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A MUST READ! St. Paisios of Mt. Athos on the Blasphemous Treatment of Holy Things, God's Wrath, and Trusting God

"Even if one has some phobia about getting sick, Christ will help if one makes the sign of the Cross with faith." - St. Paisios

“Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” - Ezekiel 22:26

“You see people abusing and reviling holy and sacred things and others not saying anything. Being meek on such an occasion is demonic.” - St. Paisios the Athonite [1]

“For whatsoever the Holy Spirit has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.” - St. Cyril of Jerusalem [2]

“As God is Life, and diseases and maladies are a deviation from life, therefore the touch alone of the first Source of Life [God] cures us of them. This is why the Savior, Who is the Life of all, cured and still cures men by His touch alone. The same may be said of the change in any contagious objects — at a single sign or single word of the Creator and Founder of everything, they become harmless (air, water, plants and animals).” - St. John of Kronstadt [3]

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The following is a conversation between St. Paisios the Athonite and one of his spiritual children concerning the fear of germs and the improper treatment of Holy Things. The Elder notes that demonically-influenced fear - rather than trusting in the grace of God - not only can lead to blasphemous innovations in the Church, such as treating Holy Things as though they can be conduits of disease - a demonic delusion indeed! - but doing so can also incite the wrath of God upon oneself, which is given as a means to inspire the individual to repent and cease from committing further sacrilege. The Orthodox Christian reader will find this narrative to be very timely and should take it into serious consideration now more than ever. Let us be attentive!

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(St. Paisios): “I remember also at the Cenobium we had a monk who as a layman had been a police captain. They made him a reader because he was educated. He had been in the monastery for years yet still disgusted by many things. He would not even touch a doorknob! He would try to open a door with his foot, or try to turn the knob with his elbow and then clean his sleeve with alcohol. He would even enter the door of the Church with his foot. In his old age, God permitted that his feet develop gangrene, especially the one he used to open the door. I was serving as a nursing aide when he first came to the monastery’s hospital with his foot all bandaged up. The nursing orderly told me to untie it while he went to get some bandages. When I untied it, I gasped. It was covered with little worms. “Go down to the sea to wash it and get rid of the worms, and come to have me change the bandages.” I was at a loss seeing the condition of his foot, the degree of his punishment. The nursing orderly asked me, “Do you know the cause of his affliction?” “Yes, it’s because he opens the door with his foot,” I told him."

(Spiritual Child): "And, Geronda, did he continue to open the door with his foot?"

(St. Paisios): "Yes, with his foot! And he had grown old as a monk."

(Spiritual Child): "Didn’t he understand in the end?"

(St. Paisios): "I don’t know. After that, I went to the Monastery Stomion in Konista. I don’t know how he died. But there in the Cenobium on Mount Athos some of the younger monks would eat the food left on the plates of the older monks as a blessing. They would gather the leftovers because they had been blessed. Others would kiss the doorknob touched by the Elders, while the monk who was disgusted by everything would barely touch his moustache to the Holy Icons when he bowed to reverence them. One can only imagine what his poor moustache had to endure with the rubbing alcohol!"

(Spiritual Child): "Geronda, when something like this happens with sacred things, is it not irreverence?"

(St. Paisios): "Of course; this is how things start, and then move on to further developments. This same monk reached the point of not kissing the Icons because he feared that the monks who reverenced them before him had some illness!"

(Spiritual Child): "In other words, if one is to avoid being disgusted, he must not be fussy or pay any attention to such things?"

(St. Paisios): "People do not see what trash is mixed into the foods they put in their mouth! Even if one has some phobia about getting sick, Christ will help if one makes the sign of the Cross with faith. Many people who have various illnesses come by my Kalyvi. Some simple folk who come will cross themselves when they pick up the tin cup I have there to drink some water. Others who are afraid do not touch it. Someone who held an important position in a company recently came to see me. He is so afraid of germs that he has bleached his hands white from frequent washings with disinfectant alcohol. He will even rub the steering wheel of his automobile with alcohol. I felt sorry for him. Do you know what it is like to hold such an important position and to be like that? I gave him some loukoumi, and he did not take it because I had touched it. But even if it had still been in the box, he would not have taken it because he would be thinking that someone else must have placed it in the box with his hands in the first place. I took the loukoumi and rubbed it on his shoe and ate it. I did a number of things like that in order to help him free himself, even a little, from his feeling of disgust. Today a young woman came here who was a hypochondriac. She would not receive a blessing when she entered because she was afraid of catching germs. And when she was leaving, after all I had said to help her, she still would not receive a blessing. “I won't kiss your hand, Geronda, because I’m afraid of catching germs,” she told me. What can you say? Such people make themselves miserable.” [4]

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Sources:

[1] St. Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels II: Spiritual Awakening, trans. Fr. Peter Chamberas (Thessaloniki, Greece: Holy Monastery of John the Theologian, 2008), 63.

[2] St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “Catechetical Lecture 23,” newadvent.org, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310123.htm.

[3] Excerpted from My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt as cited in “Saint John Of Kronstadt-On Sickness,” tokandylaki.blogspot.com, KANDYLAKI: Saint John Of Kronstadt-On Sickness (tokandylaki.blogspot.com).

[4] St. Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle, trans. Fr. Peter Chamberas (Thessaloniki, Greece: Holy Monastery of John the Theologian, 2010), 51-53.

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A pilgrim receiving with faith a blessing from St. Paisios the Athonite by kissing his hand. An interesting fact to note is that the Elder, like many Saints, taught that the Priest's hands are not his own but are in fact Christ's hands. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas also says, Christ's hands are pure and bestow life-giving grace. That said, we wonder on what Biblical and/or Patristic basis some contend that Christ could communicate disease to believers through His Priests' hands, or rather in fact, His own.

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