Obedience, Obedience and More Obedience

A conversation with Archimandrite Alexii (Mandziris), the igumen of Xenophon Monastery, with the sisters of St. Elisabeth Convent.

I thank Metropolitan Porphyrius because he provided us as the visitors from Xenophon Monastery, where I ministry as a father superior for more than forty years, with the opportunity to meet with you.

I do not feel that I have achieved something or that I am worthy something, or that I mean something. The Lord has graced me by calling me to the monastic way of life. I feel that all of us, who are sitting here today, are honored by the Lord for He has chosen us among other people in this world and brought us to these holy monasteries.  

While vising your convent I felt that it is the heart of this city and this country. Just like the heart pumps blood to the body and keeps the whole organism alive, this convent circulates spiritual blood to this city and to the whole country. Your prayers, the Divine Liturgy served here, and your holy ministry is this spiritual blood.  

We are favored by God, because he gives us an opportunity to follow such high ideals. Every monk prays not only for his own salvation, but also for the salvation of his neighbors. As Saint Isaac the Syrian said, “Although the monk has rejected everything, at the same time he makes up one thing with everything.” So when the apostles asked Christ: “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” And He replied: “Assuredly I say to you, that you shall receive a hundredfold, and shall be with me in the Heavenly kingdom forever” (Matthew 19:27-29).

This is the purpose of our life and what we are striving for. This is why, my dear children, I am so delighted with you and so glad that you desire to say, “Lord, let it all be as You wish” and follow Him. And I am especially glad because I have found that you have a spiritual father, a leader. You do not follow this path blindly, but you have a person who leads you by hand and guides you. It is so important to have a spiritual father! We should not think about our own will and do what we want to do. We should obey because it is what our spiritual life is based on. A monk who does not obey is like a bird without the wings – the wind blows and throws it from side to side. The same is with the monk, for he cannot do anything without obedience.

I think that the greatest gift which you can get from the Lord is to have a spiritual father and a mother superior whom you also should obey because she is in charge of you all. The Lord showed us the example of obedience when He obeyed His father. Christ said. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). We come to monastery and become monks not to do our own will, but the will of God, which we hear through the spiritual father and mother superior. The one who is listening to his own thoughts is listening to temptations, which will seize him then. At the same time, the one who obeys is listening to God.

Remember Apostle Paul. When Christ appeared to him and revealed the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom, He said: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And Paul asked: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:4-6). You see, Christ did not tell him what he should do but sent him to Ananias: “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” The Lord could tell him everything himself, but He humbled Paul in such a way so that the Apostle could grow in his humility. The same concerns the monk, my dear children, for through obedience he receives blessing. This is why our main goal if to obey relentlessly.

When Elder Ephraim of Katounaki came to our monastery in 1974, we asked him (I was young back then): “Heronda, what should we do for salvation?” The answer of the wise elder was the following: “Reject your own will and obey”. “And what else?” – we asked. He said: “Obedience”. One of us said then: “Heronda, you said nothing about prayer, fasting, ascetics and other feats”. The elder replied: “Obey and thus all the rest will come with that.”

It is said in the Scripture, “The Lord hates your prayers and your fasts.” Why? Because there is no love, no humilty and patience in us. Because we do not forgive and there is no understanding between us. Then the Lord will say, “What should I do with your prayers if your hearts are full of dirt? There is no Holy Spirit in them, which you get through with humility”. This is why we can put an equal sign between obedience and humility.

My dear children, as I have an opportunity to stand here in front of you and have a 60-years-long experience of the monastic life, I would like to share with you the words of  Fr. Ephraim:  the foundation of the monastic life is humbleness of mind and obedience. I do not want you to feel yourself abused inferior in your place. It is a great honor and blessing that you have become nuns. We will be saved if we strive for it, and we will help others to reach their salvation.

I have a lot to say to you, but I do not want to tire you out. I believe, I have mentioned the main things I wanted to say. I pray that we never forget about the calling entrusted to us by the Lord. May the Lord be always with you and may the Mother of God bless your work.

June 21, 2017

St. Elisabeth Convent