One day George wanted to go to the Holy Mountain. He asked his friend where he could find a clairvoyant elder. He really wanted to witness some kind of miracle like those that other pilgrims would excitedly talk about. He would listen to their stories with great interest… and with a pinch of doubt. “I won’t believe it until I see it for myself!”
“Go visit Elder Gabriel,” his friend told him. “It’ll be good for your soul. But look, talk with him with respect, and please, no nonsense. I know you…”
And so, sometime later, George and his friends who went along with him were approaching the Elder’s cell, not far from Karyes.
They were met by a modest Athonite monk offering them loukoumi and pure water. The pilgrims were sitting in the fresh air in the yard when they were invited into the cell one by one to talk with the Elder.
Of course, George hurried to go in first!
He took a blessing from the Elder, sat down by his bed, and started asking him questions about his life…
The Elder was looking through the letters on his table (two whole stacks of them) while listening to George. He answered some questions for him and gave him some spiritual advice.
The conversation was coming to an end, and nothing unusual had happened. But George had heard so much about the Elder from his friend and other pilgrims! Finally, he asked the Elder’s prayers and headed for the exit.
He was very disappointed. The poor man regretted that he hadn’t seen any “miracle,” and grabbing the door handle, he thought:
“So much for a vaunted elder… We came so far for nothing.”
And then he heard the quiet voice of Fr. Gabriel:
“And what did you want? For me to say your name—George? And then you’ll believe?”
The man froze in his tracks…
The Elder had answered his thoughts.
And called him by name!
George hadn’t introduced himself when he entered, and never said his name during the conversation.
And it was his friends’ first time on Athos…
“Forgive me, Geronda,” the hapless pilgrim muttered and left the cell with a stunned face.
The Lord had vouchsafed him to find among the living, as he himself later said, one of the last humble and grace-filled elders of the great generation of Athonite ascetics, who has already nearly left us—Geronda Gabriel of Mt. Athos.
May the Lord have mercy on us sinners by his holy prayers!