It is the feast of St. Porphyrios the Hutdweller tomorrow (December 2, 2023). You knew him. In honour of this great Saint of our times, would you please tell us something about your meeting with him?
In honour of St. Porphyrios the Hutdweller, gladly.
Once upon a time, when I was a student of theology at the University of Thessalonica (in the early 80s), Fr. Zacharias (of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England) asked me if I would like to accompany him to see Elder Porphyrios in Athens, to receive his blessing. I enthusiastically agreed.
We flew down to Athens by plane, and it was a joyous flight, as we were singing the hymns of Holy and Great Thursday evening (the Antiphons of the Twelve Gospels) all the way. The very last part of the journey was scary, however, because the plane, in its descent before landing, turned on its side.
We stayed at a small house that night, and all I remember was that when I awoke the next morning, I could hear Fr. Zacharias praying. I thought of joining him, but decided instead to remain in my room, because his prayer was of such intensity that I found it hard to approach. The only other thing I remember about that morning was that we ate some of the most delicious apples I had ever tasted.
We got ready, and made our way to where the Elder lived. When we got there, it seemed that we could see him straight away, which is unusual, because typically there were a number of people waiting to see him outside his hut.
The Elder received us immediately, and soon after we entered his hut St. Porphyrios asked Fr. Zacharias if he knew how to make incense. Fr. Zacharias, somewhat surprised by the question, calmly responded by saying that he did, and that it used to be one of his obediences at the Monastery for a number of years. "Tell me how you make incense", Elder Porphyrios asked him.
I was puzzled as to why the Elder was interested in such a subject at that particular moment. Nevertheless, Fr. Zacharias patiently continued to describe how he used to make incense. Quite honestly, the details were beyond me, since I myself had never made incense. At a certain point, however, the Elder interrupted Fr. Zacharias' description, and said something like, "Ah there! If you do it this way, the incense will burn more slowly."
"Yes, I see! said Fr. Zacharias. "Thank you, Geronta (Greek for Elder); but that's not what I came to talk to you about."
"Yes", Fr. Porphyrios replied. "Your sister. She cannot have a baby. It is psychological. In a year's time, she will have one."
Fr. Zacharias and I looked at each other in amazement. Fr. Zacharias had told me about his sister on our way down from Thessalonica, so I knew his concern. But how did Elder Porphyrios know?
Following a brief stunned silence, Fr. Zacharias asked the Saint if it might perhaps be a blessing not to bring children in to today’s world, with life being as challenging as it is.
The Elder shook his head and said, "No. 'Go forth and multiply.'"
Many other things happened that day, and subsequently, related to this event. But I often wonder how it is that God allowed me to be a partaker of this revelation. I could see that my prayer was too weak to even stand with Fr. Zacharias that morning, and yet God allowed me to be an eye-witness of the Elder's gifts of insight, foresight, wisdom... and most of all, of his Christlike humility.
Glory be to God, who is truly wondrous in His saints!
Forgive me, brethren, and a blessed feast of St. Porphyrios the Hutdweller!
Dr. Christopher Veniamin