I don't know if you've
noticed, but nowadays you bump into people from the past.
Friends that you haven't seen in years. Friends whom life
brought you together with and then parted.
That applied to me
also, this year. As I was walking along the streets of my
city, I ran into an old friend. A person that I hadn't seen
in many years, because our paths had separated. At
least hypothetically. At a level of ideas, given that ideas
can separate you. Only life and experiences can unite
hearts. Ideas and ideologies divide. And to the degree that
Christianity is NOT an experience and way of life but only
an ideology, it will divide us.
We had lost each other for years. He had remained in the
realm of anarchists, while I had entered the Church. Not
necessarily opposing realms. More or less the same
have settled in their folds, but let's leave that detail for
greetings and wishes and embarked on a brief chat, standing
there on the street.
-Well brother, how
did you spend these last few days? With the family?
father, he replied.
-Where did you spend
New Year's Eve? At home with the family and friends?
-No, father... he
said, with the strength of his soul.
-At the Prison,
father, like I do every year. We the anarchist comrades
gather every year outside the prisons; we sing, we shout
slogans, we play music and generally create a warm
atmosphere of support, solidarity, companionship and hope
for our fellow-men, who on days like these are deprived of a
person's greatest commodity, which is his freedom.
I was truly taken
aback. My eyes were staring at him with admiration. My heart
rejoiced with the things I was hearing. A surge of emotion
and hope blossomed inside me.... Yes, sensitive souls still
exist. Hearts that love.... that feel they can resist and
But at the same time
I felt ashamed. I felt inadequate. In front of him, a
nothing. Before God, accountable. To Christ, an
-And you, father?
Where did you celebrate the new year?
What was I supposed
to say to him? That I was at my cozy little home... Like a
good Christian urbanite... That if I was an actual priest, I
should have been at the side of the damned on this earth...
Then, the words of
our Christ automatically came to mind: "Not
everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom
of heaven; only the one who does the will of my father..."
And before I could
recover from that, I felt a second slap to my conscience, by
the words of Christ: "...I have
other sheep, which are not of this courtyard..."
Until I eventually
heard Christ shouting out loud inside me: "...I
was in prison, and...." (Matth.25:36)
And now I ask you,
which of the two had enforced in his life the will of God?
Which one had incorporated Christ's message in his life?
I don't care what an
anarchist says or believes. He taught me - the priest - and
he checked me, not with his ideas, but with his experience.
With his life and his act.
When the millions of
urbanite Christians in Orthodox Greece were eating their
stuffed turkey, and while the dancing and celebrations were
well under way, a handful of people who are referred to as
"hooligans" in every corner of Greece were staying outside, in the
cold, outside prison walls, to celebrate the coming of
the new year together with our imprisoned brethren - our
fellow-men - the ones that Christ was referring to, when He
said "I was in prison, and you
came to me..."
And then, once again
I heard the words of the Elder Cornelius echoing inside me:
"...my child, there are certain prostitutes who come to
confession, that make me want to fall at their feet and
reverently kiss their blessed hands..."