Can we faithfully and with any confidence transpose the life of St Anthony the Great, of St John Chrysostom, of St Gregory Palamas onto a subway car in Manhattan, or a park bench in Cedar Rapids? What would it be like to live a fully Christian life, here and now, in the twenty-first century? What would a truly Christian life look like in our time—the life of an authentic disciple of our Lord?
If we are exceptionally blessed, we may have met one or two figures here or there who gave us a real glimpse of such a life, the life of an Orthodox Christian in our time as it is lived fully, deeply, radically. But such glimpses are often as rare as they are fleeting and unassuming; they don’t announce themselves with bright lights and trumpets, for they are moments when an inner holiness, the glimmer of an illumined heart, barely becomes visible and catches our gaze.
Much of the time, however, these exemplary figures may very well seem to external observation no different from anyone else. Hence the importance of holy ones such as St Paisios, whose very being was utterly saturated with the light of divine grace—whose every word and gesture manifested the kind of life we should be seeking.
And therefore, the serious seeker cannot hear enough stories about these wonderful figures such as Sts Paisios and Pophryrios. We want to hear even the smallest details of their lives, things that may seem unimportant or trivial, for its is here perhaps most of all that we can see how life would look if it were filled with grace. And as we listen and learn, divine grace may itself pass through them into us as well.