Saint Paisios the Athonite
On July 12 we will commemorate the newest saint of the Church, Saint Paisios the Athonite, the beloved holy elder of Greece.
He was canonized on January 13, 2015 by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Saint Paisios was born in July 25, 1924 in the humble village of Farasa in Cappadocia, Asia Minor – modern day Turkey. He was baptized at the age of three weeks by the village priest, Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, who foretold his life as a monk.
A week following Saint Paisios’ baptism the Turks drove out all of the Greeks from Asia Minor, sending them on a 400-mile exodus to Greece, where his family settled in Epiros. It is interesting to note that it was Elder Paisios who later wrote about the life of Saint Arsenios.
Early in his life Saint Paisios gravitated towards the spiritual life, spending hours daily in prayer. During World War II he served in the military as a radio operator.
In 1950 he went to Mount Athos, where he remained for most of the rest of his life, growing in spiritual stature through prayer, fasting, and many ascetical practices. In 1979 he moved to his final home, Panagouda Hermitage. Here he received tens of thousands of pilgrims, granting them, by God’s grace, healing, advice, wisdom, and solace. He reposed in the Lord on July 12, 1994.
Saint Paisios is one of the most beloved modern saints in the Orthodox world because he was able to speak to us in contemporary language, using simple analogies that communicated deep spiritual wisdom.
Central to Elder Paisios’ spiritual life were the virtues of love, humility, and sacrifice. Depicted in his icon is a scroll in his hand which contains one of his well-known sayings, “Love and humility are the frequency in which God works” – meaning that we should turn the dial of our heart to the frequency of love and humility, so that God can work in us. He often described how our ego and selfishness push away God and those whom we love.
Saint Paisios also talked about the importance of sacrifice and struggle. Through these we are able to break down our ego and draw closer to God. “The soft life makes people useless. Without toil and struggle sanctification doesn’t come.”
He warned about the dangers of modern life with its conveniences and comforts. Though these comforts appear to help us, they instead make us more distracted, busier, and anxious – external noise contributing to internal discord. This thoughtful and relevant statement by Saint Paisios is especially poignant, as he observed this even before the internet, smart phones, and social media!
The increasing materialism of the modern world caused Saint Paisios great anguish. He warned that when we focus on material possessions we only become worried, anxious, and deadened to the spiritual life. “The person who is possessed by material things is always subjugated to unhappiness and anxiety: he trembles for fear that his things will be taken away from him.”
The Elder likened the materialistic person to a young bird in the shell who never comes out to “the heavenly flight in the life of Paradise,” but just stays in the shell and dies. He warned, “Fly from your material possessions to the fold of the poor. Simplify your life so as to be freed from worldly anxiety, so that your life might have meaning.”
Saint Paisios had great love and compassion for people living in the modern world. He prayed continually and used his God-given gifts of discernment and foresight to guide those who would visit him. He never berated people, but always encouraged them, giving hope in place of desperation.
“My heart rejoices when I see souls who take heed and struggle in a world that has become full of little devils.”
May Saint Paisios continue to intercede for all of us!