In this recording, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol [Cyprus] talks about contemporary saints and how their lives prove the Gospel is true. This was an answer he delivered to an atheist scientist.
Video source: The Uncut Mountain. Watch the full sermon on their channel: https://youtu.be/b9qRYoGRCwc
As I promised yesterday since this is the first homily after the repose of the Saint, elder Ephraim of the Monastery of Saint Anthony in Arizona, of the Athonite, [in particular] of the Monastery of Philotheou. I have thought about telling a few words on this great Saint of our times who fell asleep [in the Lord], just a few days ago, on the 8th of December . Today, it is the 18th – 19th [of December].
Let us say a few words on modern Saints. Why are the Saints important to us? They are important, my beloved brothers, because, before anything, they pray for us. The Saints that departed this world and no longer “inhabit” the human body, our body, which is corruptible, which gets tired, sleepy, bored, hungry, thirsty… We have all these phenomena. We are humans. We get tired, sleepy, we feel pain, hunger and all the rest phenomena, both good and bad. As elder Paisios, used to say, “When I no longer ’inhabit’ this body, it will be easier for me to go anywhere [where I am needed].”
Indeed, with the Grace of God, the Saints can help us and they do help us because they are our fathers, our brothers, they are humans who suffered like us. Especially, those who have lived in our days, their presence is so important. Because they were close to us. We met got to know them, to see them. We lived next to them. They were close to our reality. We, thus, pray to them with greater boldness and courage. And they pray for us and they are our ambassadors to God. The prayer of the Saints is vital for the whole world and for each and every one who entreats them. Every single Saint. Because the Saints are not dead. Our God, Christ, tells this in the Holy Gospel. In the Gospel of Luke, Christ says, “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” [Luke 20:38] For God, everyone is alive. For us, they are reposed, they are dead. For God, they are alive. Proof of their living presence is through their prayers for us. Consequently, one significant fact about the Saints is that they pray for us.
Another significant thing is that the Saints do prove that our Church is living and true. Had it been that the Church had no Saints, she would not be able to prove everything she claims. They would have been beautiful theories, nice ideologies, nice words, words of love… The Gospel has beautiful ideas. However, it is much more than that. The Gospel is a living experience and the Saints prove all these. The Saints prove to us that everything the Gospel says is true. Not merely, because the Saints were good people. Many are good people and you can find good people everywhere. One can find good people in every religion, ideology, social class. [But] that’s not the point. We are all good people, more or less. Who are saintly people, though? Saintly people are those who went beyond [the boundaries of] a good man [and] exceeded the physical reality of being [just] a good person and have now become, evermore, gifted people, Grace-filled. They have the Grace of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Whatever the Gospel says, whatever Christ says, everything is real.
I have told you this story before, here, in one of our [previous] meetings. When I was 18 years old, I met St. Paisios for the first time at the cell of the Holy Cross in Stavronikita in the desert of Kapsala in Mt. Athos. It was [actually] the second time [I met him]. The first time I had misunderstood him. I thought of him as crazy. That’s how “smart” I was. The second time I saw him, close to the end, I realized that something is going on here. As he was seeing us off and we were saying our goodbyes and the entire area was filled with a sweet fragrance, I realized that everything I had thought [about him]—[the fact] that he was crazy, that I was unable to understand him [as] he said jokes and other stories, things that seemed incomprehensible to me. [So], I was wondering [at first], “Is this how a saintly man behaves? He tells jokes and [expects us] to laugh?” Instead of telling us a spiritual word or two, he would tease us. He told me, “You, chubby one, eat a few loukoumia.” He gave me some 10 loukoumia to eat before we left. As soon I was going to ask something [serious], he would give me a loukoumi. He also told me two or three times that I was fat, which bothered me. I thought, “This man has lost it.” Afterwards, God ‘gave him away’ with that indescribable fragrance that had completely enveloped all [nearby] mountains. I realized that everything the Gospel says, everything Christ says, everything the Saints say and [everything] we read in the “Lives of the Saints” are all real.
When I was younger, I had this temptation while reading the “Lives of the Saints”: “Is it possible for things to have happened as written in the ‘Lives of the Saints’?” [For the same person] to be at two places at the same time? For a Saint to have done so many miracles, so many things? It was a little difficult for me to conceive all those things. Yet, when I met Saint Paisios and later on, all the other Saints, I understood that everything is true. The Saints verify the Gospel! They verify for us that everything about the Gospel and the Church is true. If we did not have Saints, we would not be able to verify the Gospel.
Once, 2 or 3 years ago, a young man visited me. He had completed his studies in the United States [and was] now a professor there in Chemistry or Biology, I can’t recall exactly. An atheist, he started citing pro-atheist theories to me, scientific theories, based on chemistry, biology.I told him, “Let me tell you something. I am not a biologist to answer based on Biology. Nor was I good in Biology at school. I got a 13 [/20]. I did not like it a lot. Nor did I know Chemistry well. I did not like it either. I was good in Physics. I liked it. Let me tell you something. All these arguments you cited—the ones based on Biology, Chemistry etc.—let’s assume that they are true. You name them and let’s say that I consider them truthful. Let me ask you something, however, [about what] I, myself experienced. Everything I saw and experienced next to Saint Paisios, Saint Porphyrios and [other] modern Saints we met in person. And I did not read all these things, nor did anyone else tell me about them—I witnessed them with my own eyes. I, myself, experienced them and I am not crazy. Since I experienced them, should I [lie and] say that I did not? Nobody else narrated them to me, I was present. How do you explain all these things?” He says, “I do not know.” I was present when Saint Paisios was present at Sinai and at the same time on Mt. Athos. I was present when this Frenchman came that night and stayed with him and the two spoke in French. In the morning, the man came and said, “We understood each other. Elder Paisios and I spent the night speaking in French.” I was there when he said all those clairvoyant, prophetic things. A plethora of events. With Saint Porphyrios, with Saint Ephraim of Katounakia, with elder Ephraim of Arizona. A thousand other things! How could all these things be true, if there was no saintliness, the Grace of the Holy Spirit in these people?
Thus, as Christ promised to His disciples, and through His disciples to the Holy Church, that “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20] He says that there will be signs in His name, miracles, supernatural things that won’t be explained with logic or with the laws of nature. That’s why they are miracles and signs. All these will happen in His name. They will be the testimonies and the seal that He is with us. We see these things taking place inside the Church of God, and they continue to our days. Leave aside everything we read in the Synaxaria of the Saints, [on] Saint Demetrios, George, Theodore and the Saints who lived in times far from ours. But [look instead on] the ones who lived in our days. And, much more, the ones we saw, ourselves, with our own eyes. The Saints are indeed a verification of the Gospel. They verify the Gospel and, at the same time, they are something more. They are a judgment for our own lives.
As elder Ephraim [of Arizona] did not live 200, 50 or even 10 years ago. Ten days ago he was with us. As you know, I was in America [visiting him] in early November . I was with him, in the monastery in Arizona. I returned from the States, and another eight of our fathers from the Metropolis went to visit him. The fathers came back and in ten days, the elder reposed in the Lord. He left as he, himself, wished to leave, like a bird.