Aug 16, 2021
Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Hesychast (1857-1959)
Glorified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on October 20, 2019
Francis Kottis (Saint Joseph’s name before his monastic tonsure) was born in Paros on February 12, 1897, the fourth of seven children to the simple but pious couple George and Maria Kottis. Because of their extreme poverty, Francis left home at the age of seventeen to work in Piraeus as a merchant to support his large family.
One day he beheld a wondrous vision of two angels in the form of palace guards, leading him to serve the heavenly king. After this vision, he became pensive and lost all interest in worldly things; he spent his time reading the lives of saints, especially those of the great ascetic Fathers, which ignited in his heart the desire to become a monk. In preparation for his life on the Holy Mountain, he started conditioning himself to ascetic struggles by fasting and praying in the countryside of Athens.
In 1921, after two years of living ascetically in the world, he finally made his way to the Holy Mountain, his heart longing for a God-bearing spiritual guide to teach him the art of noetic prayer, and he began traversing the crags and caves in search of one. After searching for sometime without success, he decided to join the brotherhood of Saint Daniel of Katounakia. Renowned for his discernment and exalted spiritual life, Saint Daniel chose a moderate ascetical program for his brotherhood. Francis, however, was inclined to a more austere spiritual life and total dedication to unceasing prayer of the heart, which requires great silence and humility, and thus he stood out from the rest of the brotherhood. Saint Daniel knew he could not stay with his brotherhood, but he also knew that Francis needed a companion, a fellow ascetic, in order to avoid delusion. So he told him that until a co-struggler could be found for him, he should cultivate the Jesus Prayer alone in some remote cave, coming to him occasionally for spiritual guidance.
One day, after suffering many temptations, he was granted a vision of the uncreated light, and he received the gift of ceaseless prayer. From that point on until his death, the prayer was said in his heart unceasingly, granting him exalted spiritual states and divine visions.
Eventually, a suitable co-struggler, Father Arsenios, was sent to him by Saint Daniel. These two spiritual warriors would be inseparable companions for the rest of their lives, leading an austere ascetical life together. In the beginning Father Arsenios regarded Francis as his geronda, even though Father Arsenios had already been tonsured a monk and Francis was still a layman. However, on the Holy Mountain, to be a geronda, you have to be obedient to a geronda until his death. Therefore, following Saint Daniel’s advice they became disciples of two humble old gerondas in Katounakia named Joseph and Ephraim. It was not long before one of them, Saint Joseph, reposed in the Lord. Geronda Ephraim, now their sole geronda, was soon convinced by the exceptional lifestyle of young Francis that this spiritual warrior should be officially enrolled in the angelic monastic order. Thus, the day of his monastic tonsure was set for Sunday, August 31, 1925, the commemoration day of the deposition of the precious sash of the Theotokos. His tonsure took place in the cave of Saint Athanasios the Athonite and he received the name Joseph, after his reposed geronda.
After some years, Geronda Ephraim also fell asleep in the Lord, and the young Father Joseph became a proper geronda. Soon he began attracting monastic aspirants, but few of them were able to endure his severe ascetic program. Eventually, the nucleus of his brotherhood would consist of five disciples: his co-ascetic Father Arsenios; Father Athanasios, his brother in the flesh; Father Joseph the Cypriot, who would later become the geronda of the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi; Father Ephraim, later abbot of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou and future geronda of thirty-three monasteries in Greece, the US, and Canada, including Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona; and Father Haralambos, later abbot of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou. Also, it is noteworthy to mention Saint Ephraim of Katounakia; although he belonged to a different brotherhood, he was guided spiritually by Saint Joseph, and thus is also considered one of his disciples. In 1938, seeking greater solitude, Saint Joseph and his community moved from Saint Basil’s Skete to a cave at Little Saint Anne’s, but after 15 years of living in the harsh conditions of Little Saint Anne’s, the fathers’ health started to deteriorate, and so in 1953, Saint Joseph decided to move the community farther down the mountain, near the sea, to New Skete, where he would spend the last six years of his life. A few months before his death, he was visited by the Virgin Mary, whom he held in special reverence, and was promised by her, that she would take him on her feast day. Thus the saint fell asleep in the Lord, on August 15, 1959, the day the Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.
(Taken from www.stanthonysmonastery.org)
St. Joseph the Hesychast intercede for us all!