And Father Paisius replied with a question, “That’s what I tell you, my child…”
We have our own opinions about everything. It seems like we talk about holy ideas but think about other stuff. That’s the core of it.
I visited Elder Paisius on Mt. Athos in 1990. Today, he is already canonized. I was fond of catechizing, talking with children and explaining the tenets of our faith to them; having conversations about God, people, and our Church; speaking of what we should do and what we shouldn’t do, what’s a sin and what is not. However, I was wondering if it was good or not. So I asked him, “Geronda, what do you think? Should I continue doing religious instruction or not?” Father Paisius responded with a question, “That’s what I tell you, my child. Have you ever been to America?” “No, I haven’t.” “Of course, you haven’t. Do you know how to get to the nearest bakery?” “Yes, I do. I go there every day.” “Do you know how to get to your local school? Will you be able to explain the way to a child, if he asks you?” “Yes, Father, I know the road to the school because I go past it every day.” “What if the child asks you how to get to America, do you know what to tell him?” “No, Father, I don’t know because I’ve never been to America.” “That’s what you should do in your life. That’s what you should teach in your Sunday School. Tell them how to get to the bakery or to the school, that is, talk about the things that you know and that you’ve experienced. Don’t tell them about America that you don’t know.”
I’m not sure that the elder’s words about America were foreknowing. At that time, I had nothing in common with the US and I didn’t even think of going there. I’ve visited the States many times since 2007 but at that point, I had never been to that country.
The elder’s message was that I had to do my best to avoid being a man of sciolistic conversations about faith and theology. I had to talk about the marrow of what I’ve learned from my own personal experience.
“Talk about the bakery! Tell them how to buy bread in the bakery and how to get to the nearest school.” The saint’s words seem too unsophisticated but in fact they are very meaningful and fundamental. They call us to authentic and sincere living. We go to Church to get to know God. Some of us later become fake. We pretend to know everything already. We talk about everything so easily. We hurry to resolve the problems of other people.
We have our own opinions about all things. We like pointing at others’ failures. In reality, things are not what they seem. Even when we talk about holy ideas, we have other thoughts in mind. Words of Saint Paisius are hard to overestimate, “Talk about God with your life.”
From the book “Marriage and Its Problems”
by Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos)
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds