The Life of the Venerable Paisius
“Whoever does not know what The Lives are, let him hear just one little story of the many thousands, that I have not read, but which I devoured and swallowed with all my throat, for I considered them on a par with the very Gospel itself, and over which I cried so bitterly until my eyes appeared bloodshot. I say, let him listen with a heart of humanity, may he not cry for me nor shed a tear over the misery of my youth, if he can.
In the Life of the Venerable Paisius, it is written that Christ came down from heaven to visit him. The Venerable Paisius washed the feet of Christ. Christ told him to leave the water with which he had washed His feet in the water basin.
Then a disciple of Paisius arrived from some place and asked for water to drink. There is none but for the dirty water. The elder tells him to drink water from the water basin. The disciple stared at the water and saw how murky and muddy it was, plus it smelled of sweat. He refused to drink the water and said, ‘How could I drink that water?’ The elder urged him, ‘Take it, drink, drink, otherwise you will regret it.’ The disciple was troubled, not so much because of his thirst, but rather because he did not want to show disrespect to the elder. He thought to myself, ‘Let me close my eyes and drink, even if the water turns out to be poison.’ The disciple looked again at the water basin and saw that it was empty. He says to the elder, ‘Elder, the water is gone! The basin had been full, now it is empty and dry as the desert!’ ‘Ha!’ answered the elder, ‘Isn’t it like I said? Drink, drink, otherwise you will regret it.’ And the elder explained what happened to the water.”
“Then the Venerable said to him, ‘Oh child, thus you have earned the reward for your disobedience, that is, you are deprived of the gifts of God!’ His disciple heard this and trembled. He ran to the basin and found nothing. He told the elder, ‘Father, there is no water from the basin to drink!’ The righteous Paisius responded, ‘Well, how is it possible to find it when you have done such an unworthy thing, for disobedience deprives gifts from the disobedient, and obedience brings rewards to the obedient.’ And the disciple regretted what he had done and said, ‘Of what great gift was I deprived? And what disappeared from the water basin?’ The Venerable told him what happened, as mentioned earlier, and said, ‘Since you abided in disobedience, and have not agreed to drink the water that I commanded you to drink three times, so an angel from the Lord descended and took away into his own hands the sacred water back into Heaven.’ And when the disciple heard this, he felt terrible and wanted to cry, but at first he was afraid to make any noise. Keeping to himself, he wept and mourned for his loss, wailing, ‘Woe to me, a wretch! What great good that I lost! What cunning demon snatched away that which I would have enjoyed!’ With such words he wept to himself, repented, and with tears he sought mercy.”
So, when the disciple of Paisius learned what was in the water basin and the big benefit that he had forfeited by regretting to drink it, he fell into great despair. He could never forgive himself for committing the sin of disobedience (the second of the three monastic vows, which we discussed in the previous section) against the commands of Paisius. After Paisius saw the distress of his disciple, the Venerable One encouraged him to henceforth be obedient to avoid ever again being deprived of a blessing. Although the disciple was consoled for a short while, later he began to despair again from having missed the blessing of heaven, which consisted of drinking the dirty water mentioned earlier. So he went back to his teacher. The teacher, an experienced elder, gave him another form to give him solace and relief:
“The godly Paisius took some bread, gave it to the disciple, and said, ‘Take this bread and go to another city. Near the city walls, on the right side, you will find a poor man sitting on a rubbish heap, stoned by some youth and ridiculed. Give him this bread. From this, you will find some solace for it is useful.”
After the disciple did as he was commanded and delivered the bread to the man who sat near the city walls, that man also reprimanded the disciple for his disobedience of Paisius. “Go therefore and submit to your elder, the great Paisius,” he said, “for he who does not obey him disobeys the commands of our Savior Christ.” After this rebuke, the disciple of Paisius calmed down. Yet, his conscience again started to haunt him. Crying because of the damage suffered due to his disobedience, he again asked his teacher to let him go to the saint who was sitting upon the heap of garbage. Although Paisius told him not to return, yet again, the disciple was set on disobedience. After many appeals, the Venerable One told him that the man died. Having foreseeing his own death, he found two other saints, and altogether they plunged into some kind of grave and died. Paisius ordered his disciple to go to the grave and resurrect the dead man. He gave him the counsel needed to perform such a miracle. As the disciple ran and complied with the commands of the Venerable One, the dead man immediately stood up and said:
“‘Why cannot you obey what I tell you when you cannot even obey your elder? Go, therefore, and submit to him unconditionally. Listen to his words if you want to save yourself, because whoever disobeys his words disobeys the commandments of Christ.’ Then, the corpse fell dead once again. The disciple marveled at these words and returned to blessed Paisius. He told him everything in detail including what the dead man had said.”
Thus is a brief portion of the narrative on the Venerable Paisius from The Lives. The most important lesson we learn from this narrative is that God approves monasticism and monastic vows. He blesses the hermit monks by personally visiting them, leaving them with dirty water to be used as sacred drinking water, and commands disciples of monks to absolute obedience of their superiors. Additionally, we learn that some saints live in piles of garbage (living at the garbage dump is probably one of the examples that Father Justin teaches in order for one to achieve perfection and eternal life), they can resurrect from the dead, that the words of a saint are equivalent to those of the Savior, and that whoever disobeys church superiors disobeys Christ Himself! Previous chapters have already demonstrated that none of these teachings can be found in the Bible, and therefore do not conform to God’s will. The Eastern Orthodox Church, apparently lacking any Biblical arguments to prove her teaching, resorts to fabrications and propagation of various legends. So comments the wise Dositej on this parable in The Lives:
“Here, brethren, thousands and thousands of these fables fill The Lives of the Saints. This was the literature that I believed, and over which I shed many bitter tears. Could a more stupid and superficial Egyptian dervish invent a funnier and crazier fable than this? It brings shame not only to the holy name of Christianity, but indeed to the entire human race that this and other similar mindless fables are found in a Christian book that people actually read and believe.”
Here is yet another episode mentioned by Obradovic from The Lives of the Saints:
On one occasion, when St. John Kolovos [the Short] wished to visit the Venerable Paisius in his cell, he came and heard someone in discussion with this servant of God. John waited for some time, so as not to disturb the monk. Then he made some noise to get the attention of Paisius that someone was at the door. When he came out of the cell, the Venerable Paisius rejoiced at the sight of his friend John. After entering the cell, the guest of Paisius was surprised by the fact that it was empty. No one else was in the room, yet John clearly heard a conversation between two men. After a series of questions and requests for an explanation of this mystery, Paisius gave the following answer:
“Dearest of friends! You just heard me talking with the great Constantine, the first emperor of the Christians, who descended from Heaven and was sent of God unto me, saying, ‘Blessed are you who you is worthy to have such a unique standing, because your perseverance truly is a blessing of the Savior.’ I replied to him, ‘So, who are you, my Lord, you who say lots of happy things to a monk?’ And I received this answer: ‘I am the great Constantine. I came down from heaven to reveal to you the glory that monks enjoy in Heaven… I wish to take a temporary leave of the kingdom, the royal robes, and crown, in order to become poor and don the frock and fulfill all other requirements to attain the monastic state.’”
Wrapping up this story in the life of St. Paisius, Dositej considers it a fabrication as he implies with these words: “And please try to keep yourself from bursting out in laughter.”
Indeed it is a fabrication. This story is incredible for several reasons. First, the Scriptures (which we will study in the chapter on “veneration of the saints”) forbid contact between the living and the dead.
Second, this fable apparently tells of a conversation between Paisius and the Emperor Constantine. Eastern Orthodoxy considers Constantine as a saint because he proclaimed religious freedom for Christians after centuries of servitude and persecution. Additionally, Orthodox adores Constantine for convening the First Ecumenical Council in which he condemned the Aryan heresy. This saint is celebrated on May 21 according to the old Julian calendar.
However, it is not clear how it is possible that this man is included in the list of saints. Moreover, Constantine is called “equivalent to the apostles” and “the thirteenth apostle” by Orthodoxy. Doubts about Constantine stem from his life and the fact that he was not a Christian (for he was never baptized in the Orthodox way). In fact, he was a follower of the cult of Mithras (the cult of the sun). During his life, the emperor bore the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus. He continued to oversee pagan worship and worked to protect its rights. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, at the dedication of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the year 330, Constantine used a ceremony that mixed both Christian and pagan elements. In the square was set up a chariot of the Sun God with a symbol of the Cross of Christ placed above its head. The coins that were forged under this emperor had both the sign of the cross as well as the figures of the Roman gods Mars and Apollo. He also continued to believe in the pagan magic rituals for protecting the harvest and healing from illness.
In addition to all of the above, the famous historian Will Durant wrote in his work The History of Civilization that the historical record shows that the “venerable” Constantine remained a very evil man even after his “conversion”. Specifically, the ruler had been married twice. His first wife’s name was Minerva, and with her he had a son Crispus, who later aided his father as a distinguished soldier.
However, in the year 326, only one year after the First Ecumenical Council, Constantine murdered his son Crispus. Constantine’s second wife Fausta (with whom he had six children) claimed that Crispus had tried to rape her. Later, Helena, Constantine’s mother (who is also reverenced as a saint), convinced her son that Fausta had concocted the plot so that one of her sons would succeed her husband as emperor and thus betrayed Crispus. The emperor Constantine murdered his second wife by drowning her in a bathtub with hot water.
Around the same time, he ordered his nephew to be flogged to death and the nephew’s father (the husband of Constantine’s sister) to be strangled, in spite of Constantine’s earlier promise to spare his life. Above all, this brutal pagan at the end of his life was baptized by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, a proponent of the very Arian theology that had been anathematized at the First Ecumenical Council. (Of course, this baptism was done with the wrong beliefs rooted in the early church and surviving in modern-day Orthodoxy, e.g. that baptism is the means for the literal absolution of all of one’s sins.)
“Emperor Constantine died on May 22, 337. According to tradition, before his death, Constantine was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia in an Arian spirit.”
This means that Constantine himself was administered baptism by an Arian, that is a member of a very non-Orthodox religious group. In order to gain a better understanding of the implications of this truth, consider how this scenario would translate into modern-day terms. It would be akin to a situation in which a formerly brutal and wicked murderer before his death received baptism in a fellowship of Jehovah’s Witnesses (who also deny belief in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Trinity similar to what the Arians believed). Add onto this scenario that he would be beatified as one of the saints of Eastern Orthodoxy! Since this modern scenario is still definitely impossible, then how was the historical example of Constantine possible?
However, recall that Paisius ignored the biblical prohibition on the living having contact with the dead. Furthermore, let us assume the Orthodox view of the Arians as “heretics” who have no place in Heaven is correct. (Orthodoxy would assert the Arians could never pass the test of heresy at the celestial toll-houses that Orthodoxy claims one must pass to enter Heaven.) Consequently, it would mean that Constantine never was in Heaven, and hence, Paisius never could have had the conversation with Constantine.
Nonetheless, it is likely that Orthodoxy beatified Constantine amongst the other Orthodox saints because his service to the church outweighed the numerous sins (even according to Orthodox teachings) he committed and did not receive forgiveness from God. Essentially, the basis for Constantine having been named an Orthodox saint rests more for political reasons rather than spiritual. Indeed, it demonstrates the sore lack of a sound theological foundation.
It follows that the pronouncement by “Constantine” that monks earn special grace from God and his regret for not having become a monk is a fabrication for the reasons given in this chapter.
Before examining the lives of the “accomplishments” of other saints, let us look at just a few more details from the life of Paisius. Paisius allegedly practiced the feat of “silence” (permanent silence), for which he ran away from the public and hid in a cave where he spent three years. His hair grew long, and he tied it to a pole nailed on the rocky floor. Day and night, he prayed without giving himself any repose or holiday. During this time,
the Lord Jesus Christ visited Paisius several times and expressed admiration for his accomplishments. Other feats of Paisius included fasting for one or several weeks in a row without food. He even claimed to have fasted an entire 70 (seventy!) days without putting anything into his mouth! This holy elder exceeded not only the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, who endured without food for 40 days (Deuteronony 9:18; 1 Kings 19:5-8), but also our Lord Jesus Christ who, after forty days of fasting, was still hungry:
“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.”
Miracles related to the saints are very famous. (Yet, these examples are short examples of numerous other fables.) The only weakness to them, however, is that they oppose the spirit and letter of Scripture. Thus, these alleged miracles are untrue.