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October 28, 2016

Alexandros Papadiamantis and Neo-Barlaamism

By Monk Moses the Athonite

By studying Papadiamantis’ work as a whole, we note that not only did he know to write, to describe, to give an account of the morals of the time, to criticize and to offer solutions, but he, himself, was also endowed with integrity, had chosen to lead a life of piety, of virtue and of honest work and virtuous chatter, a life with a course, a target, a discourse and value. Early on in his life, he had realized the vanity of the mundane and he was not afraid of death, for his faith was warm. He chose to live a simple, spartan, secluded life, quietly, peacefully and calmly. He did not become conceited; he chose to stand by the humble and the despised and he introduced them marvelously into his work.

Papadiamantis’ work preserves the pure piety of the people. The priests in his work are simple, poor, and even naive at times, but they feel with all their existence the mystery of the living God, the genuine Orthodox Christian way of living and liturgical tradition, even when they cannot express it. Being fully aware of their sinful nature, they never cease praying for mercy, life, peace and salvation for their flock, whom Christ Himself entrusted to them. They do not attempt “liturgical renewals”, for they are satisfied with the food offered by the existing genuine tradition, glorifying the Most High continuously and invoking His ineffable mercy.

Papadiamantis declared his faith strongly and undeniably in his characteristic way: “For as long as I live and breathe and have my logic, I will never cease singing hymns of worship to my Christ”. Sin pains him, the babylonianism of Athens grieves him, the gossip of his island about the ones led astray by sin tires him; however, he does not give up struggling, hoping, trusting God, presenting some of his heroes as saints: the childless Seraino of "Karahmeti’s Wedding", the simple shepherd in “Poor Saint”, the glorious new martyr in “The Widow of the New Martyr” and others.

We must not forget that Papadiamantis is the son of a devout priest, who is a follower of the genuine renewal Athonite movement of the revered Kollyvades. He is brought up with divine liturgies, sacred books, holy icons, inviolable Church traditions, with the nice customs and the excellent morals. He studied the fragrant biographies of the saints, the patristic and neptic texts, the amazing "Philokalia", the songs of the services. He was a reader and a chanter of the Church. All this knowledge made him go to Mount Athos in order to become a monk. However, after staying for less than a year at the Hermitage of the Annunciation of the Monastery of Xenophontos, he returned to the world, always feeling deep respect towards monastic life, especially the Athonite.

His ecclesiastical ethos make him feel no anger or fanaticism against the sinful heroes of his works, and all his fellow human beings in general. He hopes in repentance, he believes in God’s love, he considers that offering alms is preferable to justice. He loves focusing on repentance, not as a professional preacher but as a compassionate brother. Sympathy towards weak fellow human beings characterizes the real Christian, the evangelical man.

So Papadiamantis grew up with Byzantine psalmodies, pure candles and Athonite incense. Throughout his life, he remained attached to the Church. He believed in God strongly, he believed in the intercession of the saints and of the Holy Virgin, he believed in their miracles. His good cousin, Alexandros Moraitidis, tells us that when once Papadiamantis became well after a strong toothache, he wrote a whole service for Saint Antipas who is the patron of all those who suffer a toothache, to thank him. Papadiamantis was not a dreamer of the past, but an admirer of the truth which upheld generations upon generations, so that they created marvelous cultural works and an inspired upright way of living.

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