In this video interview, the former abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Symeon the New Theologian in Kalamos, Attika, Greece, Archimandrite Christodoulos, talks about his miraculous encounters with Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia.
Video source: Gus Tsin, 2000
The dearly, departed Elder [St. Porphyrios] had revealed to us that in this place, which had been a monastic one [for a long time], holy monks had lived and “fought” here.
Later, when all the visitors had left, he took me aside and told me: “Blessed one, you know that I can’t see further than 10 meters ahead.” (Indeed he could not see then [because of his age and illness].) “But since I love you so much, I ‘climbed’ high and ‘saw’ everything. I ’saw’ everything, what is all around and what will happen in the future. There will be a big monastery. It will be a blessing for this place.” And he revealed some other things I had mentioned earlier. This visit took place on July 1, 1986.
About a year later, on July 13th, we had a Service of the Lesser Sanctification of Water for the placing of the cornerstone [of the monastery], in order to begin the construction of the first cells. Despite his illness, the Elder [St. Porphyrios] had the desire to come because of his love for us.
One of his spiritual children was bringing him here. The driver lost his way for a while and they were late. Since we were not sure whether the Elder was coming because of his illnesses, we performed the Service of the Lesser Sanctification of Water and we left when we were done. He [St. Porphyrios] called me later that night and said, “We were late and we did not catch up but then I got there and I ‘deposited’ my humble prayer on the foundations of the new Monastery.”
We never forget this, his huge love, especially his love for the life of a monk, for monasticism as I told you at the beginning. Everyone knows and, [especially] those who met the Elder have had this experience. I also have some more stories, that I could briefly say in addition to what has been said and which are also examples of the foresight and clairvoyance of the Elder.
One of our brothers [the monks] when he was a novice, I remember he went to visit him for the first time without knowing him at all and without ever having been there before. He passed in front of him as everyone did to receive his blessing, and the Elder said, “Aren’t you a (spiritual) child of Father Christodoulos?” The monk was astonished!
But even more impressive is another incident of a monk who once asked me [to give him] the permission to go [see the Elder] since he had a serious, personal spiritual problem, “to go and get the blessing of the elder, to advise me, and see what will happen to this problem …” I told him to go and he went. When he returned, he told to me, “It’s a miracle that I did not faint!” “Why, what happened?” I asked. He said, “It was crowded, people queuing and I bent down and kissed his hand and whispered my problem in his ear. So, he turns a bit vividly and says, ‘This is nothing, blessed One. What are you talking about? These things are not important. Do obedience to your spiritual father, [and he said my name] and all these will be settled.’” The monk was shocked because the Elder was seeing him for the first time, the Elder could not have known who his spiritual father was, and thus he was stunned and amazed.
Once again during the initial phases of the construction of the Monastery, the Elder, always with a lot of love and interest, would follow our progress. When friends [of our monastery] happened to visit him, he immediately asked them what was going on here, or about the works for the construction of the monastery and as they answered him, he would always raise his hand and bestow a blessing. He was somewhere in Oropos, as you know, so he would turn right away and bless us. He would bestow a blessing for all our efforts.
So one night we had already arranged a meeting with him. He told us to come early in the morning so that he would be well-rested, at 5 o’clock at dawn. So before we went, the previous evening as we were having dinner and talking, I happened to tell the brothers, who were young and beginners, about the Services. I told them that we must read the Services carefully, clearly, one word at a time, one letter at a time, e.g. “O God, make haste to help me” [Psalms 69:2]. I explained to them [that they should] say the words of the Sacred Services with every little detail so they first enter our ears and then our hearts. We said a lot on this subject. The next day we went at 5 in the morning and the Elder welcomed us. He was well, unlike other days when he was on his bed due to his illnesses. He was happy to see a small fraternity starting a monastery. He said right away, “You, that now start a monastery, be attentive of your Services. Read clearly, word by word, letter by letter with no ambiguity at all. The words should pass through the ears and, then, enter the nous [mind] and heart.” “O God, make haste to help me” [Psalms 69:2]. We were all astonished! Honestly, I thought that the younger monks would think that I called the Elder and told him to repeat everything I said last night. Indeed, it was like he was among us and listened to the whole conversation.
As you know, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is described in the singular. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit [not the fruits in plural]. And every man of God who has the Grace of the Holy Spirit has all these because all together they constitute the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And the Elder had it all — love and joy and peace. In fact, he was transfusing Them. You could feel it. Anytime you visited him, however tired or troubled you were for whatever reason, you would always leave with peace and joy in your heart. Even when he was sick and he could not see people, still, through his illness, he was transmitting to you strength as per the Scripture “[f]or My strength is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinthians 12:9].
This sickly and feeble Elder who had so many diseases; I am not sure if others have talked to you about all these. He had many illnesses and yet he was a strength to all of us and with his love and his joy he would revive us. I do not know if you have heard of his great humility or if you had witnessed it yourself. I think you had also met the Elder. “Indeed, Father Christodoulos”. Many times, he would leave us speechless and I would even say. in bewilderment. Whenever I went there he would talk as if he was a student or a small child and he would ask my opinion: “What do you think as a theologian on this issue. I have an opinion myself. So tell us please, is it correct?” I said, “Elder, what are you talking about? Are you, yourself, asking me right now?” “Tell me. I’m Illiterate. You are a theologian. Tell me if I’m wrong.” He did that many times for ecclesiastical or theological issues or spiritual issues. He used to show this humility and I was embarrassed to be asked for my opinion [by him] since I was young and inexperienced and untrained. “You are a theologian, I am not.” he [St. Porphyrios] kept saying. In fact, he used this phrase a lot: [“You are a theologian, I am not.”] And someone could see his humility once more. We were witnesses many times, when he would have calls from people all over the world, from Africa, from Australia, from America and he used to tell me, “Blessed one, if I had you here you could talk to people on the phone as a theologian. You know how to talk. I do not Know. I am completely benighted.” I replied, “Elder, it doesn’t matter who is the theologian; people want to talk to you, not us.” In addition to what has been said, he used to come very often. I had the honor and blessing to have him present at the church while performing the Liturgy, be it in Milesi or elsewhere. But mostly in Milesi. When he was sick and he could not be present, I would go instead and offer him the Holy Communion. [The abbot added parenthetically] I can’t forget his reverence and his emotion every time he received the Holy Communion. So, he used to enter the sanctuary and attend the Divine Liturgy and I would beg him many times, “Elder, why don’t you say one or two words to the people, just a piece of advice.” I did this to benefit the people attending, the villagers and the Athenians who were visiting, but also because I was ashamed in his presence “to pretend” to be a teacher and to preach the Gospel to the people. He never accepted [my invitation], never. [He kept saying]: “I do not know how to preach. You are the theologian, I am illiterate.” And I would say that I was ashamed, on my behalf, in front of his extreme humility. The Elder, as you know, was also really wise, both in theory and in practice. In technical issues, he knew everything. And yet he kept saying “I am illiterate, I know nothing.”
[To] these few words on his humility, I think I should add something more. [This] happened at the time he was visiting Milesi to receive the Holy Communion, more particularly at the church of the [Holy] Taxiarches [i.e. Archangels]. He would come into the sanctuary, when I first met him at the beginning, and he would tell me: “Pray and say Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant Angeliki.” Let me, at first, say some things about the family of Angeliki and Georgios and their children. They are some of our closest collaborators. They have come for confession here for many years, but I did not know them back then. He used to tell me “Say Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant Angeliki” because this woman when she was a little girl, she had another sibling born and she was jealous of her little sibling. Thus, inadvertently, she acquired a “hatred” for young children. Therefore, now, after 15 years of marriage as soon as she gets pregnant, she has miscarriages because she has an aversion for them, hidden in her subconscious since her young age. She had had eight miscarriages in 15 years, [so] she could not have a child. This is what the Elder said and he kept asking me to pray to save this little baby: “Right now, I was ‘notified’ again that she ‘wants’ to have a miscarriage once more.” I use the verb “want” in quotation marks. The poor woman, herself, desired to have a child but inside her, she felt that she was not well and that she would have a miscarriage again. In this way, with this constant prayer of the blessed Elder, this one and only child was born. It is a miracle that I will never forget! Fifteen years of consecutive miscarriages. The prayer of Elder Porphyrios intervened as if holding the child from being miscarried. The child is now a first-year medical student. He has taken the [Greek national college-entrance] exams at the age of 18-19. And they even gave him the name Porphyrios, as it was expected and fair.
I also forgot to mention, now that we are talking about Elder’s gift of foresight and clairvoyance, the following incident. Nearby, there’s a forest of about 25 acres and a lady of the [nearby] village wanted to sell it to us. We were also interested in this purchase in order to protect the monastery and to keep the place quiet. So, once when we visited him, we told him, “Elder, we had an offer to purchase a forested land. What do you think? What’s your advice?” At first, he said “I don’t know” as if he did not want to answer. “I don’t know. Ask an engineer.” After a few minutes, he stayed a bit silent. [Then] he turns like this vividly and says, “Are you talking about that forest that has a stream on the one side and a stream on the other one, which is bordered by those two streams and has a level ground on the top where a small church can be built?” “Yes, Elder, exactly!” “Ah, it’s complicated. It does not have the proper [ownership] papers. Leave it.” Indeed, the natural borders of this 25 acre land are those two streams and there’s a level ground on top where we had planned and we had even suggested to the owner to make a small church of Saint Nikolaos up there. Also, it came out later that it was “confused.” There were no title deeds. The broker told us so, “Do not make any deal; it is impossible to complete a transfer deed.” And (the Elder) knew all that.
I have so many examples to mention that had happened to my own people, but there is not enough time. [For example], he would describe to them in detail: “This estate you are haggling is like this and like that. It is on this or that street, it has a good view but even if you rush right now to Halkidiki you still won’t be on time. Two rich people from this and that place have gone and bid at the auction and the price has gone up very high.” Pay attention, amazing things! This close friend of mine tells me, “I went immediately and called my lawyer in Thessaloniki and he tells me, ‘Mr. Panagiotis, do not bother with it. Two rich people have come to the auction and raised the price to exorbitant levels.’” Many cases like this.
We would like to hear from you about this little bird … Yes, the Elder had great love for… I prefer not to use the word love in the [secular] sense the laity uses it today. The Elder was a spiritually complete personality, as Apostle Paul says “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” [2 Timothy 3:17]. And as a complete man of God, he can put everything, as you know, in their right place. So, he used to say, “You should love animals… not with the sick manner that you might see around today [but] because the poor animals do not have a [next] life to enjoy, in heaven. Thus, they should have a good time here. Their life is only in this world; that’s why they should eat well and have a good time here.”
To be specific there is this story. The family of Father Varsanoufios who is one of the brothers [monks] of the monastery, used to rent a summer house and was on vacation in Milesi. The children were very young back then, this story is about 20 years old. A bird was found on their roof. It could not stand on its own feet let alone fly. It was crawling on the ground. So, the children, sensitive as they are, they took it and placed it in a small basket and as Varsanoufios said, “We fed it with bits of bread and kept it for ten days or maybe for two weeks.” As far as he can remember, it’s been 20 years since then. He was a 6-year-old boy back then. Regardless, we used to visit the Elder often, as he said. Every two weeks we used to visit him, he would receive his blessings and we listen to his teaching. So, we went one day and my father said, “Shouldn’t we bring that little bird to the Elder?” He was a man of faith, he has fallen asleep [now]; who knows what he was thinking [at the time]. He might have thought that the Elder is miraculous and can [even] make the bird well. So, we took the basket, covered with a cobweb tulle. The bird could only crawl, it couldn’t fly away. We took the bird with us, we found the Elder walking in the forest and said, ‘Your blessing, Elder, we have this little bird here…etc.” “Why don’t you bring it to me, Mr. Giorgos?” the Elder said. He moved the tulle, he made the sign of the cross on the bird and it flew up and away in the air. It was a miracle that the Elder healed this bird as he healed many people, many times.
Now I will tell you about an amazing miracle performed to a person that some of our brothers saw once when they had gone to visit the Elder for his blessing. They experienced it live over there when a lady from Lebanon happened to be calling the Elder [at the time]. The Elder asked one of the monks to pick up the phone. She was a devout soul, as explained later by the Elder, and speaking in flawed Greek, she said, “I am calling to thank Elder Porphyrios because with his prayer I avoided the surgery, although the doctors were saying that I must have the surgery because of advanced cancer. The Elder prayed and now the doctors are looking but the cancer is nowhere. The doctors lost the cancer. It vanished and I am completely healed with the prayer of Elder Porphyrios.” It is important to note that, at that moment, the Elder got very emotional. He even started crying because he felt that the all-loving God had listened to his prayer and performed such a great miracle as healing a cancer-patient and he said to the two brothers of our brotherhood, who had gone to visit him, “Go now, my children, go. Everything will be fine. He meant that right now I cannot say anymore [since he was moved] but he said in two words so much! “Everything will be alright.” He meant here in our monastery that was just being founded, everything will be ok. “You shall just exercise obedience, love and read the writings of Saint Symeon frequently. But you should read them in deep humility.” [The] continuous a lot of joy and courage to all struggling Christians goes as follows: “My blessed children, why do you insist on facing your passions in direct confrontation? That’s a mundane thing, it’ s a clumsy thing to do!
What else do you have to do? You shall [just] love Christ! Open your heart with love to Christ and all passions will go away.” he used to say. “Just like the darkness vanishes as soon as a bright light suddenly shines in the room, in the same manner, the passions disappear when the love of Christ glows in our heart.” These words remind me of the teachings of the Holy Fathers who say that passions do not exist; they are non-existent as darkness is non-existent, it is the absence of light. You turn on the light, and the darkness goes away. In the same way, it is mundane and ineffective [to attempt] to push away the darkness with your hands, just as it is meaningless to fight the passions [in direct confrontation]. He said that what everybody should do is love Christ. “If you love Christ who is the Light, Himself, darkness will go away. If you love Him, who is Sainthood, [itself], sin will go away.” This was something that impressed us a lot. In order to love Christ, we must obey His commandments. He says it clearly in the Gospel: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” [John 14:15]. And “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]. Therefore, the Holy Fathers say that we begin by practicing the virtues. The heart is purified little by little and, in this manner, it becomes the dwelling place of Christ and so the love of Christ arrives and blesses everything.
For God is love, and “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” [Matthew 5:45]. That is, He loves sinners and, I would [even] say, He loves them even more because He has compassion for them and He wants them to come close to Him. Thus, His love is a given and, therefore, our love for Him remains the objective which starts with the observance of the Holy commandments of Christ.
If I am not mistaken. Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite, who, of course, bases all his teachings on the Holy Fathers, says that the “the loves of individuals” look like the stars in the sky. Thus, someone loves star A, and someone else loves B, C, etc. Let us not give examples of what men love today. The Holy Fathers speak of the love of pleasures, ambition and avarice as the three central passions [stars] that pull and attract the love of any sinful person and all the rest [of the passions] spring from them. All these [passions] are like countless stars in the sky, for example, gluttony, lusts, even [fervor for] art or sports or any other of the various ardors that people have. But when early in the dawn the sun rises, all those stars turn pale and when the sun is up in the sky they disappear completely and we don’t see any of these stars in the sky anymore. Therefore, all these ardors of man, if someday the sun slowly starts to rise in the sky of any soul… “How it shall be done?” [you might ask]. If we [willingly] let Christ rise, if we open our hearts to Him, then these passions disappear and the love of Christ reaches highest in the sky.
Some laypersons, perhaps even unrelated to church, heard that there is an Elder [St. Porphyrios] somewhere, commonly called “a priest”, who knows and can tell all the secrets of a person. He had been regarded by many, more or less as a medium, where you speak about some problem and he finds a solution for you. Undoubtedly, the Elder was very sad to hear that and he used to say, “I don’t say such things, I teach them the will of God. I teach them what is written in the Holy Gospel.” It is noteworthy that sometimes to some people, he used to say, “I, personally, can’t help but with the Grace of God I will tell you this…” And when he said “with the Grace of God,” it usually meant that he had a revelation. He had prayed and God had enlightened him what to say to this particular person.
Μay we all have his Blessing. May he bless the whole world from the place he is, since his grace had reached all five continents.