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The Orthodox Ethos Podcast
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Episode 18
July 3rd, 2020

The Role of the Spiritual Father in the Current Crisis: Interview with Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis

The second part of our four-part discussion (2/4) with Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis, given on May 8th, on the need to find, have and come under the direction of a spiritual father.

Archimandrite Fr. Savas Agioreitis began his monastic life in the Holy Kelli of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Kerasia on Mt. Athos. He is also a graduate of the School of Dentistry and the School of Theology, at the University of Thessaloníki, where he completed his Masters Degree with Professor Demetrios Tselengides. Today, Fr. Savas is the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the Diocese of Edessa, in northern Greece. Fr. Savas works tirelessly teaching and guiding the faithful not only in his diocese or in Greece, but, indeed, through the online homilies and lectures, the world over, wherever the rational sheep of Christ are thirsting for the Word of God and the Gospel. 

In addition to nearly daily homilies during Divine Liturgy, which are uploaded to the internet, now numbering in the many hundreds if not thousands, Fr. Savas is also a prolific author, penning more than 11 books. 
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00:37 - Question 1: The Responsibilities of the Faithful  
02:39 - Criterion given by St. Symeon the New Theologian - The Apostolic Life
05:03 - The criterion is not that the priest, bishop or even Synod said it...
05:45 - Question 2: Should I choose a Spiritual Father even if he lives hours away...by plane?
07:28 - There will come a time when you will travel hundreds of miles to find a priest...
08:16 - The Spiritual Father is a priest who has been purified and reached illumination
10:33 - Question 3: What happens when a Spritual Father does not direct properly?
12:18 - Question 4: How can the faithful discern whether or not he is being guided properly?
14:13 - Illumination means the Noetic Prayer exists in the Spiritual Father
14:55 - Examples of Spiritual Malpractice by Quack Spiritual Fathers
17:10 - Examples of those coming to Confession without Repentance
18:09 - A Spiritual Father must reach the level of Noetic Prayer
21:50 - Question 5: What is Repentance?: To Move the Nous to the Heart
23:12 - "Death came in through the Gates"
24:34 - Question 6: Can one see noetic prayer, or its fruits, in the Spiritual Father?
26:43 - Clear Criteria: Dogma and Ethos, the Truth, Way and Life
27:12 - His Spiritual Children are also a Criterion
29:00 - Question 7: If a priest does not confess the holiness of the Temple and Holy Things, should one avoid taking him as a Spiritual Father?
30:24 - The Holy Canons say the opposite of what many Bishops and Priests are saying today (with Covid-19 measures)
32:57 - We have lost the criteria today: even Patriarchs are succumbing to the spirit of Antichrist
34:16 - ΧΞΣτ (666) = (X) Christian (Ξ) Stranger to the (Στ) Cross
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A Four-Part Interview: 

1. In the first segment we will address the Temple and whether or not the faithful need to fear becoming sick therein. 

2. In this second segment, we address the all-important matter of having a spiritual father during these times of trouble and persecution. 

3. In the third segment, we discuss a wide-range of matters pertaining to how we must live in a spiritual manner in face of this great challenge to our Faith. 

4. And, in the fourth segment, we look at the challenge to the Orthodox Faith from contemporary Ceasaropapism and innovative ideas about the Holy Things in the Holy Temple. 

We are sure that these interviews, with the ever-vigilant Fr. Savas, offered with much love and sacrifice to you, the pious, zealous faithful, will undoubtedly be profitable and enlightening!  
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The Greek original: https://youtu.be/aOf-i2mJmqE

Utilize the Orthodox Ethos Podcast Interactive Transcripts!: 

-- https://oe-transcripts.now.sh

Transcript


Part Two of our discussion w/ Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis.

FULL VIDEO: Go to The Orthodox Ethos You Tube Channel.

Utilize the Orthodox Ethos Podcast Interactive Transcripts!: https://oe-transcripts.now.sh

For all who would like to economically support the work of The Orthodox Ethos, donations can be made via Paypal at the following link: paypal.me/FrPeterHeers

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The Importance of the Spiritual Father in the Current Crisis

Part Two of a Four-part Interview with Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis

INTRODUCTION

Archpriest Peter Heers: In today’s podcast of The Orthodox Ethos, we present the second of a four part interview with Fr Savas Agioritis on The Importance of the Spiritual Father in the Current Crisis.

INTERVIEW

Archpriest Peter Heers: In our previous discussion, we were talking about the responsibilities of the faithful to know their faith but also that with every difficulty in their life, that they should search to find out what the Church and the Holy Fathers say. Let’s begin there…

Archimandrite Savas Agioreitis: This is very basic/fundamental, that the faithful should know what they believe. To know the content of the faith, both the ethos and the dogma. Because ethics and ethos are both essential for one to have piety (ευσέβεια και ευλάβεια).

Piety means having the proper ethos and dogma which are irrevocably connected. If someone does not know, and of course, we can’t know everything, he needs to have a discerning spiritual father who has the discernment of spirit to know what comes from where. Which thought (λογισμός) comes from the Evil One, which comes from themselves, which are from God, so that he can properly guide the believer. And of course, to know what is sin and what is not sin, which unfortunately many faithful do not know, and therefore they need to find a spiritual guide who knows all this.

Therefore, this leads to a huge topic which is called ‘the choice of a proper spiritual guide.’ It’s a very important issue which I have touched on in most of the talks I’ve given on the Internet, about how the Holy Fathers give us guidance in this. How the believer should make proper spiritual prayers, with zealous (θερμή) spiritual prayer, that God will show him a spiritual guide and then to have the proper criteria in order to choose the right spiritual guide.

A basic criterion given by St Symeon the New Theologian is that the spiritual father lives the Apostolic life. The Holy Apostles, the disciples of our Christ, made up the first group, the first monastery on earth, we might say. They lived hesychastically. The Lord was in the place of the spiritual guide, the Elder, we might say, and they, the members of the monastic community. They lived in obedience, in poverty, in continuous worship and this life of the Apostles was continued by the first Christians.

For this reason, Fr John Romanides, of blessed memory, said that the first name for monastic life was the Apostolic life. Because the first monks cut themselves off from parishes after the persecutions had ended. And since they wanted to live Christian lives and not be secularized, they went out into the desert. From which came the first monasteries. So the first name for monastic life was the Apostolic life, which is an imitation of the life of the Apostles. And this life, the life of the Apostles and the first Christians is set down in Holy Scripture, in the Acts of the Apostles.

Now, a spiritual father must live this type of life, in other words, to live in poverty, free from the love of money, and in meekness, these are basic characteristics, and to have conquered anger, in other words, that is, the passions and desires, upon which are based fearsome passions. He must have eliminated as we said, these passions, anger, the love of money. And of course, he must lead a moral life, an ascetic life, to love silence, love living in solitude and love prayer… these are basic criteria by which we may judge whom to choose as a proper spiritual father.

Because not everybody who puts on a white coat is a good doctor. He might even be, forgive me, a butcher.

FR P: And like we search for a good doctor… we don’t say, it doesn’t matter.

FR S: …and that’s how we should search for the right spiritual father. And neither is it correct to say “a priest said it,” which I hear over and over from lay people. Which priest? Just because a priest said it? Or “ A bishop told me.” Which bishop? Or maybe even “a synod said it?” Because as we have said, there have been robber councils. The criterion is not that a priest said it, or a bishop, or even a synod, but that what was said is found in the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Canons of the church, and what is timeless throughout the entire 2000 year history of the Church.

FR P: I believe that there must be many converts who understand this very well, because they searched among the heterodox, some for years , reading a great many books, just so that they could arrive at the Orthodox Faith. They have experienced, with great difficulty, that the criteria are very important, the correct Faith and the correct Life. But they might come and say, “That’s well and good but we who live far away from monasteries or who live in a city where unfortunately there is little true Orthodox spiritual life. What can we do? What can we do since we have no access to such a spiritual father?” Is it preferable for them once a year to go by plane to the other end of America so that even in this way, they can have a spiritual father, so that they can confess in other words, is it practical? How can they struggle with this? Because there are few ascetics.

FR S: I would say that first, we should choose, we should find him, because that of itself is difficult in our days, and having found him, then certainly we should travel miles (km), many miles to go to make confession to him.

Now for sure, from what I know, by oikonomia and when there is a great need, this can take place with the means we have, contemporary means, by telephone, with a message and what not. We can ask God, because the Grace of God is not limited by distances as St Porphyrios says… and from what I know, St Porphyrios did this. He would confess people by telephone and he had a very good telephone for its time, and he spoke with everyone and helped many people this way.

But to go physically, to make the effort, has been told to us by St Kosmas Aitolos who said, there will come a time when you will have to travel miles (km), hundreds of miles (km) just to find a priest. What does this mean, that there will be no priests? There will be priests. But they won’t be true/proper (σωστοί) priests. They won’t be able to heal you.

And that is the great problem, for when the priest himself does not live the Apostolic life, in other words, ascetically, hesychastically, with fasting, with struggle against the passions, he cannot heal you. Because he will make his own passions allowable/lawful to others, to his spiritual children. He will say, “it doesn’t matter,” he will not give the proper guidance, since he himself will not have lived the therapeutic/healing path.

It is assumed, according to the Canons of the Church, that the spiritual father is, of course, a priest, that he has passed the stage of purification which corresponds to the deacon, and has reached enlightenment/illumination, the three stages of the spiritual life, which I would say are purification, illumination, and theosis, according to the Holy Fathers.

The deacon, to be a true deacon, will have had to have begun purification and have had to have advanced enough so as to have been essentially purified from his passions. It is a given that someone cannot become a deacon if he has committed basic sins which are an obstacle to the priesthood, sins such as carnal sins, murder, fornication, divorce, theft…weighty sins that the hierarchs recognize as obstacles to priestly ordination. Unfortunately, we have in our days this phenomenon, of hierarchs who do not closely examine candidates for priesthood, such that they ordain men who have these obstacles for priesthood, which would otherwise not allow them to be ordained.

We know from the praxis of the Church that a hierarch is obligated to make an announcement in the community of the man whom he is going to ordained< several months in advance, so as to inform the flock, such that whoever has an objection to such an ordination, can make it known to the bishop, so that he will not lay hands on an unworthy man. Of course, this is a great sin, first for the hierarch who would ordain an unworthy man, and naturally for him who would unworthily become a priest.

Because someone who has fallen into grave sin may become a saint, but he cannot become a priest. As St Paisios would say, so beautifully, ‘you cannot offer hospitality to someone visiting your home with a glass that is broken and glued back together.’ You will select the best glass for them. And how much more so for God to whom we offer a vessel. The priest is a vessel offered to God, that is dedicated to God. That vessel cannot be cracked, cannot be broken and glued back together.

Fr P: Therefore, the presuppositions, as I understand you, for the believer, whether layman or even clergyman (for he also is seeking a spiritual father, since everyone is in need of a spiritual father (he must have a spiritual father in order to be ordained)) - for those outside of Greece many times are not at peace and don’t have a spiritual father who can guide them properly - it is understood that one searching for a spiritual father will have a correct Orthodox perspective and will search with Orthodox criteria (Patristic criteria) so that they can find a spiritual father. Beyond that, what happens when the spiritual father does not direct someone properly, does not offer proper guidance?

FR S: If he does not guide them properly, they themselves will sense it first because that is one of the criteria. Just like when we go to the doctor when we have a fever or cough, have different symptoms which are bothering us, and the doctor gives us medicine. He gives us a certain regimen, certain instructions. And if his instructions are proper, we will see the symptoms clearing up quickly. And we will find that our health is returning.

It is the same way in the spiritual life. You can make a choice and then afterwards as you go along, you will see that this man is not healing you. He has told you certain things to do, you tried to do them, but you do not see a result. Maybe the ‘medicines’ are the wrong ones? Maybe this man is not a proper doctor? You must be concerned. Therefore, one additional criterion would be the personal experience that you have with the spiritual father. One-two-three times, you will realize how things are going, if one’s spiritual fever is falling or not…

FR P: How can the believer, the faithful, discern this? From his conscience or from heaven-sent enlightenment (πληροφορία)?

FR S: Both from God’s enlightenment (πληροφορία) and from the feeling of peace. Because from the moment one begins to be healed, and repents truly, when one makes the correct, we might say, therapeutic actions, he begins to feel the grace of the Holy Spirit… and the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22). In other words, if the spiritual father does not already have them, how can he help those who confess to him to acquire them? This then, is a basic criterion.

And yet another criterion, staying with the criteria of selection, which is fundamental, is seeing what kind of spiritual children this spiritual father has… if his spiritual children are healed or not. Because you can tell a good doctor from whether he is able to heal, and whom he has healed. It is an indication, and so there is yet another criterion. Whom does he have as his spiritual children, and if these spiritual children live with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, and peace. This is a basic criterion. All this will help us to choose our spiritual guide, which is fundamental. It’s like people who go to a jungle and want to make their own way through it. They will never make it unless they have a local guide who knows the paths, knows where the wild beasts are, and all the dangerous places.

Therefore we find a spiritual guide, or rather, he takes us by the hand, and guides us along that same road that supposedly he has passed himself. Meaning that he has passed through purification, that is what it means to be a spiritual father, and has advanced from the stage of the deacon to reach illumination (φώτισμος), which is the second stage of the spiritual life. And that is something which is very specific. The Holy Fathers tell us what constitutes illumination.

Illumination means noetic prayer exists inside of the clergyman. And that he receives the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and by this light, is able to discern the spirits. If the does not possess this light of the Holy Spirit, he cannot guide properly. He cannot heal. For this reason unfortunately, we hear about things that make one say, these men are not spiritual healers, they are spiritual murderers.

People come to me and tell me what the supposed spiritual father said and I am horrified. Unfortunate, but true. I have experienced this, and compelled to say it.

That man is not a spiritual father who would say to a couple, it doesn’t concern me what you do in your bedroom, do what you wish. Since you are married, everything is permitted, meaning all those perversions which today are considered natural and acceptable. Frightful sins. The Holy Canons say that someone who will repent, who will stop them (such sins), must wait for years to receive Holy Communion so that he can be cleansed, as a penance, as a time for the restoration of health, because this is an issue. These penances are not punishments. God does not punish, people punish themselves, as St. Porphyrios says, by choosing the Devil instead of God. And thus the Devil makes you suffer.

But there are some who say, that doesn’t matter to me, go ahead and receive Communion. I compare such a man with a coach who is working with an athlete with a serious injury. He has broken a hand or a foot, or his head or what not. He’s in the ICU, all beat up, and the coach tells him, “Get up, I will give you some injections, some hormones, so that you can run the 100 meters in the games.” That athlete will break into pieces. There’s not a chance now that he can run the 100 meters, he will die.

Or like someone who has gastric bleeding and his stomach cannot tolerate, not just meat, but anything at all, he’s on IVs. And along comes a doctor, a charlatan, who says, “No, you should eat everything.” Such a man is a murderer. Because for this sick man to eat meat, for example, he will die.

It is the same in the spiritual life. For this reason, the Holy Fathers tell us that a certain period of time is required ~ not to punish us ~ but for us to be prepared in both spirit and body, so that we are able to receive grace, to eat spiritual meat, which is Holy Communion. Until then, a therapeutic regiment is required so that the person can come to his senses himself.

Indeed, some people come and tell you some very heavy sins, and often they smile while they’re saying them. And you say to yourself, ‘this person has no repentance.’ And they say, ‘I have done this or that, haha, just like everybody else,’ so you end up asking yourself, is it possible that this person has repented?

FR P: He doesn’t know Christ.

FR S: He doesn’t know anything. He might sit back with his legs crossed one over another as if he is at a psychologist, and if you don’t say anything, he doesn’t know he needs to sit up.

FR P: In other words, he’s untroubled, relaxed.

FR S: Yes, he’s relaxed and has come to chat, so to speak, to find psychological support and unfortunately, certain spiritual fathers play that role for them. And later on, of course, they send their spiritual children to…

FR P: They want to be liked by people…

FR S: …they want to be liked, and later on, they send their spiritual children to psychologists. The spiritual fathers themselves do this. If Christ Himself cannot heal the soul, Father, a psychologist or a psychiatrist will do it?

FR P: You said something in the beginning, that the spiritual father should have reached the level of noetic prayer. Please tell us a bit more about that because it is very important, since most people don’t even know what that means. Outside of Greece, in the States, for example, I am not sure how much it is taught. Yes, perhaps they have heard about it, but tell us, briefly, what is the essence of what the spiritual father must do to be in noetic prayer?

FR S: It means that communion of the heart with Christ, with God, has been re-established. Our heart is the center where the soul resides. Our soul has essence and energy, say the Fathers. The essence of the soul is not immaterial (άυλος), say the Fathers, it is spiritual but it is not immaterial (άυλος). And the angels are not immaterial (άυλος). They have a certain essence. As do the demons, of course.

Only God is perfectly immaterial (άυλος) and we don’t know what God is, in His essence (ουσία). He is totally other and about His essence (ουσία), we can say nothing. So our soul has a substance (ουσία) that the Fathers tell us is in the heart.

Now the energy of the soul, what we also call noetic energy, has separated from the substance (ουσία) because we live in sin. And as St Basil the Great says, “(the soul) is scattered through the senses among created things and the human is split up and in darkness.”

FR P: … like the Prodigal, was there among the pigs…

FR S: …like the Prodigal. And a person’s attention, instead of being focused on his heart, on himself, on God, and through itself to ascend to God, it dwells among created things; he has substituted created things for God, and communion with God. He becomes an idolater, in essence, who worships created things instead of the true God.

And thus, the various passions arise. We have the love of money and for that person, his god is money. We have sensuality, such that for that person, his god is bodily pleasure and carnal passions, and we have vainglorious ambition for whom his god is the praise of people, the ‘well done, well done’ of people. These are the fundamental passions.

FR P: He lives outside himself.

FR S: …outside himself, just like the Prodigal, and he must come to himself, to his senses as our Lord says, “and when he came to his senses…he said, I will go back to my father.” Noetic energy must come…

FR P: …αυτογνωσία (self-awareness/self-knowledge)

FR S: …first come to its substance/essence, to find its substance which is in the heart, so that one can come to his senses. And afterwards, he will be able to say, I will go to the father.

FR P: Therefore, αυτογνωσία (self-awareness) must proceed the (θεογνωσία) knowledge of God.

FR S: And we can also say “self-visitation,” as the Fathers say. To come to our senses means to visit our home. We are Prodigals, away from our homes, we are out here and there with created things. We must return home like the Prodigal and then, through the noetic invocation of our Lord ~ “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” There is our home, in the heart. This is the great blessing of God. There is where the Grace of God resides which was placed there, freely given, at our baptism and chrismation. Especially at our chrismation which is the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This exists in the heart.

When the nous, in other words, the noetic energy, which is scattered among created things, returns to its essence, to the heart, and works in synergy with the divine grace which exists there and unites with it, it is that which we say is man finding God.

FR P: It happens in repentance.

FR S: In repentance, yes. Noetic prayer, the first uncreated light which someone sees, the light of God, in other words, is repentance.

FR P: And that’s why the Lord starts from there. And this is the beginning of a lifetime of repentance; it never ends.

FR S: That is repentance. It is the movement of the nous, as the word says in the Greek root words of our language, the most beautiful and most important language, μετακινώ τον νου, ‘I move my nous’ in other words. I take it from vain things, created things, in which it is spread out, and I bring it back to where it needs to be, to its home, to the heart, to the essence, to where the soul is, and through the unity with the Grace of God, a person is illumined and experiences theosis. He is purified, illumined and is made god by grace (θεώνεται).

Again, purification is itself a work of the Holy Spirit. A person cannot do it by himself. A person can only make that initial movement, have that initial goodwill, volition, which we call προαίρεση….that initial will which we call προαίρεση to move towards God. And this we call repentance.

So, he moves toward God, how? First by visiting himself, by coming into the self-consciousness, the self-realization that he is a sinner…

FR P: One indication that a person is on the path to repentance is when he begins to turn away and reject all of the distractions…

FR S: …the pigs, the swine, like the Prodigal…

FR P: …he begins to throw it all out, whatever is a distraction from God…

FR S: …all the unnecessary things, the unclean things, the sinful things…which primarily invade us through the senses. The eyes, the ears, and through other senses, and through the tongue, meaning the words we speak. That which the Holy Scriptures say, “Death came in through the gates” (Jeremiah 9:21). The gates are the doors and windows of the soul. Death gains entrance through the gates, through the senses, and a person needs to erect a barrier.

For example, in our time, we have the internet, which in an enormous encyclopedia, and for those who have self-control, it can be very useful because you can find there much information. But for those who do not have self-control, it can become a source of fornication for the eyes and a source of pollution. And as the Devil said through someone who was demon-possessed, “I have polluted all of mankind by means of the internet.” The Devil himself admits it. He boasts of it.

FR P: Can we go back a bit, before we finish this segment of the podcast. Noetic prayer is a pre-requisite for a spiritual father. The laymen, the faithful, are searching for a spiritual father: how does he realize that one has noetic prayer? Is that able to be seen clearly? In its fruits?

FR S: Look, noetic prayer is not autonomous, it is part of one’s entire life. Someone cannot hang out in clubs, with a whiskey and a cigarette in hand, and be holding a prayer rope.

FR P: The commandments of the Lord are observed.

FR S: Exactly, it’s all together as a package. Such a man will be apparent by his whole presence, from his words, and from his deeds. When a spiritual father says, “Eh, the papists are also the Church,” that alone is enough to make you run, to get away from there, 200 km. Look, you don’t need to look for anything else, because you can realize that this man does not believe correctly. (ορθοδοξεί). He does not have the correct belief (ορθή δόξα), the proper belief about God. Therefore, automatically he is ruled out, you needn’t search for anything else. Externally, he may seem to be ascetic, just as was Arius. Arius was an very ascetic priest but he reviled Christ. He said that He was created, you understand? Therefore, as Christ said, “Judge with righteous judgement” (John 7:24)

FR P: And to say that the Papists are a church, the Body of Christ, Christ, is similar to the Arian view that says that Christ is created because the non-theanthropic “church,” the heresy, what is it? It is created. It is not Uncreated. It is a similarly grave deception. To say that the Body of Christ is heresy [an assembly proclaiming heretical teachings] means that this person does not discern Christ. Correct? He does not see Christ.

FR S: Yes, he does not see Christ. And since he has lost Christ, has lost God the Trinity, and thus he does not have the true God.

FR P: Therefore, we have clear criteria here with regard to the Faith, and he is thus excluded [as a potential spiritual father]. And, his way of life, if in his life he does not keep the Commandments, he is also excluded. If he prays, and attends the services and prays the prayer rope… these are the signs.

FR S: Yes, and if he lives without amassing possessions, as we said, as the Holy Fathers lived, and when he has subdued his anger (θυμό), these are criteria given by St. Symeon the New Theologian.

If he has spiritual children who have been healed. Perhaps not all of them, because Judas was a spiritual child of Christ supposedly, but he was not healed. He did not want to be. But we should see that at least a majority of them are healed, which is also important. Truly healed spiritual children are obvious, those filled with grace, those with restraint, “sitting and clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15). Just like the man who was demon possessed. From the moment he was healed, he put on his clothes and sat at the feet of Christ… those who are healed are like that.

So that is also a criterion, how are the people who are gathered around the spiritual father. After this, you experience matters yourself. You apply the things he says to you…one, two, three times and you will see. Does the spiritual fever fall or not? In other words, do the passions fall away, do they become less? Do you begin to see the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Does anxiety depart from you?

Some people consider anxiety to be a natural condition, they say it’s not possible to live without anxiety. Do quarrels cease? Has your home stopped being a hell…with your spouse? Did peace come? Have the children calmed down? All these convince us that we are on the correct path towards being healed. And that we have the proper therapist. If none of this happens, and we are the same as before, or even worse, it indicates that need to change physicians… very simple, isn’t it?

Just as with bodily ailments, when the doctor gives you an antibiotic, in one-two-three days, you should see that you’re getting better. If you’re not improving, it means you need to change antibiotics, to change medicine. And if the new medicine given to you does not heal you, and you get worse, you should change doctors.

FR P: At this point, let me pose a difficult question…in the difficult days and circumstances in which we live… if a spiritual father, your spiritual father, or a priest someone is considering to ask to be their spiritual father, is pained by the current situation with the closed churches, but justifies it all; that is, he is troubled and anxious, as I suppose most priests are, as they hesitate to say anything against the status quo because they are afraid of judging the bishops, or they don’t want to speak out publicly because it will cause division. I imagine that many priests are in a very difficult position. However, after all is said and done - and here it will become apparent if he is someone I should have as my spiritual father - it is apparent that they have understood and confess that of which we spoke last time, namely, that the temple is a holy place, and the rest. In other words, at the end of the day, the spiritual father (or potential spiritual father) will express the Orthodox understanding. If, however, they do not end in confessing the Orthodox understanding, then we have a problem, is that correct?

FR S: Yes, absolutely. As we said, all these things that are being said are a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit…

FR P: In other words, that you might be infected by kissing the icons or the priest’s hand… all that we have discussed. These are erroneous ideas, because we don’t recognize that it is a place of Grace.

FR S: Exactly

FR P: Because they will be put in a difficult place. They will say to themselves, the priest, the spiritual father, I love him but he is telling me things I am struggling to understand. At this point it takes all of us, together, to help each other, so that we won’t be deceived.

FR S: Exactly. And we need, if nothing else, to object, to protest. To say, ‘that which you are telling us, Holy Hierarch, or Holy Members of the Synod, is not the testified by the Holy Fathers. Rather there is evidence of the opposite. Nowhere do the Holy Fathers tell us that there is a danger of infection from the reciprocal kiss on the cheek (“the kiss of peace”) or from venerating the Holy Icons. Quite the contrary, they have given us Holy Canons which excommunicate us when we don’t venerate the Holy Icons.

Or, take note of this here, we are excommunicated when we do not receive Communion when we are supposed to receive. There are canons - this is very important - which speak about those who simply go to church and don’t commune. And these people, say the Holy Canons, will have to give a defense as to why they did not commune. Because it says, since you were at the Divine Liturgy and did not commune, what were you doing? Your are creating disorder/confusion. The proper order of things is that being present at the Liturgy, we are supposed to commune. This is in the 8th and 9th Apostolic Canon, from the Apostles nearly 2000 years ago. And at the 2nd Council of Antioch it says that we should ask of the faithful the reason that they did not commune at the Divine Liturgy.

And yet today [with COVID] we have hierarchs who say that you are not allowed to commune. These men will be called to answer, severely, before God. How can you be an obstacle to people to commune? Since the people otherwise, will have to give an account for why they did not commune. And what should they say? That the hierarch would not let me? And thus, judgment falls on the hierarch.

“If the reason is justified,” say the Holy Canons, that is, for example, if the one who did not commune has a penance from his spiritual father because he has done something serious, and he has rule, a penance, or say, perhaps a woman is having the usual feminine issue and cannot commune, “then it is fine. It is forgiven.” But “if the reason is not justified, they are excommunicated because they have become a reason for harm to others and cause disorder.”

Today, from a lack of catechesis, we have reached a point where someone who receives Communion regularly is taunted by the people. And you hear laymen saying, “what do you think it is, soup, that you take Communion so frequently?” they say to each other. While the Holy Canons say the exact opposite. That whoever questions why they are communing frequently, he is the one who will have to give an account, because he doesn’t commune. This is a big problem and shows a tremendous lack of catechesis.

FR P: This, Communion has ceased to be a criterion of the ecclesiastical life…

FR S: We have lost the criteria - both the people and the clergy. It’s terrible. Therefore a basic criterion for a spiritual father is that he keeps the Holy Canons. Because today there are clergy, and hierarchs, and patriarchs, who say that the Holy Canons are “walls of shame” (τοίχοι του αίσχους) and that they must be removed. The Church must change in order to open itself to the world; they are saying, in other words, that the Church should become the world…

FR P: …which is the spirit of the Anti-Christ.

FR S: It is precisely the spirit of the Anti-Christ.

FR P: Secularization is the carpet rolled out before the Anti-Christ.

FR S: There is a lovely interpretation of that, the ΧΞΣΤ, the 666, which is the number and symbol of the Anti-Christ, the symbol of the Devil, used by the Satanists, etc which in Greek is written ΧΞΣΤ. The ΧΣΤ = Χριστιανός και Σταυρός (Christian and Cross) which is one interpretation. The Ξ = Ξένος (foreign/alien/stranger). Χριστιανός Ξένος Σταυρού (the Christian who is a stranger to the Cross). The worldly Christian who doesn’t want to bear a cross in his life. He wants everything to be easy and comfortable. There are priests who say this, they even write it, “don’t speak of repentance.” “Father, if we don’t speak about repentance, then about what will we speak?” “No, don’t speak about repentance.” And to see this written by a priest…

FR P: …because supposedly, this will drive away the people.

FR S: It isn’t pleasant to speak about repentance, in other words, to criticize another, that he’s not doing well in his life…

FR P: Perhaps these priests need to read the Gospel, because that’s how Christ begins His preaching.

FR S: This is all against the Gospel of Christ. But you see, to the worldly believer, such things sound very pleasant, and the priests that tell them this have a throng of people who follow them because it is easy and comfortable. But, what St Nikodemos says is true here, that such a spiritual father goes to hell along with his spiritual children. This is most frightful.

FR P: Κύριε ελέησον. Unfortunately, we need to stop here at this point. We will continue again and look at some other topics. Thank you Geronda.

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