This English translation of the sermon of Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki (Greece) was recorded for otelders (Orthodox Teaching of the Elders) by Peter Eliades.
The original Greek sermon titled Η Είσοδος στη Λογική του Θεού was delivered on 24/1/2019 in Limassol, Cyprus. It is available online here: http://www.omilies.net/omilies/6/A06321%20H%20EISODOS%20STH%20LOGIKH%20TOY%20THEOY%20PEMPTH%2023IAN2019%20MESOGAIAS.mp3
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A trigger came to my mind, one that draws its origin from my scientific background. I enjoy human thought and rationale; I have uttermost enjoyed it. It seems like a really big blessing, this whole organization of thought to which someone is trained through scientific education and mainly through research. A system of reasoning is developed, really beautiful which is like an embroidery, which indeed fills the man and I would also say that helps him a lot in his self-completion. I thank God for this gift that he has offered me. On the other hand, He was late in offering me another gift. A bigger one. I feel real gratitude for what I desired ever since a small child and eventually came true in my life.
At some point in my life, while human logic was so beautiful and big, it did not provide me with an adequate interpretation of the world, of man, of life. Then different thoughts started occurring to my mind. Some of these thoughts are old, 35 years old. The following happened at that time. Let me share it with you and I am not sure where I will end up.
I had gone to the church and I saw in front of the altar, exactly behind the Holy Table there was The One who was Crucified, Jesus Christ. I was impressed from a conversation I had with other co-students, colleagues, co-researchers.They were people of faith somehow and tried to prove everything with the mind. So looking at the One who was Crucified, it said on top [of His Cross] “The King of Glory”. A corpse in blood, on the cross, beaten, ridiculed, neglected in front of death and yet it said on top “The King of Glory”.
A believer had given me a crucifix, a colleague of mine, a catholic, which said: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of Judeans”. In comparing the two, I thought the one cross has a historical description on it, it has to be right, this is what the Gospels said. The other cross has something else which does not follow reality but intensely holds and reveals a truth. “It is either a lie or it is a really big truth”. I don’t know what it was… but certainly at that moment it was a challenge for me. How is it possible for this body on top of the cross to be the God and to be Glory at the same time, to be the “the King of Glory”.
So, the mind started to agonize and navigate for days in certain areas of this problem. “If I was God”, I said inside me, “I would have built the world according to the Holy Scripture”! and it saysthat He built the world “and it was good”, not “perfect”, but “good” but this is what it says. If it was for me, I would have let the world for some time to work right. But it did not. He creates the Angels, the Angels fall… He builds Men, Men fall…Why did He do that? Why could He not somehow…, allow this evil to have happened a bit later so that we could have lived for a short time in Paradise, to have understood for a bit how Paradise is and then let the fall be and we would see how things would have turned out then. Such short of questions started occurring to me, which could have shaken my faith…instead they challenged me to search deeper for the hidden answer. I felt I had some confidence that she is somewhere because this whole thing that is called “church” is so much beautiful and it holds something really big.
So, my mind should look somewhere else. In church language there are some terms which can be translated in English as “mind” “conviction”, “spirit”. There is the word “to counsel”, [in Greek “nouthesia”]. It says in the papers that after the reading of the Gospel, the priest who is in lead “is counselling”, [“ti nouthesia pi-ite]. Meaning he takes the “spirit, the mind” and he sets it where he must. In other words, “To take the mind and to guide it somewhere… where we all together can witness the truth with a different eye from the naïve standpoint we often contemplate it”. So, in essence, what church does is the formulation of the spirit and the mind, she offers spirit, fixes the mind, guides with a purpose to open horizons, develop another logic. Comparing this logic with the scientific logic, we start realizing that there is a difference. Not that one is better from the other… I would not say that…but we are in need of another logic from the one we are already used to in order to see the truth in this case.
At some other point, Apostle Paul says: “But our citizenship is in heaven.”. What does the word “citizenship” imply here? I will make an interpretative error—please indulge me—I want to guide the conversation where I wish. In essence, our heart is led to approach the messages with a heavenly way. “Our citizenship”, the love that shapes our mind “is in heaven”—this is what he wishes to say. I will gather now all these information to facilitate you. So, I want us to take a trip in discovering the spiritual logic with which we can understand the world, approach the truth, be situated in front of the mystery, to somehow attempt to touch the truth of God. What a nice thing and it is… it is worthy.
When someone is inside the church, when he knocks her door from the outside or when he sees it to open a bit and he enters, he comes into an extraordinary place, it is the place of God. This place must be understood not as a religion, not as a mere moral but as an opportunity that really lightens our spirit and opens our heart to the world of God. It is worthy! Following this way or I am not sure how else it is possible.
It is worthy then to discover what it the “mind” of Jesus. It says “to acquire mind of Christ” what is this thing, how are those things approached? For this, I will start from a very nice passage which is read on Good Friday in Vespers. In the churches during the Descent from the Cross, it is in 1 Corinthians and there, something along these lines is said by Apostle Paul: “For the message of the cross”, meaning the “Crucified God”, “is foolishness to those who are perishing”. He says that this “Crucified God” is nonsense, is incomprehensible, untenable for our logic. What is it in the end? “To the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness”. To the Jews who expected a strong God who would come and change the whole world… it is a scandal, God can’t be like that. To Greek who philosophize is a nonsense, you don’t even need to engage with it. But please listen what follows! He says “to us”—the ones who are faithful, salvaged, have entered this logic, this hug, this course, this road of salvation and are saved—is “power of God and wisdom of God”.
Not a scandal but power… not foolishness but Wisdom. “Wisdom?”. Such a “big” word. The cross to be “Wisdom”. This cannot be explained logically. I don’t think that someone can explain logically the divine economy… “How God and why does He become a man?” Why is He not choosing another mean? and at the end of the day “what did He achieve?”. He suffered, he was crucified, he was raised from the dead, ascended, Pentecost took place and how is our state different from the state of the Old Testament, the first divine economy? These kind of questions emerge… you cannot answer them…why is it that you cannot answer them? Is it because they do not represent the truth or is it that we do not have a good telescope for approaching them? Is rational thinking adequate to answer them or is there another logic, God’s logic…this mind, we previously said, in order for somebody to be able to approach them? In the Holy Scripture and in the life of the church and in the whole content of the faith many things exist which one cannot approach with reasoning. He cannot approach them! It is like trying to enter a space through a cemented-wall. If he rushes onto the wall, he will injure his brain. What does he need? To take a bypass, to enter from a door, to find a way in and a way out this whole problem he might be facing. There are a lot as I previously said. One of them is that in the Holy Scripture we see that while Christ holds God’s logic, the greatest sermons were not understood and were rejected. Which are the greatest sermons? One is the speech of the Lord when He spoke about his Body and Blood. It is in the first chapters of John, 5th, 6th, 7th. He begins describing his Body and Blood. Then some started complaining and saying “these are rough words…are we going to eat his flesh and blood?”
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him”. Jesus said that “they rejected him; they did not understand him”. They thought they had an argument. And the Lord says to his disciplines “You do not want to leave too, do you?” then Peter spontaneously answered “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. Where to go… your message is message of eternal life. For certain, neither Peter understood what Jesus said about his Body and Blood, while the others said, “are we going to eat his flesh?”, but still he felt something else and realized something else. This is something different!
Let’s go to another sermon, equally important one, Apostle Paul. He goes to Athens and preaches in Areios Pagos and says “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: To an Unknown God. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to declare to you. Later on, as soon as they heard him speak of resurrection they replied “see u later” … “We want to hear you again on this subject later on.”. “Which resurrection?” … resurrection is not understandable with logic, instead logic requires something else, faith and for this reason, they rejected him.
The disciples, the day of Pentecost go and preach with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and their word is also not understandable and people say that the disciples are drunk, they lost it. And their sermon is incomprehensible. The sermon of the Body and Blood of Christ, the sermon of Resurrection and the sermon of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. These were not just words, they were transfer of life and Grace, for example, in Pentecost, they saw Him, but they could not understand Him. They needed something else. And something else. The big prayers were not heard. We often say about our prayers: “I ask about it, but it is not given” we have identified prayer with beggaryand God as a servant of our will, but we do not realize that prayer is not asking… prayer is to give thanks and to trust, to give your life… and something else also comes up at this point.
The Lord says the prayer in Gesthsemane and His prayer is not heard by Father God. Apostle Paul says “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me”. I have a problem with my flesh with my body like a devil who stiches me, who bothers me so that I do not boast about myself. “To get rid of it, I begged the Lord three times and what did He say to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”. My grace is sufficient. Do not ask for much I have already given you the major…and which is that? My Grace! And how is my Grace seen? When you are weak, then you appear in strength through my Grace. What sense do we make out of this?
Those things are not part of our logic… they are something different! I open a parenthesis maybe I bother you with all these things, but our mind has to escape even for us people who confess our faith, we have “a depressed faith” which is shaken so easily. We have a foundation in Athens, named “Galilee”, which is for patients of terminal stage cancer. We have lately, a woman of 39 years of age. She was in the last stages of her life. She has three children, minors. One 16, one 7 and one 6 years old. She came to us and when she entered our program she had finished with all therapeutic treatments and while she was at the final stages, we took her in our foundation. One day, I went to visit her. Her mother was there. They both told me “we are expecting the miracle and she is going to be fine; we tell you this in advance so you can know. Let the doctors say whatever they want. Venerable Father, we are happy that we are here, and we thank you. We are going to give you back as a gift the miracle of her treatment, we are certain”. Keep us in the foundation do not send us away. These people were not “people of the church”, but they were “people of faith”. What faith? They were taking their children to receive communion on Good Thursday, the day before Christmas, the day of Holy Mother Theotokos, something along these lines. Simple people, but with faith.
I intervened so that they could stay a little longer and suddenly the overall health of the girl collapses. They take her to the hospital because she needed hospital treatment. There she stays for a month and after the month she falls into a comma, she could not even drink water. Without any other option, the relatives insisted on bringing her back to our foundation, named “Galilee”. They say we want to take her there; the doctors say she can’t, she is not in a state that we can transfer her there. So, the relatives sign the papers denying her to die in the hospital. And the mother brings her back to Galilee. I don’t know what they did to her, she started feeling better, drinking water, eating some food and she says she wants to talk to me. “Venerable Father, I want to tell you that a second miracle took place. We were hoping for the first, the small miracle—for me to be fine—now a bigger, a second miracle has happened. I am ready to leave! Christ showed me my life without me and the world without me and my children without me… I do not know what this is”. “And what did He say to you?” I asked. “I am waiting for you above and you will leave” she replied.
“And are you not bothered?” “No, I am happy, this is the big miracle!” Her mother in a similar manner. Now after all this, the mother approaches me and tells me. “Let me tell you what happened these days. I was certain as I had told you that she will live. Eventually, this is not going to happen and she is going to leave us, I was angry with God, I complained to him. “I now want to confess this and take it off my chest, but I still have pain”. “Nonetheless, my daughter told me, and I believe it, that this is a bigger miracle and I am a bit happy. Is it a sin that I am happy?”. “Are you asking me if it is a sin because your daughter will leave?”. “No, I am sad for this…but I am happy for the miracle that has happened”.
I go back, we start talking, the kids come in. The little kid says “mummy when are you coming home? She says “mummy won’t be coming back home she will be here”… “are not we going to see you again?”. “No, I will leave!” “Where are you going?” “I will go to heaven now. And I won’t be able to see you or talk to you. Listen my child, I am done, Christ showed me my life without me and your lives without me it will be much better and we will meet there where I go, I will see you but you won’t be able to see me I will be able to hear you but you will not be able to hear me but whatever you wish, you will ask it from me and I will pass it on to Christ and you will see how much better this would be”. “But we want you here for a bit” “You don’t know what you want” she says.
Days passed, I was with Archbishop of Sinai at the foundation waiting for a monk to arrive and I suggested visiting the woman for a bit. So, we go at ther room and I say to her, here is the Archbishop of Sinai and she says “In August, that I was better a friend of mine would go to Sinai and I wanted to see the place so much… now I will probably see it from above…I tell her “you came here not to go above but for us to be able to keep you down here”. “I am leaving you” she says “I am going up” and the Archbishop says “up, it is going to be really beautiful”…”what else could he have said to her? And she replies… “I also wanted to go to London I will probably see London from above as well…she was joking with us…meanwhile, I ask her “are u ready to leave?”. “I am ready! I am waiting for the time”. “When is the time coming?” “Maybe now, maybe at night, maybe tomorrow, maybe God gives me some more days so I can go at the balcony and look at the sun…she is still there, three weeks have passed…I showed a video of her to his Holiness, her mother asked me to… She has pulled up the anchors and she is at the take-off run”… “Are you ok?”“I am so much happy”. This has no other logic, no other interpretation, neither psychological. Some psychologist might come up and say that under her state…but there is no such thing… “How did this come to you” “I don’t know she says, I don’t know, I was in a mess, when I returned it came to me”. I would like to detect, to search and to develop this logic of faith. If it was me, I think I would have acted according to the logic of the mother. I ask something from God, I believe God will perform the miracle but, in the end, it does not arrive. Then, the mother—with the daughter’s help—admits that she asked from God the small miracle and God gave her the bigger one. This thing is without interpretation under any scientific logic, but gives her great strength “Power of God and wisdom of God”. In the end, the Cross of logic is strength and it is wisdom and this cross receives strength from the cross of God. I told you before, the faith in the One who was Crucified is for some people a scandal and for others nonsense but for us in the church, it is “Power of God and Wisdom of God”.
One searches in the texts and discovers that things are a bit different from what we are accustomed to in science. But, I will go on and provide you with some scientific examples as well. In science, everything is not explained rationally. If some among you have a natural sciences background know this already. There are some principles that our mind, our senses understand really simple. Take for example, the principle of continuity. Then, another theory comes and disrupts continuity, this is the so-called theory of quanta. What is quantum? We have a nucleus and an electron which is stimulated, is transferred from one orbit to another without ever appearing in the interim (orbit). In this case, there is no continuity, there is no absoluteness, there is relativity. There is no certainty, there is indeterminacy. We reside inside the physical world and we cannot wholly understand everything. It transcends us. An immense world, and we are so really small. Some pose the question “are there extraterrestrial beings?”. And what if they exist … the worst is not whether they exist or not, because even if they exist, we cannot communicate with them. In this huge universe, they might exist. But even if we assume that their span of life concurs with the span of the life of mankind on our planet and even if they understand our language and they send us a message to say good morning, this message in order to reach us, requires at best some hundreds of years. And if we supposedly understand it, in order to respond back “good evening”, it will take another 400 years…The communication inside the universe, it seems is prohibitive for intelligent life. It is also not understandable why we, the really small people, live inside this inconceivably immense world. We cannot fill him. We understand that it exists, but we cannot “communicate” with it.
Similarly, all this noise that followed with the genome. We open the book, but we cannot understand its language and we cannot understand everything and we think we can explain everything and we try to interpret them in any way possible but, unfortunately, amidst all these, we lose the chance to develop a bit of a different logic.
Let’s now pass to the second part of our conversation. How can we grasp the other logic, the Logic of the Gospel. Jesus arrives and starts teaching. In essence, what reveals us the other logic, the Logic of the Gospel is the fifth Chapter of Matthew. It starts with “The Sermon of the Mount” and what does it say? In the beginning, there are the ‘Beatitudes’ (Blessings) and then it makes a comparison between the perceptions and orders of the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jesus Christ, Himself passes on to the world.
So, He starts “blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. This is what the modern, rationalized world would make fun of, … blessed are the fouls. But the phrase “poor in spirit” means something else. It means the “humble”. Blessed are the humble, they who are humbled. This is not easily accepted neither by the modern secular logic, nor the natural logic. Blessed is he/she who is humble, he/she who is yielding, he/she who is forgiving, he/she who does not believe that he/she is the center of the world; “blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. Then comes more. “Blessed are they that mourn”, “blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness”, previously “blessed are the pure in heart”…ok this last one is understandable…but those who are the hungry, thirsty, who yearn, how come they are also blessed? They who mourn (and of course it does not imply the secular mourning), they are also blessed. They who give, the merciful, “blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,”. “Blessed are those who are persecuted, neglected, rejected from the world. And what comes after? “Rejoice”, these people should be happy and rejoice, even they who have temptations. In Jacob’s Epistle, it is said “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations”. You should be happy when you are in an environment of temptations.
What is this thing? We must understand it, our soul must accept it, our inside world has to discover it and to be able to rejoice in this event which probably appears as a temptation in the beginning. At the same time in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask “do not lead us into temptation”. As if we say “My God please do not allow temptations” but if they are to come, then this message of the Gospel comes (which we just saw) and says “rejoice”. Be happy in temptations. This phrase “Blessed are…” appears elsewhere many times. Sometimes though it introduces us into something else “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is a bigger and better thing to give rather than receive. In a world that everyone wants to receive, this has become our natural movement and our argument. On this verse, many things are based. The whole work of the church is verified in this way. The more someone spreads, the more he gathers, as Saint John Chrysostomos said “by giving it is received and by spreading, it is understood”
We celebrate here! This is the main reason I have come here (in Lemessos), we celebrate Saint John the Merciful. A saint who always gave and he was full for this. We had a priest in Kamariza, you might know him, father Nektarios Vitalis. He was a “small human”, a nothing. What he did in his life was give everything and keeping nothing for himself. As a result, I went to do the Holy Liturgy with him. Often when the bishop visits your parish, the priest puts on his beautiful vestments, for others to see us, and match with each other. He, on the contrary, had an outer cloth taken from one cloth, a stole borrowed from somewhere else, one red cuff, a green one; the vestments were completely unmatching but happy. A stain on his cloths etc. Do you know what money he gave to the people…incredible! I am going to tell you an odd story… I went and I said “elder now I have to greet you before I leave…he said “wait, the rest of you can leave, I want to confess to father Nikolaos”… he pulls a bag from his vest with cash, bills of 5, 10, 50 Euros, crumpled… after a while, he pulls an envelope….foreign currency somebody from Australia had brought him. I don’t understand…then I say I have to go …he says wait my child wait… “don’t act like the boss” so he pulls under the mattress something else …then he goes somewhere else…In the end, I left with 13,800 Euros from there. He kept nothing for himself. When somebody gave something to him, he passed it forward to somebody else. Do you know how much money? “Millions” came through him and he kept nothing for himself. He was clever. He had understood the button. He did not wait to receive… he had the wisdom to know that when you keep nothing, then this is the best you can do for God. Regardless of whether money kept coming to him. He did not have the purpose of collecting money but denying them…he had the wisdom to believe that you are blessed, when you offer and do not receive. He had another logic. He had flaws. The place smelled beautifully. He had rigidity from his charity. His hands were yellow. It was an incredible thing, a beautiful experience, an example of another logic, of another spirit which—even in this world—is proven to be the best tool to prove that the logic of God performs the greatest deeds and proves Him Right. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In a society that everybody wants to earn, there appears a man who wants to give away everything he owns… “the wealth of benevolence is great; by giving, it is received and by spreading, it is understood” said St. John Chrysostomos. Big truth! So, this is something that proves right this logic.
And another addition to this logic. Jesus said to Thomas. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”. What do we expect? We expect to witness in order to believe. There are those who demand to see in order to believe. Then, there are those who see and do not believe. Finally, there are others who first believe and then see. Hence, the Lord says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.
Thus, He speaks of a logic of faith …one of a different kind. A transcendent logic in which someone believes and receives answers. This logic is also found in a different part of the Gospel. We spoke of the fifth chapter of Matthew which starts with the Sermon on the Mount, the ‘Beatitudes’ (Blessings), afterwards Jesus draws a comparison. A comparison which shows exactly how the soul has to turn to something superior than the dictate of man’s own nature, or even more, “the Law and the Commandments” of God in the Old Testament.
The Lord says to the people, to his audience, there is the command of the Old Testament “You shall not murder”, but I say “do not be angry with your adversary, be favorable to your adversary, to he, who comes to do you wrong. Somewhere else it says “You shall not commit adultery”, I tell you to move beyond that and He says something incredible! “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. I tell you thus to turn your mind and the mere greedy, desire of lust constitutes a perpetration of sin. Move beyond the Law and reach another sphere, do not be afraid! “I am not adding you extra weight, I am setting you free”. Also, you heard “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. What do I say to you? “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”, and “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well”. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek as well”. People make fun of that. Schools that come to visit me and students say the Gospel is outdated and when they listen to this last phrase, they say “shall we then become people who gather slaps?”. This is what they usually cite but they do not understand. They do not understand the greatness of being liberated from your own self. Our biggest enemy is ourself, not the other man. It is our temper, our habits, our thoughts, our relationships, our egoism.
And Jesus comes and says have the desire to overcome them. This logic, the logic of God seems alien to the applied logic of men. Other such things can be found in the Holy Testament. When it says that whoever wants to be first “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”. Also “whoever wants to save their life will lose it,”… what are really these words?”. And also, it says there—I liked it a lot when I was thinking about it—that the Lord says to his students, after he sent them away, he says “look they are going to take you to courts, here and there… But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.”
No! Do not worry “at that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”. Imagine someone wanting to start his own religion and spread it around the world, logically he would school his disciples. “Pay attention, if they are going to say this, you are going to say that” “if they do this, you will do that” and “go there and elsewhere”. But Jesus says “do not be sad!” “go and if they drag you to court and accuse you for your preaching, do not think ahead of what you will say… No!… The answer will be given to you”…what an incredible thing! and an answer was given to them and an answer is still given when there is no thinking ahead but there is this trust of the faith. Because Faith is not the confession of an ideological construct. But Faith is the trust in the love of God, in the providence of God. It is really difficult to “trust” …but it is redeeming to be able to trust …today in our societies and between us we do not trust each other, and this is why we see obstacles in our relationships. So, these words of the Gospel say “leave away for a bit the logic of the right sense, because more right than right itself is the word of faith and to this very thing church introduces us. Through us, through our heart we can believe, believe in the word of God and see things in our life through a different eye than the one the world or even ourselves are used to using.
While, one proceeds with the study of the texts, in the life of the church…there is a need to turn his mind, to turn the antenna of his thought to another direction and to see the whole world through the Logic of the Cross, through the Logic of emptiness, through the Logic of the humility of God himself. The days that went by this last month, we had three really big celebrations which cannot be explained easily as well. One is the Incarnation, the birth of Christ. Why God becomes man and in which way?… Can anyone get his head around this? I can’t! Why does God become a man? And how does He insert himself in History. The first troparion of Orthos in Kathisma says “come see believers how Christ was born” and emphasis is put in the way he was born, see the way of emptiness, of humility by which he was born in a manger, he is unknown, he is expelled, in his name infants are slaughtered. Pay attention and study this, this is God! Inside this infant, deity is hidden. Second emptiness, the circumcision, he goes through circumcision. It is the celebration we have with Saint Basil on the first of January. Third emptiness, the baptism, He is humbled once more. First, his birth, then circumcision, then He is baptized. All this constitutes the beginning of the Divine Economy. It mirrors the way God reveals Himself to the world and the church herself.
Another word of the Lord says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”. Meaning the road, the avenue to lead your life has “small gate and a narrow road”. I am moved greatly by the use of the word “narrow”. Meaning that eventually, the truth is seen through a really narrow crack through which a man has to pass. To do that, he needs to become shorter and smaller. To become thin. The expression of fathers is really beautiful “do not have a fat but a thin mind”. Do not be compact and unwieldy like honey, be like water instead, water moves through everything. So that every person who wants to be liberated and stand before the mystery of God, needs to become thinner, to be flexible so that he can fit through a crack and enter.
The first time I visited father Paisios, it was with my brother. We were talking for the first time with him and I was looking him with awe …he asked us “what are you working on guys?”, we said “we are physics”. He says “can I tell you a secret?”, “do you know physics really well?”. The way he spoke, we were afraid he might knew better than us and we said “we are only university students”. He said do you know about “the splitting of your atom?”. “What is this?” we asked. He said let me tell you about it: “if a man does not split his atom, then energy won’t be released in order for him to set on a spiritual trajectory and be liberated”. I am going to rephrase what St. Paisios said in physics’ terms “if you don’t split your atom, the energy to reach escape velocity cannot be released” this is how we say it in physics, this is what a rocket does, for example. He told us this exact thing—so beautifully—in our language. You need to split your atom and to acquire escape velocity to be able to leave, to be liberated. At some point, he says “guys, I am going to talk straight, spiritual life is easy, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” says Christ. Then my brother responds but “small is the gate and narrow the road”… “it’s the fats” he replies. “If the fats leave then you become thin and you fit through the narrow road…” and what did he mean by fats? “Egoism, our passions and importantly beware of the egoism of your brain”. This idea that someone has for himself “I can understand everything, I can do everything, I am powerful”, this is a trend of our times. I was before years at a big celebration at an institute which takes care of cardiopathic kids. The President of the Democracy, the Archbishop, doctors, other important people were there, there was a big screen, a big celebration. I did not listen one time the word “God”. “We are able, we will beat cancer, we can do it”. “Take it easy”, “what are you going to achieve?”. This is the ugly thing that resides inside us that we believe in our powers… “Be brave, here and now”. No! Neither in our powers, nor “here and now” … “everywhere and always” somebody becomes able through spiritual life. This is how the church lives, this is how it has marched for years, this is the message it spreads through history, it is repeated it in our age. An age which produces a dumb atheism, the small-mindedness of atheism where God is not a need. There is the constant need for man to achieve great things. But the most spectacular thing, the greatest thing man can do is surpass this world, break its logic, split his atom, as St. Paisios said, set a spiritual trajectory, achieve the energy he needs, reach escape velocity, go through the crack of logic and enter the space of faith and therein live the mystery of God and give thanks “now and forever and to the ages of ages”. Thank you!
[Father Athanasios of Lemessos speaks] “Who would like to ask something?”
[Father Nikolaos] Excuse me for interrupting. I would also like to add something else. Modern logic is a logic that demands answers for everything. I am saying this in a sneaky way so as to preempt your questions. [people in the audience laughing]. You theologians say in the universities that the church has answers for everything. The church has a really beautiful word “mystery” and “mystery” does not involve research, nor physical understanding or sense. What does it bear then?… One stands humbly in front of the mystery and the truth is unveiled to him to the measure of his capacity. As much as he can fit. This is what he can live, this is what the church lives; she lives the apocalypse of the mystery of God, not the answers to the questions.
I was sometime at a meeting of the College of Athens and they asked me to give a speech. Among other things I spoke about, I mentioned an example. Modern science during the last 30 years, astrophysics, in particular, have stated that what we see of the universe is a really small amount of its true size; recently this amount is estimated at about 5%. The rest they say is dark energy and dark matter, meaning energy and matter that we cannot see but exists and there lies the secret. The universe hides its secret in its dark space, in the non-communicable space that only indirectly can be observed. I mentioned this fact, the students liked it. At the end, they asked me “we see a priest and we listened to someone who spoke us in the scientific language … can you merge what we see with what we hear?”. I responded, “with pleasure”. What you heard is the 5%, meaning the communicable, the little… what you see, the priesthood is the rest 95%. Personally, I am full of the first 5%, I have drank the glass to its bottom and it was incredible! But I dared the jump in the mystery of the 95%. I assure you that the journey in the dark space of mystery is more beautiful than the bright and seeable space of logic and understanding. This is what the church possesses. Someone says, “only what I see”. No! there is what exists, and you understand but you cannot see. So, they asked other things and then they asked me something and I told them “guys, I have no answer to this question” “there was a pause and an incredible applause exploded”. So, they wrote in their journal afterwards “at last, a man showed up who said that he does not know”. But I was so happy because my weakness to answer the question verified the very point I was trying to make.. But we can listen to a question from the audience now.
[Audience member] “I would like to ask something about the notion of time in our faith. Meaning, the elder fathers, like St. Paisios, have in a way stopped the time as we understand it [somebody has to read experiences from the lives of St. Paisios and other saints to understand the nature of this question]. Meaning when does the time stop for saints and when for us, the mortals?”
[Father Nikolaos] “Why do you think you can’t become a saint yourself? The church is a church of saints. At first, this distinction between saints and us mortals. It’s not right. The church is an invitation of holiness. Saints everybody! We might not ones be in reality, but we consider that sainthood is something extremely far away. Saint is the man of Grace. Alas, if there is a man, baptized and inside the church and he does not have elements of the Grace and its stamp. No!
So the distinction in itself is not right! I would give you an example from physics,… just try to follow what I am trying to say. In the general theory of relativity, there is the so-called Einstein, Ricci tensor. What does this mean? It indicates the relationship between mass and time and space with time. Meaning, where there is mass it gives hypostasis to space and where there is space there is time. In other words, where there is no matter, there is no space and where there is no space there is no time. I am describing this simply and I am going to make the necessary transition. Why do I like having studied physics? If I astray, correct me. I am afraid of you theologians [speaking to members of the audience], but I will say it. A man who has materialistic spirit, materialistic fatness, this man cannot see through time well. Somebody who becomes light, as he reduces his fatness, such as a hermit, a man of prayer, a self-restraint man who limits his fatness, this man does not abolish her but contracts her. He or she can now easily liberate himself from space and time. For this reason, people like St. Paisios can see, they had the gift of foresight. They become thin, the thin sees. The fat does not see anything else, I am not talking about his weight… but his spirit, his mind… he only cares what to eat, what to do, where to go, entertainment, this is fatness. For the other man, all these things fade and he starts seeing. So, you go to St. Porphyrios and without doing something else he reads you, beautifully. This is life of the church, the experience of her, the more somebody contracts his physical fatness, his materiality—which, however, he does not abolish we are body and soul, otherwise we are talking about the heresy of monophysitism—the more he is liberated and enters space and time. Classic example is what we read from the life of St. Porphyrios. St. Porphyrios travelled through time … he saw where water existed, what happens in San Francisco, there are some stories I am not sure if they are published… also he saw in the future. So I am not sure if this answers your question but because time depends on matter, generally, …time has a fatness… the more someone gets thinner the more he is released from time.
Other Question: “I want to ask something with the danger of sounding egoist. Hypothetically, if one day “a theory of everything” is discovered which is framed as “the formalism of God”. Would it be prohibitive or a hubris for someone to accept this simply or would it be simply like any other knowledge?”
[Father Nikolaos]: It would be a mistake. I am not a philologist but there are four types of hypothetical reasons [that is the equivalent of Conditionals in English language]. This is a second type, the opposite to reality. Let’s talk, about reality now. “A God whose existence can or cannot be proven … does not exist. Do you understand this phrase? “
-“Let me put it otherwise. A God who is subject to the evidential power of human logic and can be proven either to exist or not…does not exist! This is what I am trying to say. As regards the ‘theory of everything’, it has been well-discussed by the modern, mostly Greeks, atheist-prone physics and it is an exaggeration of intense philosophical nuance.”
In the scientific world, there is the tendency of people to state the ‘theory of everything’ or the elixir of immortal youth or the cure of everything, the drugs that cure everything etc. They do not exist. People leave this world… we are going to leave…But going back to your original question, I think I would answer that the God of such kind is an ideological construct. Any other question?
[Audience member] Question: As regards, what you said earlier, whether we can explain God, I believe such sort of a God does not exist…. What does God expect from us? God expects faith. If he provides us with the knowledge of his existence, then we would never be able to develop real faith. So, when you started your sermon and you said “why God did not let the world to operate for some time well and then start collapsing” because He did not want to give us this kind of knowledge. He wanted his creations first to develop faith and then acquire knowledge.
[Father Nikolaos]: The last thing I would like to do is to create an atmosphere of contemplation around God’s thoughts. I am going to give you a small example. I like a lot what the Christ says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He wishes to say that if you cannot trust and humble yourselves like an innocent child would, if your soul does not have innocence in the search of your relationship with Me then you will not be able to enter the mystery of my truth. And this is really important. I want us to pay attention to what you said about knowledge and faith. Faith does not exclude knowledge. To the contrary, faith leads to knowledge on God. And this is something really important. Of course, when you say “knowledge”, do you mean “scientific knowledge” or the “psychological, philosophical knowledge”?
[Man who asked the last question continues]: I am able to know that you exist, because I see you. If one tells me somebody else is somewhere I cannot see, I have faith in his existence but not knowledge of it. We, people, cannot see God, so we must first develop faith and when we are dead, we will acquire knowledge…
[Father Nikolaos]: “Not when we are dead… we can acquire knowledge as early as this life. All the more, we can acquire right knowledge.
Question: [man who asked the last question continues] “If you already had knowledge of God, you would not be able to develop faith in the first place”. That is what I am trying to say.
[Father Nikolaos]: “Okay, I understand what you mean. That the logical proof of God will not lead to faith and would limit you. This is why I said “a God that is proven or not to exist… does not exist. God is not proven. You do not enter in the mystery through the human rational knowledge and I think what you are saying is right, I think, at least …”
“We thank Venerable Metropolitan of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki Nikolaos.”
This English translation of the lecture of Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki was recorded for otelders, Orthodox Teaching of the Elders, by Peter Eliades.
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