Metropolitan Nikolaos (Hatzinikolaou) of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki
Tonight’s talk will try to express something which is difficult to put into words. It will try to give characteristics and parameters to something which, by nature, is not so much describable but more indirectly perceptible, more concealed. It’s something which you suspect rather than something obvious enough for you to discuss. Aims can be defined, but it’s difficult to confine experiences within verbal frameworks. This is especially true of the authenticity of the experience of faith and of grace, which has to do with the innermost depth of human nature, the truth about us, a mystery which is continuously unfolding. It’s not so much an exposition, an expression, or a mode of behavior to which people conform.
When an experience is spiritually authentic, it manifests the divine aspect of the person undergoing it, but when it’s not it prevents the grace of God from acting in their life. This is why authenticity is a necessary prerequisite of the spiritual life.
So how should we approach the authenticity of the experience? How should we define it? How can we feel it? It’s certainly not an intellectual issue. For this reason, let’s not focus our efforts on trying to understand what will follow, nor keep notes in case we forget something. And let’s not subject the innocence of our spontaneity to a process of scholastic appraisal, to make sure that everything absolutely correct. This talk isn’t reflective in the sense of engendering good thoughts or correct critical views. Nor is it persuasive in the sense of forcibly setting us on the monotonous one-way path of comforting and complacent agreement. The speech will rather be simple and from the heart, in an effort to invoke personal feelings of recognition in each of us. This is why what you will hear isn’t offered by the speaker as knowledge or a viewpoint, but is presented as an opportunity for sharing.
So in the course of this talk, let each of us see who we really are. Not what’s right and wrong in what’s being said, but what relationship we have with the truth. Not what era we’re living in, but how we’re living, what place Christ has in our heart and how the distance between us and his grace is defined in our own case. And also how our desires work, how our aims are defined, what is the portent of our calling as ‘children of God’ [Rom. 8, 21], as ‘siblings of Christ, as citizens of his kingdom, as ‘guests at his supper’[Rev. 19, 9].
The words of the Lord in the Gospel are quite categorical: ‘Those who are not with me are against me’[Matth. 12, 30]; ‘No-one can serve two servants’ [Matth. 6, 24]; ‘If anyone wishes to come behind me, let them take up their cross and follow me’[Mark 8, 34]; and ‘Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Matth. 5, 20]. The Lord ignored the human right of one of his disciples to attend his father’s funeral [Matth. 8, 22]; he foretold sufferings and trials for those who followed him[ Matth. 3, 17-34]; he chastised the lukewarm [Rev. 3, 15]; demanded the ‘one’ thing that was missing and proposed perfection (‘if you would be perfect’) [Matth. 19, 21; Eph. 4, 13; James 1, 4].
God is absolute. He contains and offers everything that has completeness, as well as his own being in perfect form. He is the Being, he is Everything. God’s truth fills us but also leaves us with the feeling that we transcend our completeness. It’s something more, which can’t be adopted by us humans. In this sense, what God requires from those who follow him isn’t surpassing strength in difficulties- his grace will provide that, but genuine consent, true intentions, consistent decisions. Only in this way do we become compatible with God. Only thus can we follow in his footsteps and recognize his tracks.
(to be continued)