When reading the biographies and writings of certain modern day Holy Elders, one will inevitably come across various “prophecies” they made concerning end-time events. These “prophecies” have especially arisen in modern times during periods of high anxiety for Orthodox Christians – in Slavic countries with the rise of communism and in Greece especially since the 1970′s and on as we neared the beginning of the second millenium. Much of the latter stems from the rise of eschatological propaganda infiltrating Greece from the West in translation (in 1970 Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth was published following the Six-Day War in the Middle East that sparked a plethora of eschatological writings in the West), and the translation into Greek of the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion by a Greek politician in the 1980′s. Fascinated by these writings, Orthodox Christian thinkers began to look into their own tradition to apply these seemingly convincing portrayals of the soon-to-be second coming of Christ to make them their own. Unfortunately many of our beloved Holy Elders and modern day Saints were influenced by these writings and traditions, to the confusion of many. I personally believe this was mainly due to the simplicity of their hearts, since these neoeschatological and conspiratorial writings do seem to conform to aspects of Orthodox eschatology if one is pushed to reconcile them. This should by no means determine the authenticity or sanctity of a Holy Elder, since no one is infallible and God may have His reasons for allowing such things.
But not all of our Holy Elders were of a similar mind on these eschatological issues. In fact, when these Holy Elders were asked about these issues, they flatly disagreed with what other Holy Elders were saying about these things. In doing so, they would never try to discredit the Holy Elder they disagreed with, but still considered them men of God with special gifts of the Holy Spirit. They recognized that these things were spoken not by revelation, but through their own opinion or because it was a tradition that they were convinced of by their own logic. Unfortunately most people cannot tell the difference between a real prophecy and an opinion, and this has caused much confusion among impressionable contemporary Orthodox.
One of the most popular and beloved Holy Elders today is Elder Paisios the Athonite (+ 1993). He is one most especially known for his end-time prophecies circulating throughout the Orthodox world. Elder Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (+ 1991) was another Holy Elder of our times very much beloved by Orthodox Christians. These two Holy Elders are considered the two strongest pillars of sanctity in 20th century Greek Orthodoxy. But on the critical issue of eschatology they strongly disagreed, much like the Apostles Peter and Paul disagreed in the Acts of the Apostles on the issue of Jews and Gentiles in early Christianity. In fact, Elder Porphyrios censured Elder Paisios for circulating his eschatological material. From this incident, many important lessons can be learned by contemporary Orthodox Christians. For this reason the details of this incident are written below.
The Epistle of Elder Porphyrios to Elder Paisios
In an interview for Cypriot television, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou spoke of his personal relationship with Elders Porphyrios, Iakovos, Evmenios and Paisios. He says in the interview that he was instructed by Elder Porphyrios to have Elder Iakovos of Evia as his spiritual father. The Metropolitan was in law school at the time, before he entered ecclesiastical life. His impression of Elder Porphyrios was that he was able to be attuned to another persons soul in a more intimate way, like an x-ray machine, than the other Elder’s he met, such as Elders Iakovos, Evmenios and Paisios. This is because each Holy Elder has a particular gift manifested in a more powerful way than other Holy Elders.
The special gift of Elder Porphyrios above all the other Greek Elders, according to Metropolitan Neophytos, was that of clairvoyance and the foreseeing of the future. He had the unique gift of being able to see not only future events, but those of the past as well. He could tell you about the various mineral deposits below the earth better than any geologist, he could determine the accurate movements of the stars better than astronomers, and if there was anything below the sea or in your home you needed to know about, he would reveal to you that as well. The charisma he had was very rare which few in the history of the Church ever possessed. What is striking however is that despite his clear visions of things in the past, present and future, he never spoke about the signs of the end-times.
This, said the Metropolitan, is a very strong message for the people of our day who are inundated with many supposed prophecies and predictions concerning the end of the world, the reign of Antichrist and the second coming of Christ. These in fact are mere speculations and baseless interpretations of the writings from people of the past that have been imposed upon our time to deal with the various changes our world has gone through over the past few hundred years and especially now that we have entered the second millennium after the birth of Christ. The Church works synodically; it is a synaxis. Since a synod of the Church has not expressed itself on these matters, then no individual can interpret them any way they please. For these reasons, understanding the times we live in, Elder Porphyrios did not reveal anything about end-time events that was revealed to him, according to God’s will. Thus, while richly endowed with gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy, Elder Porphyrios systematically avoided speaking about apocalyptic events.
When Metropolitan Neophytos was a deacon in Cyprus he went to visit his elder Iakovos in Evia. At the time the people were in a fever about end-time events, the meaning of 666, the identity of the Antichrist, etc. Also, an Archimandrite had published a best-selling book about apocalyptic events. He went to Elder Iakovos and asked him his opinion on all these matters. Elder Iakovos then spoke in a very authoritative tone, which was something very rare for him to do, since he spoke much more humbly than all the other Greek Elders he had met. He said: “Listen to me, my Neophyte. Elder Porphyrios and dumb Iakovos do not speak about anything. Not the things of the present, nor of the things to come, unless the Holy Spirit expressly reveals to them. And up to this point the Holy Spirit has not revealed any such thing to me, not about the Antichrist, nor about wars to come, nor about the future.” These are the exact words of Elder Iakovos and the Metropolitan says that he neither added nor subtracted from his words.
I will now translate the words of Metropolitan Neophytos:
“I must mention that there is an epistle held by a monastery on the Holy Mountain, and it would be good for the keepers of this epistle to publish it at some point. This happens to be an epistle by Elder Porphyrios addressed to Elder Paisios. Now I understand that the content of this epistle might challenge some of our spiritual brothers, but it is good to be challenged this way. It is better to be challenged than to fall into exaggerations. This epistle was from a man who honored and revered Elder Paisios very much. Fr. Porphyrios told me that Fr. Paisios is a man of God. And he wrote to him:
My beloved Father Paisios, what happened to you? If Constantinople will be freed or not, this is the concern of the politicians and of the military rulers, and not of the monks nor even the archpriests. If the Antichrist will come, this must be the concern of the archpriests and it is their duty to inform the people. And when that time comes, God will provide us with illumined archpriests who will in turn illumine the people. We the monks, if we are members of the priesthood, we need to liturgize for the salvation of the entire universe. And if we happen to be simple monks, we need to weep over our sins. Now because of my love for you, and knowing how much you love Christ, I am giving you a rule not to talk about these things again out of your great love for Asia Minor and Hellenism.
And Fr. Paisios, this great man of God, did obedience to this great Elder of Elders, Fr. Porphyrios. And since then he kept silent about these matters, because he realized that the smallest comment he would make would often be exaggerated by his highly impressionable visitors. Not to mention, some of these prophetic sayings were not his, but he was quoted by different people, or misquoted, and with other things he was often quoting from a notebook of his spiritual father, St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, who happened to be his godfather. St. Arsenios had received the gift of prophecy [or had heard things from others] and recorded a number of things. Elder Paisios would make some comments based on this notebook he had in his possession.
Now what can we say about all this, but to marvel at the great spirit of discretion of Elder Porphyrios. A spirit of watchfulness, vigilance and patient endurance. But in order to have this patient endurance regarding end-time events, whether social or political or personal, the exercise of patience is extremely necessary….
The work of the Church is to liberate people, to redeem people. When people lean towards interpreting the signs of the times and the future, this mania about the things to come is often alienating people from the essence of spirituality – from their personal struggle, the purification of the heart, our personal trauma, and our need to become well, to cure our passions. This is the heart of the problem.
One time I asked Elder Evmenios about these things, and he responded very simply. He was the most simple of all the Elders, a man of very few words who did not like endless spiritual talk. He needed to be inspired by someone or by something in order to speak. And when I asked him about all the prophetic talks circulating, he said: ‘You know, I personally don’t believe that Christ would only give 2000 years of grace to the world. It just doesn’t seem very long to me.’”
The interview from which the above was translated can be seen below:
Elder Porphyrios’ Conversation With Elder Paisios
Furthermore, Fr. Akakios, a spiritual child of Elder Porphyrios, in a recent talk about his Elder provided further useful information on this subject. After being asked during the question and answer period about Elder Porphyrios’ opinion on the issue of the Greek ID cards, Fr. Akakios responded as follows:
“Let me tell you, the Elder had a philosophy somewhat different. He would tell us to not occupy much with such things. Not because he did not know. He understood everything. If you remember, as it has been written in books, when he went to Patmos he lived the entire apocalypse and knew all about the end-times. But he did not like for us to occupy ourselves with dates and eschatology. He said that the best way to prepare ourselves for the hour of Christ is to remove the Antichrist from within ourselves and to occupy ourselves with Christ. Then, even if we are called to martyrdom, we will go. This was the philosophy of the Elder.
I will explain to you an event. You will remember a pamphlet Elder Paisios circulated around 1987 about 666 and the ID cards. That summer, at the end of August, I was at the Holy Mountain and I went to get the blessing of Elder Paisios and talked to him a bit, since I had with this Elder a certain relationship as well. But this time the Elder was very different from the other times I had visited him. He was talking about the signs of the times and about the Antichrist with a sense of urgency. At the end he said he could not speak with anyone and told us to take a pamphlet and go. So he distributed the pamphlet to approximately thirty people that were there. We all left and near his cell we all opened this pamphlet, but when I put my hands up to read this pamphlet I realized I didn’t have one in my hands. He offered it to me, but didn’t give it to me. So I ran back before he shut his door so I also could receive a pamphlet. But Elder Paisios was waiting for me at the door with a pamphlet in his hand. As soon as I arrived he looked at me in the eyes and he gave me the pamphlet. And he said to me three times: ‘I thank you, I thank you, I thank you.’ I did not understand what he meant by this ‘thank you’. The look in his eyes looked beyond me entirely.
So I read the pamphlet and left the Holy Mountain. I visited the Elder [Porphyrios]. We spoke a little and then he said that tomorrow we will say more. The next day was a Sunday, and after the Divine Liturgy, as was usual we went to the garden with Mr. George, who had held a high office in the courts and after his retirement he dedicated himself under the Elder and oversaw all the work that was going on at the monastery. After we said a few things he [Elder Porphyrios] asked:
‘Did you pass by Elder Paisios’?’
I told him: ‘Yes’.
‘What did he tell you?’
I said he was distributing a pamphlet, and so on.
‘Do you have this pamphlet?’
‘I have it,’ I said.
And he began to read it. He read it with attention. He said to me: ‘Ah, I disagree. I did not see things this way.’
And then, without me realizing it, I began to respond to Elder Porphyrios, but not with my thoughts or my voice. From my voice could be heard the voice of Elder Paisios and he was responding to Elder Porphyrios. And this conversation took place for a long time, until the high court official said: ‘But Elders don’t disagree.’ It was right that he said Elders, since I was still a young man of the world and wearing worldly clothing. It was right he said Elders because I did not speak, but Elder Paisios spoke through me. And then I realized why he had said to me ‘thank you’. My spirit received him and gave him hospitality and he united with me in order to speak with Elder Porphyrios concerning this fearful subject. But was this necessary? As we know, he was able to communicate even from far away. But this was another subject. This was in order for this subject to be made public and become known so it could be an experience spoken about. When George said that the Elders don’t disagree, Elder Porphyrios chastised him saying: ‘No vre, we disagree.’
To avoid misunderstanding, both Porphyrios and Paisios are great saints. But even in the Old Testament there are incidents where even the angels disagreed, and St. John Chrysostom explains this well. If you remember, when the Prophet Daniel was praying and fasting and the Archangel Gabriel waited 21 days or so to visit him, he said that he waited so long because the angel of Persia did not permit me to enter the borders, and it was necessary for the Archangel Michael to get involved and then I entered. And St. John Chrysostom explains that even the angels disagree, since they don’t know everything. Each had a command from God. God gave one command to the angel of Persia and another to Gabriel, and the Archangel Michael had to get involved for the angel of Persia to receive this. Not even the angels know everything. And God has His reasons to say on one side one thing and on the other side another thing and for them to not know everything, and thus to disagree. This also happened with Peter and Paul, Paul and James, Paul and Barnabus. Other times Chrysostom says that they agreed to disagree for spiritual reasons, or they disagreed though they were both God-bearers, etc etc. So please don’t think I am saying anything against the saints. God forbid.
Then I responded; now this is very important. I said: ‘Elder, in our days we know both of you within the Church. If you both disagree, on whom should we lean, whom should we believe, in what way should we walk?’ And the Elder responded very humbly to me: ‘All of us together will be obedient to the Church.’ We wait for the Church to guide the people.
I believe in 1998, in the days of Archbishop Seraphim, a decision was released that the 666 on the ID’s, if it exists, it is not the seal of the Antichrist, but we would not receive the ID as a matter of conscience. This decision has existed since 1998 by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece. We await the hierarchs, the Church, to lead the people so that there will not be anxiety. God forbid this should happen. Beyond this, I do not want to say anything. I don’t want to take a position on this matter.”
The video from which this answer of Fr. Akakios was translated can be heard below:
I wish to further point out that Fr. Vasilios Voloudakis, in his book The Antichrist, the Number 666 and the Anxiety of Christians (Greek) writes on pages 109-110 concerning the aftermath of Elder Porphyrios’ censure of Elder Paisios:
“Father Paisios continued for a short time to speak exclusively on the issue of 666 to guests, and then stopped dealing passionately with this subject. In fact, someone told me recently that when he went in 1990 to Mount Athos and asked Fr. Paisios about the topic of 666 and the ID cards, he replied: ‘What do you want by occupying yourself with these things? Occupy yourself with Christ and the Church!’”
A Clarification By Saint Barsanuphios
For those a bit troubled by all this, specifically concerning some of the prophecies that Elder Paisios may have circulated that do not entirely reflect a divine revelation, the following quote from St. Barsanuphios, in his answer to question 604, may help clarify things a bit:
May all the Fathers, all the saints who have pleased God and the righteous men and the genuine servants of God, pray for me. But do not think that, even if they were saints, they were able to comprehend genuinely all the depths of God. For the Apostle says: ‘We know in part and we prophesy in part.’ And again: ‘To whom it is given through the Spirit’, the one thing and the other—and not all those things in one man but some things thus and other things differently. However, the one and the same Spirit operates all things. Knowing the things of God, that they are incomprehensible, the Apostle cried, saying: ‘O the depth of the wealth and wisdom and knowledge (gnosis) of God! O how unsearchable his judgements and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has become his counsellor?’ And the rest.
Contriving, then, to become teachers of their own accord or being forced to come to this by men, they made very great progress, even beyond their teachers, and being filled with spiritual assurance composed new dogmas, at the same time, however, remaining in the possession of the traditions of their teachers, lessons which were not correct.
And after these things, progressing and having become spiritual teachers, they did not ask God about their teachers, whether they spoke through the Holy Spirit, but treating them as wise men and gnostics (gnostikos), they did not discern their words; and so the teachings of their teachers were mixed together in their own teachings, and they spoke at one time from the teachings that they learned from their teachers, and at another time from the genius of their own mind, and thus their words were written in their name. For receiving from others and progressing and being improved, they spoke through the Holy Spirit, if they were spiritually assured with something by it, and they spoke from the lessons of the teachers who were before them, not discerning the words, if they were obliged to be spiritually informed by God with assurance through entreaty and prayer if they were true. And the teachings were mixed together, and because they were spoken by them, they were written in their names.
When you hear from one of them that he heard from the Holy Spirit what he is saying, this is an answer of spiritual assurance and we are obliged to believe. When he speaks concerning those words and you do not find him saying this, then it is not from an answer of spiritual assurance but it is from the lessons of his first teachers, and paying attention to their knowledge (gnosis) and wisdom, he did not ask God concerning these things if they were true.
Behold! You have heard all of my foolishness. Quiet down then and be occupied with God; and, ceasing from vain talk, pay attention to your passions, concerning which passions you will be required to give an account in the Day of Judgement. For concerning these things you will not be required: “Why did you not know these things or learn these others?”