Mt. Athos, October 13, 2020
Holy Mount Athos, the cradle of Orthodoxy that has produced countless ascetic saints, is changing in many ways today, leading away from holy Orthodoxy as it more and more obeys anti-Orthodox orders from outside, believes Elder Gabriel of the Kelli of St. Christodoulos of Koutloumousiou Monastery.
Fr. Gabriel was a disciple of the great St. Paisios the Athonite and is himself one of the most revered elders on the Holy Mountain today. As is characteristic of holy elders, he does not shy away from speaking hard truths when he believes the occasion demands it.
Among the specific issues the Elder mentions in a new letter to the Sacred Community, the administrative body of Mt. Athos comprised of one representative of each of the 20 ruling monasteries, is the fact that several Athonite monasteries have willingly accepted and concelebrated with the Ukrainian schismatics, who are not being saved, he writes.
Elder Gabriel’s letter was published by the Greek outlet Pentapostgamma.
“It is both sad and heartbreaking to realize that the modern Mt. Athos is changing in many ways, from a cradle of Orthodoxy and civilization, from a workshop that produced great ascetics and sacred monastics, martyrs, and confessors of our Orthodox faith, heading towards secularization, the syncretism of ecumenism, and ruthless persecution of the traditional monasteries that resist those who push them off the rails on a slippery slope,” the Elder writes.
In his view, the Holy Mountain has become “almost alien and unrecognizable” today, “consenting and obedient to other people’s worldly, always anti-Orthodox, orders,” that seeks to sow discord on the Mountain, and to encourage cruel attitudes towards the monks who “resist the appearance of new and very worldly ideas and models of behavior that are now clearly striving to change the Orthodox faith and the Holy Tradition of our Church.”
And Mt. Athos does not simply remain silent in the face of such ideas, but “favors and promotes” them, “and if we do not recover from this spiritual lethargy, the cost will be the final loss of our salvation,” the disciple of St. Paisios warns.
The Elder stresses that his warnings and admonitions apply mainly to the administrative bodies—the Sacred Community and the Holy Epistasia (consisting of the representatives of a rotating group of 4 of the 20 monasteries), while the monasteries and monks who oppose the secularization of the Mountain are pressured, threatened, and persecuted. This is due mainly to the fact that over the past few decades, the monasteries have accepted a new generation of monks who have no connection to the old fathers and do not know their teachings.
Elder Gabriel connects the present situation to the Council of Crete in 2016, when “Truth was overthrown by man” and heretics were no longer called heretics, “because it was in the interests of all the international, non-Church circles of the New World Order” that Orthodoxy profess only that it holds part of the truth.
We therefore cannot “prevent the reasoning that we may finally discover this divided and relevant ‘truth’ at some point completed in the person of the Antichrist!” the Elder warns.
In 2016, he headed a group of fathers who called on the Sacred Community to reject the Crete Council.
It is especially grievous that Archimandrite Tikhon of the Athonite Stavronikita Monastery was present at the Council, giving the impression that its decisions were acceptable to Athonites, he continues. The Sacred Community also adopted a statement pre-prepared by Archimandrite Vasileios, the former abbot of both Stavronikita and Iveron Monasteries, that proclaimed that there is no need to be concerned about the Council of Crete.
Thus, the Holy Mountain, once seen as the guardian of the Orthodox faith, “is now being dragged along the slippery path of globalization,” the Athonite elder believes.
The Council of Crete was evil, Elder Gabriel believes, and had grave consequences, in particular, the granting of “autocephaly” to self-consecrated schismatics and heretics in Ukraine, and the prayerful communion and concelebration with them by individual Athonite hieromonks and abbots. In particular, he names the abbots of the Xenophontos, Pantocrator, New Esphigmenou, Simenopetra, and Vatopedi Monasteries.
“I mention the abbots in question because … their personal choices have consequences for the salvation of those under their authority!” Elder Gabriel clarifies.
Last year, Elder Gabriel was among the 12 Athonite elders who addressed the Sacred Community in defense of the canonical Ukrainian Church, decrying Patriarch Bartholomew’s lack of respect for the canons. He spoke about the situation with the schismatics again in an interview earlier this year. The respected Elder said he believes that natural disasters that struck the Holy Mountain earlier in the year were Divine punishment for the monasteries that have served and prayed with the schismatics.
In his new letter, the Elder also points to cases of anti-canonical prayer, when the abbot of Dionysiou served a memorial in a Muslim cemetery in Trebizon in October 2018, and when the abbot of Xenophontos served with Catholics in November of last year.
The Holy Mountain “has been under intense pressure in recent years from local, but mostly foreign statesmen and international ecumenical centers to change its Orthodox identity.”
In conclusion, he emphasizes that those who strive for the purity of Orthodoxy out of love for the Lord bear persecutions and accusations as a cross, while the schismatics will go to hell. An Athonite monk “must first of all be a confessor of the faith and its custodian, when alterations and conscious deconstruction is taking place.”
“The schismatics of Ukraine will not be saved; they will go to hell. The monasteries (Athonite or not) that accept them, cooperate with them, pray with them, and commune with them, will also not be saved and will also go to hell,” the beloved Elder sums up.