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.
The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, No, not one. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are in great fear where no fear was, for God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you; You have put them to shame, because God despised them. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
[Psalm 52 It refers to the incidents which would come to pass before the Coming of the Lord, so that He could show the benefits of His Coming.]
On December 3rd 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: Holy Prophet Sophonias; Holy Hieromartyr Theodore, Archbishop of Alexandria; our Righteous Father Theodulos, Eparch of Constantinople who became a stylite in Edessa, and Saint Cornelius the Lute Player; St. John the Hesychast of Mar Savvas Monastery, former bishop of Colonia; Saints Agapius, Selefcus, and Mama were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; our Righteous Father Theodulos of Cyprus; Holy Hieromartyr Gabriel, who was bishop first of Ganos, then of Prusa, where he was martyred in the year 1659; Holy New Martyr Angelis, who contested on the island of Chios in the year 1813; Holy Martyr Cassian the Notary of Tangiers; our Father among the Saints Birinus, First bishop of Dorchester and Apostle of Wessex; our Righteous Father Savvas of Zvenigorod, who was a disciple of St. Sergius of Rodonezh.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Archbishops, Holy Hesychasts, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY SCRIPTURAL READINGS FOR TODAY ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Thessalonians 3:8-13
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 21:12-19
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
"The Saints, during their earthly life, are filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. After their departure the same grace remains in their souls as in their bodies. The very same grace is present and active in their sacred images and icons".[Saint John of Damascus]
OSIOS[SAINT] GERON[ELDER] PORPHYRIOS OF KAVSOKALYVIA (1906-1991)
ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
It was in the Monastery of Lefkon of St. Charalambos that he met the Archbishop of Sinai, Porphyrios III, a visiting guest there. From his conversation with Nikitas (St. Porphyrios) he noticed the virtue and the divine gifts that he possessed. He was so impressed that on the 26th of July 1927, the feast of Saint Paraskevi, he ordained him a deacon. The very next day, the feast of Saint Panteleimon, he promoted him to the priesthood as a member of the Sinaite Monastery. He was given the name Porphyrios. The ordination took place in the Chapel of the Holy Metropolis of Karystia, in the Diocese of Kymi. The Metropolitan of Karystia, Panteleimon Phostini also took part in the service. Elder (Geronda) Porphyrios was only twenty-one years old.
THE SPIRITUAL FATHER
After this the resident Metropolitan of Karystia, Panteleimon appointed him with an official letter of warrants to be a father confessor. He carried out this new "talent" that was given with humanity and hard work. He studied the "Confessor's Handbook." However, when he tried to follow to the letter what it said regarding penance, he was troubled. He realized that he had to handle each of the faithful individually. He found the answer in the writings of Saint Basil the Great, who advised, "We write all these things so that you can taste the fruits of repentance. We do not consider the time it takes, but we take note of the manner of repentance." (Ep. 217no.84). He took this advice to heart and put it into practice. Even in his ripe old age he reminded young father confessors of this advice.
Having matured in this way the young hieromonk Prophyrios, by God's grace, applied himself successfully to the work of spiritual father in Evia until 1940. He would receive large numbers of the faithful for confession every day. On many occasions he would hear confessions for hours without a break. His reputation as a spiritual father, knower of souls, and sure guide, quickly spread throughout the neighboring area. This meant that many people flocked to his confessional at the Holy Monastery of Lefkon close to Avlona, Evia. Sometimes whole days and nights would pass by with no let-up and no rest, as he fulfilled this godly work, this sacrament. He would help those who came to him with his gift of discernment (diakrisis), guiding them to self-knowledge, truthful confession and the life in Christ. With this same gift he uncovered snares of the devil, saving souls from his evil traps and devices.
In 1938 he was awarded the office of Archmandrite from the Metropolitan of Karystia, "in honor of the service that you have given to the Church as a Spiritual Father until now, and for the virtuous hopes our Holy Church cherishes for you" as written by the Metropolitan. The hopes of whom, by the grace of God, were realized.
MY STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS
Geronda[Elder] Porphyrios, in addition to the illness that forced him to leave Mt. Athos, and that kept his left side especially sensitive, suffered with many other ailments, at various times.
Towards the end of his service at the Polyclinic he became ill with kidney trouble. However, he was operated on only when his sickness was in its advanced stages. This was because he worked tirelessly despite his illness. He had become used to being obedient "unto death." He was obedient even to the director of the Polyclinic, who told him to put off the operation, so that he could celebrate the services for Holy Week. This delay resulted in him slipping into a coma. The doctors told his relatives to prepare for his funeral. However, by divine will, and despite all medical expectations, the Elder returned to earthly life to continue his service to the members of the Church.
He builds a new women's monastery
It was a long held desire of the Geronda's to found a holy women's monastery of his own, to build a monastic foundation in which certain devout women, who were spiritual daughters of his, could live. He had vowed to God that he would not abandon these women when he left the world because they had been faithful helpers of his for many years. As time went on it would be possible for other women who wanted to devote themselves to the Lord to settle down there.
Elder Porphyrios did not do anything without the blessing of the Church. Thus, in this instance he sought and received the canonical approval both of His Eminence the Archbishop of Athens and of the Holy Synod. Although the relevant procedures had started in 1978, it was only in 1981, after overcoming much procedural bureaucracy and other difficulties, that he was privileged enough to see the "Holy Women's Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior". He weighed up all the factors; and finally he selected and purchased some property on the site of Hagia Sotira, Milesi by Malakasa, Attica, near Oropos.
He prepares his return to the Holy Mountain
Geronda Porphyrios had never emotionally left Mt. Athos. There was no other subject that interested him more than the Holy Mountain, and especially Kavsokalyvia. For many years he had a hut there, in the name of a disciple of his who he visited on occasion. When he heard in 1984 that the last resident of Saint George's hut had left for good and taken up residence in another monastery, he hastened to the Holy Great Lavra of Saint Athanasios, to whom it belonged and asked that it be given to him. It was at St. George's that he had first taken his monastic vows. He had always wanted to return, to keep the vow made at his tonsure some sixty years earlier, to remain in his monastery until his last breath. He was now getting ready for his final journey.
The hut was given to him according to the tradition of Mt. Athos, with the monastery's sealed pledge, dated 21st September 1984. Geronda Porphyrios settled different disciples of his there in succession. In the summer of 1991 there were five. This is the number that he had mentioned to a spiritual child of his some three years before as the total that indicated the year of his death.
RETURN TO HIS REPENTANCE
During the last two years of his earthly life he would frequently talk about his preparation for his defense before the dread judgment seat of God. He gave strict orders that if he should die here, his body should be transported without fanfare and buried at Kavsokalyvia. In the end, he decided to go there while he was still alive. He spoke about a certain story in the Sayings of the Holy Fathers:
"A certain elder, who had prepared his grave when he felt his end was near, said to his disciple, 'My son, the rocks are slippery and steep and you will endanger your life if you alone took me to my grave. Come, let us go now that I am alive." And surely his disciple took him by the hand and the elder lay down in the grave and gave up his soul in peace."
On the eve of the Feast of the Holy Trinity, 1991, having gone to Athens to confess to his very old and sickly spiritual father, he received absolution and left for his hut on Mt. Athos. He settled in and waited for the end, prepared to give a good defense before God.
Then, when they had dug a deep grave for him according to his instructions, he dictated a farewell letter of advice and forgiveness to all his spiritual children through a spiritual child of his. This letter, dated June 4 was found amongst the monastic clothes that were laid out for his funeral on the day of his death.
He sleeps in the Lord
God, Who is All-Good, and Who fulfills the desires of those who feared Him, fulfilled Geronda Porphyrios' wish. He made him of having a blessed end in extreme humbleness and obscurity. He was surrounded only by his disciples on Mt. Athos who prayed with him. On the last night of his earthly life he went to confession and prayed noetically. His disciples read the Fiftieth (51st) and other psalms and the service for the dying. They said the short prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me," until they had completed the rule of a great schema monk.
With great love his disciples offered him what he needed, a little bodily and lot of spiritual comfort. For a long time they could hear his holy lips whispering the last words that came from his venerable mouth. These were the same words Christ prayed on the eve of his Crucifixion "that we may be one."
After this they heard him repeat only one word. The word that is found at the end of the New Testament, at the conclusion of the Divine Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John, "Come" ("Yes, come, Lord Jesus").
The Lord, his sweet Jesus came. The saintly soul of Geronda Porphyrios left his body at 4:31 on the morning of the 2nd of December, 1991 and journeyed towards heaven.
His venerable body, dressed in the monastic manner, was placed in the main church of Kavsokalyvia. According to tradition, the fathers there read the Gospel all day, and during the night they held an all-night vigil. Everything was done in agreement with the detailed verbal instructions of Geronda Porphyrios. They had been written down to avoid any mistake.
At dawn, on the 3rd day of December 1991, the earth covered the venerable remains of the holy Elder in the presence of the few monks of the holy skete of Kavsokalyvia. It was only then, in accordance with his wishes, that his repose was announced.
A BRIEF SKETCH
The chief characteristic of Geronda[Elder] Porphyrios throughout his whole life was his complete humbleness. This was accompanied by his absolute obedience, his warm love and his unmurmuring patience with unbearable pain. He was noted for his discretion, his inconceivable discernment, his boundless love of learning, his extraordinary knowledge (a gift very much from God and not from his non-existing schooling in the world), his inexhaustible love of hard work, and his continuous humble, (and for that reason successful) prayer. In addition to this, his pure Orthodox convictions, without any kind of fanaticism, his lively but for the most part unseen and unknown, interest in the affairs of our Holy Church, his effective advice, the many sides of his teachings his long-suffering spirit, his profound devotion, and the seemly manner of the holy services that he celebrated and the lengthy offering which he kept carefully hidden unto the end.
The Geronda taught that the basic element of the Spiritual life in Christ, the great mystery of our faith, is unity in Christ. It is that sense of identifying with our brother, of carrying the burdens of one another, of living for others as we live for ourselves, of saying "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on Me" and for that "ME" to contain and to become for ourselves the pain and the problems of the other, of suffering like they suffer, of rejoicing like they rejoice, their fall becoming our fall and their getting up again becoming our getting up again.
This is why his last words, his last entreaty to God, his last prayer, his greatest desire was that we "become one". That was what he ached, wished and longed for.
In this wonderful and simple way, how many problems were solved and how many sins were avoided. Did my brother fall? I fell. How can I blame him since I am at fault? Did my brother succeed? I succeed. How can I envy him since I am the winner?
The Elder knew that because it's our weakest point, it is here that the Evil One does greatest battle. We put our own interests first. We separate ourselves. We want to flee the consequences of our actions for ourselves only. However, when such a spirit prevails, there is no salvation for us. We must want to be saved along with everyone else. We should, together with God's Saint, say, "If you don't save all of these people, Lord, then erase my name from the book of Life." Or, like Christ's Apostle, wishes to become accursed from Christ, for the sake of my fellow man, my brothers and my sisters.
This is love. This is the power of Christ. This is the essence of God. This is the royal way of spiritual life. We should love Christ who is everything, by loving His brothers and sisters, for whom the least of which Christ died.
[Source: Elder Porphyrios: Testimonies and Experiences, by Klitos Ioannidis]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God