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March 1, 2011

The Evangelical Preacher Who Slandered the Theotokos

From The Athonite Gerontikon:

1. At one time Father B. went to a village on business for his monastery. The villagers came to him as soon as he arrived, asking him persistently to help them defend the Truth before an Evangelical preacher who, using quotations from the Bible, was bothering them greatly with slanders regarding the veneration of saints and the Theotokos. The monk was simple and almost illiterate, and he felt awkward. But after he had thought for a while, recalling all he had frequently read about the saints and their lives, he invited the Protestant preacher to meet with him and proposed this:

"Let us light a fire," he said, "in the middle of the village square. Each one of us will go through it and let God prove this way which from among the two of us has the Truth."

Very early the next morning the villagers gathered wood and piled it up in a great heap in the middle of the square. Father B. arrived, but the preacher did not come. He had fled, taking the first boat out at daylight. The whole village raised cries of joy for the glorious victory over the teachings of human deceit. When Father B. returned to the monastery, the other monks asked him: "Were you prepared to go through the fire?"

"I was anxious, but I did not doubt our faith, and I thought: 'On this earth you deserve nothing but to be in hell. It would be better if you were burned here on earth than to be burning through eternity. Let us then enter into the fire'."

Thus did this deeply humble, simple monk defend our Faith — just as had the first martyrs and the church fathers before him.

2. Very often our youthful heart was refreshed by the cool fountain of teaching which flowed from the venerable Hieromonk Athanasios the Iviritan. He would so often say:

"The Protestant North, through the professors of our two Greek universities, cooled our warm affections toward our sweetest Mother the Panagia. Thus for a time she was distanced from our prayers as direct intercessor and mediator for us to her Son. Even some clergy when discussing prayer, ignore the Theotokos and repeatedly refer to her as the 'first after the One,' meaning that she is the intercessor closest to God — whereas the hymnography of the Church through and through calls her by her blessed name. It is unacceptable that our Greek Orthodox Church should be influenced by such a rationalistic, Germanic, Protestant spirit.

I was once asked which is the right way: to say 'Most Holy Theotokos save us,' or to say 'Most Holy Theotokos intercede for us.' This question was influenced by some modernized, Protestant-minded Orthodox people whom I have considered most disrespectful enemies of the Panagia. I replied to them: The accepted way, always, is to say 'Save us'."

3. A Lutheran minister from Oslo came to me once. He was a friend and student of Orthodoxy. We talked about many things. He asked me about the Theotokos. My reply to him was:

"We worship God, we honor the saints, and we venerate the only Mother of God with pure filial emotions, for she is our sweetest Mother by grace. Oh, how you are deprived," I told him, "because you do not venerate her who is the second after God to administer His gifts to all mankind."

4. According to Augustine, three things could not have been more perfectly created by our omnipotent God than these: the Incarnation, the Virgin, and the blessed life of the just in the life to come.