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Elder Paisios's Manual Work and Charity

St. Paisios of Mount Athos (1924-1994), who was canonised by the Greek Orthodox Church in 2015, spent two years as a hermit on Mount Sinai. Here is an excerpt from his hagiography about the manual work he occupied himself with while there, and about his charity.

The elder's manual work was woodcut. He related once: "I engraved icons of prophet Moses receiving the ten commandments in wood. I would cut the wood first. In the stream toward the Holy Unmercenaries there was a sort of small poplar, some trees that looked like poplars. I would cut it and dry it, make tablets from it, and engrave icons. Often at night I would open the door of my cell a little, recite prayers in moonlight, sanding and preparing the wood. For tool I only had two little knives made from scissors, which I brought from Greece. I split them in two, sharpened them and painted with green oil paint so they wouldn't reflect sunlight and hit my eyes. In the beginning I needed three days to finish an icon. Later I would finish it in eleven hours.

I would give the manual work to the monastery, and they sold it. The visitors would clear them all immediately. The money I got I would give to taxi drivers from Cairo. I told them to buy clothes, hats, cake, food etc. Then I would fill my bags with blessings [presents] and ask where I could find Bedouin tents. And I would go to their tents, call little children outside and give them blessings.

Once a boy, Suleiman, when I went to their tent, out of thankfulness grabbed a rooster with the purpose of killing it to prepare lunch for me. He wanted to thank me for the blessings I brought them. "Let him go, Suleiman, some other time," I told him. Because how could I explain [what I eat]"?

Out of the great love for God's creatures, the elder put himself aside. He worked to help them. He did not go to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, even though he wanted very much, so the little Bedouins would not be deprived from their blessings. They were also aware of his great love, which did not have particular purpose or interest. So they loved him very much. There was great joy every time their beloved "Abuna Paizi" (Father Paisios in Bedouin) visited them.

Little Bedouins also came to his hermitage with cracked foot soles, because they walked barefooted. He would pour wax into the cracks, and give them sandals. He gave hats to others so they wouldn't be hit by the sun, and everything else he had. A lot of them would gather around him, however, and the money from the manual work was not sufficient.

And he had a dilemma: "Have I come here to help Bedouins or to pray for the world?" So he decided to slow down with the manual work with the hope that God would arrange everything.

And on the same day he was visited by a Greek man, a physician, who lived abroad. The elder talked to him as if he had known him for years. "Come, I've been waiting for you," he told him. For hours he sat with him talking with love, gave him advice, also revealing some personal things to him.

Amased by the elder's gift, the man gave him a hundred liras saying: "Take this so you could help Bedouins without disrupting your rule and abandoning your prayer."

Later the elder explained: "I couldn't hold it. I left him outside and entered my cell since I couldn't keep my tears because of God's quick answer. I was overwhelmed by his providence and love."

At the end, the elder saw the man off and lead him on a shorter path because it was getting dark.

From the money earned from manual work he also helped an orphan, who studied theology in Greece.

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