August 31, 2014

What I Looked For and Found in the Orthodox Church

By His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas
of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki

In the Church I met rare people, with virtue and authenticity, mature, cultured, true Christians, gentle souls. I met, dare I say, saints. I did not meet such people generally in my life. These Christians stood out differently from other people. I have to admit, I never saw signs or miracles. They were not needed.

For some reason though, I did not want my faith to be worn according to what existed, but I wanted it to develop. I did not want to be carried away either with rational arguments in its favor or the virtues of the faithful. Neither proofs nor indirect conclusions were needed. I did not make the mistake of looking for smart or educated people, nor the successful and good, nor strange events or imaginary gimmicks. I wanted to find it purely within me. Nowhere else. Even the holiness and goodness of Christians I only wanted a hint of or to be inspired by, but not to compel me to follow the path of faith and the Church. My faith in God should not be based on my trust in people. It should be its own voice within me.

I did not want to allow anyone or anything to rape me mentally. My faith in God would have worth only if I met it at the peak of my freedom. This freedom I recognized as the greatest gift I had. If God existed, He must have given it to me, not to be fooled by enjoying my transience, nor to get dizzy by my abilities or successes, but to come to know the truth and in its center to meet Him.

It is true that I was very much in pain. I wept silently. I did not want to get carried away. My attempt was a secret, it could not be communicated. My path was solitary, even though I was a little child. I had the feeling that if I shared it, no one would have understood me.

...This pain of seeking I could never share with the Christians I knew. They considered questioning to be a sin. They thought they were sure of everything, that there are answers for everything. This is how they were taught. They spoke of mystery as if they knew its secrets and details. Perhaps only they did. But this way they made it very logical, very small, stripped of its beauty and its mystical charm. They destroyed its hope. I did not want to imitate them. I envied the treasure I suspected they held, the quality of their character, but not their faith. It appeared wrong to me. They did not have the life I was looking for, the power I sought, the freedom I craved.

...In the Church I found the power hidden in the repentance of the sinner. And the mercy of God. I wanted to study the Thief of the Gospel, the Prostitute who anointed with myrrh, the Publican, the Prodigal, Peter not at the time of his confession, but when he "wept bitterly", the Paul torn by repentance. Martha who cared for many things and Thomas who wanted to touch immediately, they were human. They moved me much more than the great Fathers of the Church. The tears of the repentant moved me more than the thoughts of the theologians.

Source: From the book If Life Exists I Want to Live It. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.