Mount Athos is known far beyond Greece and is one of the most important Orthodox pilgrimage destinations. It is not only a beautiful place of peace and tranquility, but also a source of true miracles.
Among the legends of Mount Athos, passed down from generation to generation, there is a belief about the invisible elders of the Holy Mountain. According to it, on top of Mount Athos live 12 invisible ascetics. Guards hermits, invisible ascetics, secret elders - people call them differently. But the main thing is unchanged: Athos hermits are inaccessible and are presented only to those whom they themselves choose. Most often they are shown to ordinary devout pilgrims or monks, but there is still no direct evidence of their existence. Many people who have visited Mount Athos say that while walking and praying they have often felt someone's presence near them.
Legend has it that the number of the elders of Mount Athos never varies: if one dies, another takes his place and there are 12 of them again. The monks are all about the same age, yet not too old.
It is possible to meet an invisible monk in any part of the Athos peninsula. According to the testimonies of those who have seen them, the invisible elders disappear as suddenly as they appear. It is said that they do not need anything material at all feeding only on prayer instead of natural and physical needs.
It is believed that the existence of the invisible elders was revealed by the spiritual father of one of them. His name, however, remains unknown.
The opinions of the monks and pilgrims of the Holy Mountain regarding the existence of invisible ascetics are divided. Some are convinced that the belief is just a beautiful fairy tale. Others prefer to avoid the subject, making it clear that it does not need to be discussed.
One of the Testimonies of the Mount Athos Elders apparition
The Athonite Elders (Το Γεροντικό του Αγίου Όρους) book by the Blessed Venerable Father Andreas Theophilopoulos tells the story of a Lebanese Christian who arrived as a pilgrim in the Holy Mountain in the late 1970s. Making a stop at one of the places he planned to visit, the skete of St. Anne, the man asked the skete governor, Elder Cyril, which way to take in order to get to the top of the Holy Mountain. After receiving an answer, the pilgrim set out on his journey.
The next morning, before leaving the skete, the Lebanese asked Cyril who the monks he had met on his journey the previous day were. Overcoming linguistic difficulties, the pilgrim told the elder his story.
As he was descending Mount Athos, he met two monks who were drawing water. They invited the pilgrim to their cell and treated him to some figs. When the pilgrim looked around, he noticed that there were about 10 elders, all leaning on sticks, with prayer beads in their hands.
The elders told the Lebanese that they had been living in this place for a long time, and that their main job was to pray for the whole world.
After listening to the pilgrim with surprise, the elder Cyril told him that there had never been a cell in the area he had mentioned, and no monks dwelled there. This means that the Lebanese man met saints, who are shown only to those whose hearts are pure and faithful.
The Lebanese man was unspeakably happy about this encounter, and the elder Cyril was grateful to God for revealing to him the holy monks through this pilgrim.