About Elder Ephraim of Arizona
There once lived a small and thin old man, who seemed like no big deal. A man having no spiritual vision would have passed by without noticing him. The Elder was our contemporary, he passed away only two years ago. He had the same flesh and blood as we do. And this humble and thin old man achieved the greatest and exceptional Glory, so that people came to him even in his lifetime regarding him as a saint. Believe me, it was not just a lot of excitement, it was true. Now, when many people say that men and women are weak and the time of acts of faith and prayer passed, all of a sudden this small old man comes and proves that impossible is nothing. He was small, but had a strong hand. When I kissed that hand, I noticed it was all wiry like a bird’s claw. Because that hand worked hard throughout his life to gain what he had. From his early youth the Elder lived and struggled ascetically on Mount Athos under Elder Joseph the Hesychast, and what did he see there? He heard his name from the Elder only twice. Elder Joseph called him either “kid” or “hey, you, bring me that thing”, ‘’hey, you, go there’’. In spite of all that, he fell in love with his elder and retained that love through his life. He didn’t see anything, except for hard work. But a man can’t cope with such work without having something. Surely, it’s wrong to say “didn’t see anything”. He saw the greatest Glory and lived by it.
St. Symeon the New Theologian said: “saints precisely know what they gain”. And they are not carried away by this proud thought, as they realize the character of this phenomenon – not by themselves, but through the Holy Spirit who dwells in them. Should He leave, and the man will turn to clay again. Come in again, and the pottery vessel will be full with Grace. It is so moving and touching to read the book “My Elder Joseph the Hesychast”. May we try to live like them? Even “try” is too much for us, as we sometimes can’t bear a hostile glance or a little bit less attention paid to us, much less an offensive word.
Elder Ephraim’s hand at the end of his life became like an eagle’s claw, all tendons. A heart should work hard in order to become humble and encompass the whole world, it can be softened only through pain, sometimes an extreme pain that makes you scream: “My Lord, where are you?” I often remind myself that it is so good that until the last day of Earth saints will be born to the world. Though, they may be lesser in number. If the Church stops to produce saints, then it is dead. And there will always be the means to produce them in the Church. As Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov used to say: “This is not because God is not enough, but because we are not zealous enough.” There has always been the world of God, as there cannot be little of God.
I’m so happy I realized my nothingness when I held the Liturgy with him. My self-opinion vanished at once. You can be proud among some people like you, but with him… “Thank you for letting me stand by your side”. One more thing. A saint, if he is a true saint, not a deceived one, when you stand by his side, will never smash you with his Grace, because everything in him is fulfilled with huge love and humility. You stand by his side and regard him with reverence as he allows you to be on equal ground with him.
May Elder Ephraim repose in the Kingdom of Heaven! He gave hope to so many people for achieving the Kingdom of Heaven. And so, those people, encouraged by him, buckled down and got to work, and it resulted in something. Even though they grew nothing, but potatoes, it is already something. While someone sits on the boundary and says: “It’s impossible”. He has turned sour himself and confuses the others.