Farewell to the Gregoriou Monastery
We went to the arkhondarik to get ready for the journey. None of us was happy to leave so early. Who knows if God would ever bring us to these blessed places again? We tidied up the bed covers, grabbed our backpacks and went down to the sea. The pier was located right underneath our windows. I set my belongings by the hotel wall, took a piece of bread, which I had prudently taken from the refectory, and began to feed very nimble multi-colored fish. The water was amazingly clear. Once I happened to lie near a spring, with my face close to the water, and observe that living microcosm. It was a similar feeling of bright transparency, as if the water covering the sand geysers pulsing from the ground did not exist at all. Here, on the shores of the Aegean Sea, the water was two or three meters deep, yet every grain of sand was visible. The gray fish reminded me of the fast and thievish sparrows snatching sunflower seeds from babushkas in the market.
Our new companion Andrey interrupted my contemplation of the underwater world. Unlike our conversation the day before, this one turned out very open and sincere. Andrey’s heart was in pain for his separated family and his child being raised without a father. I was deeply moved by the fact that Andrey never once said a bad word about his ex-wife. Unfortunately, this is a very rare occasion. As a priest, I often listen to family dramas. In most cases, I hear claims and accusations. No one wants to see their own weaknesses and admit the need to eradicate them. This leads to confrontations where any word can become a “straw breaking the camel’s back”. Every fish swims at its own depth. I am deeply convinced that in most cases, spouses are “fish of the same depth”. It is hardly their fault if their parents have not taught them faith through personal example. It is no secret that people often start looking for God when they run into trouble. Unfortunately, by that time many families already look like smoking ruins. Andrei spoke of his ruins and his pain. I was listening silently, looking into the water as if into a magic crystal, where I saw human pain. He did not ask me for advice. My task was to hear about his grief, giving him hope and praying for him inside myself. Apparently, this is what I was looking for when I thought about pastoral work. A priest needs to help a grieving person to call on God and then step aside, so as not to interfere with God building a new person out of sinful dust. A priest needs to be near, laying on his hand on a sore spot and yet not interfering with God…
Unfortunately, some of us priests (happily, not that many) talk to people a lot about God without calling God to a person’s rescue or leading a person to Him. We often get in God’s way, giving advice to people not by the inspiration of the Spirit, but from ourselves. Lord, help me avoid making this mistake.
“Do you know what a priest should fear most?” Father Vasily Ermakov once asked me, “Misleading a person by giving wrong advice”.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds