Refugee, Firefly, Radio Operator, Tramp of God… These are the nicknames that people used to call St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain at different times. The nickname "Refugee" has a deep meaning in the life of Arsenios (the name of St. Paisios from birth) which began with a great migration. The Saint was nicknamed "Firefly" because of the spiritual light reflected in his eyes.
The future elder was a radio operator during a war. Later, he often called monks "God's radio operators". Sometimes, he also called himself "a Tramp of God" and walked barefoot, emulating Moses and the Egyptian Bedouins at the foot of Mount Sinai. Today we know him as St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain.
His life fell in the 20th century with its controversial history. Today it shows us the way to saving our souls in the most difficult circumstances, and showing the light of God both to our inner circle and those living very far in space and time.
January 13, 2023 will be eight years since the canonization of the Athonite elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople canonised him as a saint in 2015.
On May 5, 2015, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church included Venerable Paisios of the Holy Mountain in the Church Calendar and established his feast day on June 29 / July 12.
Books about the miracles and prophecies of this great elder remain some of the most widely read in Orthodox circles. According to one of his prophecies, which now seems completely unbelievable, Constantinople (Istanbul) will become Orthodox again.
Today let us recall the life of this great saint and flip through its pages, focusing on the most important of them.
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
He was born on July 25 (August 7), 1924, in Çamlıca (a former Greek settlement in Cappadocia). The baby was baptised by the famous ascetic Arsenios the Cappadocian, revered as a saint not only by the Greeks, but also by the Turkish people. There is a saying that the prayer of St. Arsenios is "so strong, it can break through a stone." Both Orthodox and Muslims coming to him for help received healings from illnesses, and help in disorder.
When the elder baptised the baby with the name Arsenios, the relatives were indignant, because they had chosen a different name for him. St. Arsenios then said that he knew his days were numbered, and that the child would take his place and become a great ascetic.
That summer was marked by a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, involving Orthodox Greeks leaving Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace and Pontic Alps in Turkey and Turkish Muslims moving there from Greece. St. Arsenios considered the safe passage of his people to Greece and saving them from the repression they were subjected to under Kemal Ataturk to be his life's ministry.
Little Arsenios was on a ship sailing to Greece when he turned 40 days old. Two months later, the Holy Elder died, having fulfilled his mission and trusting the future ascetic to continue his work. Thus, the life of the future elder Paisios began with hardships and trials, similarly to Moses, or Christ himself. The boy grew up in difficult conditions, living in the village of Konitsa. The locals were wary of refugee families, which caused the latter to endure hard labour and poverty. However, prayer never ceased in the boy's house.
The Life of St. Paisios describes these years in the following way:
“From early childhood, Arsenios started to live as an ascetic. He enjoyed reading the Lives of Saints and strove to imitate their deeds diligently and with great uncompromising zeal. He devoted himself to unceasing prayer and at the same time tried to develop within him love and humility. At a young age, the future Elder learned carpentry, wishing to imitate Christ in this as well.”
Starting in 1940, Greece entered a period of wars: first between Greece and Italy, then World War II and the Greek civil war. In 1945, Arseny joined the armed forces. The young man prayed that the Lord would spare him from having to kill people, and his prayer was answered: for three and a half years Arsenios served as a radio operator. Like many of his peers, because of the war, he did not receive an education, although he always considered learning to be a blessing.
Upon finishing military service, the young man went to the Holy Mount Athos driven by a desire to meet an elder who would make him his apprentice However, the search was unsuccessful, and Arsenios returned to Konitsa.
At home, Arsenios continued working as a carpenter. He gave one part of his earnings to his parents, and donated another part to the poor. He slept on the floor, and did not abandon praying, fasting, and the thought of monasticism. Eventually, the time came when he gave away his property, keeping enough money to buy a ticket to Mount Athos, and left the world.
In 1950, Arsenios became a disciple of Cyril, the future abbot of the Koutloumousiou monastery on Athos. Cyril soon sent the young novice to Esphigmenou, another Athos monastery, where on March 27, 1954 Arsenios was tonsured to Rassophore with the name Averkios.
On March 12, 1956, Averkios entered the Philotheou Monastery, where his responsibilities included working at the refectory, as well as the bakery and carpentry shop. Eventually, God sent the God-loving ascetic a teacher, elder Simeon. On March 3, 1957, Simeon tonsured Averkios to the Lesser Schema with the name Paisios in honour of Paisius II of Caesarea.
Paisios immediately came to the defence of Orthodoxy, successfully opposing the active Protestant propaganda with Orthodox preaching. Many souls have become ignited with the power of faith and fidelity, radiated by the fiery sermons of the young Ascetic. In 1962 Paisios went to Egypt, where he stayed on Sinai until 1964.
As the Elder later recalled, the Mother of God herself showed him this path:
“I asked the Mother of God to show me where I should go, and she told me to go to Sinai."
While on Mount Sinai, Paisios participated in carpentry work and helped restore icons. People started coming to him with prayer requests. The monk received everyone with love and reverence, bowing to the ground even in front of young people.
Considering the priesthood, Paisios associated this ministry with the need to give oneself completely to people and participate in their lives. Fearing manifestations of human gratitude and deep immersion in worldly life, he decided that he would help the suffering with solitary prayer. He took a blessing for life in the wilderness and settled in the cell of the Saints Galaktion and Episteme.
Here, in the Egyptian wilderness, the elder had to enter into battle with demonic forces. Without pronouncing the name of the unclean spirit, he jokingly called him "tangalashka". The Life of St. Paisios describes his conversation with a future nun, who asked the Elder if he had ever seen the devil.
"Yes," the Elder replied. "Do you know how "handsome" he is? Truly great is the love of God that keeps us from seeing the devil! Without it, all mankind would die of fear!”
Describing his spiritual struggle with the enemy of the human race, he said: “The devil can really be tangibly transformed into a man, an animal, and the like. It possesses some other nature that we do not know. You can see and sense him, and then you bind him with prayer, and he immediately disappears right before your eyes."
In 1964, due to health problems, Paisius returned to Athos and settled in the Iberian Skete. He developed asthma, which led to a severe lung disease, causing the Elder immense suffering, but unable to diminish his spiritual gifts. In 1966, after a difficult operation, he lost a significant part of his lungs. However, God granted him another 28 years of monastic service, filled with suffering and true Christian love. Overcoming pain, he continued to receive pilgrims in his cell and helped everyone in need, often literally taking people's sufferings upon himself.
Since May 1978, Father Paisios lived in the Panagouda cell of the Koutloumousiou Monastery. Thousands of people flocked there.
In 1982 he visited Jerusalem and Sinai. After spending a short time in the monastery of St. Catherine, he set off on his way back to Mount Athos where he continued the work that he himself once defined as being a “radio operator” between people and God.
Elder Paisius died on July 12, 1994, in the Monastery of St John the Apostle in the village of Souroti, near Thessaloniki. He was buried there, and thousands of pilgrims immediately started coming to his grave.
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain with pilgrims
Many saints, who have passed into eternity long ago, continue to perform miracles, appearing to people and healing them. There are many testimonies of help coming not only at the Saint's grave, but even after a short prayer to him anywhere in the world. Countless people have received a miraculous answer from God through the prayers of the holy elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. Among them there are especially many of those suffering from cancer and demonic attacks. The Elder's personal items exude an indescribable fragrance and also possess miraculous powers.
The Miracle of Saving a Child
Fr. Christos Tsandalis, parish priest from the village of Kerasia in the Nea Michaniona area near Thessaloniki and father of nine children, testifies:
“My children once climbed onto the flat roof of our house with an opened hatch of the lighting shaft going four floors down. The children began to jump over this hatch.
One of my sons, a six-year-old boy with a speech delay, tripped over the hatch and fell into the shaft.
With a trembling heart, I opened the shaft door on the first floor, preparing to see a terrible sight. Imagine my amazement when I saw my son, yellow with fear, but unharmed. I took him to the hospital. After examining the boy, the doctors confirmed that there was not a scratch on him, and not the slightest fracture.
We understood that a miracle had happened. I thought that the child was saved by the miraculous icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, kept in one of our village churches. I brought my son to the icon and asked him: “Was it Her that saved you?” "No," the boy said. He led me to a photograph of Elder Paisios and began to point his finger at it, making it clear that it was the Elder that had saved him.”
Venerable Paisios of the Holy Mountain
This is the testimony of Mr. Nicholas Xinaris, a resident of the city of Paphos in Cyprus. “I am a plumber. One day, in July 1997, after finishing work, I was loading the tools in my car. It was getting dark, and it was hard for me to see a drying line made of a piece of wire stretched next to my vehicle, whose sharp end was sticking out. It was bent like a hook, about two centimetres long. As I was bending over to load my tools in the car, this hook became stuck right in my eye.
I froze in place like a hooked fish. With all my might I screamed for help. The house owner saw me and said that he was going to pull out the wire. I refused, fearing that, through lack of experience, he would make me blind. I asked him to bring me wire cutters so that I could cut off the wire and go to the emergency room.
While he was looking for wire cutters, I cried, because I felt sorry for my three children whose father, as I was sure, was about to become blind.
At that moment, a thin man dressed in a black cassock appeared in front of me. When I saw him, I crossed myself. I started to have chills. I could feel his hand taking me below the cheek and pushing my head up. At the same instant, the wire came out of my eye.
When the owner brought the wire cutters, there was no more need for them. He took me to the emergency room. The doctors examined me and did not believe my story. There was a cut mark right on the pupil. They gave me an ointment and told me to wear a bandage for three or four days.
On the following day, I went to the store. On the wall I saw a photograph of the man who had appeared to me. I asked the shop owner who it was. She told me it was a very famous monk, whose name was Paisios. I wanted to buy that photo from her by any means, because it was priceless to me. However, the photo was just as dear to her, and she gave me a book about Elder Paisios instead. I read that book in a day. Today I treasure it as a sacred relic.
Kontakion of Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain
The most-famed ascetic of the Holy Mountain, and the newly-enlightened light of the Church, let us praise him with hymns with all our heart, for he leads the faithful towards a perfect life, filling them with rivers of gifts, therefore we cry out: Rejoice, O Father Paisios.
Venerable Father Paisios, pray to God for us!
We invite you to send us your prayer requests for the health of you and your loved ones, including those for a prayer service to our contemporary and the remarkable Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain.
To do this, please follow the link
The Children's Choir of St. Elisabeth Convent in Minsk was founded in October 2015. Although the children chose St. Sergius of Radonezh as their patron saint seven years ago, it took a long time before they were able to visit his relics.
On August 4, we commemorate Mary Magdalene, the Holy Myrrh-bearer Equal of the Apostles, in the Belarussian Orthodox Church. There is so much one can learn from the life of this strong, devoted and brave woman.
On December 22 we celebrate the Conception by the Righteous Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos. In our article you will learn about the deeds of faith of the Righteous Joachim and Anna and several unusual icons of the Feast.
After visiting the orphanage in Novinki, Nina immersed herself in a new world. She saw unconditional love and mercy in sick children and found God's love in the midst of their suffering. Her family had described her as having a heart of metal,…
St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco is one of the most venerated and loved Saints in the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as in other Orthodox Churches all around the world.
In the Orthodox tradition, almsgiving is the third main virtue after prayer and fasting. Our Lord Jesus Christ and many of His Saints have talked about the importance of giving alms. So what is this virtue all about?
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker is one of the most well-known saints loved by Christians all around the world. People turn to him in prayer and often experience miracles because of his intercession.
On August 5, we celebrate the miraculous transformation of the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” icon of the Mother of God. It happened on this day in 1888 when a lightning struck the chapel where the icon was placed and burning the chapel’s walls and…