“A storm will start soon”
Elder Porphyrios the Kapsokalivite When I was on Holy Mount Athos, I heard from my fellow-students, different people and Athonite monks about numerous miracles of St. Porphyrios who then lived at Pendeli Monastery in Athens. I was told about all types of supernatural and wonderful things the holy elder performed by his prayers. And I was seized with “good” curiosity—I wanted to get acquainted with him. But I already lived on Mt. Athos and that was not easy—we did not usually leave the territory of Mt. Athos, so I could not travel or go to Athens all of a sudden.
At some point, if I am not mistaken, in about 1984–1985, the brethren and I were at the New Skete. And we heard that the elder was at Kavsokalyvia (it is situated close to the New Skete and he would often come there). It was possible to get to him on foot (it was rather far, though) or by boat. Then some of the brethren asked me to accompany them on a boat to the Kavsokalyvia Skete to meet the elder. And I too had a great desire to meet him and ask for his blessing. After receiving the blessing of our Geronda, we left for Kavsokalyvia with ever-memorable Fr. Chrysostomos, “a lifeboat captain” as Elder Joseph called him, ever-memorable Fr. Gervasios, and one more brother who is still alive. The weather was fine and the conditions were favorable for navigation. Judging by our knowledge, there were no signs that the weather would change and the sea was likely to remain calm throughout the day.
We walked up to St. George’s Kaliva where the elder lived. He was having breakfast in the yard. We came up and received his blessing. The elder spoke with us right in the yard on various themes the fathers asked him about. I just listened, only asking one or two questions. The elder spoke of the things he was asked about with great love. Then he said very politely, “Forgive me, fathers. I cannot talk with you anymore. I am ill. I need to go and take a rest. Go now, bon voyage.” We received his blessing and went away. We walked fifty or fifty-five yards away from the kaliva and met Fr. Chariton there. He was a Cypriot and lived at the time with Elder Porphyrios at Kavsokalyvia. He whispered: “Don’t go away! Sit down here and wait. Let the elder rest for an hour. This happens every morning: After the morning prayers and the service he feels fatigued. But he will receive you later on.” We were standing rather far from the kaliva and the elder couldn’t have heard what the brother had said to us in a low voice at fifty yards’ distance from him. But no sooner had Fr. Chariton stopped than the bell rang. Fr. Chariton ran into the cell, “This is the elder ringing the bell and calling me! Hang on here. Geronda needs something.” And then he returned to us, saying, “Fathers, Geronda made out what I was saying to you. He told me, ‘Why have you suggested that the fathers should wait and not leave? I sent them off because a sea storm will start soon and it will be hard for them to sail back home, to their skete.’” And he added, “So set sail. Since Geronda said this, he will not receive you.”
All right, we decided that the elder didn’t want us to wait by the kaliva and we left. We went to visit the brethren who lived in the kalivas of Kavsokalyvia. It was a serene day and there were no signs that the weather would change. We were “losing time”, venerating the relics of the Kavsokalyvia sketes. At some point we noticed that the weather was getting worse. We ran towards the boat, cast off and indeed the journey back turned out to be very difficult because the weather had changed so abruptly and become bad. Our boat almost capsized!
This is what my first meeting with Elder Porphyrios at Kavsokalyvia was like. Subsequently, I saw him in Athens, at the monastery where the elder lived. I went there about a dozen times, met with him, received his blessing and discussed different questions that were important to us.
“Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!”
One day I phoned him when our Geronda Joseph was sick—he had serious heart issues. We still lived in the New Skete and not at Vatopedi Monastery. He kept saying to us, “I will die anyway”, and preparing for his departure into eternal life. We were young and worried because of this prediction of Geronda. And I thought it would be good to phone Elder Porphyrios and ask for his prayers for our Geronda so that nothing bad would happen to him, he would stay healthy, protect and direct us.
On that occasion I was in Thessaloniki at Geronda Joseph’s request. As far as I remember, at five in the morning (I had been told that it was better to call the elder at five, early in the morning) I called Elder Porphyrios. I dialed the number I had been given over and over again, but the elder didn’t answer. At some point I became a little gloomy and said to myself, “Nothing doing! The elder doesn’t answer. Why not read the Akathist hymn to the Theotokos so that She can enlighten me and send me an answer?”
I started reading the Akathist, but, frankly speaking, I was reading hurriedly and a little nervously because my mind was in my phone and not in the text of the Akathist. I reached the last ikos, “O all-hymned Mother”, pronouncing the words of prayer and dialing the elder’s number with my finger at the same time. No sooner had I gotten to the final words, “Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded”, than the elder picked up the phone and pronounced in a singsong voice from the other end of the line, “Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded.” He gave me to understand that he had been praying with me. Next he began to speak on the subject I had wanted to ask him about—our Geronda. He said: “Don’t be afraid. Your Geronda won’t die now. He will live long.” That is precisely what happened. Geronda reposed many years later.
“May the prayers and the blessing of the Theotokos be with you!”
From 1991–1992 I was to move to Cyprus. At that time, on instructions from Vatopedi Monastery, I was honored to serve as the Protepistates of the Holy Mountain. Geronda Joseph decided to send me to Cyprus in response to the appeal by Archbishop Chrysostomos I of blessed memory. I resisted and didn’t want to leave Mt. Athos and return to Cyprus for anything in the world. My opposition was strong, yet Geronda Joseph stood his ground too. He kept saying, “This is my blessing, and you must fulfil it.” And I was looking for one of the pious Athonite elders who would say to me, “You don’t need to go to Cyprus. Stay on Mt. Athos.” Because Athonites adhered to the principle that we would never leave the Holy Mountain and nothing would force us to do it. And I would say to myself, “Now I’ll find one of the elders, he will tell me not to go, and I won’t go.”
One evening, the day before Elder Porphyrios fell asleep in the Lord, I was at the office of Vatopedi Monastery in Karyes when I got an internal phone call from the Kavsokalyvia Skete—from the kaliva where Elder Porphyrios was. A brother was speaking, and I inquired:
“Excuse me, father, may I speak to Elder Porphyrios?”
The brother replied:
“The elder is very ill and he is unable to talk on the phone.”
It was late to boot. But at that moment I heard the elder’s voice wondering:
“Who is this?”
The brother asked me again:
“I am sorry, who is speaking?”
“The Protepistates of the Holy Mountain, Fr. Athanasios.”
The brother said to the elder:
“Geronda, this is the Protos.”
“Give me the phone!”
Elder Porphyrios took the phone:
“Protos, your blessing! I’m dying and I can’t speak.”
I asked him one question:
“Geronda, I ask for your prayers! My Geronda demands that I go to Cyprus, but I don’t want to. What should I do?”
“What shall I say to you, my dear son? Since Geronda is sending you to Cyprus, you need to show obedience and go. I pray that the Mother of God can accompany you in all your ways! May prayer and the blessing of the Theotokos be with you! I can’t say more. I am dying.”
I also asked him:
“Geronda, bless me! Pray for me!”
“The Lord and the Mother of God are with you.”
And he put down the receiver. The next day the elder passed away. Perhaps I was one of the last people to speak with the elder on the phone.
Thus prayers and the blessing of Elder Porphyrios are with us in Cyprus, which by itself doesn’t make us worthy because in order to be worthy of saints you should not only know them but also imitate them. But, though we were acquainted with them, we don’t imitate them. So I ask God to help us become like saints as it is so vital! Currently in Limassol, in the quarter of Omonoia; we are trying to build a beautiful church in honor of St. Porphyrios on the land donated by a pious woman. I hope St. Porphyrios will bless us to construct this church.