By Protopresbyter Fr. Nicholas Loudovikos
Once, when I was a young presbyter, it happened that while I was serving in certain villages outside of Thessaloniki, at the same time I was helping a very great theologian at the theological school.
What I experienced there, at the same time as I was writing my doctoral thesis at the theological school, was a terrible contrast. On the one hand, at the theological school I had contact with the great and paradoxical and obscure and deep matters of theology, and on the other hand I was a priest of ten villages to which I was assigned by my bishop then, with three or four villages in which I would go and preach. This is what I did then. I felt terrible loneliness, because no one understood me, or I thought they didn't understand me.
I would say five things, and I would see the people, well, they heard what they heard, then their heads would turn and bend, and their life went on as usual as if nothing happened. The loneliness was a heavy feeling, and I would think at the time what I was doing as a priest, and what would be the point of me going back on Sunday and speaking again to such and such a village. I couldn't do it. It was a difficult decision for me to go and speak. I believe the audience had the ability, but I learned a lot since then, so it was very difficult for me. So at one point the following miraculous event happened to me, and it was as if God was teaching me many things.
On one of these Sundays, the Divine Liturgy ended, and the priest told me, who was a simple priest, along with two very simple commissioners, illiterate men, "Let's go drink a coffee before you leave. Don't leave the way you are, okay?" As the Liturgy was ending, I was very sad and feeling very lonely. So we go and drink a coffee in the village square. As we were drinking our coffee, one of the commissioners turned to me and said:
"Well, Father, me and Mr. John over here (the other commissioner) had a question. Our church here is not consecrated so we were wondering: if it is not consecrated by the bishop, are the mysteries and the Divine Liturgy valid?"
I said to myself, "Oh boy, what is going on here?" Such a question made an impression on me.
"You know what we did, we decided to fast for three weeks, so God would show us. We did this, and one Sunday before the Bishop came to do his thing, we saw during the Divine Liturgy that light again."
I became concerned, and asked:
"Light? What light?"
"That light, the eternal light. The light you see after the sun that you think is darkness, which comes down and you see things, many things in there, situations, present, past and future."
I began to be moved, as I was communicating with people who had the experiences of Saint Gregory Palamas and Saint Symeon the New Theologian. The other man was giving his blessing, while the priest was saying "yes, yes".
It was a moving experience for me, and of course, he did not stop there, but I began to delve into this commissioner, this simple man, after I received a shock that accompanied me for years afterwards.
"How do you live?"
"Well, how do I live? Poor."
"What do you do? How do you spend your time? What do you do over the course of a day?"
"I do absolutely nothing, nothing special. I love God, but I have little patience. I have little patience."
He had patience. Do you know what patience means? Patience means the cross of freedom to embrace others. Therein is God revealed.
This is the great lesson: hesychasm is a living physiology. You theologians, do not think that hesychasm is an individual undertaking like the Hindus do or those who abolish their will to see spectacles. It is an openness to society, and in this great revelations take place, which I, of course, as a doctoral candidate, was not subsequently made worthy of, nor have I been since.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.