Father Porphyrios – The Discerning, The Foreseeing, The Healer
(By Anargyros J Kalliatsos, The Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Athens, 2009)
Reviewed by Emmanuel N. Stamatiou
|The author refers in detail to the life, the miracles and the deeds of Fr Porphyrios. He was his spiritual child and was blessed to live near him and to know him for more than 35 years, when Fr Porphyrios was the priest at the Chapel of St Gerasimos at Athens Polyclinic in the period 1940-1972 and even until his death in December 1991.
The book is written in a simple and honest way. It is easily read and offers benefit to the soul. Every page of the book is a spiritual exaltation. Although the author is an economist and not a biographical writer, he draws a portrait of Fr Porphyrios in simple words from what he actually saw and experienced during his long and fruitful relationship with the holy father.
The author, with faith and piety transmits the truths he lived and experienced with the Geronda such as faith and love for God, meekness and forbearance, ungrudging patience in suffering, the great benefit of prayer especially when it is accompanied by deep humility before God, spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
In this book, the life of Fr Porphyrios according to Christ unfolds clearly and becomes an example to imitate and a magnet for well-intentioned souls. Behind the lines of the author’s personal writing, there is a treasure of Fr Porphyrios’ teaching and advice which is very beneficial to all of us. Therefore, I have not made mention of the many miracles that the Geronda was worthy of performing with God’s grace. The reader may read them in depth for him/herself and will be amazed by God’s immediate response to the Geronda’s prayers. Instead, I have related brief excerpts from the Geronda’s advice and teachings in an attempt to inform the reader of the benefit of the Geronda’s spiritual knowledge and wisdom and how it affects each and every one of us in our daily life.
1. Humility: The Geronda always attributed his gifts of discernment, foresight and healing to Divine Grace. He did not reveal what he did so that nobody would consider him a saint. He told many who witnessed his miracles not to say anything until after his death. He used to say, ‘these are gifts of God’s Grace and not human achievements or results of any skill or science”.
2. Human Behaviour: Various feelings such as happiness, sadness, etc can cause a suspension or an increase in a person’s will according to the sort of impact (pleasant or unpleasant) they carried. For example, even after a long and exhausting fast with the finest foods in front of him, a hungry person’s appetite will immediately vanish if he is suddenly confronted with bad news of the death of a loved one.
3. Faith: Great are the achievements of faith. Man can achieve anything if he has faith in God. God is greater than anybody and anything.
4. Comfort and Toil: “Nobody ascended to heaven in comfort.” It is the mastery of toil which reposes and of comfort which destroys. When grace comes, tiredness does not count. The greater the toil performed with divine love for Our Lord Jesus Christ, the greater the grace God endows us with. Thus a person who stays awake praying can work better for his fellowmen despite his physical fatigue. The person who has rested sleeping will work only with his own restricted strength.
5. Happiness: The Geronda was always happy. His persistence and patience had no limits. They were inexhaustible. It was enough for him if he brought a soul near Christ. This was his only care. Everything else was of a minor importance. So whenever he achieved that, he was happy. And he showed it with his familiar smile.
6. The Ladder of St John, the Sinaite: This was considered by the Geronda as a very important book with heavenly inspired passages and deep meaning. The Geronda would often recite word by word excerpts from the book and explain them even though he was uneducated and it had difficult meaning.
7. Prayer: The Geronda prayed ceaselessly. He wanted all his spiritual children to do the same. “Prayer means conversation with God Himself. Fervent prayer will fill the whole room with light.”
8. Prostrations: The Geronda always accompanied his prayers with numerous prostrations and he wanted his spiritual children to do the same. He said, “the soul is benefitted because in this way it begs for forgiveness and mercy from God”. The body is also benefitted because the abdominal muscles are strengthened in the best way. We must start to do this with real repentance for our sins. The best combination is to say the Jesus Prayer whilst doing a full prostration. The Lord will not only hear our prayer but forgive us as well, especially when we ask this not only with our lips but with the mind in the heart – out of the depth of our soul.
9. Obedience: One of the many virtues of the Geronda was absolute obedience. When a bad-tempered old monk told Fr Porphyrios to leave and pointed to the window instead of the door, Fr Porphyrios climbed outside through the window.
10. Nutrition: There is no better medicine than the onion. It expands bloods vessels. It is good for the heart, the blood vessels and for blood pressure. It reinforces the human organism. Use them a lot in cooking. Also lettuce is rich in Vitamin E. You must eat a lot of lettuce. And you must immerse it in boiling water for a while to make it soft for the stomach. As soon as it boils, take it out and eat it. You will have no problems with your stomach. You must also eat a lot of carrots because they contain Vitamin A, which reinforces the human organism and protects it from many diseases, even from cancer.
11. Contempt for the devil: The Geronda loved everyone except the devil. “Don’t pay any attention to him. The more attention you pay to him, the closer he comes. If you want to chase him away, ignore him. Show him contempt. This is what he deserves. As soon as he receives contempt, he will retreat from the fight. Contempt is the second weapon against the devil after the Holy Cross. He is afraid of the Holy Cross, and he literally trembles and disappears. Furthermore, he does not bear contempt because he is arrogant. After all, that arrogance was the cause of his fall and of becoming what he became.”
12. Parents and children: Don’t await until adolescence to deal with your children. The child is like dough. The softer the dough is, the better you mould it. Hence, the younger the children, the easier it is to bring them up and educate them. If you see that your children are naughty, demanding, engaging in illegal activities and immoral behaviour, it is too late. The bird has flown, and if the bird you kept in a cage flies away, it is difficult, if not impossible, to bring it back.
Bringing up a child is the basic commitment of parents towards the being they have brought to life with God’s blessing. Parents who fail to bring up their children properly are considered to have failed in everything.
There are parents who devoted their life to extending their businesses and increasing their money in order to become millionaires, but they have done nothing for their upbringing of their children. Not only did they offer nothing to their children, but they strived hard to make them lazy, idle and dishonest people. It is criminals they have created. And do you know why? Because when a corrupted man becomes rich, he causes great harm not only to himself, but also to the people who lack money, since he can redeem them to use them for his advantage. Money corrupts consciences. Judas betrayed Jesus for money. Isn’t that enough to persuade you about the destructive power of money whenever it is used by people who do not believe in God? And those who do not educate their children according to God make Judases of them. They gather treasures here on earth, and they are indifferent to the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, they will not have time to enjoy them, and their spoilt children will not be able to maintain them. And do you know why? The parents have been affected by the incurable disease called avarice. And they will die embraced by it. They will die without being able to enjoy them. And their children are incapable of maintaining them because it is more difficult to maintain goods than to create them. Therefore, if there is not a proper upbringing, there is nothing. Only when our children are under the continuous supervision and protection of God, can we be sure that they will not be led astray.
13. Exercise: “Go for a walk in the forest to breathe fresh air rejuvenating your lungs and to send blood to your brain. Walk in the forest to see the wisdom with which God created trees, bushes, flowers. Get out to admire the grandeur of nature, the hills, plains, ravines, mountains. All these will teach you perfection as well as the existence of God. Doesn’t this harmony touch you? Why are you sitting? Get out and walk! Walk! I am old and sick and I walk for 2 to 3 hours briskly every day. You should know that walking is the best exercise. The heart and all the other parts of the human body work properly, and the nervous system is in balance.”
14. Over-sensitivity: “Your only defect is that you are over-sensitive. Over-sensitivity is not good. It causes a lot of problems that are hard to be solved. It is the basic cause of all disasters. You will only harm yourself and your family if you do not try and get rid of it, or at least restrict it. No one withstands an insult with pleasure, least of all an over-sensitive person. But in everyday life, all of us can be victims of insults. And what does insult really mean? It means a moral decrease, a moral harm, or doubted prestige caused by others. Well, how is one supposed to control them? Can they be controlled? Of cause not. The right and just is not to insult or be insulted. It is difficult but not impossible. And just this is the aim of the Church of Christ. However, in some cases God allows a temptation to judge our endurance and our belief. And those who pass the test are very few. We must struggle to do God’s will. Only His mercy will save us.”
15. Insistence on God’s action: God knows without counting them the number of needles on these pine trees. He takes care of them from the time they start to grow until the time they die. He also knows the number of hairs on your head. Therefore, if He knows these unimportant things and cares about them, is he not aware of your problems and indifference to them? Absolutely not! Consequently, what is happening? Well, listen to me. When God does not give us something that we persistently ask for, two things may happen: either He does not give it to us for our benefit or we do not know how to ask for it. Both could happen. As for the first case, nobody knows why, the will of God is unfathomable. So I keep silent. However, I can tell you a lot of things concerning the second case. First of all, when we ask something from God, we must not obstinately say, “I want this now!” This is not only unacceptable but impious towards our Creator as well. We must ask something from God in a beseeching and gentle manner for a certain period of time. If we see that God refuses to give it to us, we stop disturbing Him. The more we want something, the farther away it goes from us. And when we have forgotten it, it will come imperceptibly . God does not forget. He receives our request, and when He knows that it is time, He answers it. Therefore we must not insist on changing God’s will. We must not pursue it, but leave it in God’s hands. Wait for His answer with patience, peace and faith. Stop caring about your problem if you want God to take care of it.
16. The Jesus Prayer: “Pray only for your soul’s salvation. Say the Jesus Prayer with faith and devotion. During saying the prayer, imagine that you are beholding Jesus crucified, and turn also your mind to me. I will receive your thoughts, and I will pray with you, for you. Some say that I should say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us,” and not, “have mercy on me.” This is wrong. Why? Because you separate yourself from other people. As we love ourselves we should love our fellowmen. I love the whole world as I love myself. That’s why I say, “have mercy on me,” since my fellowmen and I are one. Also, I omit, ‘Son of God” from the prayer because the Son of God is One- Jesus Christ.
17. Books and Preferences: Saints’ biographies help you to get to know God and come closer to Him. They have great benefit to the soul and gradually you will begin to imitate them.
You should also read The New Testament continuously. It is an inexhaustible spring. And the more you read it, the more you enter into the Wisdom of God. You should try to read at least a page every night. Even the Book of Revelation is full of wisdom. If you read it many times with faith in God, you will see that the Divine Grace will reveal everything to you. The Wisdom of God does not come by itself. We must seek it.”
18. Pray for those who hate us and those who love us: This is Christ’s commandment. They may repent and turn to Christ and He shall save them. Pray for yourself as follows:
“My Lord, raise my soul paralysed in all sins and improper acts through your divine command, as You once raised the paralysed man. And thus being saved let me chant: Pitiful, Christ, glory to Your power.” (This was dictated to the author by Fr Porphyrios.) Say it in an affectionate and beseeching manner.
19. Troparion to Fr Porphyrios: Shortly after Fr Porphyrios’ death in December 1991, one of his nephews dreamed of a huge and bright Church up in the heaven built in honour of Fr Porphyrios. He was sitting in the centre of it, while innumerable people with shining costumes and haloes flooded the interior and exterior of the Church chanting continuously and methodically a short hymn for him.
Papouli’s nephew heard that troparion so many times in his sleep that he learnt it by heart. And when he woke up he remembered it so well that he wrote it down as follows:
“As you were praying on the earth for the cure of our diseases and the forgiveness of our trespasses, pray up in Heaven, Father Porphyrios, to Christ the Lord to save our souls. Amen.”
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