Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Elder Cleopa's mother- Eldress Agatha

Eldress Agatha Ilie (1876 - 1968), formerly known as Maria before being tonsured a nun, was the mother according to the flesh of one of the greatest hesychasts of modern Romania - Elder Cleopa Ilie.

She was from Soulitsa in the district of Botosani. Her husband was named Alexander, who was a cow merchant for a living. God blessed them with ten children. From a young age this pious couple taught their children to love the ecclesiastical services, to pray, and to flee temptations in their personal lives. Nearby their village was the Kozantsea-Botosani Skete, where Fr. Paisios Olarou struggled, who became the spiritual father of Elder Cleopa as well as the entire family. This is where the children of this large family would go to pray and to listen to the teachings of Elder Paisios, as well as help graze the animals of the Skete.

But God, Who alone is All-Good, and Whose ways are beyond comprehension, allowed this large pious family to suffer many bitter trials. One by one each child was taken from this life, much like the children of Job. This occurred between 1915 and 1935, by the will of God. John died at the age of 16. After a year his sister Porphyria died at the age of 18. After two years the 26 year old Maria died. Their mother Maria was in deep sorrow constantly for the loss of her children. She would go to the Skete and Elder Paisios would console her saying that she was sending angels to heaven. Her sorrow would continue after a few years when Basil and George left to become monks at Sihastria Monastery, and in 1931 she was informed that Basil had died as well. George, who had taken the name Gerasimos, would die two years later. One year later another terrible loss came upon Maria, when her daughter Katherine died; she was only 20 years old and was a novice at Agapia Monastery. Eight children had died at this point, and two were left for her consolation. Every time a child was taken from her, Fr. Paisios would say: "Your children are chanting to God like angels, Maria. There you will meet again." In 1949 Maria went to inform Fr. Paisios that her ninth child died, named Michael. He told her: "Your nine children have gone to the Lord and received nine martyric crowns." Shortly after this her husband, Alexander, died. Her last surviving child, Constantine, had already gone to become a novice at Sihastria Monastery in 1936, and came to be known as Cleopas upon his tonsure. Cleopa was urging his mother at this point to become a nun, and Fr. Paisios informed her: "Go Maria, you also become a monastic and pray for the living and the dead."

In the winter of 1946 Maria went to join a convent, at the age of 70, after first visiting Sihastria Monastery to venerate the tombs of her two sons. From there she went by carriage to the Monastery of Old Agapia, where she stayed for good. There she took the name Agatha and lived for another 22 years. All her life she was illiterate and could not read books or the Divine Services. What characterized her was her goodness and innocence of soul. Her soul was child-like, without evil, without pride, without bad thoughts in her mind. Whatever somebody told her, she believed, and whatever she was asked to do, she did with obedience, because she loved everybody and had no discrimination. She spoke with everyone, and cried for the misfortune and pain of all people.

When she was asked what obedience she had at the Monastery, she would respond: "I cut wood with the saw, I take care of the flowers, and I help with the cooking." Another job she had was to go into the woods all day to gather sticks for the kitchen, the whole time praying while she worked, and she would return before sunset.

One year before her repose, she ceased altogether speaking of her children. If a nun happened to ask Sister Agatha about her children, she would groan a little bit, but then be happy as a child, saying: "How good are these sisters. They care for me like a mother. Behold, here I am alone. Abbess Olympia also reposed. I have remained alone."

Her only consolation now was the Church and the Sisters who took care of her in her cell. She lived the 22 years of her monastic life with humility, prayer, silence, love, quietude, and spiritual prayer.

Old Agapia Monastery was a haven for Eldress Agatha. Though she sent all but one of her children to heaven before her own repose, through prayer she was ever near them together with all the saints through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Monastery she found comfort and peace of soul. In the summer of 1968 Eldress Agatha began to feel weak. She only had the strength to walk to the balcony of her cell to catch some warmth from the rays of the sun. For a few days she was bedridden. "Eldress Agatha, won't you eat some food? Here are a few apples," said the nuns who took care of her. To this she responded: "Apples I will eat in Paradise, where I am going soon." On 15 September 1968, at the age of 92, her soul went to Paradise, after saying farewell to the entire Sisterhood of the Monastery.

Elder Cleopas

Πατέρες καὶ πατερικὴ Ὀρθοδοξία - Μεταλληνός Γεώργιος (Πρεσβύτερος)

«ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας...»

Ὅταν ὁ «ἄρχων τῶν Ἰουδαίων» Νικόδημος ἐπισκέφθηκε νύκτα τὸν Χριστό, Ἐκεῖνος τοῦ μίλησε γιὰ μία γέννηση πέρα ἀπὸ τὴν σωματικὴ - βιολογική. Τοῦ ἀπεκάλυψε τὴν πνευματικὴ ἀναγέννηση τοῦ πιστοῦ «ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος», μὲ τὴν ὁποία εἰσέρχεται κανεὶς στὴ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ. Γι’ αὐτὴν τὴν γέννηση μιλεῖ σήμερα καὶ ὁ Ἀπ. Παῦλος, ὑπογραμμίζοντας τὴν παρουσία ὡρισμένων προσώπων στὸ Σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ποὺ μὲ τὴ Χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀξιώνονται νὰ γίνουν οἱ κατ’ ἄνθρωπον συντελεστές της. Καὶ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτὰ εἶναι οἱ Πατέρες, ἕνα μέγεθος οὐσιαστικότατο στὴ ζωὴ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.

Πατέρες – Παιδαγωγοὶ

Ὁ Παῦλος κάνει διάκριση ἀνάμεσα σὲ Πατέρες καὶ Παιδαγωγοὺς - Διδασκάλους τῶν πιστῶν.....

Οἱ πρῶτοι εἶναι λίγοι σὲ σύγκριση μὲ τοὺς δευτέρους. Οἱ Πατέρες εἶναι ἐκεῖνοι, ποὺ γεννοῦν τέκνα πνευματικά. οἱ Παιδαγωγοὶ συντελοῦν στὴν περαιτέρω ἀνάπτυξη καὶ καλλιέργειά τους. Οἱ Πατέρες φέρνουν στὴν πνευματικὴ ὕπαρξη· οἱ Παιδαγωγοὶ συμπληρώνουν τὸ ἔργο ἐκείνων μὲ τὴν «ἐποικοδομὴ» τους. Ὅταν λέγει αὐτὰ ὁ Παῦλος, ἔχει ὑπόψη του τὸν ἴδιο τὸν ἑαυτό του. Τὸ λέγει, ἄλλωστε, καθαρὰ στοὺς Κορινθίους, ὅτι εἶναι ὁ πνευματικός τους πατέρας. Γι’ αὐτὸ μπορεῖ ἁπτὰ καὶ συγκεκριμένα νὰ περιγράψει τὸ ἔργο του σ’ αὐτούς, σ’ ἀντιδιαστολὴ μὲ τὸ ἔργο τῶν πολλῶν διδασκάλων ποὺ εἶχαν. Αὐτὸς «ἐφύτευσε», ἐνῶ ὁ Ἀπολλώς -μετὰ ἀπ’ αὐτὸν- μόνο «ἐπότισε». Αὐτὸς «ἔθηκε θεμέλιον»· ὅσοι ἦλθαν μετὰ ἀπ’ αὐτὸν ἁπλῶς «ἐποικοδόμησαν». (Α’ Κόρ. γ’ 6, 10).

Ὑπάρχει μία ἀναλογία ἀνάμεσα στοὺς πνευματικοὺς καὶ τοὺς σαρκικοὺς πατέρες. Εἶναι καὶ οἱ δύο μοναδικοὶ καὶ ἀναντικατάστατοι. Γιατί καὶ οἱ δύο ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ὕπαρξη, βιολογικὴ ἢ πνευματική. Καὶ αὐτὸ γίνεται μία φορὰ στὴ ζωὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Ὑπαρξιακὸ καὶ ἀνεπανάληπτο γεγονὸς δὲν εἶναι μόνο ἡ γέννηση, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἀναγέννηση. Ὑπάρχει βέβαια καὶ μία οὐσιαστικὴ διαφορά: οἱ σαρκικοὶ πατέρες γεννοῦν γιὰ τὸν κόσμο· οἱ πνευματικοὶ πατέρες γεννοῦν γιὰ τὸν Χριστό.

Προσδιορίζοντας τὴν δεύτερη αὐτὴ «γέννηση» ὁ Ἀπόστολος τὴν ὀνομάζει «ἐν Χριστῷ» καὶ «διὰ τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου» χαράζοντας ἔτσι καὶ τὶς συντεταγμένες τῆς πνευματικῆς πατρότητος στὴν Ἐκκλησία. Οἱ Πατέρες τῶν πιστῶν εἶναι «ἐν Χριστῷ» πατέρες καὶ τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα γίνονται μέσω αὐτῶν, ὄχι δικά τους, ἀλλὰ -οὐσιαστικὰ καὶ κύρια- «τοῦ Χριστοῦ» τέκνα. Αὐτὸ σημαίνει ὅτι γιὰ νὰ ἀξιωθεῖ ἀπὸ τὴν Χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ νὰ γίνει κανεὶς στὸ Σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ πατέρας, πρέπει νὰ εἶναι ὁ ἴδιος πρῶτα «ἐν Χριστῷ», δηλαδὴ ἀναγεννημένος, ἀληθινὸ τέκνο τοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ ΜΟΝΟΥ κατ’ οὐσίαν ΠΑΤΡΟΣ (Ἐφεσ. γ’ 15).

Ἂν δὲν ὑπάρχει αὐτὴ ἡ προϋπόθεση, δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ ὁδηγήσει κανεὶς στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση. Δὲν γεννᾶ πνευματικά. Δὲν ὁδηγεῖ στὴν σωτηρία. Ὅπως ὑπῆρχαν ψευδοπροφῆτες στὴν Π. Διαθήκη, ποὺ σφετερίζονταν τὸ ἔργο τῶν γνησίων προφητῶν, ἔτσι μπορεῖ νὰ ὑπάρξουν καὶ ψευδοπατέρες, ποὺ δὲν μποροῦν νὰ ὁδηγήσουν στὴν ἀναγέννηση τὸν ἄνθρωπο, ἀφοῦ δὲν εἶναι οἱ ἴδιοι ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγεννημένοι. Ὄχι σπάνια δέ, καταντοῦν «πατρυιοί», γιατί ἀντὶ νὰ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἐλευθερία, ὑποτάσσουν τὰ «πνευματικά τους τέκνα» στὸν ἑαυτό τους, δημιουργώντας θύματα καὶ ὄργανα ὑπηρετικὰ στοὺς ὁποιουσδήποτε σκοπούς τους. Μὴ μπορώντας νὰ ἀναγεννήσουν «διὰ τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου», δὲν γεννοῦν «ἐν Χριστῷ», ἀλλὰ «ἐν πλάνῃ καὶ ἁμαρτίᾳ». Προσφέρουν δηλαδὴ μία γέννηση, ποὺ ἰσοδυναμεῖ μὲ θάνατο. Καὶ αὐτὸ συμβαίνει μὲ τοὺς αἱρετικούς, ἀλλὰ καὶ μὲ ὅσους ἀναλαμβάνουν τὸ ἔργο τοῦ «πατρὸς» χωρὶς νὰ εἶναι ἀναγεννημένοι ἐν Χριστῷ οἱ ἴδιοι!

Πατερικὴ ἡ Ὀρθοδοξία

Ἡ Ὀρθοδοξία, ὡς ἡ Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἶναι ἀδιανόητη χωρὶς Παύλους, χωρὶς Πατέρες καὶ Μητέρες ἐν Χριστῷ, ποὺ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα. Οἱ ἅγιοι Πατέρες καὶ Μητέρες ὅλων τῶν αἰώνων συνιστοῦν τὴν εὐθεία καὶ ἀδιάσπαστη γραμμὴ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς παραδόσεως. Δηλαδὴ τὴν συνέχεια τῆς εἰσαχθείσης στὸν κόσμο διὰ τῆς σαρκώσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ - Λόγου νέας ζωῆς, τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς. Οἱ Πατέρες εἶναι οἱ διάδοχοι τοῦ Παύλου καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν Ἀποστόλων, ὄχι ἁπλῶς στὴν ἀνάληψη διοικητικῶν καὶ πρακτικῶν καθηκόντων, ἀλλὰ κυρίως στὴν συνέχιση τῆς «καινῆς κτίσεως», τοῦ ἀπεκεκαλυμένου νέου τρόπου ζωῆς - ὑπάρξεως, ποὺ ἐκφράζεται καὶ πραγματώνεται ὡς ὀρθόδοξη πίστη καὶ φρόνημα, ὡς δοξολογία τοῦ Τριαδικοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ὡς τριαδοκεντρικὴ ζωὴ καὶ πολιτεία - κοινωνία.

Οἱ Πατέρες ὅλων τῶν αἰώνων, ἐνεργοῦν στὸ ποιμαντικό τους ἔργο ὅπως οἱ γιατροὶ -καθηγηταὶ σὲ μία Ἰατρικὴ Σχολή. Δὲν περιορίζονται στὴν διάγνωση καὶ θεραπεία τῶν ἀσθενῶν, ἀλλὰ δημιουργοῦν καὶ συνεχιστὲς τοῦ ἔργου των. Τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα πρῶτα τὰ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν θεραπεία ἀπὸ τὰ πάθη καὶ τὸν φωτισμὸ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, γιὰ νὰ γίνουν καὶ ἐκεῖνα μὲ τὴ σειρὰ τους πατέρες ἄλλων τέκνων, συνεχίζοντας τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση. Στὴν ἱστορία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας αὐτὴ ἡ σχέση Πνευματικοῦ Πατρὸς - Πνευματικοῦ Τέκνου μένει ἀκατάλυτη. Κοντὰ στοὺς ἁγίους Πατέρες γεννῶνται οἱ ἅγιοι Πατέρες! Ὁ Μέγας Ἀθανάσιος κοντὰ στὸν μέγα Ἀντώνιο, ὁ μέγας Βασίλειος κοντὰ στοὺς Γέροντες τῆς ἐρήμου κ.ο.κ.

Ἔτσι κατανοοῦμε τὴν φαινομενικὴ ἀπολυτότητα, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὶς ἀληθινὲς διαστάσεις, τῆς ἀκόλουθης φράσεως τῶν Ἀποστολικῶν Διαταγῶν, βιβλίου τοῦ δ’ αἰώνα: «Οὗτος διδάσκαλος εὐσεβείας, οὗτος μετὰ Θεὸν πατὴρ ἡμῶν, δι’ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς» (Η’ 26). Τὸ ἔργο τῆς Ἐκκλησίας στὸν κόσμο εἶναι μία συνεχὴς (ἀνα)γέννηση, ἡ ὁποία εἶναι ἀδύνατη, ἂν δὲν ὑπάρχουν πραγματικοὶ Πατέρες.

Μέσα ἀπὸ τὸ πρίσμα αὐτὸ θὰ πρέπει νὰ δοῦμε, πιστεύω, καὶ τὴν σημερινὴ -συνεχῶς αὐξανομένη- καταφυγὴ τόσων ἀνθρώπων, καὶ μάλιστα νέων, στοὺς χώρους τῆς πνευματικῆς ἀναγεννήσεως, τὰ μοναστήρια μας, καὶ μάλιστα τὰ ἀθωνικά, γιὰ ἀναζήτηση Πατέρων. Τότε μόνο θὰ καταλάβουμε, πὼς καὶ στοὺς κρίσιμους καιρούς μας τὸ Πατρικὸ Χέρι τοῦ Θεοῦ δὲν ἔπαυσε νὰ βοηθεῖ καὶ νὰ κατευθύνει τὸ Λαό μας!

Μεταλληνός Γεώργιος (Πρεσβύτερος)