Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ
FROM THE OFFICE OF GREAT VESPERS (ESPERINOS)
The Seventh Prayer
Great and Most High God, You alone are immortal, abiding in unapproachable Light. In wisdom You created the world; You separated the light from the darkness, and set the sun, the greater light, to rule the day, and the lesser light, the moon, and the stars, to rule the night (Genesis 1:4.16).
You have judged us, though sinners, at this present hour to come into Your presence, giving thanks and offering You our evening praise. Loving Lord, let our prayer rise as incense before You, and accept it as a fragrant offering. Make this evening and the coming night peaceful for us. Gird us with the armor of Light. Deliver us from the terror of the night and from everything that lurks about in the darkness (Psalm 90 ). And let our sleep, which You have given us for rest, given our weakness, be free of all demonic images. Yes, Master of all, source of all blessings, so that, even as we slumber in our beds, we may speak Your Name in the night, and so, enlightened by the contemplation of Your statutes, we may rise, our souls rejoicing, to glorify Your Goodness, offering prayers and supplications to Your compassion, for our own sins and for those of all Your people, asking that, at the intercession of the Holy Theotokos, You will show them mercy. For You are a Good and Loving God, and to You we give glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Saint John of the Ladder
"As with fervent tears for God's help, seek it with obedience, and knock with patience and perseverance upon the door of His compassion".
On December 2nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Osios (Saint) Geron Porphyrios Kafsokaliviti; Holy Prophet Avvacum; Righteous Fathers the Hermits John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilos of Oxyrhynchus, who were discovered by St. Paphnutius of Egypt; Holy Martyr Myrope of Chios, together with a certain anonymous soldier who believed in Christ through her and was martyred for His sake; our Righteous Father Cyril of Plilea; Holy Martyr Habib the New was perfected in martyrdom by fire; Saint Solomon, Archbishop of Epesus.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OSIOS GERON PORPHYRIOS KAPSOKALIVITE. Saint Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) the Kapsokalyvite (1901-1991), who was glorified and officially recognized as a Saint on December 1st 2013 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was an Athonite hieromonk known for his gifts of spiritual discernment. His feast day is on December 2nd.
He was born February 7th in the little village of St. John Karystia, in the Province of Evoia. His parents Leonidas and Eleni Bairaktaris (daughter of Antonios Lambrou), baptized him Evangelos. He was fourth out of five siblings. Only his youngest sister is still alive and is a nun.
His father had a monastic calling but obviously did not become a monk. He was, however, the village cantor, and Saint Nektarios called upon his services during his journeys through the area, but poverty forced him to immigrate to America to work on the construction of the Panama Canal.
The Geronda (Elder) attended the school in his village for only two years. The teacher was sick most of the time and the children did not learn much. Seeing the way things were, Evangelos left school, worked on the family farm and tended the few animals that they owned. He started working from the age of eight. Even though he was still very young, in order to make more income, he went to work in a coal mine. He looked much older than he actually was. From his childhood he was very serious, industrious and diligent.
While he was looking after the sheep, and even when working in the grocer's store, he slowly read the life of Saint John the Hut-dweller. He wanted to follow the example of the Saint. So he set off for Mt. Athos many times, but for various reasons he never made it and returned home. Finally, when he was about fourteen or fifteen years of age, he again left for Mt. Athos. This time he was determined to make it and this time he did.
The Lord, Who watches over the destinies of us all, brought about things in such a way that Evangelos met his future father, the hieromonk Panteleimon, while he was on the ferry boat between Thessaloniki and the Holy Mountain [Mt. Athos]. Father Panteleimon immediately took the young boy under his wing. Evangelos was not yet an adult, and so should not have been allowed on the Holy mountain. Father Panteleimon said he was his nephew and his entrance was assured.
His Geronda (Elder), Fr. Panteleimon took him to Kapsokalyvia to the Hut of Saint George. Fr. Panteleimon lived there with his brother Fr. Ioannikios. The well-known monk, the blessed Hatzigeorgios had once lived there too.
In this way, Geronda (Elder) Porphyrios acquired two spiritual fathers at the same time. He gladly gave absolute obedience to both of them. He embraced the monastic life with great zeal. His only complaint was that his elders did not demand enough of him. He told us very little about his ascetic struggles and we have few details. From what he very rarely said to his spiritual children about, we can conclude that he happily and continuously struggled hard. He would walk barefoot among the rocky and snowy paths of the Holy Mountain. He slept very little, and then with only one blanket and on the floor of the hut, even keeping the window open when it was snowing. During the night he would make many prostrations, stripping himself to the waist so that sleep would not overcome him. He worked; wood-carving or outside cutting down trees, gathering snails or carrying sacks of earth on his back for long distances, so that a garden could be created on the rocky terrain near the Hut of Saint George.
He also immersed himself in the prayers, services and hymns of the Church, learning them by heart while working with his hands. Eventually from the continual repetition of the Gospel and from learning it by heart the same way, he was unable to have thought that were not good or that were idle. He characterized himself, in those years, as being "forever on the move".
However, the distinguishing mark of his ascetic struggle was not the physical effort he made, but rather, his total obedience to his Geronda (Elder). He was completely dependent upon him. His will disappeared into his elder's will. He had total love, faith and devotion for his elder. He identified himself completely with him, making his Geronda's conduct in life his own conduct. It is here that we find the essence of it all. It is here, in his obedience, that we discover the secret, the key to his life.
This uneducated boy from the second grade, using the Holy Scriptures as his dictionary, was able to educate himself. By reading about his beloved Christ he managed in only a few years to learn as much as, if not more than, we ever did with all our comforts. We had schools and universities, teachers and books, but we did not have the fiery enthusiasm of this young novice.
We do not know exactly when but certainly not long after reaching the Holy Mountain, he was tonsured as a monk and given the name Nikitas.
THE VISITATION OF DIVINE GRACE
We should not find it strange that Divine grace should rest upon this young monk who was filled with fire for Christ and gave everything waiting for the bells to ring and the doors to be opened.
He was followed by the old monk Dimas, a former Russian officer, over ninety years old, an ascetic and a secret Saint. Fr. Dimas looked around and made sure that nobody was there. He did not notice young Nikitas waiting in the entrance. He started making full prostrations and praying before the closed church doors.
Divine grace spilled over from holy Fr. Dimas and cascaded down upon the young Nikitas who was then ready to receive it. His feelings were indescribable. On his way back to the hut, after receiving Holy Communion in the Divine Liturgy that morning, his feelings were so intense that he stopped, stretched out his hands and shouted loudly "Glory to You, O God! Glory to You, O God! Glory to You, O God!"
THE CHANGE WROUGHT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
Following the visitation of the Holy Spirit, a fundamental change took place in the psychosomatic makeup of young Monk Nikitas. It was the change that comes directly from the Right Hand of God. He acquired supernatural gifts and was vested with power from o High.
The first sign of these gifts was when his Gerondes (Elders) were returning from a far-away journey, he was able to "see" them at a great distance. He "saw" them there, where they were, even though they were not within human sight. He confessed this to Fr. Panteleimon who advised him to be very cautious about his gift and to tell no-one. Advice which he followed very carefully until he was told to do otherwise.
More followed. His sensitivity to things around him became very acute and his human capacities developed to their fullest. He listened to and recognized bird and animal voices to the extent that he knew not just where they came from, but what they were saying. His sense of smell was developed to such a degree that then could he could recognize fragrances at a great distance. He knew the different types of aroma and their makeup. After humble prayer he was able to "see" the depths of the earth and the far reaches of space. He could see through water and through rock formations. He could see petroleum deposits, radioactivity, ancient and buried monument, hidden graves, crevices in the depths of the earth, subterranean springs, lost icons, scenes of events that had take place centuries before, prayers that had been lifted up in the past, good and evil spirits, the human soul itself, just about everything. He tasted the quality of water in the depth of the earth. He would question the rocks and they would tell him about the spiritual struggles of ascetics who went before him. He looked at people and was able to heal. He touched people and he made them well. He prayed and his prayer became reality. However, he never knowingly tried to use these gifts from God to benefit himself. He never asked for his own ailment to be healed. He never tried to get personal gain from the knowledge extended to him by Divine grace.
Every time he used his gift of discernment, (diakrisis) the hidden thoughts of the human mind were revealed to him. He was able, through the grace of God, to see the past, the present and the future all at the same time. He confirmed that God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful. He was able to observe and touch all creation, from the edges of the Universe to the depths of the human soul and history. Saint Paul's phrase, "One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (I Cor. 12:11) certainly held true for Geronda (Elder) Porphyrios. Naturally, he was a human being, and received Divine grace, which comes from God. This God Who for reasons of His Own sometimes did not reveal everything. Life lived in grace is an unknown mystery for us. Any more talk on the matter would be a rude invasion into matters we don't understand. The Geronda always pointed this out to all those who attributed his abilities to something other than grace. He underlined this fact, again and again, saying, "It's not something that's learnt. It's not a skill. It is grace."
RETURNED TO THE WORLD
Even after being overshadowed by Divine grace, this young disciple of the Lord continued in his ascetic struggles as before, with humility, godly zeal and unprecedented lover of learning. The Lord now wanted to make him a teacher and shepherd of His rational sheep. He tried him out, measured him up, and found him adequate.
Monk Nikitas never but never thought of leaving the Holy Mountain and returning to the world. His divine all-consuming love for our Savior drove him to wish and to dream of finding himself in the open desert and, except for his sweet Jesus, completely alone.
However, severe pleurisy, finding him worn down from his superhuman ascetic struggles, caught hold of him while he was gathering snails on the rocky cliffs. This forced his Geronda to order him to take up residence in a monastery in the world, so that he could become well again. He obeyed and returned to the world, but as soon as he recovered he went back to the place of his repentance. He again fell ill; this time, his Geronda, with a great deal of sadness, sent him back into the world for good.
Thus, at nineteen years of age, we find him living as a monk at the Monastery of Lefkon of Saint Charalambos, close to his birthplace. Nevertheless he continued with the regiment he had learned on the Holy Mountain, his psalms and the like. He was, however, forced to scale down his fasting until his health got better.
[Source: Elder Porphyrios: Testimonies and Experiences by Klitos Ioannidis]
Please note: Just reading the lives of our Orthodox Christian Saints is not only inspiring but an awesome blessing. I pray that the life of Osios (Saint) Porphyrios will encourage all of you, beloved Christians, to begin reading the life of the Saint of the day throughout the ecclesiastical year. There are books written in English both online and in the bookstores of our Monasteries.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God