The Blessed Elder George Karslides (1901-1959)

(By Monk Moses the Athonite, Orthodox Kypseli Publications)

 

Reviewed by Emmanuel N. Stamatiou

   

The life and lifestyle of the Elder George Karslides of Drama contained in this book, is offered as a reading to fire up those who wish to live piously, for those who desire to follow Jesus Christ and to deny themselves and take up His cross.

We understand after reading this book that the Elder did not live for himself, but for God and for the people whom God entrusted to him. Through fasting and prayers he begged for the love and mercy of God for himself and for his beloved spiritual children. Deprivation was his joy and wealth, as he practised hardship and avoidance of glory in order to kill the passions.

 

1. Background

1. Born in Argyroupolis, Pontos in 1901 – baptised Athanasios.

2. His parents died when he was an infant. He was raised by his pious grandmother.

3. He had an older brother and a younger sister, Anna.

4. His older brother made life difficult for him so he ran away from home when he was only 7 years of age.

5. Some early Christians cared for him and loved him as their son.

6. One day St George appeared to him and told him to mount his horse. St George took him to Tiflis, Georgia, where a pious priest cared for him.

7. In July 1919 he was tonsured a monk at a Georgian monastery (18 years of age).

8. He was given the name Symeon. The monastery was soon closed by the communists and Symeon and the other monks imprisoned.

9. The monks sought permission to attend church for Pascha but were denied. As they chanted “Hristos Anesti”, the prison shook and the doors opened on their own accord. The local inhabitants saw the monks holding a cross and chanting “Lord have mercy” outside the prison.

10. The communists tied the monks together and led them to the edge of a cliff in preparation for execution. The firing squad took aim and fired. Three bullets hit Symeon, but they only grazed him, and did little harm. He was dragged off the cliff, however, by the weight of the others. Miraculously, he fell without being killed and thus escaped death.

11. He was soon imprisoned again, but was eventually released through the efforts of the pious wife of a Russian official.

12. In October 1925, he was ordained a priest.

13. The Elder was strict with himself throughout his life, eating mostly wild greens and sleeping very little due to constant prayer.

14. During the Divine Liturgy, God would inform him of the spiritual state of those he commemorated, both the living and the dead. He prayed more fervently for the souls of the deceased or to bring sinners to repentance.

15. While he celebrated the Liturgy, he would often be visited by Saints, who would serve with him and sometimes parishioners saw him levitating.

16. In 1929 he settled in the village of Sipsa near Drama in northern Greece.

17. Not yet 30 years of age, he was already extremely weak due to failing health and semi-paralysed – he had essentially lost the use of his legs.

18. In 1936 the Elder managed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands.

19. On his return from the Holy Lands, the Elder received an acre of land from the government on which he managed, with the help of the villagers at Sipsa to build the foundations of a humble monastery dedicated to Christ’s ascension in 1939.

20. Despite his terrible physical condition, many of the pious faithful recognized the sanctity and virtuous life of Elder George and were drawn to him as to a source of water in the desert.

 

2. Miracles

These are only some of the many miracles mentioned in this book:-

1. The Elder had the gifts spiritual discernment and clairvoyance.

2. He foresaw the coming of WWII to Greece and wept heavy tears the week before war was declared. He also foresaw the Civil War that would follow WWII, warning his spiritual children at the end of the war not to rejoice because the things that were coming were far worse.

3. During the Civil War, the rebels came to destroy the village of Sipsa and to kill its inhabitants.

4. On another occasion a woman visited him and before she managed to greet him he told her, “Your hands are on fire. They are burning but we don’t see the fire. What work do you do?” She told him she was a midwife. “How many children have you killed? he then asked. She denied having killed any. “I shall tell you. Five?” He went on to tell her in which villages and of which mothers the children were whom she had aborted. Speechless, the lady wept and through active repentance was reconciled to God.

5. One day a lady brought some quinces to the Elder. A pregnant woman stopped her along the way and asked for some, but she refused. When she arrived at the monastery and gave them to the Elder, he told her, “On the way the gate of Paradise opened and you closed it.”

6. In 1959 the blessed Elder began to prophesize his upcoming repose. He prepared his spiritual children, strengthened them for the trials and struggles they would undergo before their final repose. After venerating the icons and receiving Holy Communion he returned to his cell and on 4 November 1959 fell asleep in the Lord.

 

3. Counsels

1. Why do you go to church every day, and yet you haven’t made up with your children?

2. Love all your fellow men, even your enemies. Always love not only those who love us, but also those who hate us. Then our own sins are also forgiven. Always preach love. This is the most basic law of God, love and love alone.

3. Neither should wealth impress you, nor honour, but always walk justly. Live honourably and humbly, and as much as possible extend your hands in charity. Knock on the door of the poor, the sick, the orphans. You should prefer the homes of the afflicted to the homes of the joyous. If you do good works, you will have a great reward in heaven.

4. Strive to intensify your faith, and during the Divine Liturgy be undistracted and attached to the celebration of the service so that you might be granted to behold the majesties of God.

5. Fasting, vigils and prayer are heavenly gifts. However, works are also necessary, the protection and help of the poor.

6. The Panagia does not want big candles, she wants charity given to the poor.

7. If you pray without giving alms, your prayer is dead. Your hand should always be open. Give alms to the poor, orphans and widows. Alms and prayer go together.

8. Take care and always love the poor, the elderly, the orphans, the sick. Spend time with poor people. Don’t forget to give alms. Always think of what good thing you will do. These are the things that make up the life of a Christian.

9. The Christian who loves all people has a great reward, especially if he forgives those who do him evil. For if we don’t love our neighbour all good works we do will be worthless. They amount to nothing, we will be worthless. Love, my brethren. God requires love from us.

10. Don’t be sad, for we will all depart from here. We are passing travellers. We came here to show our works and to leave.

 

The blessed Elder had a guileless love of the simple people. He was a brilliant pillar a salutary port. He stood amongst those whom the divine Apostle Paul wanted – “blameless and guileless”. He was a spotless luminary in the world having the word of life.

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