Today is the Feast Day of Agios Paisios of Mount Athos, who was born on July 25, 1924, and died July 12, 1994.
Also known as Elder Paisios (Γέροντας Παΐσιος ο Αγιορείτης), he was a monastic of Mount Athos. An ascetic, he was known by his visitors for his gentle manner and acceptance of those who came to receive his advice, counsel, and blessing.
Over the course of his life the words of Agios Paisos, came to be honoured by many and was viewed as a “holy elder” by those of Greek and Russian Orthodox faith.
Agios Paisos is said to have really loved people and suffered along with those in despair, listened to them, offered them hope, and prayed for them. He spent his nights in prayer and his entire days in relieving human pain and spreading divine consolation. He guided, consoled, healed, and gave rest to countless people who took shelter in him.
Agios Paisios of Mount Athos was canonised on January 13 2015, and his feast day is celebrated today, July 12.
His words were recorded by thousands who journeyed to seek his advice and prophecies. Agios Paisios had warned of the great cataclysms, which were said to await future generations and spoke of Greece’s crisis, as well as the European Union, Islam and WWIII.
Arsenios Eznepidis was born on July 25, 1924, to pious parents in the town of Farasa, Cappadocia of Asia Minor, his name was given to him by St. Arsenios the Cappadocian, who baptised him, and named the child for himself and foretold Arsenios’ monastic future. Very shortly after his baptism the young Arsenios and his family were forced to leave Asia Minor in accordance with the Peace Treaty of Lausanne. St. Arsenios guided his flock along a 400-mile trek to Greece. The Eznepidis family finally settled in the town of Konitsa in Epirus in northwestern Greece. As he had prophesied, St. Arsenios reposed forty days after the group settled in Greece, leaving, as his spiritual heir, the infant Arsenios. Arsenios grew up in Konitsa and learned carpentry after completing intermediate public school.
During the civil war in Greece following World War II, Arsenios served as a radio operator. While concerned about his compatriots who had family, he didn’t worry for himself because he was single and had no children. He was noted for his bravery, self-sacrifice and moral righteousness. After the civil war ended, he wanted to enter a monastic life but had to consider his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. By 1950, he had provided for his sisters’ future and was free to begin his monastic vocation.
He arrived on Mount Athos in 1950, first to Fr. Kyril, the future abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery, and then at Esphigmenou Monastery. In 1954, Arsenios, having been a novice for four years, was tonsured a monk and was given the name Averkios. He was a conscientious monk, finding ways to both complete his obediences (which required contact with others) and to preserve his silence, so as to progress in the art of prayer. He was always selfless in helping his brethren. He was unwilling to rest while others worked (though he may have already completed his own obediences) as he loved his brothers greatly and without distinction. In addition to his ascetic struggles and the common life in the monastery, he was spiritually enriched through the reading of soul-profiting books
In 1968, he resided at the Monastery of Stavronikita helping with its spiritual as well as material renovation. While there he had the blessing of being in contact with the ascetic Elder Tikhon who lived in the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, near Stavronikita. Elder Paisios stayed by his side until his repose, serving him selflessly as his disciple. It was during this period that Elder Tikhon clothed Fr. Paisios in the Great Schema. According to the wishes of the Elder, Fr. Paisios remained in Elder Tikhon’s hermitage after his repose. Fr. Paisios stayed there until 1979 when he moved to his final home on the Holy Mountain, the hermitage Panagouda, which belongs to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.
It was at Panagouda that Elder Paisios’ fame as a God-bearing elder grew, drawing to him the sick and suffering people of God. He received them all day long, dedicating the night to God in prayer, vigil, and spiritual struggle. His regime of prayer and asceticism left him with only two or three hours each night for rest. The self-abandon with which he served God and his fellow man, his strictness with himself, the austerity of his regime, and his sensitive nature made him increasingly prone to sickness. In addition to respiratory problems, in his later days, he suffered from a serious hernia that made life very painful. When he was forced to leave the Holy Mountain for various reasons (often due to his illnesses) he would receive pilgrims for hours on end at the women’s monastery at Souroti. The physical effort that this entailed in his weakened state caused him such pain that he would turn pale. He bore his suffering with much grace, confident that, as God knows what is best for us, it could not be otherwise. He would say that God is greatly touched when someone who is in great suffering does not complain, but rather uses his energy to pray for others.
In addition to his other illnesses, he suffered from haemorrhaging which left him very weak. In his final weeks before leaving the Holy Mountain, he would often fall unconscious. On October 5, 1993, the Elder left his beloved Holy Mountain for the last time. Though he had planned on being off the mountain for just a few days, while in Thessaloniki he was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate treatment. After the operation, he spent some time recovering in the hospital and was then transferred to the monastery at Souroti. Despite his critical state, he received people, listening to their sorrows and counselling them.
After his operation, Elder Paisios had his heart set on returning to Mt. Athos. His attempts to do so, however, were hindered by his failing health. His last days were full of suffering, but also of the joy of the martyrs. On July 11, 1994, he received Holy Communion for the last time. The next day, Elder Paisios gave his soul into God’s keeping. He was buried, according to his wishes, at the Monastery of St John the Theologian in Souroti, where yesterday and today thousands upon thousands of people have gathered to pay their respects. Elder Paisios, perhaps more than any other contemporary elder, captured the minds and hearts of the Greek people. Many books of his counsels have been published, and the monastery at Souroti has undertaken a great work, organising the Elder’s writings and counsels into impressive volumes befitting his memory. Thousands of pilgrims visit his tomb each year.
Elder Paisios was glorified on January 13, 2015, by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He is commemorated each year on July 12.