Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

Elder Joseph singing a Psalm, “I waited patiently for the Lord;
and he attended to me, and hearkened to my supplication.”

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ELDER JOSEPH of the Vatopaidi monastery on Mount Athos is one of the best-loved of the 20th century monastic reformers.

A spiritual child of Elder Joseph the Hesychast (1898-1959), he was one of those instrumental in recalling the Vatopaidi monastery to the traditions of the Church Fathers and the Philokalia.

Elder Joseph wore his heart on his sleeve. His gentleness and sympathy, his evident emotional attachment to Jesus and to Mary, and his love of sacred music, combine to make a deeply appealing and inspirational character.

Elder Joseph, pray for us.

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Elder Joseph Vatopaidinos (+2009)

Elder Joseph Vatopaidinos (+2009)

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There is a Biography, as well as texts and photographs, in Greek and English at Γέροντες της εποχής μας. He wrote a book of reflections in Greek called Διδαχές από τον Άθωνα.

You can read about Elder Joseph’s life and long labour to recall the Vatopaidi monastery to the purity of the Fathers at Mystagogy (with lots of pictures).

You can read some of Elder Joseph’s beautiful and deeply touching thoughts on prayer at the Fountain of Elias blog (RC).

Also at Mystagogy, you can find a video (in Greek) of his life, with an English transcription.

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Repentance and God’s Fatherly affection

IN the video above, Elder Joseph explains his understanding of repentance. Everything turns on our idea of “dependency” on the divine. Some people see mankind as something cut off from God that must be brought under his authority and control.

But for Joseph, God have never ceased to sustain us all in being from one instant to the next. Repentance is, like creation itself, an act of God, a healing medicine applied to us through the only character God possesses – a fatherly affection, applied at the very root of created being.

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The Vatopaidi monastery on Mount Athos

The Vatopaidi monastery on Mount Athos

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Reform at the Vatopaidi

THE VIDEO opposite shows Elder Joseph at his most passionate and humble. When he came to the Vatopaidi Monastery, it was a shadow of its former self, and Joseph perceived that it needed urgently to be recalled to the spiritual wisdom of the Fathers.

Here, he describes with tears the commission he received from Christ and from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The simple humanity with which he implored the Virgin’s help in restoring the Monastery to its proper spiritual glories is deeply moving.

… AND if I do not manage, don’t misunderstand me, because my memory is weak. It doesn’t keep much. However, I don’t stop praying.

This, I promise to you. Due to the fact that I can’t offer you anything else, and you do good to me, I pray whenever I’m free and all by myself. I’m not bragging. I’m not boasting. But, I confess to you. I insist, though many times with laudable audacity:

All-Good One, I beg you! You attracted me, you made me wear these rassa. I beg you All-Good God! Don’t abandon me! Help! You called me and you brought me here and you gave me the keys of the Vatopaidi Monastery. You, Yourself! The Son of the Living God! When I was begging Him to show me His will through Elder Porfyrios, He talked to me. Himself! God the Logos!

An icon of Elder Joseph presenting Mary "Queen of All" with a small church

An icon of Elder Joseph presenting Mary "Queen of All" with a small church in token of his faithful reform of the Vatopaidi monastery on Mount Athos

He gave me the keys of Vatopaidi. And, I used these keys to open Vatopaidi and what you see now took place. God the Logos Himself came, His affectionate Mother came, His Mother, our Mother, our consolation, and She spiritually renewed Vatopaidi. And She put us on the path of the terminοlogy of the Holy Fathers. I’m not denying anything.

She gave us the ability to write, to write with details the whole terminology of the Holy Fathers. Have consolation in the continuous future. All these, and I kindly invoke your love, your kindness, to accept them with humility and obedience, to continue your path with self-denial and the love of persistent effort.

The first beginning is obedience; after obedience is the Prayer, unceasing prayer, that should never stop; after the unceasing prayer, humility and obedience come. After humility and obedience, love of persistent effort comes. And then, the person learns how to resist the various excuses of the false needs: to succumb to selfishness and egoism. We stand by the meaning of the love of persistent effort. We will not succumb to anything that’s prohibited in our life.

Hat-tip: Mystagogy.