December 22, 2021

"When I Went to the Cave of Bethlehem, My Heart Broke There" (St. Ephraim of Katounakia)

By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

I remember the Elder, Saint Ephraim Katounakiotis, saying:

"I was moved everywhere in the Holy Land, but when I went to the Cave of Bethlehem, my heart broke there! It became a thousand pieces! And I said: how was God born in this place, in this cave, without consolation, cast out, outside of the city? This God, who could have done anything for Himself, and yet silently, away from all worldliness, in one night, the coldest night of the year, the longest night of the year, in a completely despised space, the One who created everything - heaven and earth - He was born in that space!

And when I came back to my cell and I went in and saw blankets (and what blankets did he have?) and I saw what I had, I was ashamed and said: if God was born in this cave, how can I use all these things?"

I saw pots, I saw kettles (of course if I describe his pots, even our dogs would not eat from them! And if I tell you about his bed, we would not put our pigs on there either!). And yet he considered this space, which was his own, as a luxury, an excess.

And since then, sometimes when I said to him: "Elder, your cell is small" he would say to me:

"God was born in a cave! If I think of the cave of God, well, what can I say about myself?"

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.