St. Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite of Oropos, Attica
Panagiotis Sotirchos: Elder Porphyrios’ great and fundamental ascetic effort, apart from his humility, vigil and fasting, was prayer. Through his prayer he could see events in the past, in the present and in the future. When a Professor from the Polytechnic University was going to attend some European conference, he went to get the Elder’s blessing. There they spoke about astronomy. As the professor himself told us, Elder Porphyrios told him what he would encounter at the conference and what he should do.
During the conference, the professor saw that everything Elder Porphyrios had told him beforehand came true. He was so moved that, not only did he become a most humble spiritual child of Elder Porphyrios, but he visited the Elder’s Convent at Milesi regularly and humbled himself by doing manual labor there.
People didn’t only come to see him from within Greece, but they came from all over the world, even from as far away as Japan. They went and put all their problems, worries and whatever else troubled them to him, and he helped all of them with lots of love, humbleness, gentleness and prayer -most of all prayer.
In one of our conversations, (I was blessed enough to see him many times), he said to me, “There are elders who can cover the whole of Greece when they stretch their arms out in prayer.” He didn’t say if it was himself or someone else that he was talking about.
K.I.: Every time I met Elder Porphyrios I felt as if our conversation was a spiritual banquet. I was greatly impressed by the freedom he allowed to the person who spoke with him. I saw all of Orthodoxy’s freedom embodied within his face.
P.S.: Elder Porphyrios never forced anyone to do anything and he never suggested anything that would infringe upon another’s freedom. He didn’t want us to lord it over others, he wanted us to respect others. The holiness within him meant that he saw the world with infinite compassion.
With the freedom, as you said, that he gave to those who spoke with him, he helped them realize in the best possible way that they were going along the wrong path. He always said that we should keep away from sects.
A basic quality of his was that he accepted everybody. He welcomed agnostics and atheists. He even welcomed gurus, without judging or criticizing anybody for their beliefs. However, to all of them he pointed out that the truth is found in Christ and in the Orthodox Christian Faith.
One of the Elder’s major attributes was to be accepting – to accept all things and all people. He was, to put it more simply, an exact copy of the way God acts towards us in order for us to become better, to be cleansed and to advance towards salvation. That was Elder Porphyrios’ practice. He never criticized anybody but captivated
everybody. He had the grace of transforming people.
I’ll tell you a typical incident involving a French woman, a professor. She had heard about the Elder’s gift of discernment and wanted to test him.
This French lady had attended a conference in Japan on the subject of gurus. Anyway, she went and saw the Elder without telling him that she had taken part in the conference.
Elder Porphyrios let the conversation flow freely, as he always did. The French lady said whatever she wanted to say and at some point in the discussion they found themselves talking about gurus. He then said to her,
“There was a certain gentleman sitting next to you at that conference you attended a few days ago, didn’t he tell you something about the subject of the question you’re asking me now?“He also named the gentleman, who was a Christian.
The French lady felt as if she had been struck by lightning. She really had talked about that subject with the person whom Elder Porphyrios named. She then realized that Elder Porphyrios was a person enlightened by God.
He advised us to use gentle words when we said something to someone to avoid the element of confrontation. He gave the following example. “If you need to tell someone he is lying, don’t tell him that he’s telling lies, because naturally he’ll become hurt and will react. Tell him that he is not telling the truth.”The greatest weapon for the salvation of us all is tolerance. This compassion comes to us from God and we in turn must give it to others as a present in return.
Klitos Ioannides interviews Panagiotis Sotirchos, a writer, on Elder Porphyrios .
ELDER PORPHYRIOS, Testimonies and Experiences, By Klitos Ioannides, Translated from the 5th Greek (revised) Edition, Published by the Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Saviour – Athens 1997