Archimandrite Andrew Konanos on How to Warm Up Your Neighbor

What did God say? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” That all your loved ones, and your children, may see your good deeds. Will they only see your good deeds? The light! Do you radiate light? Do you show anything encouraging, admirable, and worthy of imitation? If so, your child will notice it. But we don’t usually radiate light, we just say some words. Anxiety, tension, concern. Is that what Christ teaches us? Those aren’t my words. I’ve never met a man in my life who would change under pressure.

We see the exact opposite. It is relaxation, but not of morals, i. e. the loosening of a necktie that strangles you, which brings about effortless change. Calm down first, take a little breath, restore your mental balance, feel at ease, make your movements free and choose what you want in your life. Look at things carefully: it is important that you do not feel that they are exerting pressure on you, even if they seem to be holy. I mean, for example, I fasted all day yesterday, I didn’t eat anything at all, I didn’t even drink water, but it was my personal choice. It doesn’t mean that I should push another person to do the same. When I see someone who does not want to fast, I need to understand that he is a separate person who is free in his actions, and I need to treat him with great respect.

Someone told me, “You’re a priest and you talk so freely.”

Yes, that’s because I wear a cassock that speaks for itself, so I don’t want to force anyone. I remember what Gerondess Gabriela’s confessor said to her, “When you go to India, do not be in a hurry to preach. Your vestment speaks for itself. Others do not understand that the woman who came to India to wear a black cassock and forfeit earthly goods, wants a feat, wants asceticism, wants abstinence, wants fasting. Okay! Do it all! Do it all for yourself! The Lord does not send you to become a means of pushing others.”

Freedom, respect, enthusiasm, prayer and the radiance of light. This light will warm the other. When it warms that other person, he will remove his outerwear which he wears: his selfishness, his anger, and his resistance. He will say, “I want to be warmed by your light, which exudes warmth, kindness, sweetness, and care.” That’s the key! After that, the locals went to Gabriela and asked, “What is your God like, if He makes you so humble and teaches you to respect us?” For two years, however, the Gerondess had not said anything; she had only been helping lepers, cleaning their wounds, feeding the poor, and helping the locals in their daily activities. She was busy doing her Christianity without seeking any benefit. She didn’t expect anyone to give her something so that she could give them something back. She was doing all those things from the bottom of her heart for Christ’s sake, because she loved Him and wanted others to know Him, too.

It goes without saying that I want everyone to go to church, to pray, to fast, to take communion. I can’t force them to do all those things, though. I want the other person to see in my eyes that I respect his freedom.

Gerondess Gabriela spent two years talking about God without uttering a single word. Can you talk about God like that?

The Indians came to her and said, “What God do you believe in?” She replied, “My God’s name is Jesus!” “We go to see Jesus too!” – “But I didn’t tell you about him!” – “That’s why! That’s because we believe that the God who sent you must be the true God! Because there’s no other way! Whoever created you that way must be a true God!” – “What do you mean?” – “He created you free! He made you with a broad perspective!”

From Love Forever, a book by Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos)

Translated from Russian by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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