Saturday, August 20, 2022

Anecdotes about Saint Joseph the Hesychast.
Hieromonk Ephraim, St. Nilus Skete, Alaska.


Saint Joseph the hesychast.
(painted by Camille Rahal).
    One night when Fr. Anatolios [i.e., Fr. Arsenios] was still in Jerusalem, he had a dream that a heavenly messenger brought him a letter supposedly from his mother, but it was really from the Panagia. The letter said: "My child, if you want to be saved, come to my garden at the Holy Mountain."

Years would pass before Fr. Arsenios was overshadowed by grace. It took so long because he first had to wipe out the passions stemming from his bad habits. Then one night after eight years, Fr. Arsenios fell at Geronda's feet with tears saying, "Oh, Geronda! What was that that you gave me tonight through your prayers? I was filled with light, inside and outside. Christ came and smiled at me." Geronda also wept for joy hearing this and said, "Yes, that is it, Arsenios."


Only once in his life did Elder Joseph not wake up for his vigil. One day Papa-Ananias said to him, "Geronda, is there anyone else in the entire Holy Mountain who mindfully and seriously practices hesychasm with praxis and theoria? I doubt it. You are the only one.

He was momentarily enticed by this compliment, and his face looked as if he was in a daze. But a second later he regained his senses and exclaimed, "Get behind me, Satan!" and punched himself on the thigh with all his might. "Forgive me, my God!" As a "penance" for him, God allowed him to be so sleepy the following night that he slept right through his vigil until late in the morning. To make up for not doing his prayer rule that night, he did it during the day instead of working.

After experiencing how easy it is to accept vainglorious thoughts and seeing how much damage they do, he later wrote to someone: "Be careful ... not to compliment one another in each other's presence, for if compliments harm the perfect, how much more harmful they will be to you who are still weak."


Saint Joseph with Saint Ephrem of Katounakia.

Sometimes after having a grace-filled vigil, Elder Joseph would also sigh and then add jovially in an improvised song, "But what's in store for me now!"

"What do you mean, Geronda?" Papa-Ephraim of Katounakia asked.

"There is a law in the spiritual life: If you suddenly experience a divine outpouring of grace when you are in a regular spiritual condition-that is, neither particularly high or low-this means that a temptation is coming with intensity proportional to the amount of grace you received. God does not give His loukoumia for free; you pay dearly for them. Since there was no battle beforehand, this divine caress was not to reward my efforts but to warn me of an upcoming temptation."

"But Geronda, you have attained theosis. How can anything bad be in store for you?" "You'll see," Geronda replied.

Two days later, Papa-Ephraim came back to serve liturgy, and Geronda appeared to be in such a good mood that he was even telling jokes-but deep down he was going through hell. When he wanted to, he could make you split your side laughing.

Seeing Geronda so happy, Papa-Ephraim said to him, "What's in store for you? Joy and blessings! "

Then Geronda said to him, "Come here," and he took him aside so that the others wouldn't hear him. "Now I understand the pain that souls possessed with demons feel. I see the enemy of our souls over there watching to see if his poisoned darts are striking their target. I'm not going to give that horned monster the pleasure of seeing me troubled and in pain."


Sometimes I [Elder Ephraim] misunderstood Geronda in humorous ways. To protect me from speaking with visiting laymen, he told me when I was a novice, "Whenever you see a layman, disappear; run away." A little while later one day Geronda saw me drenched with sweat. "My child, what happened?" he asked with concern.

"Geronda," I replied, still gasping for breath, "I saw a layman coming and ran away to avoid him! I nearly had a heart attack running up those steep paths!"

"Oh, not like that, my child! It's only a layman; he's not a demon!"


Saint Joseph the Hesychast
as a young monk.

        At New Skete, Elder Joseph missed the special grace he used to receive when he had more deprivations. He said: "When I lived at St. Basil's Skete, fresh fish was a rare luxury, whereas here I can have it all the time. But now that I have material comforts, God does not give me spiritual comforts with the same intensity as at St. Basil's. Now I approach the palace of the King and knock on the gate, but it does not open. But back then, not only did the gate open, but I also entered and spoke with the King."


Near the end of Elder Joseph's life when the pain of his illness became intense, instead of groaning he would make a pleasant sound as if he were being soothed. Papa-Ephraim of Katounakia was perplexed when he heard this and asked, "What's going on, Geronda? Are you feeling pain or pleasure?"

"I am in pain, my child," he answered. "But I am also delighted. God is so good! He sent me these pains in order to reward me with abundant grace in the life to come."

The same day Geronda reposed, we informed Sister Efpraxia at Ouranopolis. She was holding the telegram and drenching it with her tears, when suddenly the door opened and Geronda entered her room! He appeared exactly as she had known him, with the only difference being that he was transparent. It was as if he were crystal, and she could see things behind him. He was beaming and joyous, and his body cast no shadow. Astonished, she rubbed her eyes and said to him, "Geronda! Geronda! It says here that you died."

"Indeed, my child, I did die. But as you can see, I am alive."

Then she dove forward to embrace him, but he disappeared and she clasped only the air. This kind of appearance and dialogue are a sign of his holiness, especially considering that only five hours had passed since his repose.




Hieromonk Ephraim, St. Nilus Skete, Alaska 11/15/2019