In memory of the Schema-Archimandrite Ephraim (Moraitis)
At the very beginning of his monastic path, the future Schema-Archimandrite Ephraim (Moraitis) heard from his spiritual father Joseph the Hesychast the following two patristic sayings, “He who has pleased his elder has pleased God” and “A good start is the keystone to a good end. A bad start is a ticket to a bad end”. Remembering this, Father Ephraim once wrote, “I kept this small, but spiritually powerful advice in my soul, making it my credo and my treasure. I said to myself, “In my life, I’ll bet on that”. Realising the immeasurable benefit of this advice, I decided to follow it with the help of God and by the elder’s prayers”.
The brotherhood of Joseph the Cave-dweller lived in extremely harsh conditions in a very small space on the ledge of a sheer cliff, swarming with centipedes and snakes. There was not enough water even for cooking, and the brethren had to bring it in cans, overcoming steep ascents and descents. They had not even pack animals, let alone machinery. Every day, the novices of Elder Joseph delivered to the skete on their backs loads of sand, firewood, food and everything else that they needed. Their life was filled with labor, hardships, cold conditions, long vigils, war with passions and absence of body care.
Elder Joseph assigned to the young novice the obedience of the community cook. This work was associated with great difficulties. All cooking was done in the courtyard, where the blowing wind often threw the lids, burners and grills down the slope, forcing the novice to climb and collect them. This routine did not change even in winter.
Later, Schema-Archimandrite Ephraim, already a spiritual father of many monastics, will bless the time spent in obedience to Elder Joseph, “And yet, how wonderful and blessed these works and those years were! This ascetic time, filled with hard labor, bore the fruit of grace, integrity, as well as inner and outer purity in soul and body, of course, through the prayers of Elder Joseph. The elder taught us theory, guided us and helped us, so that we would not deviate either to the right or to the left. This is how our life was bringing us spiritual benefit. A harsh upbringing served to calm our passions and help us acquire all the necessary things that we were deprived of. We were still young and we needed such a harsh upbringing. It was a holiday for us, because we knew that this work would bring us the grace of God again and again. All this work laid the foundation on which, by the elder’s prayers, I still stand on my own feet”.
Father Ephraim tried to never aggrieve elder Joseph the Hesychast and did everything possible to please him with his life. His practical experience proved that if a novice tries to fulfill the instructions of his elder, then the blessing of God paves the way for him. Until the last moment of the elder’s earthly life, Father Ephraim served him and did everything to fulfill his duty to his spiritual father in the best way. Fr Ephraim realized that not succeeding in this would mean his complete failure at achieving the goal, for which he had left the world. He prayed, “Grant me, o God, to inherit the blessing of my elder”. In the last year of Father Joseph’s life, the novice was very worried about whether he had achieved his goal. Once he asked the elder:
– Father, I have lived all these years, constantly trying to please you. Everything that I did, I did for you. Have I succeeded in this by the grace of God?
– You have consoled me so much, my child. May God comfort you. – the elder replied.
These words meant the world to Father Ephraim. Shortly before the elder’s death, to his great consolation, he heard:
– If I attain boldness before God, then before you leave this world, I will come to warn you of your departure and I will also come to meet you when you die.
In his memoirs, the Schema-Archimandrite Ephraim puts the question, “Will he come? Will he help me when my dark and black soul leaves the body? Great was his boldness before God!”
A good start is the keystone to a good end. The Lord did not confound the expectations of His faithful servant. On December 8, 2019, Fr Ephraim peacefully departed to the Lord. Now the teacher and the student have rested from their earthly labors and sorrows, entering the joy of the Lord, leaving behind an invaluable experience of spiritual work and showing us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds