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February 15, 2017

The Prodigal Anarchist

By Fr. Christodoulos Bithas

Lefteris had stopped accompanying his mother to church, because he felt bored. He could not comprehend what value everything he heard had, although he had been sent for some years to catechism. It was made into a revolution to stop, and instead he coached basketball on Sunday. He could not understand what value it had in the life of a young person to encourage a lifestyle that he himself never saw as an example in anyone. As a teenager he was looking for something to make him live authentically, he wanted for someone to understand him instead of judge him, to protect him instead of wag the finger at him, to give him love instead of fake words of devotion. He wanted to see equality instead of oppression, to believe in an innovative idea instead of conservative, that gave rest instead of oppression, that liberated instead of limited. Without realizing it, he had a conflict of standards with his parents.

Whenever he was at a rock concert, he was ecstatic, beside himself, drunk with joy. "This is an authentic Liturgy," he would say enthusiastically to his friends. "Look, everyone is as if one body, one soul, we all sing together songs of love, letting off steam, not pretending, thirsting for truth. This is authentic 'communion' and not the dull one of the Church."

Slowly everything concerning God, politics, marriage and family provoked a reaction in Lefteris. All the pressure he felt turned to disgust and he had a strong intensity that he didn't know what to do with. Basketball couldn't calm him down. He began to lose interest, and with difficulty managed to read for his tutorial and school.

The fights for which school he would go to culminated in the tenth grade, which influenced his studies and raised his intensity. He felt his hands tremble many times, and decided to quit basketball. For the first time in his life he became entangled in fights at school. When he father blackmailed him that he would stop paying the conservatory if he didn't go through Pharmaceutical School, things reached their peak.

That year, like every year, he went with some classmates to the anniversary of the Polytechnic, and when the "traditional" episodes began, he did not leave as usual, but remained. Without much thought, he began throwing what he found in front of him at police, swearing and screaming.

Eventually, when the tear gas started, he put his scarf over his face to guard himself. Suddenly he felt like he belonged somewhere, to be one with all these guys wearing helmets, hoods and scarves over their faces. After many hours of guerilla warfare, he was found with others at Exarchia sitting in a hangout, participating in conversations. Some looked at him suspiciously since he appeared there for the first time, but a classmate scrambled to introduced him and now he felt part of the team. That night he didn't return home.

In the coming months the life of Lefteris changed dramatically, as well as his outfits and vocabulary. The disagreements with his father took another form, and once they came to blows that created a most stifling atmosphere at home. To national exams in May he went unprepared. No longer could he bear to live with his parents, and his soul darkened when he heard his father blame his mother for his "plight". He tried to rouse his sister Anneta to rebel, to convince her that she would languish there, that she would become spineless as their mother; however, he had his own path....

Lefteris lived in an uninhabited building in Exarchia with his girlfriend Katia and other "comrades in arms". There he felt like they were his family, they understood him, there he found a purpose to his existence and joy.... Anneta had not seen her brother for many years, believing that he was largely responsible for the pain in her family, and she says it was enough that she prayed for him. Every year on his name day she sent him a message with the wish: "May you live many years Eleutherios! Good Paradise!" This wish infuriated her brother, who sterotypically answered: "Here is paradise and here is hell!", instead of just saying thank you. One year on his birthday he received the message: "Brother, I pray God give you the sense to repent." Two days later she received a reply: "Woe and alas Scribes and Pharisees you hypocrites!"....

Lefteris was labelled an anarchist, and found himself several times in jail. One time there was an anti-terror raid for examination in a basement he rented behind the field of Areos. They didn't find anything.... What came to please him only had to do with art, and there only he found rest.

... Monk Moses, known as Lefteris in the world, remained the rest of his life on Mount Athos. Rarely did he go out into the world, except to meet his mother who was now divorced and lived quietly in her old age. His father never accepted him, even when he became a monk, for even this path seemed incomprehensible to him. As for his sister, she asked forgiveness for her stance, but never managed to communicate deeper, even though they communed of the same God.

Source: From the book Πέρα από τη χώρα της λύπης (Beyond the Land of Sorrow), εκδ. "Γρηγόρη", 2016 Athens. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.