Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Saint Arsenios of Paros

From here.

Saint Arsenios of Paros

Commemorated on 31 January

Saint Arsenios Sergiou Sergiades, Athanasios in the world, was born of pious parents in Ioannina in 1800.

Very early in life he lost both his parents and became an orphan. At the age of nine, he went to Kydonies in Asia Minor, where under the care of the school principal, Archimandrite Gregory – a virtuous and learned man – he enrolled in the school.

He studied for five years at this school. During the last years of his studies he came to know the famous elder Daniel. He followed him to the Holy Mountain, where he was tonsured with the name Arsenios. During his six-year stay at Mount Athos he proved himself to be a model monk. Following Elder Daniel, he went to the Holy Monastery of Pendelis and then to Paros, specifically to the holy monasteries of Loggovardos and of Saint Anthony of Marpissa. He later went to the islands of Sikinos and Folegandros. There he was ordained a deacon and was appointed a teacher of the Greek language, also contributing greatly to the elevation of the spiritual, ethical, social and national standards of the people. He remained in Folegandros quite a few years, serving tirelessly in missionary work.

After the repose of the elder Daniel, despite the opposition of the Folegandrians, he departed intending to return to the Holy Mountain. However, while passing through Paros at the Monastery of Saint George, he met Archimandrite Elijah Georgiadis, Hieropreacher of the Cyclades, who also came from the province of Epiros, a man of wisdom and virtue. This elder, enlightened by God, urged Arsenios not to go to Mount Athos but to remain on Paros, which he did. There too at the Monastery of Saint George on Paros, he excelled in the spiritual struggles. His life was a life of total asceticism. He would pray incessantly and study the divine word day and night. He seldom ate and he slept only enough to sustain his life. He lived like an earthly angel. The fathers, seeing his patience, humility, gentleness, piety and holiness, suggested that he be ordained a priest. However, the blessed one, out of humility and awareness of the magnitude of the priesthood, would not accept. Nevertheless, after great pressure, as well as the intervention of the then Metropolitan of the Cyclades, Daniel, he accepted, leaving an ageless example of obedience and priesthood. He distinguished himself in all virtues and proved to be equal to the earlier leaders of monasticism. For this reason, crowds of faithful from the far ends of the country would come to him to unload the burden of their sins and problems and to hear his teaching and receive his blessing, thus being spiritually regenerated.

The saint’s fame had already reached the inhabitants of Paradise when he was still in this life. Following the repose of the elder Elijah, he was elected abbot of the Monastery of Saint George. However, because crowds of faithful would seek him daily, he was forced to resign from the cares of administration and turn fully to spiritual work. At the same time he would also attend to both the liturgical and spiritual needs of the monastics at the Monastery of Christ of the Forest in Paros.

The continuous exhaustion, hard asceticism and physical, as well as spiritual, toil took a toll on his health; his strength started ebbing. He foresaw his end. He gathered the nuns and gave them his last admonitions. On the 30 January 1877 after the Divine Liturgy, he told them: “This, my children, was the last Liturgy I will serve.” On the following day, 31 January, after a life that was a living sacrifice to the Triune God and an unwaning spiritual legacy, he delivered his spirit to the Most High, whom he loved, served, glorified from infancy and to whom he surrendered his life. His last words were the following: “Lord, I surrender to Your Hands this flock that You entrusted to me. Save me Lord, for I sought Your rights.”

His repose was mourned without exception by all the people of Paros, who bid farewell to their saint, protector and spiritual guide. His holy relics were placed out for three days for all the people to venerate. The expressions of devotion by the people were indescribable. The people of Paros considered the holy Arsenios a saint both when he was alive and after his repose.

Due to his holiness Saint Arsenios received from God the gift of working miracles even while he was alive. His miracles are numerous, which the people of Paros and elsewhere know and tell. Thus during a period of drought, like the Prophet Elijah, he opened the taps of heaven and brought much needed rains. He also transported oil in baskets. He would heal – and still heals – the sick, saves from dangers, sends away demons, solves problems of life and in every way he shows his presence both within and beyond the Monastery of Christ.

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