January 13, 2011

God Allows Even Holy Elders To Have Blind Spots

Often one will come across holy elders either on Mount Athos or elsewhere whose views on political or social issues will seem unenlightened, perhaps even having nationalistic tendencies or conspiratorial tones. Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, who had Athonite roots and was a disciple of holy elders such as Elder Paisios, was specifically asked about this and gave an answer worth sharing.

Question: "How come there are such glaring blind spots in the development of people whom large numbers of devotees consider paragons of spiritual attainment?"

Answer: "This is of course a problem that troubles me personally. However, you must keep in mind that to be considered a holy elder does not imply that you are perfect. Spiritual elders are not infallible. Nobody is. There could be areas in their lives that may remain underdeveloped.

That's why people must develop critical discernment when they embark on a spiritual path. You must also keep in mind, however, that such a shortcoming on the part of an elder does not imply that he is prevented from attaining salvation.

The measure of his holiness is the depth of his metanoia [repentance] and humility, not his knowledge about world events or the advocacy of the right political ideology. He may be ignorant and misguided on many issues, but it is his humility that matters in the eyes of God. Do you see what I mean? God does allow for holy elders to have blind spots such as in the case of an elder who may have remained stranded in his nationalism."

Excerpted from Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides, pp. 128-129.

Read also:

A Question Regarding the So-Called "Prophecies" of Holy Elders

The Prophetic Elder Paisios and the Misuse of His Words