St. Paisios was born in Cappadocia in 1924, coincidentally that’s the year the Republic of Turkey was founded! The Turks invaded this part of Greece. The Greeks fought ferociously and in fact won the first stage of the war. The Turks returned with more reinforcements and were victorious. The Greeks were allowed to peacefully leave in what was called the Great Exchange of population. So at the age of one, Arsenio, as he was baptized, had to leave his homeland.
He was always a very prayerful child and stated from an early age that he wanted to be a monk.
When Civil war broke out in Greece, Arsenio was conscripted into service. He was not one to shirk his civic duty but he prayed to the Mother of God (Theotokos) that he would never be allowed to kill anyone. Our Lady obliged. He was assigned as the company signalman. For the next 5 years he carried a radio on his back, but not a rifle!
Ever wonder how to be Christian in some of the more difficult and worldly situations of your life? Yet Christ told us we must be “in the world but not of the world.” Arsenio was in the most unholy of situations, a soldier in the midst of a war. Let’s see how he handled it.
He continued his life of prayer and sacrifice, while growing in spiritual strength. When others made mistakes, he allowed the sergeant to blame him. He never said a word in his defense. Yet his Sergeant always gave the more difficult missions to him knowing that he was so trustworthy. Perhaps the Sergeant suspected what he was doing.
Once his company was surrounded by 1600 Rebels in an area called Killer Ridge. There was no way out! Arsenio gave up on the frantic radio calls for help. He stood up and moved out into the open. There in the midst of bullets, he began praying. His eyes and hands lifted towards heaven. His fellow soldiers were amazed. Several said,” He’s gone for sure now.” “That’s the end of him”. Arsenio’s weapon of choice was prayer. He chose wisely. Shortly airplanes arrived! They disrupted and scattered the rebels, opening up the road for them to escape.
Some of the others questioned him,” What were you doing out there? Didn’t you hear the order to fall back?” Calmly, Arsenio replied,” I was praying! When you pray you communicate with God, you get more help than just another rifle!” In case you doubt the danger he was in; one bullet knocked off his cap and parted his hair, shaving it off and yet drawing not a drop of blood! (God had other plans, don’t you know?)
In another instance, the company was under heavy attack and was again ordered to retreat. The man who carried the battery and parts for the radio, had fallen in the snow.
[In most of the pictures I viewed, they always seem half buried in snow! I never knew it snowed that much in Greece! Wonder how they grow all those olives?]
When Arsenio saw that he had fallen and was unable to get up, he put down his radio and ran back to get him; amid shouts of “Leave him!” Arsenio wrapped the man’s arms around his neck and carried him to safety on his back! When the man asked Arsenio why he had done this; the reply he received was, “Don’t you know we are brothers?” “Brothers? How?”, he queried. “We have the same kind of hands!” This was one of Arsenio’s first prophecies! Years later, this man decided to become a monk. Indeed, they became brothers with praying hands!
The men who served with him were given a constant example of faith not just what they heard about in Church or were taught at their mother’s knee but a real everyday living faith in God and the power of prayer!
After he was released from his military duty he went about seeking his true vocation to be a monk. Arsenio, who was given the religious name of Paisios, spent the rest of his life in prayer, sacrifice and austerity on Mount Athos. He was considered to be very holy and so he received many visitors. People came constantly for his advice. He saw them all though he much preferred silence.
St. Paisios’ life shows him to be an authentic prophet.
In the next article I will explore how the prophecies of St. Paisios apply to the current events, and what the future may hold for Greece and Turkey.