This is a moving testimony of how the Holy Spirit works. Even if Elder Joseph had no studies, he was a refined theologian by the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who made fisherman all-wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them, drawing all the world into Your net. O Loving One, glory be to You.” Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, a disciple of the St. Joseph the Hesychast, was a noted monastic of twentieth century Mount Athos. In 1987, he moved to Vatopedi Monastery, where he remained until his repose on July 1, 2009.
Audio source: Χριστιανικό Κανάλι
‘On the Incarnation’— from Elder Joeseph of Vatopedi, Mount Athos, Greece:
Today, we start by the greatest celebration, we will never be able to express it [in words]….
We begged our Christ to allow us to prostrate the ground where he was born.
to prostate the rags that covered him.
To embrace with reverence his Most Holy Mother that held Him in her hug
All these, my dears, for what purpose?
At this point lies the extraordinary thing. If a man manages to realize it, then it will become the greatest cause of his spiritual progress and awakening from the lethargy of insensitivity.
It’s Him that is today is like a baby in the cold world.
He, by Whom all things were made.
He made the universe, the visible and the invisible, the material and the immaterial
and He made everything with an imperative manner through His omnipotence,
like a Lord of everything.
But the man, He made him with His hands. He wanted to make a copy of the prototype.
Whereas everything, as I said, was built in an imperative manner, even the angels.
You see that He creates the man with His own hands, He takes pride in him,
He proves him that He made him in “his image and likeness” and thus receptive of all the divine qualities.
But He gave an order. There was no need for an order, and I want you to be attentive with that. Certainly, God gave an order to Adam to guard obedience and submission to authority, to His Leader, to His Father and not to eat from the forbidden fruit that gives birth to death and decay. Those were not orders given in an imperative manner such as the ones a superior uses to address his subordinates. Be attentive with that because they are the foundation of both our catastrophe but also our return should we seek for her.
Everything is causal, and as such they were produced by a first cause and cannot stand or survive if they are not in a continuous relationship with the first cause.
As an example, think of the branches growing out of a beautiful tree. If we cut these branches and then put them into water and even add fertilizer, still they cannot survive. Once they have abandoned the trunk, it is impossible for them to survive. Thus, the obedience and submission of all beings that were created by divine goodness should exist in a practical form to possess the power of being and existence. Otherwise, it is impossible…and pay attention to the importance.
The Devil who was the first cause of loss, because he apostatized from God in order to become a god on his own, he was immediately destroyed altogether without a hope of return. Then, out of hate, he deceives man in his inexperience. The man was deceived and listened to what the devil told him. Right away, he was cut from the cause. As a result, the man falls, loses his personality and he is exiled to the land of decay, death and loss and all the other evils that surround us. All these are the result of disobedience.
The practical cause was egoism as he was deceived by devil that he can become god without God. The second cause was the selfishness, sensuality such that he had to eat from what he liked. All this egoism and selfishness are the causes of destruction, the root of the decay of the [whole] universe.
Our most merciful God and father, after our apostasy, could have taken a handful of earth and breathe again into it and make another man. But such is not his paternal affection and capacity. He does not do it!
Instead, He decides to come Himself, to return Himself whom He created with His own Hands, and give him what He promised him from the beginning.
This is the reason of the Incarnation of the divine Word. God, himself, had to come, this Creator, in order to restore the balance. Not in an imperative manner, but in a fatherly one. As you see, in order to achieve this, He had to commune ontologically with the human hypostasis.
Still, He could not commune with the human hypostasis as we found ourselves in the law of decay and death. For this, He decides and prepares in advance the Most Holy daughter, His own mother.
From a little child, He took her in the Holy of Holies and there, the angels took care of her.
Not only she never committed, but also she never considered a wicked thing. Inside the vastness of her purity, this Most Holy daughter became the reason God accepted to enter her, to receive from her purity the new man not the fallen one.
And He comes and takes from his Most Holy mother, from her inner bowels, from the clarity of her purity. He takes from the Honorable and Most Holy blood, in the beginning of His hypostasis, He is incarnated and starts molding his man shape. But pay attention to the candor of this daughter and how much the society owes to her. This daughter, full of Grace.
To cooperate completely, the All-Good God, when He decided to do this, He condescended to ask the daughter whether she wishes … the omnipotent God, He who took care of her inside the Holy of the Holies and guarded her there only for this reason. Yet, He does not intervene without asking her. So that she can also demonstrate the propriety of the return and God’s knowledge.
Then the angel tells her: “Now you will become a mother and you will give birth to the Son of God.”
and she asks: “How is this possible since I am a Virgin?”
The angel tells her: “Angel of the Lord will arrive and will carry in you the Grace of the Holy Spirit and what will happen will be caused by God, Himself, who will be incarnated.”
And then the little girl says: “I accept. Let it come, let His will be done”. Be attentive of the accuracy!
And then God receives the human nature. “Receives the nature” in the sense of purity which is the basis of ethos that is the center of the human personality and all rational beings.
He guards His mother a Virgin, just like He received her, He remains pure and Virgin and did not commune to the least with the decay and fall so that he can become the Renovator and “Regenerator”. Had He communed with the law of decay; how would He be able to create incorruption?
For our salvation, He suffered this unimaginable trial that is impossible to be described not in the present world, but also in the infinity of entirety. The Kenosis of the God-Word, the Incarnation of the God-Word.
God, as we believe, is the Holy Trinity. He is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He has three hypostases but one nature. One hypostasis of these Three had to undertake this task and no one else was appropriate for this other than the Son. The one who was called Son, the Son of the Father, He had to become the Son of Man so that the hypostasis remains the same. To be a Son of God and a Son of Man, that is a man.
Look at this purity, this girl with such candor lays her hands to receive from the right of the God and Father, the God-Word. The one that the whole nature does not fit. The girl to lay her hands, take Him and put Him insider her to receive the human nature. Let us not forget these things, my brothers! Because for our regeneration and salvation, they happened!
But since the cause of the catastrophe was the egoism and the selfishness of man. The God-Word has to undertake his role, to confront the catastrophe, to beat and to uproot logocentrism and selfishness. And this is the reason of his Most Holy passions.
He condescends the crucifixion, the pain, the sorrow to uproot the root of pleasure that man in his disobedience created. He takes the role of the humble … how can I put it into words….
When the whole creation that cannot be described and He, who governs and commands her, is forced to become humble in the heart not just in appearance in order to uproot the human egoism, to restore the balance … mysteries of mysteries.
This is our root, my brothers. For this, now, we as Christians who were attracted by Him in His knowledge, we do not have the right to make another judgement. It says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain …”. But for those who had a higher disposition to genuinely copy Him, the ones who had the strength to deny their participation in the society so they can set themselves free from the causes. They are the share of the monks, for this reason, the monks He does not elect them somehow in the sum of the human nature but says “No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him”.
Those who had the power, the willingness to deny the society as she is not necessary, but to love God as they are obliged because this is the first and main commandment. To love God with all their soul, all their heart and mind as He has loved us and sacrificed his Son for our salvation. The chosen souls who had the power to deny society not because society is in herself guilty, but rather, because, after the fall, after the decay, the society perverted, she does not stand well. So he who wants to become clean in heart as God wishes him to be and as God created him must avoid the causes.
With our fall and the loss of “his image and his likeness”, we perverted, and now man is a victim of influence. Paul describes it “[…], but I am carnal, sold under sin”. He says I see the good and I prefer it, but I cannot do it. The bad which I try to avoid, presses me. He describes the way perversion works.
After man became the victim of influence, the door opened so the pernicious demon, the basis of loss to be able to fight man. To those who were attracted by Christ and left the society, they only felt it in their biological hypostasis. A man needs three things: a plate of food, clothes and a house to live in. This is the healthy universal conquest that will restore man to balance. In society, however, this is not possible to apply, because inside the society, where people are born, more needs must be taken care of. These needs and cares open the door to devil so he can cause scandals and obstruct salvation. For these, they who were called by God, rejected everything because they were not necessary. They left far away, they even rejected their personality, and they have one merely purpose left … to steer the heart and the mind towards divine love and towards accurate observance of His commandments since He has included them in the share of the Saints so that they will become heirs of the divine promises. “But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”. So, those who will guard the divine will—to its accuracy—are entitled to this promise.
Monks, however, because they have a larger easiness thanks to the fact that they denied everything and there are no causes for devil to incite them. They are organized, they have a few food, a cloth to wear, a room to sleep and they have no other preoccupations. They only preoccupy when they have a surplus of love and solidarity. For this, they communicate with those who want to benefit spiritually and be saved. They guard the Truth of the Gospel to the last detail; they teach the practical way of repentance and of return and conserve and contain the continuity of the church and the revelation until we reach that day. And the closest such thing is death. Everybody marches towards death, willingly or not. Death has no time. He starts from infancy and arrives whenever he wants. But there is no death for man. Those “in his image and likeness” cannot die. The body will die, we will leave it here for some time and again we will take it back and we will arrive at the Courthouse. The Great Judgment so that He who not only created us, but also bought us with His own blood. He paid for our tolerance of sin with His own blood.
He will ask us,
“Have you done anything for Me? Did you appreciate the love I showed you?”. The trial will take place there. There we will be called to prove that we loved Him with acts or, even if we failed to succeed in the first, we still managed to erase our sins through repentance, then again He accepts us.
Look at this borderless love! Where we betrayed him, we denied him, we saddened him and always stay on the sidelines of ignorance and ingratitude, He still does not alter his fatherly capacity. He goes lower and He gives us repentance as if He was saying: “Okay, if you did not honor what you promised during your Baptism, at least ask for forgiveness for your errors and I will forgive you.” This is called repentance. Of course, repentance is so much more than what I briefly said.
Yet, repentance is an absolute duty, all the more necessary applicable to you, our brothers who live in the world and cannot avoid the causes [of sin]. Especially, today, in our century, we witness such perversion and decay attached to the human personality that never existed in human history before. The reasons are so many. For this, I beg you, in your love, keep with all your strength the repentance and give thanks to God who we saddened so that on the Day of Justice we can say “even if we did not keep what you asked from us, at least, we asked for forgiveness through our repentance so that You can forgive us.”
Now, I turn to us, monks. We, the monks, have as a purpose and starting point of our existence, the thought and the description of our origin. No act can take place before it is planned. One wants to start a business; he plans in advance. He has in mind the place, the means, expected revenue and based on all these, he starts. The same applies to the spiritual scale. We were called here, we were attracted by the divine love, but God did not take away our freedom from us. We are free to submit, if we wish, to do as He asked us and He will return even more than what we ask or think. For this, we are now sitting here, we start by obedience and submission. We start by self-sacrifice, by deadening our will and opinion. We ask divine knowledge to approach us and enlighten our mind. To feel the divine love actively inside us and to receive information that—what was promised to us by God—is true.
Beyond this, we have by our side the millions of Saints, who copied with mathematical precision our Father, our Savior and succeeded in sanctification. Who can say today that Christianity is unreachable? When millions of heroes who sacrificed themselves, who martyred, succeeded in driving back the perversion, the crime, the lie, the dishonesty, the injustice. And preferred the love and prudence and reached sanctification. My brothers, this is the reality. We have such people even in our days. Not just in the past, even in our days. We have among us such people who are carriers of divine promise, communing with God, partakers of divine promises, partakers of God’s knowledge and await death with longing. So that the bonds retire, and we will return to our homeland where our Lord has prepared our home. He says I am going to prepare a place for you and again I will return to take you so that where I am you can be with me. All these overwhelm the monastic ideology, and the monks denied the vanity of the world as she was not necessary, they only need the biological hypostasis.
I am asking you, especially the older ones, still living within the world. What have you earned until now among the mess of confusion in the world? When the divine promise testifies that we will go to Heaven to meet the Saints and the angels will receive us. Who—that lives within the world—managed to experience this? This is why the monks denied the society because the causes [of sin] are found there. Away for these causes, here, in this place, they are devoted with all their heart in the love of Christ and the neighbor and they become partakers of divine promises.
This takes place today not just in the past. Please forgive me because my health does not allow me for a lot of things but for the shake of the law of love, I wanted to remind you some necessary lessons. Because my brothers tomorrow is the death. Death has a time-schedule. It starts from infancy and marches on. Among the small and the big ones, the firsts and the lasts, death will come. After death, however, man does not die as we said. We will abandon the body for a bit. But in resurrection we will receive it back intact and alive and along with our soul we will march to the Court. Have we proved love and faith to Whom was slaughtered, Whom was crucified in order to buy us with His blood and demonstrated to us—in a practical manner—the road of return?
This is our duty my brothers. For this, I beg, in your love, let all of us with new decisions be found ready with real repentance to convince the mercifulness of our God that we ask forgiveness for our mistakes and we have taken the decision from this moment on to deny perversion and guard the balance of dignity. Amen!