Gerontikon of Mt.
A Hesychast Vigil
Once, when St. Nikodemos
the Athonite was living in a cell in Kapsala, he set out to attend the
vigil for the Dormition of the Theotokos at the great Monastery of
Iveron of their feastday. On the way, he stopped at cell where there
lived a good hesychast elder with his small synodia. His thought was to
join them for the Small Vespers and then continue to the vigil
festivities at the great Monastery.
As the Vespers began,
after the opening psalm, the elder of the house began quietly with the
Jesus Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy. . . . . He
continued for some time, and when he stopped another of the monks picked
up the prayer and continued. And so they went, round and round, from one
to the other. To the Lord, to the Theotokos, to the saint of the house.
For the monks, for the world, for the departed. In stillness, barely
audible, in near complete darkness. Near dawn, when the bells at the
Great Doxology were heard from the Monastery, the priest began the
After receiving Holy
Communion the fathers took a light meal. The Saint had forgotten to go
on to the celebration at Iveron, but the compunctionate vigilance of the
elder and his community had been a taste of heaven which he did not
From the lives of various
Fr. Petronios, dikaios
of the Romanian Skete of Prodromos on Mt. Athos relates the following
concerning the Romanian fathers.
Come and see the witness
of the two little foreigners, said blessed Macarios the Great when some
of the fathers came and he showed them the cell of the two brothers who,
with silence and deep humility had arrive at great spiritual stature. As
in the life of the great ascetic Makarios, so also in the life of
venerable Pafnutios,we know that God revealed to them that simple people
in the world: two women in a village, a shopkeeper, and a cantor - were
spiritually advanced as the father were. From that time when the Grace
of the Holy Spirit came into the world on Pentecost, unceasingly it
works with His wonderful power. As it made the former fishermen Apostles
and simple people into theologians, it fills them with beautiful fruit:
love and joy, and peace.
And as the number of
unknown saints is greater than the number of those written in the
synaxarion and honored with hymns and akolouthias, so the number of the
truly humble and unknown is far greater than all of these. Let us set
some of these before us with their particular gifts. I have met them
among the simple of the world, and also in the monastic life. In what
follows, I would introduce some who struggled in the monasteries and
whom I had the blessed opportunity to meet and know in my life. I hope
that our brothers will benefit spiritually from their example.
Brother Gabriel was many
years in the monastery, but he did not hurry to become a monk. When
asked why he did not become a monk, he said, 'It is a great honor to be
a monk, but I am not worthy of that honor.' But with his zeal, his work
and obedience, there was not a better monk in the monastery.
With other things, Gabriel
also had this custom. Every Saturday, before the bell for vespers, he
passed by all the cells of the monks and novices saying, 'Bless me and
forgive me the sinner.' And the father, knowing his custom, would say,
'May God bless you and forgive you.' And then the novice Gabriel would
go on to the next cell until he had finished all of them.
Once I asked him why he
did this, and he explained to me: "I read in an old book that every
Saturday, after vespers, all the choirs of angels gather before the
throne of God to hear the report of the guardian angels of humanity and
each comes before the throne of the Heavenly Father and reports the
activity of the person. And the angels of people who commit sins are
sad, but the angels of the people who do good deads are joyful and
brilliant. The Heavenly Father is happy with the good deads and 'there
is joy in heaven over the sinner who repents.' Beyond the divine throne
there stand two ranks of angels: one radiant and glorious and the other
awesome and austere. Then God sends the radiant angels to reward the
good people and the awesome to punish the sinners. Therefore I forgive
others and ask their forgivesness so that my guardian angel might go up
cheerfully with his report to the Heavenly Father and that I might
escape the trial of the fearsome angels.