A monk from the monastery in Chania, Crete: “Agree with everything except euthanasia. My strength is weakened by sicknes.”: Sophronios, who suffers from Terminal Motor Neurone disease, has recently given a sensational interview to Crete TV with the help of a keystroke system.
Q: They say that pain completes existence. Do you experience this and how?
A: Pain is a big school and teaches self-knowledge that leads to brotherhood and ultimately to godhood. Pain humiliates you with humiliation, our heart softens and opens to God and our fellow man. I communicate with people all over the world suffering from physical or mental illnesses.
With the help of God, with my experience in bed of pain, I understand them, even a little to say a comforting word, a word of our Christ. Today, there is so much loneliness in the world and riot and fear. We Christians who have the gift of God to know Christ must share with our fellowman the joy, the peace and the love that is Christ. Is not this the goal of our existence, to save all?
Q: What would you say to someone who wants to make euthanasia?
A: Life is a gift of God to all of us. I understand this better than ever now that I’m in bed. No one came to life with his will. So how can you put an end to your life, since it really does not belong to you? This, in my opinion, is the problem of our time, it cultivates in the modern man an egocentric way of life, cut off from the community, from the family, the neighborhood, the homeland, etc. so we think we are independent, self-propelled in this world.
I think it is the wrong view of life that leads the man of our time from “self-confinement” to suicide. I understand that he does not want the patient to become a burden on others or does not want his loved ones to see him suffer. It’s very humiliating – I know it very well. But the humble has the Kingdom of God, not the selfish.
Q: Do you think that if you had no faith, would you have the same attitude towards pain?
A: Without Christ I would be nothing. There is another pain that is more painful than the pain we are talking about. And this is the pain that the soul feels when it is lacking in the presence of God, which enlivens everything and gives meaning to this human pain. The absence of God from man’s life today is the most painful pain.
Q: In the bed of pain come moments that make you question God and your faith?
A: On the contrary, it joins me with God and I feel Love and His presence more intense. But it does not mean that the moments of human weakness do not come. The Christian needs faith, bravery, and courage. God never abandons us.
Q: How can pain be blessed? What can “life” mean when you are stuck in the bed of pain?
A: Pain and difficulties are sometimes unbearable for humans. In these moments I feel the presence and consolation of God more intense. I think in both these questions the answer can be given by Him who I also receive in my difficult moments when I look at the crucified Christ. He first turned His own pain into blessing. And His own life on the Cross was glorified and remained in history as the King of Glory. It is the standard and at the same time the rest of every pain.
Q: What are the difficulties of your illness?
A: I have ALS / MND – Stephen Hawking’s disease. It has no cure. I am paralyzed, I only can move my eyelids and lips. I do not swallow, I’m eating through a feeding tube. I do not breathe on my own, except with the support of a ventilator. I can tell you details, but it suffices to say that I can not do anything without the help of someone taking care of me.
As a layman I was very independent to a degree very selfish. Now that I can not do anything without someone else, I understand why Christ taught us to be united in one body. We need each other to be in a society with our fellow humans.
Q: How many years have you been in bed and how does communication work?
A: I have been permanently bedridden for 6 years. I communicate with a computer system that allows me to write with my eyes. Thank God ! You see what the good God is doing!
Q: What do you think you have gained as the most positive of your illness?
A: Without a doubt, the most positive is my union with God, that I feel His love filling my heart.
Q: How is your relationship with your brothers in the Gouverneto monastery now with your illness?
A: I am very blessed in the Gouverneto monastery. It is a holy place under the abode of the Virgin Mary. With the intense presence of St. John the Hermit and the place of martyrs, it has a great deal of grace. In the Divine Economy I have a very blessed abbot, Elder Iromeo, a man of God, full of love. The brotherhood is very beloved with humble fathers who make their struggle.
They take care of me with sacrificial love. An example of the love that exists here: At the time I was a novice my illness was occurred. I was diagnosed with ALS, an incurable disease. When I learned what it all involved, I told my elder that I do not want to be a burden on the brotherhood and I will not stay. But the elder and all the brothers said that they want me as I am. This is the love of Christ.
Q: What would you like to say to the viewers who are watching you now, sick or not?
A: Life without Christ is not life. With Christ at the center of your life you have love, peace and life has another meaning. As St. Porphyrios said: “Christ is everything”.