Fifty five years ago today Elder Joseph fell asleep at New Skete on Mt. Athos.
“Who knows my child the judgments of God? Everything is known to Him. He sees everything and nothing escapes His notice but no one knows His will. The works of Satan are nothing next to the power of God. So when the Lord tests us as He knows best we should show our patience and thankfulness." (Elder Joseph in 'Monastic Wisdom')
All of the biographies of Elder Joseph the Hesychast emphasize the severe asceticism he and his close companion Fr. Aresnios practiced for many decades on the Holy Mountain. Younger disciples for the most part were unable to 'keep up' with these older men in this challenging lifestyle of holiness. Despite gathering wisdom from a variety of elders, Elder Joseph was mostly 'self-taught' (or more precisely guided directly by the Holy Spirit without a human elder's help) in his quest for hesychia in order to draw closer to Christ. The teachings and guidance given his disciples transformed them and in turn helped revitalize six of the twenty monasteries on Mt. Athos, all of which previously were in decline.
“Geronda’s strategy and goal was to have us say the Jesus prayer constantly and keep vigil valiantly. He had implanted deep within us the meaning of prayer and watchfulness in vigil. He gave us advice and vigilantly observed how we were doing" (Account of Elder Ephraim, a disciple)
We are fortunate to have many letters from Elder Joseph as well as books about him by his close disciples so that his life and teaching, unlike his actual ife in the world, are not hidden from us.
"It overflows throughout the body, and the prayer stops; the bodily members cease to move, and only the nous is in theoria within an extraordinary light. A union of God and man occurs. Man is unable to distinguish himself." (Elder Joseph on reaching theoria through the Jesus Prayer)
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