“Everything I Am and Will Be is Because of Him”

An Interview on Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra and Neptic Vigilance

pemptousia.gr pemptousia.gr     

Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra († May 9, 2019) is known throughout the Orthodox world as one of the greatest Athonite elders of the twentieth century, and is widely venerated as a saint, though not yet canonized.

Elder Aimilianos had a special gift for making deep spiritual topics accessible to monastics and non-monastics alike, and his talks and lectures, available in several publications in English, are filled with a spirit of love and joy in Christ.

One of the elder’s spiritual children, His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, recently spoke with OrthoChristian about his beloved elder and the mysteries of the spiritual life that were manifested in Elder Aimilianos, who could reveal God to the human soul.

His Grace also spoke with us about his elder’s teaching on nepsis—the practice of prayerfully watching over our thoughts in order to make room for God within ourselves—a vital practice for Orthodox Christians.

In April 2020, Bp. Emilianos began delivering an ongoing series of lectures on Elder Aimilianos’ teachings on nepsis. The audio of the lectures can be found in the Archdiocese’s Orthodoxy app (App Store, Google Play), or on the site of the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Forrestfield, Western Australia, which His Grace founded in 2005 and where he served as abbot until October 2019, after which he was consecrated to the episcopacy on the feast of the Nativity of the Lord in 2019.1


According to your biography on the site of the Greek Archdiocese of Australia, you studied at the School of Physiotherapy in Thessaloniki, and after just two months in the city you went to Mt. Athos. Were you already drawn to monasticism then, or were you just going as a pilgrim?

—When I went to Mt. Athos, I had no intention of becoming a monk. It wasn’t really something that crossed my mind. It developed after I went to Mt. Athos. At that stage, I didn’t even know that it had started developing, but no, I had no intention of becoming a monk. I didn’t go there to become a monk.

I went there because before passing physiotherapy in Thessaloniki, I really wanted to do something in my life. And I asked Panagia: If she would allow me to spend the summer in Thessaloniki, I would promise to visit Mt. Athos just to say thank you; and that’s how it started. But my intention wasn’t really to become a monk.

But it’s interesting how things happened. I went there by myself. I knew no one, but while I was on the boat, I met a young man who was there with his father, who was a priest. And this young man was starting to do iconography. He was going to see St. Paisios to show him the first icon he painted of Panagia, because it was with the blessing of St. Paisios that he began doing iconography. I followed them everywhere they went, and that’s how I ended up meeting St. Paisios for the first time and getting his blessing.

On the last day of our trip to Mt. Athos we went to Simonopetra; I felt a different spirit there—a spirit of freedom, love, and happiness, which I never thought could exist in monasticism. And that’s what drew me there, though I still didn’t understand that I wanted to become a monk. Then I left and went back to continue studying physiotherapy. Later, I returned to Mt. Athos for Christmas, for the holy days, because my island was farther away than Mt. Athos. I stayed there for a couple of weeks. I heard about Geronda Aimilianos (I never knew about him before), and at the end of my trip there I ended up meeting him for the first time. Then I went again and again and again, and I thought to myself: “If I want to save my soul, it’s probably easier to do so in the monastery with Geronda Aimilianos,” and that’s when I asked for a blessing to give up physiotherapy and join the brotherhood.

You said there was a feeling of freedom and love at Simonopetra. Could you say a little bit more about that? Could you explain more what the difference was that you felt there?

—I had experiences at monasteries before, not because I went to them to stay, but just because I had visited other monasteries before. My grandmother was a secret nun, meaning when my grandfather passed away, she went to Jerusalem and she became a nun—but no one knew about it. She came back and she raised me, and she was very close to all the female monasteries on Kalymnos, my island. So I visited monasteries on my island and I knew about monasticism, but whenever I visited a monastery, I didn’t feel like I belonged there; I felt like it wasn’t for me. But at Simonopetra, for the first time my sprit felt free; this was because of the spirit of Geronda Aimilianos, which was everywhere. It was everywhere, this spirit of Geronda Aimilianos. And when I say that I felt happiness, freedom, and love, I mean that I felt that if I were to stay there, I wouldn’t be depressed; I would find the purpose of my life; I would find something that would help me develop as a person, be happy, and probably do what God wants me to do. I had never felt like this anywhere else in the world.

His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa. Photo: stjohnmonastery.com His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa. Photo: stjohnmonastery.com     

If I understand correctly, once you joined the monastery, you spent fourteen years there with Elder Aimilianos?

—Once I got the blessing to stay, I stayed for fourteen years, but Geronda Aimilianos wasn’t there for fourteen years. After three years he tonsured me a monk, but after a few more years he got sick and left Simonopetra and went to the female monastery of Ormylia, where we would see him very rarely. His health was going from bad to worse, so there wasn’t much he could tell us or do for us in a physical sort of way, with his presence. But spiritually, I think this was the time when whatever he had planted inside us before really grew.

During the years when he was still at the monastery, still in good health, what was your relationship with him like? Was the brotherhood small enough that he had time to devote personal attention to individual monks? Was everybody very close to him, or was it like in larger monasteries, where the abbot can be more like a distant figurehead?

—He was always busy. One third of the year he wasn’t even on Mt. Athos in the monastery. He did this not only because he had things to do—he had the female monastery of Ormylia, and smaller brotherhoods and sisterhoods outside of Greece, such as in France, which were dependencies of Simonopetra, and he would go around Greece for confession and talks—but he would be away from the monastery at least one third of the year on purpose to help us learn to live with his absence. He wanted to train us to be able to live without him being around. One day the Apostles would lose Christ, and they had to be trained to make it on their own, and this is what he was doing with us.

When he actually left for health reasons, the monastery was without an official abbot for a number of years. If this were to happen to any other monastery around the world, it would collapse within a couple of months. But Simonopetra kept going because we knew what we were supposed to be doing, and we just kept doing it. He gave us all the tools that we needed and we just kept building up our soul—and this is what we were supposed to do.

But when he was at the monastery, we could go before the morning service or before the evening service, knock on his door, and if the door was open and he would answer, we could go and get his blessing. He might ask how we were doing, what was going on, and that’s it. If we needed to see him, we could even write him a letter and give it to the monk who was taking care of him. He would read the letter when he had the time, then he would call us and see us whenever he had the time. Or even if we just let him know what we were going through, his prayers would be enough for us.

But there were times—and I’ve never said this before—when we had questions—small but very important questions. One morning before the morning service, I was thinking whether I would be saved—because it’s not enough just to be in the monastery. I went and knocked on his door, but he didn’t respond. I waited there and he ended up coming out, and I asked: “Geronda, am I going to go to Heaven?” and he hugged me and said: “Of course, we will be there together.” These things were very small—he wouldn’t keep talking and talking, but whatever he did tell us was as if engraved inside us. I also kept notes of all these little things that he said, and when he wasn’t around, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Perhaps no one else would agree with me, but I knew exactly what I had to do. And these small things, and even the bigger things—we would gather and he would talk to us for an hour, explaining something from the Fathers of the Church—are what made us who we are.

You said he was preparing you to live without him. Does that mean that he had foreknowledge that he would be sick? Was this revealed to him by God? Or was this simply because he knew he would be gone eventually because everyone dies?

—It’s both.

The brotherhood started thirty years earlier at Meteora, where Geronda Aimilianos was the abbot of the Great Meteoron, the largest monastery there. The person whom he wanted to put in charge back then is the one who ended up being in charge afterwards. He was still a layman at the time, but Geronda Aimilianos put him in charge when he himself was away from the monastery. The monks would have to get the blessing of this layman—not an actual blessing, but they had to ask permission to do things when Geronda Aimilianos wasn’t around. He always wanted to make this man the abbot of Simonopetra so he could retire, but he—Elder Eliseos—was a very humble man, and he thought he couldn’t take over from Geronda Aimilianos. It was too difficult to continue what Geronda had started, so he always avoided it. Then Geronda Aimilianos fell sick; when the elections happened a few years after he got sick, every monk who had been tonsured by Geronda Aimilianos became a candidate. They didn’t suggest just five fathers, or only the priests—everyone in the monastery was a candidate. So we went to vote; we could vote for whomever we wanted, freely, and nearly everyone voted for this man that Geronda Aimilianos had already wanted to become the abbot thirty years earlier.

That’s very interesting. Of course, there are many books on Orthodox spirituality and theology that we can read, including by Elder Aimilianos. But as we’ve been saying, you had the blessing of living with him. What did you learn or glean from him, from his presence, from knowing him personally, that can’t be learned in books?

—Everything that I am. That’s about it. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain that, but everything I am, everything I ever will be is because of him. I’m a very bad representation of him, but still—this is just amazing, whatever it is. But you can’t explain it. I don’t know if this makes sense.

One of my seminary professors was a spiritual child of St. Sophrony, and he said that he saw Christ in St. Sophrony.

—Of course. I saw not just Christ in Geronda Aimilianos—I saw the Holy Trinity . I’m not saying that just to differ from what you just said—that’s not the point. I’m just telling you what I’ve experienced. When he had a trip coming up, Geronda Aimilianos would ask the Holy Spirit to bless it, and he would go on and do what he had to do. He taught us how to have a connection with the Holy Trinity. That’s what he taught us. That’s what he engraved inside us. And if this is the case, after a certain point, your spiritual father, your geronda, becomes the Holy Spirit. If this is given to you, its’ given to you; if it’s not, you can’t understand it, you can’t imitate it. You can’t. It doesn’t work. The fruit shows what sort of tree you are, because if your fruit in the Church is full of the Holy Spirit, it means that your spiritual father, your geronda was full of the Holy Spirit—and you follow the Holy Spirit.

That’s wonderful. Speaking of someone so full of the Holy Spirit, who could reveal the Holy Trinity to others, I’ve heard it said that sometimes it can be difficult to be in the presence of saints and holy elders, because their holiness can be like a fire that burns us, that condemns us if we’re not holy. Was there ever a feeling that it was hard to be in Elder Aimilianos’ presence, or was it always something comforting? How would you describe it, if it can be described?

—I wish I had had more time with him, and that’s all I can say. I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t know. There’s a part in my talks on nepsis about “unifying distance.” I don’t know if you’ve come across this term?

No, I don’t think I’ve gotten that far in the talks yet.

—So, it’s about unifying distance. Geronda Aimilianos was always very close to us and one with us, but he was also distant in the sense that we couldn’t have him around whenever we wanted. And whenever he was around, it was such a great gift from God for us that we would cherish every part of every second. You wouldn’t want to do anything else if he was around—just be there with him.

orp.gr orp.gr     

I’m sure the Elder had many spiritual gifts and virtues, but is there perhaps a particular gift or virtue that you would say especially characterized him? You’ve already mentioned his love and freedom—perhaps that’s the main thing you think about when you think about your Elder?

—Once in the early stage of his spiritual life, he was in great difficulty, and no one understood him. He was at the Dousikou Monastery2 in Trikala, and it was really hard for him. No one understood monasticism, but he wanted something deeper from the Church. In this very difficult time that he was experiencing, he had the chance to spend a night with the holy relics of St. Vissarion, Archbishop of Larissa. He did a vigil himself and he asked St. Vissarion to give him what his heart desired. Geronda Aimilianos used to say that he entered this monastery as a child and he left as a geronda. Within nine months, he was transfigured to a point that, I don’t know—very few of the saints in our Church ever reached.

What Geronda Aimilianos could do to your soul was to give you the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t his love and his freedom. These qualities are from God, of course. God is love, God is freedom, God is joy. But he could give you the Holy Spirit. He could install the Holy Spirit in your soul. If this were to happen, then love and joy and freedom are just details—not because they’re mere details, but if you have God, you have everything. And this is what he could do for you. And this is what he did with his spiritual children, of course each according to what they could handle, according to what they could understand, or according to their purpose in the Church. This is what he could do. He’s not canonized but we all believe that he’s a saint; and saints like him are very rare—they’re very, very unique.

Turning to your ongoing series of lectures on nepsis based on the teachings of your Elder: First, please tell us what nepsis means. Perhaps not all of our readers are familiar with this term. And why is it important for the spiritual life?

—When we were thinking about starting this series of talks, I was thinking about what I could give to the younger generation to help them. Geronda Aimilianos’ book about nepsis contains explanations of one of the Fathers of the Church—St. Hesychios, a father of The Philokalia, which is a collection of ascetic writings—very difficult to understand sometimes—dedicated to monasticism.

But nepsis itself—vigilance—has to do with our thoughts. Of course, it’s very important for monastics, because if monastics can’t control their thoughts, if their thoughts are outside of the monastery or on material things, it’s as if they’re living in the world. But for people who live in the world, nepsis, meaning vigilance and controlling your thoughts, is very important, because all the problems we have in society happen because we follow the wrong thoughts. We become the wrong things ourselves because we follow the wrong thoughts.

So I thought that if I had something to tell the younger generation, it would be: how to find God themselves through rejecting all their thoughts that keep them away from Him. Then they’ll find not just God, but who they are themselves. We were created to achieve this. I thought this would be something that no one else could explain to them, because there aren’t any other spiritual children of Geronda Aimilianos in Australia—no one else who can understand why he said what he said, or read between the lines of what he was saying. I lived with him and I know what he meant when he said things—perhaps not as much as others who lived with him for thirty years—but still, I have an understanding of what he was talking about. And I thought if I were to give this knowledge to everyone to the best of my ability, it would perhaps be something they didn’t have, something that might be interesting.

And this is the way out of a lot of issues, like anxiety and depression—of course, in the simpler cases. We’re not talking about difficult clinical cases; but we all have anxiety and depression in our lives to a certain degree, and we all have confusion in our lives to a certain degree. So this is to give you clarity, to teach you how to find God’s will in your life, by just rejecting or controlling your thoughts and simply focusing on God, focusing on prayer.

You said Elder Aimilianos spoke about teachings from St. Hesychios from The Philokalia, which was written more for monastics. But you’re also saying that nepsis is for everybody. Let’s take the example of a married person who has children, who for the most part is only able to get to church on Sundays. What can he practically do in his everyday life to begin this practice of watchfulness, or vigilance, or nepsis?

—It’s not about going to church. This is how to learn to empty yourself from intrusive thoughts, from destructive thoughts, from thoughts that you don’t need to be worrying about. You have to do it to survive—first of all, to do your job properly, but also in order to dedicate your intellect to God when you want to pray. And if you truly dedicate yourself to God when you go to church, or when you do your personal prayers, then this is like charging your batteries to keep you going for the rest of your day.

Married people can start their daily routine with ten or fifteen minutes of the Jesus Prayer. Of course, you need a spiritual father, because it’s not something you can do without a spiritual father who can teach you and guide you through it. But when married people who have practiced this even for just fifteen minutes in the morning go to work, they have a clearer mind; when they deal with issues in the family, they have a clearer view of things, and they themselves are more peaceful. And it shows. After a few years, it shows within their own family and it shows within their environment. Everyone can see it after a period of time.

Elder Aimilianos in blessed repose in 2019. Photo: imakb.gr Elder Aimilianos in blessed repose in 2019. Photo: imakb.gr     

Are there any necessary spiritual prerequisites for embarking upon the path of watchfulness? Or could anyone begin to put this into practice tomorrow?

—I wouldn’t teach such things to someone who’s not Orthodox, because they won’t understand it if they don’t have an Orthodox background. They’ll confuse things. But other than that, if God created us, it’s for all of us, because God is for all of us.

For instance, some people struggle just to keep the Wednesday and Friday fasts, or to regularly pray the morning and evening rules. Is there a bare minimum we should be observing first, and then try to introduce the Jesus Prayer and other practices? Or can any Orthodox person do it?

—Once there was a man (and I think this is mentioned in the nepsis book) who had a spiritual father who told him, “You have to do this, that, and the other thing,” and the poor thing said: “If I’m to follow all these rules, I just can’t do it,” and he quit. Then God showed mercy on him and inspired him to talk to another spiritual father. He said: “I’m so desperate. I have to do all these little rules, and I can’t do anything. Literally, it’s too much. Even thinking about it gives me a headache. I just can’t do it.” And this spiritual father told him just one thing: “Try not to think about anything, and try to say the Jesus Prayer whenever you can.” He did it, and a few years down the road he looked back and said: “I wasn’t aware, but I’m now doing that whole list of things I was supposed to do,without even trying.” Why? Because he hit the spot. Once you get the essence of what you need to do, everything else comes along on its own, by itself. Once you find God, everything else around you works itself out. Fasting and everything else are tools—they’re not goals. That’s not the aim of our faith; the aim of our faith is God. Once you find God, everything else doesn’t matter; it works on its own.

When someone feels that they’re under some form of spiritual attack—a temptation, a distracting thought—what should they do? Of course, they turn to prayer, but could you say some more about what to do? Is it always the Jesus Prayer, or are there some other methods?

—When we’re tempted, we need to understand that first of all we mustn’t panic, because once we panic, it’s as if we lose the ground under our feet. And we mustn’t despair, because desperation is the greatest weapon of the devil. I always think of the example of the Apostle Peter, when there was a thunderstorm and the Disciples saw Jesus as a spirit, and Peter said: “Lord if it’s You, give an order and I will walk on the waves to You,” and Jesus told him to come. So he started walking on the waves. When his focus was on Christ, he walked on the waves. The waves were there, but he was walking on them. But when his focus shifted to the waves, he nearly lost his life. Nothing changed other than his focus.

So this is what nepsis tries to get us to do—to keep our focus where it should be, and that’s about it. Our focus is God, not the waves. Every moment that God gives us is perfect, even if what we’re going through is the most miserable thing we’ve ever experienced. Try to understand what I’m trying to say, because it’s not easy for me to explain. Every difficulty is perfect. Why? Because God is everywhere. So if in the time of a great, unbearable difficulty, we turn our eyes to Christ, to God, and say a heartfelt prayer, everything can disappear; and if it doesn’t disappear, it’s for a reason. Every single second of our pain is perfect because it helps our maturity, it helps us to go to the next step.

Jesus’ Cross was perfect although it was very painful. And although what Panagia, what His Mother went through was very painful, it was perfect, and it made her the person she is—a person with an abundance of love. Christ’s Cross gave us what we have, which is the Resurrection. So we have to understand that we mustn’t focus on the waves, but rather on God, and the waves will eventually go away.

Is there perhaps any danger in this? Perhaps you’re trying to be vigilant, to watch over your thoughts, and you develop some kind of neurosis where you doubt every single thought you have, you think everything in your mind is an attack from the devil, and you have no idea what to trust. Is there any such danger, and if so, how do we guard against this?

—When we say that we reject thoughts in order to be able to pray and in order to be able to go towards God, it doesn’t mean we stop thinking about our job when we’re at work. We have to continue working and thinking about our job, about what we have to do, about how to help our families and friends. But let’s say you’re walking down the street and you get attacked by a thought telling you to judge someone who is dressed a certain way. This is just an everyday example. This is the kind of thought we need to get rid of it. Whether it’s a positive or negative thought about this person, it’s safer to reject it either way; because it’s dangerous sometimes when we judge ourselves and we compare others with ourselves, be it a positive or negative form of judgment. If we find them better than ourselves, we might get depressed; if we find them worse than ourselves, we’ll get proud. You can’t win with your thoughts. That’s why we reject all the thoughts.

But when you practice such a thing, you need to have a spiritual father who knows about these things—and when you get stuck, you ask. If you don’t ask, you can’t move on, because a single thought can trick you into thinking things that you never came across before, and then you get confused. So you can’t follow this path if you don’t have someone who knows about these things whom you can ask, even if once in a blue moon, about something you’re really stuck on and don’t know how to deal with.

Thank you for that explanation. In your first lecture, you talk about a teaching from St. Hesychios that Elder Aimilianos comments on—that it’s not humans who fulfill the will of God, but it’s nepsis that fulfills the will of God. Could you say a little bit about this for our readers?

—Nepsis helps us to empty ourselves. The more we empty ourselves of ourselves, of our own thoughts, of our own passions, desires, ambitions and everything, the more space we create inside ourselves, the more we get filled up with the Holy Spirit; and then it’s the Holy Spirit that does everything through us. So we open up a space for God to dwell, and once He comes and lives within us, He does everything; and this is the work of nepsis. That’s why it’s as if nepsis does everything for us.

ormyliamonastery.com ormyliamonastery.com     

We’ve talked about the Jesus Prayer, and people in the English-speaking Orthodox world are usually familiar with the term or idea of hesychasm, whereas nepsis is less well-known. Are nepsis and hesychasm the same thing? Are they two aspects of the same thing? Or what is the relationship between them?

—I guess that you can’t call someone a hesychast if he doesn’t practice nepsis and prayer, because that’s the essence of hesychasm. But nevertheless, if someone lives in the world and they can go down this path but they don’t, they miss out on the opportunity to experience God. And I can only ask: “Why?” If someone wants to give you a palace, why say no? It’s free.

Since God is offering us everything through this practice, why would we not do it?

—Yes, He offers Himself to us. He offers the Holy Spirit. If God is offering the Holy Spirit and all you need to do is create some space inside yourself so He can fit, why not?

We’ve already touched upon this question in a way, but I’ll ask it more directly: How did Elder Aimilianos teach this spiritual practice to you and his disciples? Did he offer specific talks on the subject, or was it just from watching him, from being in his prayerful presence?

—This specific book about nepsis, about vigilance, is a series of talks that he gave to the brotherhood of Simonopetra and the sisterhood of Ormylia. He never wrote anything to be published. They recorded every single talk he gave at these gatherings, these synaxes of the brotherhood and the sisterhood, and then they went through them and created all these written texts that complete the book of St. Hesychios.

But he also spoke about a lot of other things. For example, there’s another book in English, Mystical Marriage, that explains one of the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor. It’s another amazing book compiled from another series of talks that he gave for the brotherhood and sisterhood about the theme of love in the writings of St. Maximos. But you could see that his whole presence followed his teachings. It’s not as if you wouldn’t see this in every little thing he did. You did see it in every little thing he did.

That probably goes back to what you were saying before, that you personally experienced it in his presence, and it simply has to be experienced.

—It has to be experienced, yes.

One question about a different work by Elder Aimilianos: In his talk “On Prayer,” published in The Church at Prayer, he talks about how the sacramental and the mystical life feed into one another, and he says: “It is pointless to go to church, unnecessary for me to attend Liturgy, and useless for me to commune, when I am not constantly praying. And it is superfluous for me to pray if I have no part in the Divine Liturgy and the prayer of the Church.” How literally are we to take this advice? If out of laziness or busyness I haven’t made time for my prayer rule or to say the Jesus Prayer this week, should I stay home on Sunday morning? What should this look like in practice?

—Yes, that’s a very good question. That’s not what he’s trying to say. He’s talking to monks and he’s talking about perfection. He’s trying to tell them that, though it’s not exactly like this, it’s as if God has given you two means of communicating with Him—one is prayer and the other is Holy Communion. Use them both. Holy Communion makes you one with God, but prayer does the same thing. And when you pray, Holy Communion becomes stronger inside you, because you can feel God better. And when you have Holy Communion, you can pray better because God is already inside you. The one helps the other; and he’s trying to tell us that if we only do one and not the other, we miss out. That’s the point here. It’s not that it’s pointless to do one without the other, but if you only do the one and not the other, you’re missing out. And why miss out when you can do both? They’re both very, very important for us as humans.

So, there are two paths of union with Christ.

—Yes, and the one helps the other so much that they go together. They have to go together, because that’s when you get the best results.

We’ve talked a lot about Elder Aimilianos and his teachings, but as you said at the beginning, you also met St. Paisios and received his blessing. What was your encounter with him like? Did you have a brief meeting with him, or did you have a more extended time with him?

—It was not anything like my experience with Elder Aimilianos. Other people had the blessing of spending more time with St. Paisios and St. Porphyrios, and other saints. I never had this chance. I only got St. Paisios’ blessing twice. He said a couple of words to me and that was it—nothing compared to what we have spoken about with Geronda Aimilianos.

But once I found Geronda Aimilianos, I wasn’t really looking for anything else. I wasn’t feeling incomplete, such that I had to go and look around for St. Paisios, St. Porphyrios, and ask them things. I understood that once you find your geronda, once you find your personal doctor for your soul, you can’t just keep changing doctors, because then it gets very confusing.

Every saint has a different approach. For instance, St. Sophrony is a great, great saint, but his approach in spiritual matters, even his understanding of the Holy Trinity is different from that of Geronda Aimilianos. It doesn’t mean we’re not talking about the same God, but all the saints have different experiences, different gifts from God, they’re at different levels of understanding of things; and that’s what it is. So, if I were to ask the same question to two different saints, I would most likely get two different answers. Does this mean that God has two wills? It doesn’t mean that God has two wills, but it means I need to find which one is my spiritual father, which person I’m comfortable with, and then God has only one will and it comes through this person for me.

In closing, is there anything else about your Elder, or any last thoughts of spiritual advice that you’d like to leave us with?

—I’m not thinking anything specific at the moment, it’s just that there are people in our lives who show us the way, as Geronda Aimilianos did for me. And I know that he’s not canonized a saint by the Church, but we had a tradition on Mt. Athos: Before we started any activity or work at all, we would say: “Through the prayers of my holy father.” I still do this myself. I wouldn’t do anything that I want to be blessed by God without saying: “Through the prayers of my holy father.” And I mean that. And I do believe that where he is now, he can help me even more than he did before. That’s why I keep doing what I’m doing.

Your spiritual connection has perhaps only grown since he departed this life?

—I can say it has—because the more you miss someone the more connected you feel to him, even though he’s not around.

Your Grace, thank you very much for your time and for the many wonderful things about Elder Aimilianos that you shared with us.

—And thank you very much.

1 There is a book by Elder Aimilianos, Discourse on Nepsis: Interpretation of St. Hesychios (ΛΟΓΟΣ ΠΕΡΙ ΝΗΨΕΩΣ - Ερμηνεία στον Άγιο Ησύχιο), which isn’t available in English, though Bp. Emilianos’ talks serve as a valuable guide through his elder’s teaching on the matter.

2 The Dousikou Monastery of St. Vissarion (Bessarion) in Trikala, built between 1527 and 1535.

Bishoy11/11/2022 11:51 am
You ask really extensive and specific questions Jesse lol. The interviewee might feel overwhelmed. But I personally love the depth and eloquence.
Johannes M11/10/2022 1:38 pm
Elder Aimilianos is one of of my best friends in heaven. So full of joy and forgiveness! Pray to him and you will receive help for your soul.
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