“The Beatitudes”, with Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Motto: (Lk. 6:24-30)

The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, “But woe to you that
are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.

“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did
to the false prophets…



“The Beatitudes” with Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

(Taken from the Elder’ Sixth Epistle)

Sister Abbess Philothei, Your blessing,

Today, a kind of craziness took hold of me and I took the pencil, as does the madman who writes his outbursts on the wall with charcoal, and I sat down to write my own things on paper like one crazed, and, again, like a lunatic, to send them to you in writ ing. I am doing this latter craziness out of much love for my Sisters, that they might be edified, even if only a little.

The reason for the initial craziness was five let ters, one after the other, from various parts of Greece on a variety of subjects. While the events described were great blessings of God, those who wrote to me had fallen into despair because they dealt with them in a worldly way.

After replying accordingly to their letters, I took the pencil like a madman, as I have said, and wrote this epistle. I believe that even a fifty-cent piece from your journeying brother will be something toward a flint for each one of the Sisters so as to light a little candle in her cell and offer her doxology to our Good God.

I feel great joy when every Sister, with her particu lar cross carries out the equivalent struggle with philo timo.

It is a small thing to give to Christ a heart equal in size and as luminous as the sun out of gratitude for His great gifts, and especially for the particular honour He showed us monks by conscripting us with personal sum mons to His Angelic Order.

A great honour also belongs to the parents who were thus made worthy of becoming related to God. Unfor tunately, however, most parents do not realize this and, instead of being grateful to God, are infuriated etc., for they see everything in a worldly way, like those people I mentioned earlier, who became the reason for me to take the pencil and write everything that follows.

1. Blessed are those who loved Christ more than all the worldly things and live far from the world and near God, with heavenly joys upon the earth.

2. Blessed are those who managed to live in obscu rity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.

3. Blessed are those who managed to act the fool and, in this way, protected their spiritual wealth.

4. Blessed are those who do not preach the Gospel with words, but live it and preach it with their silence, with the Grace of God, which betrays them.

5. Blessed are those who rejoice when unjustly ac cused, rather than when they are justly praised for their virtuous life. Here are the signs of holiness, not in the dry exertion of bodily asceticism and the great number of struggles, which, when not carried out with humility and the aim to put off the old man, create only illusions.

6. Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.

7. Blessed are those who have been born crippled or became so due to their own carelessness, yet do not grumble but glorify God. They will hold the best place in Paradise along with the Confessors and Martyrs, who gave their hands and feet for the love of Christ and now constantly kiss with devoutness the hands and feet of Christ in Paradise.

8. Blessed are those who were born ugly and are de spised here on earth, because they are entitled to the most beautiful place in Paradise, provided they glorify God and do not grumble.

9.Blessed are those widows who wear black in this life, even unwillingly, but live a white spiritual life and glorify God without complaining rather than the mis erable ones who wear assorted clothes and live a spot ted life.

10. Blessed and thrice blessed are the orphans who have been deprived of their parents’ great affection, for they managed to have God as their Father already from this life. At the same time, they have the affection they were deprived of from their parents in God’s savings bank “with interest”.

11. Blessed are those parents who avoid the use of the word “don’t” with their children, instead restraining them from evil through their holy life – a life which chil dren imitate, joyfully following Christ with spiritual bravery.

12. Blessed are those children who have been born “from their mother’s womb” (Mt. 19:12) holy, but even more blessed are those who were born with all the inherited passions of the world, struggled with sweat and up rooted them and inherited the Kingdom of God in the sweat of their face (Cf. Gen. 3:19).

13. Blessed are those children who lived from in fancy in a spiritual environment and, thus, tirelessly ad vanced in the spiritual life.

Thrice blessed, however, are the mistreated ones who were not helped at all (on the contrary, they were pushed towards evil), but as soon as they heard of Christ, their eyes glistened, and with a one hundred and eighty degree turn they suddenly made their soul to shine as well. They departed from the attraction of earth and moved into the spiritual sphere.

14. Fortunate, worldly people say, are the astronauts who are able to spin in the air, orbit the moon or even walk on the moon.

Blessed, however, are the immaterial “Paradise-nauts”, who ascend often to God and travel about Paradise, their place of permanent abode, with the quickest of means and without much fuel, besides one crust of bread.

15. Blessed are those who glorify God for the moon that glimmers that they might walk at night.

More blessed, however, are those who have come to understand that neither the light of the moon is of the moon, nor the spiritual light of their soul of them selves, but both are of God. Whether they can shine like a mirror, a pane of glass or the lid of a tin can, if the rays of the sun do not fall on them it is impossible for them to shine.

16. Fortunate, worldly people tell us, are those who live in crystal palaces and have all kinds of conven Iences.

Blessed, however, are those who’ve managed to sim plify their life and become liberated from the web of this world’s development of numerous conveniences (i.e. many inconveniences), and were released from the frightening stress of our present age.

17. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who can enjoy the goods of the world.

Blessed, however, are those who give away every thing for Christ and are deprived even of every hu man consolation for Christ. Thus it is that they man­age to be found night and day near Christ and His di vine consolation, which many times is so much that they say to God: “My God, Thy love cannot be en­dured, for it is great and cannot be fit within my small heart”.

18. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who have the greatest jobs and the largest mansions, since they possess all possibilities and live comfortably.

Blessed, however, according to the divine Paul, are those who have but a nest to perch in, a little food and some coverings99• For, in this way, they’ve managed to become estranged from the vain world, using the earth as a footstool, as children of God, and their mind is con stantly found close to God, their Good Father.

19. Fortunate are those who become generals and government ministers in their head by way of heavy drinking (even if just for a few hours), with the world ly rejoicing over it.

Blessed, however, are those who have put off the old man and have become incorporeal, managing to be earthly angels with the Holy Spirit. They have found Paradise’s divine faucet and drink from it and are con tinually inebriated from the heavenly wine.

20. Blessed are those who were born crazy and will be judged as crazy, and, in this way, will enter Paradise without a passport.

Blessed and thrice blessed, however, are the very wise who feign foolishness for the love of Christ and mock all the vanity of the world. This foolishness for Christ’s sake is worth more than all the knowledge and wisdom of the wise of this world.

I beg all the Sisters to pray for God to give me, or rather take from me my little mind, and, in this way, se cure Paradise for me by considering me a fool. Or, make me crazy with His love so I go out my self, outside of the earth and its pull, for, otherwise my life as a monk has no meaning. I became externally white as a monk. As I go I become internally black by being a negligent monk, but I justify myself as one unhealthy, when I hap pen to be so; other times, I excuse myself again for be ing ill, even though I am well, and so I deserve to be thoroughly thrashed. Pray for me.

May Christ and Panagia be with you,

With love of Christ, Your Brother, Monk Paisios

(“Precious Cross”, December 2, 1972).


Source:  http://orthodoxword.wordpress.com



Cases of Childlessness

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

—Geronta, a husband and wife that both have Mediterranean anemia [1] asked us if they should try to have children. We told them to ask their spiritual father.
—Spiritual fathers should not tell such couples not to have children. They must guide them in
philotimo, so as to struggle in abstinence (to abstain), and with discernment grant them economia.
—Geronta, there are couples who, although they live very spiritually and want to have children, are not able.
The reason God does not give children to some is so that they will love all the children of the world as their own and help in their spiritual rebirth. There was once a man without children but, when he would walk out of his house, all the children of his neighborhood would run to him and surround him with such love. They wouldn’t let him leave and go to his job. See, God didn’t give him his own children but graced him with the blessing of loving all the children of his neighborhood as a father and in his own way to help them spiritually. The judgments of God are fathomless.

In addition, God may not give children so that an orphaned child might be helped. I once met a good Christian man who was a lawyer. Once, when I passed through the city he lived I paid him a visit and in his great kindness he forced me to stay over and receive hospitality at his house. I also met his spouse who likewise resembled him in virtue. And, while from the wife I learned of the spiritual life of her husband, from the husband I learned of the spiritual state of his wife. Later, I learned about the both of them from many other Christians who know them well and whom they have helped. This man of God honorably worked as a lawyer. If he saw that someone was deceitful not only would he not take his case but he would sharply renounce them in hopes that they would come to their senses. If he saw someone who was guilty but repentant, he would try somehow to reconcile things or to reduce the sentence. If he saw a poor man unjustly accused, he wouldn’t take any money and would try to vindicate him in court. He lived very simply and therefore the little money he made was enough for him with enough left over to help poor families. The house of this faithful lawyer was literally a spiritual oasis in the Sahara of the city. The poor, wounded, unemployed, and those with domestic problems would gather there and he would support them all as a good father. He had acquaintances in different places so that, whomever he called on the phone with a need–to help with those who were sick, etc.—never told him ‘no,’ because everyone loved and honored him. His wife also worked in her own way. She would help poor children or children who had difficulties in their studies. They thought of her as a mother. She once, however, expressed to me a complaint. “Father, when we married” she told me, “I resigned my job as a professor because I said I’d now become a good mother. I even asked Christ to give me twenty children, but unfortunately He didn’t even give me one.” Then, I told her: “Sister, you have more than five-hundred children and still you are complaining? Christ saw your good intention and will reward you. Now that you’re helping with the spiritual rebirth of so many children, you’ve become a better mother than many other mothers and have passed up even mothers of many children.[2] You will also have a greater reward, because with the spiritual rebirth the children are reassured eternal life.” In the meantime they had adopted a little girl and had signed over their inheritance to her. She cared for them in their old age and, when they reposed, went off to a monastery–although their house was like a monastery, reading all the services as they did. For vespers and compline they had other brethren in Christ but midnight office and orthros the three read themselves. These blessed souls gave rest to so many suffering souls. May God also grant them rest.

That’s why I say that the greater and better parents of big families are those who were spiritually reborn and who help in the spiritual rebirth of children all over the world, to ensure their souls in Paradise.

—Geronta, some people who aren’t able to have children of their own, think about adopting a little child.
—Yes, it’s better to adopt. They shouldn’t insist on their own will.[3] That which man wants is not always the will of God.
—Geronta, should the adoptive parents tell the child that they adopted him at a certain age?
—It is better to tell the child once he is old enough. But what matters is to love the child greatly and appropriately. There are children who live with their actual parents but who love other people more because their own parents don’t have love.


[1] Mediterranean anemia (also known as Thalassemia) is a genetic (inherited) blood disease, particularly prevalent among Mediterranean peoples. In Europe, the highest concentrations of the disease are found in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Crete.
[2] A family with many children (πολύτεκνη οικογένια) in Greece is seen as greatly blessed. As is said in the Orthodox sacrament of marriage: “Bless this marriage, granting to Your servants long life, purity, mutual love in the bond of peace, enduring prosperity, the blessing of children and the unfading crown of glory”.
[3] I.e. persistin
g in the hope that the mother will one day conceive.


September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

We once asked Father Paisios:
– Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem:
– Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?

The Elder started telling us:
– I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.” This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface. When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.

Elder Paisios was constantly stressing the importance of pious thinking in spiritual life. He used to say that a single positive thought equals a vigil in Mount Athos. Once, he told us the following incident:
“One day someone came to see me, but as I was busy I told him to wait in the chapel. Later on, when he left the chapel to come into my guestroom, I did not notice that he had forgotten to take his cigarettes and had left them on the chapel’s seat. Meanwhile, another guest arrived; he also went into the chapel to wait, until I was free to see him. When I called him in, he asked me:
– Elder, do you smoke?
– No, I said. Why are you asking?
– I saw a pack of cigarettes in the chapel, that’s why.
– The person who was there before you must have forgotten them, but I did not notice it.
After he left, a child came to visit me for the first time. He knocked on the door and I immediately asked him what he wanted:
– I wish to see Elder Paisios. Is he here?
– I’m afraid he is not, I replied. He went to Karyes to buy cigarettes.
The child answered innocently:
– It does not matter, Father. I will wait for him to come back.
You see the difference between the two ways of thinking, said the Elder. The first person, who found the cigarettes in the chapel, had negative and suspicious thoughts, whereas the child, even when I told him that Elder Paisios went to buy cigarettes, reacted in the opposite way. He simply said he would wait without asking if the Elder smokes or what he needs the cigarettes for.

“One day, a young man, who was full of negative thoughts, visited me and expressed his desire to become my disciple. I explained to him:
– I do not wish to have disciples. I always have many visitors and they would end up neglecting their spiritual duties in order to take care of my guests. Moreover, I have been a monk for many years and among the virtues I have acquired, I also have developed some weaknesses, which I haven’t managed to get rid of. So, if you come to live here, my virtues (prayers, fasting, vigil) will harm you, as you will be unable to follow my strict schedule; my weaknesses will also do you harm, as they will be impossible for you to bear. For these reasons, I cannot take you as my disciple. He finally left to go visit other monasteries.
After a few hours, I was sitting in the garden eating two plain tomatoes without oil and a small piece of bread, thinking of all the good things God has given me. He gave me a nice house situated in such a beautiful area that even rich people envy; I do not have to pay any rent unlike so many people, who struggle to earn their living; I have my daily food without having to work hard in some factory; the monks around the area I live are nice. As I was filled with these thoughts, I felt a sweet grief inside me for being ungrateful to God, and I started crying being unable to continue eating. While I was in this state, suddenly, I saw the young man, who had visited me earlier and had asked me to become my disciple standing by the fence. I didn’t want him to see me crying, so I went inside to wash my face and then I opened the gate to let him in. Looking disturbed, he said to me:
– Don’t pretend to be an ascetic! I saw you eating meat and when you saw me coming you went inside to hide it from me. Now I know what you really are!
I started laughing, but did not give any excuses; I was stunned by his way of thinking and the way he ‘cultivated’ his negative thoughts.”

Elder Paisios had a very positive thinking. Even under the worst circumstances, he thought positively. He even managed to extract good out of the most harmful things, by using them in a special way. Once, one of the visitors, who had been greatly assisted by Father Paisios, asked him, as he was departing, if there was anything he could send him. The Elder explained that he did not want anything. Since the visitor insisted, he finally said to him jokingly:
– Well, send me cigarettes!
The visitor left and after some time Father Paisios received a package through the mail. It was a big box containing many packs of cigarettes. When the Elder saw this, he was astonished. What was he going to do with all these cigarettes? On the one hand, he could not throw them in the garbage wasting all the money spent for purchasing them. On the other hand, he did not want to give them away causing harm to health of other people. In the following days, Father Paisios asked one of his visitors if he smoked. He nodded his head.
-How many packs a day? asked the Elder.
– Three, he answered.
– Look, said the Elder, smoking so many cigarettes is harmful to your health and also very expensive. Let’s make a deal. During the next few months, I will offer you the cigarettes for free, but you will only smoke one pack per day. He agreed and Elder Paisios gave him the cigarettes feeling satisfied for not throwing them away and for helping someone restrain his passion.

“The spirituality of a person is defined by the quality of his thoughts. One day, three men were sitting in a park chatting. Suddenly, a young man hastily ran by them. When they saw him, they all thought of something.
The first one thought: ‘He must have stolen something, so he is running to escape’. The other one thought: ‘He must be late for his date with some girl that is why he is running.’ And the third one said to himself: ‘Most probably he is a chanter in a church and runs to be on time for the service.”
Three men had three different thoughts for the same person. However, only the last one, who had a positive thought, was benefited, whereas the other two were spiritually harmed.”

Father Paisios always insisted by saying:
“When one of our brothers has a negative thought, we must try to kindly and humbly correct it. It is our duty to do so. Today many people, unfortunately including some of our spiritual fathers, instead of trying to correct falsified thoughts, they either consent to them, or even distort the positive ones. I will give you an example so you can understand the way they function:
Suppose a young man says to his spiritual father:
– A friend of mine did this and that to me.
And thus, he starts telling him his negative thoughts about his friend. His spiritual father, instead of trying to change his thoughts and make him love his friend again, views his problem from a social point of view, and wishing to be nice, says to him:
– Since you know what kind of person your friend is, do not pay attention to him. Just ignore him.
The young man may superficially feel better after listening to the words of his spiritual father, but his negative predisposition towards his friend is still inside him. Now, when his friend goes to the same spiritual father to tell him the same things, the spiritual father faces the problem in the same way. He once again regards the problem from a social point of view and calms him down. He lets him, however, keep inside him the negative thoughts he has for his friend.
This way, the Elder said, I can even please the devil if I wish to. You will now see what happens next, since divine justice exists in our lives. At some point, the two friends, who still have negative thoughts inside them, meet and begin accusing each other: “You are this and that…I talked to my spiritual father and he also thinks the same way of you.” Eventually, they discover that what their common spiritual father tried to do was just to be nice to them. As a result, they end up losing their trust and respect for him. The correct way of dealing with similar cases is the following which I also apply:
A married man came to me to discuss the problems he was facing with his wife and how her behavior has affected his thoughts. I immediately started finding excuses for his wife’s behavior. In the end, I told him that he should glorify God for the wife He gave him and he is the one responsible for destroying their loving relationship. I made him question his behavior and love his wife again, by convincing him that he is in the wrong, and that he should get rid of all his negative thoughts. I did exactly the same thing with his wife, when she came to see me. I also scolded her, so both of them got rid of their negative thoughts, and ended up loving each other again. Moreover, they also understood why I scolded them, as they realised that my only aim was to bring them back together.”

“Thoughts are like airplanes flying in the air. If you ignore them, there is no problem. If you pay attention to them, you create an airport inside you and permit them to land!”

Once, a young man visited the Elder for advice. Being simple-hearted, however, he couldn’t restrain from listening to negative thoughts. These thoughts were acting as an obstacle to every good work he was trying to accomplish. Father Paisios, due to his discretion, realised that his negative thoughts were the cause of his problem and told him the following:
-There was a man who used to say: “If I get married and have children, and my children are boys and there is war, they will have to join the army and finally they will get killed. So, there is no reason for me to get married.”
Then, the Elder turns to him and says:
– Isn’t that a silly thought?
– Yes, the young man replied.
The Elder went on:
-Be careful, because you are doing the same thing. Bear in mind that you will never achieve anything good, if you think and act this way.

I always wondered how our saints managed to willingly endure their martyrdom and how will we be able to acquire their tolerance, since the slightest headache can make us feel totally helpless. One day, as I was heading towards the cell of Father Paisios, I met him by the river situated five hundred meters away from his cell. He had given the river the name ‘Nile’. He was cutting some wood from a chestnut tree in order to make a small bridge, so people could cross the river without getting wet. He had just stopped his work and was ready to return to his cell, because he had cut his left hand with the sharp edge of a piece of wood and was bleeding. I could detect in him a spirit of joy as he was looking at his hand over and over. Suddenly, he turns to me showing the bleeding palm of his hand and says:
– You see, it looks like the crucified palm of Christ.
When we arrived at his cell, we sat at the guestroom and I asked him:
-Father, what made our saints, not only endure their martyrdom but also constantly feel joy about it, while we can’t even stand the bite of a mosquito?
– Everything has to do with having a correct thinking. If our thoughts are firmly secured in our faith, no one can ever take them away.
Then, he brought the Old Testament and told me that section 4 in the Book of Maccabes explains very clearly how positive thoughts can help us disregard pain and torture. He began reading the text and explaining it to me. When he finished, he told me:
– This text from the Old Testament clearly indicates that man is free and with his good thoughts, he can overcome his passions and desires and whatever else derives from them.
Father Paisios explicitly stressed that the words “I can’t” have no validity in man’s life. It is the words “I don’t want” or “I don’t love” which lead man to say “I can’t”. When people are tortured by a specific passion, they claim that a certain power prevents them from restraining and being good. They should know that this power, which acts as an obstacle, is rooted inside them; it can make them love, but it is turned to the wrong direction. Since they love their passions, it is natural that they are unable to get rid of them. When you love something, you want it, and you cannot let it go because you do not want to lose it. First, they must hate their passion and then find something better to direct and transfer their love to. Otherwise, they will keep on suffering.
Many times, people said to Father Paisios:
– Father, I smoke and I cannot stop. What can I do?
– Do you want to stop smoking? He asked in return.
– Yes, I have tried many times without being able to stop.
– Well, that’s it! As of this moment you will not smoke again and God will help you.
Then, the person, who suffered from this passion, said:
-Perhaps, Father…

Father Paisios interrupted him before he was able to conclude his sentence, and said with a sharp, but trustful, tone in his voice: – There is no ‘perhaps’, it is over! Do not consent to the thoughts that tell you that you might not make it. Father Paisios wanted to stress that we are free and self-dependent. If a passion rules our lives, it is because we consent to it. If we remain enslaved by it, we do it because we love our passion and want to be its slave. From the very moment we yearn for our spiritual freedom and wish to abide in Christ, and we really want to, we are freed from our passions and become servants of God. All commandments are given by Christ to those who are enslaved by sin, and He tells them to leave sin aside and follow Him instead. For this reason, God says to the thief: “do not steal”, to the unjust person: “do not be unfair”, to the adulterer: “do not commit adultery.”

If we are forcingly, and not willingly, enslaved by sin, then why is God asking us to leave sin aside and come close to Him? Since He is telling us to do so on our own, it means that we are being subdued by our passions because we love and want them. The moment we hate them and direct our love towards God, we immediately become free. Therefore, it is of primary importance to realise our “illness” (that is, willingly siding with evil) and hate it and love good instead; then we instantly acquire it.


September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

One afternoon, I went to visit the Elder. At the fence of his cell stood a man about thirty years old, waiting for him to open the door. When I arrived, Father Paisios opened his window and asked who it is. I replied:
– It’s me, Father, and one layman, I said (and I told him his name).
– Tell the layman to leave, he replied.
Then, the layman said beggingly:
– Father, I really wish to see you.
The Elder answered reproachfully:
– Go, because you upset me as you only trust your own way of thinking and do not listen to what I tell you. Why are you coming here wasting your time?
And he told him to go away. Then, he came and opened the door for me to come in.
– He is a real burden, Father Paisios told me. He does not listen to my words. He comes, ask questions and leaves; after a short while, he comes back and asks me the same things over and over again. This happens because he always listens to his own thoughts; therefore, he forgets what I tell him or does not understand a word.

There was another young man who relied completely on his own thoughts and was led astray. One day, he visited Father Paisios, who told him:
– Do not listen to your thoughts, because you will end up losing your mind. Be careful, you have a very good machine, but its wheel faces the wrong direction. You have to turn it to the right direction, where the good thoughts are. Only you, yourself, can do this along with the help of God. Nobody else can do it for you, as you are free and self-dependent. You turn the wheel and your spiritual father will show you the direction.

One of the monks, who resided in the desert of Mount Athos, considered himself a saint and thought that there was nobody else in the world like him. Some monks, who knew him well, asked the Elder if they should take him to see a psychiatrist. Elder Paisios told them:
– This kind of people cannot be benefited by doctors; the monk will only make a fool of himself in front of laymen. The doctor will prescribe some pills, which might be of some help in case of a serious condition, but just for a short period of time. Someone else should put the medicine in his food and show him spiritual love and try to correct his thoughts. His problem is a spiritual one; it is rooted in his ego and his excessive love and trust in his own way of thinking. There is nothing worse than to listen to and trust one’s own thoughts.
At this point, Elder Paisios stopped and took aside one of the monks. He told him the story of three people who nearly destroyed their lives by trusting their own way of thinking:

a) Once, a young man came here who was obsessed with the thought that he had the smallest head in the world. He believed his head had the size of an orange. I assured him his head had a normal size; as a matter of fact, I told him, it is a little bigger than mine. But the young man was not convinced. Then, I told him:
– Would you like me to bring a string and measure our heads, so you can see yourself are the way I tell you and not the way your thoughts tell you?
He accepted my suggestion and I brought the string. After measuring our heads, I found that his head was bigger than mine by one inch. But still he was not convinced, so I gave him the string to try himself. Although he also found his head to be a little bigger than mine, he insisted that this was not true; his mind was stuck in his thought, which was telling him that his head is very small. Raising my voice, I scolded him for his disbelief and lack of trust in other people and then I asked him to leave.

b) Once, there was a man who claimed that he heard a bird constantly singing in one of his ears. He was telling everyone about it and as a matter of fact, he used to complain that he could not find peace of mind due to the loud singing of the bird. His relatives did not believe him, since they could not see any bird in his ear; he repeatedly tried to convince them, however, that he was hearing the singing of a bird in his ear. The relatives decided to consult a doctor who was a friend of them. The doctor suggested first to buy a bird in a cage and then call him to come and visit.
After they bought the bird, they called the doctor. When the doctor arrived, they gave him the bird and then told the patient that the doctor is here to examine what causes this singing in his ear. While tactfully holding the bird in his hands, the doctor asked him what is wrong with him. He replied that he was hearing the singing of a bird in his ear. The doctor asked him again to show him his ear.
– Let me see, said the doctor.
While touching his ear, he looked inside it and said:
– Well, of course, there it is, a very small bird stuck inside your ear making you suffer. Hold on for a second, I will remove it. The doctor pretended he was trying to remove it from his ear. Then, he told him:
– There it is. Can you hear anything now?
The man answered happily:
– No, the singing stopped now! Thank you for coming doctor, because this bird was driving me crazy and everybody was making fun of me, as they did not believe a word I was saying.

c) The following incident took place sixty years ago in a monastery on Mount Athos. One of the monks had the illusion that he had become a saint. He used to say:
– I do not need to receive Holy Communion as Christ Himself is inside me.
He wanted to become a martyr, and once he tried to kill himself. The monks decided to lock him up in a room and have one of them look after him. They were very careful not to ever give him any spoon or knife with which he would try “to become a martyr” –according to him, out of his love to Christ- and saw that the food taken to him was ready to be eaten without having to use any sharp item.
One day, there was a celebration in the monastery and all the monks were offered sardines for lunch. They also gave him a closed tin of sardines which he managed to open up and with its sharp edge attempted to cut his throat. He started screaming from the unbearable pain, and the monk, who was taking care of him, ran immediately to his room. He found him bleeding to death and said to him:
– What are you trying to do?
– I want to become a martyr, so I will be crowned with the laurel of martyrdom. The monk took the tin from his hands and told him:
– You cannot become a martyr, because you cannot stand the pain. You thought you would die instantly by using the tin to cut your throat. According to God’s will, your martyrdom is what I am about to do you just now.
After putting a bandage around his neck to stop the bleeding, he brought a leather belt and began beating him hard. He was screaming out of terrible pain and shouting him to stop. The monk, however, was telling him:
– You wish to become a martyr, isn’t that so? Then, I will beat you to death!
Thus, he gradually became aware of his own wretchedness and was humiliated, and as a result, he was cured.

Elder Paisios narrated the above three incidents to the monk who had brought along his fellow monk, who thought he was a saint in order to indicate how destructive it is to trust our own thoughts. He further said:
When laymen listen to and believe in their own thoughts, they lose their minds, whereas monks are filled with illusions. A monk should not take tranquillizers; his medication is humbleness and repentance. This monk lacks both of these virtues. When these will fill his soul again, all his problems will be solved. Sometimes, he went on, when children behave badly towards their parents or insult them, they immediately start to be receptive to the devil’s energies and become confused. By cursing or slandering their parents, they give the devil the right to interfere in their lives and control their actions. The same thing happens to monks, when they accept negative thoughts about their elder or the rest of the monks; this way, they give the right to the devil to fight them. When someone trusts his negative thoughts, he tends to disregard other people’s advice. He can only listen to someone whom he absolutely trusts- after his own thoughts. For this reason, when he needs help, he can only accept it from the person he trusts the most. Concerning medication, that is tranquillizers, they may be of some assistance to people in serious conditions, that is, those who are filled with illusions, or are on the verge of losing their minds.
If, for example, our fellow man’s mental condition is seriously deteriorating, we should give him a certain dose of medication to stabilize it. At the same time, we must show him love and try to correct his negative thinking and persuade him not to listen to his own thoughts. As his condition is improving, the dose of his medication should also be reduced. This should last for a while.
When the mind of our fellow man moves away from humility, it escapes into a fantasy world. When he takes medication, he stops thinking or imaging things and his fantasy world is limited. Then, he starts feeling sleepy, tired, hungry and generally speaking, he is physically humbled; while he thought he was an incorporeal angel, he now feels like a human being bearing flesh.

“There is no magical therapy that will automatically cure someone, whose mind has gone astray due to his constant preoccupation with his false thinking; there are, however, certain steps to follow in order to recover:
First, and most important, is to realise the state of his own wretchedness. After he realizes it, the second step is to repent, go to confession, and never listen again to the voice of his own thoughts; instead, he must follow the advice of his spiritual father. Thirdly, after he becomes aware of his miserable state of being, he should constantly ask God for His mercy through Jesus prayer, so Christ will help him and His divine grace will return inside him. One can only be cured and saved through humbleness, the only miraculous therapy I know of; only humility can save us.”

“Man is changeable; on one hand, he clings to his good thoughts and on the other, to his negative and devious ones. He does what he likes and whenever he likes, for he has a free and independent will. The same thing applies to divine grace and illusion. Since man is constantly changing, divine grace and illusion come and go respectively.
If one lives in the world of his pride, that is the world of his own thoughts, he is filled with illusions and he is in danger. He must not listen to his thoughts, which try to push him left and right in order to destroy him; on one hand, they convince him that he is virtuous, nice, a real striver, talented, almost a saint, and on the other, that he is a failure and there is no hope for him to be saved. His thoughts will either create inside him the false belief that he is perfect and thus awaken his pride, or that he is a hopeless loser and fill him with despair. He must ignore both positive and negative thoughts, and always confess them to this spiritual father, and obey whatever he tells him. He should only trust him and not his own thoughts; furthermore, he must believe that he is nothing but a striving soul and constantly ask for God’s mercy in his prayers in order for his mind to be cleansed. As long as he humbly thinks of himself, God’s grace remains within him and protects him. When he moves away from his humble thoughts and start being preoccupied with what the patriarch or the bishop or the abbot or the monks do or say, then God’s grace starts retreating. Therefore, the most important thing for us to look after is to preserve the sense of humbleness in our lives, and thus allow for divine grace to permanently remain within us.”

“When our soul lives carelessly without watching over its thoughts, it will consequently fill up with dirty and sly thoughts. As a result, people start developing psychological problems which gradually pile up. Some people, while they are found in this situation and come face to face with the problem itself, they do not realise it, and thus are unable to humbly confess to their spiritual father their fall. Instead, they look for a “secular” solution and consult a psychiatrist, who will inevitably prescribe medication. Pills will not solve the problem, but will temporarily cover it. This is not an effective solution, as once they stop taking their medication, the problem will come to the surface again, and the person will be found in the same miserable condition. The only solution is to become aware of the problem and confess it to a spiritual father and then humbly follow his advice.
In our days, people have lost control over their lives, and they do not know what they are doing. The reason being, that they do not wish to be guided; they want to live undisturbed, following their own free will, which will eventually bring their total destruction. God gave man his freedom and independence to do as he likes, but He also gave him the knowledge, the ability to realise, that he is unable to achieve good acts by solely relying on himself, “… for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Lk 12:26). Therefore, when man uses his freedom and independence without taking into consideration his human weakness, he becomes deceived; he experiences and interprets everything by using his own logic. Instead of God’s grace, human logic rules his life, and his mind is in confusion. This is terrible.”

“I always give the following advice to people, and I insist that they follow it:

1. To become aware of their problem, in other words, their alienation from God,
2. to repent for this, and
3. humbly go into confession.

Today, people, more than ever, become recipients of the devil’s influence and intrusion in their lives, and only if they follow the above mentioned advice they will be safe.”

One day, three monks and I visited the Elder. He was constantly telling us that we should have good thoughts in our minds. As a matter of fact, he took the book of the Old Testament and began reading the part which refers to the story of King Darius who threw Daniel in the den of lions (Dan 6:14-18). The Elder commented on the fact that the next day Darius went himself to the den to check if the lions had devoured Daniel, and asked: “…’O, Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel said to the king, ‘Oh King, live for ever!’… Then the king was exceedingly glad,…” (Dan 6:20-21, 23). Then, he added:
– If Daniel thought negatively, he would have said to Darius: “Shame on you! Not only you threw me into the den of lions, but you have the nerve to ask me if I am fine.”
However, he always had positive thoughts, and for this reason God “spoke” to the lions and prevented them from devouring them. The same applies to the three youths, who were unjustly thrown in the burning furnace. They were not set against God, questioning themselves: “Why did God allow us to be thrown into the burning furnace, since we always obeyed His laws?” Instead, they were blaming themselves and glorifying God, saying: “Blessed art though, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise; and thy name is glorified for ever and ever. For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true and thy ways right and all thy judgments are true. Thou hast executed true judgments in all that thou hast brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our fathers, for in truth and justice thou hast brought all this upon us because of our sins, for we have sinfully and lawlessly departed from thee, and have sinned in all things and have not obeyed thy commandments; we have not observed them or done them, as thou hast comm
anded us that it might go well with us.” (Dan. Prayer of Azarius and the Hymn of the Three Children).

Did you notice, Elder Paisios remarked, the positive nature of the three youths’ thoughts, which was connected to their humbleness? A good and humble thought can tame the lions, cool the burning furnace and transform it into a heavenly place. We should face our problems with patience, positive thinking and humility, so we may allow for the grace of God to help us.

Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”, Holy Mountain


September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

“For perverse thoughts separate men from God” (Wis 1:3)

Elder Paisios always urged us to think positively. Our positive thinking, however, should not be our ultimate aim; eventually our soul must be cleansed from our positive thoughts as well, and be left bare having as its sole vestment divine grace granted to us through Holy Baptism. “This is our aim,” he used to say, “to totally submit our mind to the grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His grace. In the beginning, we should willingly try to develop positive thoughts, which will gradually lead us to the perfect good, God, to whom belongs every glory, honor and worship; on the contrary, to us belongs only the humility of our conceited attitude.”

“We must always be careful and constantly question the nature of our thoughts. When someone is preoccupied and trusts his own way of thinking, he becomes vulnerable to the devil, who is capable of transforming us into sly persons, even when we are honest by nature. The older fathers never trusted their own thoughts. Even for minor problems to which they had to give answers, they prayed to God, or fasted, as a way to “force” divine grace to reveal the answer according to God’s will; and after they got the “information”, they gave the answer.
In our days, when someone has a serious problem and asks for advice, we tend to interrupt him and provide an answer without letting him finish his question first. In this case, we do not only seek the assistance of divine grace, but we also misuse our logic, which was granted to us by God. We are ruled by our own thoughts and unhesitatingly rely on them, very often having to face the disastrous results of our acts.”

“Almost all of us consider our thoughts to be simple and natural, therefore, we spontaneously rely on them. On the contrary, we should neither trust, nor accept them. We must not have any thoughts in our mind or heart, neither positive ones, nor negative ones, for this space inside us belongs to the grace of God. We are obliged to keep it clean, not only of our various thoughts but also of the slightest and most elusive slip of the mind. We can only achieve this, if we fervently love Christ and unhesitatingly trust Him. As a result, we humble ourselves, and divine grace, naturally, will be revived inside us, for it is only granted to the humble ones; “God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble.” (1Pet 5:5).

“We must have positive thoughts, otherwise none of the spiritual fathers- not even the saints- can help us. When Jesus was on the Cross and all the terrible events were taking place, two thieves were also being crucified with Him. “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mk 15:33). “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs were also opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs, after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Mt 27:51-53). Each one of them had a different attitude towards Him, even though they were both placed next to the same God; a God who had never been blamed for, or accused by anyone for the slightest sin. On the contrary, many people were benefited by Him: some had cured of a specific disease, others had been resurrected and all these miracles took place in public. Now, even nature was reacting against the injustice done to Him.
The thief placed on the left cross had created inside his mind a “factory”, which produced only negative thoughts. “…
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us’.” (Lk 23:39). Although he could see what was going on around him, he never questioned himself about it. The one on the right, who had a positive way of thinking, reacted as follows: “But the other rebuked him saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.” (Lk 23:40-42). Both thieves had the same almighty God placed between them who could help them. The negative thinking of the one on the left prevented God from helping him, whereas the one on the right- who had committed terrible crimes and was legitimately being punished- was able to “move” Jesus with his positive attitude. And He said to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43). We should keep in mind that God “cannot” help us, even if He really wants to, unless we acquire a positive way of thinking. Concerning the spiritual progress of a disciple monk, it is more important for him to develop good thoughts than to be guided by a spiritual father who is considered a living saint…”

Looking at this subject from a different point of view, Elder Paisios stressed and greatly emphasised the specific characteristic of love, that is, that “love is not irritable or resentful” (1Cor 13:4). He used to say that “we should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul. The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on his positive thinking. Our acts depend on and are determined by the “machine” we have inside us, and not by the “material” we digest, or the environment we live in.

I will give you an example, so you can better understand what I am trying to say:
If one has a machine that produces bullets and feeds it with the highest quality material, -let’s say gold- the machine will still convert gold into bullets, golden but destructive bullets; if he feeds it with silver, then it will produce silver bullets; if he feeds it with iron, it will produce iron bullets, or if he feeds it with clay, it will produce clay bullets. In other words, no matter what material he feeds his machine, it still produces bullets, because it was made to manufacture these destructive products. If someone converts the machine into one that produces holy chalices instead of bullets, then whatever material he feeds it, it will always produces holy chalices. If he puts in the machine clay or iron, it will manufacture clay or iron chalices respectively.

I will now tell you a story regarding a very old father from Kapsala. The old father’s “machine” was the kind that produced only positive thoughts. He only saw the good things in life and he was blind to every evil. Once, a group of people visited him and brought him a small radio as a present. The old father took it in his hands and examined it with lots of admiration. He asked where it was manufactured and the visitors told him in Japan. As he was looking at it, suddenly he was filled with joy and started kissing the radio saying:
“Glory to God!” The visitors asked him why he was glorifying God and he explained to them:
“You see, I am very pleased that the Japanese Christians put the sign of the Holy Cross on the products they manufacture.”
The old father had noticed the positive and negative pole (+,-) of the batteries and thought it was the sign of the Cross. His mind produced a simplistic and positive thought for the radio the visitors brought him. Considering he was an ascetic, he could have developed negative thoughts and get angry at them for bringing him such an unsuitable present.
Someone asked the same old father why he was making the sign of the Cross when he saw an airplane. And he simply answered: “Don’t you see, my child, that its shape looks like the sign of our Holy Cross?”
The old father ignored the negative thoughts associated with the sight of an airplane, such as wars and bombing. His mind was attracted by the similarity of its shape to the sign of the Holy Cross; the sight and noise of the airplane made him think of the crucifixion of Christ.”

A few years ago, I went to Athens for business and I stayed at the house of a fellow Christian. The area was very noisy as the house was located near a central road. My friend told me that he had trouble sleeping at night due to the noise, so he ended up taking sleeping pills. After we had dinner, he took me to my room and told me:
-Elder, this is your room and I hope you will be able to sleep, despite the noise of the traffic.
Next morning, when I got out of my room, my friend said:
– I couldn’t sleep all night due to the terrible noise. How about you?
– I have never slept so well, not even on Mount Athos.
– How is this possible, Father Paisios?
Then I told him what had happened since I entered into my room. (At that time the Vietnam War was taking place, and everyday we heard sad stories in the news and I used to pray to God to help people in Vietnam).
When I went into my room, I knelt in front of the bed. I put my head and hands on the bed and started praying for all the soldiers who were fighting and getting killed in Vietnam. I could hear the noise of the traffic, but as my mind was concentrated on the Vietnam War, I converted the traffic noise into the noise of the war tanks that were destroying buildings and killing people. Once in a while, a motorcycle was passing by making a very loud noise that made the windows creak; I immediately associated this noise with the one of the airplanes bombing Vietnam, and I could see helpless children and old people getting killed. I felt a sweet grief inside me, and I was crying for the situation in Vietnam, and I despised myself for enjoying the luxury of a nice meal and a clean room and for not having any problem. As I was crying, I was filled with a peaceful spiritual calmness, and finally fell asleep kneeling in front of my bed. The traffic noise did not interrupt my sleep at all, as my thoughts were directed to those suffering in Vietnam.
You can do the same thing: Think about wars, the people who are being killed or dying of hunger, the houses that are being bombed; and also think about yourself living in a luxurious home, eating plenty of food, having a job, being safe and sound. Then, the association of the traffic noise with the noise of the war will become a very good reason for you to glorify God and will prevent you from taking sleeping pills. There is only one solution: to have positive thoughts.”

-Father Paisios, when I walk in the streets of Thessaloniki, I face the following problem: As I walk, I come across various beggars most of whom are women holding babies in their arms, and claiming they are ill and in need of financial assistance. I always think they are lying to me. What would you do in my place?
-I, too, came across one of these women who asked for help, he replied. I immediately sympathised with her problem but I had very little money on me. I gave her 500 drachmas and told her: “Please forgive me as I do not have more money on me. However, I will give you my address so you can write to me and send me your own. When I go back to Mount Athos, I will try to collect some money to forward you.”
She took my address and I felt she was touched by my offer. After some time, I received a letter from her which did not include her address. Instead, she had enclosed the 500 drachma bill I had given her, and was asking me to forgive her for putting me in a difficult situation and thanked me for my kindness. I believe that if someone develops positive thoughts, even in the case of the woman beggar, he will not be a loser, because God, who knows our deepest intentions, will do him justice.

Once, a journalist, who had a negative way of thinking about everything, visited Elder Paisios. He began asking the Elder about various things and making him feel in distress. At one point, he asked him:
– Why are staying here in the peace and quietness of Mount Athos feeling carefree, and you are not going out in the world to help people who have so many serious problems?
The Elder, slightly raising his tone of voice, told him:
– Your mind machine is a broken one and produces only negative thoughts. You misunderstand everything you see or hear. Now, you see me living here and ask me why I am not going out in the world. If I go to live in the world, you will then say that it is unsuitable for a monk and that I should go back to the quietude of my cell. For this reason, I will only tell you one thing: Repair your broken mind-machine and bear in mind the old saying, which says that
“traffic lights are made for noisy streets, whereas lighthouses for deserted rocky mountains.”

Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”, Holy Mountain

Wisdom of the Fathers

August 29, 2010 Leave a comment

55.   (Also in V.x.69) A pilgrim brother visited Abba Silvanus in Mt Sinai and noticed that the brothers were doing manual work.
“Why labour for the food that perishes?” he asked. “Mary chose the better part.”
The old man said to his disciple, Zacharias, “Give this brother a book to read and put him in an empty cell.”
At the ninth hour the brother looked out to see whether the old man was going to invite him to eat. When the ninth hour had long passed he went to the old man, and said, “Are the brothers not eating today, father?”
The old man assured him that they were.
“How is that you did not call me?” he asked.
“You are a spiritual man and have no need of food. We however are quite carnal people and need to eat, so therefore we work. But you, of course, have chosen the better part. You spend all day reading and feel no need for food.”
These words led him to repentance.
“Forgive me, father,” he said.
“Mary has great need of Martha,” said Silvanus,”for if it hadn’t been for Martha, Mary would not have been praised.”

95. (Also in V.xvii.6) Abba Agathon used to say, “I have never gone to sleep holding a grudge against anyone, and as far as I have been able I have never allowed anyone having a grudge against me to go to sleep before making peace with me.”

97. (Also in VI.iii.17) As blessed abba Macarius was praying, a voice once came to him saying, “You have not yet arrived at the stature of two women who live together in the nearby city.”
So he picked up his staff and went out to visit that city and seek them out. Having found the house he knocked at the door, and one of the women came out and welcomed him in with great pleasure. When the two of them were together with him he asked,
“I’ve gone to quite a lot of trouble coming to visit you from the distant desert, in order to learn about your way of doing things. I hope you will agree to tell me all about it.”
“Oh, come, most holy father, we have both been in the beds of our husbands this last night. What could you possibly learn from our way of going on?”
But the old man persisted in praying that they should tell him their rule of life.
“We are not related to each other, ” they said, persuaded at last by his pleas, “but it so happened that we married two brothers, and for the last fifteen years we have lived together in this house and never said an angry word to each other. We have never quarrelled, but lived in peace with each other right up until now. And we agreed between us that if our husbands both were willing we would join a community of religious virgins. But our husbands have not allowed us to do that, in spite of all our pleas, so we made a vow between us and God that we would not indulge in any worldly chatter until the day of our death.”
Having listened to all this the blessed Macarius said, “In truth, it is not important whether you are virgin, married, monk or secular; all God wants is a firm intention, and he gives his life-giving Spirit to all.”

103. (Also in VII.xi.5) A certain brother frequently used to come to Abba Sisois saying, “I have fallen. What shall I do, father?” To which he replied, “Get up again.”
“But I have got up again, and also fallen again.”
“Just go on getting up.”
The brother kept on confessing his fallings and risings and the old man kept on telling him not to fail to get up again, until at last the brother said, “Explain to me, father, how long it is possible to go on getting up.”
And the old man said, “Until you die – caught  either in the midst of a good deed or a bad one. For in whatever kind of deed you are taken, by that you will be judged.”

Categories: Vitae Patrum

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

August 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The preaching of John the Baptist was of short duration. Having prepared people to receive the Saviour, he ended his life with a martyr’s death. Soon after the baptism of the Lord, John was put in prison by the Galilean King Herod. This Galilean King, Herod Antipas, was the son of Herod the Great, who slaughtered the fourteen thousand Bethlehem infants.

John upbraided King Herod because he had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, even though his brother was still alive. Herodias became embittered against for this and wanted Herod to kill him. But Herod would not agree to this because he considered John to be a great prophet and feared the people. However, to appease her, he put John in prison. Herodias was not satisfied with this, especially as Herod himself listened with pleasure to the admonitions of John and often acted on his words.

About a year passed after the Forerunner’s imprisonment, when Herod celebrating his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers, and officers, and a thousand leading men of Galilee. Salome, the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod, also came to this banquet. She danced for Herod, which pleased him and his guests.

Herod said to her, “Ask me for whatever you wish,” and he swore he would have given her even half of his kingdom.

She went and asked her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

Herodias answered, “The head of John the Baptist.”

Salome with haste returned to Herod and said, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Herod was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests, he did not want to break his word to her, and sent a soldier to the prison to cut off the head of John. The soldier fulfilled the order of the king, brought the head of John the Baptist on a platter and gave it to Salome, and Salome gave it to her mother Herodias.

When his disciples heard of the death of John the Baptist, they came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The day of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist is commemorated by the Holy Orthodox Church on the 29th of August (11 September NS) and is called the Beheading of John the Baptist. A strict fast is prescribed on this day in order to remind us of the strict life of St. John the Baptist for which he was blessed by God and to avoid the excesses of Herod which led to such a terrible sin. The Holy Church teaches that St. John the Forerunner is the greatest of all saints after the Mother of God.

Note: See the Gospels of St Mathew 14:1-12; St Mark 6:14-29; and St. Luke 9, 7-9.


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Categories: Orthodox Feasts