As a monk, who has learned to live in silence and obscurity, I will dare to convey my personal experiences and memories like the “first utterings” a small child from my apprenticeship next to Saint – Saint Porphyrios Bairaktaris – whose grace and many miracles are already known worldwide.
Like the Samaritan woman from the Gospel, I cannot bear to “keep” these gifts from God to myself. From the first steps of my spiritual life, I was fortunate to stand next to such a rare and holy Elder.
I saw with my own eyes and I lived up close the valiant struggles and the “manic” passions of Saint Porphyrios and many Mount Athos Elders, who pursued union with Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Saints. I decided to write this book for the benefit of us all.
I will seek to share with you, wholeheartedly and spontaneously, what I experienced by the grace of God, next to this great “spiritual” Olympian. I hope it will offer us all spiritual benefit and sweet consolation; something we so desperately need in this day and age.
I recognize that many of our fellow brothers have heroism, “palikaria” – youthful nobility and a strong will, and if they are given the chance to taste the Truth, they will gain “wings” to fight the spiritual battle with great emotion and decisiveness, despite their previous ignorance and “indifference” to such matters. That is why at first sight the title of this book, “Spiritual Olympiad” may seem paradoxical.
In the age of Christ, however, we see athleticism transcending Greekness. World sports were being transformed, with the first “persecutions” of Christians, into “spiritual sports” defined by heroism, self-denial, superhuman valor!
In spiritual sports, the crown of victory is offered to everyone, since we are all called to win the spiritual race. In fact, this calling is made without discrimination to teammates or opponents. There is no “opponent” in the spiritual arena, rather we are all brothers and sisters! There is no violent confrontation and mania for supremacy.
My sensitivity, towards the Olympics and the Spiritual Olympics respectively, is attributed to the fact that in the early years of my life, before my dedication to Christ, I was involved in sports, and I had a great love for them. By the grace of God and, literally by His privileged calling, I entered the monastic life – a truly spiritual, hard sport, where great love, holy stubbornness, a decision to die and iron will are required. Here, the opponent is not my fellow athlete, but the demon himself, who is firmly determined not to leave the fighter invulnerable nor to retreat first. He has cunning and his demonic arts, but our spiritual athletes have dynamism, determination, and an “alliance” with Divine grace.
The struggles of God’s people are however a “festival” of joy and intoxication. The mental cheerfulness and joy these people feel is intoxicating and it surpasses the happiness of those who win medals and distinctions at the Olympic Games. Our Christ is so loving, merciful and generous that He rewards his fighters with Grace and heavenly rewards.
As a teenager, I was fascinated by victories in track and field. From the first day of my dedication to Christ onwards, I have been “enchanted” by the feats of the superhuman fighters and champions of the “Spiritual Olympics” and especially of my Elder, Saint Porphyrios, to whose feet, the grace of God led me.
The words and deeds of the Saints that God gave us this honour to know must be recorded and must be made known to future generations. We will leave this life, but we must leave behind what we experienced by the grace of God through these humble works of ours and by building “spiritual memoirs” with strong epigrams in the memory of our Holy Elders.
Our Holy Elders are not “exclusively” available to the few. They are for every human soul, that struggles with the obvious and invisible adversities, experiences spiritual shocks and suffers unbearable, pains and sorrows of all kinds. We have no right to hide them “under a basket.”(Matthew 5:15)
May we always have their blessings…