Why do fake elders arise? Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanić) on how to find out whether an elder is true or not.
The Church has recently banished several priests who were regarded as “elders” by their supporters. We won’t look deep into those particular cases; instead, let us talk about the ways to tell a real elder from a self-appointed one.
1. The goal of any real spiritual advisor is to lead people to Christ and not to himself by setting up a sect of his own admirers;
2. A true elder never uses coercion with those who turn to him for spiritual advice. A piece of spiritual advice is just that: a piece of advice and not an order;
3. A true elder, especially if he is a Schema-Monk, is dead for the world and interacts with “outsiders” only if necessary. Most definitely, he does not put up scenes in public. He does not act like a celebrity, bragging in mass media, and he never gets involved in politics. It is hard to imagine the Optina Elders kicking up a row, calling out the imperfections of their neighbors, or pointing fingers at anyone publicly.
4. A true elder never insults the hierarchy of his Church. He sticks to his vows and remains obedient.
5. A true elder is humble. If a person who pretends to be an elder shows himself to be proud, seeks vainglory, or is umbrageous, he is a fake elder.
Why do fake elders arise? There is a number of reasons. The revival of the Russian Church began thirty years ago. It might sound like a long time but in terms of history it is but a fleeting moment.
We cannot resolve issues quicker than they can possibly be resolved. Elders do not grow on trees.
Being an elder is an undertaking, which the Lord bestows only on the most humble and meek people. Humility means a lot of hard work that you have to do every day over the course of many years, without days-off and bonuses. Only the person himself and the Lord God knows about it.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds