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December 2, 2019

Interview with Father George Metallinos About Saint Porphyrios

K.I.: Father George, it is with great pleasure, that we'll hear you speak about, first, the personality of Elder Porphyrios, and then place that holy man, theologically and ecclesiastically.

Fr.G.M.: I would like to thank both you, Mr. Ioannides and the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, for giving me this opportunity to speak to your fellow Cypriots about this great man.

I will share some personal experiences with you that I can say were completely spontaneous. I must confess that although you informed me in plenty of time about this discussion, I avoided making any preparation, so that I could allow my heart to speak at this sacred moment.

Elder Porphyrios was truly a great Church figure, characterized mainly by his genuineness. His fame, that is, was not simply the fame of some of us, who are referred to as spiritual fathers, without, however, living up to the meaning of the word. I'm speaking in total seriousness.

When our Church says that someone is spiritual, it does not mean the intellectual, the person who has intellectual qualities or is very knowledgeable. In the language of Orthodoxy, it is a person who has the experience of the Holy Spirit within his heart. This is why I previously spoke about genuineness. Elder Porphyrios was truly foresighted because he had the grace of the Holy Spirit within him.

As far as Elder Porphyrios' ecclesiastical significance is concerned, I hasten to say that from the start, persons such as the holy Elder with the obvious gifts from the Holy Spirit which they possess (real gifts and not hypothetical ones), show us the continuity of our Orthodox Tradition. Orthodoxy is sustained by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Just as that great Father of our Church, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, said, "Wherever the grace of the Holy Spirit is seen and felt, there also is the Church."

This, then, is what Elder Porphyrios also proved, that the Orthodox Church continues. He proved the continuity of our tradition and that divine gifts are not only actions of God during the apostolic era, as some heretics believe, but they are a permanent vitality, a permanent movement within the historical evolution and tradition of Orthodoxy.

I'll give you three examples, that prove what I'm saying. To begin with, I'll put forth the case of a Czech clergyman whose name I don't wish to reveal without his approval.

When he came to Greece, he had two basic problems, one personal and one of an ecclesiastical nature. He spoke only German and asked me to accompany him to Elder Porphyrios. However, for reasons of, let us say, discretion, I had one of my German students go with him. After the introductions, Elder Porphyrios took his hand and with that well-known friendly and disarming smile he said to him, "My dear father, you have two problems which are troubling you." He continued to talk in Greek and the student translated. He showed him how to deal with one problem and how to solve the other. When the Czech returned to my house, he said to me: "I immediately felt the joints of my legs giving way and I was ready to kneel down, since it was the first time I understood what Orthodoxy means." This Czech priest was from a non-Orthodox background and he converted to Orthodoxy later. He thought that whatever he read in the sacred books of the Church was complete theory and somewhat mythical. "Now," he told me, "I have found the truth, God gives grace and that grace is in the Orthodox Church." Thus, this action of Elder Porphyrios, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, was strengthening for this brother of ours, in a troubled country, such as Czechoslovakia (because of the Unia and the threats of the Papists) today.

K.I.: Very Correct

Fr. G.M.: The second case that I'll mention is clearly personal. I had the blessing to meet Elder Porphyrios twice. Unfortunately in hindsight I realized what I missed, and now I'm sorry. I would have liked to have had many similar experiences, but maybe God allowed me to have only two experiences, that, on the other hand, will remain indelible in my life.

The first time I met him he was in bed, because he was sick. I approached him and asked for his blessing. He spoke to me with such sweetness and such humility, and with this I recognized his spirituality and his fatherliness.

His humbleness revealed itself mainly in the fact that he continuously presented my scholarly work, let us put it like that, in such a flattering way as if he wanted to strengthen me, to support me. In fact, he told me "I recommend (to others) your such-and-such work." Or, "You've also written about that subject." I found out that nobody had informed him about these works of mine. Yet, he knew everything that I had done. He then continued in a very natural way to refer to events in my life. He spoke about my family and he suggested ways of dealing with my children, of which the two oldest were then adolescents.

He specifically said to me, "Your first child, your daughter needs to be dealt with in this way while your second child needs to be dealt with in that way. Your youngest child, your young son, is still small and does not have problems." He had before him a picture of my whole family. Elder Porphyrios didn't do all these things to show off. They came to him spontaneously. These are the workings of saints in our Church. God contributed so that I could acquire this experience of grace that exists in these people. Along with his humbleness, something that everyone established, was the love he projected. Humility and love are genuine signs of holy fathers.

K.I.: "He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him," the Lord says in St. John's Gospel.

Fr. G.M.: Exactly

K.I.: You spoke, Fr. George, about the educational advice that Fr. Porphyrios gave you with regard to raising your children. Can you tell us in more detail how Elder Porphyrios confronted the issue of raising children?

Fr.G.M.: In principle it was this that I emphasized so much in my courses at the University as well as in my spiritual talks. It is not academic knowledge that makes a person an educator. It is first and foremost the grace of the Holy Spirit that strengthens and consolidates the knowledge we acquire with education. Many people have the impression that the contemporary priest must be educationally equipped. Our saints, like Elder Porphyrios, who had elements of holiness, come to show us that grace comes first and then education. For education to exist, it is not abolished by, but must be preceded by grace. An illiterate priest or monk who has the grace of the Holy Spirit is a thousand times better than a literate teacher who does not have grace.

Elder Porphyrios, during the time of our meeting, described both the character of my daughter and that of my eldest son. I felt myself falling from the clouds, because it was as if he had lived the life of my children as many years as I had lived it. He told me that I must deal with one of my children by praying a lot more. He specifically said to me about that child, "Whatever you would say to this child of yours, because of his reactionary character, say it to God. Kneel before God and through the grace of God, your words will be conveyed to your child."

About my other child, he said to me: "This child of yours listens to what you say, but be careful, he listens, but he easily forgets. Therefore, you will kneel and you will ask for God's grace again, so that your fatherly words will fall upon good soil and will be able to bear fruit."

K.I.: This is a striking educational method, Fr. George.

Fr.G.M.: Mr. loannides, you're a superb academic and you move easily in those circles. That is why I realize that you've quite correctly understood what Elder Porphyrios told me. Because in truth, what teacher could better grasp the pulse of things? And something else. The important thing, in both cases - and I can humbly ask this of every parent who's listening at this moment - is that he asked me to appeal to God. Both times for different things. That is, for one child to accept those things I tell him and for the other to remember my words and to keep them. This is wonderful.

And there is one more experience, Mr. loannides. One of my colleagues, a professor at Athens University Medical School, an exceptional friend, most spiritual and devout, came to me one day smiling, and said, "Fr. Porphyrios told me that you should not talk about him so much in your classes." Because, Mr. Ioannides, we also need to support our students and especially the students of the Theological School. This is why I frequently referred to Fr. Porphyrios' spiritual gifts. Elder Porphyrios had inside information as I saw it, about these things, I said, and he requested that I should not talk about him.

K.I.: From humbleness, that is.

Fr.G.M.: Yes.

K.I.: If you'll allow me Fr. George, what exactly do you say in your classes about the Elder Porphyrios?

Fr.G.M.: I will explain. The basic lesson that I teach at the University is, as you know, the interconnection of the various ideological currents of the East and West in the area of the Orthodox Church. I start from Scholasticism, and I conclude with Marxism, which is now becoming Marxism of the past. It may still exist as a disposition, but in reality socialism has dissolved.

Studying the interplay of the ideological currents, I confront based on the texts, based on the sources, the Orthodox presence in the historical time-frame. I want to basically show, of course, that which is natural and well-understood, the continuation of the Orthodox tradition, which is seen in the continuation of spirituality. We refer to the gifts of the Spirit that are presupposed by the cleansing of people's hearts from passions and from the thoughts of the intellect (nous). God sends His grace into the heart of man. This is why we have miracles that continue even today.

The question that the students ask is this, "Fine, gifts of the Spirit exist. Do we see them? Do we have any specific examples?" Then ouτ of necessity, I take refuge in Fr. Porphyrios, in Fr. Paisios, who is still living amongst us, and to a few monks, Athonite or not, who have these gifts.

I'm not promoting these people, but using an example that is known to everyone. Since everyone who has met them has experienced their divine gifts. Elder Porphyrios therefore said I could mention any one else only not to mention him. This is the admirable thing. He wanted to remain in the shadows, unknown. Because of my liturgical ministry I constantly have contact with people who have met Elder Porphyrios. This is why I have many examples regarding the grace that dwelt within him. I can say that in many instances they are quite typical. That is, by simply touching the hand of his visitor, Elder Porphyrios immediately received a revelation. He brought to light that particular person's problem and gave suitable guidance.

Certainly, no one should think that this holy person was a soothsayer or whatever else people who are not in Christ think. The grace of God informed him, just as it can me, you, and everyone else. The grace of God is directed at all of us. God is not partial - except for one presupposition; the cleansing (catharsis) of the heart, so that this grace can dwell within it. If God's grace is unable to touch our heart, we can't have these manifestations that we observe in people like Fr. Porphyrios.

K.I.: Taking for a moment the opposing position, I would like to ask you, Fr. George, what you have to say to the possible objections; to those, that is, who would maintain that these are all "fairy-tales" and the excesses of the faithful?

Fr.G.M.: I confess that I have encountered these situations. We must be honest and realistic. Two or three people came to me motivated, as I saw it, by personal and self-seeking reasons. One of them told me that this was magic. The other one said it was satanic, while yet another one said that it was all phony.

I answered them by saying that Elder Porphyrios' gifts were experienced by me personally. I always emphasize in situations like that, those things that have the greatest importance. Which is that these divine gifts come to Elder Porphyrios naturally and spontaneously, without any attempt at self-projection.

There is, you know, a text from the second century A.D. Well, in that text we read that miracles from God are those which do not come from self-projection, but from God's grace. And as you know, it is clearly spontaneous and unaffected and, at the same time, is related to the salvation and aiding of a particular person. It is not related to their complete domination, which is what the false faquirs and all the others like them do. Objections therefore do exist.

Let me also say this. Some Old Calendarists spoke against Fr. Porphyrios, because they wanted him to be on their side in respect to the old calendar. He advised that I give them my book "The Church." : a simple book that he however found significant. God gave me the blessing to have on this occasion the experience of a wonderful event that has a connection with Elder Porphyrios.

In Athens recently I met a certain monk from Mount Sinai, who is the classic ascetic figure. Well, this ascetic, with the simplicity of a small child and holiness that he had, I asked him about it. He explained to me that this happens for purely pastoral reasons, so that we will not lose our simple faithful.

He went on to defend the position that we must find ourselves within the unified Orthodox tradition again. He impressed upon me that it is a matter of pastoral policy and action and not a negative stance or the rejection of one side or the other.

K.I.: What else did he say to you about Elder Porphyrios?

Fr.G.M.: He expressed his wonder, his respect and his appreciation, and characterized Elder Porphyrios as one of the holiest figures of this past century in Greece.

K.I.: Fr. George, you're an expert theologian, and know many things.

Fr.G.M: That's what you say, but I thank you for your kindness, Mr. Ioannides.

K.I.: Since, you are, Fr. George, as I said an expert theologian, I would like to ask you what criteria does our Church use to determine the holiness of a man?

Fr.G.M.: I believe in the gifts that Elder Porphyrios acquired from God's grace, from our Holy Trinity, and for which I have offered my humble testimony. Without this meaning that my testimony has value. I'll explain why I say that.

The spiritual Christian determines and sees sanctity. He, in other words, who also has the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the second chapter of the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, he writes, "But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.' (l Cor. 2:15) That is to say, I do not know if another person has the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his heart. He, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sees what I have in my heart.

Spiritual people will, therefore, come, who truly have the grace of the Holy Spirit, and they will tell us what the truth is about Elder Porphyrios. Personally, I believe that it won't be different from what we have said up to now. It is not the opinions of the learned, the intellectuals that hold weight on the subject of sanctity. Worldly knowledge cannot verify sanctity, only the grace of the Holy Spirit. God does not allow sanctity to go unwitnessed. This is how it will be revealed to us in the case of Fr. Porphyrios, with wonderful evidence. As it's always revealed, if a particular person is a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, and worthy of the honors of sainthood. This happened with St. Spyridon, St. Gerasimos, St. Dionysios and with all the other saints.

Incorrupt relics, fragrant relics, even if they are not incorrupt, are adequate proofs from our Triune God, of the sanctity of a Church figure. This all comes about as God desires and as God ordains. These elements of holiness are given to us even from the period of the Turkish Occupation , great writers like Nektarios, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Eugenios Voulgaris, St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, all the Kollyvades, and others.

We, in Orthodoxy, do not have something like that which exists amongst the Papists, where the Pope together with a court gives his opinion. No, we don't have such scholastic monstrosities. God reveals, indicates the holiness of a person, and all of us, as an ecclesiastical body, with the pre-eminence of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, recognize this sanctity that God has revealed to us.

At this point, I have to recommend a book written by the Patrology professor at the Theological School of Athens University, Mr. Stylianos Papadopoulos, which deals with the subject of the proclamation of saints in the Orthodox Church.

Also, I would like to, if I may, mention my work "Holiness Witnessed." The sole reason for suggesting it is because it has been published in the Church of Cyprus periodical "The Apostle Barnabas," and therefore is more accessible to your fellow Cypriots.

K.I.: Fr. George, we hear on occasion certain whisperings from lay-people and even from the clergy against, as they call it, the phenomenon of "Elder-worship." How do you respond to that?

Fr.G.M.: Firstly, I do not even like the term. We worship only one God in Trinity, and we honor his saints. "Wondrous is God in His saints." Our Church has proven saints, God-bearers; those, that is, who have reached theosis.

I would like to briefly mention the witness of that great Kephallonian fighter for 19th Century Orthodoxy, Kosmas Flamiatos. He was a great spiritual man. This great lay theologian emphasizes quite properly a great danger, the danger of losing the essence of the truly spiritual man, the true elder. An elder is that person who has the grace of the Holy Spirit and can direct us in the will of God so that we too can achieve the cleansing (catharsis) of the heart and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which leads to theosis.

Unfortunately, we are people, I use the first person plural with all honesty, who accept the title of elder or we present ourselves as elders without having spiritual gifts; without having the actual experience of spiritual life. Quite often we become murderers of souls. You'll most likely ask me "Don't criteria exist? Do you terrify all the faithful, Fr.George?"

No. I believe that there are many Elders with the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the humbleness and in the love which they have, the grace that they bear is visible and perceptible. What, if you'll allow me, is the criterion of a true Elder?

The criterion is that they do not project their own will but the will of God: this appears in the Holy Scriptures, in the Fathers, in the Synods, and in the unique and living tradition of the Church. For this reason I stress and say many times that I'm not a spiritual father because I have not reached that state of illumination.

On the other hand, since I have the grace of God in the priesthood, I'm obliged to become a spiritual father for those who seek my guidance. How? Teaching - this is why I studied and I continue to study the tradition of the Church.

Because whoever puts forth the tradition of our saints, even if they have not reached the state of spiritual illumination, even being incomplete and unworthy through the grace of God, becomes a spiritual father. This happens through reflection and participation, since he doesn't teach his own things but the teaching of the saints of our tradition.

The person who is not a true spiritual father is that person who occupies himself with things that project his own sinful will.

K.I.: From my personal experience with Elder Porphyrios, the Apostle Paul's saying, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise...' 2 Cor. 1:27) was confirmed for me. I always felt that Elder Porphyrios was a child, an infant of God. In addition to his holiness I felt his child-likeness overwhelming me, just like I felt with Elder Sophrony in Essex.

Fr.G.M.: Bravo!

K.I.: What can we say about these children of the Kingdom?

Fr.G.ML: That simplicity, that child-like innocence is the return to the paradisaical state and constitutes evidence of sanctity in those who are indeed spiritual.

It is exactly this end to which the whole monastic state looks, "reforming the ancient beauty." As our Lord said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:32)

You will be moved when I tell you about both older and younger spiritual fathers of known holiness, who say that when holiness ceases in the world, the world will be destroyed because it will be worthless. Our world was created in order to guide us to sanctification and theosis. For non-rational nature to be led to sanctification. For rational nature, which is Man, to be led to theosis. Since the theosis of Man and the sanctification of Nature is the purpose of the world's existence, if this world ceases to have saints, and if the tradition of holiness stops and the realization of holiness doesn't exist, then as our saints say, the world will be worthless.

These people, then, like Elder Porphyrios, who return to the pre-fallen state, to the paradisaical condition and have the ability again through the grace of God, to advance towards theosis, are an indication of the continuation of the tradition of holiness and of the purity of our Church.

Elder Porphyrios comes to prove to us the reality of life in the Church. He proves to us that Man acquires holiness with God's grace and personal struggle.

If we think then that the sole purpose of our life, the reason for which we exist, is to be directed to the illumination of the Holy Spirit and theosis, then we will understand how vivid Elder Porphyrios' example should be in our memory. Let us pray to God to place him in the land of the living, in a land of saints. An event of which we're certain. Let us ask for Elder Porphyrios' prayer in our own spiritual struggle so that we walk along the same road, the road of the saints, the road of Orthodoxy.

Source: From the book ELDER PORPHYRIOS: Testimonies and Experiences.