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Wisdom and humility. This is how Father Theologos – one of the brilliant minds of Romanian Orthodoxy on Mount Athos – can be categorized, who speaks today with Mihai Morar about our mission on earth.
What does heaven really mean? What about hell? What is our mission among our fellow human beings and how do we get closer to God? These are questions that many believers have often asked themselves. In today’s episode we have the opportunity to find out the answer from a man who, as an IT programmer, looked for it in science, in philosophy, but found it in faith. And he found more than just this answer. We benefit from a dialogue as important as a confession that we missed, a real door to faith.
Today, at Fine and Simple, with Mihai Morar.
Mihai Morar (MM): Hello and welcome to Fine & Simple! I am Mihai Morar, a pilgrim to Holy Mount Athos.
This is the second conversation I offer you from here, from Lacu Skete, from the Cell of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple. We are after the Sunday service. Also with the Athon peak behind, with the sea somewhere on my right, and in front of me with a father whom I met the first time I was here in Athos, and I will also tell you an incident that even the father I believe does not remember, but I think he feels it. Father Theologos is my guest. Nice to see you, welcome to Fine & Simple!
Father Theologos (FT): Welcome and nice to see you too!
MM: A monk full of knowledge and in addition to theology, he is a man who is documented in other sciences throughout his life, even the exact ones, until he came here, in the Holy Mountain, to fulfil his mission. What is your mission, father?
FT: The mission of every human is to become a saint. That is, man is perfect and should be perfect, but unfortunately, sin, i.e. the distortion of behavior, of thinking, distortion of his optics, deprives him of this, so to speak, great advantage, of this great merit that man should have – meaning perfection. Perfection, to define it a little more concretely, is likeness to God. And to define it even more concretely, it is the capacity for love no matter what happens. That is, man must love everyone and everything no matter what happens. That’s on one hand, and on the other hand, in order to be able to love, he must not be dominated by absolutely anyone and anything. He’s trying to do this, but he’s trying to do it by short-circuiting things, that is, by going straight to matter. He does not try to do this work with the help of the Almighty, and because of this instead of being the master of the world with the help of the Almighty, he actually becomes its slave. He is dragged in all directions by all kinds of passions, by all kinds of pleasure centers, centers of attraction. This is the drama of the human today.
And you must know Mihai that man truly seeks his perfection. The whole planet is looking for heaven because heaven is eternal personal perfection. It’s just that most of them – of us – we look for heaven where it isn’t and/or we look for it in the wrong way. And this is the great drama of history. Because people, unfortunately, are fumbling in the dark. They are fumbling because they have moved away from the light of God. And when I say the light of God, we should always know, as the Holy Fathers say, it is an understanding light, that is, science, a super-science. And we are not talking about this science that we know from books, meaning, I do the experiment, I see that it fits, or it doesn’t fit and I deduce. No! The knowledge of God is: BAM you know. Suddenly. So we don’t dig, but actually the person is enlightened. As people say, “The penny dropped.” This is the so-called revelation from God and true knowledge.
MM: Meaning you can believe even if you do not have all the evidence?
FT: Yes, you can believe. And in fact, true faith is supra-logical faith, not under-logical faith. There are two types of faith. The faith is under-logic, the one in which…how to put it…I come with a stick and say: “You must believe and if you don’t, God will beat you!” and so on. It is faith under-logic and that usually exists in Islam. Super-logical faith is in the moment when God comes, the saints come and show you: “Look, here’s the thing, this works, it works.”
So you have to believe that beyond the fact that it works and you’ve seen the results of this, it’s something higher. So just as you now have faith in me because I am at Lacu, you believe in me if I tell you:
Brethren, in order to reach Saint Paul’s Monastery, you must take this way, go in that direction, then go up and so on. You believe in me. Why? Because you already have the logical plane satisfied – that yes, the father is at Lacu Skete and therefore he must know the way to St. Paul’s.
The spiritual faith is the same. That is, there are things above logic, as I said —true science, pre-science, and all the rest—and this belief in things above logic comes through the fulfilment of logic. Meaning, once again: there are people who logically show that there are certain things that are like that, and from there on, people have to believe that there are also things that their logic does not have access to, their logic has no experience of, they have to believe that it’s how things are.
MM: I said that Father Theologos is fascinating, and I’m glad to have this discussion and now, here, I’m going to make an inception, so to speak, and I’m going to remember our first meeting. It happened 3 years ago, before the pandemic. I was, if I may say confused, it seems a bit abrupt, but I was moved by the meeting with you and the first discussion we had. But then something happened. When the group I belonged to was leaving the monastery, because the walls of the monastery here in the Holy Mountain were being closed, you came, you took me aside, you extracted me from the group…
FT: Glory to God!
MM: You don’t remember?
MM: And you told me, “Mihai, you are sensitive, you are very sensitive. You have a lot of love to offer, but something is hurting you. Have more courage!” That’s all you told me. And you left me for months to think about what Father Theologos wanted to tell me. And a lot has changed in my life since then, in my work, in my message, and in my mission, but I won’t elaborate on that here because after all, my mission is public. How do you sense people? Where does this feeling come from? Or this supra-sensing?
FT: Yes. I’m not going to talk about myself…
MM: Not about you, nor was it a personal question.
FT: I know, I know, I will say something now, Saint Porphyrios is a great, great, great saint. And at one point, a brother, a spiritual child of his, went to Saint Porphyrios and said to him:
“Father Porphyrios, you are holy, you are great and you have revelations from God. Aren’t you proud?”
And Saint Porphyrios says: “Well, why should I be proud?”
“Well, God reveals to you!”
“And because of this?”
“Yes, of course, how can you not?”
And Saint Porphyrios says: “Look, let me tell you something. You will see that now the phone will ring, it will be this person, with this problem and the answer is this. Answer him, please.”
And indeed, in two minutes the phone rings and it was that person, with that problem, and this disciple gives the answer he was told. And the man on the phone marvels, impressed by the answer that was indeed correct, and hangs up. And Saint Porphyrios says to the disciple who answered the phone:
“Aren’t you proud?”
He says: “No.”
“Well why not?”
“Well, how? Your holiness told me [what to say].”
“See, it’s the same with me and God!”
Do you understand? So man does what God tells him. Man, in fact, the moment he has revelation from God, he lives, but he does not live his own state, but lives the state of the other. The moment you are cold, hungry, thirsty or even sad, you are happy…These are your states. By the grace of God, one can live these things, but another’s. Understand? So at some point, man begins to be sad for no reason and he feels, the grace of God tells him, that this sadness comes from the one in front of him.
MM: We call it empathy, when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
FT: That’s empathy and it’s a psychological phenomenon: you infer it by what the other person looks like and you see the other person is sad and then you put a hand on their shoulder. Which is a very good thing and these must be done and this is also a gift from God. I’m talking about a higher level where God comes and says: See that the other has a problem. And the other may not be present. Saint Joseph the Hesychast, for example, him and his disciples were eating and at one point Saint Joseph the Hesychast began to cry at the table. His spiritual children looked and said, “Father, but what is happening?”
And Father Joseph says: “Leave me because right now a soul is in need, a soul is hurting, a soul is suffering now and it’s about this person and now we have to pray for him.” And they all prayed for him. But this, God does, only when the love does not decrease from that person. Because, for example, if God discovers to me that the other has a problem and I am full of passions, of sins and I say:
“Oh, the pig, oh, that’s what he deserves…”
In that case of course God doesn’t reveal it. But the moment I use this to enhance love, that is, to pray for the other, to find a way to help the other, a good word:
[Praying] “God, what can I say to him? God, how can I help him?”
At that moment, God says: Yes, take five, here, look this is what is happening with the other. These are the revelations. And these happen, when God wants. It’s not in the person’s power…
MM: Yes, but God works through pure people and here in Athos there is a lot of pureness in people.
FT: Yes, of course, the present person excludes himself.
MM: I repeat. We are not talking about the present people.
FT: That’s right. There is a lot, a lot, of pureness. So much pureness you can’t even imagine. For example, there was a Romanian monk…
MM: Did you know him?
FT: Not me, personally, but I know the person who knew that father. Father Enoh. I can tell his name because he has gone to the Lord. If we’re talking about living people, I won’t say their names. After many years, he went to Thessaloniki, with a health issue. The man didn’t know what cars were, and things like that…, he didn’t have money, he didn’t know what money was. And they put him in a taxi and they were going by taxi. And the driver, when he saw that the man was in ragged clothes, with messy hair, and all that, and it was obvious that the man didn’t know, had no idea, he started to mock and started cursing and all that. He was standing with his hand on the door and was swearing at the top of his lungs because the father in question was a sure victim. And after I don’t know how long, when they stopped at the stoplight and he was constantly mocking the father, the father says, with a lot of humility, he says:
“Listen Panayiotis, please, stop cursing because you have the window open and people outside can hear it and we embarrass ourselves.”
And the taxi driver turns yellow, turns green, sweats all over and says, “How do you know my name?”
And the father says: “Well, I just said a random name and it fit.”
Understand? So it’s about a very great pureness that allows that person to love whatever happens. Whatever happens, to love! And to not hurt the other! And another story. Now you got me started.
MM: That’s what I wanted.
FT: Yes, good. A group of pilgrims go to Saint Porphyrios and they bring him an icon as a gift. St. Porphyrios was already blind from diseases, old age and so on. They give him the icon and say:
“Father Porphyrios, bless us! Give us a word of benefit!”
The saint takes the icon in his hand and starts caressing it, “What a beautiful icon, extraordinary! What a beautiful icon! Phenomenal icon! Who made this icon?” It was glued on wood. “Who did this job?”
“Father, I did it. Tell us a word of benefit!”
“Phenomenal icon, awesome, but how did you do it? How did you glue this icon?”
“Father, how did I glue it? With glue, I used glue and so on. Give us a word!”
“Phenomenal icon! You can’t even imagine how much I like it! But how did you glue it?”
“Father, leave it alone… How did I do it? I put glue, I put the paper on top.”
“Extraordinary! But how well the icon is stuck on. But how did you do it?”
“Father, but leave it alone! Please, a word!”
“But how did you do it?”
“Father, how did I do it? Okay, I put the wood down, I put the glue on, I put the paper on top, I took a big piece of wood, I put my feet on it to press it down.”
“Well, you see, don’t do that again!” [Father Porphyrios said.]
That is, the father had received revelation from God that the person was stepping on the icons with his feet to press them down, to glue them on well, and he took them to it slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, making himself look like a fool… pretending to have a mental retardation to bring him to confess it himself.
“Well, you see, don’t do that again!” He could have said from the beginning: “Oh, you wretch, have you no shame…?”
MM: Yes, I’m curious and I’ve asked this question before, but I will ask it every time I’m in front of someone who knows. What happens when so many pure people pray every day? This morning, we got up at 5 and we attended the Holy Liturgy until 8. And all the brothers from here at the cell were there. And besides this cell there are 15 more cells here at Lacu Skete, and many monasteries, sketes, cells throughout the mountain. What happens when so many monks pray at the same time, everyday, from here on the Holy Mountain?
FT: The world is preserved, the world is prolonged. The world is preserved through the Liturgy, you know, through prayer! God is Almighty, but God is so loving that He does not trample on human freedom. The moment people don’t pray, the moment people turn away from God, man becomes… you can’t say – an animal – because you demean the animal. The animal is not distorted. I have never seen even monkeys make wars like humans do. Understand? Eh, man away from God destroys himself. Literally. We see what is happening in this world. And then, through prayer, we put our freedom as a sacrifice before God and say to Him: Lord, help us! And help those who stray from You! That is, we say to God: Ok, violate their freedom and help them, because we sacrifice our freedom for You. That is, because we are united with those who are straying…
We are the same person, the same species. Maybe we should talk about why there are not 7 billion people on this earth, but only one person. So, we say: God, help these people! To not fight, to stop the war, to be more loving, to understand each other. So because of this prayer the world is prolonged, you know. Because otherwise, God, respecting people’s freedom of choice, the world would have perished long ago. So through prayer… Well, not by mine, but by the fathers, because they are very, very pure fathers indeed.
MM: So the prayer of the fathers, the prayer of the monks here, in Athos, keeps the world going…
FT: Yes, it does. And that of those in the world. Of all who pray. Of course, each to their own measure.
MM: Just like the prayers of mothers that have holiness…
FT: Oh, yes!
MM: Every mother has holiness. As the prayers of mothers guide the steps of children, likewise the prayers of monks…
FT: …Help the world. Here we have to talk a little about mothers.
FT: Prayer has power for many reasons, but we are only discussing two. One reason prayer is very powerful is holiness. And that is reached… as it is reached. If you want, we can discuss. The second reason, however, is the connection, the institution. There are more or less intense bonds between people. The moment God gives someone to the care of another; That is: there are kinship ties that are very strong, there are even professional ties, there are ties that are even stronger: abbot – spiritual children. That is, ties of spiritual guidance. Priest – spiritual child bond. At that moment, the prayer of one towards the other is very strong. Why? Because God allowed this relationship, this connection and people are much closer and then the grace drawn through the prayer of one, that is, the uncreated energy of God drawn through the prayer of one goes to the other. As in communicating vessels. Maybe I should say something here so that it is understood… because you are fumbling a little bit. Please forgive me for saying so!
So it says in Genesis: And God made man – singular – male and female – plural – He made him. After which it says: Let Us make man – singular – after Our image and likeness – plural.
What do we know about God? We know about God that there is only one God in Three Persons – the Holy Trinity. The Three Persons are so united that they form one God. Like three sounds from three different sources are joined together to form one sound, but there are three. Or three lights, three beams of light – become one beam. So likewise God made man in His image and likeness: one person, not 7 billion, one person in many persons of two genders – male and female. So what were we supposed to be? We were to be one gigantic mind —that is what God created—in His own image and likeness, in many persons. So we at this time, Mihai, should have known each other’s thoughts and worked together in real time, without any trace of misunderstanding – death is the lack of understanding – for the same goal which is eternal personal perfection. Today we no longer feel this complete unity…
MM: So a consciousness of humanity. A mind of the world.
FT: Yes, yes, yes. One man! Yes. A mind of all of us. So at this time I should have known your thoughts and his and the other’s and so on and everyone should know each other’s thoughts and as I said, all working together at once. So for example, how it works:
The moment I walk to my room, my knees do something, my hands do something else, my eyes do something else, and all of these work together in real time for the same goal. And all of these communicate with each other. Or neurons in a brain. That’s what it’s like. Today, however, unfortunately, we no longer have this feeling, this experience. Why? Because we are broken apart by sin. We are smashed. So the unique mirror of the unique Adam, the unique mirror of the unique God who is the unique Adam, fell and broke into many pieces. And that’s why we argue with each other. I said death is lack of understanding between us.
And the Saviour said: Well, you botched it, you’re all in pieces. Come on, let’s do it again. Unite with Me and through Me among yourselves!
These ontological units, these existential units, these connections still exist when these institutions appear: mother-child, abbot and/or spiritual father to their spiritual children and so on. Or when man approaches God. The moment man approaches God then all these things intervene. That is, the person unites with the other and begins to have discoveries about the other – what his state is and so on. He unites with the other. Imagine the world as a circle and existences are on the edge of the circle and God is in the centre of the circle as the giver of existence, as the source of existence. Well, the closer existences get to God, the more they get closer to each other. When they reach God, they meet. So there is no direct way between two existences except through God. And the moment one reaches God, in that moment he knows everything, from experience.
MM: You said that we can no longer access the thoughts of another or this consciousness of the world, this mind of the world because our sins draws us apart from it.
FT: That’s right.
MM: What are the sins that keep us away from this central server?
FT: Of course we have here a list, one, two three, four. But I’m not going to say that. Okay, I’ll say that too, but first of all I want to give a definition of sin so that it will be understood. So we have this goal, we have our way in life, the way of union, the way of love. Ok. At some point, however, a centre of attention appears that attracts me.
MM: It actually distracts you!
FT: Yes, it distracts me or pulls me in the wrong direction, into nothingness like a magnetic force, yes? And I’m going in that direction. That is sin. Sin is felt by the brain as pleasure. I like it, I’m comfortable, I go there, I isolate myself, I break away from this global Adam. And I stick to that sin, that’s passion. I stick to it, I don’t want to break away from there. The Church, Orthodoxy in fact, is the medical science of detaching man from these great pleasure centres and securing his freedom. Ensuring man’s access to this mind, to the global Adam, because this constitutes his happiness. Hell is eternal loneliness, or as Dostoevsky said:
“Hell is the impossibility to love.”
MM: Superb, one of the most…, plastic, beautiful and true definitions. And what is Heaven?
FT: Heaven is complete unity. Heaven means that I will be in you, you will be in me, we will both be in…, I don’t know, in Răzvan for example and you will say: Look how beautiful it is! How beautiful is the other! Extraordinary, how beautiful he is! Totally different from myself, but how beautiful the other is. And we will see the beauty of the other person. And then the three of us go and say, “How beautiful Emil is!” for example. And then Emil will also say: “Look how beautiful Mihai truly is!” And this totally new and continuously new experience, the surprise and beauty of the person will be endless. And of course the greatest beauty will be the beauty of the absolute persons, that is, of the Holy Trinity, of the persons of the Holy Trinity, that is, God’s.
MM: Because you were talking about absolute beauty, I wanted to ask you, why are there no mirrors in Athos? There are no mirrors either in the cells nor in the rooms where the pilgrims are accommodated. Nowhere!…
FT: Please forgive us! Why? Because the mirror really leads to this loneliness. I mean, I see myself alone, and then I begin – and that is the backbone of sinful man – self-love. That is, I must not go there, that is, love, my capacity for love, must go to the other, and that is Heaven. If I point it at myself, I implode. So think about the dynamics of a star. If the star has a greater force outwards, very simplistically, things are more complicated, we’re talking simplistically, then the star becomes a Super Nova. So it explodes, if it has a much greater love for those outside it explodes outwards and there is all this beauty, all this explosion of beauty… If it has love towards itself, it falls under the weight of its own mass and becomes a black hole.
MM: But self-love is not a sin.
FT: It is a great sin, it is a very great sin. But pay attention here. We are talking about sinful self-love.
MM: That’s what I’m talking about, that in fact you have to love your neighbor as yourself.
FT: What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? Remember the global Adam. And the analogy made with the limbs, that is, each of us is a limb, a neuron in this gigantic mind, in this global Adam, yes? Good! And so I must love the other as my other neuron, as my other limb. Meaning, I am the left hand, I love my eye, because the eye helps me. My big stupidity is that I want to rule everything and I want to be the eye too, and why is he the eye and I…, do you understand? That is the great problem of people today. But the moment I have the consciousness of this global Adam, and above all I have the consciousness of my place and I know that in my place no one, neither the biggest nor the strongest can be better than me in my place. Because this is my place. I am this member, that is, the hand cannot say to the foot “You are worse than me!” Since a person cannot walk on his hands, or he does, in two minutes he falls down. Understand?
So if everyone knows their place and potentiates the grace of God, the uncreated energy of God, in that place, potentiates love, potentiates union, then that man is invincible. He is the best in that place. But if man cuts himself off, that is, the limb cuts itself off from this global Adam, and begins to love himself:
“How great am I, what great things I have achieved and so on…”
MM: But I will also love you from time to time just to show you that I am a good Christian!
FT: Yes, then man becomes gangrenous. Like a limb that is cut, it rots and is thrown away. So our value is always absolute, but through others.
MM: But when does it appear?… You know, in cars, the lights appears on the dashboard when something happens. When does this dashboard light come on when you love yourself too much? What does it mean to love yourself too much?
FT: The moment you see that your love for others is diminishing. We must always sacrifice ourselves for others, always! So self-love always, as I said, must be like this:
I mean, I love myself because I can help others. God doesn’t care what we do, as I said. God made this whole planet, this whole universe, of 93 billions light years. I mean what do we do? Let’s be serious. However, God is interested in our capacity for love, our capacity for unity. Because that is what constitutes our happiness. And He wants our happiness because He is our Father. And when I love others more, and love myself, that is, I take care of myself, because yes, I can help others. I prepare with… sound, with image, with professional training to help others, this is true self-love. Because it is a love that loves the neighbor, not a selfish love, of myself. Do you understand? Because loving myself condemns me to loneliness. To eternal monotony. To an infinite finite. To a limitation within the very narrow frameworks of my own vision. And that’s what hell actually is. That is, in eternity I am forever going to be thinking about so-and-so getting on my nerves 5 billion years ago?
MM: Does this matter in eternity?
FT: It matters because it is my torment. I doesn’t matter to anyone.
MM: That’s what I’m saying! So that’s why there are no mirrors in Mount Athos.
FT: That’s why there aren’t…
MM: Because it doesn’t matter!
FT: Exactly. Because it doesn’t matter. And because what matters is something else, it is love towards the other, not towards myself.
MM: And because we talked about the lack of mirrors here in Athos. You [the listeners] should know that you get used to it, that is, it takes a maximum of one day, to not need to have your self-image projected in a mirror. I want to go back a bit and talk about modern sins.
FT: Modern sins are…
MM: Or post-modern, or whatever age we live in, that of post-truth.
FT: Good one, “post-truth”, that is, of post-Christianity because truth is a person, pay great attention! Truth is not a philosophical idea. The idea of good or truth. Truth is a person. Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. That is, the truth is someone alive, someone active in everyday life, with whom I can relate and who can inform you of His existence.
MM: But can another person living on earth be the mirror of this truth-person, of Jesus?
FT: It is the Saint! Of course it is a relative mirror. All saints had their limitations. Well, the dear Mother of God is something else, but from then on, we’re all…
MM: And I was even reading in the books here from the library of your cell, that the saints also had sins.
FT: Yes, of course, because the person is in the making. And this is the great gift of God: time. Time did not exist, and it will not exist! Time is the possibility of becoming, the possibility of change.
MM: I don’t know where I was reading, I think it was about St. Iakovos?…
FT: Who committed some great sins? Or even Saint Mary of Egypt, whom we celebrate today.
MM: No, St. Iakovos, but I don’t know his name anymore, forgive my ignorance. He died around 1990 or so.
FT: Ah! St. Iakovos Tsalikis!
MM: Exactly, yes! Who always when meeting people said, “Forgive, forgive me, forgive me, forgive me!” And someone asked him,
“Father, but you didn’t do anything wrong, that is, you are almost a saint! You didn’t do anything wrong.”
And he said: “I ask for forgiveness for those thoughts of mine that somehow judged someone or…”
FT: Yes, so what happens is; The moment man approaches God, approaches this light of knowledge of which I spoke very little at the beginning… And think, if you enter my room, my cell, you will say that everything is very nice. “What a beautiful room you have father!” But if I pull back the curtain, you can see all the mess inside. “Ah! Father, you have many sins, you have a lot of filth inside you!” When a saint approaches God, light enters the chamber of his soul. The light enters the room of his soul and then he sees, he sees these…
Saint Sophronius wept with inconsolable tears because he saw his hardness relative to the delicacy of God. I mean, he saw this human fall, he saw this lack of nobility, towards God. Because the omnipotence of God is manifested through His delicacy, through His nobility. God is not a shoemaker. He is not a bulldozer operator. God appears first of all through a very fine delicacy. I mean, it says with Elijah, because Elijah wanted to see God; And as it says: And a consuming fire came and burned all the trees and melted the stones, but the Lord was not there. After that came a storm that tore the trees, but the Lord was not there. And then came a gentle wind and a breeze, as there is now…
MM: I don’t know if you can hear the wind on the microphone…
FT: …and there was the Lord! So, God manifests as I said, this delicacy so as to preserve, to keep the love.
MM: But it’s very fine, very, very fine!
FT: Yes, yes, yes! And then God slowly, slowly takes us there. Sins are an aggression against the delicacy of God.
MM: And these modern sins, what would they be?
FT: Yes, with bullet points. Fornication, brothers! Please forgive me for saying it like that! So people today, due to the fact that they have moved away from God, sin a lot in the flesh. They sin a lot in the flesh. That is, they are prisoners of these great pleasure centres and our main pleasure centre is our body. We eat well, we dress well, and of course at some point we can no longer control our body and then the body really becomes loose. It becomes loose, meaning it can no longer be held under control.
And God in the past used to give great charisms to people! The charisma of shame for example. It is a great charisma from God. The charisma of meekness. The charisma of meekness used to be called whole-thinking, whole-thinker. That is, the person was all-thoughtful when he was meek, when he was humble, when he had shame. Not in the inferiority complex sense, that’s something else. But it is about that shame as a barrier in front of the things that debauch us, that is, things that cut our brakes. We can no longer control ourselves and we go with our mind and body like a boulder rolling downhill.
MM: And how do we put the brakes on?
FT: How do we put the brakes on? Well, this is the asceticism of the Church. This is what the Church deals with. First of all, fast! So we start with the first thing, which is fasting. That is, restraint in eating, so that the body no longer has the necessary strength to demand its rights. And here you can see the demonic energy, on the other hand. I mean if you tell people to diet or keto or go vegan or whatever, people do! If you tell them to fast… “Father I can’t, I get dizzy!” Although the others, vegan and all that and especially keto…
MM: There is also fasting, intermittent fasting!
FT: Yes, intermittent fasting, do you understand? So if you say intermittent fasting, it’s cool! If you say to fast… “But father, I get dizzy!” Well, it means there’s something evil at play. Let’s get back to sins!
One is about that and two is about keeping away from strong pleasure centres. Far, far, far away! So the force of attraction, even in physics, the force of attraction is proportional to the square of the distance. So if you get half the distance closer to the person you’re attracted to, the attraction quadruples, not twice, but quadruples. So keep away!
Brethren, block your cell phones, don’t go to places where you will fall, don’t talk to people towards whom you have a weakness! Cut, cut, cut! This is very important! Man must use another great virtue, another great charisma from God that has been lost today, which is the charisma of bravery. People today are neither shy nor meek nor brave. You must be brave! To say, “Yeah, I’m not going to do this! I’m noble, I’m a Christian, I am a man, I’m a full grown man” or I whatever, “I’m a woman, I’m lady, I don’t have to do this!”
MM: Father, but how can we do this when all that means advertising, marketing, …trade… We live in an age not of consumption but of consumerism!
FT: Yes, consumerism. Homo consumens, as someone was saying, from homo sapiens, i.e. from the wise man, today we have reached homo consumens, i.e. the consuming man.
MM: Yes, we produce less and less and consume more and more. There is clearly an imbalance. So how do we do this when everything in this age of consumerism appeals to the pleasure centers of the brain?
FT: That’s true.
MM: I mean, behind these ads there are some studies, there are some psychologists, there are some scientists who…
FT: It is a form of war. They are warriors. They are warriors and [it is] one of the main attacks and one of the most treacherous attacks on the being of the nation and each of us. So in what way?
Here maybe we should do a whole podcast about the parts of the soul, but I will mention them very briefly. There are several divisions, but for brevity, there are four. Two of them are rational – they are intelligent – and two are irrational. The intelligent parts are the mind and logic. Logic works in steps. That is, for example: I’m hungry, so I must go make food and then heat it up, then I have to eat, I have to wash my dishes and so on. Acting in steps!
The mind does not act in steps, the mind – nous in patristic terms – has a global view and the mind feels. The mind is the ultimate attention and senses the difference between right and wrong. The mind is a sensory organ. The main effect of Adam’s fall upon the mind is that man no longer feels what is good and what is bad.
The moment the mind comes out of these great pleasure centres, that is, my attention comes out of these pleasure centres and goes to God, then the mind becomes enlightened and begins to feel right. The correct feeling of the mind, illumined by the rays of divinity, is called by the Romanian nation “bunul simț – the good sense”! So I urge you very much not to let this expression disappear, and I’m asking those who watch us, not to let this expression disappear from the Romanian nation, because we are finished! We are talking about the manifestation of God’s grace, of God’s uncreated energy in everyday life, this “good sense”.
MM: Common sense!
FT: Common sense, but in English it means something else, it is much more rational. Meaning what the majority is saying. In Romanian, because it is an Orthodox language, chiseled by Orthodoxy, it refers to the correct feeling of the mind. That is, the mind, as I said, begins to know what is good and what is bad. So the moment the mind leaves this and falls into matter, when it leaves spirituality and falls into matter, at that moment, the mind becomes dark, it becomes very narrow.
For example, “What a nice watch you have, where did you get it? What kind of watch is this?” My mind fell into matter. My ultimate attention went there. I’m starting to think:
“Well, what could I do to get my hands on Mihai’s watch…to have him give it to me… how much does it cost…?”
I got into matter, I’m becoming animalistic. [Instead saying] “No, I don’t care what watch Mihai has!” Do you understand? “I’m interested in being a real person.” At that moment it’s no longer common sense. Common sense can be: “Yes, let’s do a business, to see how much the watch costs so I can get it too.”
MM: Yes, offer me a price that’s common sense, you know?
FT: Yes, yes, give me a price that’s common sense! That is not “good sense”. “Good sense” is when grandma says, “Boy, don’t do that! It’s not proper, it’s not of ‘good sense’!” You, from a logical point of view, can win the argument against grandma, but don’t do it, you’ll get burned! For example, it does not make sense to buy flowers for your wife, your lady. Those flowers wither in five days. But there’s a lot of “good sense” there, you have to do it. And this will help you as well to have joy, true happiness and of course your lady too!
MM: So, “good sense” helps you fight against sin…it’s the first weapon…
FT: Against sin! Exactly! The first weapon! From there on, also with logic, you say: “Well, how does smoking help me? How does it help me to fornicate? Beyond the fact that I’m losing money… I’m hungover, I’m addicted, I’m trying to think about something else, I’m constantly thinking about that thing! And if I die, I will forever want to smoke. In eternity I will be awaiting a cigarette that will never come again! [In eternity] I will want to fornicate with someone who no longer exists for me, I no longer have a body, there is nothing to do it with. Hell is the maximum desire, which can never be fulfilled again! This is hell. Man will be alone, eternally alone, oppressed, enslaved by some desires potentiated to the maximum, which will never be fulfilled again. This is the torment of Hell! These are the flames of hell!
MM: These are the flames of hell, in fact, the desires you can no longer…
FT: …that you can never fulfil. And because of that we have the other two parts, the irrational parts of the soul, the desiring part and the anger part. They are also called “anger” and “lust” by the Holy Fathers, but it is better to call them the desiring part and the anger part, parts which we must educate. Meaning, with the anger part I will educate the desiring part:
“No! I will not want the cigarette! I will not want to fornicate, I will not want this! You’ll hold out!” And so on. Of course the bad thought will say, “No, you need to do this, it’s comfortable, it’s good, what will I do? I will go into withdrawal, I need this!”
[Instead say] “I will not do it. I will die but I will not do this!” Then with logic and the mind you straighten up, with the desiring part you turn to God:
“Lord, help me! Mother of God, help me! Give me the beauty of your love, don’t leave me, my dear one!” And you pray to God, you pray to…
MM: Is there a prayer of the mind?
FT: Yes, there is a prayer of the mind. There is great confusion here. I posted on the site, I spoke for forty minutes about the parts of the soul and also about the Jesus Prayer, but very briefly: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”
That is the Jesus Prayer. When a person advances and says this prayer, this prayer, at a given moment, begins to say itself. God does it, it’s an energy of God. Grace does this work. It begins to say itself in the rational parts of the person, i.e. in the mind and logic. The two come together. Because, of course the mind is the most important, usually these two together are called “the mind,” for simplicity.
MM: So, that’s why the Jesus Prayer appears in many writings as the prayer of the mind!
FT: But in reality the prayer of the mind is only a special stage of the Jesus Prayer!
MM: After you say it many, many times.
FT: Yes, yes, in time!
MM: And it becomes imprinted.
FT: It becomes imprinted, but beyond that, it says itself including in sleep… anywhere. You can talk to someone…
MM: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy me!
FT: …Have mercy on me! This is said in the mind. And then logic is united with the mind and the person reaches a peace. If man continues on this path, at some point, the rational parts unite with the irrational parts, with the “heart” as they are called. This is the prayer of the heart, when the prayer is said incessantly in the human heart. And then man regains that original unity of Adam and an immense joy for which the martyrs died, for which all the saints died.
MM: How beautiful! So, this is the prayer that at certain stages can unite the body, mind and soul! The Jesus Prayer!
FT: Yes, of course! All parts of man!
MM: I interrupted you… you were making a sort of toolkit for fighting against sin. And we spoke of…
FT: …We spoke of distancing from the causes of sin, we spoke about the correct use of the parts of the soul, after that there is confession! Man is free and uses his freedom to lose it. That is, he uses his freedom to become a slave to passions. But God still respects man’s freedom. We do not respect the freedom of others as God respects ours. And when a person becomes a slave, as I said, we are speaking about that force of attraction. If the force of attraction is weak or the person is at a certain distance, the person can escape and becomes free. If the force is strong or the person is close, he becomes glued there. And then he can no longer go out, he has to ask for help, to shout:
“God help me, get me out of here!” This is prayer. Confession is the moment you go to God, represented on earth by the priest, who, nota bene, the priest may be stupider, more wretched, more sinful than me, but he is God’s man! And in front of God I say:
“Lord, forgive me, I messed up! Forgive me, God, I messed up, please help me!” And then God, the moment you let go of your sin, of that force of attraction and say “God, help me!” at that moment God says: “Okay, here you go!” and then God helps you!
Now perhaps we should to talk about two things in the case of confession, there is a whole story on the subject of confession, the person must say the sins that press him, from which he cannot escape. He should not hide them! Because, brethren, I will tell you something: They are all the same, I tell you after so many years of confession!
MM: For everyone!
FT: Yes! You’re not informing anyone of anything new, believe me!
MM: The father has heard them before!
FT: Yes, yes! They are the same! Confession is not an informational act, confession is an eminently spiritual act, you should know! The priest will not perceive you in any which way! Don’t be embarrassed and so on.
MM: So many don’t confess out of fear?
FT: Yes! From fear and self-love. That is, [thinking], “How will the priest see me?” He won’t see you in any which way! Listen to what I am saying! The priest will be impressed, because the person who repents is great, is noble, that is, he recants, “Yes, I was wrong, I did this thing!” And in fact we are all human, we all have the same sins!
MM: I wanted to ask you: is fear a great sin?
FT: Distorted fear, yes! But the fear of God… One is the fear of the Father whom I love so much that I do not hurt him with something, that do not wound his love, this is true fear, who fears God. Like I am afraid of the Father lest I hurt His love. Or I’m afraid of hurting my wife. This is sanctifying fear. But another is the horror, that is, the fear from anxiety, from self-love, from vain glory, “How they will see me?” etc., “Ah what will happen to this podcast?”
This is a sin. Understand? Another thing is caution! Alright, there’s a precipice here, it doesn’t mean I’m going to the edge of the precipice… that’s something else! But when fear comes from self-love and brings disturbance, it is of course a sin! And I wanted to say regarding confession, something that is important in this dynamic: sin is forgiven, it is erased by God at the moment when the priest reads the absolution prayer. So, if the person dies the second immediately following the reading of the absolution prayer, at that moment that person goes to Heaven! Meaning, the person is free!
Canons, that is, if you are told to fast or given something to do, they are not prerequisites for the forgiveness of sins. Because sin is not an offense to God’s majesty, to God’s freedom, to His police-manship, to God’s tyranny… God is not a tyrant, God is Father! The canons that are given are a form of pain to stop you from falling. So you need some form of pain to get out of that attraction, of that pleasure that draws you to that sin, do you understand? And fasting, since we have been talking about it and are still in the Great Lent, is a form of pain.
“Ah, I want to eat roast turkey!” No, you will not eat roast turkey!
“I want to eat roast pork!” You will not eat roast pork!
You will be in order, you will cut off these excrescences. You won’t go like a bull lead by the hook in his nose… The Holy Scripture compares us to oxen led by the hook… you won’t go to where your mind sprouts, where your mind smokes, you will not go there! And then the person becomes free, when you say: I will impose pain on myself! And because of this, prostrations, and all the asceticism of the Church are forms of soft pain…
FT: … bearable and soft, meaning they do not lead to despair, which empowers the person to escape from that pleasure, pleasure which muddles him existentially. The person effectively becomes a finished person, as said in the famous book by Giovanni Papini.
MM: I don’t even know what to continue with, because you have a grace to speak…
FT: … to confuse people!
MM No, No! You’re not confusing me at all, but almost every sentence brings up ten other questions and I don’t know, if this podcast was a tree, which branch do I want to jump on right now?! But I’m going to choose to do this and ask you if there are any weapons against fear? I think that fear, as much as I know this surrounding world, or as much as I feel it, I think that fear is a big problem of society!
FT: Of course!
MM: Some weapons against fear?
FT: Weapons against fear: Faith! Faith in God! As Justin Popovici said: “Granny’s faith.”
Or as Mr. Petre Țuțea said: “The granny from the country side, with bare feet in a church, is more valid than Kant! I read Kant in my youth and fell on my back!” said Tuțea. “But now I realize that she is more valid than Kant with all his idealism.”
And so it is! Kant does not solve the human problem. He asks questions, philosophy at its highest – the German school if you like – demonstrates the impossibility of man to say who he is, where he comes from and where he is going. A huge gap appears here and theology and Orthodoxy starts from answering these questions: who man is, where he comes from, and where he is going. From there on we talk! Well, the anti-fear weapon is, as I said, prayer first of all! So, the person must really pray and to really have faith that God will help him just like this, simple:
Yes, indeed! God helps! “How, father? Because I am a sinner!” Stop the nonsense, I know you’re a sinner, don’t tell me you’re not a sinner! But God is Father and you see… what impresses me enormously, God being omniscient, Christ was walking and saying to people:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see! Lord, I want to walk!”…
God does not go to people to say:
“You pigs! You, who went blind because you sinned in this and that and the other!” God knew the sins of men and knew why they suffered all this. But He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” In the same way, God comes to each of us and says, “What do you want me to do for you?” And I say: “God, help my child at school, help me get over this…”. We don’t have to be afraid because God is Father.
Unfortunately, we are afraid because we have a very, very narrow vision. That is, for us, the world comes down to passing the exam or the success of this podcast. No sir! The world does not boil down to the success of this podcast. Understand? If it’s not going to turn out, it just won’t turn out! Understand? I still have to remain human. Of course I’m praying and I’ve been praying that it goes well, but beyond that, let’s love one another, let’s be human, let’s be friends, let’s stay friends! Understand?
MM: Fear appears when you actually want to have all the power!
FT: Yes! When you self-deify!
FT: So you should know that we live in an age of neo-idolatry at this time…
MM: In which man deifies himself.
FT: Man self-deifies. “Self-made man!” No, you didn’t make yourself! And you don’t define what gender you are yourself! At this hour, some hallucinatory discussions are happening at the White House. That is, “What is a woman?” The only answer I can give to those who are discussing at this time what a woman is… that is, what did someone say? “What is a woman, define what a woman is.” And he says, “I need a biologist! I need a biologist to define what a woman is…”
And my answer is this… Brethren, questions like this are not to be asked, what a woman is! A lady… She is delicacy, the comforting principle, she is beauty, she is the spring of the human race. You start discussing what a woman is and gender identity and whatever… And from there, of course, comes fear!
MM: But when you end up asking yourself this question “What is a woman?”, isn’t it enough to return to your mother’s arms?
FT: Yes! To good sense, to God! Because God, brethren, let’s understand each other, God is not an old man, unplugged, with a ball in his hand and a triangle on his head and some angels humming like that… some chubby guys who… No! God is the super-loving super-intelligence! A loving intelligence beyond imagination! And very delicately looks at us so that we can try to become better. You must know that this whole universe of 93 billion light years is full of angels and the earth is the central cosmic arena where we fight like gladiators to become better, to try to become better. And the moment someone succeeds in becoming better, then all the angels shout even more than at the Olympic games when someone takes the medal. A huge joy! As the Saviour says: Immense joy is made in heaven for a sinner who repents. Yes, that’s how it is.
MM: What kind of people come?… Speaking of sinners… since I don’t think they come as saints!
FT: Well, we are not saints!
MM: Although I believe that the saints visit Athos! Or they never left!
FT: Yes, they are here, for sure! The Mother of God mainly!
MM: What problems do people come with?
FT: They are all the same, as I said before! It’s about anxiety and fear!
MM: It’s a question that I try to contextualize in these times, in this year, in this moment of the 93…
FT: Yes, 93 billion light years! Because man has no faith, he has no connection with God, because the moment man prays as he knows how, then God comes like a breeze in his heart and says to him:
“Do not be afraid, I’m with you!” … of course man still trembles existentially from time to time as things come up, then God says:
“Stay calm! It’s OK! You know… I’m behind the wheel!”
But because of the fact that people are attracted to these pleasure centres and deify them: “My security!” or “Me!”… then of course he starts to tremble because based on logic he realizes that he is not actually God and he actually cannot solve his equation and this is where faith has to come in. But because faith does not intervene, this tension builds and builds and builds until the nervous system snaps. Because logic is not capable of solving the person, but it is quite capable of realizing its incapacity. This is where faith is needed! Faith in God is salvation from the nut house, taking it to the absolute!
Going back a bit, people have no faith because they go to the news “de jour”… apropos of the war. I mean, you can’t, brethren! So, in the time of Saint Stephen the Great of Moldavia… I think St. Stephen the Great reigned for fifty-two years and fought forty-seven wars, that is, he did not have war every year, but almost. And today they all got their passports to leave Romania, just in case the war comes to Romania!
MM: You heard about that, didn’t you, including at Athos?
FT: Yes, I heard. They told me! And yesterday evening I discussed with some people:
“I’m leaving!” [he said].
And I understood that there was also a survey and twenty or so percent…
MM: …would stay to defend the country…
FT: God forbid! There is no more verticality, there is no more…
MM: Bravery you said earlier…
FT: Courage, yes! A great charisma from God! I will tell you a story. Brethren, things are not solved by passports, you should know! In the Second World War, Greece was a combatant country as was Romania, but Saint Paisios was at war, he was a soldier, he had not yet become a monk. He was very young and he was at the front…
FT: Saint Paisios the Hagiorite. At that time, he was called differently, Arsenios. But everyone from there had him as a saint. And at one point a very rich man comes, a very powerful man and he says: “Arsenios, do you have some connections because I want to save my son from the army so that he won’t be taken to the battlefield, to save my son, to solve this.” And the future Saint Paisios tells him:
“You are not doing good, since God has ordained it so, leave him, because God takes care of him. And if the man dies, he will die in a happy eternity. He will be a hero, giving his blood for the nation. He will live in Heaven.”
I mean, Heaven is the fullness of love, the fullness of happiness, that giant mind we were talking about, the fullness of knowledge. Of course that fellow didn’t listen. He thought [the saint] was delirious. And he struggled with a lot of money, with a lot of effort with many obligations and in the end he managed to send his son to the United States, to America. When he got off the plane, he got run over by a car.
Saint Paisios said, “Would it not have been better to leave him in the country? The man would have died a hero, he would have been decorated, we would have prayed for him, we would have done all that.”
MM: He died as an anonymous!
FT: He died like a dog, run over by a car.
Beyond the fact that he lost the money, that he created obligations, that he wasted time and so on. So brethren, we are not wiser than God. Of course we have to use our intelligence, but all this within the framework of cooperation with God, within the framework of prayer, because there are two extremes, one extreme is atheistic behaviour, even if we are nominally Christians;
In the sense that I do everything and I don’t care about God. I don’t pray and I make my own plans, I make my own strategies. I pray two minutes in the evening, but during the day I myself think. This is one thing, and the second: only prayer, we do nothing else. Not true! I have to pray: “God enlighten me to place these microphones, enlighten me to place these cameras, enlighten me with what to say now” and then within this prayer, within this cooperation with God, to act in everyday life.
MM: Look, in this little book, I was reading Saint Nichifor the Leprous and Elder Eumenie Saridakis written by Metropolitan Neophyte of Morfu. Last night I was reading, I was sitting there on the terrace of the cell, and it was written that we are living in the times – he said it so well – we are living in the times when we are looking for the holiness that suits us, holiness from the sofa.
FT: Yes, of course. Because if earlier God created man in His image and likeness, the likeness of perfection, today man tries to recreate God in his image and likeness. We are speaking about the same thing: pleasure.
Man is living in a time, as I said, of neo-paganism, which has as gods: pleasure, myself, comfort, and even technology – technology is salvific.
MM: You know, I saved technology for dessert because it is your battlefield, Father Theologos. Is the wind blowing?! Is it ruining our technology? What do you say?
FT: I don’t think so!
MM: Does technology hold up to the wind?
FT: It does!
MM: Its anti-wind technology, “windproof.” We are going to talk about technology because Father Theologos is the one who is currently making the most …useful product from here in the Holy Mountain.
It’s the YouTube channel: “O Chilie Athonita”, it’s the blog: ochilieathonita.ro, where you post conscientiously, not to say religiously – religion is something else – you post… Can I say vlogs? From here…
FT: Yes, yes, yes! Every day we post. Now I don’t want to offend, and in fact I’m not going to offend you, but someone else; I would like to write, but unfortunately, people today can’t read anymore. We live in an era of neo-illiteracy precisely because of these pleasure centres. People want video, they want the visual.
MM: Even the podcast, which is an audio product, must also be video to be…
FT: …accepted. In writing you can concentrate, you can systematize, redo and so on. No! The world wants video! And that comes precisely from these great pleasure centres. But let’s go back. To talk about technology a little. We must address the Church of today. That is, to people nowadays. Books are not cutting it anymore, not even these…
Father Hilarion Felea is a very great saint, a very, very great saint from the communist period. The communists shot him. He is from Arad, my hometown. But people don’t read anymore, they can’t read anymore. And then, we try to translate, as someone said, from Romanian to Romanian into the language of the people, so people can retie themselves, (this is religion, from the word “religãre” which means “to tie”) to God. That is, man must retie himself to the eternal personal perfection. And then I actually take on subjects like this, as I said, about the Jesus Prayer, about fasting, about the parts of the soul and so on…
MM: To practically rewire.
FT: To rewire, but the rewiring of the brain – pay great attention – is a psychological phenomenon and it is limited, it is lonely. Whereas retying also involves rewiring, but it is with the other. It is loving, and especially so if the other is the source of love, that is, God. Understand?
MM: You are a wonderful father! I don’t know if you have been told!
FT: I was told, “Yes, you are wonderful” in the sense of… [sarcastically].
MM: Alright, now going back. You work with all these tools of modern technology to convey this word, the blessing from Athos.
FT: What I want to say here regarding technology, we must be the masters of technology and not technology the master of us!
MM: This is where I wanted to get to!
FT: It is very important. Because of this first of all, what does “professional” mean? I will say a phase that impressed me a lot. I’ve been working with technology for many years, I am not saying this is good, it just happened.
MM: Even before.
FT: From before, from before!
MM: Before being a monk.
FT: Yes, exactly! And on a forum where there were some very great, very, very great journalistic and artistic photographers, at some point a newcomer appears there and writes a post and says:
“I like taking photos a lot, my mom likes how I photograph, and my aunt likes my pictures a lot. I photograph with my cell phone, and I want to be professional and please tell me because you know, what camera should I get to be a professional?”
And they write: “Don’t do it, don’t do it! The professional is not the one who has a better device, the professional is the one who sacrifices for others. When we go to the battlefield, since we are war photographers, at that moment we are protected by those who sacrifice more than us. And we do nothing compared to those who risk their lives there, right? And they see us as something above them, superior. While the moment we go to a wedding, there we are seen as buffoons: ‘Take a picture with my uncle, aunt, father-in-law, mother-in-law, why didn’t you get a picture with so-and-so and so on.’ Although we run around more than the wedding guests, and we are the ones trying, pushing ourselves, making an effort and they are having fun. And that’s why we prefer to go to the battlefield rather than at weddings because it’s more professional.”
So the moment someone is aware of the fact that professionalism means that you sacrifice yourself for others, meaning I am always thinking, that person who comes to my site, that person gives me his attention, gives his all for me. Shouldn’t I give him something?
MM: And you definitely offer quality content, as I said. As I said, you take the mission of the Holy Mountain to far away.
FT: And then technology falls to the second place. It is a great temptation, that sometimes we put technology first. And speaking of these photographers, one of the things that annoys them the most is when someone says to them:
“Wow, what a beautiful photo, what camera did you take it with?”
Photography comes from God, it comes from the talent, from the grace, from the charisma of that person, not so much from the camera. Of course, the device is also important because you need certain technical conditions, but it’s secondary…
MM: And then the discussion comes down to this: Technique, technology must be a tool in our hands and not us a tool in the hands of technology.
FT: Indeed! And many times I do this with people; When I see that they are slaves to their cell phones, that is, they come to the cell and they continuously do this… they scroll like this. And I ask them, how much did you buy the cell phone for? And he tells me an amount… “X”. He is often even ashamed to say it. And after that I ask him, “For how much did the cell phone buy you?”
MM: Because the cell phone actually owns you. Yes I would know. The first thing I did when we arrived, after we hugged, I asked you, “Father…” because I know you handle the internet here, with the posts, “…Can you tell me the Wi-Fi password?” And you said to me: “Brother Mihai, our Internet…it doesn’t hold up, only I can post from here, you won’t use it.” And I started to get used to it, after 24 hours, it doesn’t feel like a misfortune that I didn’t post. Although it might be the only day this year when I didn’t do an update, I didn’t post anything, an insta-story, something…
FT: Real reality is much more beautiful than virtual reality.
MM: Indeed! I had time to read from the books of the fathers’ last night, I had time for the service…
FT: You had time for yourself!
MM: I had time for myself, yes! I petted a cat, maybe it will come into the camera frame. But why are the cats here very fat?
FT: Why? Because the cats are our pigs. In the Holy Mountain the cat is used as a pet. Mice, snakes, food scraps and all that… It’s very important because…why? The dog is more rambunctious, it can disturb. There are no other animals that are so versatile!
Okay, there are wild boars and foxes, but from there on out, the cat is by far the best because it’s very quiet. They don’t disturb…
MM: At least in appearance…
FT: Yes, in appearance. If you scratch it, it will scratch you!
MM: It’s true that I didn’t see any dogs in Athos!
FT: Yes, there aren’t any!
MM: Dogs and mirrors!
FT: Precisely because of this!
MM: Good, and now going back!… How do we treat technology addiction? But I wouldn’t say addiction… Addiction is a very hard word.
FT: It’s a way of thinking…
MM: …and the moment you use the words “addicted to technology”, you’re basically just accepting that you’re addicted.
FT: Yes… there are forms of it that are like that and I even know some. I actually know a businessman who went to China to buy I don’t remember what, to do some pretty serious business for his company, and so on. And he was told by those around the big boss with whom he was supposed to handle that transaction that the boss can’t come because he got depressed because he had been playing a computer game and in that game he was driving a bug and the bug had died in that game and it was “game over”. And the boss couldn’t come because had fallen into depression because his game was over. So, I mean, it’s hallucinatory, hallucinatory stuff…
If you want I can tell you other things. There’s a phenomenon in Japan, there’s even a Japanese term for it, unfortunately I can’t remember what it’s called, where kids play these massively multiplayer games that last for years. Games, for those who do not know, with many players. And children, instead of helping their parents (“children” who are 25-30 years old, so mature people who should have families) threaten their parents with suicide, they will not leave the house until they finish that game. And parents at the age of 50 or around 55 are actually supporting their children who are constantly playing games. So there is also addiction!
But before that there really is a way of thinking which is a distortion of man’s tendency towards God, of man’s tendency towards perfection, towards the infinite. And then man turns to technology, to have better technology, a better cell phone, a better camera, a better car, to be more comfortable. It doesn’t have to be more comfortable for you! I’ve changed cameras very rarely. I don’t know after how many years…
MM: Although it is the object of your work!
FT: Exactly, it is the object of my work, but to have a clear mind, to focus on what I have to do, I am very simple. The moment I really need to change my camera, then I choose the best one and I really do a very good analysis and don’t spare any resources to find the best model that suits my needs. But after that I effectively forget about the technology and focus on the content.
MM: Because you are Father Theologos, not Father Technologos!
FT: Exactly, thank you very much! Yes, that’s right! And again, as I said, it is very important for man to focus on the content, on the Divine. And because of that if you’ve seen our podcasts they’re very simple, we don’t take doubles, we don’t prepare, I mean we prepare very well, but we prepare spiritually. That is, what we have to say.
MM: The content is much more important than the packaging…
FT: Exactly! This is very important! And the site that I made, I made it at the beginning, I bought the best, if you will, theme that could be used at that time, I used it, that’s it!
MM: And you let it be!
FT: Exactly. So from there on, what has value is the value of our heart, (which, well, doesn’t really have value) and the heart of others who… And that’s why we’re very community-focused, to use an un-churchy word.
MM: Do people come here to the Holy Mountain who complain about this? “Father, I can’t take it anymore, I’m a slave to technology…”
FT: Oh, yes! Oh yes!
MM: And what do you give them? What do you prescribe them?
FT: So I saw young people at confession who had got so much in the shoes of the character of some game, that they even made the gestures from…
MM: Yes, this is gaming, but in addition to gaming there are social networks…
MM: Netflix, TikTok, you’ve heard of TikTok?
FT: Terrible! I’ve heard of TikTok and I don’t want to hear of TikTok… because they send us commemoration lists… So on the website we have a section for commemoration lists where they can send us commemoration lists to pray for and all that. We thank people and you should know that we commemorate everyone. The most difficult thing we had to pray for wasn’t a grieving family and so on, because with all our hearts we do this for those who are in need. But for Bibi, Bibi wrote to us:
“Please pray for me because I have a great pain in my heart, pray for me so that I have more likes on TikTok than Mimi.”
MM: So someone wrote to you…
FT: Yes, very likely a young man, he was Bibi and his friend was Mimi, and he wrote to us that we must commemorate at 40 Liturgies so that he would have more likes than his friend on TikTok. On top of that he was also putting his relationship in danger, because it’s a form of rivalry.
MM: And on this occasion Athos got to know about TikTok.
FT: Yes, to find out about TikTok.
MM: And what did you do? Did you pray?
FT: It’s difficult! So this is what I say, paradoxically, in a way, for the one who has a problem, you say: “Lord help! Lord don’t leave him, we are human! You are merciful.” You pray, but now for likes? I said, “God, let your will be done!”
Of course I didn’t say for….that. [I said] “God, may your will be done!”
MM: Now we laugh, we joke.
FT: But it is a very serious problem.
MM: This morning’s service lasted 3 hours. A TikToK lasts 15 seconds…
FT: And I understand it can’t be longer!
MM: And we are talking about a very young generation that grows up with TikToK, that is native. They are tiktokers. How can you be patient at a 3-hour Liturgy when your maximum attention span is 15 seconds or 30 seconds?
FT: As the Lord says: I will also ask you a question and if you answer me I will answer you too.
MM: Please do, father!
FT: How will he be patient with his wife for 20 years, 30 years? How will he be patient with his co-workers? 10 years… That’s the problem! I mean, he’s ruined, clearly he has to come to Liturgy! The Liturgy is capital, but beyond that is his life. That is, his attention span is 15 seconds. And I actually can’t, I’ve been working with computers all my life, I’ve been working in programming languages, in machine code, and I can’t understand, may God forgive me, or rather, I don’t want to understand how a platform that is limited to 15 seconds of video can attract you, because that’s what it is, as I understood.
So it’s a matter of mental reduction, these young people are mentally reduced, not in the clinical sense, meaning, they were born with Down Syndrome, but in the acquired sense.
MM: It’s a challenge, it’s a challenge for all systems and for the church and for parents and for the educational system.
FT: Of course.
MM: How can you keep their attention for an hour when you are talking to them about the geography of Romania, for example?
FT: Or about (now I’m talking about the war in Ukraine), the complex causes of a major event. And for him to have the ability to conceive why something happens, the causes of the union of Romanians, for example! Or to write a commentary on a poem by Eminescu. No way! What can be done?
MM: What can be done? Because the long-term danger is that this device becomes much more interesting than the person next to me.
FT: Yes, of course it is!
MM: The device is next to me, the person I can throw away, and let this device become the new person.
FT: That’s right, and it is the new person! Actually it’s not the new person, it’s the one I’m marrying, the one I am relating to…
MM: The one I am living with…
FT: …the one I’m living with. It is a screen and no one can fulfil a person but another person. So you’re not only changing, you’re effectively self-destructing. What can we do for these children?
MM: Or at least the parents who are listening, what can they do for their children?
FT: Just yesterday evening someone said!
MM: I was a witness!
FT: The football coach, he said – especially to his relative – because he was his nephew, he was the uncle…
He said, “Look, in order to be a pro footballer, I only ask one thing, after 10 pm…” I was actually thinking after 10am because, to become a pro, all day is needed! “…after 10pm put your cell phone away!” And he couldn’t even do that. So think, he had his cell phone in his hand all day and the other, being a football coach was telling him after 10 in the evening, meaning… [to put the phone away for] I don’t know how many hours, one hour, two hours…
MM: Yes, and this little one said to him, “I can’t, uncle, because I’m going to embarrass myself, I mean, I will be kicked out of the group. They’re going to kick me out of the WhatsApp group.”
FT: Yes, “They will ostracize me.” Which is phenomenal. There are three things that can be done:
Prayer, and when I speak of prayer we must be aware of the concreteness of the effectiveness of prayer. So when I say prayer I am not avoiding the answer, on the contrary I am putting prayer first. We must be aware of the efficacy of prayer. So parents should pray for children, and us as well and everyone. It is a big problem. Two, the good example! That is, we must be a good example!
The child says, “Alright, should I do as you say? But why should I do as you say? I need to see that, yes, my parent is a successful parent! That’s how I want to be too!”
If the parent comes and yells and screams or they fight with each other…
MM: Well, if the parent is on the phone all day, what should the child do?
FT: We definitely need the good example! You can’t get away from that! Because parents and in general all people ask:
“Father what should I do to my child?” They expect a button from me, or a magical abracadabra formula. So for the parent to continue their more or less life of passions and for me to tell him, “Say Abracadabra” or I don’t know what; “Sesame open!” For him to say “Sesame open!” to solve all the problems so he can go on with his life. Well, not so brethren! There must be the good example!
So first of all prayer, a good example, and only in the last place the word. And you’re going to say the word when he can receive it, not when you want to. That is, not when I unload on the child, and so on, but when you see that the child is in a mood of obedience, in a mood of love. And especially parents must teach children to listen. They must teach them to listen. So not continuously saying: “What do you want?…What do you want?… What do you want?” It’s not what the child wants! The child has no experience. It’s what the parents want. Parents have life experience. Understand? That is very harmful. Of course, parents should be interested in what the child wants, but always within the framework of listening. Absolutely within the scope of listening. Understand?
Because if not, the child goes wild and takes the wrong path. And it’s very important for the parent to always say the following:
“You’re going to ask for permission!” And the moment the child asks for permission, the parent must emphasize obedience.
That is, he will say: “Because you asked for my permission, I’m letting you go. I wouldn’t have let you normally, but because you asked for permission, I’m going to let you.”
We accentuate obedience. If the child does something and doesn’t ask permission, the parent will say:
“Why didn’t you ask for my permission? You know that if you had asked for my permission, I would have let you.”
So again, more than the thing itself, the emphasis is on the child’s dependence on the parent. Because if not… And again, parents should not betray, should not be traitors! Parents are often traitors. That is, they betray the care towards children.
They say, “Here, take this tablet and play. And I have my business, I have my career.”
MM: They didn’t grow up like that. We raised them that way.
FT: Exactly, exactly.
MM: Father, because you have experience in technology, as we say, in the world outside Athos, you grew up with technology, you worked in the field of technology and now, you use technology for the mission you have here in Athos.
Did you also like science fiction books when you were little?
FT: Very much.
MM: And does it seem to you like we are now living in what you read in the Science Fiction books or will we end up living in the Science Fiction books from your childhood?
FT: Yes… Of course it is not a 100% overlap. And I’m referring here to the really great, epic Science Fiction books. So I’m not talking about guns and lasers and… Yeah, sure, ok, yeah… Or to the fighting movies… No, brethren!
You should know that people have used the framework of Science Fiction to present certain very important and very formative ideas of the future. And that really happens because in Science Fiction, you can put certain things and analyze certain reactions. Not to mention that what is very important is that the young people who grew up with these Science Fiction books, took the solutions from there.
MM: And do people like Elon Musk scare you…?
FT: No. Elon Musk really doesn’t scare me.
MM: He doesn’t scare you.
FT: No, he doesn’t scare me.
MM: Nor the colonization of Mars? Nor…
FT: Colonization of Mars… God is at [the helm]… People are actually running away from themselves. Poor Musk wants to do good.
MM: I think so too.
FT: Yes, yes, yes. You should know that all people want to do good. Even the devil wants to do good, but he doesn’t know how. It’s about optics, it’s an optics problem. All people want to do good, but they don’t know how, or they don’t succeed or it doesn’t work out and so on. Any rational being – this is what Saint Dionysius the Areopagite said in the first century – any rational being wants to do good, but they have a cognitive distortion. That is, they think that good is something else. This can also be seen in the devil:
“No, the good is… why should you be God’s slaves and so on, I know and lead you and…” all that stuff. Because of this the devil cannot repent, because he is firmly convinced that he does good. And God respects his will.
MM: And with Elon Musk, where is the cognitive distortion?
FT: Transhumanism, matter. Elon Musk is saved by the fact that he nevertheless has faith in Christ. He nevertheless believes in Christ. But because he—I mean “he” as a phenomenon, yes? A whole structure.
MM: Yes, yes, yes, Exactly. It’s not necessarily his person. The kind.
FT: The kind, yes, exactly. Because they potentiate matter far more than is necessary, they destroy the soul. Meaning they crush the soul and there is this great pleasure that comes:
“Wow, they want to put a chip in our brain, to escape…!” I don’t know if you know – one of Musk’s ideas is to put a chip in the brain so that…
MM: It’s true, but he wants to do it for a good purpose, that is, to treat certain diseases.
FT: That’s right! Once again, I said that he wants to do good.
MM: Like Nobel wanted to…
FT: Exactly, when he invented dynamite. Once again, I said I’m not scared of Musk. There is this current in the Church that says that…, how can I say it, everything outside of me is Satanist, something like that. Brethren, things are more complex, they are much more complex, let’s understand each other. So, it’s not like Musk is with 666 and we need to shoot him or any other technocrat du jour… It’s not like that. It is true that these things can be used for very evil purposes, but things are very complex, and we must have a spiritual and discerning perspective on this.
Meaning, alright; Musk wants to do this thing. The moment this thing goes off track, that’s when we are going to say, “Stop, no!” Now I can’t go… What should I do? Should I write a letter against Musk or what should I do? Who would listen to me? Petition: Father Theologos disavows treatment for Alzheimer’s and so on.
MM: Technology, artificial intelligence or whatever you want to call it… It’s clear and scientists say this: it will never be able to replace the soul. And then, if it does not replace the human soul, how can it destroy it?
FT: How can it destroy it?
MM: Or how can it be a threat to it?
FT: Through other human souls. That is, a human soul using these technologies against another human soul. For example… What example shall I give you? …
Something that will happen very soon; It’s called EID – Electronic Identity, that is, the union of everything in one account, under one ID number of bank account, Facebook account, email account, access to health care… you name it… not to mention first name, last name and all data. Theoretically – and I actually had a whole post about it on the website, a whole podcast – theoretically, this thing is great, but the moment all these things come together…
MM: And a single person, a single entity has it…
FT: Yes, a single entity, and this entity can be evil, and evil because it has a grudge against you, envies you or God knows what else… And then it reports you or…I know of cases that happen now when they are not all united and the respective person, for example I am sure you know of this, blocked accounts on Facebook. For us, it’s not good, but… But for a journalist for whom – to put it this way – Facebook is his bread and butter (I am not saying that’s a good thing but it’s his bread and butter) in fact, you’re cutting off that person’s access to work. Why? Because that person posted something on Facebook that a lady with curlers in her hair didn’t like…
MM: Yes, but there is not even a human entity that judges you and forbids your access. It’s an algorithm.
FT: Yes and no. The Artificial Intelligence signals. The amount of data is huge and AI systems are flagging these things. But the final decision usually rests with the admins.
MM: Yes, which judge according to another algorithm.
FT: Yes, yes, yes, according to their own algorithm, which is not a very loving algorithm. Understand?
MM: So you’re saying that one of the dangers is to live in an age of algorithms that validate you or not?
FT: Yes. Always, the solution is the spiritual measure, you know. Love! By the way you asked me about Science Fiction… I really recommend a book and a movie. The movie was based on the book. It’s called “Blade Runner” written by Philip K. Dick in 1969, if I’m not mistaken, and the original film with Harrison Ford in a phenomenal role.
MM: But why do you recommend this film?
FT: Why? Because very briefly, it’s about the fact that… And especially since the movie and the book are set in 2035 or 30 something…
MM: So with God’s help we might be able to get there.
FT: Yes… It’s about a super-technological society where the whole planet is polluted, there’s nothing else except buildings and so on. There are no animals. When you want to buy an animal – a pet – animals cost an exorbitant amount and all these animals were made by a robotics company and they actually looked like animals, but they were robots inside. And at some point it is rumored, that is, it is found out that they had also made some people who were robots, but they were people. And these robots were sent somewhere on a distant planet, to work there in a mine in some inhumane conditions. The big problem is that these robots wanted to live like humans, and you couldn’t tell them apart from humans except by the empathy test. That is, through the love test. Man can love, the robot cannot love.
MM: And he will never be able to.
FT: Yes. And I don’t want to divulge what happens. In any case, a detective is hired, a retired policeman, masterfully played by Harrison Ford, and a completely unloving order is given to the humans who can love: to kill the robots, to eliminate the robots. Yes… And he, in the book and in the movie, falls in love with a very beautiful woman. He had a dying marriage and so on, he falls in love with this very beautiful woman and at some point, as he goes forward and searches through the archives of that company and so on, he begins to realize that maybe this woman who loves him and whom he loves is a robot. And I stop here. Yes.
MM: Stop. Although, I am guessing that a lot of people have seen the movie…
FT: So I want to say that the solution to technology is humanity, is love, and that will dictate how far and where we go. Because otherwise, I know what it means, I have experience, I can’t give a lot of details right now, especially on the channel, about what electronic stalking without love means. Brethren, it is hell on earth. It’s hell on earth. God forbid such a thing!… I lived it, believe me.
MM: And a man who lived in IT tells you this, he came from it to the Holy Mount Athos. Thank you very much, Father Theologos!
FT: God bless you!
MM: We could prolong this conversation for a long time.
FT: May God help!
MM: But thank you…
FT: For nothing. I thank you! You should know, that the greatest gift you can give me is not the podcast, it’s your very presence. Yes, I am speaking very honestly, and also the presence of the boys and everyone else. Nothing can fulfill the person, nothing can make a person happy but another person. Only another person. Yes. It was a great pleasure for me, you should know.
MM: A final word for those who listened to this podcast?
FT: Don’t forget to love! Don’t forget to love! It’s very important. Don’t forget to love, don’t forget to be human! Do not put career first.
MM: What is more important? In some church books, it is said that humility is more important, and in the New Testament, it is said that in the end, the pinnacle of Christian living is love of God and love of neighbour.
FT: That’s right. What does humility mean? Humility is lowering the bridge of the fortress so that you can love the other. When I am proud [I think]:
“I should love you? Who are you? Do you know who I am…?”
MM: So humility is a mechanism of love.
FT: A mechanism of love… That is, I see myself as I really am – you remember that global Adam I talked about; I am that cell, that neuron in the global Adam and I love the other:
“Look, what a beautiful neuron!” You know? And in Heaven I will be united with you. I will be right in you, you in me and us in others and God in us and us in God. And this love can only be possible through God!
MM: I love you, father, and thank you very much!
FT: I too love you very much and I love you all! May God bless you!
MM: If you feel that I am silent, I am not being a fool, although sometimes happiness is confused with stupidity, you know… I am really happy and thank you very much Father Theologos.
Access and try to subscribe to “O Chilie Athonita” either on the website or on the YouTube channel, for other joys from here on the Holy Mountain.
FT: It’s better to [subscribe on] the website and let me tell you why; Because on the site, we also post translations of great people from abroad from English and Greek. Not to say theologians, because it’s not only theologians, but also people… of value. Aldous Huxley, I remember now…
MM: You are doing an extraordinary job, an excellent mission! Thank you from here in Holy Mount Athos. It was the second episode filmed at the Cell of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, at Lacu Skete.
The Fine & Simple mission continues.
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