This is the period for John’s Gospels, and you know how theologically rich he is… that’s how great he is – the Theologian, John the Theologian, the first one of the Church – and he was in fact referred to like that, because he was a student of Love: “…being replete with that Love, he has likewise become replete with theology”, in the words of our hymnology…. whoever is filled with love, also becomes filled with theology.
1. Love and practical Orthodox theology
If there is no love for God there cannot be any theology; there can be legalism, there can be justice, there can be….. but there can’t be theology. One must love God in order to theologize properly, because if one doesn’t love God, his theology will be hostile to man and to God – regardless if that person realizes this and regardless if he is seated “upon a lofty theological throne”.
“Said the Lord to His disciples: thus I command you, to love one another” it says in here. The only commandment that I give you is to love one another. Of course we all know just how weighty this commandment is, and that it is essentially the point where all of Christian reality converges – all struggles, all ascetic labours.
The purpose of ascesis in the Orthodox Church is not the acquisition of charismas; it is not about acquiring virtues – no, not even virtues – but to attain love. It is a struggle that is undertaken, because I am aware that I do not love. And he is fortunate, who has perceived that he cannot love. He is fortunate, who can perceive that his true illness lies in the fact that he cannot love – to love sincerely, in the manner that love truly is. When you see a couple that claims they love each other and remains the same for entire decades, while they are each essentially confined to themselves, what kind of love is that? Love is that which Abba Isaac describes as “I love to love”… I want to love, I enjoy loving… but, unfortunately, it is not an easy thing to do!
Now this thing, love: how does one go about learning how to love? What is this thing, this vast lesson about? The vast lesson is to firstly love, and afterwards, when I have learnt to love, the charismas will come; otherwise, charismas are catastrophic. No matter what charisma I may receive, if I haven’t learnt to move a little in the direction of love (even if by falling and getting up again), that charisma – whatever charisma it may be – will destroy me. And it will also be used by me to destroy others, inadvertently.
Thus, the acquisition of ascesis is the acquisition of love; Orthodox asceticism is a social asceticism. Ascetics and monks don’t head for the mountains because they hate their fellow-man. If one does this, he will be deluded as a monk. An ascetic goes out to learn – to somehow depart from the turbulence, to sequester himself in his inner cell, to remain carefree for a while, to become indifferent, to relax a little from the cares of the world and to observe his own weakness and seek the appropriate medicines.
That is what monasticism is about. It is not an indication of automatic sanctity; it is however indicative of a person who understands what he has to do. Because unless we too who live in the world become likewise carefree, unless we too become less preoccupied, unless we too discard cares and cease working for a little while, unless we too don’t confine ourselves to our spiritual matters and our selves, we won’t be able to figure things out for ourselves.
So, when a monk realizes that that’s how things are, he immediately takes the next big step. This step is an eschatological one. I can praise monks, because I’m not a monk myself. If I was a monk, you would say that I’m praising myself. But I am not a monk, so I can say these things.
Anyway, that’s how one moves on, and that’s where he realizes his huge deficiency; in other words, one realizes that God – for some reason that we can’t know and can’t imagine – is Love… and in fact an ineffable love – a tremendously humble one… a love that is inconceivably noble. In this way, I begin to become aware of my own illness. And by understanding my weakness, I embark on ascesis in order to move towards where the Lord is calling me.
That is why a monk relinquishes all ownership of things… we here don’t have that; instead, we have the law of needs, don’t we? In other words, what do we need? That’s what we should seek. To possess things, as though we don’t have them, right? So, why does a monk do it (relinquish ownership)? So that he can focus his mind constantly on this matter: to follow the One Who shows you the inner light and Who offers you the Kingdom – the path leading to the Kingdom.
2. God as a communion of love
Those words – “to love one another” – “thus I command you, to love one another” – is a comprehensive command, which is why elsewhere we read that “…on this commandment hinges the law and the prophets”: everything leads us there. When one has love, he has everything: “whether there be tongues, they shall be abolished; whether prophecy, it shall cease…” Only love shall remain forever – love, which is God’s manner of existence. It is the way that God understands Himself. It is the manner in which He exercises His freedom, within His very existence. Because, you see, God the Father is not the governor of the other (two) Persons; He wants them consubstantial – He begets a consubstantial Son, He begets a consubstantial Spirit. God is not a tyrant. It is not “the Father” and “the Son” (separately). It is the Father and the Son in the manner of “the Father in the Son” : “I am in the Father, and He is in Me”. Freedom, therefore, as love. And freedom as love outwardly also…. He could have been a tyrant, but He is not an oppressor….
The phrase used by the Fathers here in order to explain this, is the expression “analogy”. Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint Maximus the Confessor and other Fathers say that the manner in which God communicates with people is analogous. What does “analogous” mean? It means that God does what He does, proportionately to what a person needs and to who that person is. The uttermost reaches of that “proportionately” is the Incarnation – do you understand? God enters into human affairs. Why does He enter? So that He can support man – it is what man needs. That is what he needs… man doesn’t need orders. The reverse case would be for God to stay “outside” – the way it is perceived in Islam – and to give orders, from above.
Here, we don’t have orders. What do we have? We have the introduction of the First-born into the world. God comes along and He assumes. What does He assume? Me, my death, my irrationality, that which I am today… this body of sin – but not the sin itself – only the intention. Except that His intention is free of sin. The consequences of sin however (the death and corruption that I am subject to), these are what He assumes.
What kind of sacrifice is this? “He Who cannot be contained in anything, was contained in flesh”. Why? This means He enters “proportionately”, because of His love, into my difficulties, into the condition of my fall. If one could only understand these things, can you imagine how much he will love God? If he begins to understand just how huge these things are? The Incarnation wouldn’t have been necessary. We could have just had a celestial dynast, the way we did in the Old Testament… the way we have Him in the Koran and (the way that) we are told by Islamists nowadays (the Elder knows that I have been invited to participate in the Islam-Christian dialogue) that they cannot perceive that the Incarnation has taken place…. Do you have any idea what a terrible thing that is? A world without the Incarnation is a world without God; it is a world in which God is just the projection of a dictator. That’s how God would have been then… He would not have bothered….
What do you do with a child of yours (assuming you have a child)? Don’t you help it to walk on all fours first? Right? At first you carry it in your arms – you carry it, you don’t order it to walk – and you also feed it with milk. Then what do you give it? Mashed food. Whoever of you here has children knows how the story goes…. the infant then crawls on all fours, and you, instead of discouraging it, will say “Try to walk! Yes! That’s good! Come on!” Then it will stand on its own two feet and you will be there to catch it and hold it and eventually the child will become a champion and achieve a 100-metre sprint in -say- 10 seconds. Essentially, what you are doing is ONLY assisting it. Well, that’s what God does. He enters into man’s circumstances, into his life, and becomes like him. You have seen how all parents become silly dads and silly moms, and that if they don’t, they are probably sick in their souls… if both the parent and the child don’t… if you don’t play with your child and you don’t roll around on the grass with your child, right? Your child won’t be OK if you don’t enter into its life – the child will have a psychological problem tomorrow, and you already have one.
So, you can see that this is the same as what God does. This is what the Incarnation is; this is what real loving is. To love in deed is like… well… we can’t fully envisage what it is, because as much as we may love – let’s say – dogs, you will refuse to become both a dog and a human in order to help dogs from within, and thus lead them to their liberation. Do you see what I’m saying here? This is a huge thing. It is that love – that love proven by our acts – and that love is a really huge thing. THAT is the kind of love that God wants from us also.
In other words, it is the kind of love that by definition will enter. Enter where? Into the other’s troubles. This is the kind of love that will enter into the other’s problems. It will not keep out. That is why we don’t have love…I myself who is speaking to you don’t have such love… it is not only you, not any of us…. this is our illness. We need to understand what God is and how God loves, in order to gradually enter into that love.
3. The healing of the Soul
We need to obtain blessing and grace in order to enter into that kind of love: to love the other from within him. From within him, not outside of him… to love like that…how can I describe it… with fondness. Can you understand what I’m saying? How different a thing that is! It is not the same as that delightful image of love that we have been taught in our day and are inclined to believe that we all are so easy when it comes to loving and regard it to be something easy. Well, it is not easy; it is necessary, we desire it, we are inclined towards it, but it requires the grace of God for one to achieve it, to promote it, so that it will bear fruits. It requires grace, it requires a special blessing.
In one phrase alone it says “if the world hates you (plural), know that it first hated Me”. There is hatred in the world, and a Christian will encounter hate also in the world. That is why it says all the more that we should love each other, so that we don’t have the hatred of the world between ourselves also – isn’t that so? “If the world hates you, know that it first hated me.” A query is created here – a question: What does it mean, when it says “the hatred of the world for Christ?” What a strange statement… Well, the answer is given immediately after: “if you were of the world, the world loves its own kind… but you are not of the world, for I have chosen you from the world, and for that, the world hates you.”
You do not resemble the world, and I do not resemble the world, and somewhere along the line, the world will display hatred, if you were to find yourself in an environment the way that I happen to be in myself – and perhaps others (I don’t know) in here/ In an environment of intellectuals, you will see that you can easily talk about the values of the Gospel, about love – for example. You can easily talk about the secondary things of our faith, but, for the main ones – the essentials – like the Virgin birth, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, you will encounter difficulty:
“That doesn’t sound like the things we’re accustomed to hearing”, the others will say to you; “Talk to me about social justice.” (as if there is any social justice, or, as if those who do talk about social justice have anything to do with it!) Well anyway… We cannot talk. Why? Because all these things overturn the world’s logic. Anything that overturns the world’s logic is considered dangerous by the world. Whatever it is that overturns the world’s logic requires extreme caution. You can’t just go ahead and talk, to go forth and talk about turning the other cheek: the other will say “What slap on the other cheek are you talking about? Is that possible? You’re telling me that the servant and the master are equals? What are you telling me?”
The Gospel contains many things that are very difficult to grapple with – the most daunting one being the Cross. The Cross, because they can readily understand what it means to fight against one’s ideological opponents. But what it means to be crucified for their sake – for me to actually ascend the Cross instead of them – well, that is a shocker! It will be an awesome thing, if the world comprehends what the Cross is… it is a thorough stake that’s driven into a person’s natural intellect. And God Himself being crucified? The One who by definition is the authority? Don’t forget that Christ was crucified for that exact reason: because they wanted Him in order to crucify others: “We hope He is the One who is destined to liberate Israel”… When they saw Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, do you know what crossed the Judeans’ minds? “Ah, here we have a perfect army; we will move forward, and He will be in the rear, raising all those that are killed.” Can you imagine an army like that? Christ behind them, blessing; the Hebrew soldiers in front, and Christ – presto! – just one blessing over each one who is killed and the dead soldier stands up again. With an army like that, the entire roman empire could easily have been seized, in a matter of weeks!
That was why they welcomed Him with palm fronds on Palm Sunday. And when He said: “Look, this Cross is ours, not the others’…”, that “the Cross is intended for Me to love the Romans, and not to annihilate them”, the moment arrived when they said to Him: “So, that’s what you’re about?” …. A psychological mechanism – all that affection is reversed and is turned into hatred, within seconds. Yes, or no? When my ego’s ideal is offended, then the one who is the embodiment of my ego’s ideal – according to psychoanalysis – immediately becomes the object of maximum hatred, whereas a while ago it was the object of maximum desire, of maximum love.
Well, from that moment on, the crucifixion itself was a matter of a few days away. You can see what a formidable thing it is, when your conscience confronts the conscience of Christ. There is no chance that it won’t. Even we at some point in time (each one of us) will clash with Christ, and that is the worst thing of all. We who are here, in this room, will at some point in time clash with Christ. If we don’t, then something is wrong.
If Christ is continually the sweet-talking teacher, Who tells us all sorts of nice things and we cheerfully follow Him, then something is amiss. We will eventually sense that difficulty of the Cross. We will sense that the path that Grace is leading us towards is a path that is tough on our self-love. That is what we will feel, and it is the precise point that our faith lies. This is the precise point where our relationship will be tested, and if it passes, we will become authentic disciples of Christ.
Do you understand? A critical moment will come, when you will be asked to focus on that which – in your self-love – you regard as precious. That will be the moment of the Cross. We cannot expect someone else to be crucified for us; we ourselves must be crucified. “In Me is the world crucified” says Paul, “along with passions and desires” – isn’t that so? The world is crucified in me, and me in the world…
4. The way of the Cross
This formidable statement indicates that the Cross is a path, a road. In other words, it is the road on which my self-love will be hard-pressed… it will be pressured, pressured, pressured… and from it, the true meaning of love and life will surface; from there I will discover who I really am and who God really wants me to become. I will discover it existentially, if you understand what I mean. But, this is what the world hates; the world wants you to vindicate it, nothing more. It wants you to say “bravo” – isn’t that so?
Thus you can see what the major political parties do, don’t you? They dupe the world. One of them comes along and says: “All you outcasts – the hour of great vindication has arrived”; then the other says: “All you outcasts of the outcasts will now be vindicated”. And so, this time the ones will be “vindicated”, the next time around the others will be “vindicated”; they come into power and each party wreaks a portion of destruction. Isn’t that so? It is so, because this kind of vindication is unmerciful. There is no love in it. It has the “right” to obtain that which I am deprived of. Regardless if you do or don’t actually deprive me of it, I believe I am being deprived of it. So, I then come into power and take back whatever it is that I believed you deprived me of. We can therefore see that political parties and all the rest basically want to vindicate man, but in the wrong sense. They say: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re backward, or foolish, or crooked, or avid, you’re just fine the way you are.” But Christ comes along and tells him: “look, it is not possible from a certain point onwards to continue to be like that”. Woe to him, because a religious person cannot tolerate this kind of denuding! I have met very few religious people who could stand being bared like that… they can’t… everyone is asked “to support my narcissistic triumph” – the spiritual father, the elder, the monastery – all these are called upon to help my narcissistic ego – this image of mine…
And when the hour of judgment comes, the “other person” is always to blame. There are very few people (and this is something that spiritual fathers and any others involved are familiar with) who will stand before them and say: “I am to blame, I am to blame, I am to blame” – and mean it, when they say they are to blame. They are very few. Most Christians – as a French thinker had once said – find a mysterious way of making themselves comfortable on the Cross…. That is not essentially crucifying oneself. Crucifying ourself means precisely to perceive the evil element inside me, inside me, inside me – that which I am denying. It is that which I am denying. All of psychoanalysis (and this is from someone who you know began from there) was built upon this… All of psychoanalysis was built upon that very denial – the denial that involves the traumatizing of my narcissism. Every defence mechanism therein aspires to preserve that narcissistic homeostasis – that narcissistic balance of mine. All of the defence mechanisms that we know in psychology aspire to just that. Which means it is really important for one to be Christian – that is, it is really important for one to place on that narcissism a question mark and say to oneself: “Is it possible that things aren’t the way I think? Could I be the one to blame?” But don’t say “Could I also be the one to blame?” The word “also” is enough to make me deviate again. So, I should really ask myself: “Am I to blame?”
You may have noticed how they go after saints, by claiming: “He is deluded”…. Yet the response they get is: “Yes, I was deluded indeed. I am deluded…” And you see such incomprehensible reactions – like Abba Joseph the hesychast, who took a stick and began to beat himself, saying: “Be silent, you deluded one! You are deluded! Take that, you deluded one!”… (The Holy Spirit teaches these things)… He acted like that because he hadn’t attained the fullness of Grace, and situations like these are very lofty ones. For others. For us, things are much easier, because we have the Cross, we display it, we use it wherever it is needed to exorcise evil, but we do not climb onto it. We take great pains to not climb onto it…
The right… “I have a right…” Abba Dorotheos had once said: “If the will is combined with the right, man inevitably becomes a beast”. You cannot handle that type of person: “I demand and I also have the right….”. If Christ were to say: “But I too have a right to be below the Cross”, what would have been the outcome? He would have become just another warlord, dividing the world into His enemies and His friends, isn’t that so? The enemies would then kill the friends, the friends would kill the enemies, right? And there would be one more case of major bloodshed again on earth. But, by conceding to be raised onto the Cross, He is the only One who accepted to make the sacrifice and He did, “so that in Himself He would restore everything” – He would create the restoration of everyone. Do you understand? He would restore and reconcile (that’s what he means by “restore”) everyone.
“You did spread Your arms and did join whatever was previously apart”…. Right? Do you understand? He did not make any followers; He related to everyone. He related Himself to His persecutors, and at His hour of death He said: “…for they know not what they are doing…” Do you realize what a formidable thing that was? To refuse to be separated from those who were killing Him, and to make evident to them that “this is genuine love, and this love is salvific”. That is why you can see that the universality of this Sacrifice is -precisely- the grandeur of Christianity. Christ did not make any followers, the way that Mohammed did.
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Right? “If they kept my words, they will also keep yours”. Clear-cut things. “If you proceed along My path, know that it will be thus; but they will do all these things to you for My name’s sake, for they did not know the One Who sent Me..” Note something here: “they will do all these things (He says), because they believe I am just an ordinary common man and they don’t know who sent me – they don’t know the Father, who is behind it.”
This difficulty – of seeing God in Christ – is the other huge problem for people. Is Christ God? I remember before entering the Church how I had no problem accepting Christ as a teacher, Who – OK – said quite a few things, maybe overdoing it a little in some cases… fantasizing about Himself was greater than His powers, obviously… nevertheless, I accepted Him like that… well, next to Buddha, next to Mohammed, let’s include Him there too…
5. What Christianity is
Then, when I began to show more interest in Christianity, I remember having a conversation with a very great man of God – he was a pupil of father Porphyrios – and telling him: “Look, I have no problem with regard to Christ; OK, I can read the New Testament, I can place it into everything that Plato says…” – to which he replied (and I can still remember the impression it made on me): “No”, he said, ” that’s not the point; the point is that Christ is God.” And that was when I realized that I didn’t believe!
I said to him: “Is that what Christianity is?”
He replied: “Yes, it is. Christianity begins, from the moment that Christ is God. Everything else cannot be called ‘Christianity’.” And it’s true: you can read the New Testament as much as you like; you can take away the faith in Christ as God; you can say that the Resurrection was a misunderstanding by the Disciples on account of their love for Him; you can say that the miracles were just an exaggeration…. but then it’s over! You are no longer a Christian.
You may well read the New Testament… That’s what Muslims also say nowadays: “We concede that Christ was a prophet”…. they have no problem at that point… “but don’t tell us that He is also God.” God doesn’t have a son, He doesn’t send Him…. He sends prophets etc., but God doesn’t Himself actually enter the human condition…” Thus, Christianity begins from the moment that Christ is God. From the moment that I look upon Christ’s divinity inside His humanity, from that moment – and only then – does Christianity begin to be Christ’s Church; The Church, which is fashioned by Christ (and not as though He is just another of the prophets, but as God Himself Who assembles) implies that He is the One who brings together all of Creation. And He assembles it in His Body, precisely because He is God – He has the right to do that, whereas we don’t have the right to create churches, isn’t that so? We can’t make two or three followers for ourselves there; we will depart from that “church”, and the followers will also depart from it. “Church” implies that the One Who fashioned the world is the One Who assembles the people – Who renders them a corpus, a body, which He engulfs in His embrace.
Well, we do not look upon Christ as being the Son of God; instead we see in Him a teacher, and that is why the world crucifies Christ. In fact, it doesn’t see (and this is the most delicate point) that God could only be God in that way. He can only be God for that reason alone: because He has that kind of love, that kind of behaviour… this is what we don’t see…
There is a slandering of God hiding behind this – ie., that God must surely be a dynast, that He must be a mandator; He must be a judge, and not a God that would enter into my irrationality and my death: “God surely cannot surpass His superior status and become someone like me. God is not that free – to the extent of freeing Himself of His superiority, and because of His love, enter into my circumstances. I cannot accept such a God; a God like that makes me feel uneasy.” Do you understand what I’m saying? Have you ever tried to love a very haughty man and humble yourself before him? He will feel uneasy – he won’t be able to understand that… It is because we are too haughty – a God like that is not easily accepted by us. Can you understand that? We expect a God who whips us, the way that we whip those who are below us. A God like that we can comprehend much better, which is why we often say that Islam is far more natural as a religion – much closer to fallen man – and that Islam will have a great future in Europe. It will have a superb future in Europe, because it is such a lovely religion. It tells you that you are a loser; it tells you that you have a kismet that you cannot escape from; that there is a celestial dynast who gives commands and if you obey them, he will make sure that you will have a good time…” He will provide you with four or five women, he will give you authority over others. he will allow you to wage a holy war (jihad), right? Just as long as you don’t enter within yourself; don’t work internally. Understand? Don’t do any work inside yourself, because faith is a purely extrovert thing here. Do you see? Then there is a “paradise” that awaits you in the end – similar to the one that you desire, with the “houri” maidens of paradise, the mountains of pilafs and all the rest…. Strange things… and yet, they are all so close to fallen man…
But these are difficult matters, which is why they are for God. They aren’t human imaginings. Mohammed’s God resembles Plato’s God; he resembles the God of the Old Testament; he resembles the God of oriental religions (if such an individual exists at all)… He is just a human invention… He is a God in the image of my own conceit, my own disastrous fall… He is a God that resembles me. God’s humility is His love – a thing that I cannot comprehend. That is why I can’t understand deep down why the Incarnation was necessary and how it took place. The event of the Incarnation makes me feel uneasy. Can you understand this? Just like a very haughty person is made to feel uneasy if you went up to him and ministered to him and said:
“I am ministering to you, here, free of charge”
He would say: “Now, what do you want in return?”
“No, you definitely expect something in return”
And if he didn’t succeed in finding the reason you were serving him, he would act like a psychoanalyst and tell you that:
“What you have now is a latent erotic desire for me, which you cannot however express for one reason or another – social or other reason – and so you are expressing it as a ministering service; you are masking it.” ….As if you had to imperatively find some self-serving excuse for your offer… but he just couldn’t handle selfless ministering and love. Well, that’s how we too can’t handle the Incarnation, because it doesn’t belong to our horizon. We can’t become incarnated for the dogs we love, or for the cockroaches or the mosquitoes… to become mosquito-men and cockroach-men ourselves, as much as we may love. Do you know how horrendous that is? It is horrendous, because it contradicts my logic deep inside me, and when I do acknowledge it, I am crushed. That is the reason saints are crushed. All saints feel crushed. Why crushed? Because to them, the Incarnation is a reality; because they have seen Christ as God and as Man and once you’ve seen that, well, that will be the end of all excuses. “Ah” (you will say to yourself), “things are really serious here; far different to what I had imagined.” As a friend of mine in the outside world once told me: “I understand (he said) – this thing isn’t a joke.” At first, we take this lightly, like a quaint anecdote or myth. Then, when we actually see it (as I told you), we see God’s power and wisdom and love, and we see nothing less than that.
“Whosoever hates Me also hates My Father”… this is another theological point… this text is so thick with theology… It says that whoever hates Him, is in essence also hating the Father…because His Father is the One that is being introduced; He is the Father of such a Son, and He condescends to a manifestation of that kind. Thus, whoever hates Him, also hates the Father, because he doesn’t know Who He is. He believes that the Son is a holy dynast – a gendarme, a judge, a celestial dictator. And that is how he also slanders the Father: “If I had not done those things among you, which no-one else had done, then I am to blame. But now, they have both seen Me and have hated Me and My Father.” (John 5:24) What He is saying here is that if He hadn’t done anything, they would have been right in believing something like that; it would have been only human. But He did all the acts that He did; and people witnessed His acts, and yet they came to hate that method of Theophany. They hated that kind of God…. Those people are just asking to be whipped; they want to be flagellated – a God that will whip them, and will give them a whip so they can whip others… They can’t accept a God that crucifies Himself voluntarily for our sake, and who asks us to crucify ourselves for others. Do you see that? People like that want the kind of God that they have in their own minds, right? And that’s what is so terrible…
6. A ridiculous God
Thus, “but that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their law, that they hated me for nothing”… This doesn’t mean anything more, except that it says “they hated Me for free – they hated Me unfairly, precisely because they didn’t understand”. “When the Paraclete comes, Whom I shall send to you by the Father – the Spirit of Truth, Who proceeds from the Father – He shall testify about Me…” Now we have here another significant chapter: pneumatology (pertaining to the Spirit). “These matters” He says “are for the present. You don’t understand them very well at present; it is only human that you don’t understand them, because the Holy Spirit has to come along, so that you are enabled to understand things they way they actually are.” It is a fact, that the understanding of such matters passes through the state of enlightenment. One can’t comprehend these things with ordinary human logic. They must pass through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. One can ask for that understanding, in which case, he will essentially be asking for the Holy Spirit to also provide him with the inner information that Christ is God; and that such is the way of Theophany (the “viewing” of God); that this is the way that God acts; that this is the kind of thing that God is; this is what the God you seek is like, but it can only be so, if it is done in the Holy Spirit. In other words, it cannot be attained just like that – I cannot achieve it on my own. I cannot attain this kind of theology on my own; there is no human power that can lead me to that kind of theology – to the theology of such a God. I told you that the human boundary is the Old Testament or Islam…. that is the limitation of man: a God who commands, who orders, who directs, and me the one who beneath him offers the appropriate obedience or an attempt to be disciplined… that is this God, nothing more… The God Who enters, Who loves, Who becomes incarnate, Who steps into danger, Who ascends the Cross, is unfamiliar. It is the Spirit Who teaches us that God is somewhat different – the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit arrives, this knowledge becomes embedded inside man and gradually becomes an experience. But this does not happen – as I told you – unless man humbles himself, unless he asks for God’s help, and unless he becomes aware of his own deficiency. It is just not possible.
“And you shall bear witness that from the beginning you have been with me. I have said these things to you, so that you do not be scandalized. They shall excommunicate you; but the time will come, when all those who kill you will be offering worship in glorification of God.”
“They will drive you out of the synagogues; they will kill you”! See here? He is prophesying about the martyrdom of Christians here. “And they believe that they are offering worship to God”. Which God is that? It is Moloch, the God that they have in their own minds. This God, who is indeed a superior God, is the image of my utmost egotism and the image of my utmost hardheartedness. It is the God whom I understand and the one that I am worthy of. Because the other God – of Christ – is a ridiculous God. This is what Christ says: “I am presenting you with a God that is ridiculous for human measures; too delicate and too noble to be comprehended.” (That is, compared to our barbarity, it is so delicate and so noble that it is ridiculous.) I don’t know how many of you have read Dostoevsky’s “Idiot”… Is there anyone who hasn’t read him? Perhaps then most of you have seen that movie with Tom Hanks – “Forest Gump”… You will notice that it is overwhelming. I believe that the film director was inspired by Dostoevsky, when he said – what? That “this infinite giving of his, to offer yourself and to give yourself to another, can only originate from idiocy.” Thus, Forest Gump is a person who is entirely defenceless in the face of human wisdom; he is entirely foolish; he is an idiot… but as an idiot, he does some very great things. So the theological question that is posed when you see the movie, is: “Could it be, it is this idiocy precisely which does all the great things in the world?” It is what the Apostle Paul says: “the folly of God”… “the folly of God” (he says) “is wiser than the wisdom of men”; because “He has chosen the foolish”. “The folly of God” he remarks, and says: “We proclaim Christ crucified; to the Judeans, it is a scandal and to the Hellenes, folly.”
To the Hellenes it was stupidity. If you ever read the Hellene philosophers – what they say about the Cross… yesterday I happened to be reading Celsus, and they are so abusive! “What Cross?! they say. They have vacated the meaning of the world. The One is transcendental; the Logos is high up. What are you saying, about Crosses and the like? It is the destruction of philosophy; the destruction of the human spirit in the name of Christianity!” That neo-Platonist philosopher, Celsus, is abusing them grievously – do you understand? And Paul says: “To the Judeans, it is a scandal” (to the Judeans, it is a scandal that the Supreme God – Yahwe – would descend to be among us) and “to the Hellenes, folly” (to the Hellenes, it was seen as foolishness). But to us, it is God’s wisdom and peace and power and “the folly of God is wiser than men”. This folly of God (because it is folly) is therefore a divine folly, which means that it is by far wiser than the wisdom of humans, which is indeed very cruel.
Can you understand what I’m saying? Today I’m telling you difficult things, right? That which makes us kneel in church is precisely that sensation, you know… We don’t kneel because we are encountering that supreme element which we are afraid of; we kneel for a different reason (whoever of us does kneel, because that too is another big issue – how many people do kneel, in the existential sense). When we do kneel, what we are kneeling before is that folly of God – that huge thing that God did – that indescribable thing, that unexpected thing, which no-one expected. This has not yet been assimilated by the world. There are some who say “We are living in a meta-Christian era”. It is my opinion that we are in a pre-Christian era; this thing has not yet been assimilated – understand? And because it has not yet been assimilated, it cannot bring forth fruits – all the fruits that it can bring forth. Right? It is not easy to assimilate. It is a huge section within History, this thing… We expected God to be different, and He shows up totally different… He reveals Himself differently, and that “differently” is something -as I told you- that will take all of us here an entire lifetime to comprehend it. As for those who think that they do understand, well, they are the ones who will take much longer than the others to understand. They will take much longer, whereas those who are certain that they don’t understand and are trying to understand it, will shorten that road. But the others who think they do understand… well, the other day my daughter was telling me that they organize catechist lessons, they organize camping excursions, and the things the catechist teachers say – well, those children (whom no-one has taught of course) are most of the time more dangerous than the bad habits that they strive to remove from the children that they talk to! Do you know how difficult a thing theology is? Do you know what a difficult thing it is, to say the right things in the realm of the Church? Believe me, it is not at all easy; it is ponderous – not an easy thing at all – because most of us confine ourselves to saying the minimum of the things which we understand. And we say them as though they are the only things, which is why Christ’s sermon nowadays has been slandered. That is why, when a priest speaks nowadays, people say: “Uh-oh! I’m leaving now – the priest is going to start with all that priest stuff.” And the priest will say… he will talk about a God Who is afar from the world, Who hates the world, Who envies man and Who tells man “don’t here, don’t there, don’t this, don’t that…” Well, I want to live free, you guys! What’s all this “don’t, don’t, don’t…”? Have you got a path of life to propose? Have you got a path of life that you can offer me? Whoever does have a path of life to offer, will be hearkened to… and he will be hearkened to when he never expected to.
7. Between God and religious mentality
I often talk to people that none of you expected or imagined would be people with queries. And yet, they are the ones with the profoundest of queries and the most in-depth quests… it is with those people that I have a better understanding than anyone else. They understand. They understand, because they are seekers – right? Church people are rarely seekers – unless they have in rare case entered the Church as seekers. More often than not, they are people who are looking to be mollycoddled, to be covered, to be hand-fed – nothing more… they only want all those self-understood, simple things, along with self-vindication. Thus, we merely are a research item…. but, will we discover something more that way?
Well, I shall link this to today’s Gospel reading (because I am tempted to do so, as it is the end-product of the things we spoke of): the paralytic man. Today’s story is of a very unfortunate person. What does it say here? The man in the story says: “I have been sitting here for years – for thirty-eight years…” Thirty-eight years, sitting right next to a pool of water, without anyone to be found who will give you a kick and throw you in so you can be healed… I mean, that must be one of the worst cases of torture…. And yet, let me tell you, every time I read that Gospel passage, something overcomes me and I get pretty annoyed with that paralytic too.
Do you know what a terrible thing it is, that nobody wants to even give you a shove? Can you just imagine what a horrible thing that is? You know, we normally focus on the tragic aspect only – that is, when he says “I have no person…”. But his man – if you stop to think about it – who has no-one to give him a push into the water – have you stopped to think that it may well be possible that he himself may have hated all the others around him immeasurably? Do you know what it is, to have no-one to give you a slap in the face at a given moment? Couldn’t it be very possible, that you yourself have made sure that you won’t have anyone there for you? Not even to give you a push? Because most people – when approaching the paralytic – will usually say “oh, the poor man… he hasn’t got anyone…” Well, that’s how we are – we aren’t close to the unfortunate ones either… That is the moral interpretation here. Couldn’t the existential interpretation of this case however signify what I just mentioned? In other words, that this may be a case of a person who, despite his infirmity, has not “softened” at all. Thirty-eight whole years in the same spot, and he didn’t make a single friend? Sitting for thirty-eight whole years in the same place, and not having made a single friend? Not having shared your suffering with ANYONE? Not having shown compassion yourself towards another person? Which other person? Well, all those that were right next to you and were suffering just like you…
If you had made friends with someone, wouldn’t that friend have pushed you into the water? If he was a friend, wouldn’t he have waited for hours and days until the water was troubled? Yes or no? In other words, could that paralysis – the infirmity of that man – have been an infirmity of the soul, and not a bodily infirmity only? That is the question that comes to mind every time…. perhaps I think of it in that light because of my mentality and my tendency to look at the obverse side of things a little bit more (on account of my mentality as a former psychologist). But the thing is, that aggressiveness is not unilateral. That display of indifference towards the other person is a form of aggressiveness, you know… His environment is displaying aggressiveness towards him, by not placing him in the pool. This kind of aggressiveness is rarely unilateral. It usually requires two poles in order to exist. And by the looks of it, it is quite possible in this case that the other pole did exist – and in fact it may have been the more dangerous pole of the two – ie., that this man may have striven to remain totally isolated and likewise had no love for others – that is, to likewise have had no desire to help someone else into the pool. Our solitariness is not attributed to the others’ meanness only. Our solitariness is often attributed to the fact that we ourselves do not desire to become the others’ neighbour. To say that the other person is not my neighbour and that he doesn’t help me is only a half-truth; the other half is that I don’t want to help, or to endeavour to make that man my neighbour – to solace him… Do you understand what I’m saying? And that is even more tragic. This man is doing a penance – the penance of his own solitude. He is doing penance for his own cruelty, believe me. Thirty-eight whole years, and he was incapable of making one single friend that could feel compassion for his tribulation… This is a terrible incompetence; one that touches the boundaries of a spiritual disability. Why? Because when I am happy, it is easy for me to not need friends. When I am miserable, I am in need of friends. I am forced to. That is normally when a person needs to have friends, and yet, this person – despite his disability – has made no friends, he doesn’t have a single person with him. So what does Christ do? He comes along and deprives him of that kick. Why? Well, He doesn’t give him a kick; instead, He says: “pick up your bed and walk” – as though saying to him “your penance is over; go and assimilate these things at home”…. and it was not because the man said “Lord, push me into the water”; notice how he didn’t say “throw me into the pool”, nor did he say “why don’t You take my place?”… the man did not beseech Him at all. Why didn’t he beseech Christ? Because he had not learnt to have relationships; he had not learnt how to ask because he himself didn’t give… he hadn’t learnt this kind of transaction – of sentiment and of relationships… he doesn’t know what it’s like!
Al he says to Christ is: “behold, I’ve been here for thirty-eight years – just sitting here.” The Gospel doesn’t say something like: “….I have no person… although I come here, another one before me descends into the pool”… (He tried on his own) ….well, why don’t you push someone else into the water, and next year he will push you in it, in turn….” Yes, or no? Do you understand what I mean?
Did you happen to see the TV program that I had made with professor Yannaras on Easter Day? If so, you will have heard the story that I told at one point, about the room? Do you remember it?
This ascetic had asked his guardian angel one day, to tell him what “Paradise” and “Hell” are. He was very curious to learn this. So the angel “transported” him to a very big room, like this one. Now just imagine this room with a huge table – one that is so large, that it is almost as large as the room itself… At the centre of the table there was food, and each person who was seated at that table had a huge spoon that reached – say – fifteen, or maybe twelve metres away… from here to there. Each of them reached the food at the centre of the table, but they were all distraught, they all quarreled among themselves in there, and they all ended up hungry. They all managed to scoop up the food, but when they tried to bring back their spoon, the food was spattered on the wall and they were unable to eat it. Others brought the spoon towards themselves but it collided against the wall to the left or the right… those spoon handles were far too long… Just imagine the food sitting there on the table, steaming hot, with a delicious aroma, and everyone dipping into it to eat, then bringing back the spoon and all of them eventually quarreling, swearing and yelling at each other in there.
So the angel says to him: “THIS is Hell. Now let me show you Paradise”.
So they went to another, identical room, with a table exactly the same as the other one, with people sitting around it holding the same kinds of long spoons, with the food in the middle of the table, and yet everyone was absolutely happy – all of them were singing and laughing….
“What’s going on here?” he asked the angel.
“This here (he replied) is Paradise.”
“And how is it different to Hell?”
“Ah! In here, they have learnt to feed each other.”
8. Are you so stupid, that you can’t love anyone?
So, I merely feed the one that I can reach… Neat, isn’t it? Do you see how great that is? Push someone into the pool this year, and God will push you in next year, or the year after, or in a short while. Every now and then, the water was stirred up – I don’t know every when it happened, how often… it doesn’t say every year, it says from time to time… It could have taken place every two weeks, or three, or every month. Are you that stupid, that you can’t love anyone? Then make a deal: “Come here, my brother, let me throw you into the water now, and you can throw me in afterwards.” He couldn’t even make a simple deal – that’s how alienated an existence he was. Understand? And then Christ comes along and heals him – do you know for what reason? It is to tell him: “Now look here – I am healing you right now, therefore (note this point) there is at least one person in the world for you, and that is Me…. Now see that you do the same, and likewise approach other people.” That is the lesson He was giving that man. “I have no person…” No more excuses! Here is the first person who is appearing before you and is also performing a miracle on you. Get up, and from now on, cease that “I have no person…” You now have someone. So, from now on, make sure that you change yourself, and become a person for someone else.
So, one day, when we all find ourselves together in some place, if you happen to see that you are being fed by others, it will mean that you are in heaven – and do you know just how theological an observation that is? That is exactly how Saint Maximus the Confessor – in writing and speaking theologically – describes End Times. He tells us that everyone will be resurrected. Everyone will be resurrected; since Christ was resurrected, then Creation will be resurrected. Everyone will be resurrected, but not everyone will participate. They will have a view of God (they will be able to “see the food in the middle”) but very few will partake and eat of that food. The ones who do eat – who do partake of those delicacies – say that they are living in Paradise. Those who can see but cannot partake of that feast, that is Hell. That’s what Saint Maximus tells us. That is the official teaching of the Fathers about Paradise and Hell: the sight and the partaking is called Paradise, while the sight without partaking is called Hell.
In other words, God does not punish anyone; God does not chastize; there is no Hell on God’s part. This is a Patristic teaching, which you will find in many Fathers. God does not punish. “Hell” is that which you have taught yourself to do in God’s realm, and in God’s affairs. That’s how you learnt to live… you aren’t aware of this thing and it scares you… it is called ‘narcissistic panic’. We see it in couples, in relationships, quite often. As soon as he takes hold of the spoon with the intention to feed the other person, he becomes panic-stricken! “I’m not going to eat! I’m not going to eat now – I’m will be depriving myself of this….” And that’s where he loses his life. But if he conquers that fear (this is where the Cross lies) and says: “I don’t care if I die, as long as the one across from me lives”, then, after a while – when the other person does recover, he will reciprocate by taking the spoon and feeding him in return; that is when he will remark “My God, this is what life is!” That’s the formidable threshold that we arrive at…. Formidable…. formidable…. I think spiritual fathers have significant experiences such as these…
Some time ago, I met up with a couple which had deprived each other for two and a half years…. Two youngsters – very young people and very classy… Anyway, those two had stopped having sexual relations for two and a half years, which resulted in a huge problem… very, very serious… So I began to examine the matter. They had come to me, after they had reached the boundaries of madness, after they had gotten sick, after becoming exhausted…that’s when they came to me. Anyway, we got to talking. I could see that I had two people here who loved each other. But – notice this – each was punishing the other. The one had offended the other… she wanted to somehow be superior to him, and he wanted to be superior to her… there was a certain competitiveness between them, and they reached the point of not wanting to ask each other for the slightest thing. (Pay attention to what I’m telling you here, because these things are awesome and bizarre at the same time…) The slightest thing, so that she won’t feel belittled, or he seem inferior, that their very sex life no longer functioned (because one of the two had to make the first move). Do you see? Because someone had to start it off. Well, that “someone” didn’t exist! Do you see? Do you understand what I’m saying now? Do you see the situations that we bring ourselves into? They were punishing each other with an erotic and an emotional embargo, and as a result both of them became sick – as I told you – because they had that terrible problem. As I told you, this is called “narcissistic panic”: I pick up the spoon and I say “this is mine – it is for me only.’ I make a move to give it to the other person and I tremble. That’s self-love; that ‘s the name of this sickness… This is my sickness – the feeding of the other person – because if that person eats, then what will I eat? Meantime, the food is diminishing, so, what if that person asks for a second bite and a third one? What if he asks for ten bites and only gives me one in return? What will become of me? Do you understand this? How awesome these things are! They are the things which convince me that the Gospel – as I’ve told you – is not according to man… it is not written by man… these aren’t human things… If they were, we would have discovered them before. But we didn’t. If you read Plato, you may read whatever you want, but you won’t find these things anywhere in there! Anywhere! The only things you will read in there are about power, punishment, centralism, and they are full of blood and battles… that’s what you’ll find in there – nothing more. You will find nothing else in there – this wisdom – it is nowhere in there… nowhere, which is why we need to preserve it like the apple of our eye, because without it, I don’t know if we can ever escape… I don’t mean how to save ourselves; I mean how we would be able to tolerate everything, the way things are today, and the way they will be for our children…the young children that I see nowadays (I too have children, like you do)… And you see these youngsters, you see their schoolmates and they are scary. I ask myself “how will they ever live together? How will they ever be friends? How is it possible?” You know, in a few years from now (and this is what I also tell my students and they wonder), the most revolutionary act that you will be able to do (in -say- 20 years, or maybe even sooner), is to get married. Whoever does get married, they will say “Wow! A hero! How about that! Awesome! He got married!” Can you imagine that? What does television say? You must have noticed how it suggests that we continuously enter new relationships… to aspire to what? Responsibilities? We need only draw up a contract in the worst case. If the other partner is overly demanding, or if the situation seems a bit difficult, or if the attachment is perhaps a little too intense, well, we prepare a contract for those cases also. But where is the “feeding of the other person” here? Where is the support of the “other”? Where is the child – that poor, afflicted child? How can there be children in such relationships? Can there be children that way? If you don’t deposit love for your child, deposit…deposit….deposit…. is it ever going to yield anything for you? That poor child will also become a demented thing, and one day, it will even decapitate you if it can… it will despise you and will depart, only to become something worse.
9. Love , morality and the role of the Church
But the issue is that things aren’t going at all well, as you know. I’m not concerned with morality… morality can get lost, for all I care… It is existence itself that I care about; I am concerned, ontologically, inasmuch as people won’t be able to live properly in a few years from now, and they will be running away from reality with narcotics… and as an American rock star pointed out, when they can no longer tolerate drugs, they will return to reality once again.. But that’s not the point; if this wisdom is not brought to light, what do we put in its place? Let me look for it… let me look for it… let me look for it… well, if you can’t find it anyway, will you merely state that “there’s a way out”? Take a look around you… everyone is traumatized…. everyone is wounded… and when you approach them, they all form one big wound… and you hear them say “nobody understands me… so-and-so did this to me… she did that to me…” and so on, and so on… all this thing… just one big complaint – like an audible droning sound – a lament…
Even those who are insensitive will, at a later stage – when they have reached old age and sickness has found them – tend to shrink back; they are tormented and they complain more than the others, as you know… At first they pretend to be tough, but after they’re 40, 45 and 50, such torture and such suffering and complaining begins, that it makes you wonder where that supposedly tough person had all that whining hidden inside him… Understand? A person cannot live differently, and he becomes even lonelier and deserted and isolates himself even more….
This is the biggest discovery of our time – you need to know that this will be it, in these years that are left…. In the following years that remain, those who remain alive and sane (because we can’t know that – so many things will be happening) – they will be discovering this here truth; this will be their great discovery… But the ones who will be discovering it (the Book of Revelations mentions it somewhere, if you recall) will be those who are coming from the great tribulation. Have you read it? They come along with glorifications, it is said. When that final image of the celestial kingdom appears, do you recall how it speaks of the thousands who “have come from the great tribulation”? What is the meaning of that statement? It is the people who have come out of immense sorrows on this path. And as I told you, I think this is one of the privileges of our era and the eras to come: There is no way you can convince a child that its mother has justifiably not loved it. Can you understand this? That child is sick and it is wounded. Either it will become a saint or a killer… most probably the latter…. There is no way you can tell a couple that your wife is justifiably scorning you and cheating on you, day and night. You can’t say that. The other person already feels trampled on… Do you understand? There is no way, and because there is no way, the only way is this one here: the Gospel. There is no other way for a person to live, unless someone discovers that way and tells us in time… but even so, it will be a way that includes the word “sacrifice” in it – sacrifice. There must always be a Forest Gump who will leave his mind open so that we can camp in the vacancies of his mind – in the folly of his naiveté, in the folly of his love. If no such person exists, we will devour each other between us and until the last one remaining commits suicide, because what would he do afterwards, all alone?
Watch carefully, because all these things are apparent in our day; their traces are visible… they can be seen, even in Greece. In the past, we used to talk about this phenomenon happening overseas, but now it is apparent here too. It is more than obvious, if you watch TV. You can see there – right away – how today’s families seem to be heading in that kind of a direction. And if we don’t tackle this in a spiritual manner, well, it will be something in whose black hole of misfortune our entire society will eventually sink. The Church has this role: She is a workshop in which all these things are healed and man takes another direction. Then he begins to “feed the other”, to pick up that long spoon, then two; the one will not seem enough, so he will proceed to “feed” everyone. And what is even more awesome, is that afterwards, he will be fed in turn by everyone – which is why the saints are those individuals who are satiated by love and meaning, while the rest of us die alone and desolate, having enjoyed on our own whatever we thought we should have enjoyed.
So you need to give some thought to all these things…..
Anyway, this is where I finish my talk… this is where I stop. So, I will extend my greetings to you all; if you have anything to say, or the Elder….
Elder: I would like to say something as a continuation of what Father Sophronios said. Father Sophronios says that the path to perfection relates to God’s perfect love; which means that, for someone to be able to enter the realm of perfection – as he calls it – he must enter the realm of ignominy – the way that Christ did – and he brings up that example of an inverted pyramid, where God reached the uppermost limits of the summit of the pyramid of values (let’s say of human values), but this was an upside-down pyramid, and as such, He bears the weight of all the world on Him. That is the perfect ignominy of God; the perfect act of humbling Himself… which is the direction that every man must be led towards, in order to find that path of perfection in the Holy Spirit. He cannot find the path with his logic. In fact, he says – with regard to monks: “Any monk – any candidate for monkhood – turns to monasticism taking with him the wealth of his logic and his will, must see to discarding that wealth, because if he embarks on monastic life like that, it will be very difficult for him to find the Faith’s path to salvation. The “vacating” by means of humbling oneself – where God condescended to bodily be stripped of His garments (just imagine!), then be placed in a tomb, and descend into Hades… It is said that this was His path of descent, and it is this same path that each Christian person must likewise descend, otherwise he will not be able to step onto the path of ascent. The path of descent is up to us – it is subject to our freedom – whereas the path of ascent is up to God. Because we will meet with Him in the furthermost depths of the earth, from whence He will elevate us, above the skies. Human nature (he says) cannot – as much as we may pressure it and force it – be extorted and thus reach the way of salvation that God offers, as father Nicholas mentioned earlier; however it can “descend” here of its own free will once again – with the help of God – because egotism and self-love cannot be easily extricated so that it (nature) can reach that furthermost point (can dare to), because it is a matter of daring for it to soar like an eagle at such heights that it can observe the void between the eagle and the earth – observe it safely, with peace and tranquility. Otherwise (he says) it will walk (and be correlated) alongside human logic – according to which it would be inconceivable for it to think it could ever concede itself, its sense of judgment and its volition to another person; it would perceive that as an extreme display of servitude and a substandard -say- annihilation of itself. On the other hand, someone who applies this teaching of Christ without comprehending it, will place it outside his logic simply because Christ Himself said so. Then (he says) the Holy Spirit comes and reveals to him that immense mystery – the mystery that ascent comes after a descent. A ball must be thrown down, in order for it to bounce upwards.
Before we leave, are there any pressing questions?
Question: Father Nicholas, you told us that the Christ of the Gospel is not like the God of Plato, the God of Islam, the God of the Old Testament… you mentioned this twice. Isn’t the God of the Old Testament like the God of the New Testament?
Fr. Nicholas: Yes, He is indeed the God of the Old Testament, and you did well to mention it because it requires a certain clarification; because the Old Testament is actually revealed in the New – and He is the God of the Old Testament. This was once said to me publicly, and I said the same thing that you just did. The Old Testament on its own, if it isn’t interpreted in the New Testament, well, that God in there Who continuously promises that He will send a Messiah Who will save the world but is not seen as keeping that promise, well, that God eventually becomes a callous God. That is why you see that the biggest atheists of the 20th century are Jewish. Marx is a Jew; Freud is a Jew; and many others are also Jews. Spinoza before him is a Jew – one or two centuries before him… Understand? Man Jews become atheists, because God seems to be toying with them; He resembles a sadist God, because He continuously promises He will save Israel, and yet, no Messiah appears… But if you realize that Christ IS the Messiah, the whole of the Old Testament becomes an illuminated source, which points towards the New Testament – understand? I am referring to the Jewish religion, the way it actually is today – with the Old Testament being read the way they do, and not the way that we read it. We read it “through” the New Testament. We can say: “There it is! Look – He promised it, and He kept His promise!”
Elder: Not only “through” the New Testament, but also through the Prophets. The Prophets opposed the Jews, just as the Jews were opposed to the Prophets…
Fr. Nicholas: …AND through the Prophets… I told you that: the way we see it, the way we read it, the way that Christ reads it, the way the Apostles analyze it, the way the Gospels analyze it, the Old Testament is fulfilled and manifested in the Person of Christ. HE is the Messiah, and He says it Himself a thousand times… “It is Me Whom you have been waiting for – Me, Me, Me…” He said it so explicitly: “Do not wait for anyone else; other false Christs will come; they will mislead you, they will be fakes. I am the One you have been waiting for.”
But you see, they don’t believe Him. The Jews believe that a merciless Jewish God is born – not because He is actually like that – but because they have made Him to be like that: A God who continuously promises and never makes good His promises…
Elder: He is the Jews’ authoritarian God; To them, He is not the God of the Prophets and the Saints of the Jews… The God Who revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai is the same God Who revealed Himself in the Son, in later times. The Prophets were always the admonishers of the people, but the people were the murderers of the Prophets. There has always been that kind of reaction, and still is today. Did the potentates of Byzantium believe in God the same way that the Saints did? Weren’t the potentates of Byzantium likewise opposed to the Saints? Weren’t the Saints likewise subjected to martyrdom, even during their rule?
Fr. Nicholas: Innumerable times.
Elder: Which means that God, Who always reveals Himself to the Saints, is a God different to the one that people concoct – even faithful people – regardless whether they are heretics, or activists, or important personages, or potentates, or deluded…
From the audience: May I ask something too? It seems far lighter and easier to be unjust than to be subjected to injustice and to torture rather than be tortured; to ascend the Cross or to take someone down from it… But this somehow seems to contradict what Christ had said “come with Me”, because He said “My Cross is light and the burden is not heavy”…
Elder: The result – if you slap someone without him being at fault for something – is that you will feel pangs of conscience inside you that will not leave you in peace. If someone strikes you with a slap, without you being at fault, you will feel at peace and sleep lightly. That is the result – the “lighter burden” – but only if you accept a slap “in Christ”…
by Fr. Nicholas Loudovikos (*)
Source: Transcript of a homily
The Homily (Greek): http://www.pigizois.net/arxodariki/omilies_loud/17_Max-Loyd_18_5_2008.mp3
(*) Father Nicholas Loudovikos has studied Psychology, Pedagogics, Theology and Philosophy, in Athens, Thessaloniki, Paris and Cambridge. He has a Doctorate in Theology of the University of Thessaloniki, and has also worked at the “research center for Primeval Christianity”, Tyndale House, Cambridge. He has taught at the Cambridge University’s School of Theology as well as the University of Durham. He is a Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy at the Higher Ecclesiastic School of Thessaloniki; a scientific associate at the post-graduate Theological program of the Hellenic Open University and also a part-time lector of the Orthodox Institute at Cambridge.