Stephanos had once described to me how, one day, during a state of deep prayer, he foolishly asked God to reveal to him how he actually looked spiritually. That invocation triggered in Stephanos a negative mystical experience that led him into great despair. It plunged him into a nightmare. Erato explained to us that he almost went mad and could not keep from weeping continuously for six months. A sociable man with a wide circle of friends, Stephanos could not even appear in public because he could not control his ceaseless crying and weeping. He told me that he felt like the foulest garbage dump. He rushed to Father Maximos, who, after hearing what had happened, reprimanded him for making such a request of God. “Not even the most experienced hermits of Mount Athos would dare ask God such a thing,” he told Stephanos. It took months of close and constant monitoring and guidance from Father Maximos before Stephanos came back to his senses.
Kyriacos C. Markides, Gifts of the Desert: (New York: Doubleday, 2005), pp. 210-211.