Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Elder Porphyrios’ Advice to a Pediatrician

St. Elder Porphyrios’ Advice to a Pediatrician

He asked the same pediatrician, “How do you examine the children?” “In this manner... the pediatrician replied” “Listen to what I have to say to you. Every time you examine a child you should offer a fervent prayer with love: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on your servant’. 

As he said these things he took a deep breath while he opened his hands. “It is in this way that you should pray for every child. God has sent a precious little soul into your hands. “As you place your hand on their little heads pray fervently within yourself that the grace of God will be transfused into the soul of the child. “Do all these things spiritually and in secret. The others who are present won’t understand anything. “You will prescribe to them medicines which science dictates, but in the final analysis Christ will heal the child. You and the parents desire this. Do you believe this?” 

Another time he said to the same pediatrician. “I don’t see you examining the children the way I had told you. The routine is getting to you and you are forgetting. My dear man, give yourself to Christ and offer these little creatures to Christ with your prayer so that you can sanctify them! “Did you see, Christ healed by using the sense of touch? He either touched their hands, or touched their eyes, or the tongue. You will do the same thing. “You will embrace the little child or you will hold the hand of the older one. 

And with the intense and fervent prayer to Christ you will infuse the grace of God in them. Doesn’t the priest also do the same thing in every sacrament? “In order for the grace of the Holy Spirit to come, he places his hand on the head of the person who seeks penance. He does the same thing for a person getting married or a person who is getting baptized etc. “Prayer is spiritual power that is imparted spiritually to the other person’s soul.”
 by Agapios, Monk - The Divine Flame , The Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Savior, Milessi.

A Profound Miracle by the Holy Mother of God

(From - A Monks's Life)


This is a story of an Australian academic atheist who found faith in the reality

of God through the direct intervention of the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Since we are in

the midst of the Great and Holy Lent when we chant the Akathist Hymn to the Holy Mother

of God, I thought it would appropriate for me to share this wonderful real life story. It is

about the direct intervention of the Holy Mother of God in the life of an atheist from

Australia who was born into a Christian family. His father was a Methodist and his mother

was a Roman Catholic. As a young man he attended Church School at the Methodist Church

and up until his early teenage years he had a semblance of faith. He was a sickly young man

and was often bullied by his peers. He felt very isolated from the world because of his health

problems and because of his dislike for worldly pursuits. By the age of sixteen he had lost all

faith in the reality of God. One of the reasons that he felt isolated from the world was the

fact that he did not receive any consolation from faith, from the Church or from people

during his developmental struggles. He suffered a lot during his teenage years. In fact, he

appears to have innate monastic tendencies for he had no desire for parties, worldly pursuits

and frivolous things that young people of his age did. He felt very much alone even from God

because he had abandoned any faith in the reality of God.

As he grew up, he found that some people were good but he also found that most

people were not good. In discovering this, he then understood that being religious did not

make a big difference in the way people lived. Many people who went to Church were still

living bad lives. He also noticed that other people who did not go to Church were kind,

generous and understanding people. Because of these observations, he had no way to

connect faith and Church with personal good human behavior. He came to regard religion as

simply hypocrisy. His intellectual pursuits reinforced this thinking of his. He read Sigmund

Freud and Karl Marx. These two men looked at religion as pure fantasy. Because of these

influences he became an unbelieving rationalist. He also thought the laws of nature were

inviolable. He says that he was always searching while living in the world. He saw that

people generally were searching for material wealth because they thought that this would

bring them peace. People searched for this peace in the Eastern Religions of Buddhism and

Hinduism as he did. They also searched for this peace in drugs, wealth, sex and parties. How

does one find this peace for the soul? Most human beings look for this peace in various

places in life and when they seem to find it, it appears to be simply a mirage; it is further

He says that he began to read a lot and he arrived at a point that he thought was a

reasonable position to explain the purpose of life. Marx and Freud were his guides in life. He

developed his own complete philosophy of life that explained the material origin of man in

the material world. He believed that everything in existence begins and ends in this world.

Remember now that he was an academic and he was teaching at a university in Australia. At

one point he was working in a hospital during the summer months. As part of his job, he

would transfer the dead patients to the hospital morgue. Seeing firsthand the dead and cold

corpses convinced him that there was nothing more beyond physical death and there was no

God. In spite of these thoughts he visited many Churches simply to look at the architecture

and the art in the Churches. But beyond this, he believed that Christianity was a bad thing

and was responsible for many wars. But now that he has faith, he says there is a difference

between the Church and Christianity and the reason he chose the Coptic Orthodox Christian

Church is because it has very little blood on its hands in comparison to other Christian

When the mother of monk Lazarus died it left a huge hole in his life. It suddenly hit

him that he had no mother, no connection with his existence without his mother. He felt that

there was no origin to his being. The reason for his life disappeared with the death of his

mother. The person who gave birth to him had been cut away from him; it had been taken

away from him. With his mother’s death, he felt more lost in the world than ever before. For

twelve months after his mother’s death he was very angry with the world and at religion. At

one point while he was grieving, he went back to the hospital where his mother died. He

wanted to relive the last moments of his mother’s death and to contemplate the mystery of

death. There seemed nothing there but darkness and blackness and he had no way to

understand it. The hospital was a Roman Catholic Hospital attached to a convent. The nuns

at the hospital did not allow him to go to the room for it was occupied. He then went to the

hospital library and found a book about an American monk Thomas Merton. The title of the

book was “The Seven Story Mountain.” It was a biography of Thomas Merton. After reading

the book, he was startled to find that the life of Thomas Merton was a mirror image of his

own life. He too was a philosopher. He too was politically left wing. His mother also died

and left him alone and he finally found peace for himself in a Roman Catholic Monastery.

After reading the book, Monk Lazarus thought that if Thomas Merton found peace in a

Monastery, he also would find peace there. So he then called a Roman Catholic Monastery

and asked if he could become a monk there. The person from the Monastery asked him a

number of questions. He was asked which Church he belonged to. Lazarus responded that

he did not belong to any Church. He was asked which priest had recommended him to the

Monastery. His response was that he had no spiritual father and no priest had recommended

his to the Monastery. At that point, the person from the Monastery hung up on him possibly

thinking that he was a fraud. Lazarus did not give up. He was determined to find a Monastery

and so he looked up another Monastery in the local phone book. He found a Monastery

listed as a Serbian Orthodox Monastery. He called and asked the person who answered the

phone if he could come and visit the Monastery. He found out later that the person who

answered the phone was a Bishop. The Bishop responded to him “come and see.” Of course,

these words are from the New Testament in reference to John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist had sent someone to Jesus asking Him if He was the promised one. His

response was “come and see.”

Lazarus went to the Serbian Orthodox Monastery on a Saturday. Saturday in the

Orthodox Church is when the Orthodox Church commemorates the deceased members of the

Church. When Lazarus arrived at the Monastery, the faithful were filing out of the Church

after the Divine Liturgy. The faithful were then going to the Monastery cemetery. Lazarus

met the Bishop and asked if he could ride in the car with him to the cemetery. The Bishop

indicated to him that he should ride with another couple in their car. It just happened that

this couple had a young daughter who had been killed in an automobile accident near the

Monastery. The couple was very bitter with God about this for they believed that God had

stolen their daughter from them. They were as bitter as I was with the loss of my mother.

We complained to one another that God was the cause of our misery. After we finished with

the service at the cemetery the faithful returned to the Monastery Church for a memorial

service. When Lazarus entered the Church he saw a large icon of the Virgin Mary on the wall

of the Church. Lazarus says that he had seen icons before but he looked upon them simply as

art. He said he had no personal experience with icons. He had no intimate acquaintance with

Mary the Theotokos as the Mother of God. He says that he had no understanding of Mary in

the Orthodox Church. He knew that the Roman Catholics called her the Virgin Mary but she

didn’t mean much to him.

After we entered the Church he noticed that the people were making μετάνοιες

(genuflections), bowing down to the icon of the Theotokos. He says I was astonished at

seeing the people doing this. I was astonished because I always believed that a man does not

bow down to anyone or anything. I had learned that a handshake should be enough in

greeting another human being. I had not been prepared for μετάνοιες. I did not feel easy

with what the people were doing but I wanted to be polite and so I followed their example. I

said ok let me do what they are doing. So I made the first μετάνοια. Ι had to bend my knees

and bow down putting my forehead on the floor. As I was doing this, I could see the big icon

of Mary on the wall in front of me. This particular icon was well-known throughout Australia

because it had performed miraculous cures. One of the miracles happened to the wife of a

Greek Orthodox priest. At this point, I was not concerned about the icon. I was concerned

about making the μετάνοια properly and joining in with the other faithful. As I said before, I

then had to put my forehead on the floor. When I was in that position, I would ask you to

consider that when making a μετάνοια what position is the body in. You are in a half circle.

You are bent over in much the same way as a fetus is in the womb of his mother. I felt that I

was in a kind of fetal position. It felt like I was becoming small, weak and helpless. All these

emotions overwhelmed me as I made the μετάνοια. Μετάνοια is a physical action. You are

weak; you are small and you are as if you are nothing. It is a statement that says that I am

not worthy to even lift up my eyes and look at you.

Μετάνοιες is a very eloquent statement of humility. So when I was bending down like

this suddenly all of the sadness of my mother’s death started to overflow within me and I

started to cry. I was saying within myself: “I lost my mother, I am sad, I need a mother.” I

was pouring out my feelings about being motherless. At this point I stood up. When I stood

up I thought that would be the end of it. Then I realized that the Orthodox Christians do

everything in threes. Knowing this, I thought that the second μετάνοια would be much

easier. I proceeded to make the second μετάνοια and then the third μετάνοια and then

repeated the same prayer that I said the first time. This time when I complained about being

motherless, I heard a voice behind my head saying: “I will be your mother.” I clearly heard

the voice. It was a beautiful soft voice but it was clear. I thought that maybe one of the

Serbian women was speaking to me who heard me crying and had come over to comfort me.

I looked to the right and to the left to see if any woman was nearby but there was no one. I

was all alone. I repeated the words of my sadness and the voice came to me again; “I will be

your mother.” On hearing the voice again, this time I was determined to find out where it

was coming from. I lifted up my eyes and looked at the icon of the Holy Mother who was in

front of me. And then when I lifted up my eyes to look at the Holy Mother she moved out of

the icon and seemed to stand in front of me. She appeared to me from the waist up and she

was holding Jesus. She appeared as a real presence in front of me. She bent toward me and

looked at me right in my eyes. She smiled and said: “I will be your mother” for the third

time. When she smiled at me she appeared so loving that she took all the pain out of me.

She gave me a sense of hope and faith. At that very moment I was made new again, I was

reborn by her love. It was an electrifying experience that just filled me up with her presence.

And then she started to give off a bright light that was so bright that I had to lower my eyes.

As I stood up the Holy Mother moved back into the icon and appeared as she was before but

her presence was very real to me. I saw and felt her love. That encounter made me

dependent upon her for the rest of my life. When I stood up I knew my life was now

dedicated only to her. All my pain, all my doubts, all my fears, all my needs for help were

I left that Church knowing now that I had a mother who is beautiful, sweet, kind, and

generous. All this knowledge about her I got through her love for me. Every time I see her

it is the same thing all over again. I have seen her several times since then. The encounter

was so powerful that I could not bring myself to leave the Church. I couldn’t even leave

the Monastery. I had to stay near her. I then told the Bishop that I did not want to leave

the Monastery. I then abandoned everything in my life. I did not go back to work at the

university. I abandoned everything in the world for her. My whole monastic commitment fell

on me that day with that encounter with the love of the Theotokos. This is how I became a

Christian. Where else in the world would I find a loving mother?

Transliterated from the video by:

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA,