Paisios the Athonite
On July 25, 1924, the future Elder Paisios (Eznepidis) was born to pious parents in the town of Farasa, Cappadocia of Asia Minor. The family’s spiritual father, the priest-monk Arsenios (the now canonized St. Arsenios of Cappadocia), baptized the babe with his own name, prophesying his future profession as a monk. A week after the baptism (and barely a month after his birth) Arsenios was driven, along with his family, out of Asia Minor by the Turks. The young Arsenios was wholly given over to God and spent his free time in the silence of nature, where he would pray for hours on end. Having completed his elementary education, he learned the trade of carpentry. He worked as a carpenter until his mandatory military service. He served in the army during the dangerous days of the end of World War II. Arsenios was brave and self-sacrificing, always desiring to put his own life at risk so as to spare his brother. He was particularly concerned about his fellow soldiers who had left wives and children to serve. Having completed his obligation to his country, Arsenios received his discharge in 1949 and greatly desired to begin his monastic life on the HolyMountain. Before being able to settle there, however, he had to fulfil his responsibility to his family, to look after his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. Having provided for his sisters’ future, he was free to begin his monastic vocation with a clean conscience. In 1950 he arrived on Mount Athos. He was a novice for four years, after which he was tonsured a monk in 1954 with the name Averkios. He was a conscientious monk, finding ways to both complete his obediences and to preserve his silence, so as to progress in the art of prayer. He was always selfless in helping his brethren, unwilling to rest while others worked. He put himself under obedience to the virtuous Elder Symeon, who gave him the Small Schema in 1956, with new name Paisios. Fr. Paisios dwelt deeply on the thought that his own spiritual failures and lack of love were the cause of his neighbour’s shortcomings, as well as of the world’s ills. He harshly accused himself, pushing himself to greater self-denial and more fervent prayer for his soul and for the whole world. In 1966, he was operated on and had part of his lungs removed. It was during this time of hospitalization that his long friendship with the then young sisterhood of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, just outside of Thessaloniki, began. During his operation he greatly needed blood and it was then that a group of novices from the monastery donated blood to save him. Elder Paisios was most grateful, and after his recovery did whatever he could, materially and spiritually, to help them build their monastery. Do to further illness, On October 5, 1993 the Elder left his beloved Holy Mountain for the last time. Though he had planned on being off the mountain for just a few days, while in Thessalonikihe was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate treatment. After the operation he spent some time recovering in the hospital and was then transferred to the monastery at Souroti. Despite his critical state he received people, listening to their sorrow and counselling them. His last days were full of suffering, but also of the joy of the martyrs. On July 11, 1994, he received Holy Communion for the last time. The next day, Elder Paisios gave his soul into God’s keeping. He was buried, according to his wishes, at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti. Thousands of pilgrims visit his grave each year, so as to receive his blessing.