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Testimonies and Experiences


Conversations with Greek and Cypriot friends



Hieromonk Athanasios,
of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi. Principal of Mt. Athos (1/6/91-31/5/92).
Now Abbot of the Holy Convent of Panagia Machaira-Cyprus.


K.I.: One of the most significant elders of our day, Elder Porphyrios, passed away on Mt. Athos, at Kavsokalyvia, where he began his monastic life. I would like to ask you, Father Athanasios, to tell us a few words about the last hours of the holy Elder's earthly life.

Fr. A: The Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia is one of the most distant and remote Sketes of Mt. Athos, and Elder Porphyrios received the monastic schema there.

Having distinguished himself with his great gifts of grace, he also foresaw his death. This is why he returned to the Holy Mountain, so his life could end there.

Truly, on the evening of Sunday, 1st December 1991, his health started to worsen. He therefore called together his company of fathers and urged them to pray in order to help his life come to end and for him to surrender his soul to God.

All the fathers gathered together at one o'clock in the morning and began to read and pray the Service of the Departure of the Soul, as Elder Porphyrios had requested. Afterwards, he himself, as the fathers who were present told me, made a public confession before all of them. When the priest read him the prayer of forgiveness, at 4.31 on the morning of 2nd December 1991, he gave up his soul to God.

On that same day, he received Holy Communion and so was totally ready. Two days earlier, knowing that he was leaving the world, he asked not to be disturbed by anyone.

He no longer received visitors or telephone calls. The only ones present were the fathers who ministered to his needs.

K.I.: You said, Fr. Athanasios, that he knew about his death. How do we know that?

Fr. A: He would say to all the fathers who went to Kavsokalyvia to visit him that he was preparing to depart from the world. He asked them to pray that he might have a "good defense before the dreaded judgment seat of Christ." This was the phrase he specifically used. He bade farewell to all the fathers who visited him. He told them he was leaving this life and he sought their prayers. "Pray, pray", he kept saying to them. What concerned him was his appearance before God.

K.I.: We'll now talk about the great gifts that Elder Porphyrios received from God.

Fr. A: Elder Porphyrios, apart from everything else, had to a great degree both the gift of discernment as well as the gift of foresight. He could see into the soul of every person and what concerned them, the problems they faced and the specific purpose why they had gone to see him in order to get his advice. He also saw events that would happen in the future or that had happened in the past.

Just as he himself would say, God's grace would show him places, buildings, faces, things and events. He would see them all as if they were present. During the last years of his life, he was blind. He could not see with his physical eyes. He could only see with the eyes of his soul.

K.I.: I had the great blessing to have known Elder Porphyrios. I personally felt from my very first encounter with him, that this holy man really lived in two worlds, while still here in this life. So, when I was informed about his death, I knew he simply withdrew.

Fr. A: Elder Porphyrios like every grace filled person, had reached such a high degree of intimacy with God that he could die at any moment he wanted, just as they said about St. Basil.

I believe that the same thing happened with Elder Porphyrios. This is the impression he gave to anyone who approached him. It even happened to me. Every time I met him, I would say that I saw a physically dead man before me. Still, here was a man of amazing clarity and with a surprising ability for prophecy and foresight.

One gets this kind of_gift after much spiritual struggle and after a cleansing of one's life. One gets it after extreme humility and complete love towards God. Man then becomes an instrument in the hands of God. That person no longer has anything that would remind us of the fallen condition of Man.

K.I.: Is it possible for us to say, Fr. Athanasios, that Elder Porphyrios, having reached such a level of holiness, is now amongst the "cloud of saints"?

Fr. A:We certainly are able to say this because the catholic conscience of the Church has already said it. All those who knew him witness and confess to the holiness of the man. The abundance of miracles performed by him proclaim that he is a saint, one of the saints of our Church.

For every person who approached him, Elder Porphyrios was a revelation. This also happened with the non-Orthodox. I would like to tell you a very characteristic story.

Once, when we were at New Skete, we were hosting a Catholic monk who had come to Mt. Athos to learn more about how the monks live, the ascetic life and the general polity of Mt. Athos. We told him about Elder Porphyrios and when he went to Athens he went to meet him.

When Elder Porphyrios saw him, without asking him anything, he began to describe this monk's monastery in Italy and their way of life there. He even described a neighboring convent. He saw all the monks and nuns there and mentioned each one of them in specific detail.
The monk was literally dumbfounded because it was the first time in his life that he had met such a man. When he returned to Mt. Athos, he told us, "If someone had told me about these things; that he had seen and heard these things, I would never believe it. How is it possible for this person who lives in Greece to describe our monastery in Northern Italy in detail, to tell me all those details, to tell me about the monks, to tell me about the nuns, each one of them individually?" As this monk told us, when he asked Elder Porphyrios how he was able to see all these things, he answered him: "God's grace reveals the mysteries to us, the Orthodox."

K.I.: "Wondrous is God in His saints."

Fr. A: I had, as I told you, God's great blessing to meet him many times and to see events of his miraculous life up close. I'll tell you just one, as an example.

One day we went by boat to see the Elder at Kavsokalyvia. He was sick, so we only visited him for a short while. We hardly spoke, and then he asked us to leave. Since we had only come for his blessing, we decided to leave Kavsokalyvia immediately.

As we left his cell and walked down towards the main church (about a ten minute walk), we were joined by one of his monks. He thought that we were upset because the Elder had asked us to leave. At one point he said "Stay a little longer. It is morning, and usually the Elder does not feel very well in the morning. He feels much better in the afternoon. I believe that he'll be able to see you in the afternoon so that you won't have come for nothing."

As soon as he said this, the phone rang there where we were by the Church. The administrator answered it, and called for the Elder's disciple, who had, as I told you, joined us. Elder Porphyrios wanted him on the telephone. So, really, he went to the telephone and answered it. He heard Elder Porphyrios say, "Why are you telling the visitors to stay until the afternoon when Iíll feel better and will be able to speak with them, since I've told them to leave? The sea will be stormy this afternoon and they won't be able to leave." We naturally obeyed and left immediately. And, indeed, a little while afterwards the sea was so rough that had we been in the boat we would have been in great danger.

K.I.: This is one incident that shows the heights which Elder Porphyrios had reached. All this, so we can see how faith talks. "I believed that which I said."




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Article published in English on: 7-1-2009.

Last Update: 7-1-2009.