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Κυριακή 25 Αυγούστου 2019

Father Ambrosios Lazaris† inspires a teacher | Michael Leventis

Father Ambrosios Lazaris† inspires a teacher | Michael Leventis
The Benefits of Spiritual life Inspire a Teacher to Meet People

Teaching young people is not an easy task; in fact it is a combined process of teachers imparting knowledge gained during their studies along with what is written in school textbooks. Not everybody is suited to fulfill this task. It takes great devotion and personal effort on the part of the teacher to instruct each and every one of their students alone, whereas this effort intentionally passes unnoticed by the students themselves. That’s when the true skill of the teacher is confirmed. However, in every teacher-student relationship, beyond any era or type of instruction, an ethical law must be followed. Jesus talked about this law when he advised the Jewish high priests to follow the laws and teachings of the time themselves instead of merely boasting about their prominence in the law hierarchy. Only in this way can a teaching become credible in the eyes of humans.

We met with a teacher, most caring and responsible towards both his students and the fellow man in general. He works in a public school in Eleusis, he has studied psychology in Paris and has written his fair share of books. Crossing paths with a real man of God, Father Ambrosios, has filled him with inspiration, which hasn’t in the least faded as he constantly tries to share it with anyone he meets in life.

Our current conversation with Michalis Leventis starts off with commenting on a specific view he has repeatedly pointed out in our previous meeting, namely that, people can’t achieve mental progress unless they take a brave turn to their own self in order to find out who they really are.

Yes, I believe so. Unless people consistently try to get to know themselves better, they cannot manage their emotions and are overwhelmed by them. Eventually, emotions become an integral feature of an individual’s personality and come to be a burden as much to others as to one’s own self who is then unable to break the endless chain of his or her mistakes and gradually manage to live and behave as a Human Being.

What is the meaning of “self-awareness” and to what extent is it possible to find out who we really are? You see, by taking a look around us, one can easily realize that both older and younger people find it really hard to look deep inside themselves even regarding fundamental issues of everyday life.

It is due to our flawed upbringing and education which starts at home and carries on at school or in our relationships with others that we are falsely led to believe we are “well-aware”. However, we are actually aware of neither our personal one-sided realization of life and the world we live in, nor our ego. Most of us are in lack of a “compass” and yet, unlike the old people, without a clue as to how we can read the seas and the weather, let alone those who have already set sail without a captain or even experienced sailors.

I take it that you feel disappointed by our current situation.
No, I’m not of those people who let themselves be affected by the wrongs of our world. We are destined to serve and learn from this world, not to fear or avoid it. On the contrary, I strongly wish to keep ahead of those who, for some reason, do not notice the light, they get carried away by the general current of opinion and they quit.

It would be nice, Mr Leventis, if you elaborated a bit further on what you mentioned earlier, namely that “We are destined to serve and learn from this world, not to fear or avoid it”.

We did not come to earth to reside permanently–we are just visitors to the land we stand on; this is our greatest truth. Our ultimate goal is not to look up to some deranged powerful people and blindly follow their lead – there is no doubt that when we do so, we become very much like those people. We did not come to succumb to bigotry and be divided into opposing groups – in such a way we devalue humankind and we finally belong nowhere. We did not come to manufacture and sell evermore advanced weapons in order to eliminate the human race, animals and Mother Nature; this is our greatest madness. We did not come to humiliate ourselves by victimizing women, children, people we do not personally like or those who are weaker – because, in this way, we turn ourselves into beasts. We did not come to ignore or destroy the beauty that is evident in every corner of the earth, to fail to honor or even appreciate the creation of art by those who seek “the infant Paradise and the ones preceding it” – how much did I “not” say?

What do you think it is that saves us from our catastrophic self?

Jesus saves us. Nothing but Him. We need to emphasize that. Fr. Ambrosios Lazaris (+2006), this great Elder of Mount Parnassus, the Spiritual Father of the Holy Monastery of Dadiou “Panagia Gavriotissa” always repeated that two things can grant us salvation; our good intentions towards others and God’s mercy. Let me rephrase this last point; given that I wish to know who I am and I try to do that honorably despite all the challenges that come in my way, I am saved. For God will see me no matter what, like he saw Zacchaeus, and he will give me mercy coming into my house – then God’s presence “is” within me and from inside me He reveals Himself. On the contrary, should I not wish to do something like that and instead choose to pursue my own selfish goals (accuse or exploit others to my own benefit, lie or distort the facts and remain ill-informed because that is what suits me better to do, deceive primarily myself carrying God’s presence in me and, on the whole, allow myself to be overdependent on the earthly and transient pleasures in life), I stay in my corner and sleep with my eyes open, waiting for death to come and ignoring the forthcoming resurrection.

What would you suggest that we do instead of all the above? How can we see things in a different light and not be swayed by others? What is it we can rely on?

First of all, I suggest we should do what you just said, namely, try to see things differently. Even if thus far we have treated a situation or a person in the same monotonous manner, for example, talking relentlessly without listening to what the other person has to say or always putting the blame on other people, it is about time we regained contact with the present and, whatever the level of conscience we may have already achieved, we should wonder how we can take the blame on ourselves and behave differently. That, however, is something that takes a lot of guts. To back off in a disagreement and try to understand the other person, let alone the “enemy”, is not easy at all. Our ego is much too powerful to realize that the flag in its possession is nothing more than a cheap cloth. Being free, both internally and externally, is in itself a worthwhile goal for a life of dignity.

Is there anything or anybody that could help us in this hand-to-hand combat with our own self?

It will be really helpful if we read books which are beneficial to our soul and not waste our limited free time watching, for example, disorienting television shows. We should also seek guidance from experts and instead of resting on our laurels, we should take a brave and honest look at ourselves.

You have studied psychology and worked in the field for years. How do you manage to overcome whatever obstacles life has in store for you? Do you perhaps turn to a colleague of yours whenever you face your own challenges? Do you consult friends you trust? Are books of help to you? By the way, you have written a two-volume biography of late Elder Ambrosios.

I am open to others and willing to ask for and accept their help when needed. I find writing really helpful and I consult my friends and my spiritual father as regards my writing. However, I should mention an example of spiritual assistance provided by one human to another, one that inspires me a lot and has been recorded in the earlier mentioned biography of Elder Ambrosios. Well, Fr. Ambrosios had a close relationship with late Bishop Antonios of the Holy Metropolis of Sissanion and Siatista, one of our great contemporary fathers, whom he distinguished among clergymen in the hierarchy of the Church of Greece. The bishop frequently visited elder Ambrosios in order to consult him on various matters regarding difficulties in his diocese or his participation in the synod. Whoever saw them together would be amazed at their mutual love and humility.

Prompted by the example you have shared with us, I kindly ask you to describe Elder Ambrosios.

It’s not easy to talk about a person like him – a saint in the hearts and minds of the many people who met him. He helped me in building my relationship with Christ and Virgin Mary since he accomplished the one thing he intended for everybody he met; he brought me closer to them. He has been a great Father of our religion, to whom God had granted many spiritual gifts. He was like St. Porphyrios, who was his friend, or St. Paisios or St. Iakovos. I would very much like to urge your readers to learn more about him.

If you tried, in a few lines, to highlight something special from his life, what would that be?

He was almost entirely illiterate but that did not prevent him from being taught of God. Without underestimating the value of physical body, he primarily cared about the soul and its constant feeding. He was honest and simple, authentic and honorable, strong and fearless; the words coming out of his mouth gave off a sweet smell and his body was also sweet-smelling for as long as he lived. The miraculous wonders of his life were and still are (thirteen years after his rest) many. That is exactly the sort of role models we need today.
Having agreed with Mr Michalis Leventis, the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian came to mind, saying “we need to find a quiet place at quiet time to find peace inside us and, in this way, learn more about ourselves”.
And so long as we become more conscious of who we are, maybe then we will develop the sensitivity to perceive the sweet scent of humble people and saints.
Sofia Chatzi
published in the weekly journal
ORTHODOX TRUTH, 07.08.2019

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