ΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΠΡΙΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ, ΔΕ ΘΑ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΟΤΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ

(ΠΑΡΟΙΜΙΑ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΩΝ ΜΟΝΑΧΩΝ)

Δευτέρα, 26 Μαΐου 2014

On Alan in India

St Gregory Palamas Orthodox Monastery

Taken from: "The Ascetic of Love", Mother, give us a word.
Το ίδιο ελληνικά
Gerontissa Gabrielia (1897-1992), also known as Gavrilia, was a 20th century saintly Greek Orthodox nun (see here).
 
We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
(Zech. 8: 23) 
 
Mother Gabrielia
As we were saying the other day, we are always to be blamed for raising somebody on a pedestal and turning him into an idol. We admire him and then… we bring him down. There was once in India a very great «Teacher», one of those they call Guru. 

At the time, I was working at the Dispensary that was part of his Ashram. One day a young man arrived from Australia. He was 26, cheerful, and carried with him a sizeable trunk. He presented himself to where the great Teacher sat talking to those who had gathered around him…When he entered, the young man was flushed with joy and excitement. He looked at the Teacher the way we look at – what shall I say – the icon of a… Saint! The Teacher observed him carefully and said: “So, you are the one who came from Australia? What did you bring us?” The young man was so thrilled that he could not speak. But the other insisted: “Did you bring us bananas? Or fruit? Perhaps sweets? What did you bring us?” The youth opened the trunk and started taking out papers, and more papers, and again papers… “Well, aren’t you going to show us your presents?” At last out came a tape recorder and many tapes that he had brought to record the voice of this great Master! “Now then. Is that all? You brought nothing else? Show him to his room!

The poor young man went to his room locked himself in and refused to come out… He had had a shock! He had been looking forward to meeting a man he had almost deified. Instead, he saw a man expecting bananas and other fruit like a common mortal who at the end had told him to go to his room since he had brought nothing with him… Poor wretch, who had come to immortalize the Guru’s voice and send it back to Australia (where everybody would marvel at his achievement – for, surely, his Ego had a share in all that)… The next day they tried to make him leave his room and attend the teaching, but he refused. One day I met him walking in the woods. I said: “Good morning. Would you like me to walk with you for a while? Have a chat, perhaps?” “We could do that sometime, but not right now he answered and walked away.

Meanwhile, the instructor of physical exercises said to me: “You have the knack of making friends easily. Go and talk to him”… The next day I met him again. “How are you?” I asked. “Are you getting accustomed to the place?” “No! “Would you care for a little talk? I, too, have come from abroad”… “Another time, perhaps”… I did not know what to do! Sitting quietly in my room, I said. “Oh, my God! Now that this child of Yours goes to the Ganges every morning… if he were to… stumble just a little… and his foot need a little massage… perhaps I could talk with him”… And it happened, for a wonder! The next morning they sent for me. “Alan went to the river for a swim and strained his ankle. Come at once”. “Take him to his room, I said, “I'll be there right away”.

Well, anything that has to do with a person’s body has to do with his soul also. At that moment I knew what had happened to the young man, for I was aware of how it came about. I commenced the treatment and kept silent, very silent. “Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” “No, I said, “I only came to see to your foot”. “Now! Every time we met, you asked my impressions on this place. Aren’t you interested any longer?” “Not at the moment. We have to attend to your foot now”. I answered in this manner, because I knew that if I were to say: “Tell me…he wouldn’t talk. However, if you pretend indifference, the other will start talking, since he hurts inside and needs to get it off his chest.

This was what happened with Alan. He started to talk and talk… On how this Teacher was known to a large circle of people in Australia. On how he was sent by friends to record his speeches and make his teaching widely known… and so on. And Alan kept saying: “I don’t want to see him any more. I don’t want to! I don’t want to record his teaching or anything else. What am I to do?” When the treatment for his strained ankle was over, I told him: “Let’s go. Ill take you to an old man I know very well, and he will tell you all you want to learn about Indian Philosophy. At the same time he will talk to you about” … “I must tell you that I do not want to hear about Christianity and such things!” “Let’s go there and you will see”. This old man was very wise. 

He was teaching Indian Philosophy, and had also attended Christian Schools, but never proselytized when a Christian came to him. Soon after we arrived, he asked Alan if he wanted to stay near him. “Yes, he answered, as he had been impressed both by the old man’s humility and his appearance, for he looked like a Prophet out of the Old Testament. “All right then. Bring your Bible also and let us read it together. Do you read it?” “No”. “Well, that’s a pity because I cannot tell you: take up thy bed and walk… Anyhow, bring your sleeping-bag and come sit here”. Alan was at a deadlock¦ So, he went and stayed with the old man for some time. I saw him quite often and we had a few talks.

Once he said to me: “You tell me that when God wants something to be done, it is done; and that when you abandon yourself, of your own free will, in the Hand of God, He grants your wish. You also say that the only way to reach God is through Christ, Who takes us by the hand and leads us where we must go, if we only trust ourselves to Him”. “Yes, I answered, “but you must do so truly”. Another day he told me: “You say that we must abandon ourselves completely in the Hand of God and that then… Fine! So, let’s go, the two of us, without any money, up in the mountains, in a strange place, and see what happens. Shall we find food and shelter, as you say we shall?” “Have no doubt we will!” “Are you certain about that?” “I am”. “Well, if I see it happen, I will believe in Christ and will renounce all teachers, gurus and the like”. Still, my children, the Holy Scripture says: «Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God» and «Seek not a sign». But, in those days I was so eager and certain that this youth should not lose Christ… since he was born in a Christian country. 
What could be done at this point? So, I said: “All right. We will go”. We had a little money with us: about one rupee, just enough for the train fare and modest sleeping accommodation for one night. We had no idea what the next day would bring, but I was very confident – as if we were going to a familiar place.

Early the next morning, we set out for the mountains, taking with us some fruit. We walked up, and up, and up… At noon we stopped on a hill to get some rest. “No miracle as yet, ” Alan said. “Don’t be so hasty,” I answered, “I told you that if it is God’s Will we shall find a place to spend the night”. The sun was setting and darkness was advancing fast, as is usual up in the mountains. We could see the valley below and, to be frank, I started thinking that the miracles I had been expecting were somewhat… overdue, but then God would provide… “Well, what do you say now?” Alan asked me. “I say that we shall spend the night where God wants us to”. In a short while, when the sun was almost gone, we saw something coming up into view, beyond the ridge of the hill. First a tropical helmet, then a face, and then two Indian figures. Soon after, we made out that the person with the helmet was an elderly European lady wearing glasses. The other two figures were young Indian girls.

When they came close, we exchanged greetings. “Good evening”. “Good evening. Where are you coming from?” “We came from the valley below”. “And where are you going?” “To friends”… Alan looked at me sideways, thinking, «why is she lying?»… “And where are you from?” “I am from Greece and this young man is from Australia”. “I am from Holland,” the lady said. “I was raised in the United States, and these young girls are two of the six daughters I adopted here. I saw to their education and they are qualified Nurses. What is your occupation”? “I teach Physiotherapy and I have just finished with one of the Dispensaries, I answered. “Ah! God has sent you. Are you free to come to our home tonight? These two girls have a month’s leave and perhaps you could teach them a little”…”I’ll be glad to, I said, “but I have this young man with me and we were going”… “That will be no problem. I have also an adopted son. They will share his room and tonight we’ll be like one family”. 

“Thank you and thank God for our meeting, I said. The young Australian stood dazed, truly dumbfounded! God had made His miracle and I was overjoyed. I felt an enthusiasm beyond words. India was my great adventure of Faith in God. I had gone there, a stranger in a foreign country, with no knowledge of its languages… Anyway, we finally reached their house up in the mountain – a nice house on a hill. There our hostess related to me how she had left her home as a young girl, how she had lived all those years supported in her undertakings only by friends, because she did not belong to any Mission, and how she felt that God had blessed her.

That night, our Australian friend was so moved that with tears in his eyes he told me: “Sister Lila, please sit at the piano and let us sing now all the Christmas carols. Christ has just been born in my heart”. So, I started playing the piano, and everyone, the mother, the girls, the boys began to sing, in high summer, all the Christmas carols that we knew… Alan was literally in the bliss of God!

You see God works His Miracles where and when He wills. For this young man had gone astray, seeking his way in wrong directions. And because God had wanted him on the right Way, all these things had happened. I was so confident that he would not be lost, at 26, through the practice of those dangerous exercises, which are harmful especially to the eyes, if not… Anyway…We stayed with our new friends 15 days and I taught the girls what they wanted to learn. Then Alan returned to Australia. The lady Missionary and I became friends and, from then on, she invited me every year to spend part of the summer with her. She and-her family never forgot this story, particularly when I told them what happened with Alan later…

For Alan’s story does not end here. A year went by, then a second one, and Alan returned to the same practices and his old circle, In the meantime I had gone far up in the mountains and nobody knew where I was. As he told me later, he still remembered what I used to tell him and thought: “In the way Sister Lila says «yes» when she is called upon, this time, I too will say «yes» and see where this takes me!” He had arrived at this decision because once again he felt dissatisfied with himself. So, he traveled to where he thought he would find me, only to be told: “She is not coming here this year. She is up in the mountain”. Now, mark a «coincidence»! Somebody came where I was staying and told me: “You know, Alan from Australia is at such and such a place”, Well, I thought, I shall write to invite him here, not knowing of course what he had gone through in the meantime… And while Alan was expecting an invitation from I don’t know whom, for a great change in his life, he received my letter. It was the only invitation he got! He set off at once and arrived at the place I was, up in the mountains, where we were the only two Europeans. And he started telling me: “Everything that happened then was really good. Since then, however, I saw a lot of things that didn’t go the way you said they would. This is why I returned to India, seeking the Truth”, “But I told you, Alan, that Truth is not a theory, it is Christ who said: «I am the Truth».

What else do you want? More Miracles, perhaps? “You say that you live all the time amidst Miracles”. “Yes, I said, “I live in a Miracle. Because the fact that you are alive and have come back is a Miracle. Because the fact that you and I have our eyes and our legs is a Miracle. Look around you, here where I work with the lepers. Don’t you see the blind? All those sick people who suffer? Why they and not we? Have you ever asked yourself that? Everything we have is by His Grace! Only by the Grace of God! In spite of our sins. It is by His Grace that we are as we are. Through the Blood of Christ’s Sacrifice. Don’t you understand that?”

While I was still talking, an old man came with his eyes filled with tears. “Please, run quickly to the Dispensary, my boy is gravely injured, he said. The village was very small and the Dispensary nothing much. We met the Doctor and he said: “Did you come for the boy? He fell off the scaffolding and I think he broke his spine. I am afraid he will not last the night”. We went and saw an 18-year old boy. I was deeply moved and started caressing lightly his forehead. Then I turned to his father and said: “No. Great are the Miracles of God. The boy will live. Do not worry”.
    Then shalt thou call,
    and the Lord shall answer;
    thou shalt cry, and He shall say: Here I am.
    (Isa. 58:9)
Suddenly, the boy opened his eyes a little (note: It was a great Miracle that God was performing in answer to her prayer and compassion, for Alan to see…). The father, who had thought his son would die, when hearing that he might live, turned to me and said: “Well! Since my boy is going to live, give me some money for food, because I am hungry”. The instinct of self-preservation! I said: “I have no money. This young man will give you some”. Alan gave him something and we left the Dispensary. The next morning Alan wanted us to go and find out if the boy was still alive. We met the Doctor at the entrance of the Dispensary and the moment he saw us he said: “I will tell you something astonishing. Occasionally nature plays such tricks! The boy has recovered and this morning, together with his father, they started the la-mile walk back to their village”! This time the Australian was thunderstruck. He was truly shattered. He turned and said: “Now I believe in the Omnipotence of God! I believe in Christ! I am a Christian in my heart! I am going back home. I have found what I have been seeking!”

Alan left… Years went by. I left India, too… I went to Bethany and became a Novice. One day I received a letter from Alan in which he wrote: “My great pride has filled me with despair. Three young girls almost drowned while swimming and, as I am a very good swimmer, I fell into the sea and saved them. The deed went to my head and I kept going around telling everyone how I saved them. At the end I suffered some derangement and was taken to a Mental Clinic. Now I am out and they assure me that I am back to normal. Still, inside, I don’t feel well. What would you advise me to do?” During my days in India I had met Father Lazarus, the Orthodox Englishman. So, I wrote to Alan: “Go to India again. But this time, please, go straight to Father Lazarus”. At the same time I wrote to Father Lazarus. Alan went back to India.

When I received a letter from Father Lazarus, I learned that for a whole year Alan just looked at him. He attended the Liturgy, but never spoke a word. It was puzzling. One morning he said: “Father, I have known Sister Lila for many years. She never asked me if I am a Christian or if I had been baptized. Perhaps she thought that, since I was born in Australia, I had been christened. I am not baptized; I am not even a Christian! Please, baptize me”. The joy of Father Lazarus was great. He christened him Hadrian. Then Hadrian asked for his blessing and left to be a Missionary… These are the great, soul-stirring Miracles of God!

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