Elder Paisios in the Experience of the Fathers of the Holy Mountain
Archimandrite Ephraim, head of the Skete of Saint Andrew, Athos.
Question: Archimandrite Ephraim, could you tell us some memories of Father Paisios because you knew him?
Answer: I have known our dear departed Elder, Father Paisios, since 1974. He revered and loved always in a special way my previous home, the Holy Monastery of Philotheou, because it was there that he was ordained as a monk. He, however, did not stay in the end there, because he could not physically cope with the humidity there during those times. I will tell you my opinion of him. It is not any kind of panegyric because saints do not need praises from sinners.
Father Paisios was an Elder taught by God, because all the most profound truths of faith about monasticism ja divinization he learned personally from teaching he received from Heaven. He had personal spiritual experiences of the demons, the saints and the angels. Many times he enjoyed the Uncreated Light and his mind was caught up to Heaven, which both are definite highpoints in monastic life.
He always lived alone. In this he wasn't high-handed but he wanted to keep his struggles hidden even from the monks that knew him well. Because the unceasing prayer of the heart funcioned in him already from the early years of his monastic life and because by character he was very courageous, soul like a lion, he struggled in ways that have remained hidden even to us who live in the Holy Mountain. He did this so that he could personally experience all that which he had learnt about monasticism through books. I still wonder how precisely he followed in his life the principles of perfect eremitic life! In the Holy Mountain we do not consider as an ascetic and hermit the one, who from many totally understandable reasons has gone to live in total solitude, but the one who has been called by the Holy Spirit in a secret knowledge and experience to this way of life. How we live and what life style we lead is based on the charisma (i.e. gift) given by Christ. He does not, however, force us to put into practice our gifts but only reveals us His will regarding them through some person.
The Elder Paisios, whom we love, lived like the great sanctified Fathers of the early centuries of Christianity. According to the experience and opinion of the Athonite monks he is a great saint. We all think about him in this same manner. We are not, however, occupied by the fact, if he will someday be canonized or if so, when it will happen. Sometimes the official canonization can take for a long time. This is what happened for example in the case of Saint Cosmas of Aetolia, as we know. Even though Saint Cosmas received the crown of martyrdom already in the year 1779 when he was 65-years-of-old, his canonization took place only in year 1961. Saints lose nothing from this kind of delay. They do not themselves hurry to be respected in this world as saints. Many things which are hidden from us rule the process of canonization.
I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to know Father Paisios. I also try to put into practice his God-englightened counsels even I, naturally, do not succeed in it. I do not say this as some kind of proof of humility, but mostly as a public confession. It is not easy to reach such great spiritual hights as Father Paisios did.
Regarding Father Paisios, I also want to turn your attention to the fact that he was not a priest, even though he could have been, because he had no impediments to become a priest – he had spent his whole life like an angel. Many times he was asked, why he did not become a priest. With simplicity of heart and smiling a bit he would answer that he is the servant of the Lord and that if the Lord will at some point call him to priesthood, he will gladly accept. In this way Father Paisios was guiding us to the highest way of life a humanbeing can achieve which is the monastic life and which in itself is enough for us. As a monk Father Paisios has reached the hights where he is already in all ways spiritually whole and lacks nothing. In the Holy Mountain the most important thing is not to become a priest but that a person becomes real and genuine monk. Father Paisios followed the footsteps of his own great saint (i.e. Saint Paisios the Great) and is himself very great in the minds of us, sinners.
Seminary in the Lay Academy of Valaam, "Kristuksesta ja Kirkosta älkää etääntykö; sisä- ja ulkolähetys Ortodoksisessa kirkossa" 26.5.2002.