Elder Paisios on Loving the World around Us

A few days after Pascha I decided to take an afternoon walk in the forest outside of Florina… It was a joy to be with the animals, the birds, the trees, and even the smallest blade of grass bursting with life…. I cheerfully spoke to them and they listened to me. I tenderly caressed them and understood their intentions and the movements of their inner beings. I loved them all. This extraordinarily beautiful, peaceful, and loving relationship between man and the world must have characterized the genuine life of Paradise. “The elder must be in such a state every day,” I thought.

Indeed once he [Elder Paisios] said,

“When I was in Stomio at the little monastery near Konitsa, there were two large bears who would come to the place where I would dispose of the garbage. The poor things were hungry, so I would go and give them some bread. The animals can recognize your disposition when you approach them, if you intend to kill them or if you approach them with genuine love.”

At this point, the elder opened up his hand and called to a red robin that was resting in the branches of a tree, and the little bird came and happily perched on the elder’s finger.

“The animals enjoy being with man and look at him as their king. In Paradise, Adam called the animals one by one and gave them each a name according to its kind. Animals recognized man’s superiority and were happy in his presence. After the fall, however, this relationship was destroyed. Man looked at the beasts with the intention of killing them, and the animals became wild. Nevertheless, the wild animals are still more sincere than man is. If you approach them with love, they return to that pristine state. Man has ruined the animals. Even the dog that lives continually by man’s side has changed, acquiring a police mentality and distrustful character. I used to feed a little kitten around here that would come and rub itself up against my leg and purr. Although it was very tame, when one day, I tossed a piece of bread to it, the animal pulled back in fear. What had happened to it? Someone had thrown stones at it and ruined the animal’s attitude towards people. So you see, this evil state of affairs begins with man.”

From “The Grus, The Young Man, and the Elder Paisios”,
by Dionysios Farasiotis, pp 251-252
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