. When I was in the Stomion Monastery, I became acquainted with a father of a large family. He was a field sentry in a village in Epir, while his family lived in Konits – 4 hours walking distance away. Going to work, and returning home, the guard stopped at the monastery. Stopping on his way home, he asked my permission to light the votives. Although he spilled oil on the floor while lighting them, I permitted him to do so, preferring to wipe the floor rather than to sadden him. Every time, after leaving the monastery and walking about 300 meters, he would shoot once from his rifle. Not being able to explain this, I decided to observe him from the moment that he entered the church until the time that he would reach the Konits road. Thus I found out, that first he lit the votives in the church, then he went into the nartex 3 and lit the votive in front of the icon of the Theotokos over the entrance. Then he dipped his finger into the votive, went down on his knees, raised his arms to the icon and said: «Mother of God, I have 9 children. Send me a little meat!» Upon saying this, he rubbed the oil on his finger onto the front sight of his rifle barrel and left. Three hundred meters from the monastery, near one mulberry, a wild goat was waiting for him. As I have already said, he would shoot, killing it, then he took it to a cave a little farther on, skinned it and took the meat to his children. This happened every time that he returned home. I was enchanted with the faith of the field sentry and the Providence of the Mother of God. Twenty-five years later, he came to the Holy Mountain and looked me up. During our discussion I involuntarily asked: «How are your children? Where are they?» In answer, he first pointed to the north and said: «One is in Germany,» then pointing to the south, said: «The others are in Australia. Thank God, they are healthy.» This man kept both his faith and himself pure of godless ideologies, therefore God did not abandon him.
The blessing of miraculous Godly Providence.
– Sometimes, Geronda, I have a wish, and God fulfills it without my asking Him. How does this happen?
– God cares for us. He sees our needs, our desires, and when something is to our benefit, He gives it to us. If a person needs help with something, Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos help him. When Elder Philaret 4 was asked: «How can I help you? What do you need?» – he answered: «That which I need, the Mother of God will send.» And that is what happened. When we entrust ourselves to the Lord, He, our Kind God, keeps an eye on us and takes care of us. Like a kind Director, He gives each of us that which we need. He even enters into the details of our material needs. And in order for us to realize His care, His providence, He gives us exactly the amount we need. But do not wait for God to first give you something, no, first give all of yourself to God. Because if you constantly ask something of God, but do not give yourself trustingly to Him, then from this one can see that you have your own house, and are alien to the eternal heavenly mansions. Those people who give everything to God and give themselves totally to Him, are sheltered by the great Godly cupola and protected by His Godly Providence. Trust in God is an endless secret prayer, in the essential moment silently attracting the Divine powers there, where they are needed. And then His praiseworthy children endlessly, with much gratitude, praise Him.
When Father Tikhon settled in the kaliva of the Blessed Cross, it did not have a church, which he needed. He did not even have the money to build – nothing except great faith in God. Once, after prayer, he left for Karies with faith that God will help him with the money needed to build the church. On his way to Karies, the abbot of the Elijah Skete called to him. When Father Tikhon approached him, he said, «One kind Christian from America sent me these dollars to give to an ascetic who does not have a church. You don’t happen to have a church, take this money and build.» Father Tikhon shed tears of great emotion and gratitude to God, the Knower of the heart, attending to the church even before Father Tikhon asked Him about it – then, when he prayed about this, the money was already available.
If a person entrusts himself to God, then God will not abandon him. And, truly: if tomorrow at 10 o’clock you will need something, then (if this need does not exceed reasonable limits and is truly necessary), at 9or 9God will have it ready to give to you. For example, tomorrow at 9 you will need a mug. At 8:55, you will already have it. You need 500 drachmas at one o’clock, when you need them, 500 drachmas will appear, not 510 or 490. I noticed, that if I, for example, need something tomorrow, then God will take care of it today. That is, even before I thought about it, God has already thought about it. He took care of the necessity beforehand and gives it at the time that it is needed. I understood this, seeing how long it took for something to reach me from somewhere, to arrive at the moment that I needed it. Consequently, God took care of it ahead of time.
When we, from reverence, gladden God with our lives, then He gives His independent blessings to His praiseworthy children the very hour that they need them. Then all their lives transpire in the blessings of this Divine Providence. I could go on for hours, giving examples of miraculous Divine Providence.
When I was in the war, participating in the war operation, I had a Gospel, and I gave it to someone. Then I said:
"If only I had the Gospel with me, how it would help me!» On Christmas, 200 packages from Missolonghi were sent to our troops that were in the mountains at the time. Out of 200 packages, the Gospel was found only in that package, which I received! This was a Gospel of old publication, with a map of Palestine. In the package, there was a note: «If you need other books as well, then write, and we will send them to you.» Another time, when I was already in the Stomion Monastery, I needed a votive for the church. One morning, at dawn, I went to Konits. Passing one house, I heard how a girl said to her father: «Papa, a monk is coming!» He came out to me and said: «Father, I promised to donate a votive to the Mother of God. Take this money and buy it yourself.» And he gave me 500 drachmas – the precise amount that votives cost in 1958.
Even now, when a need arises, God immediately covers it. For example, if I want to saw firewood and cannot, then firewood comes by itself in a jiffy. Before coming to you, I received a package, in it were 50,000 drachmas – precisely the amount I needed. Another example: I gave someone, in blessing, the icon «It is meet.» The next day I am brought the «Iberian» icon! And this past summer 5 , before the rain came, I had no water at all. Right away, a little sprinkled down, and in a day I collected (barely) one and a half cans of water. There was water in the cistern from last year, but it was bad. And how God arranges everything! I have a barrel with water. Every day so many people come – drink, wash, for they are all sweaty, but the level of the water only drops 4–5 finger widths! One barrel for 150–200 people – and it does not become empty! In addition, sometimes the spigot is opened too wide, others forget to shut it off, water pours out, but even then it does not run out!
Entrusting oneself to Divine Providence.
A person who keeps track of Divine blessings, learns to make himself dependent on Divine Providence. And later on, he feels himself to be like a babe in his crib, who, as the minute his mother leaves him, begins to cry and does not stop until she runs back to him. It is a great deed – to entrust yourself to God! When I had just come to the Stomion Monastery, I had nowhere to live. The whole monastery was filled with construction litter. I found one corner near the fence, covered it somewhat on top and spent the nights sitting there, because I could not fit lying down. Once a hieromonk I knew came to me and asked, «Listen, how do you live here?» – «What, – I asked him in reply, – did secular people have more than us? When Kanaris asked for a loan, he was told: «You have no Homeland,» then he replied: « We will win back our Homeland.» If a secular person had such faith, then how can we not trust God? If the Mother of God brought me here, then can it be, that when the time comes, She will not take care of Her monastery? And truly, little by little, how the Most Holy Theotokos arranged everything! I remember, how craftsmen poured the concrete for the ceiling span in the burnt cells, the cement was almost gone and there was still a third of the span to pour. The craftsmen came to me and said: «The cement is running out. We have to put more sand in the concrete and less cement, for there to be enough to concrete to pour everything.» «No, – I told them, – do not thin it out, continue as you were.» It was impossible to bring more cement, because all the mules were in the field. The craftsmen would have to walk two hours to Konits, then two more to the field to look for the mules’ grazing land. They would lose so much time… And then these people had their own things to do, they could not come another day. I saw: they had poured 2/3 of the span. I went into the church and said: «My Queen, what now?! I ask You, help us!» Then I left the church…
– And then what, Geronda?
– They finished the span, and there was leftover cement!
– Did the craftsmen understand?
– Of course they understood! How great sometimes is the help of God and the Most Holy Theotokos!
God uses everything for the good.
– Geronda, sometimes we begin a task, and a whole slew of obstacles arises. How should we understand if this is from God?
– Let us look if this is not our fault. If we are not at fault, then the obstacles are from God and serve for our good. Therefore, we must not become upset that something is not done or the conclusion is delayed. Once, hurrying on some urgent task, I was walking down from the Stomion Monastery to Konits. On one difficult stretch of the road (I called this place Golgotha) I met a monastery acquaintance, Uncle Anastasii, with three loaded mules. On the steep rise, the saddle bags had slid to the side, and one of the beasts was on the very edge of the cliff – it would fall at any moment. «God sent you, father!» – Uncle Anastasii rejoiced. I helped him to repack the mules, then we led them onto the road. There I left him and continued on. I went a fair piece, when the path ended at a pile of rocks. There had just been a great, 300 meter long, mudslide, destroying the path. Trees, rocks – everything was carried down into the river. If I had not been delayed with the mules, I would have been in this spot during the mudslide. «Uncle Anastasii, – I said, – you saved me, God sent you.»
Christ sees from on high how each of us acts, knows when and how He Himself will act for our good. He knows when and where to lead us, if we only ask His help, reveal our desires to Him and let Him arrange everything Himself. When I was in the Athos Philofeev Monastery, I wanted to go into the desert. I wanted to go away to one desert island and had already made arrangements with the boatman, so that he would come and take me, but in the end, he did not arrive. God so arranged it, because I was still inexperienced and would have come to great grief on the desert island, I would have become the victim of demons. Then, when I was unsuccessful with the island, I had a great desire to go to Katunaki. I liked the Katunaki Monastery, I prayed to be there and prepared for this. I wanted to live and toil next to the Elder Peter – a man of great spiritual life. But an event occurred which forced me to go not to Katunaki, but to Konits. One evening after Compline, I went to my cell and prayed till late at night. Around 11 o’clock, I lay down to rest. At 1at night I was awakened by the monastery gong, calling the brotherhood to the church for midnight prayer. I tried to rise, but I couldn’t. An unseen power bound me, and I did not have the strength to move. I understood that something special was happening. I remained bound to my bed until midday. I could pray, think, but I could not move at all. While I was in this state, I could see, as if on television, Katunaki on one side, the Stomion Monastery in Konits on the other. With great desire, I focused my eyes in the direction of Katunaki, and then a voice clearly said to me:
"You will go not to Katunaki, but to the Stomion Monastery.» This was the voice of the Most Holy Theotokos. «Mother of God, – I said, – I asked You for solitude, and You are sending me into the world?» And I again heard the same voice, severely telling me: «You will go and meet such and such a person. He will help you greatly.» I was immediately freed of my unseen bonds, and my heart was filled with Divine Grace. Then I went and told my confessor what happened. «This is the will of God, – my confessor said, – but – do not tell anyone about this. Say, that because of your health (at the time I had bleeding) you have to go to Athos, and then go.»
I wanted one thing, but God had His Own plan. I thought then, that God’s will was for me to rebuild the monastery in Konits. Thus, I would fulfill the vow given by me to the Mother of God, when I was in the war. «Mother of God, – I asked Her then, – help me to become a monk, and I will work three years and bring Your burned down monastery to order.» But, as it became clear later, the main reason for which the Most Holy Theotokos sent me there was the necessity of helping 80 families, who were seduced into Protestantism, to return to Orthodoxy.
God often permits something to happen for the benefit of many people. He never does only one good thing, but 3–4 good things together. And God never lets evil happen if much good does not come out of it. Everything: mistakes, and dangers, He uses for our benefit. Good and evil are intermixed with each other. Therefore, you must believe that God permits something to happen only if good will result from it, because He loves His creation. For example, He can permit some small temptation in order to keep us from a bigger one. Once a secular person was in one of the Holy Mountain monasteries on their feast day. There he drank and became intoxicated. On the way back from the monastery, he fell on the road. Snow began to fall, he was covered with snow, but from the winey breath in the snow bank, an opening formed above him. A passerby was going past that spot. He saw the hole in the snow and said, surprised: «And what is this? Is this a spring?» and hit the opening with his stick. «Och!» cried the intoxicated one. In this way, God did not permit him to perish.
God’s good deeds crack open the heart
– Geronda, what does God want from us?
– God wants our willingness, our good inclination expressed, even if only a little bit, but through a praiseworthy deed. He also wants us to admit our sinfulness. Everything else He gives. Biceps are not necessary in spiritual life. We will humbly toil, ask God’s mercy and thank Him for everything. God’s plan is fulfilled in a person who, without any plan of his own, puts himself into God’s hands. A person is left behind in accordance with how much he holds onto his «I.» He does not succeed spiritually, because he hinders God’s mercy. In order to succeed, a lot of faith in God is needed.
Every minute God caresses the hearts of all people with His love, but we do not feel this, because our hearts are crusted over. By purifying their heart, a person feels deeply, melts, goes crazy, seeing the goodness and kindness of God, equally loving all men. Such a person is pained for those who suffer, he feels joy for those who lead a spiritual life. If a praiseworthy soul ponders only the good acts of God, they can send it flying up, and what can one say, if it ponders the multitude of its sins and the great mercy of God! If a person’s spiritual eyes are cleansed, then he, seeing God’s care (for himself and others, feels and experiences all of the Divine Providence with his sensitive exposed soul, he melts from thankfulness, he becomes crazy in the good meaning of this word. Because God’s gifts, when a person senses them, crack open the heart, burst it. And then, when caressing the praiseworthy heart, God’s hand touches this crack, the person soars internally, and his thanks to God become great. Those who toil, feeling both their own sinfulness as well as the goodness of God, and trust themselves to His compassion (see above), lift their souls to heaven with greater hope and less physical effort.
Gratitude to God for little and much
– «I believe, that God will help me,» – some say, but then they try to save money so that they would not suffer any want. Such people mock God, because they are entrusting themselves not to Him, but to money. If they do not stop loving money, and put all their hope in it, then they cannot put their trust in God. I am not saying that people should not have some kind of savings in case of need, no. But they should not put their trust in money, they should not give their heart to money, because in doing so, people forget God. A person who, not trusting God, makes his own plans, and then says that God wants this, demonically «blesses» his deed and constantly suffers. We have not realized how powerful and kind God is. We do not let Him be the master, do not let Him direct us, and therefore we suffer.
On Sinai, in the cell of St. Epistimia where I lived, there was just a bit of water. In one cave, about 20 meters from the cell, water seeped drop by drop from a crack in the cliff. I made a small water collector and collected 3 liters of water a day. When I came for water, I put a tin can under the drip, and while it was filling, read the akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. I wet my head a little, only my forehead, this helped me, one doctor had suggested this, I collected a little water to drink, in a separate can I collected a little water for the mice and birds living near my cell. For laundry and other needs, I used this very water from the cave. What joy, what thanks I felt for this little amount of water that I had! I praised God that I had water.
Then, when I came to the Holy Mountain and lived in the Iberian Skete for a short time, there, inasmuch as that side was sunny, there was no shortage of water. There was a cistern, out of which the water poured over the sides. Ooh! I washed my head, and feet… but the past was forgotten. On Sinai my eyes teared from thanks for the little amount I had, but here, in the skete, I fell into forgetfulness from the abundance of water. Therefore, I left this cell and set up residence father away, about 80 meters distant, where there was a small cistern. How lost a person becomes, forgetful, from abundance!
We must completely, unconditionally entrust ourselves to Divine Providence, to God’s will, and God will take care of us. A monk once went to the top of a mountain in order to serve vespers there. He found a white mushroom along the way and thanked God for this rare find. On the way back, he wanted to cut off this mushroom and prepare it for dinner. «If secular people will begin to ask me, if I eat meat, – the monk reasoned in his thoughts, – then I can say, that I eat it every autumn!» On the way back to the kaliva, the monk saw that, while he was reading vespers, an animal had stepped on the mushroom, and only half remained intact. «Apparently, – said the monk, – this is how much I should eat.» He took what remained, and thanked God for His Providence, for the half of the mushroom. A little farther on he found another mushroom half, bent down to pick it and supplement the deficiency in his dinner, but saw that the mushroom was rotten (possibly, it was poisonous). The monk left it and thanked God again for protecting him from being poisoned. Returning to the kaliva, the monk supped with the half of the mushroom. The following day, when he left his home, a marvelous sight revealed itself. Beautiful mushrooms had grown all around the kaliva, and seeing them, the monk once again thanked God. See, he thanked God for both the whole mushroom and for the half, for the good and the bad, for one and for many. He was thankful for all.
Kind God gives us generous blessings, and His actions are directed towards our benefit. All the good that we have – are God’s gifts. He placed everything in service to His creation – man, He made it so that everything: animals, and birds, and small, and large, even plants – sacrifice themselves for him. And God Himself sacrificed Himself in order to deliver man. Let us not be indifferent to all this, let us not wound Him with our great ungratefulness and insensibility, but let us begin to thank and praise Him.
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See: Ven. Macarius of Egypt. Spiritual discussions. STSL, 1904.
Nartex: – the back of the church, the portico. – Transl. note.
Elder Paisius. Fathers of the Holy Mountain and Holy Mountain Histories. Holy Trinity-Sergius Lavra , 2001. P.62–65.
Pronounced in the summer of 1990.