Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Responsibility of Love

Recently I was given a book by a relative entitled Guard your soul. It contains a series of conversations that the Elder Paisios had with some of his spiritual children. For most of the book he is conversing with a nun. It is one of the best books I have ever come across so I decided to translate a small section of it. Much of his wisdom can already be found online, but I have yet to find the following extract. The book is in Serbian and so my translation into English will suffer the effects of a 'double-translation' and be far from flawless. Unfortunately I don't know Greek, so I couldn't translate directly from Greek into English. I believe that the following conversation took part in the early 1990's. Given that he was Greek, he is lamenting the situation in Greece, but most of what he says applies to Serbia and other countries.

The Apathetic Generation

Elder Paisios: What is that noise?

An aeroplane, elder.

Shut the window so that it does not enter. The world has become so defective that even that is possible. Everything is falling apart, the family, the education system, the sense of duty. And no one cares! They don’t have anything within themselves.

Elder, who is guilty for the situation we find ourselves in?

Speaking in general terms, I want to point out to what extent the spirit of indifference has gripped us. Go to a school and you will see: if open windows are banging against the wall due to gusts of wind, you will be hard pushed to find one child who will stand up and close them so that they do no smash. Some children will stare into the distance; some will watch as the windows are smashed; some will pass next to the window as if nothing is happening. Indifference. An officer was telling me “I fear that I cannot find even one trustworthy soldier to guard the fuel depot so that someone doesn’t inadvertently cause a fire”.

An atmosphere of lukewarmness without even a little heroism is upon us. We have become corrupted! I don’t know how God tolerates us! What dignity there once was! What zeal! During the war, in 1940, the Italians had occasional meetings with the Greek border guards and they even entered Greek border posts. Do you know how dignified the Greeks were? Once when the Italians entered into a Greek border post and were drinking coffee, a Greek officer produced a note of his own money worth 250 drachmas –that was worth a great amount in those times- and threw it into the fire, to show the Italians how wealthy the Greek state was. The Italians were speechless. What selflessness!

Today a spirit has entered us which can be found in communist states. In Russia there will be a famine this year, irrespective of the yield of the wheat crop. They didn’t harvest the wheat on time. They started their harvest in the autumn. Since when do you harvest in the autumn? When it isn’t theirs how can they be sorry, how can they be expected to make an effort over it? They have been hired out for their entire lives. They don’t have zeal or the wish to create, for they haven’t produced anything for years. Their state has collapsed from that spirit of laziness and indifference. Rain falls on the harvested wheat and they don’t react. The working hours are over. They go home. The wheat is left out in the open. They come the next day, during working hours, to save that wheat which can be saved! But if the wheat is yours, will you leave it in the field to rot? You wouldn’t even sleep in order to save it. You would feel joy and delight from such weariness.

Indifference towards God brings with it indifference to all else; it brings moral degeneracy. Belief in God is a great thing. When a man believes in God, then he also loves his parents, his hearth, his kin, his job, his village, his community, his state and his fatherland. But someone who doesn’t love God and his family doesn’t love anything, for the fatherland is one big family. I’m trying to say that everything comes from this (belief in God). If a man doesn’t believe in God he won’t be considerate towards his family, towards his homeland or his fatherland. And that is what some wish to destroy, and why they are creating an atmosphere of comfort and leisureliness. A policeman wrote to me “I couldn’t come to you because I was busy with work. Just two of us were covering the entire region, whereas there should have been eight of us officially”. Can you believe this? Instead of sending two additional policemen, they leave these two alone!

Thankfully there exist people who are exceptions.

Once there came to me a father who requested “Pray for my Angelos, for they will kill him”. I had met his son whilst he was still a young boy, and now he was serving in the army. “Why” I asked, “What has happened?” He found a group of them playing cards when they should have been on duty. He reprimanded them but they did not listen. Later he filed a report and one of them threatened that he would kill him. “Look”, I said to him, “They won’t kill him. And I will pray that they don’t send Angelos to the military tribunal because he didn’t play cards!”

I heard of another case and I said “Thank God, there still exist people who care for the fatherland”.

When the Turks violated our airspace one of our pilots responded and tried to get as close as possible (to the Turkish plane) so that he could film it and prove that they had violated the border. The radio controller told him over the radio to return but he insisted in persisting with his efforts. Unfortunately the Turk had a better plane and shot this hero of ours into the sea. Now when you compare this with those for whom an airplane serves merely as a means to holiday, then you will see the difference!

One has to find a purpose, to realise that goodness is indispensable; everything else is a waste of time. Try and call up to war someone who is indifferent. You will see how he will run away and try to get out of it. But when he realises what evil the enemy will inflict, then he will become a volunteer.
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