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The Orthodox Ethos Interview with Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou

Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, Cyprus, known to the entire Orthodox Christian world for his deep spiritual wisdom gathered from his years close to several contemporary saints and long service to the Church as a Shepherd of souls, sat down with Archpriest Peter Heers to discuss the Ethos of the Orthodox Church ahead of, and for the sake of, the important gathering on the same topic at the Antiochian Village sponsored by Uncut Mountain Press.

Transcript of Interview with

METROPOLITAN NEOPHYTOS OF MORPHOU


Fr. Peter Heers: Your blessing, Your Eminence. We thank you very much for this opportunity. It is our great pleasure to have you here on the Orthodox Ethos and also for the conference that we will do now, and first of all we thank you for being here with us and talking with us.


Metropolitan Neophytos: The blessing of the Lord! I too am glad that you have given us this opportunity to be together to talk from the ancient island of Cyprus with the great continent of America.


Fr. Peter Heers.: Amen, Amen. Glory to God! The audience to which you are now speaking are mainly converts. They are Orthodox Americans. Of course the whole world will be able to see this interview that we will do, but at the conference it will be heard primarily by people who came to Orthodoxy with great zeal and joy, and we are looking to go deeper. That is why we came to the source, to the old, so to speak, Church of Cyprus, which has two thousand years of history and holiness…


Metropolitan Neophytos: Two thousand!


Fr. Peter Heers.: Two thousand, certainly! The first question I ask you is: how do we understand the Orthodox ethos, to begin simply?


Metropolitan Neophytos: Firstly, let us talk a little American. What is ethos? We will define it, that is. As Aristotle also said, the investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of wisdom. Without Aristotle being American, you see, he, too, had his own method, which much later America adopted, that is, to define things, without restricting them. In other words, ethos is apparently a behavior that is practiced within a specific society and this behavior creates a civilization, and this civilization helps the people of this society to communicate, both with each other and with their environment, with the world, and chiefly with their Creator (when they believe in a Creator), their God. So, going now to the second element, about which your own conference is, sc. the Orthodox ethos. The Orthodox ethos, my dear Father Peter, has no need of Morphou or any bishop, neither of the ancient Orthodox Church nor of the newer one. You can go directly to the source, to a Jewish Evangelist and Apostle, the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. He describes the Orthodox ethos in the chapter—now let me see exactly which chapter it is lest we make a mistake, because you who come from the Anglicans many times know the Gospel better than we who are Orthodox by tradition.


Fr. Peter Heers: At least the numbers…not sure about the meaning.


Metropolitan Neophytos: The numbers, exactly. We can make many errors regarding the numbers, very many errors.


Fr. Peter Heers: It’s not a problem. At one time, they didn't have the numbers. It’s not a problem.

Metropolitan Neophytos: So in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ clearly and simply teaches us the Orthodox ethos. So the Metropolitan of Morphou here, as a good teacher of the Gospel, could read this sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew and tell you clearly what the most ancient Evangelist of the Church describes. Nevertheless, my experience with contemporary Saints, my Father Peter, showed me that the Orthodox Ethos is applied mathematics; it is not read: that is, for me to read some chapters and memorize them and then start to convey passages to my friends and leave them speechless like a good lawyer. Personally, my first degree was of a laywer. It was law, and the second one was theology. If you ask me, I will say that my best degree was when during the summers I worked in a hotel in Spetses as a waiter. And everyone asks me, “Really that was your best degree?”


Some expected I would tell them that it was when I was a monk in a monastery. I tell them, yes, the best degree was there, because there I saw the vanity of pleasures, of glory, and of wealth. It was the Poseidion Hotel in Spetses, where the richest Greeks of Athens went, and in the afternoons these richest Greeks of Athens would find me the young Cypriot, and they would tell me the failure of their life, which was usually the life of Greeks, Orthodox Christians, baptized, anointed, not of converts. And they told me of a life without Christ, without the Holy Spirit. And I also saw their children, what a life they lived and what life they would continue living after them in modern society. We are talking about the 1980s. Consider that now we are in the 21st century of digital and artificial intelligence! So, at this same time, my dear, when I was getting my great degree at the Poseidion Hotel, I had come to know—having already passed through the left-wing intelligentsia as a school student, not as a university student. In my school years here in Cyprus, I passed through the left-wing politicized party thought. But we had in our house my grandmother Myrophora and my mother the holy Melia, who were applied gospels without ever having read Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew. You understand, right?


Fr. Peter Heers: Indeed.


Metropolitan Neophytos: At the time I might have abandoned this applied gospel and been searching, in the years of my adolescence, my youth, until I was 18 in any case, in the ideological left-wing systems of the time until I met in Athens Saint Porphyrius, the first applied gospel, and he referred me and tells me, “You should go and confess to the humblest, the kindest, the simplest Saints that modern Greece has, and he is called Elder Iakovos of Evia.” And I go to Evia and finally I find a father. It is a big thing to fill the voids of an earthly father.


Fr. Peter Heers: Indeed.


Metropolitan Neophytos: And to come to know through a spiritual father the Heavenly Father. Another applied gospel.


Fr. Peter Heers: Very true. Yes.


Metropolitan Neophytos: After a few months he tells me, “Go also to venerate the Virgin Mary on Mount Athos.” On my way to Mount Athos, all the pilgrims speak of some Païsius, who is the contemporary starets [elder] of Mount Athos at the time. And I go to Saint Païsius, too, and I am amazed by his prophetic gift when I meet him. He told me, “You will build monasteries,” and that while I am 19 years old with Rothmans [tobacco] in my pocket. So that was another applied gospel. And going to Athens, I feel that I must have someone to whom I can go to confess regularly. I need to be cleaning my heart. Only in this way does the Gospel become applied for me, too. Otherwise I would have left one theory, that of the left, and gone to another ideology, another theory, called Orthodoxy.


Fr. Peter Heers: That exists today, also, quite often.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Certainly. Then I find, truly by the Holy Spirit, the Hospital of Infectious Diseases for Lepers of Athens, where Saint Nikephorus the Leper lived. And there I find the disciple of Saint Nikephorus, Saint Eumenius, and I make him my confessor. Everything I am telling you occurred during one year, 1982. Do you know how old I was in 1982? Twenty. Well then I realized that all of these blessings, the gifts of God, were the result of the prayers of my father in heaven, who fell asleep in ’80, when I was 8 years old, Nikolas, and of my mother the holy Melia and of my grandmother, the Holy Myrophora, on this earth. This, my brother, is how the Orthodox Ethos works. This is how the Orthodox Ethos enters our lives. I told my own personal story—forgive me—because I don't like ideologies, and I don’t like making Orthodoxy an ideology. And in our times Orthodoxy has become very much an ideology. That is why it is now much better to let experience speak. When I said, rather when he told me, after years of apprenticeship next to Saint Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia who became my spiritual father, he says, “My child, you will become a bishop in your homeland, in the place where you were born, and after 50 years old you will begin to speak. Your voice will be heard from Canada to Australia, from Europe to South Africa. When I asked him, “Why, how will this be? How can I have my voice heard within such a radius?” he says, “Ol’ Porphyrius will answer you. He knows better.” I asked Elder Porphyrius who was the saint of technology, and he tells me, “Why, the technology of the time will help you.” Here is the technology we have now.


Fr. Peter Heers: Yes. Here we are.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Now I asked Saint Iakovos—. This is the answer to your question. I gave a long prologue to end up in a short answer. “Well, what am I to tell the people? Even after 50.” It makes an impression on me that he tells me, “After 50.” Now I am 60. “Don’t say your own things. Whatever you saw among the lepers, particularly Saint Eumenius, the Holy Elder of Eumenius, Saint Nikephorus, who tells you stories; whatever you saw with the great elder of Mt. Athos, Saint Païsius; whatever you saw and heard,” he tells me, “with Elder Porphyrius; and if you saw something good with us here at Saint David, talk about us too; and what you have acquired from your experience with your holy mother and your holy grandmother, whom you do not take into account: say these things. Only don’t say that of your own. You don't have anything of yours to say anyway, my child.” [chuckles] See how he humbled me? So! That is it. The Orthodox Ethos is to give something from the Saints. Whether you came in contact with some Saints, whether you read about their lives, whether you had any contact, as I said before, a preoccupation with them, a revelation. Some have had a revelation from a saint after his falling asleep. Do you know how many got to know Saint Païsius, Saint Porphyrius, Saint Eumenius, now, amid the circumstances of coronavirus. And Saint Nikephorus. How many got to know him now and their faith was strengthened. So. Therefore, holiness is not something static; to say, “Oh! But we were not born early enough to be with them. How lucky Morphou is to have been around back then and have met them! Now they have fallen asleep.” Yet a Saint is the most alive person, and he is alive because he is fulfilled; he is full of the Holy Spirit, which is the most excellent Person of life. We say, “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life.” That is what gives us life. When I speak to you, and you to me, it is due to the Holy Spirit. It is not due to technology, nor to my blood, which surely exists, humanly speaking. It is due to the Holy Spirit. So…


Oh! Let me say this, too. Saint Iakovos told me these things, what is the Orthodox Ethos, that is, to learn from the Saints, and to wait, to desire to become a disciple of the Saints; and the Holy Spirit will take care of how this discipleship will take place. Don't rush things. “Come and dwell is us”—isn’t that what the prayer says, “Heavenly King”—and cleanse us from every stain of sin.” You, there in prayer, wait, expect: “Come!” And according to your desire, He will come, my father. Longing is needed, desire is needed. In our times, these are things that have dwindled. It is not the examples that some say. Even from Heaven God will send the Heavenly Saints, if the earthly ones have dwindled, to guide the person who longs for the Orthodox Ethos. And one last thing. I go to the occupied areas, as you know, from time to time because half of my Metropolis is occupied by the Turkish troops. The city of Morphou is also occupied. Some, whether Turkish Cypriots or colonists, want to come to know Orthodoxy. I am not saying that they are converts. They are well-intentioned towards Orthodoxy. One of them tells me, “Please, Neophytos, the next time you come”—I had brought him an icon of the Virgin Mary as a gift and he liked it very much—“I want you to bring me an applied gospel.” This was the first time I heard this term. “An applied gospel.” I ask him, “What is an applied gospel?” He didn't know much Greek; I didn't know much English. We had to make interpretations, till we could find the “logoi of beings”! So he says, “When a Christian takes the Gospel seriously and begins to apply it to the letter, what does that Christian become?” I say, “He becomes a saint.” “Ah!” he tells me: “I want the life of a saint.” He wanted to tell me, my father, “the life of a saint” and he did not know the term “life” and he was saying, “an applied gospel.”


Fr. Peter Heers: Wonderful.


Metropolitan Neophytos: And which life do you think I brought him the next time I visited him? The life of Saint Arsenius the Cappadocian, written by St. Païsius, because it has in it the love of Saint Arsenius but also his severity towards the Turks. So I say, “Look, at this an agnostic Turk. (He is not only an Mohammedan; he is an agnostic.) What does he want? An applied gospel. A life of a saint.” That is it.


Fr. Peter Heers: We thank you very much. Thank you very much for the answer. We try and we have the custom of saying here in the catechism that we do that we need to follow, as it says in some of the ecumenical councils, “following the Holy Fathers.” So what does this mean? I am accustomed to telling them that it doesn't mean only or even primarily going back and reading the minutes of the councils and the writings of the Saints. Of course, this, too, is very correct. But if you do not follow the saints of our time, you will not follow the Saints of other times, because it is in this way, through the modern Saints, that we will reach the old ones and understand them. Are we speaking correctly?


Metropolitan Neophytos: Very well. You are not the one saying this. Rather, now as I hear you, you are repeating Saint Sophrony of Essex. He writes this, he writes this in the introduction of Saint Silouan, Long before Saint Silouan was glorified. He writes this, how timely are the lives of the modern Saints, the experience of the contemporary Saints, for us the non-Saints.


Fr. Peter Heers: Because they apply the Gospel today.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Why, these are the ones that will judge us, my father. Basil the Great will not judge us. Saint Nectarius will judge us. Saint John Maximovitch will judge. The bishops, I mean. I mean myself; he will judge me the bishop. St. John Maximovitch was on airplanes all day. He was on airplanes all day! He ascended, he descended. And yet he kept his nous [intellect]. My mother, the holy Melia would tell me, “Take care, my son, that your nous not incline [falter], whatever you become and wherever you go.” If we understand this, that an Orthodox Christian's ethos is first and foremost to pay attention to his heart, what thoughts he has, what desires he has, and immediately with a watchful mind, a chaste thought, a sober heart, to repent; that this is our primary task; then everything else becomes a side-job, Father. Only the bishops have the chief task, as the name “bishop” [overseer] indicates, to watch, to oversee, to manage the matters of the Faith. Of course, the believer, too, will not allow the bishop when he sees that the bishop is neglecting the matters of the Faith and does not hold the Orthodox Faith. But the first and main task of all of us is what I described before, the matter of the heart. With much sorrow, I see today people among us who do not take care of their hearts so as to repent, and yet we [they] speak and have judgement [krisis] and discretion [diakrisis] and condemnation [katakrisis] for everyone and for everything. I tell you: is this well-pleasing unto God?


Fr. Peter Heers: Such an attitude probably reminds us of the Pharisee, not the publican, nor the Saint.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Or you see some (since you mentioned converts) who entered into Orthodoxy—and not only from the Anglicans or Catholics or agnostics or some other religion; I am also speaking to you of those of our own here in traditional Orthodoxy who live a very secular life—and suddenly, because they went to Mount Athos and learned to do ten or so prostrations and to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, they have become judges of the universe. And I would tell them, “Since you want to learn about the Orthodox Ethos, let me tell you what was the attitude of St. Eumenius regarding these behaviors.” That is, we need to live our repentance. This should be our first concern. I am not saying that we should be indifferent to the matters of faith. God forbid! But the first and most important thing is to live—not to live once and it's over, but to live daily our diligent repentance.


Fr. Peter Heers: They come here and, even if we are not Protestants, we are immersed in the Protestant examples and the protestant ethos. So repentance is not understood as being continuous. That is, it means that you turn once toward Christ and from then, according to the heretical soteriology that exists, it means that you are saved. Here we must learn that repentance is life-long. Man never stops repenting. He is always on his way to the Father. Here it is not easy to understand this. To get up every day—that is, repentance is a way of life, it is an attitude of life, correct?


Metropolitan Neophytos: I said it before: you keep watch over your heart constantly, every minute—not every day: every minute—what desires and what thoughts it produces, and immediately you use all this arsenal, so to speak, which the Orthodox Church has for the invisible war that is being waged within us. Do you know how much young people (it makes in impression on me) who are either in monasticism or are young children in the world who want to struggle—do you know how much they love, how much they want this language that we speak now and this way of struggling Orthodoxy, or rather I would say, of the healing treatment! Many times I go to the high schools of the area here, to the eleventh grade, which does not have the anxiety of the final exams, the entrance exams. And I tell them, “Children, write me three questions that concern you.” I have been doing this for 20 years, Father Peter. What do all the children write to me? Twenty years in the internet age. These are not the times when we were young.


Now every five years there is a different kind of youth. Well, all the children write to me the same three questions, and they are three groups of questions. Love topics, which is natural. The flesh is the flesh. And the problem of the flesh [sarx] will be solved by the tombstone [plax], as a wise man said. The second is topics of magic, satanism, demonology. Why? Because when children don’t have a spiritual struggle as we described to you before, they will resort to the great teacher, the great guru called the internet and there they will learn various magic things. So. And the third topic, the third section, rather, that concerns them is death. I named these questions the questions of death. That which Seraphim Rose wrote about. The after-death. The journey of the soul after death. I would talk to them for four hours about death, and they are don’t make a sound. And I say, “Behold the role of the Church.” And what do they want from us? “Tell us a way to heal our jealousy.” Listen now! What person does not have jealousy? “How can we heal our anger, our malice, our antagonism, our ambition, our love of pleasure, our love of the first place?” The children's questions on the three general themes of love, death, and magic show what the role of the Church is from henceforth. It is healing one. We’re speaking of the Orthodox Ethos, either in America, my father, or in Cyprus, or in India, or in Russia.


Fr. Peter Heers: [Yet, people ask:] “Why do I have to acquire the Orthodox Ethos to be saved? I do not understand.”


Metropolitan Neophytos: Because it is therapeutic. Because it is therapeutic. That is the reason. And why I should resort to the ethos of the Saints? Because they are the healed. The Saints are not the sinless: they are the sinners, Orthodox Christians in faith, who realized with an awareness their sins, their error, either hereditary or acquired, and entered the process of repentance and daily monitoring of their heart, as we described above and as is described at great length in the Philokalia. So. If we do not concern ourselves with the therapeutic treatment of our heart, we will not acquire the Orthodox Ethos. The Saints are the models. They are the healed. Wherefore, we come and say, “Look, here is a jealous man who was healed, an wrathful man who was healed, a coward who was healed.” As an example, Saint Iakovos was a big coward when he was a child. And this coward who used to hang from his mother's dress when he was a little boy reached a point where he would say to Satan, “Come here and take me down if you dare!” And he was seeing him visibly, and the devil was gnashing his teeth and he could not approach him because of his great boldness, bravery, simplicity, and humility.


Fr. Peter Heers: This is chiefly achieved through prayer and vigils and all the struggles. In other words, with time and patience, you slowly acquire this bravery you speak of. With great effort, with violence [to oneself].


Metropolitan Neophytos: Look, everything requires effort. Marriage has its toils and monasticism also has its toils and celibacy in the world has its toils. Let’s not absolutise the things of monks. Everything has its pains. So also when the bishop in his diocese takes seriously his missionary and didactic work and the safeguarding of the Orthodox Faith, which is the principal work of the bishop, along with the catechism of the faithful, it is very painstaking work and wearisome.


Fr. Peter Heers: Beautiful. You said that even without living examples within the family itself or within society, even if one does not have one— Because for many of us here in America, only one is Orthodox in his family. He himself converted, and his parents and siblings not only did not become orthodox but are even hostile. This man is now trying to understand Orthodoxy within a parish. Unfortunately, many parishes are secularized. Prayers are shortened. There are songs and not chanting etc. You understand. This person is now trying to understand what to imitate and what to follow. He will learn through prayer and the lives of the saints, as I understand from what you have said so far, if he can't have a living person near him to teach him. Correct?


Metropolitan Neophytos: Very correct. And in fact, now I will make it difficult for you. I will make it difficult for you because it seems that the difficult things all over the world, not only in America, begin now, with the new order of things and the imposition of artificial intelligence and the digitization of the digital man, of the transhuman rather, and the reduction of the population all over the planet, which all these demons want to impose. Therefore, two saints said the same thing about our time, Father. One is Russian and fell asleep in England, Saint Sophrony of Essex; and the other is Georgian, Saint Gabriel the Fool-for-Christ. Coincidentally, they both fell asleep in the same year, 1994, and they said, “In the coming years, as people approach the last years, only those who manage to bring down the mind down to the heart will live in an Orthodox way. The rest,” they say, “even if they want to, unless they undertake this effort (because it is an effort to bring the mind down to the heart and pray there), if they do not enter into this effort, they will not manage to keep Orthodoxy. I ask you now: if one coronavirus and one vaccine disturbed monasteries, elders and eldresses, bishops and patriarchs, think of what is still coming as a test. Now when will this happen I can't say, nor do I know, nor do I know. It may be in some decades. But in any case, it is ahead of us. When the saints speak, we cannot be make fun of this. Particularly when two or three saints say the same thing.


Fr. Peter Heers: I think the Elder Justin Parvu has spoken about this.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Surely if we search, we will find many more, many more, if we search. This is simply what we happened to have read. So you realize that serious involvement with the real Orthodox Ethos, which is the ethos of repentance, Father, which means to watch your heart daily, to watch the thoughts and desires, and to repent and confess regularly, and to partake regularly of the Body and Blood of Christ unto the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, and to be filled with the joy and energy of the Holy Spirit and of all the Triune God. Nothing can harm you from the forces of this world, which all these men of the new order are preparing. We must all understand what we have to face and what should be our goal. Orthodoxy has all the weapons, it has all the supplies, needed to face the challenges of every era. As it faced the era of Saint George, the era of Saint Maximus the Confessor, the era of Saint Gregory Palamas, the era of iconoclasm before that. Isn’t it so? And now we cannot face the era of the so-called new disorder? Woe! But do not imagine the Orthodox Ethos as something nebulous—this is what I want to say—something separate, a problem that is only in America, that is only for the converts who live in a strange multiracial, multicultural society. I am telling you that if you go to Limassol you will find what you are describing. Our issue is much deeper, Father; it is a problem of the heart, of how to heal this heart.


Fr. Peter Heers: Here you said something that is the key. That the mind descend to the heart. You probably take it as a given that the other person understands this expression, but I think most people don't understand what it means to bring down the mind to the heart. Can we describe it in two, three, four ways so that we can understand it both more empirically and more directly?


Metropolitan Neophytos: Look, regarding this question that you have asked, you there in America are in a position more advantageous than are many Greeks, at least. Why? Because the providence of God sent you a man, the holy elder Ephraim of Philotheou and now of Heaven and of Arizona. And now a most Heavenly citizen and Arizonan. This man’s teaching and therapeutic treatment par excellence (as of all the Saints, first to themselves and then to their disciples and to the people who approached them) is this. I am saying nothing new.


Fr. Peter Heers: Of course, right.


Metropolitan Neophytos: I am not ‘carrying coal to Newcastle.’ I am saying that with which the Orthodox Church has been healing its people for years. The healing of the heart is not a skill for monks, as some once tried to attribute to Saint Gregory Palamas. It’s a healing treatment for every Orthodox Christian. It is needed; nevertheless, before that (and here, both the spiritual and the various fathers must pay attention to this)— before we enter into this process, the descent of the mind to the heart and what is called the prayer of the heart, we must first pay close attention to the following, and this was stressed by the most recent Saints, of which I am telling you now. And let me tell you who they are: the holy eldress Galactia of Crete, who fell asleep last year in Crete, who said that the greatest living saint is Ephraim of America; she said it in the Cretan dialect. Another Cretan who said the same things was Father Anastasius Koudoumianos, of Koudoumas.


Our Elder Eumenius also said the same things that I will tell you now. He said that first a man must take his repentance seriously. He says that one should go to Confession, to become aware of what his main passions are. We don't all have the same passions. One has these, another has others. He should go to confession first. And not what many monks do, give to everyone a prayer rope. They didn't like this at all; it was like giving them hot water, the holy eldress Galactia said, and pouring it over their hearts, because the passions, she says, acquire demonic energy over the years and atop these passions the demons are lying and sleeping. As soon as we begin with the great Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with our prayer ropes to say constantly, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me,” to repeat this name, which name has healing power, or energy rather, then the demons awaken. It is as if we were throwing a caustic force on them. If the man is not confessed they will tear him apart. They will ask, “Who are you who wake us up? We have gotten along well for many years together.” That's why we need.


Fr. Peter Heers: So everything has a process and prerequisites.


Metropolitan Neophytos: Exactly. The occupation with the heart [has prerequisites]. So the first prerequisite is that the person be helped to become aware of what his passions are, what are his mistakes in life, according to his age. Then you will recommend a discerning spiritual father to whom he can go for Confession. And the spiritual father should not immediately give him a prayer rope. Let him give him an applied gospel. What did I do with the Turk that I told you about earlier? I didn't give him a prayer rope; I gave him the life of Saint Arsenius. So, the same should be done with the baptized and the anointed. Read one life, read a second life. Do not even give the Gospel to him. The Gospel must be towards the end. Here is a difference with Anglicanism. They say, “Read the Gospel!” No, the Gospel should be read last.


Look at many lives of saints, so that you may see their similarity and also the differences in the characters of the Saints. Not all Saints are the same with the same character. One star differs from another. And so in the end he should also read the Gospel and then go to the Old Testament as well. The person should have an image of the church through the holy persons. What are the holy persons? They are the holy cells that make up the Body of Christ, which is the Church. And afterwards, once this person has had an ecclesiastical catechism, so to speak, then introduce him also to the healing treatment. We also have the Mysteries of the Church, the services of the Church. Teach him to read Compline, the Salutations to our Panagia. Thus, he will go to the Divine Liturgy and have an idea of what is this Divine Liturgy, what is the meaning of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting, which is said every time we receive Holy Communion.


And afterwards introduce him (pay attention now!) to the noetic work, not to the prayer of the heart. To the noetic work. That is, the rational part of the soul has two manners in which it thinks. One manner is the silent one, what is called the inner voice. We all have this inside of us. I can say that we think and talk internally more than by mouth. Man begins with the inner voice, instead of speaking idly, judging, criticizing, doubting, having complaints—he begins with the prayer of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Repeating it, his thought will leave. He will bring it back again, it will escape him again, he will bring it back. Until the heart begins to slowly open and until the heart begins to absorb the name of its Creator, our Lord Jesus Christ. He can also use the name of the Panagia.


Saint Païsius once told me, “In difficult times say, ‘Great is the Name of the Holy Trinity. Most Holy Theotokos protect us.’ That is the entire Church,” he tells me. “And then the prayer,” he told me, “will of itself give birth to prayer.” We always start, however, with the Name of Christ. He is the One who took flesh from the Virgin Mary. So, in this way the heart begins now through the inner voice—and in the beginning we say it with our mouths. There is the inner voice and the spoken word, the two ways in which a person can rationally pray. Either with the mouth, orally, or internally, from within us, with the inner voice, that is. We begin orally, and little by little, it is also achieved with the inner voice. These are the ways, my dear; and let’s not forget that we all, the Orthodox, have a wonderful partner and ally in us, whom the Apostle Paul constantly mentions. Whoever read him carefully will have seen it. The Holy Spirit.


We received the Holy Spirit when we were named [Baptism]. “That dwelleth in you”, he says. He is our cohabitant. He dwells within us. Therefore, as soon as the Holy Spirit sees that we are engaged in repentance, whenever there is an evil thought, a shameful thought, a thought of jealousy, malice towards a person, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Father Peter, whom I envy. Have mercy on me too.” These are from Father Sophrony of Essex. Who taught me these things? I learned them from the books of Father Sophrony. We talk about Orthodox ethos. This is how we learn to struggle, my dear. Or from Saint Eumenius about the loving disposition. If you do not love Christ, he tells me, with all your strength, your carnal problems will never be settled. Christ, make me worthy to love You above all men and above all things. It is the first commandment that says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” That is, we have taken something the saints and are applying it.


Fr. Peter Heers: This is very interesting because here I believe that many work only negatively, against [their passions], but here you said that in order for the one to leave, the greater love must take its place. For the sick love to leave, the healthy one must enter, the correct one, the love for God; and then the love for one’s neighbour will also come. But we only work negatively, that is, without understanding that the demon must leave, but what will take its place?


Metropolitan Neophytos: The “Lord, have mercy.” We must work positively first. Do you know why? Because good is greater and stronger than evil. Since God is omnipresent, even in hell. This is why the devil is demonized, because even there, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. He cannot stand it.


Fr. Peter Heers:: When you do not have the Holy Spirit, you only look at what is wrong with others, with yourself, with the world. And then Orthodoxy becomes a religion and moralism. But from the moment the Holy Spirit enters your life, you are no longer concerned with the out-of-here [the devil] nor with his wares.


Metropolitan Neophytos: It is so, it is so.


Fr. Peter Heers: The fruits of the state of prayer… As one advances with the inner voice and occupies himself with noetic prayer, are there specific fruits that will confirm that he is moving forward? Will he give us gifts, how does Saint Païsius say it?

Metropolitan Neophytos: Let me tell you. Yes, yes, I understand what you mean. Many say a lot about tears. I will tell you something, something else. I think the greatest gift is longing, the longing for God. Because when you see that you are constantly longing, you are expecting your God, when you thirst—in other words, what David says: “My soul hath thirsted for Thee, how often hath my flesh longed for Thee, in a land barren and untrodden and unwatered.” When you feel this continually, whether you are eating or sleeping or waking up or getting angry or calming down or liturgising and you are constantly in an expectation, a sweet expectation, and you want more and more God. That is, what more could you want, let's say. Yes, that is how it is. It is very beautiful. This is very, very beautiful. That is, that you are never alone. You are with God and you want more God. So that is very wonderful. You are asleep and you feel the need to pray; even though you are sleeping your heart is praying. There are different things, but they are not ours. Why should we— these belong to the Holy Spirit. Why should we sit and talk about them now? I think this is in fact a temptation. With gifts you accept them, you say thank you; you're even ashamed because you don't deserve them. You don't sit and talk about them.


Fr. Peter Heers: Surely, surely, yes.


Metropolitan Neophytos: And just the fact that we yearn for God and that we speak and— The day before yesterday, yesterday, when was it? The day before yesterday, yes, yesterday Sunday, yesterday Sunday I was here. Do you remember when we went here to Father Ambrose at Saint Seraphim of Sarov. I went to Liturgy there and I say to myself, “It's not enough that I didn’t liturgise; at least let me give a sermon to the people.” And there were considerable people, and it was the Gospel that says, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son.” And I preached such a sermon, my brother! Why, I was surprised that I did it. It was on the humility of God the Father. And I say now, if you make me, if you ask me now, “Well, what did you say?” I simply can’t tell you. What did I say before I made this sermon? “My Christ, it's not enough that I didn't officiate. Enlighten me for the sake of the people here, so that I may say a few words to comfort the heart of our people.” And the result was a most theological sermon, triadological, of course. So! I am saying this in the sense that these are God's gifts for our people. They are not ours.


Fr. Peter Heers: Yes. Every cleric experiences this to some degree.


Metropolitan Neophytos: It is so. Everyone experiences this. It is not Neophytos's or Peter's. We have said a lot, I think, Father Peter.


Fr. Peter Heers: Glory to God, glory to God. Thank you very much. We are very grateful. Thank you very much for your time. We know it is precious and that you have much work there. I hope to come again to Cyprus to see you again and relive the wonderful days we had, and I hope to have them again.


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4 Kommentare


Unknown member
12. Nov. 2022

Listening to Metropolitan Neophytos is like reading Revelations aloud. One is caught up in what seems to be a living hologram of reality. A moving dynamic revealing the living Spirit.


One might wonder how many see this today and that this is the ethos and dogma as it is reborn and lives from generation to generation. And this experience, as lived in our lives, as transferred through the tradition given by our Lord, is perhaps what creates the clearest division between those in and out of the living Church.


Satan wants us to forget this so we only know the dead and empty form that he rules over.


But with watching how this death takes from us…

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Anna LH
Anna LH
12. Nov. 2022

Such profound lessons on Orthodox Ethos! Metropolitan Neophytos is a wealth of knowledge on contemporary Saints! Glory to God for these translations into English!

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Excellent Interview father! Thank you!

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georgios.fjallborg
georgios.fjallborg
20. Okt. 2022

Thank you for sharing this interview with Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou!

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