Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont, PA
 

Elder Paisios
of the Holy Mountain
Part One

On 25 July 1924, Arsenios Eznepidis was born in Farasa, Cappadocia1, shortly before the population exchange between Greece and Turkey2. His father, Prodromos, was the mayor of Farasa.

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain On August 7, 1924, a week before the big emigration from Farasa (Turkey) to Greece, St. Arsenios decided to have all the children baptized including Prodromos' son. The boy was supposed to be named Christos, after his grandfather, according to the old Greek custom. However, Fr. Arsenios refused to name him so, as he wished to give him his own name. So, Arsenios' name was given to him by St. Arsenios the Cappadocian3, who baptised him, named the child for himself and foretold and predicted the Elder's calling who, since his early childhood, was chosen to become a receptacle of the Holy Spirit.

Prodromos felt a deep devotion and love for Father Arsenios, the spiritual father of the family; he was recently canonized by the Church because of the numerous miracles he had worked, even before his death. Impressed by St. Arsenios' miraculous life, Prodromos kept a notebook where he recorded the saint's miracles, which he either heard, or experienced himself, for the benefit of both his children and his own. The Elder's mother was called Eulambia and he had nine brothers and sisters altogether.

On September 14, 1924, the day of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, after many hardships, the immigrants from Farasa finally reached the harbor of Piraeus, Greece. They stayed in Piraeus for three weeks and then went to the island of Corfu, where they temporarily settled down at a place called Kastro. Saint Arsenios, as he himself had predicted, lived on the island for just forty days. On November 10, in the age of eighty, he fell asleep leaving behind, as a worthy successor and heir of his spiritual wealth, young Arsenios, later to be called Elder Paisios.

Young Arsenios and his family spent a year and a half on the island of Corfu and then moved to a village near Egoumenitsa (Northeastern Greece). Their final destination was the town of Konitsa in Epirus. Young Arsenios' heart and mind were totally devoted to Christ and the Virgin Mary and his strong desire to become a monk dominated his life. He loved to walk in the woods and pray all day long holding a wooden cross he himself had made.

After completing elementary education, he worked as a carpenter, in Konitsa, until the time of his military service. As a man of prayer, he was also a very sensitive and loving person. When someone passed away and he was assigned to make the coffin, he never accepted money from the relatives. In doing so, he was contributing, in his own way, in easing their pain and sorrow.

In 1945, he was drafted in the army, where he was distinguished for his ethos and bravery. He always wanted to be in the front line, or take part in the most dangerous operations, as he wished to put his own life into danger first. He was especially concerned about his fellow soldiers who were married and had children. He used to tell them: "You have your wife and children waiting for you, whereas I have no one; I am free." Many times, he nearly lost his life in order to save someone else's.

For the most part of his military service, Arsenios served as a radio operator in the department of communications. In 1949, he was discharged from the army. While concerned about his compatriots who had family, he didn't worry for himself because he was single and had no children. He was noted for his bravery, self-sacrifice and moral righteousness. After the civil war ended, he wanted to enter a monastic life, but had to consider his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. By 1950, he had provided for his sisters' future and was free to begin his monastic vocation.

References:

Part Two


1 Cappadocia
2 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
3 St. Arsenios The Cappadocian


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