Tag Archives: Elder Aimilianos

It will break open my hardened heart.

A word on approaching the Scriptures from Elder Aimilianos, who from 1974 to 2000 was abbot of Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos:

When one undertakes to examine Scripture in an idle, intellectual way, he creates hatred and quarreling. Why? Because the intellectual approach to Scripture does not help us to turn and reflect on our sins, but instead makes us focus on problems and concepts related to the study of Scripture, with the result that our logical and intellectual faculties are aroused to no real purpose.

“Knowledge” by itself does not add anything. On the contrary, it encourages the cultivation of the individual and his private sense of things; it fosters the self-sufficiency of his personal opinions, which he then seeks to justify and impose on others. This kind of approach to Scripture immediately places you in conflict with others; it opposes your will and opinion to theirs, prompting you to disagree and argue with them, and to make enemies of your brothers. Filled as I am with my own opinions about things, I am not able to receive anything from God.

The correct way is to read Scripture with simplicity and to allow God to tell us what He wants to tell us. It’s one thing to read Scripture because you want to collect information, and another thing to read it aimilianos-of-athos-photobecause you want to acquire its true content, that is, the Holy Spirit.

This kind of knowledge is the life of God (cf. John 17:3), the entry and extension of God into our life; it is God’s descent and dwelling among us. We can judge whether or not our study of Scripture is authentic based on the number of tears we shed when we study. To be sure, I can also read Scripture without shedding tears, and without a strong sense of my sins, but with the hope that God’s grace, through my reading of Scripture, will break open my hardened heart. Read Scripture, then, but don’t forget about your sins and reduce Scripture to an object of intellectual inquiry, for at that point it ceases being the word of God and you start seeing it as something human.

The criterion for your study should be this: the way you read the Bible should bring peace to your heart, communion with God, love of neighbors, and the consciousness of your own sinfulness: the recognition of how unworthy and ill-prepared you are to stand before God.

-Elder Aimilianos of Mount Athos

When God doesn’t exist for me…

“Whether we believe or not, we belong to God. Whether we understand it or not, or feel His presence or not, or rejoice in that presence or not, He exists. He is my God. He is my Lord. Even during moments of darkness and terror, when God doesn’t exist for me, He still exists. When I feel I’m a failure, when all my efforts seem fruitless, when my life seems to have passed in vain, Christ is still my Christ. He is there for me no matter what happens. He exists irrespective of my capabilities, capacities, and comprehension. I might imagine that God is small. But God is great. I might think that God doesn’t hear. But He does. And He has given Himself entirely to me, so that there’s only one possibility of failure: for me to break off my relationship with the ‘One Who Is’ (Ex. 3:14).”

+ Elder Aimilianos of Simonaspetra Monstery, Mt. Athos

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