FOREWORD BY METROPOLITAN JOEL OF EDESSA, PELLA AND ALMOPIA
“Wondrous is God in his saints!” 1 No one glorifies our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as do His saints. They, with their holy and supernatural life, their unfailing love, their humility, and inexhaustible grace, reveal to the whole world Who is the only true God and what life, peace, hope, humility, and meekness; of joy, but also of compassion for our misfortunes; of ineffable strength and boundless wisdom. God is omnipotent but He does not impose Himself forcefully on man. He humbly stands beside him, ready to help him and deliver him, unharmed from every trial and affliction, when man really wants God’s help. Our all-good God does this for us either directly or, very often, indirectly, through His saints.
A great saint of our days, through whom our Lord Jesus Christ was glorified, and who helped a great many people, is undoubtedly the renowned Elder Paisios the Athonite who was canonized by our Church this very year. The renown of St. Paisios has spread to the ends of the world, and rightly so because with his love, which flowed inexhaustibly from the pure fountain of the Holy Spirit, Who dwelt permanently within him, he embraced all people; not only those living in our country of Greece, but also the reposed. He has helped and still helps countless people, guiding them to repentance and the true Faith, curing them miraculously from their illnesses, saving them from difficulties, temptations deluded ideas and mistaken paths, comforting them with the divine grace of the Holy Spirit, which truly gives rest to man and strengthens him, and leads him to the knowledge of the truth2 and his joyful return to the Heavenly Father.
St. Paisios offered this aid to his fellow men, not only during the short time he spent in this all too temporary life, but especially after his blessed repose. “For,” as stated by St. Gregory the Theologian, “all who have lived according to God still live unto God, though they have departed hence.” 3 That is to say, all those that have lived in accordance with God’s will since they are united with God, are always alive, even when they leave this world. St. Paisios once wrote about his own saint, Arsenius the Cappadocian, “It is natural, I think, for him to help more now, than when he was living on earth, because now he is close to the Heavenly Father, and as His child, with the boldness he had acquired before, having access to unfading grace, he can impart this immediately to suffering people, to help them and give them the appropriate cure… Now, Hadjifendis (St. Arsenius)4 doesn’t need to run on his feet anymore, panting for breath, to reach the sick… but he can fly like an angel from one corner of the world to another, to the rescue of all the faithful who reverently ask for his help.”5 These words apply with equal force to St. Paisios himself.
With similar ease St. Paisios travelled to the extreme north in 2005, eleven years after his repose, to an former soviet state and provided help in a unique and wondrous way to the author of the present book, who was going through an unexpected and horrifying ordeal. The saint found him in the hellish conditions of the prisons of this foreign land, where he was unjustly being held on false accusations. He comforted him, and he befriended and accompanied him during his entire sojourn there, until the author’s safe return to Cyprus, his fatherland, where he could finally breathe the fresh air of freedom.
Most importantly, the saint strengthened and consolidated his faith; he taught him the meaning and practice of prayer and Christian spiritual life; and he raised him from the spiritual death, in which he had found himself before his ordeal, to life in Jesus Christ. To put it briefly, in this book, which you now hold in your hands, the author describes how he himself through St. Paisios, was buried with Chriest and resurrected with Him, in the prisons of a faraway land of the North, so that he now rejoices in repentance as a living member of the Church.
I sincerely congratulate the author for his decision to confess publicly, by means of this book, his adventurous return to Christ through the wondrous intervention of the blessed St. Paisios. I believe that the book will be spiritually beneficial for many readers, strengthening and consolidating their Orthodox Faith, whilst glorifying the One Triune God, and honouring His admirable servant, the great saint of our days, St. Paisios the Athonite.
† JOEL, Metropolitan of Edessa, Pella and Almopia
1 Ps. 67:36 LXX (Ps. 68:35). The Psalter According to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Massachusetts, 1987.
2 Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4.
3 Eulogy on St. Athanasius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria.
4 The title Hadjifendis (from the word hadji, meaning “pilgrim”, and effendi, an honorary title, meaning “master” or “sir”), refers to the fact that St. Arsenius made several pilgrimages to the Holy Land -and that on foot, all the way from Cappadocia, to venerate the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places.
5 Saint Arsenius the Cappadocian, Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti, near Thessalonika, Greece.