Tuesday, July 12, 2022

On the Monk Who Pretended He Was Demon Possessed (St. Paisios the Athonite)

In the old days there were Fathers who even pretended to be demon possessed, in order to hide their virtue and spoil the good opinion others had of them.

When I was in Philotheou Monastery [1956-1958], which was idiorhythmic at the time, there was a Father who had previously been an ascetic in Vigla.*

He, as soon as he realized that the Fathers there had taken a whiff of his asceticism and his spiritual advancement, left with the blessing of his spiritual father.

"Come on," he said to them, "I'm tired of eating moldy dried bread here. I'll go to some idiorhythmic monastery, and eat meat too, live like a man! I'm wasting my time staying here."

And he came to the Monastery of Philotheou and made himself act like a demon possessed man.

His fellow brothers** heard that he was demon possessed and said to one another:

"Too bad, the poor guy became possessed. Well, the next thing for him was to be demonized. He left here, because he was tired of the moldy dried bread, and went to an idiorhythmic one, to eat meat."

What did he do?

For more than twenty-five years he neither cooked nor slept. All night he walked the corridors with a lantern, so as not to fall asleep.

When he got tired, he leaned a little against the wall and, as soon as he fell asleep, he threw himself down, whispered for a while the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ..." and then continued it noetically. Sometimes it escaped him, and the prayer was heard.

When he met any brother, he would say to him:

"I wish, I wish that the demon will go away."

So everyone thought he was possessed.

A young monk, fifteen years old, said to me one day:

"Let the demoniac go away!"

"Don't say that," I told him; "he has a lot of virtue, but he makes himself into a demoniac."

Then he held him in reverence.

When he died, the Fathers found him holding in his hands a piece of paper on which he had written the name of each brother and next to it a nickname, in order to drive away, even when he was dead, even the slightest good opinion that anyone might have had of him.

Finally, he became fragrant. You see, he went into hiding, but the Grace of God betrayed him.

That is why one should not draw conclusions about a person from what is seen, if one cannot discern what is hidden.


* The wilderness of Vigla is located in the south-eastern part of the peninsula of Athos.

** The monks of the hut who received the monastic tonsure from the same Elder.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.