Father of a Huge Family

The Memory of Elder Ephraim (Moraitis)

Elder Ephraim of Arizona Elder Ephraim of Arizona   

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, or, as he is commonly called, of Arizona, has reposed in the Lord. He was the last surviving disciple of the great St. Joseph the Hesychast, and the fruits of his own life include nearly twenty monasteries in America and Canada and hundreds of thousands of people converted and strengthened in the faith around the world.

Three meetings,
thanks to which we learned
of the life of the future Elder Ephraim with the Elder Joseph

Archimandrite Simeon (Gagatik), abbot of the Holy Trinity-Akhtyrskiy Monastery in Russia, the translator of the book My Elder Joseph the Hesychast into Russian:

Elder Ephraim with Archimandrite Simeon Elder Ephraim with Archimandrite Simeon     

By the grace of God, I was able to meet with Elder Ephraim three times.

The book of his memories of Elder Joseph the Hesychast was published in Greece in 2008. When I read it, I knew immediately that we had to translate it into Russian; but in order to start translating it, we had to get the blessing of the author. Therefore, I decided to go to his monastery in Arizona. The day after I arrived, I went to the church at the appointed time when Elder Ephraim was receiving those who came to see him. Soon the Elder himself came—walking quickly, short, thin, and very lively. Seeing me, a monk he didn’t know, he smiled in a childlike manner, waved to me, and went into the church, heading for the room where he receives pilgrims. I was standing there and rejoicing at this meeting: There was such simplicity and friendliness in it as I have never encountered before or after.

When my turn came, I went into the room and told him the purpose of my visit. I felt like I was communicating with an angel—not majestic and terrible, but very simple and kind. The holiness and light that radiated from the Elder was simply angelic. One of my requests was to allow me to get acquainted with the original texts of his memoirs. Reading the Greek publication caused me some perplexity. Brilliant pages with lively and vivid, very artistic stories contrasted strongly with slightly boring passages written in wooden language. It was quite obvious that those passages were written by someone else. As a translator, I wanted to work with the original source, with the genuine words of the Elder, before any editorial interference, without their corrections and inserts. To all my requests, the Elder easily gave his “okay,” with sincere joy.

Photo: Ekaterina Malenchenko Photo: Ekaterina Malenchenko     

Inspired by his blessing and the original text of his memoirs I received from his secretary, I returned to my monastery and immediately set to work. The 500-page book took about two years to translate, during which some questions arose which only the Elder himself could answer—and so I flew to America the second time. When I met with his assistants in the Arizona Monastery and showed him my list of about fifty questions, they immediately said it wasn’t realistic to discuss them all with him—he was too overworked for such labor. Therefore, they helped me figure out most of the difficult parts, leaving only a few of the most personal questions for the Elder, which no one else would have known the answer to.

Elder Ephraim Elder Ephraim The Elder gave me the answers I needed at this second meeting. For example, he resolved the mystery of the nickname given him by Elder Joseph—“Vavouli,” which is what he usually called him. None of the Greeks could explain to me what this word, absent from Greek dictionaries, meant. With an inimitable smile, Elder Ephraim said that it’s a child’s word, which they call one another. Apparently they used this word in Elder Joseph’s hometown, and he remembered it when the young, small, and thin Yannakis (an affectionate form of the name Yannis) came to his community—the future great Elder Ephraim.

At this second meeting, I asked the Elder to give me his advice: How should an abbot be? And he immediately told me: An abbot should be, first of all, a father. He should never run the monastery like an administrator, like a commander. “No orders, no commands. Never! Only like a father!”—I preserve these words in my soul like a treasure received from a saint, and I try to implement this advice as much as I can.

A year later, I brought the Elder the published book, entitled, My Life With Elder Joseph in Russian. Seeing me with it, Elder Ephraim exclaimed with surprise: “So quickly?!” The book really was prepared very quickly: The blessing of the Elder and the help of God were clearly acting the whole time I was working on it—over the text and its preparation for printing at all stages of the work. Elder Ephraim was very pleased by the beautiful cover of the book, made by one of the best calligraphers and artists—Alexei Chekal. The central place on the cover is taken by the Jesus Prayer, written in ancient script and gold lettering.

That was our last meeting. The previous two didn’t last very long—the Elder’s assistant who was responsible for his meetings with pilgrims strictly warned me about this. This was because of the Elder’s age and his limited strength and that many pilgrims were always awaiting his attention, advice, and prayerful help. But the third time, the Elder wouldn’t allow me to leave quickly. He started to recall his childhood: how he lived through the years of the German occupation in his home city of Volos, how he sold all sorts of small things at the market to not die from hunger, how they arrested him, and how he saw young children killed by the Germans.

When he finally let me go and I went out into the hall, his assistant shook his head reproachfully. But what could I do? I couldn’t interrupt the Elder…

I am very grateful to the Lord God and Elder Ephraim for these meetings. They will warm me my entire life.

He knocked and laughed on my head, like a child!

Fr. Sergei Baranov in Arizona Fr. Sergei Baranov in Arizona     

Archpriest Sergei Barnanov, spiritual father of the Orsk-Iveron Convent:

I spent a week at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona with Elder Ephraim twice. We didn’t communicate very closely. The Elder was already weak. I was happy just to see him, to serve Liturgy with him, and to commune together. It’s always uncomfortable for me to slide up with questions. It’s enough just to be near such people. You just stand nearby, and everything happens. All the questions disappear by themselves. I didn’t want to disturb the Elder with any of my nonsense, so there was no questioning, just a reverent silence. We prayed together.

During the service, he stands with you near the altar, but his soul is not there. That’s the feeling I had. Just to look at him was all I needed. I clearly felt it and saw it at certain moments in the Liturgy—he was somewhere far away in spirit—not on the Earth, not with us.

Such a small, thin man—but, incidentally, with very strong hands, so worn out from labor. The monastery has the tradition that everyone goes up to him for a blessing in turns, and he lovingly and jokingly knocks them on the head and smiles, like a child, bringing you joy!

St. Anthony’s Monastery St. Anthony’s Monastery     

In St. Anthony’s Monastery there is a feeling that Elder Ephraim can use anything to missionize. That’s why he went to America—a country with very little Orthodoxy. He founded nearly twenty monasteries. The Monastery of St. Anthony the Great, in the middle of a barren desert, full of poisonous snakes and other reptiles, is simply an oasis. There’re tons of water, fountains, everything is green, drowning in juicy, abundantly moist greens. There are paths everywhere; sculptures everywhere: deer, lambs, birds of some sort. It reminds of: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 18:3). The Elder himself didn’t need all this so much as the people who would come there, sometimes breaking free from the very harsh urban environment of some American metropolis—it all somehow immediately moved them and attuned them.

Fr. Sergei Baranov in the gardens at St. Anthony’s Fr. Sergei Baranov in the gardens at St. Anthony’s     

Even externally, the monastery gave the impression of a little Garden of Eden. All around are extensive orange, mandarin, lemon, and olive gardens and groves and vegetable gardens. Everything is well-kempt, ennobled, and fertile.

But most importantly—there are many churches on the territory of the monastery. It would seem, from a practical point of view, that one or two would be enough… But they decided to build and build churches, dedicating these, albeit small, churches to more and more saints.

The main church has the head of St. Joseph the Hesychast, which Elder Ephraim brought with him from Holy Mount Athos. They bring it out for the veneration of the pilgrims.

The head of St. Joseph the Hesychast The head of St. Joseph the Hesychast     

Of course, every monastery has always started around some individual. Glory to God that in this monastery and in the others founded by the Elder throughout North America—in the U.S. and Canada—it was an individual like Fr. Ephraim. His prayers and his blessing are felt everywhere there. He was and is a spiritual authority for all of them, and, of course, a father. He was perceived not as an official appointed to manage this network of monasteries, but precisely as a father building a spiritual home for his vast family.

Fr. Ephraim is such an unfathomable and unique person, especially for our time, which is so frantically afraid of such bold, inspired spirituality, such as he had. He was not afraid to fly, to strive for Christ, and to draw others with him.

It is not words that work through a person, but the Spirit. Only a person who has acquired the Holy Spirit can convey the Spirit. Someone who hasn’t acquired the Holy Spirit, but only talks about it according to his academic education, having studied something from books, picking out something from somebody’s words, cannot transmit the Spirit; he transmits only words. The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (2 Cor. 3:6).

Elder Ephraim on Mt. Athos Elder Ephraim on Mt. Athos     

As the Lord reproached: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mt. 23:15). This is because such “leaders” simply have nothing to give to those whom they are converting. They themselves are empty. “You engaged,” the Lord upbraids them, “in seeking followers for yourselves, but you were not engaged in your heart. The Spirit is not in you! Therefore, those whom you have converted are disappointed.”

The personality of Elder Ephraim transmitted the Spirit—not just his spiritual experience, but—the Spirit.

Fr. Sergei Baranov in Arizona Fr. Sergei Baranov in Arizona There is a very precise Patristic expression: theosis. This took place in Elder Ephraim, just as with his teacher, Elder Joseph the Hesychast. He was certainly a deified man as well. Here both the teacher and the disciple, who became a teacher to many others, transmitted theosis—they were conductors of the Holy Spirit through themselves.

Those who try to transfer their spirit to others are themselves deluded people. But those through whom shine the Uncreated Light—not flaunting their own “grace,” but the Spirit of God, to the glory of God—are the true ones. In Elder Ephraim, it was precisely this Light that overflowed onto everyone.

He also had that extraordinary combination of greatness and simplicity with meekness that is characteristic of all the saints. One time I literally banged foreheads with him in my cell. I was walking out with a towel over my head, and bang! It turns out it was the cell where his spiritual friend, who has already reposed, used to live, and he sometimes stopped in there… And that’s the cell they settled me in. At first I was very befuddled before the Elder… But that’s the quality of the saints: They don’t get embarrassed. Just one smile, a kind look, and all the embarrassment was immediately gone…

The last time, on the day I left, I recall with great trepidation how he suddenly came out of the stasidia and greeted me like a priest’s priest—we kissed one another. That was the last time I saw him.

For us, who are so limited in comparison with him, the mystery of his Jesus Prayer is, of course, impossible to understand. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:15).

But all of those who came to St. Anthony’s in Arizona were always immediately given the rule: 100 prostrations, 900 Jesus Prayers, 300 prayers to the Theotokos. That was the minimum they blessed for everyone: monastics, priests, and laity—one rule. And everyone who fulfills this rule has results. And those who, having zealously begun, then left, lost this treasure.

Elder Ephraim Elder Ephraim You could leave there with some impressions, some knowledge, but the main thing—is prayer. And it must be practiced. Do not stop. It is said: Pray without ceasing (1 Col. 5:17).

Glory to God, this prayer lives at our monastery, by the blessing of Elder Ephraim. Nothing is broken. This is the minimum required by Geronda. If you take the Elder’s blessing, you have to fulfill it. Some say the Prayer even more.

We have painted a large icon of the “Axion Estin” Most Holy Theotokos and sent it to the Elder in Arizona out of gratitude. Fr. Ephraim took the icon to his residence. He has his own little house with a church in the monastery. We, of course, were glad about this.

We also rejoiced at the news we received at the very beginning of the founding of our monastery. I still couldn’t get there myself, but my friend had already been to Arizona. I am the secretary of the diocese, with a ton of all kinds of hassles, and then I also built the cathedral—during the day I was at the construction site, so we served Liturgy at night in our newly-founded monastery. We served Liturgy every night. It was the center of our entire monastic life. We drew up for ourselves a typikon according to our strength and our aspirations. We also have two more hours of the Jesus Prayer at night. Then, when my friend went to St. Anthony’s Monastery, I asked him to ask about our typikon: Is it alright?

He called after a few days from Arizona: “Your typikon is basically the same as they have here.”

When I myself later went, I truly realized our typikons are similar.

Perhaps it’s because I took all of it—the worldview itself—from my time on Mt. Athos. I have been on the Holy Mountain more than thirty times already—the Lord even vouchsafed me to paint a church there. I go there all the time and stay in the cell of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in New Skete, where Elder Joseph the Hesychast lived and reposed. His grave is there. Everything is preserved as it was under him. Glory to God, I have a friendship with the elder of this cell—Fr. Nikodemos. He came to visit us in Russia five years ago and gifted our monastery a large piece of the relics of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. We couldn’t openly venerate him yet then, because he wasn’t canonized; we ourselves simply rejoiced, and now that he is glorified among the saints, we and all of our pilgrims can venerate him.

Elder Ephraim with disciples Elder Ephraim with disciples     

On Mt. Athos, the disciples of Elder Joseph the Hesychast dispersed to many monasteries. He has many followers there. Probably everyone who practices the Jesus Prayer is one way or another in the line of this tradition he revived.

I had a humorous situation. We were hosting a Georgian abbot and a novice one time, and when they were already leaving, the novice suddenly leapt, and with a distinct Georgian accent, said: “Fr. Sergei! Give me the Jesus Prayer!”

I jokingly as if took a piece from my heart and put it in his heart: “Here!!!”

A week later he called: “Fr. Sergei! The prayer never stops! And imagine: in Russian!”

The prayer is not transmitted by precepts—not in the letter, but in the spirit. You live with an elder and you draw from his spirit. That’s how it goes.

Of the nearly twenty monasteries founded by Fr. Ephraim in America, I have also been to the California Monastery of the Lifegiving Spring Icon of the Mother of God, in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, with Mother Markella. The spirit of Elder Ephraim is undoubtedly there in everything and everywhere. Sometimes children even take on the gait of their parents and the finest features of their external and internal appearance—not to speak of spiritual children. They so love Geronda there that everyone is called to be prepared to emulate him—always and in everything, and above all in his love for God and neighbor. These are the basic features of any saint. They are very bright in Elder Ephraim. He was completely absorbed by God.

God is love (1 Jn. 4:16). He loves every one of His creations. Through theosis, Elder Ephraim loved everyone whom he saw before him, whom he saw in the spirit, and for whom he prayed—he embraced the whole world with love. He would knock you on the head and laugh, like a child! And hug you.

When we learned of Elder Ephraim’s repose, it was no tragedy! I tell everyone that he flew on a rocket to his unforgettable Fr. Joseph. There isn’t even the smallest grief. We are all in a good mood. We are rejoicing for him!

The apostolic landing of Elder Ephraim of Arizona

​Abbess Nikolaya (Ilina) ​Abbess Nikolaya (Ilina)     

Igumena Nikolaya (Ilina), abbess of St. Nicholas-Chernoostrovsky Convent in Maloyaroslavets:

Once St. Joseph the Hesychast, of whom Elder Ephraim was the last disciple, appeared to him and said: “Kuchiko (a nickname meaning ‘very little’)!—and suddenly poured a heap of oranges into his lap. “As many oranges as you see, so many monasteries you have to build in the United States of America and Canada,” and blessed him.

There were exactly twenty oranges. We have something to do with the foundation of one of these monasteries, by the providence of God.

In 1996, some sisters from an Orthodox community gathered in California came to Russia. At Optina Monastery they asked where they could find the Optina tradition in convents, and the Optina monks sent them to us, to Maloyaroslavets. We met, and Mother Michaela became my spiritual daughter.

I remember one time I received a letter from her—they had jurisdictional difficulties. At that moment, I had in hand a letter from Schema-Archimandrite Arseny, the abbot of Machairas Monastery in Cyprus—you could also say he’s a spiritual grandchild of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The saint obviously runs his spiritual family himself. And Fr. Arseny wrote me just then about Fr. Ephraim…

One of the letters-blessings of Elder Ephraim to St. Nicholas-Chernoostrovsky Monastery, to Matushka Nikolaya and the sisters One of the letters-blessings of Elder Ephraim to St. Nicholas-Chernoostrovsky Monastery, to Matushka Nikolaya and the sisters     

I advised Mother Michaela to appeal to him.

They soon moved from California to Arizona. Elder Ephraim himself found them land for the Monastery of St. Paisius Velichkovsky (now in ROCOR), and when he arrived there with the sisters, showing them the grounds, he nearly danced with joy:

“There will be a large monastery here!”

Fr. Ephraim himself was the abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mt. Athos for thirty years. He would occasionally go with several Athonite monks to Canada and the U.S.—for the first time in 1979 because he needed a difficult operation on his leg; afterwards, feeling the spiritual hunger of the continent, he was prepared to share his ability to heal spiritual wounds.

Elder Ephraim moved to North America by a special revelation of God. At first he just set up a trailer in the Arizona desert, which is, it should be said, a very dangerous place, with masses of rattlesnakes and scorpions.

His migration was a true apostolic landing. The Elder began with the founding of the Convent of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1989 in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. And so he founded one after another with nearly two dozen male and female monasteries, including, in 1995, the Monastery of St. Anthony the Great, where he himself settled.

At the beginning, he heard the ringing of bells in a completely deserted place. When they went there with the real estate agent, the ringing repeated, and the children of Fr. Ephraim who were with him also heard the ringing, by his prayers. It was given by the Lord for their strengthening—by then they had collected very modest means to buy a piece of land. As soon as they heard this ringing, the Elder put his finger to his lips: “Shh! Don’t let the salesman know we’re too interested in this no-man’s land.”

Thus, the plot of land was purchased, and the work began to heat up. No one imagined that with time such an oasis would develop here. Tree saplings were bought by the dozens. The Elder, armed with a can of paint, went himself around this desert and painted the crosses, thus marking where trees should be planted.

Then he himself indicated the place to dig to find water. The experts argued with him and objected. But he smiled: “Dig! I take responsibility.”

Indeed, a full-flowing river was found at the depths, and the desert became Paradise. There was no longer a shortage of water in the monastery, and construction began. The monastery kitchen was feeding a number of workers, and also pilgrims, of whom there were more and more.

St. Anthony’s Monastery St. Anthony’s Monastery     

They accommodate everyone in cool cells with a shower in the extremely hot climate (122° in the shade during the day in the summertime).

But the main thing is spiritual salvation from that which Psalm 90 calls the “demon of noonday.” Interpreters say it’s like at noon, when the air shudders from heat—the reality of this world becomes so thick, like oil, it devours… Is this not what is happening in modern America, with it’s cultivated cult of consumerism?... But the Lord is in the voice of a gentle breeze (3 Kg. 19:12). There is the Lord!

It was this coolness of God’s presence that Fr. Ephraim revealed to the modern world! It is striking that he remained until the glorification among the saints of his abba—Elder Joseph the Hesychast—and then he departed.

With the support of Elder Ephraim, who cared for the mission among Americans, the Arizona Convent of St. Paisius Velichkovsky opened the Holy Protection School for girls from eight to eighteen. They accept everyone—as long as the entrant herself wants to learn Orthodoxy. Already more than 100 American girls joined the prayer life, and some remained in the monastery as nuns; others got married, becoming true Orthodox wives and mothers.

Orthodoxy is the foundation of family life in a world where everything genuine and salvific is becoming increasingly unstable…

Some of the instructions of Elder Ephraim to his spiritual daughters

True theology

Theology, true theology, is acquired not in universities, but only in contempt for the world, away from the noise and turmoil, in a silent and calm place, through a certain order of prayer and podvig, when man, having purified his mind and liberated himself from the vexations of the flesh, receives the light of true theology—knowledge of his own self.

Do not offend the Mother of God

See how women offend the Mother of God with their provocative appearance in the summer. On the one hand, they venerate the icon of the modest Virgin, and on the other—they tempt and push those around them to sin by their provocative appearance. It’s not even considered a sin that needs to be confessed.

On the absurdity of the claims of feminism

There is a lot of talk these days about the equality of the genders—men and women. But the fight for women’s equality and the so-called feminist movement are late. Christianity already solved this problem twenty centuries ago. How? It destroyed the differences! It gave women equal honor to men. And what’s more—it gave one woman such honor that not a single man has had, has, or will have. This woman is the Most Holy Theotokos.

In Christianity, in the Church, people are evaluated not on the basis of gender, social position, level of education, financial means, giftedness, and so on. People are distinguished and evaluated on one single basis—holiness. For God there is neither man nor woman. There are only sinners and penitents, the wicked and the pious, the holy and the most holy.

Think of your spiritual father not as a man, but as a servant of God

When a snake crawls out of its den, it hurries to hide, because it feels that it will be killed. So it is with a demonic thought, which is like a poisonous snake. When it comes out of the mouth of man, it dissipates and disappears, because confession is humility. And if satan cannot endure even the smell of humility, then how can stand after a humble and sincere confession?

But I desire a good beginning and attentiveness, my child. Don’t be embarrassed in front of me. Think of me not as a man, but as a servant of God. Tell me about everything, even if someone told you something about me, because I know the devil’s insults by experience and I know how he fights with man. Spiritual children have a simple heart, and if bad thoughts come to them, it is because of demonic malice and the egotism of man, who, for the sake of humility, is allowed to be tempted with such thoughts about his elder.

Therefore, don’t be sad. I will always rejoice when you speak freely and sincerely with me, because without pure confession, there cannot be any prosperity in the spiritual life.

Weep, but don’t have sorrow

Do not grieve so strongly, my child. Everything needs moderation. You will become worse from much weeping, because your nerves cannot withstand so much grief and distress.

Your repentance will bring immense joy to the angels

Everything you endured, my daughter, happened because of your self-confidence. Haven’t you been instructed in humility and self-reproach? What are you trying to do? Don’t you know that a man who leans recklessly on a cane of reeds breaks his cane and hurts his hands? What did you dare to do? Don’t you know that without Me ye can do nothing? Don’t you know that many fathers fell due to self-reliance?

Humble yourself, reproach yourself, weep, my daughter, wash your wedding robe. Your Bridegroom, Who is more beautiful than all the sons of men, is calling you, seeking you, and has prepared a place for you in Heaven—a spiritually beautiful wedding chamber! The angels are serving, do not be lazy. Rise up, take some water and wash your wedding attire, because you don’t know when death will come, which gives no warning of its arrival, but visits everyone. And we do not know that hour.

Repent. Look how the harlot washes the most pure feet of the Lord. She sheds tears more precious than myrrh, and they attract Divine mercy and forgiveness. She hears: “Your sins are forgiven you; go in peace.”

Repentance, my daughter. Fall with lamentation at the feet of the Terrible Lord, weep, and cry out: “I have sinned, my Jesus. Accept me as a penitent and save me. Do not despise my tears, O Joy of the angels. Do not despise me, do not reject me, Thou Who has bowed the heavens with Thy indescribable condescension.”

Implore Christ with these words, with the conviction that you will acquire His love threefold.

Your repentance will bring immeasurable joy to the angels, and they will exclaim in amazement: “She has arisen, she has arisen, she has arisen!”—that is, you didn’t fall completely, but raised yourself up, and are no longer rolling towards the abyss, but you are again rushing upwards.

Love is above all divisions

Ekaterina, the wife of astronaut Yuri Malenchenko:

Ekaterina Malenchnko Ekaterina Malenchnko I went to Arizona, to St. Anthony’s Monastery two years ago. I have lived in America for a long time and did not at all expect to see what I saw there…

The Greek Orthodox Church in America was always somewhat self-contained—like a Church for its own, for Greeks. If you’re not Greek, you don’t seem to have anything to do there. But I was stunned at the monastery with Elder Ephraim that everyone was together: Russians, Greeks, and Americans—and people from completely different countries. Everyone gathered for the sake of Christ, the Kingdom of God—not because of any human background or goal-setting.

St. Anthony’s is an amazing place. The monastery is in the wild desert. When everything all around is in the heated and fierce, incessant process of survival—here, within, behind the monastery fence, and even on the outskirts of the monastery, in its wonderful gardens, everything changes immediately.

When I approached Elder Ephraim, he didn’t even say anything to me but just beckoned with his finger: “Let’s go.” So I went, and we went into the church. There he simply led me throughout the church. There was no need for any words, about anything earthly…

Father looks at you, and you realize that he knows everything, and even more…

I lived in Houston for about eight years. When I left there, they were finishing the construction of another monastery nearby—one of the ones Elder Ephraim founded in America. And the opening of another monastery immediately changed, as experienced showed, everything all around, somehow affecting all the people. Again, there were no divisions: We’re Greeks, You’re Russians, those are Americans—no! Everyone was together! And it was together that everything was fine. There is neither Greek nor Jew … but Christ is all, and in all (Col. 3:11). This is the most important thing.

Nothing amazes and inspires people to anything better these days other than the love of God! If there is no love, or if there is not enough, a person will go to such a church and feel like an outsider, and it’s difficult for him to fit in. But with Elder Ephraim, there was overflowing love: Everyone was “his,” and it was like he’d known them for 100 years. You immediately understand everything there. Everything is perceived normally. Nothing is stressful or shocking there. Everything is new, interesting, but somehow familiar. It’s an amazing effect. But at the basis of it is precisely love.

Internally, America is having a hard time. Despite all the comfort and prosperity, souls are sunder oppression there. And nothing can satisfy this spiritual emptiness.

Such depth as exists in Orthodoxy can be found nowhere else—neither in Catholicism, nor in Protestantism, including among the Baptists, who are so widespread in America. They don’t have what people find in Orthodoxy. You can’t breathe so easily anywhere else.

My father is a professor at a university in Oklahoma. The Orthodox Church of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nina opened there quite recently. I heard how the priest teaches about the Jesus Prayer there, and I realized he was clearly heir to the tradition of St. Joseph the Hesychast, and that means perhaps he was introduced to it in America through Fr. Ephraim of Arizona. The main thing in this tradition is prayer as a connection with God and an expression of love for Him, and love for every person like a brother or sister in Christ. Love is above all divisions. It seems simple, but people go to Fr. Ephraim’s monastery for this simplicity. The soul is truly calmed there.

​Elder Ephraim in repose ​Elder Ephraim in repose     

The services are celebrated at night there. The Liturgy ends around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. Then trapeza begins, as a continuation of the Liturgy. Then there’s an hour or two to rest. But those who knew that Elder Ephraim would go at that time to feed the poor, gathered on the square behind the kitchen. They waited there until his car went by, when he went “hunting,” as he himself said—he just took some food and necessities and drove all around, looking for those in need. Sometimes he returned satisfied, when he was able to feed several dozens of people. But sometimes he was worried, having met only a few beggars. He himself came from a very poor family and knew what need was. So people gathered there behind the monastery kitchen and waited for the Elder…

Poverty is not only material, but he also quenched spiritual hunger. He would stop the car, get out, and bless everyone. Sometimes he would give someone a little cupcake. Again, no words were needed. He just blessed, and you would grow wings! Sometimes the Elder blessed from the car, and it was the same joy! And love—and in this is God.

Prepared by Olga Orlova
Translated by Jesse Dominick



Jesse Dominick12/22/2021 12:38 pm
Scruziel, Met. Athanasios was a spiritual child of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, NOT St. Joseph the Hesychast. Elder Joseph was a spiritual child of St. Joseph, but Met. Athanasios never knew St. Joseph.
Scruziel12/21/2021 4:01 pm
It is not true that Elder Ephraim was the last disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesycast. Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (Cyprus) was also his disciple and has re-established monasticism on Cyprus. That is the "transmission belt" for the Cypriot monastery mentioned in the article that is in the tradition of Elder Joseph. Many around the world now know of Metropolitan Athanasios via the portrayal of him as the Bishop Maximos character in the trilogy of Kyriacos Markides that begins with The Mountain of Silence.
Bishoy12/24/2019 9:58 am
Also do we know how many monastics Elder Ephraim tonsured in America?
Bishoy 12/24/2019 9:38 am
Wait really, Elder Ephraim converted hundred of thousands to Orthodoxy?
Elias12/18/2019 9:33 pm
Greetings: What a thorough account of the few final days of the dear Fr. Ephrem. In Nov. of 1998 Fr. Ephrem allowed me to live among the monks for a year and then sent me to Holy Mount Athos for 3 months. It changed my life with God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy church. I was invited to join the community of monastics when I returned but I did/could not. I was too weak in my own mind. But I have gone back, visited often. I was blessed to be there for the few days leading to his burial. Many have loved him and do love him. Those whom his life has touched will never be the same. Ironically, it has been only since I returned home (Delta, CO) that the tears for him have welled up within me. Though I am the one who needs his tears for the poor Elias. His children and true followers will never be the same. Memory Eternal.
Mariam Visagio12/18/2019 6:34 am
Beautiful article, thank you!
Esther kibe12/17/2019 4:44 pm
Am from Greek Orthodox Partriacahte of Alexandria And All Africa - Orthodox Archbishopric of Kenya. Since the death of Elder Ephraim of Arizona, of blessed memory, i have read so much about him from different forums, and i can simply say that "He was a living Saint" Pray for us Yieroda. Eternal Be Your memory.
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