Talk by Fr Athanasios Gikas

Summary of the online Zoom talk,  H. Tuesday, April 14, 2020, of Fr Athanasios Gikas, professor of Pastoral Theology (at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) on the theme of ‘Holy Week from home and the teachings of Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra.’

We are very grateful and happy that so many of you joined the talk, asked questions, and overall enjoyed the informative and spiritually nourishing advice of fr Athanasius, priest of the Metochi of Simonopetra in Thessaloniki.

Περίληψη ( στα Αγγλικά ) της ομιλίας του πατρός Αθανασίου Γκίκα (καθηγητής του τμήματος Ποιμαντικής της Θεολογικής Σχολής ΑΠΘ Θεσσαλονίκης) μέσω Zoom για το ποίμνιο της Αρχιεπισκοπής Θυατείρων και Μεγάλης Βρετανίας με θέμα ‘Αγία και Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα από το σπίτι και η διδασκαλία του Γέροντος Αιμιλιανού.’

– These days, during quarantine, we miss the church, we miss worship, we miss the interaction with our parish members. But Jesus Christ is present in peoples’ hearts no matter the location, because when the shepherd – in our case the Archbishop – prays to God and conducts the Liturgy either at the church or in a chapel, he becomes the channel of communication between God and his flock. God visits each person individually who wishes to have communion with him.

– On Holy Wednesday, the Gospel we read during Matins refers to the incident when a sinful woman approached Jesus and anointed him with myrrh and wiped his feet with her hair. This event clearly reminds us that God’s love transcends all sins, that God accepts the repentance and the return of every sinner. That woman showed her true repentance and love to God through her actions. Christ not only allowed her to complete her action, but he embraced her true repentance by telling everyone there that she is an example for all.

– But how do we reach repentance? The most important condition is humility. When we realize that we are far away from God, that means we live in sin, we feel trapped in our egocentrism which leads us to isolation and sorrow. This unpleasant condition will then make us feel humbled by God, to realize our weakness, and to seek our freedom from the chains of bad habits, which is sin. This is the time when we need to admit and say “I have sinned”. It is exactly what we chant in the services of the Great Lent: “We have sinned, we have broken the law, we have wronged before you…’

– If our life was a departure from God until this moment, this is the time we need to decide whether we want to return back to Him, like the prodigal son in the parable. This is the time we need to pursue the restoration of our relationship with God, to regain purity and reunite with him.

– Silence/Peace of mind is one of the methods in reuniting with Him. Noise, scattering of thoughts, daily worries, fantasies and many other things, that build walls separating us from God. All these, along with our bad habits, create an internal disorder that interrupts the continuity of our communication with God. When we pray we get distracted by thoughts. Only when our mind and heart is peaceful, then we can cultivate praying and virtue – the two communication channels between God and the human being. Through these channels, we get to know God and experience his presence in our lives. Our mind becomes the watchful guardian of our hearts and it allows us to receive God’s gifts.

– Now, during this period of quarantine and social distancing, is the perfect time to enjoy the peace in our home and create the ideal conditions for spiritual work; We have the chance to pursue a new spiritual life and become living hearts that will be ignited by God and will be flooded with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

– Elder Aimilianos says that in order to gain a spiritual life we need to have courage and determination throughout this fight. It is required to show heroism during this fight in order to achieve long lasting results. Spiritual life could be achieved either easily or laboriously depending on someone’s attitude and circumstances towards this goal. It requires perseverance and faith to obtain it but also patience and stability to maintain it. The saints are the ones who teach us the path and the way towards spiritual life.

Five Steps:

– First, we need to accept the sorrows, pains, and failures of life without despairing and without blaming God for being harsh and punishing us. In difficult times, let us praise God and show that we are true witnesses of Christ and gladly accept the pain we encounter.
– Second, we need to show heroism in Christian life which implies struggle, sacrifices to cut off our passions (πάθη), weaknesses and sins.
– Third, do not have doubts or hesitations in relation to God. Let us say incessantly: My God, if you exist, send me your Holy Spirit and He will answer and fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit.
– Fourth, we need to show our witness throughout our daily routine: at home, at work, in our relationships with other people. Deny ourselves for the sake of the other. This is martyrdom.
– Fifth, within our social environment we need to give ourselves to people around us who need us. The curse of loneliness weighs down on many people. A lot of people live alone and there is no one to show them a little affection and love. Everyone around us, poor and rich, young and old, need us. Love, tenderness and giving should become characteristics of our life. We should live close to others and for others. The criterion of our spirituality is our neighbor, as an ascetic says. To love others not out of obligation, but out of a sense of responsibility to them.
– Last but not least the sixth step – if necessary, let us make sacrifices for other people. Be willing to sacrifice. Martyrdom means we must be deprived of something for Christ, to suffer for Christ, otherwise without the characteristic of sacrifice our life will be lacking something essential.

The key to open the door to the spiritual life is humility, the way to achieve this is repentance and success depends on effort.