Elder Aimilianos Simonopetritis †
Like many, if not all, Elders on the Mountain, Elder Aimilianos was very loving towards those in his spiritual charge- in his case the monks at Simonos Petras and the nuns at Ormylia. But, to use a colloquial expression, ‘he took no prisoners’. A young monk who went to live with Elder, now Saint, Iosif the Hesychast, says that the saint treated him harshly, chastised him, told him off and tired him out. This was not out of lack of love, but because the monk was spiritually weak in the beginning. Well, Saint Iosif must have been doing something right because that young man, Efraim, became Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Filotheou and then went to America and founded numerous monasteries, by God’s grace. Here Elder Aimilianos cautions us against being too comfortable with what we think is love [W.J.L].
Love isn’t the sensation we feel at the moment when we’re sinning, or in pain or when there’s a sweetness in our heart.
This is why the Saint [Maximos the Confessor] says: ‘When the nous begins to advance in God’s love’. Love is the unifying factor with God, it’s the removal of my being from my self and is my firmer grip on God. But my deeper being, that which ascends to God and can draw the whole person with it, is my spirit. It’s the spirit which is like God, which can approach God and unite with Him. So if my spirit is able to approach God and my nous can be absorbed by God, then I can say that I love God and the nous can draw the body and soul along with it.
But if we have a very cheap notion of love and think love of God is a tear or a feeling of ours or a decision on our part- to become a monk or a nun, say- you understand how easy it is for us to live in an artificial world which differs not at all from the unreality that other people live in. Then we’re also numbered among the throng of the whole world.