Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol on Spiritual Elders

Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol

Often one will come across holy elders either on Mount Athos or elsewhere whose views on political or social issues will seem unenlightened, perhaps even having nationalistic tendencies or conspiratorial tones. Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol, who had Athonite roots and was a disciple of holy elders such as Elder Paisius was specifically asked about this and gave an answer worth sharing.

Question: How come there are such glaring blind spots in the development of people whom large numbers of devotees consider paragons of spiritual attainment?

Answer: This is of course a problem that troubles me personally. However, you must keep in mind that to be considered a holy elder does not imply that you are perfect. Spiritual elders are not infallible. Nobody is. There could be areas in their lives that may remain underdeveloped.

That’s why people must develop critical discernment when they embark on a spiritual path. You must also keep in mind, however, that such a shortcoming on the part of an elder does not imply that he is prevented from attaining salvation.

The measure of his holiness is the depth of his repentance and humility, not his knowledge about world events or the advocacy of the right political ideology. He may be ignorant and misguided on many issues, but it is his humility that matters in the eyes of God. Do you see what I mean? God does allow for holy elders to have blind spots such as in the case of an elder who may have remained stranded in his nationalism.

Excerpted from Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides, pp. 128-129.

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3 Responses to “Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol on Spiritual Elders”


  1. 1 Andrew February 18, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Wise words from Met. Athanasius!

  2. 2 M February 18, 2011 at 3:55 am

    I don’t see why nnationalistic tendencies are so wrong (if balanced with healthy Christian sense of identity). I would be much more concerned of modern ultra-liberal tendencies instead, which are at the root of the many problems of today. Christianity won’t survive if we are not ready to admit that the modernist project of multicultural diversity is not a solution, but merely a Trojan horse of desacralizing secularism.

  3. 3 James C. conner January 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Is the quote in fact the words of the metropoitan or is it the opinion of the American(raised in Cyprus?] academic who wrote the book? I read the book and remember being chilled by the attitude of the author. He seems to feel that Orthodoxy is all very exciting and enlightening but he forbids it to challenge or contradict the wisdom-by definition worldly- of the “beautiful people “. Given the Hell that the secularizing “beautiful people” have made of the world one looks for more humility in one of their number who claims to be repenting of their errors. Their are parts of the Orthodox Faith which the elders faithfully teach but which are not fashionable and from which the “beautiful people” -like the rich young man- turn away. e.g. Holy Tradition clearly teaches the the man,the husband and father, is the servant leader of the family;and it does not suggest that the man can throw away his responsibilites as a leader and keep only those of a servant. The “enlightened” of course Know better than this . And they think they know better than the elders. Didn’t Our Lord say that He would be ashamed of whoever was ashamed of Him? What are we doing when we are embarrased by the perennial teachings of the Church as reiterated by the holy elder?


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