Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'Precious Vessels' #3: Elder Porphyrios

Dear Parish Faithful,

I thought to share a few more of the "Counsels" of yet another 20th c. elder, in this case the Elder Porphyrios (1906-1991). Here was a man who lived in very impoverished conditions and who therefore only had a few years of formal education, but who was wise in the Spirit. And he reached this high level of spiritual virtue, though struggling with many illnesses - kidney problems, a hernia, a heart attack, stomach hemorrhaging, and eventually blindness - throughout his life. He lived his life in many diverse places in Greece, and spent the last six months of his life on Mount Athos. 

It was said of him: "Elder Porphyrios taught that Christ's greatest desire was for the unity of the faithful, for each member of the Orthodox Church to identify with the struggle and pain of his brothers and sisters, to carry one another's burdens and to live our lives as though we are one body." (Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, p. 105)

It was also said of him that he repeated over and over again the words of Christ's that we find in His "High Priestly Prayer" in the Gospel According to St. John: "That they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (JN. 17:21).  We spent some time discussing these words of Christ in this Summer's Bible Study. Be that as it may, there is a good deal to reflect upon in the wisdom offered below.

Counsels of the Elder Porphyrios

  • Christ is our Friend, our Brother; He is whatever is beautiful and good. He is everything. In Christ there is no gloom, melancholy or introversion, whereas man suffers from various temptations and situations which make him suffer. Christ is joy, life, light, the true  light, which makes man glad, makes him fly, makes him see all things, see all people, suffer for all people, and want all people to be with him, close to him.
  • Our love in Christ must reach all places, even to the hippies in Crete. I very much wanted to go there, not to preach to  them, or to condemn them, but to live with them, without sin of course, and leave the love of Christ to speak of itself, which transfigures life.
  • There is an electric generator and in the room is a lamp. If, however, we don't flip the switch, we will remain in darkness. Similarly, there is Christ and there is the soul. If, however, we don't flip the switch of prayer, our soul will not see the light of Christ and will remain in the darkness of the devil.
  • I am not afraid of hell and I do not think about Paradise. I only ask God to have mercy on the entire world as well as on me.
  • What is the spiritual battle? Well, the soul is a garden divided into two parts. On one half are planted thorny bushes, and on the other half, flowers. We also have a water pump with two taps and two channels. The one guides the water to the thorns and the other to the flowers. I always have the choice to open one or the other tap. I leave the thorns without water and they dry up, I water the flowers and they blossom.

Elder Porphyrios is now recognized by the Church as a saint. He was glorified and entered into the calendar of saints in November 2013 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

  • Continue along your path. The devil will come with his tempting thoughts and will tug at your sleeve, so as to disorient you. Don't turn to him, don't start a conversation with him, and don't oppose him. In this way the devil will get bored and will leave you alone.
  • When I became a monk I felt better. Even my health improved. Although previously I had been sickly, afterwards I became healthier, with the ability to bear labors with psychical courage. Above all, however, I felt eternal. The Church is a mystery. Whoever enters the Church doesn't die, he is saved, is eternal. Thus I always feel eternal, as though immortal. Having become a monk I believe that death does not exist. This thought captivates me.
  • Orthodox asceticism is not just for the monasteries, but also for the world.
  • When asked how one should vote, the Elder responded in parable. The Orthodox Church is like a brooding hen. Under Her wings she covers black chicks and white chicks, yellow chicks and chicks of every different color.
  • What can politicians do for you? They are confused by their psychical passions. When a person is unable to help himself, how can he help others? We are also to blame for this situation. If we were Christians, we would be able to send to parliament, not a Christian political party of course, but Christian politicians, and these things would be different.
  • Today people want to be loved and for this reason  they are unsuccessful. The correct way is to not be interested in whether or not people love you, but whether or not you love Christ and people. This is the only way that the soul is fulfilled.

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