September 28, 2021

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina on the Empirical Prerequisites of an Effective Preacher

 Then the Elder [Ieronymos] turned to his other visitor:

"How are you? How is the spiritual life going?"

"Thank God, Elder, I'm trying. I was recently assigned to preach and I do not know what to do. What do you advise me?"

"Let me tell you. If your life is such that it is in agreement with what you teach and you are an example, then take the assignment. The saints experienced what they wrote and taught. And those who write or speak for the Holy Fathers, must have a similar life. Preaching is good. The hare is not as afraid of the thunder of heaven as the devil is of the preaching of the apostles. However, you should only teach what you yourself do.

If you do not try sugar, can you say how sweet it is? Certainly not. Make sure you study a lot. And whatever spiritual book you read, think, 'Am I doing this?' If you do not do it, knowledge is of no use to you. Theology is not studied, it is experienced. Are you a theologian? Then you know letters. You do not have the fear of God? You only learned an art. There are theologians who have words but do not have God. Be sure to read daily, even one page, from the discourses of Abba Isaac the Syrian. After the Gospel he will be your guide. And when you have finished the whole book, start all over again."

"What other spiritual book should I read, Elder?"

"Abba Isaac."

"Okay, you told me about Abba Isaac. Do you have another book to recommend to me?"

"Abba Isaac. I am never satiated with the blessed one. If I could apply even ten percent of what he writes, I would be pleased. The other day a preacher came from Athens and when he saw the book I have [the Elder had the works of Abba Isaac in modern Greek translation, made by the monk Kallinikos Pantokratorinos] he said to me: 'This is not good, it is a translation, it does not offer like the original.' And I replied: 'Let me understand well and let me apply what is offered by this and it will be enough for me.'"
Source:  Πέτρου Μπότση, Γέροντας Ιερώνυμος, ο Ησυχαστής της Αίγινας, Αθήνα 1999. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.