Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller
A paragon of Orthodox monasticism and an icon of humility, Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller is best known as the dedicated spiritual child of the ever-memorable Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The two met as zealous youths at the summit of the Holy Mountain and remained inseparable until the repose of Elder Joseph. At that time, the future Elder Joseph was still a layman, but the young monk Arsenios perceived such great spiritual gifts in him that he said: ‘From now on, you are the eye and I am the ear’. He said this, despite being 10 years more senior and having already received his tonsure. After the brotherhood had formed, Elder Joseph would call Arsenios his brother and fellow ascetic, while referring to the other monks in his obedience as his children or disciples.
Elder Arsenios dedicated himself to a life of obedience, hard labour, vigil, unceasing prayer and fasting. He would endure 3,000 prostrations each night and remained standing in what time was left, deep in prayer. The two elders were renowned for walking everywhere barefoot, regardless of the season or the depth of the snow. Strict ascesis and absolute obedience formed a monk teeming with Christian virtue. His humility was so great that he even refused to meet St Silouan because he did not feel at ease speaking whilst his elder only listened – Arsenios spoke Russian, having spent some of his childhood in Russia.
In 1983 this holy man departed the world for the splendour of God’s Kingdom. Arsenios’ life was that of struggle and simplicity. He was as guileless as Nathanael and as devoted as Peter. Together with his Elder, he left a legacy of authentic Orthodox spirituality for Mt Athos, echoing lives lived in the deserts of Palestine and Egypt centuries ago. His life is recorded in detail by Monk Joseph Dionysiatis, a fellow struggler, in a book titled “Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller (1886-1983)”.
Source: Lychnos February/March 2018