1. A great orator and ecclesiastical writer of the third century was asked, by his contemporary the then Patriarch of Jerusalem, to ascend the lectern of the Sacred Church of the Resurrection, at the All-holy Sepulchre, on one official feast, and to speak a word of enlightenment and comfort to the multitudinous crowd of the faithful. And he, in spite of his tremendous education, the eloquence and ease at his disposal for this, anxiously sought from the Lord the occasion, pretext and the content of his homily.
Address to the Friends of the Holy Mountain, Vienna, 1981.
2. Finding himself high up in the pulpit, he
opened the Holy Scripture, in order to receive
from it a beginning, reading this: "But to the
sinner God has said, 'Why dost thou declare my
ordinances, and take up my covenant in thy mouth?...'"
Then, immediately, he fell silent, being unable to
speak a word more. Full of fear. and self-knowledge
he descended from the rostrum, without declaring the
majesties of God, honoring them only with his silence.
3. This same voice, my dear and respected friends, I hear in my heart, from the mouth of the Lord to me. And, inasmuch as it depended on me, I would never have reached this podium, in the presence of your love and interest. Or, at least, at this very moment, to be silent.
4. However, I venture the continuation of my word, only as a translation of the dutiful greeting that I owe from my heart, which I would have directed to you if I were meeting you entering into the courtyard of my monastery. Or, fulfilling my ministry in the Guesthouse, clasping your hands, refreshing you from the laborious ascent, making your faces glad by offering you successive glasses of the cold water of the Gospel, and rejoicing your hearts with wine from the king's table, as is fitting to a slave and servant, ready and eager for your eyes and your questions, at your disposal; for obedience, for Christ.
5. And now, finding myself among you, not high on the rock of the meteoric Simonopetra, but in the beautiful, magnificent and famous city of Vienna, philhellenic par excellence, I am the captive, as both invited and sent, of the love and the honour that I experienced from all of you, quite some time ago, in the person of my exceedingly respected and very Reverend Elder Fr. Metrophanes Chilandarinou, Representative of his holy monastery in the Sacred Community of Holy Mountain, and in a certain way the spiritual father, steward and inspirer of your Society, "THE FRIENDS OF HOLY MOUNTAIN". But also of the President and founder of the society, the honorable ethnologist Professor ROHSMANN, known and dear to us from his frequent visits, along with many of you, to Holy Mountain.
6. Recalling a little from our meetings at Athos, and keeping in view the fact that, in spite of your worldly wisdom, scientific knowledge and brilliance, many of you have the good habit of furnishing and arming your hands, or of praying, with the prayer rope; and urged toward this by the Rev. Fr. Metrophanes. I chose the topic that we will analyze. within the confined limits of our time:
7. But before beginning, permit me, Your
Eminence, Metropolitan of Austria Monsigneur
Chrysostom, filially to pray for the courteous
and good President, the members of the Society
and all of you, that any friendship of yours
toward the Holy Mountain will issue in divine
love, real and profound, while of its
spiritual inheritance and testament may you
be established undoubted participants; and
with you, may I include my self?
8. At night, especially, the Holy Mountain likes to pray . It groans and travails together with the whole creation in its quarantine. The alternating lapping of the waves on its shores, the utter stillness and serenity, the sleeping sweet-voiced birds of its heaven, the beasts of the field, that go about seeking their meat from God, the vertical prayers of the cypresses with all the rest of their varied company, the steep naked rocks and the caves in their hearts, the babbling springs in the overshadowing forests and on the precipices, the heights and the tranquil slopes, all are praying. Together with the lofty and incomparable Athos, and the crowns of the domes of the monasteries and the hermitages, sealed with the cross of Christ: Who alone disperses the otherwise indissoluble darkness, in order that the approaching new day of the Lord may dawn.
9. The raised aged hands of the hermits, the knees bending again and again of the young monks and the rest, the priest in the sanctuary lifting up the holy offering, co-celebrating with other priests and deacons who are censing, readers reading: "Through the intercessions of Thy Saints, Christ our God, have mercy on us", the unceasing commemorations, the sweet smells and the psalmody, which always want to say: "Praise ye the Lord in every season and day and hour, for all things given by Him, for His great mercy to all", are something from the mystical power and glory of the Holy Mountain, that covers itself with the darkness of the night and is revealed by the golden light of the full moon. It is, yet, one note from the harmonious melody of the entire prayer, that it hymns to Christ the Bridegroom, from the time that His All-holy Mother set foot upon it, strolled about it and was pleased.
10. As Sinai was without glory, before Moses ascended and before God descended there, as Tabor was without radiance, before the Lord was transfigured there, so also Athos was accurst, before the Virgin chose it, before the Holy Fathers established it a Holy Mountain. A contemporary saint of Patmos, very characteristically summing up the spirit of his fathers, writes, "By prayer you sanctify the place where you stay and the work you do." Thus, the Holy Mountain is holy because of its saints, who labored and brought forth a prophetic spirit, a spirit of salvation.
11. First God came to dwell in the hearts of His saints, and afterwards they wanted to glorify Him by building temples of His glory. Very numerous, if not innumerable, are the saints of Athos. Their sweat and blood, their tears and myrrh that irrigated its rocks and soil, even these are unable to characterize and enumerate its saints. Only He Who is glorified in the council of His saints knows His blessed martyrs.
12. Below and round about the peak of Athos, in the summer, studding some rugged spots, an unwithering flower of Panagia comes up; it maintains its whiteness and its strong fragrance for as many years as may pass. The virgin, the Mistress of Her garden, chose the Holy Mountain exactly for this reason, from amongst all the beautiful and wondrous places on earth: in order that this garden of Hers may be cultivated the unwithering blossom of the spiritual virginity of the monks.
13. She herself so zealously rules, guards and cares for it. She enlivens it with the delicate breeze of Her love. She covers it with her mantle, She raises it with her intercessions. She endowed it with so many of Her wonder-working icons. Before the eyes of Her Son, and it the face of the everyday necessities of life, She makes up what is lacking in the holiness and the spirituality of the monks. And She became and exists in the Mountain as Abbess, as eldress as Steward as Doorkeeper, as the Merciful One, the Directress, the Oil-gushing, the Supplicant, as the guarantor of Her children, ensuring them with an eternal testament.
14. She has even appeared to grant gifts worth of the labor and piety of Her angel- like chanters; to sweep the courtyards, to serve refectories, to weep with the poor, to feed hungry travelers, to be recognized as the benefactress of those, who discover Her now and find Her repeatedly, the Empress, from the traces of Her footstool on Athos. Further, She is the One who orders the things of Her house and institutes new ways of life. And with Her embrace, and with Her virginal kiss, She transmits gifts of mental prayer and keenness of heart: gifts of wonder-working and of the knowledge of God.
15. Thus, when she herself here claims Her rights; She wants it for Her own. Exactly for the same reason that She asked for it from Christ.
16. The fringes of Her spiritual garment cover it and separate it and sanctify it more than the smoke and flames and lightning did Sinai, when God descended on it. And therefore, if it was forbidden for anything to approach Sinai, man or beast, with a penalty off instant death, how much more, the venerable and incontrovertible rule of inaccessibility to women and separation for God weighs here, from God's Mother Herself!
17. In this mountain, burning and flaming with spiritual fire, it someone is incapable, at least like Joshua of Nun, of coming in and following after Moses, after the saints, let him stand with fear and trembling, rejoicing exceedingly from afar for the sight and sound happening in the morning and by night in the Mountain. Because, otherwise, if someone says, "And what does this Mountain have above and beyond anywhere else? Doesn't He who is' everywhere present and filleth all things' reside everywhere?" Danger exists that he or she might contract leprosy, as did Neeman the Syrian, before he decided to worship God at the Jordan and be healed. And further, if someone says, "So what? Maybe the monks, especially the monks of the Holy Mountain, are the closest to God?", perhaps he or she will share the unhappy fate of the famous Miriam, after she said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?"
18. The Holy Mountain is a spiritual boundary mark; an ideal lived in the here and now. It is a gift of God to His Bride the Orthodox Church - and through Her to the whole world. Aptly an Hagiorite abbot said: "It's impossible for someone to speak about the world, if first he doesn't put in a big chapter explaining the Holy Mountain. And it's impossible for someone to understand the Holy Mountain, if he doesn't know the world". It is an offering of the world to God. Flesh and bone and bowels from the bowels and flesh of the world. Since in every age, like the bee fills the comb with wax, the world fills the cells of its monasteries and the dens of its earth with monks.
19. But since we said that it is an offering, thus, corban, something set apart, therefore it is also something accepted especially by God and belonging to Him personally. It is impossible for this ever to become an object of our curiosity, or even of our spiritual needs - much less, of our material needs. It will ever remain as priceless myrrh, poured out abundantly on the feet of Jesus. And let this incomprehensible to persons who think otherwise.
20. The devotion of a holy and simple soul reached the point of pronouncing it a sin even to approach, even to see the Holy Mountain from a distance. And some orange peels from the Garden of Panagia that found their way to her, she took and dried, in order to take them every morning, together with blessed bread and holy water, as a blessing. Some such souls, in reality, "are meet for the holy mountain, in no wise being shaken by the attacks of Beliar".
21. So inside this cloud, what is performed every day? What else, but the unceasing, the perpetual approach to God. It is an Israelitish journey, unswerving, without return. How absolute and uncompromising and conclusive was the departure from Rome, of blessed Peter the Athonite, for Athos! And always such must be the disposition, the renunciation, the departure and the commitment of every monk in Holy Mountain. Only in such bowels, decisive unto death, is it possible for Jesus Christ, God and Man born from the virgin, to be conceived spiritually, and to indwell and walk in the hearts of His servants, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And if we closely observe every saint of Holy Mountain, from St. Athanasius the Athonite, whose renunciation in Holy Mountain creates a new, yet so old, mean in its successive history and development, until even the latest contemporary monk or novice, we will see this.
22. The fire that Christ came and lit in the world, this same flame, now and always, when it comes consumes hearts, the desire for the divine causes them to come out of the world forever and to follow, unconditionally, the footsteps of the incamate Word, to form a little flock, a dynamic leaven, an elevation and a support and a hope for the world - even, an entrance into and a violent seizure of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a new creation, a new situation. It is God's government on earth - a government that Pilate couldn't understand, when he was asking the Lord: "Art thou a king then?" A prophetic community of Nazarenes is constituted, of which the sustenance is the spirit that is descended and poured out in the hearts of those seeking it.
23. The daily life is simple, natural, straightforward, ascetic. It has the intense characteristics of the openness that Adam had before the Fall. Unaffected and uncalculating, taming even the wild beasts, and, if it should come to pass, the wildest of all, the human being.
24. The paths and gardens and walks of the Holy Mountain are closed for the Lord. There love sleeps. "Do not awaken her." So beautifully a small child, like those about which the Prophet-king David said, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings shall I bring forth praise", from the stories he heard about the Holy Mountain, felt in his heart that there Christ lives with Panagia. And since then, day and night he begs his father to bring him, to see them face to face and worship. Yet, without fail, here also His Spirit is crying. Because "He who gives prayer to the one praying" is also He who gives those praying there prayer and the All-holy Spirit, who prays within them, making intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered crying: "Abba, Father."
25. The Hagiorite worship is a daily triumphant victorious revelation of Christ. It is a reference to that divine flashing chariot that brings down and takes up the Holy Trinity every day in the Holy Mountain.
It is worship that, as from a spring, bubbles forth from the heart of the monk. It is experienced in the cell alone, in the hidden and secret chamber, before the eyes of the Heavenly Father who sees invisibly; and it is magnified in the Church "among the people", "in the midst of the great congregation".
26. And so, finally, the prayer of the Holy Mountain, we would say, is the prayer of the particular monk, of every monk, known or unknown, more or less holy, virtuous or sinful. Prayer is his respiration. The name of Jesus is the sign of his royalty. It is the seal of his heart. It is the grace and the sweetness blossoming forth on his lips. And what is more, it is his inhalation itself, his breath. We know that our every breath without Him is an unnatural relationship with ourselves - a situation what leads us, sooner or later, to the decomposition of our being, since from within us the cohesive inner force is absent.
27. After all this we perceive that when we speak about the prayer of Holy Mountain - the prayer that is going on in the Holy Mountain - it is as if we are talking about the Christ of Holy Mountain. As we would speak about the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And thus, the Christ of Holy Mountain means Christ, as He was experienced and is experienced by His saints, by the monks, living and working and worshiping in Holy Mountain - since the whole life experience of the monastic is one extension and reference and turning of the mind to God alone, through repentance, which is the basis, the starting point and the entrance to the Hagioritic life itself.
28. Therefore the whole Mountain, all its monasteries, the chapels, the cells, and above all the deep heart of the monk, become places and means of exchanges with Christ. He is so situated there as the singular one walking and shepherding, coming in and going out. As long as He wants, He keeps the keys of the virginity of this place and way of life. Every exodus of a monk occurs by His command and afterwards, by His good pleasure; from the most practical reason, until the call to shepherd His people something that has happened many times in the past. As for instance, with St. Gregory Palamas, St. Kosmas the Aetolos and so many others who constitute, without wanting or seeking it, initiators and axes and shapers of personalities, bridges that unite add transfuse the Hagioritic experience in every age, grafting many into Christ's good olive tree, re-educating communities and peoples in Christ.
29. Yet even when the monastics remain completely unknown the eyes of the world, they lack nothing in brilliance and glory in the presence of God. Rather, as precious pearls, they radiate even more, in order to be glorified by God and glorify Him, when He is magnified in the day of His universal appearance. In the diptychs of their hearts they unceasingly commemorate as many names as they remember from the time they were in the world, without knowing any longer which are alive and which have fallen asleep. And with themselves, through their tears, they lift up humanity for compassion and mercy before the lover of Man. These are the friends of God of whom Elisha the Tishbite was ignorant, when he was complaining to Jehovah that he was the only one left of the prophets. They are kings, teachers, masters, elders, fathers, able to give birth to holiness and to bless those who bless God. "Stretching out their arms in the form of a cross" blessing the four corners of the earth; they are hidden, like Melchizedek in the cave of Mr. Tabor, able to be seen and venerated sometime perhaps only by some "chance" Abraham.
30. All these which we said, myth. dears, about the prayer of the Mountain, build up the Church, as the rushing waters of the river making glad the city of God.
31. And certainly, now, I consider your open eyes and hearts, asking: Aand as for us? What relationship do wee have with all this? What profit is there in our blood, in h our descent into the corruption of our sins and our inability and our inescapable isolation? Out of all this, what is possible bring into our lives, turning a message into an experience? Such questions. and just as many others, are very natural.
32. But if at this strange report of such paradoxical things we don't say, together with the Athenians: "We will hear thee again of this matter." and we don't condemn all these as "new devils" before even hearing them, but are among those who seek God in every place of His dominion, then, really, my respected friends, all these will belong within our capacity.
33. In the way, where we will be seeking or discussing Him, we will meet Him - or rather, the meetings and greeting will prevent us, those of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary, who will be bearing in Her arms, as our dowry, all those sweet-tasting, unwithering and God-formed fruits, all those that we described, and all those that "eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man , from Her most excellent garden on the earth. From the Holy Mountain of Athos.
34. As Paul was sent by Christ to Ananias, as Mary Magdalene was sent by the resurrected One who she had seen to evangelize the Eleven, so we also: in our search, as long as we wander in this vale of tears, when we meet His traces, or we are blinded by the unbearable blaze of His light, we will discover that we are not alone. Many others, a people chosen and prepared, with torch-bearing maidens going before, surround us in the journey of our souls to God. And even, as some exceptional enabling gift, as a refreshing cloud and a manifest pillar of fire enlightening the polyphonic, roaring, so well-lit and yet so dark desert of this individualistic space age of ours, prayer, the prayer of Holy Mountain, will transfigure our hope into vision. It will free us secretly from the bonds of our rationalism and self-sufficiency, like the demon-possessed of the Gadarenes from his chains, and the resurrected Lazarus from his graveclothes.
35. Then, when our eyes are opened, we will see that over our heads battling and casting down the strongholds of the evil one are angelic powers of the majesty of Heaven. And when we seek God again many times, then our feet will be established, confident in the Lord since we will discover that His friends, His disciples and servants, are preparing portions and seats at the marriage feast of the Son of God the King, for us personally.
36. When, by seeking the Lord, someone escapes from the spectrum and the barrier of the world, he or she meets those warriors of God, like David's soldiers, like those around the zealot savior of Israel Simon Maccabees, who sleep with their belt girded about them like men, with their sandals bound on drinking water out of the cup of their hands. "These are they which follow the Lamb, whithersoever He goeth", ready to abandon even the Mountain itself and to leave, for God, for Whom they were set apart, free of everything, certain of the hope that is set before - which causes them, entirely surrendered to God, to lay down the last cry of their souls, as they pray or walk, as they eat or rest, as they sleep or converse, as they chant to Him or worship Him, with books open on their laps. And so then they are translated from the earthly to the heavenly - "to the heavenly, to the heavenly", as one great Father of the Church said when he died.
37. Like a queen bee, buzzing with life, the Monasticism of Holy Mountain, which "Eastern Orthodox Monasticism" from the beginning, surrounds Christ the King, closely observing His every gesture and movement, in order to possess Him, in order to follow Him.
38. You could still say: "What are the everyday applications and the practical extensions to us, from all that has been said?" Oh, but what else! If you have faith about all this, already you have the possibility as well. For then automatically and by their own power these things influence us inside and embrace our spirit and connect our souls to the source of Life. Our intimacy with the coming kingdom develops without, however, observation through the criteria of our scientific knowledge. A certain audacity suffices: from the darkness in which we were born, not to be afraid and not to refuse the light that approaches and shines around us. To have the disposition and the power to lift up our heads, because our redemption is at hand. An elementary imitation of the monks dauntless daring and their acrobacy between heaven and earth constitutes the most important equipment for a point of departure.
39. A review and account of our lives. A bold leap, a heroic vault and a decisive passage through the doors that separate us from the space and the communion of those "written in heaven", "the firstborn in Jerusalem", where they eat and drink Christ, exactly as He was given up and gave Himself to His holy Disciples and Apostles, and they transmitted to the Church of their successors and our only genuine fathers, the Saints.
40. Further, an asceticism and ceaseless abandonment to the Spirit: daily concrete encounter, a specific appointment with God, short or long, at night or in the early morning, with the elements of the invocations of His name, of worship of His glory, of tracking Him and studying Him in the Holy Scriptures and the lives of His Saints, in the texts that deliver God to us. A reformation and regulation of our lives, for spiritual scrutiny.
41. And He who sends His angels to His servants - Philip to Candace's steward, Paul to Thekla, Raphael to Tobias, the angel who gave food and drink to the desolate prophet, how easily He can relate you, the friends of the Holy Mountain, with those having the office of the Apostles, His monks. And if someone gets to know a monk, then, like him who was conversing with St. Seraphim of Sarov, he or she enters into, or rather is comprehended by, the dimension of his prayer. His bones are sweetened and enriched. In the light shall he see light.. Because the hand of the monk who hears him is firm, since he has contended with Satan in the desert; and he seized God, like Jacob, before the day dawned. He drank vinegar from Hell and did not despair; he drank water from Paradise and did not become proud. He freely enters and exits the gates of life with Him who treads behind the seven candlesticks, as His confidential friend.
42. He who finds such a monk, discovers the prototype of the human person, his own much-desired reflection. Then, along with the disciples of St. Pachomius the Great, the citizen of the desert, he will cry out: "Come let us follow him and die with him, for he guides us rightly in the way of God". With a confidence and an abandonment to him who, previously, himself accepted to be drowned in the abyss of the love of God. This love guides the strong toward the weak, to give a helping hand , but with the logic of God, however, who knows how to honor the one in need and stabilize the stormtossed. Then all the feasts and joys and empires and misfortunes of all people, of all ages, pale and fade, because the joy-creating and life-giving Christ draws near: the Lord of all the kings of the earth, the gladness and the cure of the most exhausted and extinguished heart.
43. But if our lack of time or our ignorance, our internal dichotomization, as "another law in our members", or our rationalism, our circumstances or our oppressing needs exclude from us any brightening at all? Even the slightest change? Ah, then, yet again, He continues His visits to our Hell; to the bottom of our well; to the "doors-having been shut", uncommunicating and haunted tower of our souls. Wherever each of us is, seeking Him, we can meet Him. He is the one most near us, our neighbor; the one hidden in our own selves; the one identified with the person of the other, our brother, our friend, our child; our husband, our wife, our enemy. He is there beside us, on our left or on our right. Innocent, He is crucified for us, just beside our own personal crucifixion. Only, when we will recog, nize who he is, it will be necessary to follow Him.
44. At this point let us say the most daring thing.
45. If even in the Holy Mountain, nothing of this exists? If the lamps and the lighthouses have disappeared in the darkness? If the pillars have all fallen down? If in coming there one finds not even a crumb of life, but is just kicked as if by a mule?
46. When we think this way, let us take into consideration and delve into the behavior of the Lord toward the Canaanite woman, of Anthony the Great toward Paul the Simple. Let us not hurry to judge and to draw conclusions according to appearances, according to our own limited impression and from the isolated - or even repeated, it has no significance - instances, that we might meet with and become disappointed.
47. Once a monk under obedience in the Monastery of the Great Lavra of Holy Mountain died. The Abbot was secluded far away on the other side of the Holy Mountain, and was not in time to come. However, a little before they were to bury the brother - whose relic was giving off a very sweet smell - the hour they were reading the last funeral prayers, he stretched out his hand from the bier, and as many ill persons as kissed it became well. This fact was learned everywhere and for days many people were coming to be healed. When the Abbot was informed, he got angry. He rushed to the monastery and with his staff striking the dead hand, said banteringly to his spiritual son: "You were crazy, monk, when you were alive; and now that you've died, you're even more crazy. Since with this which you're doing, all the sick people in the world will gather here, and the monastery will be turned into a subway. Quick, pull in your hand". And he who was obedient, even after death, drew in his hand and was buried with his fathers in the cemetery of the monastery.
48. We finished. And if you like, from all this let us keep these last, as a memento.
49. The monastic dress is the treasure-house of the Church, that guards the legacy of the Apostles. It is the mane and the neck of the lion of Judah. The life that hides in its folds is the life of Christ. The monastic habit is, therefore) we would say, the garment revealing God. It is woven theanthropically. It is Christ's tunic woven from top to bottom without seam by the most pure fingers of the Virgin for Her Lord and Son.
50. Consequently, our last question, previously, let it be met by the following reality in the guise of an answer: the robe of Christ was played for with the die of the soldiers; it covered Pilate, until the first apostle of the resurrection took it away from him; it seemed that it was torn by Arius and those like him always. Yet it remains astonishing. Taboric and "uncreated", finally. While the Holy Mountain is a basic element of its uncontrived beauty and composition, since the Lady Theotokos used it so exclusively. And now, whatever the Holy Mountain hides and whatever it has in it, is that much more God's; as is undisputed among its inhabitants.
51. And for the Friends of the Holy Mountain, what is left? There remains that Greek saying which is really true: "The things of friends are common." And so, who of you has a complaint? But there is this, as well: the criterion and proof of friendship is death on behalf of one's friend. And the Holy Mountain lives and bears the dying of the Lord Jesus. For this it is beloved and lovely to generations of generations. For what friend can commune and rejoice in the friendship, if he has not previously decided to experience daily death on its behalf?
52. This is the secret and sacrament of the life of Jesus.
EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS MONASTERY
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