Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (Greek: Ὃσιος Παΐσιος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης), born Arsenios Eznepidis (1924–1994), was a well-known Eastern Orthodoxascetic from Mount Athos, who originated from Pharasa, Cappadocia. He was respected for his spiritual guidance and ascetic life and many people worldwide highly venerate Elder Paisios, especially in Greece and in Russia.
On 25 July [O.S. 12 July] 1924, Arsenios Eznepidis was born in Pharasa (Çamlıca), Cappadocia, shortly before the population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Arsenios' name was given to him by St. Arsenios the Cappadocian, who baptised him, naming the child for himself and foretelling Arsenios' monastic future. After the exchange, the Eznepidis family settled in Konitsa, Epirus. Arsenios grew up here, and after intermediate public school, he learned carpentry.
Arsenios, having been a novice for four years, was tonsured a Rassophoremonk on 27 March, 1954, and was given the name Averkios.
Soon after, Fr. Averkios went to the (then) idiorrhythmic brotherhood of Philotheou monastery, where his uncle was a monk. While there, he was in obedience to Elder Symeon. On March 12, 1957, Elder Symeon tonsured Fr. Averkios to the Small Schema, giving him the name Paisios, in honour of the indefatigable Metropolitan of Caesarea, Paisios II, whose native village was Pharasa.
1958: Fr. Paisios was asked to spend time in his home village to support the faithful against Protestantism.
1962: Fr. Paisios went to Saint Catherine's Monastery on Sinai.
1964: On his return to Mount Athos, Fr. Paisios took up residence at the Skete of Iviron, then at Katounakia. His failing health may have led him to leave Katounakia.
1966: Fr. Paisios had an operation, and part of his lungs were removed. During this time, his friendship with the sisterhood of Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, began. Elder Paisios would place the relics of St Arsenios the Cappadocian in this monastery.
1979: Elder Paisios moved to Panagouda, a hermitage belonging to Koutloumousiou Monastery. It was here that his renown grew. Between prayer and assisting his visitors, he only rested for two or three hours each night.
1993 Oct 5: Elder Paisios left Mount Athos for medical attention. Despite his wish to be gone only a few days, he was diagnosed with cancer requiring immediate surgery, and after recovery, he was transferred to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti.
Despite wishing to return to Mount Athos, his health did not allow it.
1994 Jul 12: Having received Holy Communion the previous day, Elder Paisios reposed. He was buried at the Monastery in Souroti, next to the church of St Arsenios the Cappadocian.
In 1958 Elder Paisios was asked to spend some time in and around his home village so as to support the faithful against the proselytism of Protestant groups. He greatly encouraged the faithful there, helping many people. Afterwards, in 1962, he left to visit Saint Catherine's Monastery on Sinai where he stayed for two years. During this time he became beloved of the Bedouins who benefited from his presence both spiritually as well as materially as the Elder used the money he received from the sale of his carved wooden handicraft to buy the Bedouins food.
On his return to Mt. Athos in 1964 Elder Paisios took up residence at the Skete of Iviron before moving to Katounakia at the southernmost tip of Mt. Athos for a short stay in the wilderness there. The Elder's failing health may have been part of the reason for his departure from there. In 1966 he had an operation removing part of his lungs. It was during this time of hospitalization that his long friendship with the then young sisterhood of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, just outside of Thessaloniki, began. During his operation he needed a large amount of blood and a group of novices from the monastery donated blood to save him.
A number of controversial political statements and prophecies have been credited to Elder Paisos. These include the prediction that a war with Turkey will lead to a restoration of a Greater Greece that includes Albania, Macedonia, and Byzantium (Istanbul), and the mass conversion of Turks from Islam to Orthodox Christianity. Many have compared Paisios to Nostradamus.
On 21 September 2012, a Greek citizen was arrested on charges of malicious blasphemy and offense of religion for the creation of a satirical Facebook page called "Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian". The page, which has since been taken down, satirised the commercial exploitation of Paisios's legacy. The matter was raised by a member of parliament belonging to Golden Dawn.
The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical PatriarchatecanonizedElder Paisios on 13 January 2015.[note 3] Paisios' sainthood happened quickly according to church standards, and was the second-fastest sainthood in recent church history. On Sunday January 17, 2015 many faithful from across the Balkans went on pilgrimage to the monastery in Souroti, which St. Paisios helped found in 1967, culminating five nights of continuous prayers. Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, abbot of St. Catherine's Orthodox Monastery in Egypt's Sinai peninsula since 1973, was also present at the ceremonies.[note 4]
On Sunday January 25, 2015 the first church to be dedicated to Saint Paisios the Athonite was consecrated in central Limassol, Cyprus, in the neighbourhood of Ekali, across from Tsirion Stadium. The sacred service began at 6pm with the reception of the holy relics of Hieromartyr Heraclides, Bishop of Tamassos (September 17), of Saint Cosmas of Mount Athos,[note 5] and of the New Martyr George of Cyprus (April 23). These were placed respectively in the three altars of the new church, which was thus dedicated to Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia (November 10), to Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (July 12), and to the holy Martyrs Barachisius and Jonah (March 29), given that the church in Pharasa, Cappadocia, which was Saint Arsenios' and Saint Paisios' village and place of birth was dedicated in honour of the Martyrs Barachisius and Jonah.
Translated into English
Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, translated into English and published in 1989 and 2001 by Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian", Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Elder Hadji-Georgis the Athonite, translated into English and published in 1996 by Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian", Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, translated into English and published in 1999 by Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian", Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Epistles, by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, translated into English and published in Feb 2002 by Holy Monastery "Evangelist John the Theologian", Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece; distributed in the U.S.A. by St. Herman of Alaska Monastery.
^"Pharasa is on the road connecting Kaisareia (Kayseri) with Adana, while on the side of Ala Dağ there were some narrow crossings leading to Niğde. Therefore, although Pharasa was isolated from the regional urban centres, it was connected by road with most of them."
^"It was eleven in the morning on Tuesday, July 12, 1994 – the date according to the Old Calendar was June 29, the memory of Saints Peter and Paul, first among the Apostles. He was laid to rest behind the church of Saint Arsenios."
^"The Holy and Sacred Synod convened today, Tuesday, January 13, 2015, with His All-Holiness presiding for its regular monthly meeting, for the purpose of examining various items on its agenda. During this session, the Holy and Sacred Synod: a) unanimously accepted the proposal of the Canonical Committee to incorporate the monk Paisios of Mt. Athos into the registry of the Saints of the Orthodox Church..."
^"Saint Paisios spent two years with us (at St. Catherine's)...We are praying for God's and St. Paisios' enlightenment, so that Greece may be saved," he said.
^Bishop Alexander (Mileant), Ed.. An introduction to the life and counsels of Elder Paisios the New of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Damascene. Missionary Leaflet EA38, Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission, La Canada, Ca.
Hieromonk Isaac. Elder Paisios of Mount Athos. Transl. Hieromonk Alexis (Trader) PhD, and Fr. Peter Heers. Ed. by Hieromonk Alexis (Trader) PhD, Fr. Evdokimos (Goranitis) and Philip Navarro. Holy Mountain of "Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian", Chalkidiki, Greece, 2012. ISBN 978-960-89764-3-6