The invisible ascetics of mount Athos
The Unknown Anchorite (Probably One of the Anchorites of Athos Who Live Invisibly)
When I came to the Holy Mountain for the first time in 1950, I was going up from Kavsokalyvia to Saint Ann’s when I lost my way, and instead of taking the path to the Skete of Saint Ann, I went up towards the peak of Athos. After I walked a good long way, I realized I was too high and looked around for some path to take me down quickly. Being in such an anxious state, I implored the Mother of God to help me and suddenly, an anchorite with a radiant face appeared before me. He was about seventy years old and his clothing showed that he had no contact with people. He was wearing a habit that looked as if it was made of sailcloth, but it was very faded and full of holes. He had fixed the holes with wooden awls, the way farmers close holes in bags when they don’t have a sack-needle and string. He had a leather bag, too, discoloured, with the holes pulled together in the same way. Round his neck he had a thick chain on which a box hung down on his chest. It seems there was something holy inside!
Before I could ask him, he said to me: “My child, this is not the path to Saint Ann’s”, and he pointed to the right one. From his whole appearance it seemed he was a saint! Then, I asked the hermit: “Where do you live, elder?” He answered: “Somewhere round there”, indicating the peak of Athos.
Since I had been wandering around left and right trying to find an elder to spiritually inform me, I had forgotten what day it was and had lost track of the date. I asked the hermit and he told me it was Friday. Then, he got out a little leather pouch, that had bits of wood inside with notches on. From the notches he was able to tell me the date. I took his blessing, went down the path he had shown me and came out at the Skete of Saint Ann. All the while, I was turning over in my mind the lambent face of the anchorite, glowing with light.
Later, when I heard that there are twelve anchorites at the peak of Athos -some said seven- thoughts filled my mind and related the incident to some experienced elders, who told me: “That would have been one of the righteous anchorites who live invisibly at the peak of Athos!”
Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, Saint Paisios of Mount Athos , Holy Convent of the Evangelist John the Theologian , Souroti, Thessaloniki – 1999
A contemporary monastic of Mt. Athos, Fr. Athanasius of Simonopetra Monastery, is having a conversation with Elder Paisios in 1974 about the invisible naked ascetics that are living on Mt. Athos today. In this conversation the Elder Paisios tells Fr. Athanasius that there are about fifty monastics today on Mt. Athos who have reached an extremely high level of spirituality. When Fr. Athanasius asks Fr. Paisios why they have not been revealed to the world, Fr. Paisios responds: “because God has not determined that the time is right to reveal them to the world.”And you should know that there are examples of holiness on Mt. Athos that is at a much higher level than the invisible naked ascetics.”
Fr. Paisios did not want us to talk about these ascetics, because they do not want such glories, as he would say to us. They are the truly smart ones, supplicating God and saying to Him: ‘My God, do not give us glory on this earth, but keep it for the next life, that we may be glorified with You, there. Do not make us known here, but in Heaven.’ Their mission is continuous prayer in favour of all the world. They live in desert areas of Mount Athos and they are invisible by human eyes.They are appearing only to whoever they want, and to be more specific, mostly to pious monks and pilgrims that they have pure and Christian life…they have the grace to say a prayer and become invisible.
According to tradition, these naked hermits will be the ones who perform the last Liturgy on the peak of Athos, and after the Divine Liturgy, following the ‘Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers…’, the end of the world will come, that is, the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, the same will not taste death, but they will be changed, be transformed, and they will be altered even more by the Grace of God.»