One of our most beloved modern saints, St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia (on Mount Athos), is commemorated on December 2, which falls on a Sunday this year. It has only been five years since his official canonization, though the faithful of Greece and throughout the world had been venerating him for years before that.
The most well-known book in English about St. Porphyrios is Wounded by Love, which describes his life and shares some of his spiritual wisdom. It is a fitting title for a book on St. Porphyrios, who from an early age was overtaken (“wounded”) by a deep love for our Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase comes from one of the Vespers hymns about St. Hilarion the Great: “Ὁ ἔνθεος ἔρως κατέτρωσε,” “Divine love [literally divine eros] wounded you.” St. Porphyrios made it his life’s focus to pursue Christ’s love unwaveringly. Just as our Lord relentlessly pursues every person—though we reject Him and betray Him and sin against Him—so too did St. Porphyrios strive relentlessly against the passions and the fallen self to enter the loving embrace of our Savior.
Here is a small taste of the divine wisdom St. Porphyrios offers to us:
“Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. He is joy, He is life, He is light. Christ is everything. He is the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ.”
“A person can become a saint anywhere. He can become a saint in Omonia Square [in Athens, synonymous with vice and corruption], if he wants. At your work, whatever it may be, you can become saints—through meekness, patience and love. Make a new start every day, with new resolution, with enthusiasm and love, prayer and silence—not with anxiety so that you get a pain in the chest. … Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified.”
“Do not strike at the evil directly, but, disdaining the passion, turn with love to God. Occupy yourself with singing hymns, the triumphant hymns of the saints and martyrs and the Psalms of David. Study Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers. In this way your soul will be softened, sanctified and assimilated to God.”
“Turn your mind towards God continually. Learn to love prayer; converse with the Lord. What counts above all is love, passionate love for the Lord, for Christ the Bridegroom. Become worthy of Christ’s love. In order not to live in darkness, turn on the switch of prayer so that divine light may flood your soul. Christ will appear in the depths of your being. There, in the deepest and most inward part, is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).”
“Those who desire and crave to belong to Christ and who abandon themselves to the will of God become worthy. It’s a great thing, all-important, to have no will. The slave has no will of his own. And it is possible for us to have no will of our own in a very simple manner: through love for Christ and the keeping of His commandments. ‘He who has my commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved by my Father and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.’ (John 14:31)”
“Souls that have known pain and suffering and that are tormented by their passions win most especially the love and grace of God. It is souls such as these that become saints, and very often we pass judgment on them. Remember what Saint Paul says, ‘Where sin abounded, grace flowed even more abundantly’ (Romans 5:20). When you remember this, you will feel that these people are more worthy than you and than me. We see them as weak, but when they open themselves to God they become all love and all divine eros. Whereas previously they had acquired different habits, they now give all the power of their soul to Christ and are set on fire by Christ’s love. That is how God’s miracle works in such souls, which we regard as ‘lost.’ We shouldn’t be discouraged, nor should we rush to conclusions, nor judge on the basis of superficial and external things.”
I strongly encourage you to read Wounded by Love, to learn the spiritual wisdom of St. Porphyrios. And may his prayers intercede on our behalf!