In this video recording, Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra [Mount Athos, Greece] talks about Orthodox monasticism, spiritual fatherhood and the experience of God in Orthodoxy.
Source: “Άθως, 1000 χρόνια σαν μια μέρα”
Fr. Aimilianos Vafeidis:
Hence, the monastery is a type of this form of a church. It is a whole church. It is a synaxis [“gathering”] of this church. Thus, the elder, the hegumen is ‘in the type of’ God, is in the place of Christ. All the rest [monks] make up the parataxis [“order”] of the Saints, either dead or alive. The monastery is a mystery and, thus, the elder is the ‘visible’ element of the mystery. [He] who hides the invisible factor, God, and everything that exists in the church which is not visible, but [can be] understood.
Since the life of an elder is so mystical and so great, it means that he is the guide. He is the ‘architect’ of the people that must be incorporated in the life of the Church and Christ. Followingly, the elder does not have as a sole purpose the [management of the] food, the everyday needs of the brotherhood and any [other] material [thing in need of]. First and foremost, he is the one who “initiates” the souls so they can reach the perfection of the mystic union with God. Because as you understand, the monastery is a state [in its own], it’s a real society. It’s the society of Paradise, the society of the Kingdom of Heaven, the society of all the Saints. Every faithful, every monk in our case, has absolute rights on the life of Christ. But Christ [also] has absolute rights on every soul. Little by little, he will receive the monk, he will provide the Grace of God, because the Grace fulfils everything in the mystic life. So that Christ is not just something expected, but also someone, the monk, can actually call for; to learn how to call the Teacher, the Lord. To have the familiarity, the friendship, just like it was present between the Apostles. Eventually, [thanks to] this everyday struggle of his [the monk] as well as ‘the covering’ of the Holy Trinity on the monastery, the other [thing] can be achieved. The aesthesis [experience/feeling] of God [can be achieved] as a Living one, as someone who exists near you, who walks next to you… ‘To sleep’ with the monks, ‘to wake up’ with them, to walk, to be a full communion of God and men. In this way, the elder is in fact the one who provides his hands who ‘present’ the disciple, the monk to the Lord. He who ‘takes down’ Christ and unifies the two separates, the heavenly and the earthly and turns them into a real ‘dance’. That is the real purpose and the aesthesis [“experience”] of the elder that the monks have. This is the reason the discipline and the obedience, you witness [in a monastery], prevails. There is this love, this giving [of oneself], this trust. Which is not addressed to man, but to Christ. They too have this mystical aesthesis that takes place among them. He is not just an everyday face of the monastery. He is the one who comes out of the river of the tradition of the Orthodoxy. He is the one who streams from the running of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the fact that he is a man. The propriety of mortality is abolished inside the monastery. He lives ‘the real’ in the fullness, a living man. He is the one who is accepted by God. Thus, he does not have the experience of a present world. But, while he walks on earth, somehow, he feels that his head is in the heaven. That he lives the heaven, that he lives God [Himself]