Archimandrite Andrew Conano: the Lord condemns not the sinners, and hypocrites

The priest is not the source of truth, and a guide who helps people see the right path. To direct this path can be different, but lead can only be one who remains honest and shows people the truth and not a fake image. How to stay honest before God and men, says Archimandrite Andrei (Konnos).


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Let you feel better

Archimandrite Andrew (Konnos)

Today I do not disconnect your phone during the transfer because the reason for our conversation today was one text that I recently received. And now I want to share with you some of my thoughts, which appeared after this.

Dear friend! I pray that you feel better. You were relaxed and happy in this absurd world full of problems. Below you’re able to achieve a balance and learned to enjoy, despite the fact that you touched on (and if not yet affected, will affect) the crisis. Yes, today we have a lot of problems, serious problems, but let your heart rejoice! Believe you able to do it. And then if you smile at a child (even if not yours), his smile will warm your soul, fill you with joy and banish all tension. And if a loved one will embrace you, soul will fill with happiness.

You can not have much money but have lots of love in your heart, a lot of heat, a lot of good feelings and a lot of good books. Pray your life was filled with grace, kindness and beauty, despite the difficulties of the present time. And how wonderful it is to read books! No matter – art or a special, nonfiction, poems or prose – someone like that! Thanks to books, we are transported to another world, and then you might think: “Yes, the time in which I live is difficult, but there are so many wonderful, we will not concentrate on the problems!”

Remember, Christ said: “Look at the pretty flowers, birds!” In a world full of suffering, tragedies and disasters, the flowers maintain their beauty and fragrance, evoking a smile.

And you, despite leaving years – find a way to keep the balance and stay afloat.

You’re a priest, what people think about you?


But back to the message. What happened?

In our Church on Saturdays, we occasionally serve the Liturgy in the late evening, immediately after Vespers. Why do we do that? It’s just convenient – and for young people and for older people who don’t go to bed early on Saturday, but want to sleep in Sunday. Our members love these services, they like Saturday night meet in the Church. For them is a pastime for pleasure comparable to an evening walk, a disco, cinema or concert. We call these services the vigils, and the expression to go to the vigil for our parishioners it is clear as, for example, go for a walk. Vigil starts, I have already said, in the evening, and ends after midnight half past twelve, half past one. People really like these services.

And so, we serve the vigil, all is beautiful, touching, mysterious scents of incense interspersed with one another… Our students sang the Cherubic hymn, and when the Liturgy ended, they came to me and said:

– Father, we haven’t eaten since yesterday. Come with us, we’ll buy and eat!

I was also hungry, but in the head immediately climbed thoughts: “You’re a priest, what people think about you? Isn’t that a sin what you want to do? If befits you to do so?”

– Do not worry – calmed me down guys. – We’re not doing anything wrong. Just stop at some diner and buy souvlaki (a kind of barbeque – approx. interpreter).

– Souvlaki? – I was taken aback.

I immediately wanted kebabs, but I didn’t mind, and myself continued to search for the correct answer to the question, can or cannot. The inner voice said, “But you also want…” And I read that in such cases you just need to pretend that you’re not interested; and in the lives of the fathers, the Philokalia, the Holy fathers said, if you have touched Christ, nothing else you don’t need. It is written in the books – but those who these books were, themselves experienced similar! However, at that time I was not able to think. Not able to think that now, after Communion, I come home, subtracting two-hour rule, eat a biscuit or a bun and go to sleep almost on an empty stomach. I wanted to eat – that was the answer to my question. The answer, dictated by the situation, “outside”. Yes, that is the “outside” and “inside” – what you say and what you think. One thing – the external side of life you show others, like the Pharisees, pious, reverent, perfect people who strictly fasted, watched its appearance, but the Lord so often said, “You disappoint Me. You as the rich tombs – pretty on the outside, but inside kisite worms. Inside of you is a corpse of hypocrisy and lies. This is what you carry in yourself.”

Thus saith the Lord: He does not denounce sinners, Pharisees, hypocrites.

No need to play God


And I remembered what I said one monk on mount Athos:

You are a priest. What does it mean to be a priest? Someone to show people who you really are, or not? Yes, you need to show God, but through themselves. That is, you need to portray someone? The build of a ascetic, an ascetic, a unique spiritual person, which are not? So how can that be – to pretend or be yourself?

And now I remember their conversation with elder paisios, when I was thinking about whether I teach Sunday school to tell the children about God and the Sacraments. Then I thought that I was a liar. And the elder asked me this question:

– If you ask, where is your school, you will be able to answer?

“Yes,” I said.

– And if will ask where on your street sell cakes do?

“Yes,” I said again.

Okay. And if you ask, which way is America and what this country will be able to answer?

– No.

– And why not?

– Because I was not in America.

(Then I really never have not been there; but subsequently many times visited this country thanks to our broadcast, I was invited to interview with our American brothers and sisters).

The old man continued:

– See? About America you can not say anything because never there was. And in school – talk only about what you know, what I went through. Tell them about school, about pastries around the corner, about where they are.

I think you understand why the old man had mentioned it cakes and school. And then, and another – a place where we send people for a purpose. That is, if we are asked where to buy a pie – we give the pavilion with pastries. And when it comes time to learn – send him to school. The elder wanted me to say the following: you Explorer, show people where to go. You’re not the source. Any priest, or theologian, or the old man – anyone who helps and guides the spiritual, should be aware of these limits and not exceed his powers by repeating to myself: “I am not the One Who saves. No need to play God. I’m not God, I’m one of you, and therefore nothing you are not different, I’m just like you – an ordinary man”. And when the priest, the spiritual man says so, he is completely unique, because his relationship with God, so desirable for him, he becomes more and closer.

However, this does not mean that the ultimate goal is achieved. And I’m a man. And I eat, drink, take a shower. And I pollute the environment like other people.

The priest is not from a parallel reality


Many times I have told one of my students saw me with a bun during the break, very surprised. Remember this event so often because he very well reflects people’s perceptions of the priests, who must exist in some parallel reality. No, it’s the wrong idea. Of course, I can say: “This is our business – as I want you and imagine.” Of course, your business – imagine me praying on vodusek, but it wouldn’t be true. As if to show the truth, you will understand that we are not so different from you and different. We are all people.

In General, the boy saw me at recess eat the bun, and was so astonished that he exclaimed:

– Oh-Oh-Oh!

– What happened, son? – I asked.

– Father, you also eat? – he asked quite sincerely.

– Well, Yes, eating! I have this habit – is. Why can’t I?

– But, father, today?

– Yes, but today some special day? Post there…

Yeah, really… really…

In General, the boy was speechless. It seemed to him that I shouldn’t eat, because I’m not like everyone else. And here suddenly – such earthiness.

Then I remembered the words of paisija Athos:

Let the people you instruct, you sometimes see ordinary, everyday things. Let see the priest, the priest who preaches them from the pulpit, hovering over the sinful earth in their clouds, suddenly appears with them on the tour. Let them see you panic, don’t doschitalis someone on the bus. Let them see how wonderful father, who seemed always so calm, you may start to worry, asking anxiously: “where is so-and-so? I counted, and it’s not! Where did she go?” When will people understand that you can worry and be angry; that you’re the same as them.

But if you will not see what you really are, on the one hand, you will not be able to unite the people, and on the other you’re honest with God, and thus neither God nor the people will not see from you what they would like. False image will not help you in your Ministry.

He told me that elder paisios and I asked him:

– Sorry, father, but when people see my true face, they will not be disappointed?

“No,” he replied, you will not be disappointed. Try it, and he was convinced of this! Let them see what you eat, and you sometimes give yourself a treat when you pick up another bun from the tray, because these muffins are so delicious that it is impossible to stop, and ask again and again. Then people will say: “Behold, and he loves to eat, and he likes the same as us.” So they are aware of the presence of God here on earth. Realize that you need to be honest with you, as ourselves, and to others; to be humble and not to hide from everyone with food, as do I and probably not only me, when the people we are kind, humble, and in fact is not such.

We the people


These words of the elder made me then and I remembered them the moment when the guys invited me to eat after the Liturgy. And I thought, what really is spiritual and what is worldly, secular? I remembered passages from books read, remembered conversations at conferences and seminars and told the guys:

– Let’s go! I’m with you. We’re a little? I’m not going to get out of the car, wait for you, and you will bring me food.

– Well! they said.

And we went in search of kebabs.

Imagine the following situation. We, like the angels, singing: “cherub secretly preparation perfectly removes plaque…”; then, during the Eucharistic Canon, I was dressed in the clothes of the Kingdom of Heaven, encouraged the believers to direct the hearts of the mountain, upward, and with a censer in his hand, oscura incense to the Holy Spirit, blessing the worshipers with the words: “Peace to all!” prayed about bringing honest gifts.

And now I’m going to eat souvlaki. Strange, isn’t it? It does not fit into what was just is very down to earth. That’s why I started to ask questions.

To go along with the guys, not to separate from them, the laity. Remember the words of elder Paisius, “Be close to the people and so be real! Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Do not show Holiness, which is not!”

To go with the guys and eat souvlaki – to be seen of them: I am the same as them. Especially because it’s true.

And I remembered how at theological conferences, during coffee breaks, where everything is so happily flock to break, offers a variety of sweets – scones, buns, and these amazing meatless croissant with chocolate filling. And here you come, and you say: “take it, Take it, it was fast! Don’t worry!” And here to take a bite, and the chocolate is so good melts in your mouth… “Is a lean cream!” So I can get more. “And these, too lean?” “Yes, it is all meatless! Eat as much as you want!” And we eat. And then back to the conference room where we continue to talk about the elders-Postnikov, who wore a shirt with the years protrudes to the holes.

And then break again, and again we are waiting for a treat – sweets, juice… Someone smokes in the area… And then back to the room, and again the conversation about high…

So one thing is theory and another practice. Devotees don’t just preach – they lived as he preached. And we are only talking about them. And we are quite different.

Souvlaki and grace

Souvlaki – Greek kebab

But back to the souvlaki.

We reached the bakery. The guys got out of the car, and one of them asked me:

– Father, what do you want souvlaki?

I was thinking about it. And suddenly remembered that I was told about a very tasty sauce.

– Yes, anything!

– And how much you want souvlaki? One or two?

One, two… Why not three? But I replied:

To – let two. And with a sinking heart, he added: – With sauce!

Guys I bought a souvlaki, soft drinks, brought me two (I wanted more!) kebab and quietly began to eat. It started to rain, and one guy sat in the car with me. I was embarrassed there in front of him – I knew him very little, he recently started going to our vigil. And then there’s this white sauce dripping from my beard – not to get dirty was impossible… well, eat in peace, I did not succeed. “Mother Of God! – I sighed to myself. – Only what served the Liturgy, prayed at the altar, everything was so sublimely and now eat a kebab in front of the youth. What will they think?” I’m tormented by the thought, how the boys would regard my action. Tormented, but it seemed to me that their is too worried.

Finally souvlaki was over. We said goodbye and went home.

And so the next day I get a text. Finally we came to what I was talking about in the beginning. SMS was from the same boy we sat in the car. “Well, I thought, is the beginning.”

Opened the message and began to read: “father, now I love you even more.” “Probably some mistake”. – I thought, but continued to read. “The more I know you, the more you are in the temple, the more I love and respect you as a person. Because in your example I see that you can live pleasing to God and is to be yourself”. Then I stopped and decided to read the text from the beginning – the young man clearly wasn’t going to scold me, and I calmed down. But just in case, checked the contact – Yes, it was the same guy who I ate souvlaki. Everything was fine, I breathed a sigh of relief: the young man is not embarrassed with my act. And continued to read a text message: “That is to be a real Christian and despite the barbecue sauce, the Lord will still accept your prayer.”

The fears were not confirmed. My decision is not only no bother, but was the reason for the fact that this young man became even more love and respect me. And once again I realized that sometimes we have radically false beliefs about other people. For example, you’re afraid that if people at work would say something, others will not like it and you will speak ill. However, in some cases, fears have been in vain. In vain are we lost in vain tormented himself with such thoughts! The world around is not as bad as we think.

Have you ever wondered why we are afraid that we would think badly? Because we are bad thought about a person in a similar situation. This is a warning signal words: “What about me?” In these words we give ourselves away – because Yes, we would certainly have begun to condemn.

Fortunately, not all people condemn. Not everyone is like you and me. There are a lot of good people, humble, with an open heart that accepts us for who we are and respect us for it. You know?

After receiving that text, I was expecting to read: “Now when I saw you eating barbecue with the sauce, I ceased to respect you. Do not wait for me. I’m not going to turn to you for advice and help, I will not respect and honor you. All! You have disappointed me, fell into my eyes.”

And what happened? SMS is not just turned out to be quite different in content; I just have not fallen in the eyes of this young man – I went up to his eyes! Due to some souvlaki with the sauce. This to me has not happened.

I continued to read: “to be healed, do not have to go to the mountains or to shut in the caves. By living simply, you can feel close to Christ.”

What words in this message was the key? I will tell you: “Living simply”. If our life is simple, if we live truthfully and honestly, then healing is possible. It is possible to feel of Christ. Because Christ only comes to such people, simple-hearted, loving each other as brothers, relating to all as equals.

And here is how it ends for free:

“I will pray to continue to learn from you not only in word but also in deed, when you spend time with us. Bless”.

So here it is. As you can see, one text received after a barbecue sauce, can be a reason to talk about spiritual, Church, even theological themes. And the conclusion is that everything in this world is imbued with God’s grace, God’s blessing.


Translation Yelizaveta Terentyeva for the portal “Orthodoxy and the world”

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