Friday, February 5, 2016

The Atheist student and the Holy Mountain of Athos ( Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaias )

Several years ago I was approached by a young student. With great reluctance, but with the intensity of a demanding seeker, who said he was an atheist, yet would love to believe, but could not. For years he tried and searched, but to no avail.

He spoke with professors and the educated, but his thirst for something serious was not satisfied. He heard of me and decided to share with me his existential need. He asked me for scientific proof for the existence of God.

"Do you know integrals or differential equations?" I asked.

"Unfortunately no", he replied. "I am a Philosopher."

"Too bad! Because I knew one such proof", I said, obviously joking.

He felt uncomfortable and was quiet for a bit.

"Look", I said, "I'm sorry I hurt you a bit. But God is not an equation or a mathematical proof. If it were so, then all the educated would believe in Him. You should know, there are other ways to approach God. Have you ever been to Mount Athos? Have you ever met an ascetic?"

"No, Father, but I'm thinking of going, having heard so much. If you tell me, I can go even tomorrow. Do you know anyone educated to go and meet with?"

"What do you prefer? Someone educated that can make you dizzy, or a saint who can wake you up?"

"I prefer the educated. I fear saints."

"Faith is a matter of the heart. Why don't you try a saint. What is your name?" I asked.

"Gabriel", he answered.

I sent him to an ascetic. I described for him the way to access him and gave him the necessary instructions. I even sketched for him a map.

"You will go," I said, "and ask him the same thing. I am an atheist, you will tell him, and I want to believe. I want a proof of the existence of God."

"I am afraid, embarrassed", he told me.

"Why are you embarrassed and afraid of the saint but not embarrassed and afraid of me?" I asked.

After a few days he went and found the ascetic conversing with a young man in his yard. On the opposite side four others were sitting on some logs waiting. Among them Gabriel found a tentative seat. No more than ten minutes later the Elder finished his conversation with the young man.

"How's it going, guys?" he asked. "Have you taken a loukoumaki? Did you drink some water?"

"We thank you, Elder", they replied, with conventional secular nobility.

"Come here," he said addressing Gabriel, distinguishing him from the others. "I will take the water, and you take the box with loukoumia, and come closer so I can tell you a secret: It is fine for someone to be an atheist, but to have the name of an angel and be an atheist? This is the first time I have seen such a thing."

Our friend nearly suffered a heart attack after this revealing surprise. How did he know his name? Who revealed to him his problem? What, finally, did the Elder want to tell him?

"Father, can I speak with you for a bit?" he asked, barely able to mumble.

"Look, now it is getting dark. Take the loukoumi, drink some water, and go to the most nearby monastery to spend the night."

"My Father, I want to speak with you, is it not possible?"

"What will we say, my lad? For what reason did you come?"

"To this question I felt my breathing open immediately," he told me. "My heart was flooded with faith. My inside world was heated. My doubts were solved without any logical argument, without any discussion, without the existence of a clear answer. All the 'if's, why's and but's' were automatically destroyed, and all that remained was 'how' and 'what from this time forward'."

What the educated could not give his thoughts, was given to him with the gentle hint of a saint, who was a graduate of only the fourth grade of elementary school. The saints have much discernment. They make a surgery on you, and you feel no pain. They do a transplant without opening your stomach. They raise you to inaccessible peaks without ladders or worldly logic. They plant faith in your heart, without tiring your mind.

By Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaias and Lavreotiki

Vainglory is a grave Sin ( Part 1 ) - Bishop Nikiforos Theotokis

At that time, when Jesus departed from there,
two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”
And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly
warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.”
But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country (Mt. 9:27-31)

In today's Gospel narrative, I observe how Jesus Christ remained silent as the two blind men—
from the center of the street and amidst a multitude of people—cried out in a loud voice,
"Son of David, have mercy on us!"
Furthermore, I hear the commandment He gave them after He restored their vision and enlightened their eyes, "see to it that no one finds out" (Mt. 9:30). When I consider that both Christ's silence as well as His commandment were intended to conceal the miracle, I am truly amazed and perplexed. If the Lord had acted in this manner only in this instance with the two blind men, there would be an explanation to the query. However, since we repeatedly note the God-man always acting in the same manner every time He performed a miracle, not only does our query remain unanswered, but also our perplexity grows and escalates.
After Christ cleansed the leper whom He
encountered and freed him of his disease, He immediately ordered Him thus:
"See that you tell no one"(Mt. 9:4). Christ stopped the chronic issue of blood from the lady who
had been bleeding for many years, and thereafter He attributed the miracle  not to His own power,
but to the sick lady's faith.
Your faith, He said, healed you from your illness:
“Daughter, your faith has made you well”
(Mt. 9:22). 

He spoke similarly when He gave movement to the paralyzed body of the centurion's slave: "
Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you" (Mt. 8:13). Likewise, when he freed the Canaanite woman's daughter from the tyranny of the devil, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Mt. 15:28).
When Christ visited Peter’s home, He put an end
his mother-in-law’s fever, He cast out the demons from them who were brought to Him, and He healed all the sick people who came there seeking His help(Mt. 8:14-17); subsequently, when Christ saw that a great crowed had gathered around Him, He immediately departed from there:
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him,
He gave a command to depart to the other side” (Mt. 8:18).
Christ did the exact same thing when he calmed the storm at sea and stopped the wind: He immediately departed, and having crossed to the
other side of the sea, “He came to the country of the Gardarenes” (Mk. 5:1). When He made
the paralytic rise from his bed, immediately “Jesus
withdrew” from the multitude in order for Him to remain unknown (Jn. 5:13). When He fed the
five thousand men with five loaves of bread, He
forced His disciples to depart from there (Mt. 14:22). And when He fed the four thousand men with seven loaves of bread, He immediately left
and went to the region of Magdala (Mt. 15:39). When He went to the home of the ruler of the
synagogue to resurrect his daughter, Christ sought to hide the miracle: first, He told everyone present,
“Depart, for the girl is not dead but sleeping,”
and, in following , “He put them all outside”—
only then did He resurrect the deceased girl
(Mt. 9:23-25 & Mk. 5:40).