Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It is Good to be Able to Go to the Moon, but Better to Attain God (St. Paisios the Athonite)

On the topic of the sanctification of knowledge, St. Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) said the following:

Education and knowledge are good things, but if they are not sanctified, they are a waste and lead to disaster. Some university students arrived at my hut one day, loaded with books. They said, "Elder, we are here to discuss the Old Testament with you. God permits knowledge, doesn't He?"

"What kind of knowledge do you mean?" I asked them. "Knowledge acquired with the mind?"

"Yes," they answered.

"This kind of knowledge," I replied, "will take you up to the moon, but will not lead you to God."

It is good to have the intellectual powers that take man to the moon costing billions of dollars in fuel expenses and so on, but it is better to have the spiritual powers that raise man to God, his ultimate destination, with only a bit of fuel, a mere dried piece of bread.

Once, I asked an American who visited me at the hut, "What has this great nation of yours accomplished?"

"We went to the moon," he replied.

"How far is that?" I continued.

"Let's say it's about half a million kilometers away," he responded.

"How many millions of dollars did you spend to get there?" I asked next.

"Since 1950," he told me, "we have spent rivers of dollars."

"Did you get to God? How far is He?" I added.

"God," he said, "is very very far away."

"Well," I replied, " it only takes us a dry piece of bread to get to Him."

Natural knowledge helps us acquire spiritual knowledge. But when man remains at the level of natural knowledge, he is confined to nature and does not reach Heaven. In other words, he remains on the earthly paradise, which was watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, enjoying beautiful nature with all its animals, but does not ascend to the heavenly Paradise to rejoice with the Angels and the Saints. But in order to reach the heavenly Paradise, we need to have faith in the Landlord of Paradise, to love Him, realize how sinful we are, and be humbled. In this way, we will come to know Him, to converse with Him in prayer, and praise Him for His help but also for the ways in which He is testing us.

From the book Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels I: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, pp. 232-233.