A Holy Man’s Christmas Card

nativity-icon-5Paraskevi, who out of sheer humility does not wish to reveal her full name, was among the first spiritual children of Elder Sophrony, during the time of her studies in England. She sent us a copy of two handwritten scripts by the blessed Elder.

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A good wish card which the blessed Elder sent during Christmas 1967, when Paraskevi was going through some difficult times because of the illness of a close relative.

christmas-card2

 The outside of the card

The Christmas wish card (handwritten):

Archimandrite Sophrony

The Old Rectroy,Tolleshent Knight

by Maldon, Essex

Christmass 1967,

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Dear beloved in Christ, Sister Paraskevi.

May the Lord’s grace and peace be abundant in you. Let me first wish you Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Paraskevi, has it ever happened to do something according to my blessing and it turned out harmful? Or has it happened that you did something according to your mind and not according to my humble advice that it was successful and in accordance with God’s providence? Therefore, now you must listen to me, the old fool, and do as I give you the blessing to do. The only beneficial way for you and your relatives is to finish your studies and work at the same time, as my monks do from morning till the evening. Get rid of any worry for X and your family.

The unworthy Arch. Sophrony.

You have the love of all who are at out monastery.

***

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Handwritten inscription by the Elder on the 15th August 1975, when he sent her his book, St Silouan the Athonite

On the book St Silouan the Athonite (handwritten):

To my beloved in Christ sister Paraskevi with warm wishes and love

Arch. Sophrony

15th August 1975

Printed in Caps:

Hailing from various countries

And retreating to the Mountain,

Among the holy fathers of Mount Athos,

Escaping the unnatural

And safeguarding the natural

Rising to that which is beyond nature

Again, by hand of Elder Sophrony:

From the Holy Spirit gashes out love, and without it no one is able to know God ‘as He must be known’.

E.S. p. 443

(Note: E.S. refer to Elder Silouan, not yet recognized as a Saint at the time)

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Do Not try. Give up. Be wrong.

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What Happens When the Orthodox Substitute Psychology for the Neptic Tradition of the Church

This is something of a follow up on a recent post. Here I will be simply listing quotes of Archimandrite Sophrony taken from the book, “I Know a Man in Christ”, by Metrtopolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, published by, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2015. Therefore at the end of each quote only a page number will be designated. In addition I will tack on an ending which I choose to refer to as “epilogue”.

Fr. Sophrony Sakharov aphorisms on psychology

People’s growing love of psychology is a terrible thing. Psychology helps those in the West, but it is dreadful when the Orthodox learn psychology and substitute it for the neptic tradition of the Church. We must undermine Orthodox Christians’ love of psychology, because psychological methodology is outside the Orthodox tradition and, at the same time, it is characterized by the Western mentality. (p.269)

The whole of the West was influenced by St. Augustine. Augustinian theory is rather psychological; it deals with God psychologically. In Greece today there is a noticeable trend towards psychology, which is why St. Augustine is studied so much. St. Augustine may be a saint, but his work is subject to much exploitation.(p.345)

There is a great difference between the Orthodox and Western traditions. Psychology is adjusted to the Western tradition, so it differs enormously from the Orthodox tradition. (p. 358)

I am sorry about those spiritual fathers who assert that the spiritual life is not enough and psychology is also necessary. (p.368)

Human psychology uses different anthropology. It is more or less heretical. It is dangerous. It is bad that it is used by spiritual fathers. To a certain extent it helps those who have no experience to understand other people, but it does harm. Spiritual things also have psychological repercussions, as can be seen when one looks at the Orthodox and the Latins. But psychological things are not spiritual as well. (p.364)

Psychology and the spiritual life have different starting points; their anthropology is different. However, we cannot overlook psychology, which mainly helps people who are atheists and do not want to use the hesychastic tradition of the Church. It is a remedy for people who are far from the living God and are in terrible torment. It should be used discreetly and wisely. Medication may help the body that has suffered serious harm from various problems, but the cure will come through man’s regeneration by the grace of God. The soul’s wounds are cured by means of prayer.(p. 227)

The view that everything psychological is also spiritual, and everything spiritual is also psychological is a deadly danger. It is very dangerous for us to regard people’s psychological problems as spiritual states. Such a view is a blasphemy against God. The exact opposite ought to happen, that is to say, we ought to make a distinction between spiritual life and psychological life. (p. 358)

In all our years in the Monastery here is England, I have never met anyone who was cured through psychoanalysis, although it is highly developed in Western societies, However, to be fair, neurologist and doctors who give drugs to patients are more humble than psychoanalysts, and they help people to become socially balanced. They also help those within the Church, when they have problems of a neurological nature for various reasons. (p. 358)

The observations of psychology with regard to human beings are significant, because they explain that beyond the rational faculty there is something more profound. Psychological analysis, however, is infantile compared with the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. Although the observations of psychology are significant, the therapeutic method that it offers is awful. Psychoanalysis does not cure man; rather it confuses him even more. (p. 358)

One ought not to ‘spy’ on oneself, but to have profound repentance. (p. 286)

There is a difference between psychology and life in Christ. Psychology attempts to deliver man from guilt complexes, whereas in life in Christ we experience grief, pain, on account of being far from God, and we do not stop repenting until this grief is transformed. (pp. 343-4)

Epilogue:
A priest who studied psychology in the 1980’s both read the former post and worked together with me on this in that he found the quotes listed above. As we discussed the subject at hand he made some interesting observations: “Psychology today, no longer has a guiding star; it has nothing outside itself to look to as a model. It is self-absorbed. Whatever pleases a person, he can do. It has acquired the ethic of the culture it exists in.”

Holy Mountain’s Secret Cry

 

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Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, Hierotheos, speaks on Mount Athos’ secret cry:  the Prayer of the Heart

 

As biological life is transmitted, so spiritual tradition is a whole life.

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A guide speaks theoretically, but the Fathers beget spiritually.

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The Holy Mountain is a living organism.

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May the Lord find us worthy to hear its secret cry!

*

Already in his youth, Metropolitan Hierotheos was particularly interested in the Fathers of the Church, working for a time in the monastery libraries of Mount Athos, on the recording of the codices. He was especially interested in the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas.

The influence of Fr. John Romanidis, the study of the patristic texts and particularly those of the hesychast Fathers of the Philokalia, many years of studying St. Gregory Palamas, association with the monks of the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos), and many years of pastoral experience, all brought him to the realisation that Orthodox theology is a science of the healing of man and that the neptic fathers can help the modern restless man who is disturbed by many internal and existential problems.

Within this framework he has written a multitude of books, the fruit of his pastoral work, among which is Orthodox Psychotherapy. Some of these books have been translated into various languages, such as English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. With these books he conveys the Orthodox spirit of the Philokalia to the restless and disturbed man of our time.

Books

 

 

Allowed to See

The Bible: the center of Theology of Father Symeon Krayiopoulos

The Bible: Father Symeon’s Kragiopoulos Centre of Theology

His discourse was also theological. He never ignored dogma, never indulged in moralizing, empty verbiage or flights of fancy. He spoke well, was comprehensible, and used theology, not as a system of knowledge, but as the essence of life, which imbues the whole of human existence. The centre of his theology was the Bible, which he knew in depth. His sermons were, at bottom, Biblical and he recommended that his ‘children’ read the Scriptures, and, indeed, he set a chapter of the New Testament to be read every day, by all of them. He immersed himself in the Scriptures, engaging with the text and enjoying the interpretational footnotes, both Patristic and modern.

We would often speak at length on the telephone about one passage or a single word.

His theological discourse wasn’t superficial. He knew theology in depth, he was up-to-date with theological bibliography and followed developments in academic theology. He was usually present at conferences of the Greek Society for Biblical Studies and took part in the discussions, reminding people, through what he said, that theology isn’t merely knowledge, but also an experience, without which knowledge ‘is puffed up’. And all the days of the conferences, when Fr. Symeon circulated as an ordinary member, he emanated the fragrance of Christ with his words, his smile and his presence. At one such conference in Cyprus, during a break, a professor from Thessaloniki approached a group of a few young people who were talking to Fr. Symeon and said: ‘Do you know what a blessing this moment is for you. In Thessaloniki we get to enjoy Fr. Symeon’s presence in drips and drabs. You’ve got him here when and for as long as you want’.

 

‘If you’re a theologian, you’ll pray properly; and,

if you pray properly, you’re a theologian’ (On Prayer 61)

 

His theological discourse was also niptic. He enjoyed the niptic fathers and imitated them in word and deed. The saying attributed to Saint Neilos: ‘If you’re a theologian, you’ll pray properly; and if you pray properly, you’re a theologian’ (On Prayer 61) was a rule of life. The silent assemblies, of which we spoke above, are a small example of his desire to teach the method of the prayer of the heart. And even if these silent assemblies have not been generally adopted as his vigils have, they were of great benefit, because the idea spread of using a prayer-rope and saying the Jesus prayer. Until then, it had been unknown to the wider public, neglected or held to be something that was appropriate only for monastics.

I realized just how much Fr. Symeon was imbued with the spirit of the prayer of the heart, how much he was himself niptic, from a long discussion we had as we were returning from a conference of the Greek Society for Biblical Studies on Patmos, the first of a series, at the end of September, 1975.

As we were sitting in the stern of the ship, in the moonlight, returning from the island of the Revelation, he showed himself to be a great niptic father, a holy teacher of the prayer of the heart. He was taken up, speaking from another world, and I tried to follow him, drinking in his words. We parted past midnight, with the feeling that we weren’t done with the subject. How could we be when ‘perfection is never-ending’?

Fr. Symeon never advertised his work. He never challenged anyone in his homilies. You learned about him from other people. I recommended his talks to someone and he said to me afterwards: ‘You mean there’s somebody like him in Thessaloniki and you didn’t tell me earlier?’

*

“I thank you, my Lord, that you allowed me to see what I am”

 

The Bible: the center of Theology of Father Symeon Krayiopoulos

 

I thank you, my LordThe event of salvation is conscious. We should know this and not fear it at all. Further, we should beg God to reveal our true selves to us. Then God will see that we accept this not with words, but in practice. Therefore, when at some point, either we make a mistake or something else happens, and God allows all of our wickedness, and our whole diseased and bleak inner state to be revealed, we need to accept it. We need even to be thankful, saying: “My God, such a thing I had awithin me and I didn’t recognize it! I thank you, my Lord, that you allowed me to see what I am”. 

You must see this and embrace it. Not in the sense that you will hang onto it, but in the sense that you will acknowledge that you are the one that has this within you. You ought to acknowledge it without wanting to blame and pass the responsibility to someone else and without averting your eyes as though not wanting to see it. Some men and women who work at lowly jobs, whatever happens, they stoop and patiently do the work completely. On the contrary, a person may be fragile or delicate, and supposedly ashamed, supposedly disgusted and supposedly isn’t able to do such work. If he does this work though, it will be incomplete. Here, though, in our own case, it’s necessary that we see our sin. We must see this thing that we hold onto as if we want it, and within which our soul has been sunk for an entire life. We must see it, must feel it. We must see how difficult it is, nearly impossible, to escape from this state.  Therefore, someone is completely convinced, and thinks: “It’s over. I’m going to perish”. This is Hades. Namely, someone sees that he is in Hades.

However, we know that we have a Saviour, we know that Christ came to earth. Then we start to understand what it means that he came to save us, and we run to the Saviour. We run to the Lord with pain, with prayer, with a cry, with faith, with hope and a firm conviction that the Lord will accept us and will save us. The Lord wants us to approach things exactly like this. This is not our own daring or our own boldness.  He wants us act just like that, to entrust ourselves in this way, and for this reason he gave us promises. So someone does this work, and little by little the decay of his soul, that lies in the subconscious and the unconscious, emerges.

How long will this last for? A lifetime. Until the end of our life, this is the work we have to do. But grace is involved. It also happens every so often that when you enter within yourself or when you give yourself to God, the decay you have within emerges on its own, and you see it whether you want to or not.

It is a bleak state, a filthy state, but grace is involved since in exactly this way you are redeemed, once and for all, and are saved. And it is through this that you are delivered from this state.

 *

Is our disposition such that the Lord is able  to be moved to compassion for us?

 The Bible: the center of Theology of Father Symeon Krayiopoulos

“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Then – as the Gospel passage tells us – since the multitude had followed him into the desert for many hours and were hungry, the Lord with five loaves and two fish, having blessed and multiplied them, fed five thousand men with twelve additional baskets taken up.

The compassion of Christ is not simply some sentimentality, but is a manifestation of His love toward His creation. God always loves the world, He loves every individual person, but for Him to be moved to compassion and to show it, it is also necessary for a person to be appropriately receptive to it.

It’s not enough to simply do some good works (to pray, to go to church, to study). Whatever we do we are sinners and unworthy of God. Consequently, we are unacceptable. All the same, we need to do these things precisely to show our good disposition, to show that we want to be saved, that we choose God, we seek Him, we love Him. But is not enough for these things to be done only because of habit.

That’s why it is good, wherever we find ourselves, to ask ourselves night and day whether our disposition is such that the Lord is able to be moved to compassion for us. It is not necessary for you to journey along many and distant roads, climbing and descending, in order to achieve this. God is the one who covers the distance that exists between us and Him.

All a person needs to do is one little thing, but a little thing which is great and which is everything: to humble himself, to repent, to have the fear of God within him, to not be puffed up, self-inflated, and conceited.

And then – O, the wonder! – God will be found wherever we are. Then irrespectively of how things arise in our lives, we will feel the compassion of God and see how God will provide all that our souls and bodies need. It is not difficult for God – not difficult even for God to heal you from sickness or to put in order other problems and situations in your life. He can take care of everything. But we need to adopt that disposition that will elicit His compassion toward us. (August 3rd, 2014)

 

Transcribed talks by Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

 From: Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications.

Translated by fr. Matthew Penney

 

(To be continued …)

 

For Fr. Symeon Kragiopoulos: The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – I, The Theologian and the ‘Liturgical’ Being (his famous church services and vigils), go here

For Fr. Symeon Kragiopoulos: The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – IIThe ‘Silent’ Assemblies of Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, (his famous silent sessions of the Jesus prayer), go here

For Fr Symeon Krayiopoulos: The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – III, A Servant of the Holy Mystery of Confession, go here …

A Servant of the Holy Mystery of Confession

 Father Symeon : A Servant of the Holy Mystery of Confession

Father Symeon : A Servant of the Holy Mystery of Confession

In confession, as in the whole of his everyday behaviour, Fr. Symeon was all love. Love overflowed from within him. He radiated love, not with words, nor with actions, but with his mere gaze, his smile, with a single word. He was formal, but not a slave to formalities. I remember one incident in particular. He’d given me the number of his personal telephone, the one in his room. I would usually phone him between 11-12 in the evening, which was the best time for him because, as he explained: ‘Now it’s the afternoon for me’.

We’d speak without restraints of time, but he would still be up in the morning for his rule. One evening, around midnight, the son of a friend of mine, a spiritual son of Fr. Symeon’s, who was studying abroad, telephoned me. He was very upset and asked for help with a really important problem which needed to be resolved immediately. I was in no position to advise him. Only the Elder could do so, but how? At that time of night nobody would have answered a telephone call to the monastery. I hesitated to give his confidential telephone number, because he’d told me not to give it to anyone at all. The case was such, however, that I decided that I’d just have to go against his instructions. So I gave it. And the boy was saved. The father saved his son.  The next day I asked forgiveness for the infraction, but he told me not to worry and that I’d done the right thing.

That was Father Symeon. A discerning, consoling and enlightened advisor to whom we had recourse and to whom we referred people with difficulties, so they could find refuge.

*

In his sermons, in his discussions, in confession, Fr. Symeon didn’t avoid taking a position on burning questions which others didn’t dare to touch on so as not to come into conflict with the prevailing, unhealthy atmosphere. Let me explain. There was at one time much ado generated over 666 and this was an issue that threw people into turmoil. Father Symeon did not leave his spiritual children in the dark over this. He clarified the issue in a series of talks, reassuring those who were worried. He did the same for bar codes and other similar issue which aggravated ill-informed believers. In general, he dealt with important ecclesiastical and theological issues with clear thinking, theological depth and knowledge of the Patristic tradition. And all of this with sobriety, without any spirit of contention.  If ever I wanted a second opinion on my own articles on Church matters, I would submit them to him and he would always make useful observations. For example, if I used acerbic language, he would suggest I tone it down.

In general, his discourse was prophetic. He did not ignore dogma, he was never restricted to dry moralizing, he used neither clichés nor soaring rhetoric. Well-grounded, comprehensible, he spoke in the name of God, telling the truth, castigating lies and thus bringing the faithful to his way of thinking. Listening to him, you felt that you were listening to the word of God, that his discourse was official, authentic and valid. He didn’t impose himself through human coercion, but spoke rather ‘in the Holy Spirit’. Without prevarication, he went straight to the heart of the matter and didn’t mince his words in order to please people. He told the truth of the Church, without pulling any punches, however hard this seemed to many people. He was a prophet in the Biblical sense, shaking people up to get them to cast off the fripperies with which their egotism had burdened them, so that they could see naked reality clearly.

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Pain is a shortcut to salvation

Father Symeon : A Servant of the Holy Mystery of Confession

It says in the Gerondikon: “In the morning you may be in hell and in the evening you can be in paradise”. What is meant is that in the morning man may have committed sins, but, as in the course of the day he came to his senses, showed reverence, repented and wept for his sins. As the sun sets, it is no big deal for God to place him in paradise. Things are easy and the road to salvation is short. We, by having the wrong attitude, make things hard and the road to salvation “un-short”.

Whatever your condition is, if you repent, God welcomes you and you are saved. All you need is to repent truly.

You may repent for something you have done, but you repent because your egoism has been hurt. You go to confession, for the one and only reason that your egoism has been wounded. Not because you have sinned in the eyes of God. You had a good impression of yourself. As you have sinned though, you can no longer have it. And that makes you suffer. This is not repentance, though.

*

(To be continued)

For Fr. Symeon Kragiopoulos: The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – IIThe ‘Silent’ Assemblies of Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, (his famous silent sessions of the Jesus prayer), go here

For Fr. Symeon Kragiopoulos: The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – I, The Theologian and the ‘Liturgical’ Being (his famous church services and vigils), go here

His ‘Silent’ Assemblies

Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, the Jesus Prayer and his ‘Silent’ Assemblies

As well as the liturgy and other services, Fr. Symeon also held ‘silent’ assemblies. No-one spoke. Or rather, no-one heard because everybody was speaking mystically to God, using a prayer-rope and saying the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me’. The church of Saint Athanasios was completely full. Everyone seated, heads bowed, holding a prayer-rope and seeking God’s mercy. These assemblies also lasted an hour. [Ed. In this, Elder Sophrony’s influence, fruit of Elder Symeon’s frequent visits to Essex Monastery and meetings with its abbot, cannot be exaggerated.]

Fr. Symeon laid great stress on sermons. He considered it as importance as a service, as indeed it is. The Word of God must first be received through the hearing, as the proclamation of the Gospel, so that people will believe and then receive Him as Holy Communion. The Elder spoke not only at the liturgy but on many other occasions as well. His discourse was always original. I asked him once: ‘How do you manage it? You’ve spoken for so many years and yet you don’t repeat yourself’. He laughed and I don’t remember his reply, but Fr. Symeon certainly spoke from his overflowing heart. His heart must have been overflowing, because he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to say new things all the time or he’d have addressed the brain rather than the heart. The Elder’s heart was always filled to overflowing because he nourished it continually with study, prayer and spiritual experiences. He told me once that, in confession, he heard problems that bothered a lot of people, but he didn’t have time to go into them in detail with each person. He spoke about them in his sermons. In the end, however, he always left the final word with God. ‘Let’s see what God will enlighten us to say today’, careful always that what he said was not his own words, but those of God.

Fr. Symeon’s sermons weren’t oratory. There were no well-turned phrases, rhetorical figures, great eloquence or any of the things that people admire in a fine speaker. His manner was simple, though he could be intense when the subject moved him to be. Fr. Symeon loved preaching. He went to great effort to get across to his audience not ideas but his very soul. A profound anatomist of the human soul, he analyzed issues clearly, as if he were holding a scalpel, cutting to the bone. He helped his listeners to understand the depths of their soul and brought them from there to repentance. Under his stole, they felt the love of God. And these souls multiplied when, on the initiative of the nuns of the monastery of The Birth of the Mother of God, in collaboration with other spiritual children of Fr. Symeon’s, his sermons began to be circulated more widely, first as recordings and then as a long series of volumes.

After services and preaching, the third main thrust of Fr. Symeon’s work was confession. What started with a few, later became a great number. How many days, and how many hours a day, do you need to confess a thousand, a thousand five hundred people? Where would they even have room to wait? The Elder found a solution. He gave out numbers.  He reckoned on seeing fifty a day. So, depending on the number they were given, each person knew which day, and roughly what time, the Elder would see them. Fr Symeon, closed all day within the confessional, would forget to eat, listening to the pain and shouldering the burden of the penitents. He gave remission, advice, directions, courage for the struggle and strength so that people could, by God’s grace, kill off their old self, so that new person could arise, walking in ‘the newness of life’.

In confession, he wasn’t a harsh judge. Nor was he a chastiser or punisher. You weren’t afraid, you didn’t despair. You felt he put himself in your position and understood you completely, was deeply empathetic and suffered with you. He was the doctor who cured you, the father who loved you, the friend who accompanied you. Confession wasn’t depressing, formal or legalistic. It happened once that we were together at a conference for confessors in the Monastery of the Comforter in Attica. Most of the time he listened without speaking. One spiritual guide asked him: ‘How is it, Father Symeon, that you have such success at confession?’. ‘I try to make sure’, he replied, ‘to be as low as possible, so that, however low people fall, I’ll be even lower and I’ll be there to catch them’. Wise words which embrace the whole meaning, the whole practice of the sacrament.

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The Myrrhbearing Women approach the Lord with the logic of the heart

Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, the Jesus Prayer and his ‘Silent’ Assemblies

The Myrrhbearing women, despite knowing they were unable to roll the stone from the tomb, they decided to.  And as a result of this, they were first both to see and to learn of the Resurrection of the Lord. Moved by love (the logic of the heart, as Pascal says) they desired with great boldness to go again to the tomb, to anoint Christ’s lifeless body with myrrh. And just like that, they neither thought of what would happen next, nor whether they’d be able to enter or not. Along the way, they said only this: “Who will roll away the stone for us?” Despite all this, they did not stop, nor did they turn back, but instead kept going. This wealth of the emotional world, the all-consuming love belonging to the female nature, is a good characteristic. However, one must not rely on this alone.

It is not enough for the inside of an automobile to have only the steering wheel: what is needed is the driving force. It is necessary, therefore, for man to reach that point where the world of his heart, that sentimental treasure, becomes one with his nous. And this, as the Fathers say, is something achieved by the Jesus prayer.With the Jesus prayer, the nous descends into the heart and man’s powers are made one (just as sin has brought the division of his powers). For this reason, a saint moves simply, as he has only a conscious mind –not a subconscious nor an unconscious.

Therefore, the Myrrhbearing Women were animated by a simple, humble method. Putting their nous in their hearts –burning with the love of God– they succeeded in approaching the Risen Christ, and naturally were made holy.

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Neptic ‘Psychotherapy’

The three levels of the soul

Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, the Jesus Prayer and his ‘Silent’ Assemblies

Conscious, subconscious, unconscious

The three levels of the soulAccording to what the expert scientists, the psychologists, say, our soul is divided into three levels. It is somewhat like an edifice which is filled with much unknown material.

The topmost part of the mind is the conscious, namely the part with which we understand ourselves.  This is where we become aware of our thoughts, our feelings, our entire disposition, and where we control and know these things. Beneath this level is the subconscious. The content of our subconscious is unknown. However, on occasion, because it is close to the conscious mind, it allows us to sense what it might contain.  Now and then, something springs from the subconscious and enters our conscious mind.

Even lower, in the deepest regions, or what we might call the basement of our soul, is the unconscious. The content of the unconscious is terra incognita, unknown land, and it is entirely unknowable to us. And so it is there, deep within us, that exist our personal experiences, our personal conditions. However, because these exist in the unconscious –in this dark basement- we neither know what exactly exists there nor can we control this content. According to the language of psychology, these experiences are repressed emotions and impulses that are pushed into the depths of the unconscious mind. According to the psychologists, this content of the unconscious gains autonomy and does whatever it wants. It doesn’t consider, nor does it ask, us.

That this is autonomic, all of us know. The moment you want to do the right thing, another power comes over you and forces you to do something else, something you don’t want to do, but which you do anyway.

Certainly these things were known to the fathers of the Church, and in particular the neptic fathers. For this reason, they preferred first that they themselves  –and later also advised others to –stay in the silence of the desert, and say the Jesus prayer (noetic prayer), trying to plummet the deepest depths of their souls, and in this way to start to know the content of the subconscious, and the unconscious,  in order to control it, and not allow it be autonomic and to do whatever it desired.

Because of this, a saint does not have a conscious, a subconscious, and an unconscious. The whole content of his soul is conscious. The saint controls it, and is not at the beck and call of repressed emotions and impulses.

We will see how man can become simple, and not be led blindly by the content which exists in the basement of his soul.

Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications.

Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

For The Portrait of a Spiritual Father – I, The Theologian and the ‘Liturgical’ Being (his famous church services and vigils), go to here

 (To be continued)

A Man of God

The Portrait of a Spiritual Father

A Man of God, Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, The Theologian and the 'Liturgical' Being

In Memoriam

+ Father Symeon Kragiopoulos

“It is with some trepidation that I set pen to paper to record -what? What can one write about a personality whose holiness and spiritual wisdom stretched over many decades, who was shepherd to thousands of souls, saving them from destruction and bringing them into ‘a place of verdure’? About the comforter, the advisor, the father, the refuge of every soul in pain and every confused thought? About the last person who walked and strove in the ascetic life with the holy fathers whom God was pleased to give our generation, those who died to live, because, in living they were dead to the world. ‘so that the world may live’ through Christ, to Whom he brought it through his way of life, his teaching and his prayers? What can one say about a man who rivalled Saint Païsios in his humility, Saint Porfyrios in his discernment, Father Sophrony in his wisdom and Elder Iakovos in his love?

Considering all the above, when I was asked by the spiritual children and heirs to the holy legacy of Elder Symeon to write something In Memoriam, I initially declined for fear that I would not be able to paint a proper picture of him in words, that I would diminish his spiritual stature by not being able to render, even faintly, what the late father really was. What only made me agree to write was the fact that I’d known him for almost half a century and that our relationship was not merely one of spiritual fatherhood, but also one of close friendship. So, with the proviso that I will mention only my personal experiences,  let me begin. (*)

A Man of God

In September of 1969, I’d just taken up a position at the University of Thessaloniki. I visited the Pournaras bookshop, which was at that time not merely a place for selling books but somewhere where colleagues could meet. It was a reference point, you might say. Browsing through the new books spread out on the counter, I heard someone ask Panayiotis Pournaras. ‘I’ve heard that there’s a new professor at the university. A Mister Galitis. Do you know him?’ I turned and saw a pleasant-looking figure, a priest with a red beard, a tranquil look about him, kindly eyes and a bright smile, just at the moment when Panayiotis was pointing to me, ready to make introductions. We chatted for a while and I was impressed by his interest in the new books and also by how well he was up in theological matters. He was following the current theological situation, which was hardly common among priests dedicated to their pastoral work.

I saw Fr. Symeon shortly afterwards at the headquarters of the Metropolis. He’d been appointed a member of the Supervisory Committee of the Seminary, where he’d been Director. The Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, a highly placed cleric, with all the exuberance he could command behaved towards Fr. Symeon with excessive familiarity, with his teasing and slightly ironic and disdainful manner, which made me, at least, feel awkward.  But Fr. Symeon was undisturbed and behaved like an ‘altar-boy’. He made an obeisance and remained silent. My discomfort then became admiration for the wonder of humility.

The Theologian and the ‘Liturgical’ Being

Fr. Symeon’s office in Saint Theodora’s was in the right wing, on the first floor. He asked me to visit him there, which I often did, most gladly. He came to my office, too, but not so often because he couldn’t leave the School much. I recall with nostalgia our long discussions on spiritual, theological and ecclesiastical matters. He was a profound anatomist of the soul and, at the same time, an erudite theologian with rare learning, which he was always trying to increase. He discussed well, had a clear mind, breadth of spirit and a particular sharpness. He would grasp a subject quickly and was comfortable even talking about secular education.

Later, he began vigils at Saint Theodora’s. At one of these he had the joy of tonsuring one of his spiritual children. Fr. Symeon was the person who introduced this new form of vigil, which did not last all night, but covered two or three hours before midnight, and about an hour after, with a half-hour homily. In this way, people who were working and couldn’t get to a liturgy in the morning and for whom an all-night vigil would have been too much had the chance to participate in liturgical life. This practice found many admirers and is now popular in many parts of Greece and abroad.

Every liturgy Fr. Symeon served was a real and literal initiation into the sacrament. It was solemn, neither drawn out nor hurried, without highlights, but not monotonous. At first, he didn’t have chanters. Anybody who could would do their bit. Even I chanted on occasion. These first impromptu chanters usually sang poorly and this created the impression that Fr. Symeon actually wanted this: low profile, no special effects. This would encourage contrition. A friend of mine told me off once when I departed from this ‘rule’.  But soon proper chanters began to appear and the cultivation of music became part of the whole training the people acquired by being close to the blessed Elder.

*

At church … twice as healed

At church, man is freed from the demonic influence

and the traps the devil sets.

At church, man is healed.

These are not just words. It’s the truth.

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

is for the healing of our illnesses.

If we are not healed,

we don’t need to be healed,

that’s why we aren’t.

If you take it this way, you are already healed.

You know very well that an illness which lingers

and doesn’t go is precious.

Whatever needs to go, God will take away.

Whatever doesn’t need to stay, God will take away

be it an illness or demonic influence.

And for whatever stays on and hurts us

we pray to God.

We should pray many a time,

time and again should we beg,

not only for deliverance from soul illnesses

and the demonic influence

but also for deliverance from body illnesses, as well.

Let us pray to God for everything time and again.

Not because God needs us to pray to him again and again.

We need to do this again and again,

because, precisely, God wants to see our faith.

Man, especially today,

gets used to something by repeating it,

learns something by reapeating it.

If you pray time and again

–you need to do this–

and God doesn’t relieve you of your illness, know that:

either you have not shown

as much faith as He wants and expects from you,

or that the illness should not go

because it is necessary.

If you take your illness issue according to God,

then, by it remaining,

you feel twice healed.

If He heals you, you are healed once.

If the illness lingers,

you feel healed twice.

Because both when time comes

 will you be healed from your illness

and until the right time comes to be healed

will your soul be healed, too.

Your inner person will be healed,

this person who suffers from illness,

from the leprosis of sin.

The same goes for all mental illness

and whatever else hurts us.

If man sees all his issues

within the providence of God,

he will feel such a relief,

as if all his problems are solved.

Because in God

all is resolved!

Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications.

Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

 

 (*) This tribute was written by Professor Georgios Ant. Galitis and offered to the faithful in the Holy Trinity Monastery, Panorama, at the end of the 6 months Memorial Service for Fr. Symeon. The poetry/homilies excerpts are from orthodox path.org

(To be continued)