Saturday, July 20, 2013
Do not lose courage in the struggle, our Christ is invisibly standing by, observing the struggle of each one of us.
Therefore, struggle patiently, call out the name of our Jesus, so that it may be implanted within your hearts and so that you may become rich in the grace of God.
Struggle to acquire a pure intellect, so that you may feel the grace of the Holy Resurrection.
Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Eldress Agatha Ilie (1876 - 1968), formerly known as Maria before being tonsured a nun, was the mother according to the flesh of one of the greatest hesychasts of modern Romania - Elder Cleopa Ilie.
She was from Soulitsa in the district of Botosani. Her husband was named Alexander, who was a cow merchant for a living. God blessed them with ten children. From a young age this pious couple taught their children to love the ecclesiastical services, to pray, and to flee temptations in their personal lives. Nearby their village was the Kozantsea-Botosani Skete, where Fr. Paisios Olarou struggled, who became the spiritual father of Elder Cleopa as well as the entire family. This is where the children of this large family would go to pray and to listen to the teachings of Elder Paisios, as well as help graze the animals of the Skete.
But God, Who alone is All-Good, and Whose ways are beyond comprehension, allowed this large pious family to suffer many bitter trials. One by one each child was taken from this life, much like the children of Job. This occurred between 1915 and 1935, by the will of God. John died at the age of 16. After a year his sister Porphyria died at the age of 18. After two years the 26 year old Maria died. Their mother Maria was in deep sorrow constantly for the loss of her children. She would go to the Skete and Elder Paisios would console her saying that she was sending angels to heaven. Her sorrow would continue after a few years when Basil and George left to become monks at Sihastria Monastery, and in 1931 she was informed that Basil had died as well. George, who had taken the name Gerasimos, would die two years later. One year later another terrible loss came upon Maria, when her daughter Katherine died; she was only 20 years old and was a novice at Agapia Monastery. Eight children had died at this point, and two were left for her consolation. Every time a child was taken from her, Fr. Paisios would say: "Your children are chanting to God like angels, Maria. There you will meet again." In 1949 Maria went to inform Fr. Paisios that her ninth child died, named Michael. He told her: "Your nine children have gone to the Lord and received nine martyric crowns." Shortly after this her husband, Alexander, died. Her last surviving child, Constantine, had already gone to become a novice at Sihastria Monastery in 1936, and came to be known as Cleopas upon his tonsure. Cleopa was urging his mother at this point to become a nun, and Fr. Paisios informed her: "Go Maria, you also become a monastic and pray for the living and the dead."
In the winter of 1946 Maria went to join a convent, at the age of 70, after first visiting Sihastria Monastery to venerate the tombs of her two sons. From there she went by carriage to the Monastery of Old Agapia, where she stayed for good. There she took the name Agatha and lived for another 22 years. All her life she was illiterate and could not read books or the Divine Services. What characterized her was her goodness and innocence of soul. Her soul was child-like, without evil, without pride, without bad thoughts in her mind. Whatever somebody told her, she believed, and whatever she was asked to do, she did with obedience, because she loved everybody and had no discrimination. She spoke with everyone, and cried for the misfortune and pain of all people.
When she was asked what obedience she had at the Monastery, she would respond: "I cut wood with the saw, I take care of the flowers, and I help with the cooking." Another job she had was to go into the woods all day to gather sticks for the kitchen, the whole time praying while she worked, and she would return before sunset.
One year before her repose, she ceased altogether speaking of her children. If a nun happened to ask Sister Agatha about her children, she would groan a little bit, but then be happy as a child, saying: "How good are these sisters. They care for me like a mother. Behold, here I am alone. Abbess Olympia also reposed. I have remained alone."
Her only consolation now was the Church and the Sisters who took care of her in her cell. She lived the 22 years of her monastic life with humility, prayer, silence, love, quietude, and spiritual prayer.
Old Agapia Monastery was a haven for Eldress Agatha. Though she sent all but one of her children to heaven before her own repose, through prayer she was ever near them together with all the saints through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Monastery she found comfort and peace of soul. In the summer of 1968 Eldress Agatha began to feel weak. She only had the strength to walk to the balcony of her cell to catch some warmth from the rays of the sun. For a few days she was bedridden. "Eldress Agatha, won't you eat some food? Here are a few apples," said the nuns who took care of her. To this she responded: "Apples I will eat in Paradise, where I am going soon." On 15 September 1968, at the age of 92, her soul went to Paradise, after saying farewell to the entire Sisterhood of the Monastery.
You have read about the Jesus Prayer, have you not? And you know what it is from practical experience. Only with the help of this prayer can the necessary order of the soul be firmly maintained; only through this prayer can we preserve our inner order undisturbed even when distracted by household cares. This prayer alone makes it possible to fulfill the injunction of the Fathers: the hands at work, the mind and heart with God. When this prayer becomes grafted in our heart, then there are no inner interruptions and it continues always in the same, evenly flowing way.
The path to achievement of a systematic interior order is very hard, but it is possible to preserve this (or a similar) state of mind during the various and inevitable duties you have to perform; and what makes it possible is the Jesus Prayer when it is grafted in the heart. How can it be so grafted? Who knows? But it does happen. He who strives is increasingly conscious of this engrafting, without knowing how it has been achieved. To strive for this inner order, we must walk always in the presence of God, repeating the Jesus Prayer as frequently as possible. As soon as there is a free moment, begin again at once, and the engrafting will be achieved…
The Jesus Prayer, and the warmth which accompanies it
To pray is to stand spiritually before God in our heart in glorification, thanksgiving, supplication, and contrite penitence. Everything must be spiritual. The root of all prayer is devout fear of God; from this comes belief about God and faith in Him, submission of oneself to God, hope in God, and cleaving to Him with the feeling of love, in oblivion of all created things. When prayer is powerful, all these spiritual feelings and movements are present in the heart with corresponding vigor.
How does the Jesus Prayer help us in this? Through the feeling of warmth which develops in and around the heart as the effect of this Prayer…
When we pray we must stand in our mind before God, and think of Him alone. Yet various thoughts keep jostling in the mind, and draw it away from God. In order to teach the mind to rest on one thing, the Holy Fathers used short prayers and acquired the habit of reciting them unceasingly. This unceasing repetition of a short prayer kept the mind on the thought of God and dispersed all irrelevant thoughts. They adopted various short prayers, but it is the Jesus Prayer which has become particularly established amongst us and is most generally employed: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner!’
So this is what the Jesus Prayer is. It is one among various short prayers, oral like all others. Its purpose is to keep the mind on the single thought of God. Whoever has formed the habit of this Prayer and uses it properly, really does remember God incessantly.
Since the remembrance of God in a sincerely believing heart is naturally accompanied by a sense of piety, hope, thanksgiving, devotion to God’s will, and by other spiritual feelings, the Jesus Prayer, which produces and preserves this remembrance of God, is called spiritual prayer. It is rightly so called only when it is accompanied by these spiritual feelings. But when not accompanied by them it remains oral like any other prayer of the same type.
What is the meaning of this warmth which accompanies the practice of the Prayer? In order to keep the mind on one thing by the use of a short prayer, it is necessary to preserve attention and so lead it into the heart: for so long as the mind remains in the head, where thoughts jostle one another, it has no time to concentrate on one thing. But when attention descends into the heart, it attracts all the powers of the soul and body into one point there. This concentration of all human life in one place is immediately reflected in the heart by a special sensation that is the beginning of future warmth. This sensation, faint at the beginning, becomes gradually stronger, firmer, deeper. At first only tepid, it grows into warm feeling and concentrates the attention upon itself And so it comes about that, whereas in the initial stages the attention is kept in the heart by an effort of will, in due course this attention, by its own vigor, gives birth to warmth in the heart. This warmth then holds the attention without special effort. From this, the two go on supporting one another, and must remain inseparable; because dispersion of attention cools the warmth, and diminishing warmth weakens attention.
From this there follows a rule of the spiritual life: if you keep the heart alive towards God, you will always be in remembrance of God. This rule is laid down by St. John of the Ladder.
The question now arises whether this warmth is spiritual. No, it is not spiritual. It is ordinary physical warmth. But since it keeps the attention of the mind in the heart, and thus helps the development there of the spiritual movements described earlier, it is called spiritual- provided, however, that it is not accompanied by sensual pleasure, however slight, but keeps the soul and body in sober mood.
From this it follows that when the warmth accompanying the Jesus Prayer does not include spiritual feelings, it should not be called spiritual, but simply warm-blooded. There is nothing in itself bad about this warm-blooded feeling, unless it is connected with sensual pleasure, however slight. If it is so connected, it is bad and must be suppressed.
Things begin to go wrong when the warmth moves about in parts of the body lower than the heart. And matters become still worse when, in enjoyment of this warmth, we imagine it to be all that matters, without bothering about spiritual feelings or even about remembrance of God; and so we set our heart only on having this warmth. This wrong course is occasionally possible, though not for all people, nor at all times. It must be noticed and corrected, for otherwise only physical warmth will remain, and we must not consider this warmth as spiritual or due to grace. This warmth is spiritual only when it is accompanied by the spiritual impetus of prayer. Anyone who calls it spiritual without this movement is mistaken. And anyone who imagines it to be due to grace is still more in error.
Warmth which is filled with grace is of a special nature and it is only this which is truly spiritual. It is distinct from the warmth of the flesh, and does not produce any noticeable changes in the body, but manifests itself by a subtle feeling of sweetness.
Everyone can easily identify and distinguish spiritual warmth by this particular feeling. Each must do it for himself: this is no business for an outsider.
The easiest way to acquire unceasing prayer
To acquire the habit of the Jesus Prayer, so that it takes root in ourselves, is the easiest way of ascending into the region of unceasing prayer. Men of the greatest experience have found, through God’s enlightenment, that this form of prayer is a simple yet most effective means of establishing and strengthening the whole of the spiritual and ascetic life; and in their rules for prayer they have left detailed instructions about it.
In all our efforts and ascetic struggles, what we seek is purification of the heart and restoration of the spirit. There are two ways to this: the active way, the practice of the ascetic labors; and the contemplative way, the turning of the mind to God. By the first way the soul becomes purified and so receives God; by the second way the God of whom the soul becomes aware Himself bums away every impurity and thus comes to dwell in the purified soul. The whole of this second way is summed up in the one Jesus Prayer, as St. Gregory of Sinai says’: ‘God is gained either by activity and work, or by the art of invoking the Name of Jesus.’ He adds that the first way is longer than the second, the second being quicker and more effective. For this reason some of the Holy Fathers have given prime importance, among all the different kinds of spiritual exercise, to the Jesus Prayer. It enlightens, strengthens, and animates; it defeats all enemies visible and invisible, and leads directly to God. See how powerful and effective it is! The Name of the Lord Jesus is the treasury of all good things, the treasury of strength and of life in the spirit.
It follows from this that we should from the very first give full instructions on the practice of the Jesus Prayer to everyone who repents or begins to seek the Lord. Only following on from this should we introduce the beginner into other practices, because it is in this way that he can most quickly become steadfast and spiritually aware, and achieve inner peace. Many people, not knowing this, may be said to waste their time and labor in going no further than the formal and external activities of the soul and body.
The practice of prayer is called an ‘art’, and it is a very simple one. Standing with consciousness and attention in the heart, cry out unceasingly: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me,’ without having in your mind any visual concept or image, believing that the Lord sees you and listens to you.
It is important to keep your consciousness in the heart, and as you do so to control your breathing a little so as to keep time with the words of the prayer. But the most important thing is to believe that God is near and hears. Say the prayer for God’s ear alone.
At the beginning this prayer remains for a long time only an activity like any other, but in time it passes into the mind and finally takes root in the heart.
There are deviations from this right way of praying; therefore we must learn it from someone who knows all about it. Mistakes occur chiefly from the attention being in the head and not in the heart. He who keeps his attention in the heart is safe. Safer still is he who at all times clings to God in contrition, and prays to be delivered from illusion.
‘Techniques’ and ‘methods’ do not matter: one thing alone is essential
The prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me’ is an oral prayer like any other. There is nothing special about it in itself, but it receives all its power from the state of mind in which it is made.
The various methods described by the Fathers (sitting down, making prostrations, and the other techniques used when performing this prayer) are not suitable for everyone: indeed without a personal director they are actually dangerous. It is better not to try them. There is just one method which is obligatory for all: to stand with the attention in the heart. All other things are beside the point, and do not lead to the crux of the matter.
It is said of the fruit of this prayer, that there is nothing higher in the world. This is wrong. As if it were some talisman! Nothing in the words of the prayer and their uttering can alone bring forth its fruit. All fruit can be received without this prayer, and even without any oral prayer, but merely by directing the mind and heart towards God.
The essence of the whole thing is to be established in the remembrance of God, and to walk in His presence. You can say to anyone: ‘Follow whatever methods you like-recite the Jesus Prayer, perform bows and prostrations, I go to Church: do what you wish, only strive to be always in constant remembrance of God.’ I remember meeting a man in Kiev who said: ‘I did not use any methods at all, I did not know the Jesus Prayer, yet by God’s mercy I walk always in His presence. But how this has come to pass, I myself do not know, God gave!’
It is most important to realize that prayer is always God-given: otherwise we may confuse the gift of grace with some Achievement of our own.
People say: attain the Jesus Prayer, for that is inner prayer. This is not correct. The Jesus Prayer is a good means to arrive at inner prayer, but in itself it is not inner but outer prayer. Those who attain the habit of the Jesus Prayer do very well. But if they stop only at this and go no further, they stop half way.
Even though we are reciting the Jesus Prayer, it is still necessary for us to keep the thought of God: otherwise the Prayer is dry food. It is good that the Name of Jesus should cleave to your tongue. But with this it is still possible not to remember God at all and even to harbor thoughts which are opposed to Him. Consequently everything depends on conscious and free turning to God, and on a balanced effort to hold oneself in this.
Why the Jesus Prayer is stronger than other prayers
The Jesus Prayer is like any other prayer. It is stronger than all other prayers only in virtue of the all-powerful Name of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. But it is necessary to invoke His Name with a full and unwavering faith-with a deep certainty that He is near, sees and hears, pays whole-hearted attention to our petition, and is ready to fulfill it and to grant what we seek. There is nothing to be ashamed of in such a hope. If fulfillment is sometimes delayed, this may be because the petitioner is still not yet ready to receive what he asks.
Not a talisman
The Jesus Prayer is not some talisman (a ring or stone with magic powers). Its power comes from faith in the Lord, and from a deep union of the mind and heart with Him. With such a disposition, the invocation of the Lord’s Name becomes very effective in many ways. But a mere repetition of the words does not signify anything.
Mechanical repetition leads to nothing
Do not forget that you must not limit yourself to a mechanical repetition of the words of the Jesus Prayer. This will lead to nothing except a habit of repeating the prayer automatically with the tongue, without even thinking about it. There is of course nothing wrong in this, but it constitutes only the extreme outer limit of the work.
The essential thing is to stand consciously in the presence of the Lord, with fear, faith and love.
Oral and inner prayer
One can recite the Jesus Prayer with the mind in the heart without movement of the tongue. This is better than oral prayer. Use oral prayer as a support to inner prayer. Sometimes It is required in order to strengthen inner prayer.
Avoid visual concepts
Hold no intermediate image between the mind and the Lord when practicing the Jesus Prayer. The words pronounced are merely a help, and are not essential. The principal thing is to stand before the Lord with the mind in the heart. This, and not the words, is inner spiritual prayer. The words here are as much or as little the essential part of the prayer as the words of any other prayer. The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself. This awareness of the eye of God looking at your inner being must not be accompanied by any visual concept, but must be confined to a simple conviction or feeling. A man in a warm room feels how the warmth envelops and penetrates him. The same must be the effect on our spiritual nature of the all-encompassing presence of God, who is the fire in the room of our being.
The words ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me’ are only the instrument and not the essence of the work; but they are an instrument which is very strong and effective, for the Name of the Lord Jesus is fearful to the enemies of our salvation and a blessing to all who seek Him. Do not forget that this practice is simple, and must not have anything fanciful about it. Pray about everything to the Lord, to our most pure Lady, to your Guardian Angel; and they will teach you everything, either directly or through others.
Images and illusion
In order not to fall into illusion, while practicing inner prayer, do not permit yourself any concepts, images, or visions. For vivid imaginings, darting to and fro, and flights of fancy do not cease even when the mind stands in the heart and recites prayer: and no one is able to rule over them, except those who have attained perfection by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and who have acquired stability of mind through Jesus Christ.
Dispel all images from your mind
You ask about prayer. I find in the writings of the Holy Fathers, that when you pray you must dispel all images from your mind. That is what I also try to do, forcing myself to realize that God is everywhere-and so (among other places) here, where my thoughts and feelings are. I cannot succeed in freeing myself entirely from images, but gradually they evaporate more and more. There comes a point when they disappear completely.
St. Theophan the Recluse
Κύριε, Σὺ ποὺ δίδαξες, συγχώρα με ποὺ διδάσκω, ποὺ φέρνω τ' ὄνομα τῆς δασκάλας ποὺ Σὺ ἔφερες στὴ γῆ!
Δός μου τὴ μοναδικὴ ἀγάπη τοῦ σχολειοῦ μου, ὥστε οὔτε τὸ κάμα τῆς ὀμορφιᾶς νὰ μπορεῖ νὰ τῆς κλέψει τὴν τρυφερότητα τῆς κάθε στιγμῆς.
Κάνε μου, Κύριε, παντοτινὴ τὴ ζέση καὶ διαβατικὴ τὴν ἀπογοήτευση. Ξερίζωσε ἀπὸ μένα, τὴν ἀκάθαρτη αὐτὴ ἐπιθυμία δικαιοσύνης ποὺ μὲ ταράζει ἀκόμη, τὴν στενόκαρδη ὑποκίνηση διαμαρτυρίας ποὺ ἀνεβαίνει ἀπὸ μένα ὅταν μὲ πληγώνουν. Νὰ μὴ μὲ πονᾶ ἡ ἀκατανοησία, νὰ μὴ μὲ θλίβει ἡ λησμοσύνη αὐτῶν ποὺ δίδαξα.
Δόσμου νἄμαι μητέρα περισσότερο ἀπὸ τὶς ἴδιες τὶς μητέρες, γιὰ νὰ μπορέσω ν' ἀγαπῶ καὶ νὰ προστατεύω ὅ,τι δὲν εἶναι σάρκα ἀπὸ τὴ σάρκα μου. Δόσμου νὰ πετύχω νὰ τεχνουργήσω μὲ μιὰ ἀπ' τὶς μαθήτριές μου τὸν τέλειο στίχο καὶ νὰ Σοῦ ἀφήσω χαραγμένη σ' αὐτὴ τὴν πιὸ διαπεραστική μου μελωδία, ὅταν τὰ χείλη μου δὲν τραγουδᾶνε πιά.
Δεῖξε μου τὸ Εὐαγγέλιό Σου δυνατὸ στὴν ἐποχή μου, γιὰ νὰ μὴ λιποταχτήσω ἀπὸ τὴ μάχη τῆς κάθε μέρας καὶ τῆς κάθε ὥρας γι' αὐτό.
Φώτισε τὸ σχολειό μου μὲ τὴ λάμψη ποὺ τύλιγε τὴν ὁμάδα τῶν ξυπόλυτων παιδιῶν Σου.
Κάνε με ρωμαλέα ἀκόμα καὶ στὴ γυναικεία μου ἀδυναμία, τῆς φτωχῆς γυναίκας. Δόσμου νὰ περιφρονήσω κάθε δύναμη ποὺ δὲν εἶναι καθαρή, κάθε πίεση ποὺ δὲν εἶναι ἡ πίεση τοῦ θερμοῦ Σου θελήματος στὴ ζωή μου.
Φίλε, συνόδεψε με, στήριξε με! Πολλὲς φορὲς ἄλλον δὲ θάχω στὸ πλευρό μου παρὰ Ἐσένα. Ὅταν γίνει ἡ διδαχή μου πιὸ ἁγνὴ καὶ πιὸ φλογερὴ ἡ ἀλήθειά μου, θὰ μείνω μακριὰ ἀπ' τοὺς θνητούς. Ἀλλὰ τότε Σὺ θὰ μὲ σφίξεις στὴν καρδιά Σου ἐπάνω, αὐτὴ τὴν καρδιὰ ποὺ τόσα ξέρει ἀπὸ μοναξιὰ κι ἐγκατάλειψη. Καὶ τότε ἐγὼ δὲ θὰ γυρέψω παρὰ μονάχα στὸ δικό Σου βλέμμα τὴ γλυκύτητα τῶν δοκιμασιῶν.
Δόσμου ἁπλότητα καὶ βάθος: γλύτωσὲ με ἀπὸ τὸ νἄμαι περίπλοκη καὶ χυδαία στὸ καθημερινό μου μάθημα.
Δόσμου νὰ ὑψώνω τὰ μάτια τοῦ στήθους μου τὰ πληγωμένα ὅταν μπαίνω κάθε μέρα στὸ σχολειό μου. Νὰ μὴ φέρνω στὸ τραπέζι τῆς δουλειᾶς μου τὶς ὑλικὲς μικρολαχτάρες μου, τοὺς πενιχροὺς καημοὺς τῆς κάθε μέρας.
Ἀλάφρωσε τὸ χέρι μου στὴν τιμωρία, γλύκανέ το περισσότερο στὸ χάδι. Ἂς μαλώσω πονεμένα γιὰ νὰ ξέρω ὅτι διόρθωσα ἀγαπώντας!
Κάνε νὰ γίνει πνεῦμα τὸ σχολειό μου ἀπὸ τοῦβλα. Νὰ τυλίξει ἡ πυρκαγιὰ τοῦ ἐνθουσιασμοῦ μου τὴ φτωχική του αὐλή, τὴ γυμνή του αἴθουσα. Νἄναι ἡ καρδιά μου γι' αὐτὸ περισσότερο κολώνα καὶ ἡ καλή μου θέληση περισσότερο χρυσάφι ἀπ' τὰ πλούσια σχολειά.
Θύμησέ μου, τέλος, ἀπὸ τὴν ὠχρότητα τοῦ πίνακα τοῦ Βελάθκεθ ὅτι τὸ νὰ διδάσκει καὶ ν' ἀγαπάει ἔντονα κανεὶς σ' αὐτὴ τὴ Γῆ, σημαίνει νὰ φτάσει στὴν ἔσχατη μέρα μὲ τὴν κονταριὰ τοῦ Λογγίνου στὴν καρδιὰ ὁλόφλογος ἀπὸ ἀγάπη.
«ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας...»
Ὅταν ὁ «ἄρχων τῶν Ἰουδαίων» Νικόδημος ἐπισκέφθηκε νύκτα τὸν Χριστό, Ἐκεῖνος τοῦ μίλησε γιὰ μία γέννηση πέρα ἀπὸ τὴν σωματικὴ - βιολογική. Τοῦ ἀπεκάλυψε τὴν πνευματικὴ ἀναγέννηση τοῦ πιστοῦ «ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος», μὲ τὴν ὁποία εἰσέρχεται κανεὶς στὴ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ. Γι’ αὐτὴν τὴν γέννηση μιλεῖ σήμερα καὶ ὁ Ἀπ. Παῦλος, ὑπογραμμίζοντας τὴν παρουσία ὡρισμένων προσώπων στὸ Σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ποὺ μὲ τὴ Χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀξιώνονται νὰ γίνουν οἱ κατ’ ἄνθρωπον συντελεστές της. Καὶ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτὰ εἶναι οἱ Πατέρες, ἕνα μέγεθος οὐσιαστικότατο στὴ ζωὴ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.
Πατέρες – Παιδαγωγοὶ
Ὁ Παῦλος κάνει διάκριση ἀνάμεσα σὲ Πατέρες καὶ Παιδαγωγοὺς - Διδασκάλους τῶν πιστῶν.....
Οἱ πρῶτοι εἶναι λίγοι σὲ σύγκριση μὲ τοὺς δευτέρους. Οἱ Πατέρες εἶναι ἐκεῖνοι, ποὺ γεννοῦν τέκνα πνευματικά. οἱ Παιδαγωγοὶ συντελοῦν στὴν περαιτέρω ἀνάπτυξη καὶ καλλιέργειά τους. Οἱ Πατέρες φέρνουν στὴν πνευματικὴ ὕπαρξη· οἱ Παιδαγωγοὶ συμπληρώνουν τὸ ἔργο ἐκείνων μὲ τὴν «ἐποικοδομὴ» τους. Ὅταν λέγει αὐτὰ ὁ Παῦλος, ἔχει ὑπόψη του τὸν ἴδιο τὸν ἑαυτό του. Τὸ λέγει, ἄλλωστε, καθαρὰ στοὺς Κορινθίους, ὅτι εἶναι ὁ πνευματικός τους πατέρας. Γι’ αὐτὸ μπορεῖ ἁπτὰ καὶ συγκεκριμένα νὰ περιγράψει τὸ ἔργο του σ’ αὐτούς, σ’ ἀντιδιαστολὴ μὲ τὸ ἔργο τῶν πολλῶν διδασκάλων ποὺ εἶχαν. Αὐτὸς «ἐφύτευσε», ἐνῶ ὁ Ἀπολλώς -μετὰ ἀπ’ αὐτὸν- μόνο «ἐπότισε». Αὐτὸς «ἔθηκε θεμέλιον»· ὅσοι ἦλθαν μετὰ ἀπ’ αὐτὸν ἁπλῶς «ἐποικοδόμησαν». (Α’ Κόρ. γ’ 6, 10).
Ὑπάρχει μία ἀναλογία ἀνάμεσα στοὺς πνευματικοὺς καὶ τοὺς σαρκικοὺς πατέρες. Εἶναι καὶ οἱ δύο μοναδικοὶ καὶ ἀναντικατάστατοι. Γιατί καὶ οἱ δύο ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ὕπαρξη, βιολογικὴ ἢ πνευματική. Καὶ αὐτὸ γίνεται μία φορὰ στὴ ζωὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Ὑπαρξιακὸ καὶ ἀνεπανάληπτο γεγονὸς δὲν εἶναι μόνο ἡ γέννηση, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἀναγέννηση. Ὑπάρχει βέβαια καὶ μία οὐσιαστικὴ διαφορά: οἱ σαρκικοὶ πατέρες γεννοῦν γιὰ τὸν κόσμο· οἱ πνευματικοὶ πατέρες γεννοῦν γιὰ τὸν Χριστό.
Προσδιορίζοντας τὴν δεύτερη αὐτὴ «γέννηση» ὁ Ἀπόστολος τὴν ὀνομάζει «ἐν Χριστῷ» καὶ «διὰ τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου» χαράζοντας ἔτσι καὶ τὶς συντεταγμένες τῆς πνευματικῆς πατρότητος στὴν Ἐκκλησία. Οἱ Πατέρες τῶν πιστῶν εἶναι «ἐν Χριστῷ» πατέρες καὶ τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα γίνονται μέσω αὐτῶν, ὄχι δικά τους, ἀλλὰ -οὐσιαστικὰ καὶ κύρια- «τοῦ Χριστοῦ» τέκνα. Αὐτὸ σημαίνει ὅτι γιὰ νὰ ἀξιωθεῖ ἀπὸ τὴν Χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ νὰ γίνει κανεὶς στὸ Σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ πατέρας, πρέπει νὰ εἶναι ὁ ἴδιος πρῶτα «ἐν Χριστῷ», δηλαδὴ ἀναγεννημένος, ἀληθινὸ τέκνο τοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ ΜΟΝΟΥ κατ’ οὐσίαν ΠΑΤΡΟΣ (Ἐφεσ. γ’ 15).
Ἂν δὲν ὑπάρχει αὐτὴ ἡ προϋπόθεση, δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ ὁδηγήσει κανεὶς στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση. Δὲν γεννᾶ πνευματικά. Δὲν ὁδηγεῖ στὴν σωτηρία. Ὅπως ὑπῆρχαν ψευδοπροφῆτες στὴν Π. Διαθήκη, ποὺ σφετερίζονταν τὸ ἔργο τῶν γνησίων προφητῶν, ἔτσι μπορεῖ νὰ ὑπάρξουν καὶ ψευδοπατέρες, ποὺ δὲν μποροῦν νὰ ὁδηγήσουν στὴν ἀναγέννηση τὸν ἄνθρωπο, ἀφοῦ δὲν εἶναι οἱ ἴδιοι ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγεννημένοι. Ὄχι σπάνια δέ, καταντοῦν «πατρυιοί», γιατί ἀντὶ νὰ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἐλευθερία, ὑποτάσσουν τὰ «πνευματικά τους τέκνα» στὸν ἑαυτό τους, δημιουργώντας θύματα καὶ ὄργανα ὑπηρετικὰ στοὺς ὁποιουσδήποτε σκοπούς τους. Μὴ μπορώντας νὰ ἀναγεννήσουν «διὰ τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου», δὲν γεννοῦν «ἐν Χριστῷ», ἀλλὰ «ἐν πλάνῃ καὶ ἁμαρτίᾳ». Προσφέρουν δηλαδὴ μία γέννηση, ποὺ ἰσοδυναμεῖ μὲ θάνατο. Καὶ αὐτὸ συμβαίνει μὲ τοὺς αἱρετικούς, ἀλλὰ καὶ μὲ ὅσους ἀναλαμβάνουν τὸ ἔργο τοῦ «πατρὸς» χωρὶς νὰ εἶναι ἀναγεννημένοι ἐν Χριστῷ οἱ ἴδιοι!
Πατερικὴ ἡ Ὀρθοδοξία
Ἡ Ὀρθοδοξία, ὡς ἡ Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἶναι ἀδιανόητη χωρὶς Παύλους, χωρὶς Πατέρες καὶ Μητέρες ἐν Χριστῷ, ποὺ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα. Οἱ ἅγιοι Πατέρες καὶ Μητέρες ὅλων τῶν αἰώνων συνιστοῦν τὴν εὐθεία καὶ ἀδιάσπαστη γραμμὴ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς παραδόσεως. Δηλαδὴ τὴν συνέχεια τῆς εἰσαχθείσης στὸν κόσμο διὰ τῆς σαρκώσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ - Λόγου νέας ζωῆς, τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς. Οἱ Πατέρες εἶναι οἱ διάδοχοι τοῦ Παύλου καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν Ἀποστόλων, ὄχι ἁπλῶς στὴν ἀνάληψη διοικητικῶν καὶ πρακτικῶν καθηκόντων, ἀλλὰ κυρίως στὴν συνέχιση τῆς «καινῆς κτίσεως», τοῦ ἀπεκεκαλυμένου νέου τρόπου ζωῆς - ὑπάρξεως, ποὺ ἐκφράζεται καὶ πραγματώνεται ὡς ὀρθόδοξη πίστη καὶ φρόνημα, ὡς δοξολογία τοῦ Τριαδικοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ὡς τριαδοκεντρικὴ ζωὴ καὶ πολιτεία - κοινωνία.
Οἱ Πατέρες ὅλων τῶν αἰώνων, ἐνεργοῦν στὸ ποιμαντικό τους ἔργο ὅπως οἱ γιατροὶ -καθηγηταὶ σὲ μία Ἰατρικὴ Σχολή. Δὲν περιορίζονται στὴν διάγνωση καὶ θεραπεία τῶν ἀσθενῶν, ἀλλὰ δημιουργοῦν καὶ συνεχιστὲς τοῦ ἔργου των. Τὰ πνευματικά τους τέκνα πρῶτα τὰ ὁδηγοῦν στὴν θεραπεία ἀπὸ τὰ πάθη καὶ τὸν φωτισμὸ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, γιὰ νὰ γίνουν καὶ ἐκεῖνα μὲ τὴ σειρὰ τους πατέρες ἄλλων τέκνων, συνεχίζοντας τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναγέννηση. Στὴν ἱστορία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας αὐτὴ ἡ σχέση Πνευματικοῦ Πατρὸς - Πνευματικοῦ Τέκνου μένει ἀκατάλυτη. Κοντὰ στοὺς ἁγίους Πατέρες γεννῶνται οἱ ἅγιοι Πατέρες! Ὁ Μέγας Ἀθανάσιος κοντὰ στὸν μέγα Ἀντώνιο, ὁ μέγας Βασίλειος κοντὰ στοὺς Γέροντες τῆς ἐρήμου κ.ο.κ.
Ἔτσι κατανοοῦμε τὴν φαινομενικὴ ἀπολυτότητα, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὶς ἀληθινὲς διαστάσεις, τῆς ἀκόλουθης φράσεως τῶν Ἀποστολικῶν Διαταγῶν, βιβλίου τοῦ δ’ αἰώνα: «Οὗτος διδάσκαλος εὐσεβείας, οὗτος μετὰ Θεὸν πατὴρ ἡμῶν, δι’ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς» (Η’ 26). Τὸ ἔργο τῆς Ἐκκλησίας στὸν κόσμο εἶναι μία συνεχὴς (ἀνα)γέννηση, ἡ ὁποία εἶναι ἀδύνατη, ἂν δὲν ὑπάρχουν πραγματικοὶ Πατέρες.
Μέσα ἀπὸ τὸ πρίσμα αὐτὸ θὰ πρέπει νὰ δοῦμε, πιστεύω, καὶ τὴν σημερινὴ -συνεχῶς αὐξανομένη- καταφυγὴ τόσων ἀνθρώπων, καὶ μάλιστα νέων, στοὺς χώρους τῆς πνευματικῆς ἀναγεννήσεως, τὰ μοναστήρια μας, καὶ μάλιστα τὰ ἀθωνικά, γιὰ ἀναζήτηση Πατέρων. Τότε μόνο θὰ καταλάβουμε, πὼς καὶ στοὺς κρίσιμους καιρούς μας τὸ Πατρικὸ Χέρι τοῦ Θεοῦ δὲν ἔπαυσε νὰ βοηθεῖ καὶ νὰ κατευθύνει τὸ Λαό μας!
Μεταλληνός Γεώργιος (Πρεσβύτερος)