Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
About 90 years ago at the Hermitage of Saint Anna in one of the cells near the sea were living five monks: the starets, the second elder who was a hieromonk too, two monks and a novice. Their life was rough, following the rules of the monachal tradition. They all tried to obey the will of God and live in the same way as all the monks from the hermitage did, according to the customs and traditions of the Holy Fathers.
The novice became a monk and received the name of Sava and he lived many years in obedience. Their starets died and in accordance with the tradition the next one after him became the new starets and they continued the journey of their spiritual life by the help of God.
One day the young monk of their community, Sava, due to his kindness and simpleness progressed a great deal in obedience and spiritual life but the devil, the hater of good, envied this and began to sow weeds in his mind. At first he instilled in his heart the desire to climb on the top of Athon for worship because he had heard other monks saying:
`I went on the top of Athon and it was very nice. You must go there too. One thing is to tell you about this and another one is to go and see for yourself.`
These words convinced Sava the monk that he had to go and see how it looked the Mountain from the top. He thought, as the devil put into his mind, that up there was living a pious holy elder and all the monks went to express their reverence to him and he heard many times these words: `I’ll go on top to express my reverence to the old Athon.`
He related to his starets these thoughts and asked him to let him accomplish his good desire, as he considered it. But the starets had quite a different view and he told him that it was not a proper time yet to go on the top of the Mountain and he wouldn’t have got any spiritual benefit from that. And he didn’t give him the blessing to go there.
Monk Sava, being under the influence of the cunning thoughts of the devil could not find his peace and he decided to disobey his starets and go stealthily on the old Athon. After he took this decision he left furtively their hermitage and went to Kerasia where he settled at the hermitage of All Saints. There he stayed for a few years and as it was related by the following abbot of this hermitage, father Gregory, who was very young then, on one day from May without the blessing of his starets went to the old Athon. Nobody from the hermitage knew where father Sava had gone.
After he walked a long way when he reached a place called Hairi met the devil who appeared to him as a monk, as it was related to us by father Gregory, a pious elder from the Hermitage of All Saints from Kerasia:
At a turn of the way appeared an old man with a white beard, who looked like a very pious man and seemed very tired and who asked him with great sympathy:
`Where are you going son ?` I see you are very tired and upset.` What’s wrong with you?`
Monk Sava seeing that strange elder before him was terribly frightened and didn’t know what to answer. He could only say:
`I want to express my reverence to the old Athon.`
Then that one who looked like a starets began to say sweet words to him:
`I’m the old Athon my son. But where are you living? Where are you coming from?`
The monk came to his senses and answered:
`Abba, I’m from the Hermitage of Saint Anna and now I’m living in Kerasia and I’m going for the first time to Athon.
Then that old man with white beard asked him:
The monk asnwered :
`At first I stayed at the Hermitage of Saint Anna but some years ago I left that place and settled in Kerasia at the hermitage of All Saints. I have many years of monachism. I was not in good relationships with my brothers and I went to Kerasia but two years ago I returned to my first place from Saint Anna, at the cell of Saint Demetrios. I don’t know you either and it seems strange that you’re saying you know all the monks. Who are you and how come that you don’t know me?`
That one who pretended to be a monk said :
`I am a priest and confessor, my son and all the monks who dare to follow their own will come to bow to me. As for you it seems you were covered by the obedience you had for your starets and that’s why I don’t know you. But it doesn’t matter, now there’s no more need for you to struggle cause seeing your good intention I came to you myself. Come and bow to me and don’t try to go on top. Bow and return to your cell and your will and I’ll take care of you.
Monk Sava because of his desire to follow his own will and darkened because of his disobedience forgot the Jesus Prayer every monk has on his lips and in his heart and without thinking at what he was doing he bowed, kissed the hand of that apparently old monk and saw the big calws and the hand covered with some kind of scales. Then he understood that it was the old and cunning devil. But it was already too late when he realized the deceit because the evil had been done. Then the devil told him:
`From now on you’re mine and one day I’ll come to take you.` And saying these he vanished.
The wretched monk after he had kissed the hand of the devil got dizzy, fell down and fainted. After a few hours he was found in a deplorable condition by some monks who were passing by that place. He couldn’t utter a single word. Then the monks took him and brought him to his Hermitage from Saint Anna.
After three says he came to his senses and with tears in his eyes he started to relate what it had happened to him. He apologized many times to his starets and his brothers from the cell. They forgave him and they prayed to God for him tearfully and painfully day and night to forgive him of his mistake. This one was losing many times his power of reason when he secluded himself and cried bitterly.
He stayed for about eight years in the Hermitage of Saint Anna but he couldn’t find his peace. With the blessing of his starets he went to Iviron where it was the wonder making icon of Theotokos called Portaissa. There he lived 15 years then he left and returned to his starets from the Hermitage of Saint Anna.
The divine providence for the benefit of other men punishes someone. It punishes the body to save the soul as saint Paul says:
But this monk suffered something terrible. The monks from that hermitage like all the other monks with cells near the sea had a boat and they went fishing very often.
Three years after monk Sava returned to his cell he went fishing with other two brothers. When he was in the boat a powerful wind began to blow and took him on its wings making him vanish from the eyes of the other two monks and he couldn’t be found anywhere.
Unfortunately these are the fruits of disobedience with its devastating consequences, because as saint apostle Paul says:
Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (Col.3, 6).
This terrible happening should be a good lesson for us and we should take heed at the scheming of the devil who doesn’t eat, doesn’t drink, doesn’t sleep, only roars like a lion trying to catch someone to tear and swallow.