Friday, 17 January 2014

Elder Joseph The Hesychast and his battles with Demons

 Chapter 6 pages 167-171
Throughout his life Elder Joseph fought tooth and nail with the demons.Those apostates of God's love fought against him in various ways;sometimes with thoughts,other times with illnesses that god allowed,and other times with their visible presence.Later they manipulated weaker brethren and disciples of his and made him bear the burden of their temptations.
One winter night Geronda(Elder) and Fr.Arsenios were in their hut up in St.Basil's Skete while a snowstorm raged outside.The wind was howling fiercely,and the cold pierced them to the bone.
Even so,they followed their program and struggled with their vigil,the remembrance of death,tears of repentance,thousands of prostrations,and primarily noetic prayer.
This did not please the jealous devil at all,so he raised a series of attacks against Geronda with thoughts,fantasies,distractions,noises,threats,and anything else he could think of.
He tried three or four times to ruin Geronda's vigil,but all his attacks failed because by then Geronda was an experienced fighter.
Finally,the devil became so infuriated with him that he entered through the door in the form of a violent burst of wind.He threw the door aside and then lifted the roof into the air.
Geronda remained thunderstruck in his hut watching the roof with tons of rock on top of it flying through the air like a glider.
There had been strong winds before,but what happened that night was not just a strong gust of wind but a demon.
The roof crashed onto the rocks on the other side of a ravine, and the remains of their roof became a pitiful sight on top of the snow.As a result,the two ascetics ended up being exposed to the snowstorm.Despite this, they still didn't end their vigil!
What did they do to keep from freezing?They did prostrations all night long.When a monk came the next morning and found them with snow in their cells and even in their beards,perplexed he asked,'What happened here?' "My child,"Elder Joseph replied,"Don't trust in man;trust in God."
Another time,Geronda(Elder) was keeping vigil saying the prayer,and a demon appeared before him.
Apparently,the demon,s intent was to start beating him up.But Geronda was so brave and had so much fury against the demons that he immediately charged at him to crush him.After wrestling a little with the demon,Geronda managed to get a good hold of him,and then he called out to Fr.Arsenios;"Arsenios! Bring some fire so that we can burn him.Now that I've got him,he's not getting away."
But while Fr.Arsenios was trying to light a fire,the demon transformed himself into a crow and flew away.
These stories may sound trivial,but only people who have experienced tangible demonic assaults can fully appreciate Elder Joseph's courage and bravery.Saint Seraphim of Sarov,who had experienced numerous demonic appearances found it sufficient merely to say about them,'They are atrocious!"
During their blessed life at St Basil's Skete,Geronda's(Elder) demonic warfare continued relentlessly.
One day Mr.Sotirios Schoinas came from the world to see him.Up there in those abrupt precipices,however,they didn't have any place for him to stay.So Geronda had him sleep in his own cell,while he went to their little chapel to do his vigil.
That evening,the demons came to Geronda's cell as usual.When they started beating the visitor,he started screaming!The man was horrified-he almost lost his mind.As soon as Geronda and F.Arsenios heard the screams,they came running and asked him,"What's wrong?"
"The demons nearly strangled me!" he said."They almost beat me to death!"Indeed,he was black and blue from their hits."Don't be afraid,"Geronda told him."They won't hit you again.Every evening they beat me,but tonight they thrashed you by mistake!"
The visitor fell at Geronda's feet in tears and begged him;'Take me back to St.Anne's quickly!I can't stay here anymore."
Geronda told him cheerful things to calm him down,but it was impossible.He could not stay in that place of Martyrdom.He was terrified and kept looking left and right,begging to leave.So in the middle of the night,Geronda led him through the ravines back to St Anne's.
At the outset of their ascetical life,both Geronda and Fr.Arsenios were frequently tormented by the demons.But it was primarily Geronda who was beaten up,because it was his prayer that really burned them.They didn't attack Fr.Arsenios so much,partly because he was not on the same level as Geronda,but especially because he was a disciple.When a disciple is properly obedient and confesses frankly,he eliminates the demon's right to attack him.Geronda,on the other hand,had an unending struggle throughout his entire life.Years later,he wrote to someone;

I have been furiously and bloodily wrestling with the demons for more than twenty-five years in this world.I have descended to the bottom of the sea,devoid of any complacency and self-will,in order to find the"pearl of great price."I conquered Satan himself along with all his army,skill,and cunning.Having shackled him through humility,I asked him,"Why do you have so much rage towards us and fight us with so much fury?"
And he answered;So that i may have many companions in hades and brag to the Nazarene,"I am not the only transgressor-see now many others are with me?!"
Then once again I ascended to the heavens through grace and spiritual theoria and saw the ineffable beauty of Paradise,which God has prepared for them that love Him.
And after all this,grace was lifted away a little,and my feet were well nigh shaken.Then i fell into a little negligence,and sleep took me captive and deprived me of many blessings.Shortly thereafter,I rose once again and waged war and a bloody battle.But after I won,I fell into drowsiness,and once more negligence,the mother of every evil,began to eat away at my bones.Yet once again I rose and waged war against all the spirits."

His temptations were so severe that many times he told us;'If I describe to you my struggles with temptations,you will not be able to bear it because my entire life has been a martyrdom.But the goodness of God and our Lady the Theotokos,who always protected me,gave me a kind of persistence and toughness so that I would not yield.In difficult times,what really helps and saves you is tears.but everything depends on the goodness of God."
During his great trials,Geronda experienced the grace of God tangibly.This was because God's response is proportional to the magnitude  of the temptation that one bears for His Love.
When a person works for God with very good intentions,it is not possible that God will let him be tempted beyond his strength.
Furthermore,his reward from God will also correspond to the magnitude of the temptation.This is why Geronda wrote;
"Don't be surprised;that is how a monk is.The life of a monk is a continuous martyrdom.Our sweet Jesus reveals Himself through afflictions."As St.Isaac the Syrian says,"God does not grant great gifts without a great trial."

St.Isaac also warns us;

But if a man's soul has an infirmity and has not strength enough for great temptations,and she therefore asks that she should not enter into them,and God hearkens to her,then know for a certainty that inasmuch as the soul is insufficient for great trials,in the same measure is she insufficient for great gifts;and in so far as great temptations are prevented from entering upon the soul,to the same degree great gifts are withheld from her.
This means that whoever wants to experience great grace from God must be patient with temptations.He must hold the battlefront with trust in God.

Taken from the book "My Elder Joseph The Hesychast" By Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Elder Philotheos Zervakos -Impiety has reached the high point

 Elder Philotheos Zervakos 

…The impiety, corruption, senselessness and lack of conscience of people, both lay-people and clergymen, men and women, rich and poor, generals and soldiers, the rulers and the ruled over has reached a high point and is speedily progressing in leaps and bounds till it reaches the greatest precipice. The infinite compassion of God, the immeasurable mercy and unimaginable long-suffering, the intercessions of His all immaculate Mother and of all the Saints, and the little virtue, faith, hope and love of the few people, their prayers and petitions to the Lord for the salvation of the whole world, the lack of evil in the babes and infants (although even the majority of the babies from their birth receive from their evil and corrupted parents as an inheritance and partake of the wickedness, the evil and bad habits of their birth-givers) all the above things restrain the most just wrath and the most righteous anger of the merciful and infinitely compassionate God. But until when? Until the cup is filled, which as it seems, has been filled and has begun to pour out not completely, but little by little so that we can understand how harsh it is to sin and not repent, and so that fearing we might cease sinning and enraging God, who is our most loving-caring Father, the Provider, the Ruler, the Protector and Granter of all good things.

Unfortunately nothing, but nothing scares or intimidates us, we have become worse than the irrational beasts because they know their protector and master. Man, however not only does not know Him, but even blasphemes against Him. When animals happen to pass by a slippery place and slip or fall, they remember the fall and they won’t pass by that area again, they might even prefer that someone kill them rather than that they pass by that place. And man who is more senseless/foolish than the animals, when he happens to fall in a certain area and becomes wounded, wounded in soul, he does not think of the fall, the harm, but he runs there with pleasure. Have mercy, have mercy Ο Lord upon such minds. But even if a father, mother, brother, spiritual father, teacher or priest or spiritual guide is found who advises him. Be careful, guard yourself, depart, don’t go to that place, to that person, do not do that sin, it is dangerous, it is a double death of body and soul, it is hell! Most people will not only not accept such counsel, but they even get mad, angry, and are hostile towards the doctor. For these reasons, the people of today’s generation, aside from the other sins which they have, they also have pride, and being prideful they neither receive counsel, nor correction nor repentance. The teacher whether he is a priest and spiritual father must be careful to invent medicines and appropriate ways, to correct them. Neither should he be silent, nor should he censure them harshly and abruptly, because strict censures are bruises to prideful and impious ones, and if he abruptly censures them, he will lose them completely.

The teacher must become wise and very discerning, and because no one is wise in this world of himself, he must through fervent prayer ask God, the granter of true wisdom, to give him the gift of wisdom and prudence, like Solomon, to govern souls. Many times with the same medicine one person is healed and the other is harmed—the teacher and the priest must have the gift of discernment. Nevertheless a good, sweet, mild, humble manner benefits more…

To the scorners, the hostile, the impious, the lewd and rude people, he should not give the holy things. To the heretics after the first and second counsel let him give up….

—Holy Elder Philotheos of Paros. (Written to a General in 1955)

Γιατί οἱ νέοι φεύγουν ἀπό τήν Ἐκκλησία; Ἀπαντᾶ ὁ Ἅγιος Πορφύριος.

Ὁ ἔπαινος κάνει τούς νέους ἐγωιστές, ἀπροσάρμοστους καί ἄθεους.
Δίδασκε ὁ θεόσοφος Παιδαγωγός Ἅγιος Πορφύριος: «Ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ Χριστοῦ τονίζει ὅτι, ἅμα ἐπαινεῖς ἕναν ἄνθρωπο, τόν κάνεις ἐγωιστή. Ὁ ἐγωιστής εἶναι ὁ μπερδεμένος, ὁ ὁδηγούμενος ὑπό τοῦ διαβόλου καί τοῦ κακοῦ πνεύματος. Ἔτσι, μεγαλώνοντας μέσα στόν ἐγωισμό, ἡ πρώτη του δουλειά εἶναι ν’ ἀρνεῖται τόν Θεό καί νά εἶναι ἕνας ἐγωιστής ἀπροσάρμοστος μέσα στήν κοινωνία».
Νά γιατί εἶναι ἄρρωστη ἡ κοινωνία μας καί ἄθεα τά παιδιά μας. Ἐπειδή ἀπό μικρά τούς τρέφουμε τόν ἐγωισμό, τήν ὑπερηφάνεια πού εἶναι κορυφαία ἀκαθαρσία στόν ἄνθρωπο καί ἁμαρτία. Γίνονται ἔτσι τά παιδιά εὐάλωτα στίς δαιμονικές ἐνέργειες καί ὑποχείρια τοῦ πονηροῦ πνεύματος. Ὁ ἔπαινος δημιουργεῖ μία ψεύτικη μεγάλη ἰδέα στό παιδί γιά τόν ἑαυτό του. Αὐτήν τήν ἰδέα οἱ πατέρες τήν ὀνομάζουν οἴησι καί εἶναι ἡ βαθειά ρίζα τοῦ ἐγωισμοῦ καί τῆς ὑπερηφάνειας. Ὁ κόσμος τό ὀνομάζει «ὑπερεγώ». Δίδασκε ὁ Θεόσοφος σύγχρονος Ἅγιος Πορφύριος:
«Ὅταν, λοιπόν, ἐμεῖς στό παιδί μέ τούς ἐπαίνους δημιουργοῦμε αὐτό τό «ὑπερεγώ», τοῦ φουσκώνουμε τόν ἐγωισμό, τοῦ κάνομε μεγάλο κακό. Τό κάνουμε νά γίνεται πιό ἐπιρρεπές στά διαβολικά πράγματα»1. Ἀνοίγουμε τούς «ἀσκούς τοῦ Αἰώλου» καί μετά ἀναρωτιόμαστε γιατί ἔφυγε ἀπό τήν Ἐκκλησία, τό σπίτι, τήν ὑπακοή, τόν σεβασμό πού εἶχε πρός τούς μεγαλυτέρους κ.λ.π.
Ὁ ἔπαινος εἶνα ἕνα ψέμμα γι’ αὐτό καί συνιστᾶ μίμηση τοῦ διαβόλου. Ἡ ἀλήθεια εἶναι ὅτι ὅ,τι καλό ἔχει τό παιδί μας εἶναι δῶρο τοῦ Θεοῦ καί ὅ,τι καλό ἔκανε (ἄν ἔκανε κάτι καλό) εἶναι ἐνέργεια τῆς Θείας Χάρης καί ὄχι ἀποτέλεσμα τῆς δικῆς του ἱκανότητας καί δυνάμεως. Γιαυτό θά πρέπει νά τό παρακινοῦμε σέ ὅλα νά ζητάει τήν Θεία Βοήθεια καί νά ἐμπιστεύεται τήν Θεία Πρόνοια. «Σ΄ ὅλα τά θέματα νά μάθουν τά παιδιά νά ζητᾶνε τήν βοήθεια τοῦ Θεοῦ»2.
Πῶς ἐνθαρρύνουμε τά παιδιά; Θέλει προσοχή, ὅταν ἐνθαρρύνετε τά παιδιά» δίδασκε ὁ σοφός Ἅγιος Παιδαγωγός Πορφύριος. «Στό παιδί δέν πρέπει νά λέτε: «Ἐσύ θά τά καταφέρεις, ἐσύ εἶσαι σπουδαῖος, εἶσαι νέος, εἶσαι ἀνδρεῖος, εἶσαι τέλειος!…». Δέν τό ὠφελεῖτε ἔτσι τό παιδί. Μπορεῖτε ὅμως, νά τοῦ πεῖτε νά κάνει προσευχή. Νά τοῦ πεῖτε: «Παιδί μου, τά χαρίσματα πού ἔχεις, ὁ Θεός σοῦ τά ἔδωσε. Προσευχήσου νά σοῦ δώσει ὁ Θεός τήν χάρι Του». Τοῦτο δῶ εἶναι τό τέλειο»3
Ἄν κάνει κάτι καλό νά μήν τό ἐπαινοῦμε αὐτονομημένα ἀλλά νά δοξάζουμε τό Θεό πού τό βοήθησε καί νά τό παρακινοῦμε καί ἐκεῖνο νά δοξάσει καί νά εὐχαριστήσει τόν Θεό ὁ Ὁποῖος καταδέχθηκε νά ἐνεργήσει μέσα ἀπό αὐτό.
Τό νά ἀποκρύπτουμε τήν πραγματικότητα ἀπό τά παιδιά γιά τόν ἑαυτό τους, εἶναι ἀδικία καί ἀτιμία ἀπό μέρους ἡμῶν τῶν μεγαλυτέρων, τῶν γονέων καί ὅσων ἄλλων ἐμπλέκονται στήν ἀγωγή. «Πρέπει νά πεῖς τήν ἀλήθεια» δίδασκε ὁ Ἅγιος Γέροντας, «νά τή μάθει ὁ ἄνθρωπος. Ἀλλιῶς τόν ὑποστηρίζεις στήν ἀμορφωσιά του. Ὅταν πεῖς στόν ἄλλο τήν ἀλήθεια, αὐτός κατατοπίζεται, προσέχει, ἀκούει καί τούς ἄλλους, ἐγκρατεύεται. Ἔτσι καί στό παιδί θά πεῖς τήν ἀλήθεια, θά τό μαλώσεις, γιά νά κατατοπισθεῖ ὅτι αὐτό πού κάνει δέν εἶναι καλό. Τί λέγει ὁ σοφός Σολομών: «Ὅς φείδεται τῆς βακτηρίας, μισεῖ τόν υἱόν αὐτοῦ, ὁ δέ ἀγαπῶν, ἐπιμελῶς παιδεύει»4. Ὄχι ὅμως νά τό δέρνεις μέ τή μαγκούρα. Τότε φεύγουμε ἀπό τά ὅρια καί γίνεται τό ἀντίθετο»5.
Ἡ ἀθεΐα, ἡ ἀσέβεια, ἡ θρασύτης, ἡ σκληρότης, ἡ βλασφημία τῶν παιδιῶν εἶναι καρποί τῆς κακῆς ἀγωγῆς. «Οἱ γονεῖς» παρατηροῦσε ὁ σοφός καί Ἅγιος Γέροντας «εὐθύνονται πρῶτοι γιά τήν ἀποτυχία τῶν παιδιῶν στή ζωή καί οἱ δάσκαλοι καί οἱ καθηγητές μετά. Τά ἐπαινοῦν διαρκῶς. Τούς λένε ἐγωιστικά λόγια. Δέν τά φέρνουν στό Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, τ’ ἀποξενώνουν ἀπ’ τήν Ἐκκλησία. Ὅταν μεγαλώσουν λίγο τά παιδιά καί πᾶνε στό σχολεῖο μ’ αὐτό τόν ἐγωισμό, φεύγουν ἀπ’ τή θρησκεία καί τήν περιφρονοῦν, χάνουν τό σεβασμό πρός τόν Θεό, πρός τούς γονεῖς, πρός ὅλους. Γίνονται ἀτίθασα καί σκληρά καί ἄπονα, χωρίς νά σέβονται οὔτε τή θρησκεία, οὔτε τόν Θεό. Βγάλαμε στή ζωή ἐγωιστές καί ὄχι χριστιανούς»6. Μεγάλο μερίδιο εὐθύνης φέρνει ἡ σύγχρονη ψευτοεπιστήμη πού διαστρέφει καί δέν οἰκοδομεῖ τά παιδιά μέσῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας τῆς ἄθεης ψυχολογίας καί παιδαγωγικῆς. Ὁ διάβολος κρύβεται πίσω της. «Ὁ διάβολος» δίδασκε ὁ σοφός Ἅγιος Παιδαγωγός Πορφύριος «κατόρθωσε νά ἐξαφανίσει τόν ἑαυτό του καί νά κάνει τούς ἀνθρώπους νά χρησιμοποιοῦν ἄλλα ὀνόματα. Οἱ γιατροί, οἱ ψυχολόγοι λένε συχνά, ὅταν ἕνας ἄνθρωπος πάσχει: «Ἄ, νεύρωση ἔχεις! Ἄ, ἄγχος ἔχεις!» καί τά τοιαῦτα. Δέν παραδέχονται ὅτι ὁ διάβολος ὑποκινεῖ καί διεγείρει στόν ἄνθρωπο τόν ἐγωισμό. Κι ὅμως ὁ διάβολος ὑπάρχει, εἶναι τό πνεῦμα τοῦ κακοῦ»7. Ὁ διάβολος εἶναι ὁ πρῶτος διδάξας τό ψέμμα καί τόν ἔπαινο καί διά τοῦ ἐπαίνου ἔβγαλε τούς Πρωτόπλαστους ἀπό τόν Παράδεισο ὅπως δίδασκε ὁ Ἅγιος Πορφύριος: «Οἱ πρῶτοι ἄνθρωποι, ὁ Ἀδάμ καί ἡ Εὔα, ἦταν ἁπλοί καί ταπεινοί, γι’ αὐτό ζοῦσαν στόν Παράδεισο. Δέν εἶχαν ἐγωισμό… Μετά…ὁ διάβολος κατόρθωσε μέ τόν ἔπαινο καί τούς ἐπλάνησε. Γεμίσανε ἐγωισμό»8. Τά παιδιά δέν πρέπει νά ἀκοῦνε τό «μπράβο» οὔτε νά τό θέλουν. «Ὁ ἔπαινος κάνει κούφιο τόν ἄνθρωπο καί διώχνει τή χάρι τοῦ Θεοῦ»9 ἔλεγε ὁ Ἅγιος Πορφύριος. Καί συμπλήρωνε: «Ἡ χάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἔρχεται μόνο μέ τήν ἁγία ταπείνωση»10. Καί συμπέραινε: «Πρέπει νά μάθομε στά παιδιά νά ζοῦν ταπεινά καί ἁπλά καί νά μή ζητοῦν τόν ἔπαινο καί τό «μπράβο». Νά τά μάθομε ὅτι ὑπάρχει ἡ ταπείνωση, πού εἶναι ἡ ὑγεία τῆς ζωῆς»11. Καί τῆς ψυχῆς καί τοῦ ὅλου ἀνθρώπου, θά τολμούσαμε νά συμπληρώσουμε.
Μακάρι τά διδάγματα τοῦ Ἁγίου Παιδαγωγοῦ Γέροντα Πορφύριου νά ἀποτελέσουν ὁδηγητικά σήματα ἀγωγῆς γιά τούς γονεῖς καί ὅλους ὅσους ἀσχολοῦνται μέ τήν ἀγωγή τῶν παιδιῶν.

Ἱερομόναχος Σάββας Ἁγιορείτης.

1Ἁγίου Πορφυρίου, Βίος καί Λόγοι, ἔκδοση Ζ΄, σελ. 442.
2 Ὅ.π. σελ. 437.
3Ὅ.π.   σελ. 437.
4Παρ. 13, 24.
5 Ἁγίου Πορφυρίου, Βίος καί Λόγοι, ἔκδοση Ζ΄, σελ. 439.
6Ὅ.π. σελ. 437-438.
7Ὅ.π. σελ. 443.
8Ὅ.π. σελ. 442.
9Ὅ.π. σελ. 441.
10Ὅ.π. σελ. 441.
11Ὅ.π. σελ. 443-444.
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