Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Shocking Advice of Saint Paisios the Athonite to a Physician

In his book Holy Mountain (Αγίων Όρος), Metropolitan Nektarios of Argolidos refers to a certain physician who asked Saint Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) the following question:

"Elder, there are certain patients that I don't know what to do with, whether I should send them to a priest or a doctor?"

He responded:

"You will see, that not all are for the priest nor are all for the doctor. One you will send to the doctor, another to the priest, and another to the bouzoukia*."

"To the bouzoukia, Elder?" the physician shockingly asked.

"Yes, my child. If someone is not for the priest nor for the doctor, send them to the bouzoukia to relax. Have you not read the Old Testament, where it says that when Saul was melancholy, David would go to him and play the lyre?"

Advice like this shows us, that if we want to help others, we must with discernment show them the path they need to follow based on the current circumstance of their life, without being puritanical or moralistic. As Monk Moses the Athonite wrote:

"The teacher does not say everything he knows, but whatever their listener understands and can follow."

He said this in the context of a circumstance in the life of Elder Sophrony of Essex, who as a young monk, in order to bring comfort to someone who was going through an existential crisis, served him some tea and said:

"When you stand at the brink of the abyss, and are in danger of falling, draw back a little and have a cup of tea."

And Elder Ephraim of Katounakia tells us how one day, when Elder Joseph the Hesychast was in deep sorrow and going through temptations, he asked his disciple Ephraim of Katounakia to bring a layman and jokester known for his fantastic lies that made everyone laugh named Pseudo Vasili to his cell to amuse him. Why couldn't he do something else, like pray more? Even great saints occasionally have such needs by virtue of their being human.

* Bouzoukia in Greek is a place where you can hear and dance to music centered around the stringed instrument known as the bouzouki, but in general context refers to a place where you can listen and dance to music.