Table of Contents

  • On Education

  • One's Goal in Life

  • Emptiness vs. Orthodoxy

  • The Church Fits the Simple and the Educated

  • The Church and Us Difficult Children

  • The Church - metaphysically


On Education


     What does all this have to do with what they teach us at school, "From beginning to end?"What do those responsible for organizing our education have to do with the founding fathers of modern Greece?

     Why should a modern child not be able to drink of such water? To breath such air? To rise to such a level? To advance to such spaciousness? To stand in an apostolic place, as St. Kosmas says? To enjoy his life in this wholly pure way? To pass into eternity in soul and body even now, like Makryiannis? To receive Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit in his soul, in his being?

     To speak in a way that is original and free. To organize things responsibly. And to conduct himself sensibly.  To provide solutions to problems ceaselessly new. To find everything simple, ordinary, commonplace and easy, even those problems which are most difficult and novel and devilishly complicated. To keep people company. To love Christ and be indissolubly united with his brothers and sisters. Not to allow any wild beast to devour them. To speak and behave calmly and implacably towards even the most brutish of people. To tame them. To calm them down. To make them vomit up the poison. And to make something of the good points in their nature, in their being, their effort, their ideology.

     To stand in the place of the cornerstone like a vulnerable child, like an anvil that is struck; a prophet, a leader, who reconstructs and raises up the fallen tabernacle, the greatness of man. Like St. Kosmas, the boast of our nation and all humanity.

     Why should we give our children things that are cross-grained, petty, narrow, lifeless, paltry? Things that are spineless, insipid, that makes you sick?

     Why give them things that are sundered, schizophrenic, discordant, separating like curdled milk?

     Why should they not be vivified by this one spirit that gives meaning to everything and goes beyond death? Which brings man to what is beyond nature? And which fills our present life, small and ordinary as it is, with a splendor and grace that is unprecedented and unfailing?

     Why not light the torch of the child's life already now? Why not give all children the possibility of approaching these fire-bearing and God-bearing people, our Saints, so that they too become living people, spontaneous, terrible to their adversaries, fearless in the face of every danger, every threat; terrible to death itself?

     And to be at the same time delicate, sensitive, a comfort to everyone who is persecuted and wounded, to every creature, to the whole creation which groans with us in travail, also awaiting its freedom from the liberated children of God.

     Why can we not in this way give each person the possibility of following his own way, his calling, his love? To become craftsmen, artists. And to feel that everything is holy, dignified, full of light, grace, and eternity ? even ephemeral, small, material things ? when it is blessed by God. To do all these jobs, to practice these professions, arts and sciences as sacred obediences, as their handiwork, as a form of prayer, a way of offering and showing love for the Other.

     To feel, to understand that there is no division in man's life; that what is spiritual is not the non-material, but that which is full of the grace of God, which grants paradise already now to the whole of man's being.

     And to be great is not to be a capable person, who is able to crush and wound and hurt others. That person is great who is the least, who is sensitive, humble, who loves, who has received the grace of God and is incapable of doing evil to others, incapable of wounding them. And capable of suffering, of enduring, of himself dying out of love so that others who are not separated from his own self, may live and make progress and be glad.

     So they would learn like St. Kosmas how to speak, to write, to organize schools and societies. To build cities, villages, houses which have room for man, which are human, so that people living there receive a proper education effortlessly, without a word being said.

     To sing and enjoy recreation, and experience everything as truly an education for the soul [the literal meaning for the Greek word for "recreation"], a hymn of glory to God, bringing man in his entirety up to heavenly consolation.

     So that peace, calm, blessing, light and rest flow from these people themselves and from the works of their hands and of their minds.

     Then man the powerless has an invincible power. He puts to right what is evil. He makes the best of what is good. He heals what is weak. And he does everything with the power and operation of the Holy Spirit who ?hold together the whole institution of the Church? (Feast of Pentecost) and the personal life of each Christian. (p. 50-53)


     As it is now, the education given the child leaves him exposed to every danger and threat, rootless, ready to fall at the first puff of any breeze. (p. 56)


One's Goal In Life


     What am I supposed to do with the success and happiness that they wish and promise me, when it does not conquer death?

     It is like saying to a child: Do your work with care and a sense of honor, and you'll make a wonderful coffin so that you can have a splendid funeral. (p. 60)


Emptiness vs. Orthodoxy


     We hear talk of culture, revolutionary movements, intellectual life and being progressive.

     What do we have to say about this? Is it that the young should not be intellectuals, progressive, or people of culture?

     That is not quite it.

     Through the prism of Orthodox hesychasm and the ferment of the new wine which bursts the old wineskins, all this seems, not fearsome because it is so daring, but inadequate because it is insignificant.

     Alas for man if he were created for this sort of intellectualism, culture an progress. Alas, if he were to swallow this bait or lose time over it like an idiot, expecting to see progress there. Alas if man really were as these systems and doctrines of men teach. Alas if he were confined to this present age.

     The hope of the present age befuddles the mind. The success which is confined to this world is torpor. There is no room for man here. The whole of creation, history, the world, culture, progress, revolution ? even, if you like theology and virtue ? when they begin and end here, are a hoax, the opium of man and of the people of God. The Lord alone knew man. It is He who grants us the things divine and human that we yearn for.

     We want culture, progress, intellectual life. But these are not enough for us; they are not adequate. We pass them and go on further. We are unable, we cannot bear to stop at anything, to stand still anywhere. To be imprisoned in an artificial paradise (one belonging to this world, transient): "I long for something more, and always sigh" (St Symeon the New Theologian).

     The life of the Church is a continuous journey; an exodus, a going out from our house and our kindred, an advance, a Passover, a crossing.

     We advance from ignorance to knowledge. And our knowledge seems little. So we go beyond knowledge; into the ignorance, the unknowing higher than any knowledge.

     We advance from vice to virtue. And we do not stop there. The aim is not to acquire virtues, like good habits of this world ? so that death finds us ?virtuous? when he comes to devour us. The aim of virtue within the Church is to lead man to humility, which attracts grace and makes man spirit-motivated, spirit-bearing, Christ-bearing, god by grace. And man finds himself above death, even while he bears flesh and bones.

We start from freedom, from our own impulsiveness. (Take away free will, and man disappears.) But our own freedom is not sufficient for us, it is not enough.

     We act and do things and kill ourselves with activity. And we are lead to the rest, the stillness which is above any activity.

     Through action and activity, we reach the point where everything happens by itself, without effort, "automatically."

     And free will is taken away from man. He is led by the Spirit who has neither beginning nor end. He becomes by grace beginningless and endless. He has become one with God. And he is everywhere that God is, except for identity in essence; without being God by essence (St. Maximus the Confessor).

     So he has gone out of this world. He breaths the fresh air of the freedom of the other world. He lives in a different climate. And at the same time he is in this world, in history, in a place. And each thing, each occupation, each piece of knowledge or virtue has a meaning, an eternal significance. Because it shines with the uncreated and unsetting grace and ministers to the mystery of the salvation of the entire world.

     And while the whole of history and all the world is small and trifling compared with each little man, with each single soul - "what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)" at the same time, to this God-bearing person every detail of this world, eve the most transient and temporary element in life, is radiant with the unsetting brilliance of the Holy Spirit.

     Everything is insignificant: odourless, colourless and tasteless, without deifying grace. And every petty little thing is able to shine with all the beauty of heaven.

     Then, within this space, man acquires his "proper greatness;" he is able to live and move and act in this world and the other. And from now on everything becomes a hymn of praise. And everything leads him uninterruptedly forwards.

     He gets physically tired for the sake of others, and spiritual joy fills his soul. He lives in stillness, staying alone with God, and is with all his brothers, those living and those fallen asleep. He helps them and is helped by them.

     He kills himself with work and activity, offering himself totally out of love for others. And at the same time he abides in the stillness of the deepest desert; the activity itself brings him into "The peace which passes all understanding." (Triodion)

     He is frenetically active, and enjoys heavenly rest. He does not live for himself. He lives for others, and his own self takes on its true dimensions, unlimited and ceaselessly extending.

     He finds himself amidst the unending joy and deification of the age to come, which has already begun. And while he is on earth, he is a dynamic presence, a leaven of the kingdom of God, which makes earth into heaven. He gives messages of life by his words and his silence, his action and stillness: death has been destroyed. And man is able even from this day to become a partaker of this grace, this power, this gift. He is able to think about things, to act, to make progress, to create a culture. And he sees all these things, action, progress, culture , as relative, transient, temporary. Yet they have an eternal, inestimable value when they do not cheat man (when they do not present themselves to man as a goal, an end, a panacea); when instead all these things, incorporated into the life in Christ, become aids to man in realizing his destiny as a person and a community , to attain deification by grace and make earth heaven even from today. (p. 64-68)


The Church Fits the Simple and the Educated


     There is room for everyone in the Church; all are sanctified, that is, there is room for the restless soul. And the simple soul is calmly honored. The one discovers himself in the simple life of the Church, in practical virtue. And the other, in thought, in philosophy and beyond.

     The Church does not tire the one with philosophical ideas which he does not need, nor does she leave the other without answers to the problems which torment him. Both the one and the other are looking for the same grace; they stand in need of the same power which has conquered and conquers death. Hence educated people are not necessarily great saints, nor are those of little education necessarily minor figures. The ones who are great are the humble ? whether illiterate or learned ? who have shone forth, filled with the Holy Spirit. (p. 68-69)


The Church and Us Difficult Children


     Yet besides the quiet times and places, besides the quiet and simple people, history also includes troubled times, places that are sorely tried, restless people.

     One person is able to receive the good quickly and without question. Another is tormented. He wonders about things. He wrestles with problems. He is full of doubts. He wants to examine things, to find out, to see. He wants to go away. He wants to go beyond. He looks for adventure. Something pushes him (good? Bad? he doesn't know). Something draws him (where it will lead him, he cannot say). But he wants to find out. All his being is dangerous desire, an impulse towards something. And this person should not be disappointed. There is a possibility of salvation. The whole of life lies before us, for us to come to know one thing: the goodness of God. To understand that he made all things very good. And willingly to abandon ourselves to Christ our God. Then we find everything.

     This is something great, and in order to achieve it, it is worth taking a risk, going through difficult vicissitudes, sacrificing everything, losing it, losing ourselves. Provided only that we find this. "Whoever shall lose... the same shall save."  (Luke 9:24)

     The Church knows this. And because she is interested in us, in our salvation, and in nothing else in the world, she accepts it when we deny her. And she knows, she is sure, such is the extent of her love and her truth ,that when we find her truly, if our searching and our restlessness are honest. So she lets us go. And when we go we return to her, to the point we started from.

     This is what happens in the parable of the prodigal son. The father allows his younger son to go through that whole experience in order to return home deliberately, permanently, and become the central figure in the great festivity.

     One simple Orthodox used to say: I don't try to keep my children at home by force. I make a great effort to give them the sort of upbringing that even if the go away, they'll come back of their own accord.

     Giving an upbriniging, an education to a young person is the same as living not for yourself but for the Other, the One who died and rose for our sake, and for His brothers. It is a decision to die. You die so that the other, your true self, may live.

     Giving an education requires love, skill and hard work.

     A tree will not bear fruit either if you leave it unpruned, or if you chop it about crudely, but only if you skillfully cut the right branches and leave those which will fruit.

     Education demands of the giver knowledge and sacrifice. And the one receiving education suffers pain (pruning is a surgical operation), but at the same time he is glad, because there is no other way of bearing fruit.

     The Church does not leave man untouched, pandering to his passions; nor does she annoy him pointlessly with sterile commandments which have a view to ephemeral successes and destroy his nature. She knows man's weaknesses and sickness. She know that a sick person needs care and not penance. She intervenes with discretion and for salvation., even when the intervention is a terribly painful operation.

     The Lord did not clothe the sick man from the land of the Gadarenes with commandments or with threats; not only did this man rend his clothes, but he also broke his chains. The Lord freed him from the ?Legion?. And at once the man sat down beside him of his own accord, clothed and in his right mind.

     This has always been the power, the education and the behavior of the Orthodox Church: she sees things in depth. She possesses the discernment of spirits and the power of love. She knows and discerns whether something is from God, from the evil one or from human nature. This is why her "operations" are unto salvation and her word a reflection of love.

     When she speaks severely to us, she reveals her great loving care and we should readily obey. And when she acts towards us with extreme leniency, respecting our freedom, that is precisely when we should fear and conduct ourselves with awe.


     The Church is not what we think she is. They took us away as babies from the breast of our mother the Orthodox Church. They taught us something different. They gave us tinned milk to drink. They cut us off from our roots. They separated us from our tradition. They sent us away from our home. They made us aliens in our own land. They tried to make us unlearn our mother tongue, the language of Orthodoxy, the mother tongue of man.

     Who did all this? Those who wanted to save us by force: the enlighteners, the propagandists, the Bavarians, the freemasons... up to this day. And with them all those who thought that their enlightenment really was enlightenment, that their culture was progress. And so blindfolded, without spiritual discernment, we took everything from them as being superior, better, civilized (in art, law, the organization of life, architecture, music...) And our being is tormented. One by one, our organism rejects these alien members which have been transplanted into it. And they keep on forcibly transplanting new ones, which are rejected; and the deeper character of our people, who have lived in the Divine Liturgy, is manifested through their personal behavior (e.g. War in Yugoslavia, earthquakes in Turkey).

     The Church is not what we think she is. She is not that which we attack, which we have set about destroying. Orthodoxy has nothing to do with the "medievalism", "mysticism", "clericalism", or "scholasticism" that we hear about. So many people reared in Western ways think that all the terms have the same meaning in West and East. So they try to free us from sicknesses we never have had. They make us sick with their cures; they confuse us with their solutions.

     We do not deny that there have been human weaknesses. There have been and are weak people, with failings and shortcomings. This makes Orthodoxy itself still more attractive, and displays the forbearance of its love and the truth of its message.

     The main thing is for us to get to know the Church, the Orthodox Church which is unknown to us; to know her one, undefiled, incorruptible, immaculate heart. The Church, which is our deepest and truest being. The Church, with which we are far more connected than we think. Which we know at a profound level, without realizing it. Which we unconsciously go to find when we deny her because we are ignorant of her truth, her divine-humanity, the glory of her humility.

     Everything precious that all true seekers search for is to be found here. Not piecemeal, in part or in an unreal way, but as a whole, in deed and in truth.

     This is suitable for small children, for simple little old ladies and for the most demanding seekers who want to see God, not as far as they are able but as God is.

     There is a Theology which reaches the point of negation (apophatic theology), of the denial which goes no further, beyond which man on earth cannot go. And a grace, uncreated, invisible, incomprehensible, which comes upon man, upon creation. And it makes new what is human, and makes it god.

     Theology is not scholasticism, nor is spiritual life puritanism.

     When we know Orthodoxy as it is, we find our balance; we are able to look on everyone with loving concern. To be helped by everyone; and by the grace of God to help everyone.

     Becoming Orthodox does not mean shutting ourselves in somewhere, but being led up somewhere: attaining to the height of the cross of love.

     If the theology of our Church were what most people think it is, what they were taught in most universities; if our piety were the sterile pietism introduced from abroad, then we confess we should not be saying anything to you. (Perhaps we should have no hope, nor responsibility.)

     As it is, we can say something to you that is comforting and hard (it speaks for itself):

     The position of the Greek people is a privileged and dangerous one. It has been defined by those who gave us birth, and we cannot just do whatever comes into our head.

     We Orthodox Greeks cannot with impunity be childish, no matter what excuse we use, and still less can we be insolent.

     If our ancestors who lived and were buried in this soil, had improvised and done what they felt like, then we could carry on improvising.

     But supposing that they lived differently: that they made the decision to die, and so they lived. That their way of life was a decision to die. That all their creative work, their ethos, their speech, their works, form, gestures, whatever visible and invisible comes from them, is born out of death, from the sacrifice of all so that something better can come into being, something of a different nature, another texture for others, for all of us. In that case, we cannot with impunity improvise, and try things out, and play around in matters that are no game.

     If they had not built Hagia Sophia as they did, to accommodate each person and the whole world...

     If they had not set up the Holy Mountain as they did, so that the whole person is saved and the peoples are made brothers...

     If St. Gregory Palamas had not formulated the theology he did, summing up the experience and life of Orthodoxy, quenching the thirst of today's tormented youth...

     If so many unknown people had not struggled, and wept, and endured, and prayed, and sacrificed themselves in the mountains, the islands and the towns... If their songs, their life and their manners did not have that humanity that slays you...

     If the founding fathers of modern Hellenism did not include such figures as St. Kosmas and Makryiannis... If all this were not in our blood, then we should be able to do whatever came into our heads.

     Now, however, it is not like that. Now we find ourselves in a place and time that is holy. We cannot be frivolous. We are not our own. We belong to those who gave us birth and to all the world. We are burdened with a spiritual heritage. No excuse can save us. Even if we throw everything out of the schools, the ancient, the modern, the sacred and the holy, we shall not be able to justify ourselves to anyone, to get rid of the burden, or to forget our obligation. We cannot put together any alibi.

     We shall have to reckon with those who have gone before and those yet to come.

     Our false affections will be flung in our faces. Because at some point those little ones will wake up who will say "No" to the lying, the superficiality, the falsification, the forgery, the betrayal that is being perpetrated in a way that is criminal and dastardly through educational programs, reading aids or audio-visual material.

     And those who will say "No" will have indeterminable powers that go beyond themselves. They will have with them the spirits of those past and the thirsting children of the whole world.

     What there is here belongs to everyone. The inheritance we have been given determines how we behave.

     The Truth, Who was incarnate through the all-pure and ever-virgin Mary, Who died and rose and raised up the world with Himself, and established the Church as the Body of Christ. The grace that sanctifies man's whole being. The Church that baptizes the whole man in the fathomless depths of the mystery of the life of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that sanctifies all the senses.

     This grace which has entered into the very marrow of our faithful people, which weaves the fabric of our lives and makes it "woven from on high" using the stuff of matter.

     The whole spiritual body of our life has messages which belong to everyone, which are awaited by everyone, even to the ends of the earth. And we owe a debt to everyone. Those who gave birth to us in the flesh and in the spirit have of necessity placed us at a certain level. And we cannot haul down the flag, mitigate the debt and take a rest in a different place, in a different way, but only on the cross of sacrifice. (p. 71-78)


The Church - metaphysically


     [The Church] does not represent a view, even a correct one; she possesses truth incarnate.(p.84)



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