Humiliated. Rejected. Despised.

canaanan

“Lord, you are implacable.”

St. Silhouan the Athonite

 

In today’s gospel reading, we find a woman in great need: her daughter is horribly demon-possessed In such situations, when you experience pain, you do things that you wouldn’t do under other circumstances. Just so, this Canaanite woman runs with determination to receive that which she seeks. First, her great faith and second, the depth of her humility, give her complete conviction that she will receive that which she desires. And her entire conversation with Christ develops gradually, in a remarkable way.

  1. She seeks, although it looks as though God does not hear. In reality, all holy souls come across this very difficulty ( reached the point of saying: “Lord, you are implacable.”)
  2. Christ says something, but in a way that prohibits any such help: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Everyone who wants to find God will feel that he is rejected by Him.) Humility makes the woman insist: “Lord, help me”. The Canaanite woman is not affected; she does not take offence. In this way, humility holds the door of God’s mercy open.
  3. With Christ’s final response: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”, one would expect the woman to get up and leave. Her faith, however, informs her and she humbly responds: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (When you are humble, you know what to say to the Lord.) Following the whole of this trial the Canaanite woman is made worthy to hear from the Lord: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” He does not simply say: “Your faith has saved you …”

And what about us? I wonder, will we go down, one step at a time, just as the Canaanite woman did? Will we accept whatever the Lord permits so that we stay faithful until we receive our desired end, our salvation?

 

Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications.

Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

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.

*

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

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)