An elder said:
`The spiritual life of a monk begins when he detaches himself of all the visible and invisible things and is focused only on God.`
He also said:
`When I was in the world everybody called me `monk` so I said to myself: `If you are a monk what are you still doing in the world?`
The monk Mikhail of the Lavra, who was an orderly there was an example of devotion and dedication. He served the Holy Liturgy in all details. He worked everywhere and anytime. He was pale and had a bright, ascetic look.
The hermit Damaskinos from the monastery of Saint Basil told us once about a monk from Kavsokalivia who had lived long time ago. He neglected his canon (The Canon of the monk consists of 100-300 metanies and 6-12 rosary rows with the Jesus prayer daily) and the other spiritual duties. At the end of his idle life he got sick and when he was on his deathbed his soul did not want to leave his body for many days. This happened in 1935-1936
The doctor a monk with great discernment realized that it happened because he had been careless all his life. Then father Gregory, the confessor of the dying monk knelt down and prayed arduously full of mercy and love for the one who was under his guidance promising before God and men that he would complete the canon of the monk until its end. When he finished this prayer the monk reposed in peace.
A monk said :
In these days we try to obtain holiness with little effort.
And he said again:
The more we toil the more grace we will receive.
Then he added:
God can fill our hearts with so much happiness and love for Him that we could not receive it and we would run away from monasteries seeking isolation in a cave. And the laymen if they experienced such a bliss they could abandon their responsibilities, families and children and hide away of them.
That is why God Who is entirely Love does not fill us completely with His bliss.
An elder said :
In these days the men are so stressed that they won’t find true happiness in the worldly parties and entertainments. And he also said:
In our times tradition disappeared. Our only examples should be all the saints.
Another elder said:
If your spiritual father shows the signs of self denial accept all his counsels. If you cannot tell him everything, he cannot give you the advice which is suitable for you. The Lord says: `If a prophet was wrong, I did that, because your heart is not just.` Don’t be a hypocrite.
An elder said :
`I cannot describe to you, my son, what joy I felt every time when I suffered injustice from men. I felt I was sharing the injustice suffered by the Saviour.
There was once a monk in a monastery who was careless. Despite this fact, the abbot tolerated him, wishing his salvation saying that Theotokos would save him since he had never left her Garden. It was obvious that the hope of the abbot was based on the initial zeal and piety of the monk.
Working hard, father Ignatius from Dionisiou transformed the rocky slope of the mountain in a real garden. An orchard of fruitful olive trees. He was always carrying an ax at his belt and some tools in his bag and he cleared with enthusiasm the wooden area from the slope which was in front of the monastery. He grafted all the wild olive trees. Because of his care and zeal for the prosperity of his monastery he left after him this heritage. It is worth remembering that his hard work in the olive tree grove was always accompanied by a blessed humbleness and acts of mercy.
Carelessness can destroy the pious men! An awful thing! exclaimed an old wise
In the Monastery of Saint Paul I met an honorable Romanian hieromonk and confessor, father Makarios who said:
`Those who can pray with a pure heart are those who toil and participate at the Holy Sacraments.`
A pious monk gave the following advice :
`Love all the people but have no particular friendship relations with anyone.`
I know a father who never left his rosary down. He prayed without cease everywhere he went. God gave him an endless desire to pray.
This is what S, the hieromonk with white beard said:
Long time ago there were 8000 monks in the Holy Mountain and despite all the difficulties which existed then, despite the hard work and the endless ascetic struggles, they had everything they needed. Now the young monks have even cars. Their anxiety and concern for material goods are like an epidemy. The more they have the greater is their trouble. It is a vicious circle. The cause of this thing is the sin which destroys both the body and the soul.
An elder said :
In our times the monks save their souls due to trials because there is no virtue (and by this he meant that there are no more great ascetic struggles like those of the saints and hermits of the yore) Those who can suffer the temptations of the devil will be like some of the fathers from the old times with the condition to endure till the end of their life. This means that patience without complaining is equal with the rule of prayer.
Another elder said :
The evil is everywhere and the darkness prevails. It is like a recently ploughed land with its upset black soil. And if you plant seeds in it they will germinate quickly and we will grasp the fruit when it comes the time of the harvest.
Father Joseph the hermit said :
`The main aim of the devil is to attack our faith. If the devil succeeds to make a person leave his faith then he turns that one in a traitor.
Elder Daniel and I had the same spiritual father. His name was Averky and he was like a second Paul the simpleton. He was from the hermitage of Saint John the Baptist. He had never left the Holy Mountain since he was a child when he was brought there hidden in a basket with onions – when Greece was under Turkish occupation.
Father Averky asked both of us to be his disciples:
`I will die soon` he said, and who is going to light saint John’s candle?`
`Theotokos will send you someone` I said to him then I added jokingly: We are very difficult and you are severe (in fact he was meeker than a lamb)
I will make a list on a sheet of paper with the virtues and another one with the sins and without telling you anything I will show them to you.
What a blessed soul! He was blessed in two ways: first with simplicity and secondly with respect for the free will of the man.`
A few years ago father Gerasimus the Hymnographer for whom I had a great respect told me:
`Saint Gregory Palamas said that only one thing is impossible for God : to unite with an unclean person. This never happens..
A Greek ascetic was making brooms and he took them to the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon and gave them in exchange for dry bread. Thus by this toil he earned his daily bread
I met him in the last days of his life the charismatic father Simeon who had been under the spiritual guidance of elder Sava until the end of his life. Father Simeon related to us many things about this elder full of virtues and discernment and he also advised us:
`Be afraid of the sin and not of the devil because he has no power.`
From the Athonite Patericon