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Σάββατο, 17 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

HOW I WOUND UP IN THE ARIZONA DESERT WITH ELDER EPHRAIM






People of God

My journey began long before I walked down the ramp of the oldest airline company, “Royal Dutch Airlines,” founded in 1919, onto American soil.

Since November 2014 we have been working, with the blessing of Vladyka, then still an archimandrite, Tikhon (Shevukonv), on the small-format booklet series “People of God,” on modern saints and ascetics of piety. Vladyka thought of the project himself and of formatting this supply of fascinating material in the shape of a modern paterikon. Vladyka Tikhon himself edited the first two books in the series, on the great elders Paisios the Athonite and Archimandrite John (Krestiankin). Some of the ascetics, about whom it was proposed to publish, were already glorified as saints, while the canonization of others remained only a question of time and the determination of God. When we worked on the first paterikon on Paisios the Athonite the elder was not yet glorified, but when the book was released from the publishing house, Venerable Paisios was already canonized and as if blessed our subsequent work on the series “People of God.”

I think many are familiar with the spiritual experience of when reading or hearing stories of the saints or ascetics of piety, feeling their invisible presence, their prayerful help. Gathering material for the books, I felt the saints are near. Temptations, internal and external, were intensified: people were angry with me for no special reason; my own passions, which I thought had abated, raised their heads.

Books on the elders Gabriel (Urgebadze), Zosima (Sokur), Nikolai Guryanov, Paul (Gruzdev), and other elders and saints have been published—more than twenty books.

We also prepared a book on the great Elder Joseph the Hesychast for publication in this “People of God” series. Having great love for this elder, with fervent zeal I gathered material on a few of his spiritual children who themselves became elders: Hieroschemamonk Ephraim of Katounakia, Elder Arsenios the Hesychast and Cave-dweller and the still living and thriving Archimandrite Ephraim (Moraitis) of Philotheou.


Elder Ephraim was chosen as the abbot of Philotheou on Mt. Athos in 1973 and in short order revived the ascetic monastic life in the monastery, after which the Kinot of the Holy Mountain blessed him to expand and fill three other Athonite monasteries with those seeking the monastic life: Xeropotamou, Konstamonitou, and Karakallou. These monasteries are still under Archimandrite Ephraim’s spiritual guidance, as are also a number of men’s and women’s monasteries in Greece and North America.
In 1960 the Greek Orthodox priest and theologian Archpriest John Romanides wrote: “The Holy Mountain should immediately send their representatives to America and found there monastic habitations, otherwise Orthodoxy on the American continent awaits its inevitable destruction.”


A few years later these prophetic words were embodied in life by the efforts of just one person. Monasteries of Elder Ephraim appeared in many regions of America and Canada: New York, Texas, Florida, Washington, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, Michigan, Montreal, and Toronto. Chief among them is the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Arizona, and therefore now the elder is often known as Ephraim of Arizona.


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