Monday, December 28, 2015

When St. Paisios Smacked a Theology Student

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

I once visited Father Paisios with a student of theology who was at a critical stage. He asked him about his studies. The student naively told him about a work of his dealing with the creation of man. At one point he told Father Paisios: "At one point God didn’t know what to do, so He formed Adam and Eve, to pass His time." I saw Father Paisios with lightning speed raise his hand and gave him a heavy smack. The student lost it, became dizzy, he stood briefly with bulging eyes trying to realize what happened, and then he began to cry, sobbing like a small child.

Father Paisios was looking at him, not saying anything, and let him cry. After much weeping, he said: "Blessed one, what is this that you said? Come with me." He took him by the hand, like a mother with a young child, and brought him to the sink and said: "Wash your face." Then he gave him a towel to wipe his face of the tears and brought him back to his seat. He then began with humor, tenderness and much love to indicate his error, and to say that we should not speak about God and His work with indecency. Moreover, he even wrote a graceful dedication in one of his books and gave it to him. Needless to say, I followed this entire scene speechless and ecstatic.

When I would visit him, after asking his advice on issues dealing with my personal life, I would ask him about issues I was facing with my spiritual children. I told him about a child who was very lively and reactive and asked for an opinion on how to treat him. He replied disarmingly: "Do what a mule driver does with the animal. Hold him securely by the reins and sit far away so you don’t get kicked." 

When I recall my memories of that holy figure, I am moved, I shed tears and I pray. May we have his holy prayers. 

Excerpt from the book Μαρτυρίες Προσκυνητῶν – Γέροντας Παϊσιος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης – 1924-1994, σὲλ 43-44, ἐκδόσεις Ἁγιοτοκος Καππαδοκίας, Νικόλαος Α. Ζουρνατζόγλου, ἐπισμηναγὸς Ε.Α.

Prayer Rope οr Design Bracelet, which is it ?

Many of the Orthodox Christians piously wear at their hands a "bracelet" made of wool knots or wooden beads. Fewer however know its true significance. The first thing we should stress is that it is not a piece of jewelry but an actual prayer rope. Its purpose is not just as decoration or to show others we are Orthodox, as many believe, but to be used as an aid in accomplishing our daily prayers.

The use of the prayer ropes is ancient in itself, going back to the origins of Christian monasticism. The prayer rope, creation attributed to Saint Pachomius in the fourth century, was intended as an aid for monks that could not read to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations in their cells. The use of the rope made it possible to pray the Jesus Prayer unceasingly, whether inside the cell or out, in accordance with Saint Paul's injunction to "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17).
The method of tying the prayer rope also goes back to the fathers of monasticism. Saint Anthony the Great it is said to have started by tying a leather rope with a simple knot for every time he prayed Kyrie Eleison ("Lord have Mercy"), but the Devil would come and untie the knots to throw off his count. He then devised a way--inspired by a vision he had of the Theotokos--of tying the knots so that the knots themselves would constantly make the sign of the cross. This is why prayer ropes today are still tied using knots that each contain seven little crosses being tied over and over. The Devil could not untie it because the Devil is vanquished by the Sign of the Cross.
The prayer ropes are not to be confused with worry beads used as a pass-timer or calming device. The prayer ropes are to be used only in prayer. They come in various shapes and sizes but always they have a fixed number of knots or beads. This can be 33 (for the normal "bracelets") or 40, 50, 100, 200, 300, etc. for the longer ropes.

The use of the Jesus prayer with prostrations is sanctioned by our Church, which directs that one can (in cases of need) replace the common worship services with a definite number of prostrations and the Jesus Prayer (which would be difficult to carry out without the rope). Here is a guide we find at the end of some Psalter books.

Instead of the entire Psalter: 6000 Jesus Prayers
One kathisma: 300 prayers; for each stasis: 100
Midnight Service: 600
Matins: 1500
Vespers: 600
Great Compline: 700
Small Compline: 400
An Akathist to the Blessed Theotokos: 500
All those who are zealous for their salvation are invited to this unceasing remembrance of the saving name of Jesus, both laymen and monastics, for the spirit of life in Christ is one and the same for both. Many of our spiritual elders, men of prayer, ascetics and directors in faith and piety, down to the most recent time have recommended the use of the prayer rope to laymen and at times have even given them their own prayer ropes as a blessing.
For this reason we also recommend to the lay people today to properly use the prayer ropes around their hands to pray wherever they are, at home, at work, or driving, with a simple prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me the sinner" or simply "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me".

Demonic Possession , Magic, Spiritualism explained ....


“If a prophet rises among you....”

The Lord said if a prophet (i.e., charlatan) performs signs and wonders, don’t get excited about it (like little children). Don’t get carried away like a leaf on the wind. Don’t believe in other gods. Stay true to the Lord.

The Lord is testing you to see if you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

So it’s possible that mediums and so on can, as a concession by God and with the power of the Evil One, work “wonders.” Here are some of them:

“Communication” with the Dead

“There are some people who are so heartbroken by the loss of a loved one that they go to a medium (i.e., the devil), in order to hear the voice of the departed person, to talk to them, to find some kind of relief. Do they really hear the voice of the dead? Victor H. Ernest, the former medium, gave a blunt answer. The voice they heard isn’t that of their loved one but of a devil. And the poor unfortunate people are left with the illusion that they’re in contact with the soul of the person who passed away!


There are two kinds of telepathy.

A) Reading other people’s thoughts: According to Victor H. Ernest, this happens when a person’s intelligence is working hand in glove with an evil spirit, or when the whole person is actually under the control of an evil spirit. Doreen Irvine, a former prostitute and stripper who was actually crowned Queen of the Witches of Europe, had no difficulty, as a Satanist, in reading other people’s thoughts.

B) Seeing something that’s happening far away in a dream or in a trance: Two people at the séance attended by Victor H. Ernest were able to read the headlines of morning newspapers while they were still being run off at the printer’s, hours before they were delivered to the town. Some, who are even more “advanced”, can see into your house as if with a camera and can find hidden objects, etc.

“Miracles” with Fire

In Kalamata, some years ago, an occultist did the following in front of the audience: He drew lines on his hand with a lighted cigarette without feeling any pain at all.

Something similar happens every year in the village of Agia Eleni in Northern Greece on the day of the feast of Sts Constantine and Helen. A group of people holding icons of the saints dance in their bare feet on burning charcoal without getting burnt.

Victor H. Ernest comments that this is not an illusion. He says that fire-walkers really do walk on burning coals or sometimes on molten lava. Behind firewalking, he maintains, is the total surrender of the practitioner to the forces of darkness.

“Soap Bubbles”

A while ago, in the main street of the town of Patras, in Greece, a magician, with the aid of evil spirits, was doing tricks. Through a variety of invocations, chairs and tables were lifted into the air as if made of paper. A crowd of people rushed to see this devilish spectacle. But by God’s providence a certain priest of the city, Fr A. K., was passing by and he made the sign of the Cross over these flying chairs and tables. They fell to the ground and remained there no matter what the occultist tried to do to move them. The power of the Cross had deadened that of the evil spirits.


No matter how impressive are the “wonders” performed by the agents of Satan (mediums, magicians, etc.), they can’t stand up to the power of the presence of the Cross. They disperse. They burst just as if they were soap bubbles. As indeed they are.

The Devil: Demonic Possession

The best proof of the existence of the devil is a person who is possessed. To anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of the devil, we would say, “Come and see. Come and see the devil alive within a possessed person.”


Possessed people (when the fit is upon them) become unrecognizable: the face becomes distorted, the head twists, the mouth gapes. The tongue is thrust out and the victim howls. It is truly a horrible sight.

In this state, a possessed person is capable of revealing all your “achievements” (i.e., sins). It is not just general and vague, either, but specific and in detail. Without knowing you, they can tell you for example, your name, where you were and what you were doing the previous evening, and who you were with. (It’s worth noting that if you’ve confessed to a priest, the possessed are unable to do this).


- How do they manage to know your secrets?

- Why is it that sins confessed aren’t able to be seen?


During their fit, however, they show other symptoms.

- At the Divine Liturgy they feel as if they’re burning (although when they see fire they don’t).

- Before the Precious Cross, they feel as if they’re being cut to ribbons (although when they see a butcher’s knife they don’t).

- When a priest makes the sign of the Cross over them with the “spear” used in the Divine Liturgy by the priest to cut the Communion Bread, they feel as if their flesh is being pierced. One priest did this and the possessed person howled: “Why are you sticking that spear into my flesh. Why are you pulling at the spear and tearing my flesh?” (Yet the same person was able to bear the touch of a sharp knife without howling).

- When they look upon holy relics, they feel as if they themselves are on fire.


- Why should the possessed fear the Divine Liturgy yet not fear, for example, heart surgery?

- Why do they fear the Precious Cross, which, after all, is only two bits of wood, yet don’t fear a sharp butcher’s knife?

- Why is it that they feel they’re being cut open when the sign of the Cross is made over them?

- Why do they fear the relics of saints such as St Gerasimos, a poverty-stricken little monk who was full of love, yet don’t fear the remains of bloodthirsty Lenin, who slaughtered millions of his fellow-citizens?


All the above show us that there’s something about the possessed person that is very badly disturbed by the Precious Cross, the Divine Liturgy, and the relics of our saints. And this “something” is the same thing that can reveal your secret sins, unless you’ve confessed them.

For us Christians, this “something” is the devil. What about unbelievers? Do they just put it down to parapsychology and be done with it?

There are of course, those scientists who declare that all of this will one day be explained by the goddess of “science”. They’re sure of this. Yet this may not be the case, since it’s still in the future, so why are they so sure? What sort of logic is that? But never mind. If in the future science demonstrates that this something really is the devil, will they then believe it?

The Devil’s Bloodthirstiness

The possessed show just how bloodthirsty the devil is and how cruelly he tortures people. Here are a few instances:

The father whose son was possessed said to Christ: “Every time the devil bothers him, it throws him down, foam comes from his mouth and he gnashes his teeth and becomes catatonic" (Mark 9:18). Some know-it-alls explain this by saying the boy was epileptic. But so was Julius Caesar, who lived before Christ. People in the ancient world were familiar with the difference between epilepsy and possession. They weren’t as “backward” as we like to think.

Another possessed man never stayed at home, but went wandering around the deserts and graveyards. Summer and winter he walked around stark naked (Luke 8:27-39).

Another threw himself into the fire to be burnt and yet another into the water to drown (Matthew 17:16). The two possessed men of the Gaderenes were “exceedingly fierce”. They were so wild and aggressive that no one could approach them They were the bane of people’s lives (Matthew 8:28).

Unnatural Strength

If a criminal is arrested by the police and is handcuffed, then no matter how strong he is, he can’t
break his bonds. His hands are tied, as it were. This isn’t true of people possessed. If they’re handcuffed, for example, even if they’re paralyzed, they’re capable of breaking open handcuffs. St Luke tells us in the Gospel that the Gadarene man who was possessed “was kept bound in chains and fetters, and he broke the bonds.” He was completely immobolized, but despite that he broke the chains!

It wasn’t the man who broke the chains, but the devil who was in the man. This demonstrates quite clearly that the devil has superhuman strength. So, he can work signs and wonders. If he wanted, he could:

- Bring up a hurricane to destroy houses and uproot trees.

- Whip up a storm that would sink all the shipping in the area.

- Drown men and beasts.

- Make an earthquake that would level towns and cities.

But he refrains from this. Why?

Wouldn’t he like to turn everything upside down? Certainly he would, if he could. He’s prevented from doing so by God. If God didn’t keep the mania of the demons in check, we’d see them playing with the world like a ball.

How Does He Fight Us?

The misanthropic devil doesn’t fight us with weapons that can be seen and which make a noise (stones, clubs, etc.), but with silent, invisible ones. ONE of these is THOUGHTS. He puts (bad) thoughts into our minds in order for us to put them into practice. If the bad thoughts don’t take root, then he’ll fight us with supposedly good ones, in order to trap us. Given this, you should be concerned and should ask yourself:

- Is what you have in mind perhaps seed sown by the devil? Is it perhaps misleading you towards seemingly good thoughts?

- Is, perhaps, your philosophy of life and death (which you think is correct), really a set of thoughts from the devil?

- Are even your thoughts on spiritual matters, as an Orthodox Christian, perhaps really thoughts of the devil? Perhaps.

One thing you can be sure of: the devil hasn’t made an exception of YOU.

From the book Confronting the Devil, Magic & the Occult, Orthodox Book Centre, Athens 2003

Archimandrite Vasilios Bakoyiannis