The Blessed Elder Amvrosios the Athonite (21/12/1912 – 02/12/2006) – Part 114 December 2013
The Hieromonk Amvrosios (born Spyridon Lazaridis) departed this life on 2 December 2006 (New Calendar), at the age of 92. He was the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of Our Most Holy Lady Gavriotissa, Dadi, and of thousands of Christians from all over Greece. Fr. Amvrosios was a source of the Athonite fragrance of Christ in the world and is one of the saintly contemporary figures who have adorned the Church. He is also the fruit of the incarnation of Christ. For centuries, the Church has been a workshop producing saints and still today provides us with its output.
The late Fr. Amvrosios was born in the village of Lazarata, Lefkada, of devout parents, the teacher Panayiotis Lazaris and his wife Louiza. He was the fourth child in his large family. From infancy, little Spyridon was distinguished for his calm nature and his love for the Church. His moral character was shaped by his mother, who, because her husband was away fighting in the wars, shouldered the whole burden of bringing up the children. Spyridon managed to complete only two classes of primary school, because he then had to help his mother with the chores. When the time came, he enlisted in the Army and served three years at the palace as an “Evzon” [ceremonial guard], since he was a tall, erect and good-looking young man.
During a chat I once had with the late Elder, he told me that after his military service, he wanted to go to the Holy Mountain, but he didn’t know how or where to go. Then a young man of about 25 appeared and told him: “I know the place, come with me”. And so he went.
They set off together, went down to the harbour and embarked on a boat. “He gave me bread, as well”, he said, “and we ate together all the days I was with him. He didn’t tell me his name, though, and I didn’t ask. So we arrived at Dafni and from there walked on, further up the Holy Mountain.
When I was with him, I felt very safe. As we went along, he showed me the Monastery of Xiropotamou, where they honour the Forty Martyrs. He asked if I would like to pay my respects and I agreed to do so. We went into the katholiko, the main church of the Monastery, and when I kissed the icon, forty men appeared and surrounded us. The young man turned to me and said: “They’re the Forty Martyrs and they’re happy that you’re going to be a monk”.
From there we continued on our way and reached Karyes, and from there went to the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi. The young man stopped, pointed out the monastery to me and said: “You’ll stay here, Spyro. You’ll become a monk. You’ll be patient and obedient to the Elder”. And he disappeared.
It would seem that this was an angel of the Lord, Spyridon’s guardian angel. Spyridon remained at this monastery as a novice, and, at the age of 25, became a monk with the name of Hariton.
One evening, the abbot told Monk Hariton to read the ninth, in the narthex. He was unlettered, but did his best to read, though with great difficulty. The abbot was displeased and told him in no uncertain terms to go to his cell. That same evening, while he was praying, the Mother of God appeared to him and, by her grace, he memorized the whole of the Psalter in a single night. He was taught by God and reminded everyone of Saint Gregory Palamas, who also experienced learning difficulties as a child. His family took him to a monastery, prayed to Our Most Holy Lady and told him to make three prostration every evening to the Mother of God and to ask her to make him a good student. And Gregory became the best. But whenever he forgot his prostrations, he didn’t get good marks.
There’s another instance from the life of the Monk Hariton, the man of God. It was summer and Fr. Hariton was in the garden working. He saw a fig tree and, since he was hungry, he climbed up to eat one. On the Holy Mountain, monks aren’t allowed to eat anything except in the refectory, because it’s considered gorging and therefore a serious infringement. He ate a few figs, but then slipped and fell from the tree.
He lay there, moaning, because he’d broken his leg. Even though he fell in the morning, the other monks didn’t find him until the afternoon, after a search. [A similar incident occurred about fifteen years ago in the Vatopaidan skete of Kolchou, where Fr. John (Gochul), who was then in his late eighties, fell in his garden, broke his neck (!) and lay in the summer sun for a whole day until Fr. Pierre (Vachon), a monk from the neighbouring house of Saint George, went to check on him, as he did every evening at the behest of his Elder. Fr. John was whisked off to a hospital in Thessaloniki and made a complete recovery. WJL].
They put him on a door and four men- he was a strapping figure- carried him to his cell. Elder Amvrosios himself says: “When I was in bed, in pain, I could see the chapel of the Holy Unmercenary Doctors opposite, and I asked them to help me. Two doctors appeared in white smocks and they tried to set my leg. ‘Pull, Kosmas’ said one. ‘Hold it here, Damianos’, said the other. In five minutes, the pain had gone and I was well again”. When the brethren in the monastery saw him completely well, they praised God and the Holy Unmercenary Doctors.
In the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi there were five young monks and an elder who was well advanced in years. Some of them thought it would be a good idea to change the elder. But the latter learned of this and decided to send the five monks away. A police detachment took Fr. Hariton, as he was then, to the Monastery of Hilandar. He suffered many difficulties and illnesses there, to the extent that he was forced to come back into the world. So he went to Elder Porfyrios who advised him to go to the abandoned Monastery of Dadi in Fthiotida. All he found in this ruined monastery were rats, snakes and wild animals. Elder Porfyrios told him: “Stay here, be patient and obedient and God will help you”.
The blessed Elders Porfyrios Kavsokalyvitis († 02/12/1991) and Amvrosios the Athonite (†02/12/2006) together with some lay pilgrims on a visit.
He restored the Holy Monastery, which thereafter became a convent. The then Metropolitan of Fthiotida, Amvrosios, held the Elder in high esteem and made him a hieromonk, and actually gave him his own name.