December 22, 2021

The Reaction of an Old Ascetic of Mount Athos Upon First Seeing Christmas Lights in Thessaloniki

 By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

When I was younger I was very skeptical about the way the Holy Days of Christmas are celebrated. And I can say that I criticized these things with the inexperience that characterized me. I said these are secular, they are not needed, why do they exist, they offer nothing, they lose the spiritual meaning, and everything else that is said that we often hear.

So once I accompanied an old man from Mount Athos because he needed to see a doctor. And because Christmas is celebrated on Mount Athos later on another date due to the Old Calendar, we happened to be in Thessaloniki on Christmas day. Thessaloniki, as in other cities, on the main streets of Egnatia, Tsimiski and others are filled with thousands of lamps, lights that adorn the streets.

This ascetic, the old man - who had not gone out into the world in many years - as he was walking around at night, he saw all that spectacle with the illumination and the lights and the lamps and began to weep and thank Christ and say:

"My Christ, all this is for you!"

I said to him: "My old man, these are all worldly things. Is this how Christmas is celebrated?"

He said to me: "Blessed one, for Christ all these things are done! If it were not Christmas would people put so many lamps in the streets? They put them for Christ, because it is Christmas and because they want to celebrate as they know how. This is why they filled the places with lamps and lights and it is for the love and for the glory of Christ that all these things are done."

And he was so overwhelmed and thrice-thankful and had such good thoughts for the people, who adorned and decorated their houses and their shop windows and their streets with so many lamps. Why did he not think that these are evil and worldly but said that these are done for the glory of our Christ - because it is Christmas! And if it were not for Christmas, these things would not have happened.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.