How was the cell “The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple”, the cell we live in now, built? With what funds?
Watch Father Pimen Vlad tell the story of how God’s will was shown which prompted him to take this step and how our cell was built from nothing with zero funds.
As a bonus, – of course the father also mentions various miracles that happened in those times.
Look dear ones, we are seeing each other again! Christ is Risen!
We will continue with the transition from St. Artemius to the cell where we are now, with how things were at those times. I’ve told you in about five videos about the time at the beginning, how I built [the cell] of St. Artemius, how things went afterwards… Well, there’s a lot to say, but I’m going to narrow it down, so to speak.
So, a few years went by because I stayed there until 2005. In 2005 we were already settled there. We had everything we needed, there were 10 of us already. That is, there was no uninhabited place. Even at the bakery, where we had the bread oven, we put a bed and a father lived there; all we had was inhabited to the maximum, because the cell was smaller, all that was possible was 10 people. Of course in the church it was a bit crowded, it was a small church, as it is there. Everything was crowded, especially when people would come, everything was limited!
So, I reckoned then – that’s how the Mother of God ordained it – that it’s time to take over the cell “The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple” which I had wanted from the beginning, as I told you. And then I prayed to the Mother of God, and I said, “I’m going to go to the spiritual father! I’ll explain to him what the situation is and whatever it is that the spiritual father says – that’s what it’s going to be!” I went to Father Iulian, I told him…
“Yes,” he said, “Go to the monastery and ask for it and build it!” So the elder told me this with all his heart.
So, I went to the monastery; Of course when it came to the monastery, I had the following thought in my head, these were a few things to make sure that the Mother of God, is completely determined. [Cat is meowing]
What do you want tomcat? Why are you complaining? Listen how he is complaining, walking around the garden.
So then I thought…. For us at the monastery, at St. Paul’s, there are seven elders who decide everything, the synaxis of the monastery, like there is at any monastery. When there’s a problem, when there’s a request or anything, everybody discusses it and they all have to agree, or at least four of them, for a decision to be made. That is, if there are four pros and three cons, then it passes because there are four votes. So I had the following in my mind: “Mother of God, if it is your will, let them all agree! Without any resistance, with all their heart!” And I went and told them the problem:
“You know, fathers, look, I’ve wanted the cell before. The time has come, look – everything is settled [at the Cell of St. Artemius], everything is fine, we’re this many, there aren’t problems and I want to build this cell.”
They said, “We will have the synaxis.”
They did, and they called me.
They said, “You have all the blessing from all of us! Without any problem, with all our hearts, take it and build it.” Somehow I got it fully. The elder – the spiritual father – [gave his blessing] with all his heart, the monastery – with all its heart.
And there was the third thing [showing God’s will] that came on its own: Someone from Athens, an acquaintance said:
“Father, I want to give you something as a gift!”
And she sent me an icon of the Mother of God. It was with the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Exactly the feast day here, that used to be here, because on this place that I took over for this cell, there used to be a small church, a cell, many years ago – about 60 years ago. It became desolate, it crumbled, and there was nothing left but a pile of boulders. So nothing else was here. It was all clean, the mountain over here, and a pile of boulders. And I received this icon. It was somehow like a third assurance. It was from a Romanian Christian woman from Athens. She sent me a large, beautiful icon with the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. So then, somehow, three things were fulfilled in full, as an assurance from the Mother of God that the Mother of God wants with all her heart for this cell, which is in her honor, to be made.
Of course, after all this… I came here. It was so dear to me and I had so much longing to build it that I wanted to take this place in my arms, that’s how it was. I took some of the fathers from the cell and came here and we started clearing. We started to clear the trees first – it was all forest – afterwards the stones where there were traces of where the cells had been, we cleared by hand, that’s how it was in the beginning. After that, little by little, I spoke to someone who had a bulldozer here, who was straightening the roads around Athos and he came and opened up this place for me. When I say opened, I mean I needed more land because the mountain was here, there was just a little opening. Then, he tore up the whole mountain down this way, and opened the place as much as I wanted here, to have enough space.
And of course… … we started the work! But there is one thing to say, because many of you will say, “You started the work, then you had some resources…” No, I did not! So, at that time I was 1000 euros in debt; I did not own one cent, as they say! I was in the minus 1000 euros.
But I wanted so much to make this cell in honor of the Mother of God that it didn’t matter. I know that at that time, a Romanian father was actually telling me, that he had passed by the cell of some Greeks – Cretans – some elders I had known for many years. And so, I would go by sometimes and they knew me and someone said to them, “Well, Father Pimen took the cell at Nicola” as they called it; Because there had been a father here, sometime in the old days called Nicholas, and they called the cell “of Nicola” – of Nicholas – somehow. He said to them: “Father Pimen took that cell!” And those Greeks said, “What? He took that cell?” That is, there was nothing there. [They said] “But what was he lacking? He had the largest brotherhood of all the cells in the Skete.”
Like I told you, we were ten. We had Liturgies every day! We weren’t missing anything for me to start something else, that’s why [they asked]. And then those Greeks said, “Well, Father Pimen either has a bag of money, or he’s crazy! …To leave everything there and to start where there is nothing, to start from scratch! So either he has financial resources, and the man knows for sure he can build it, or he’s gone mad!” No one accepted the idea. They said, “But we do not understand, you have everything you need, you made it, you worked there… the fathers, everything… What do you need?” Well, in me there was this desire, to have the old cell of the Mother of God, which I wished for, and I felt that the Mother of God wanted this.
So, I didn’t have a bag of money, like I told you! There was nowhere to have it from! As for the other part, God knows how crazy I was or not! To people, I was crazy to give up everything I had and to start from scratch. Just like someone who has everything he needs in the world, and he gives it all up, takes a piece of land and starts from scratch. Yes…but here there was something more special.
So that’s how I took on this thing. And we started! The bulldozer cleared, I was working here every day, I was coming here with great fondness. I would take two – three fathers every day from the cell and together [we said], ” Come on, let’s do something…” Whatever we could do. And of course, I talked to several people: there was a Greek that was in charge of the bulldozer, there was another Greek who brought the materials.
They said, “Father, we know you!” (they knew me since I had also stayed at St. Paul’s) “We trust you. We will bring you all the material you need, or we help you with the bulldozer and you can pay us when you can, in a year, in two years, it doesn’t matter. We will help you with everything we can and you pay us when you want! When you can, when you get there… We have work to do elsewhere as well, so we don’t need your money now!
And that’s how we started! First we cleared everything with the bulldozer, and the people from the monastery also came.
Of course after we cleared everything here, they came, they saw, they said, “You have to have a project.”
I found a Romanian designer from Thessaloniki, who came here personally. There was a project, everything was done how things are done normally, to do it according to God and to be legal as well. The project was done, the monastery approved it, so that they could see everything that we were doing, because there is a tradition in Athos: both the house and the church must be covered with stone, that is, to preserve and have the construction in the Athonite style. Of course, we started with fondness and went for it!
The monastery came and said, “Now that you have cut the mountain, the whole mountain will come downhill! What you need to do is, you need to make some retaining walls.”
That meant 3 stone walls at 3m tall, 1m thick, 100 m long! That is to make one, then a platform like this, then another, and then again the third. It meant a lot of work and a lot of money.
We started of course. At the beginning what we did was to make a small cottage here, just at the end of where the bulldozer had finished to have it for the first workers. We put in four workers, the first ones we had. We housed them there and we started with the walls, as the monastery said, to strengthen the mountain. Of course everything was on credit! The workers were on credit, all the materials that were brought in, on credit! At first, it only increased slightly: 10,000 euros in debt. And I had Sava, whom I have spoken to you about before, the Greek, who I’ve been friends with for over twenty years…
He always called me, “Gheronda, how is it going?”
“Well, how can it go…it’s going with the help of of the Mother of God!”
“What about the debts?”
“Growing, as usual!”
“Well, be careful in what you do! How much do you owe?”
“If I could, I’d help you, but well…”
He also had children, meaning he didn’t have the resources to. He would give me 100 – 200 euros when he could… that was, as they say, rainwater, considering the debts I had!
And the debts were increasing to 10,000, to 20,000.
And he kept saying: “Father, be careful! Gheronda, make sure you know what you’re doing!” I would say, “I’m building the house of the Mother of God, not my house! And the Mother of God will take care of her little house! As a man I do what I can! Besides that, she’s handling it.”
That’s how I kept going. And I reached 30,000 euros in debt… All well so far!
He had actually called me and said, “Gheronda, the workers will beat you up, you have not paid them, it’s been a few months, you have so many debts, what are you doing there?”
Because we had already started at the beginning of the year in 2005 and now Pascha had passed; we were working. So we had started, we had about two or three months of being in full swing as they say. And at one point, I don’t remember exactly what month it was, we were working on the very first wall here with the workers, and a Land Rover pulls up…
At that time, there were more of these big taxi cars in Athos, sort of trucks, German unimogs, as they are called, that would take people around. Besides that, a father or two from some Greek cells would have a Land Rover, and they used it as a taxi. They would drive people from one side to the other and were paid. So now, a Land Rover stops and about six people get out.
Of course, [they greet us] “Lord help us!”
“Lord help us!”
In front of them was a smaller one, a straw hat on his head, as it was sunny, like how it usually warms up around here. We could say it was around the same time as now.
And he says “Lord help us!”
“Lord help us!”
“What are you doing?”
“Well, what can we do, we are working!”
I was right with the workers, breaking rocks, putting up the wall… I was in the thick of things, as they say.
“And is it going?”
“It’s going, how could it not?”
“Do you have money?”
“We do not!”
“What about debts?”
“Well, 30,000 euros.”
And then he turns to the others in the back and says to one: “Hand me the bag!”
He gives him the bag, he pulls out a stack of money and counts bam, bam, bam…
“Here, take 30,000 euros!”
Of course, you realize, especially at that time, I hadn’t seen or had contact with so much money in my life, … being here in Athos! There was just a little bit here and there, as you know, at St. Artemius, we were getting by.
And he says, “Alright! Lord help us and we’ll hear from each other again! And we’ll see going forward…”
And he left. And I was left with the money in my hand for a few moments, and after that I called out to one of his men that had remind a little behind, “But who is this man? So that we can commemorate his name in prayer!”
“Who? It’s Becali, you haven’t heard of him?”
“I’ve never heard of him in my life! Where could I have heard about him here?”
I didn’t have contacts, it wasn’t like now, with the internet, with all that.
And I said, “Alright, so we can commemorate him in prayer.”
And that was the first miracle for me. Through whom did the Mother of God work it? Through Mr. Becali! Yes! He left afterwards, and went to all the Romanian places in Athos and paid their debts. Until he finished what he had in his bag. Generally about.. here, at Lacu Skete there were at that time at least three or four cells that were being built. So he helped everyone. And after that at Prodromos, at Kapsala, wherever he went, towards Vatopedi, to Colciu. He went to every Romanian place and helped.
I know that the Greek, Sava, called me:
“Gheronda, how are you? How are things for you?”
He knew that two days before when he called me I was 30,000 euros in debt.
I said, “How can it be… Let me tell you!”
This and that…I told him this whole story.
He started shouting on the phone: “Gheronda! A miracle! Who else does something like this without asking you anything and gives you 30,000 euros? It cannot be! A miracle of the Mother of God!”
The poor man was shouting on the phone and he had so much joy as if the miracle had been done with him. Because well, he cared a lot about me and still does to this day and I am in touch with him. This is how the Mother of God worked the first miracle with us, paying off our debts. And of course, over time, I’ll tell you, Mr. Becali came again. And he helped us again! Little by little, little by little. [He helped] us and the others as well. Every half a year, he would come to Athos and help again. But I’m not going to get too much into that right now, because I am going to leave it for the next video.
I know that once… since I told you about going fishing before and I remembered another small miracle: I think I had started here, or I hadn’t started, I don’t know anymore, and one of the fathers went out at sea… That’s when there were ten of us; While we were building during the first few years here, we were still living at St. Artemius, as we had nowhere to stay here. And we were all together, all ten. And a father would go fishing with the boat to catch fish for us. So one of the fathers went fishing, down at Morphono, with the boat, and he was fishing behind the boat. I mean, he’d go slow with the motor and he’d throw the fishing line from the back of the boat and fish on the go. There were some predatory fish, which he would catch. Well, that day he didn’t catch anything!
And he was sad, dejected… He had gone from Morphono towards the Lavra onwards, and back again. At one point, there’s the spring of St. Athanasius, the spring of the Mother of God which descends into the sea there and a little further away there is a small church of St. George. Now the father going by and seeing that he had not caught anything, when he was passing by the church of St. George he said, “St. George, please do something! Give me two or three fish to take back home to the fathers, as, look, I didn’t catch anything!”
Well, as he prayed, suddenly, he feels that bam! Something got caught on the fishing rod. He quickly pulls it out of the water – a beautiful fish! He quickly puts the line back, he goes back. When he passes by the church again – another fish. And he kept going to and fro. Only by the church he caught ten fish! Whenever he passed by it, he would catch a fish like this one for each of us that were at home. And then he didn’t catch anymore. He thanked St. George and came home with 10 beautiful fish. That is, it was the gift of St. George for us to have a meal, each of us one fish. Yes! I remember when he told us then: “Look how St. George gave us fish!”
Yes! So there’s going to be a lot to tell about this cell. Now we are just at the beginning, I’ve told you a few things so you know. And we will continue after that. You see here behind me, something I’ve talked about before: sage tea. You know, I told you how good it is, it helps the liver, it cleanses, it regenerates these tissues of the skin – it helps a lot. And we have a big bush here in the garden. It is also found in other parts of Athos, on the other side, where it’s more desolate, it grows by itself, we’ve put a bush here so we can always have sage tea on hand. And you see, now it’s blooming, full of bees, it smells so beautiful and that’s why I said that I would film here so you can see how sage grows. For those of you who have not seen, maybe many of you live in the city and even in the countryside – there is not much sage in our country.
Yes! That’s it for today, may the Mother of God help us, have us in her protection, and you should know that the Mother of God never leaves us. And you will continue to see, those who will want to watch, the many miracles of the Mother of God that she worked for us! The Mother of God was always near us, with us and held us in her arms. No matter whether there were temptations, whether there were hardships, without such a thing we cannot live in life. That’s what I say when someone comes [and tells me]:
“Father, I have trouble in the family, an argument, a misunderstanding…”
I say, “Well, food isn’t good without salt, without pepper, that’s what brings us out of the monotony.”
That is, something comes, we ask for forgiveness, we humble ourselves and we overcome it! Yes!… But let’s not forget to pray daily to the Mother of God, as she is our hope! May the Mother of God help us!
Lord help us!
May the Lord help us!
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