Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"If His Grace Abandoned Me, I’d Be Just Another Bum"

“My child, I’m just a human being.  I pray to Christ and he replies.  If His grace abandoned me, I’d be just another bum on the streets of Omonia” (Omonia Square in Athens, known at that time for being populated by drug addicts, prostitutes, and thieves.) – Elder Paisios

It is St. Paisios’s feast day again, and I was motivated to do another blog post on him. I read the above quote while ago. I thought it was interesting at first, but later I was struck by how profoundly true it is. St. Paisios had pretty much zero success by the world’s standards. As a monk, he lived in voluntary poverty and never had a family. He was never even ordained into the priesthood. I am pretty sure he never went to college. He had missing teeth and eventually died of a very painful disease. There are very few pictures and recordings of him throughout his life. He hardly had any sort of official job, sometimes supporting himself by gardening and selling carvings he made. So, on the surface level, he basically amounted to a bum. Yet, thousands of people went to his funeral and he had the second fastest canonization to sainthood in the recent history of the Orthodox Church.

I have done some thinking on nostalgia recently. I think I actually have an idea of what it is. You look back on your life and you see the story of a human soul. It is incredibly beautiful seeing this human soul which is you. It is truly precious. You might also feel sad. You look at your life now and what you have accomplished. You wonder if the life you are living and what you have accomplished is worthy of the value of your soul which you just recognized. Your soul has gone through so much in life, but what for? There might be a little despair in recognizing that the life you lived is not worthy of the precious value of your soul.

Christ is the bridegroom to our souls. Christianity says that at the end of time there will be a great wedding feast for Christ and His Church. Then, we will truly live happily ever after. Without Christ, the soul is in a dark place. With Christ, the beauty of the soul is fulfilled. I have found a bit of a cure for nostalgia by reading the lives of people like St. Paisios. Reading about people with such a close connection with Christ gives me a foretaste of the wedding feast.

I remember visiting a wealthy family friend many years ago. He had a stunning wife who had recently given birth to a beautiful baby. He had a really nice house, a nice car, and an awesome gaming computer. He was good looking and socially charismatic. I imagine he had a prestigious job as well. I thought, “Man, if I could just be like this guy, I will have made it.” I believed that all these things would fulfill the value of my soul. But now I know that even if I could have all of those things it would be hopeless without Christ. Ironically, it is a would-be bum who has shown me this hope.

To those who do not know, I always recommend the book The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios.

A blessed feast day to everyone!