This conversation with Metropolitan Nicholas took place during the Christmas Lent on the air of the TV program "The Other Dimension." Vladyka answered questions, first and foremost, to a secular audience - about why he, an astrophysicist scientist, left his scientific career and became a monk, why it is useful to doubt God and how to find a different dimension in everyday life.
Metropolitan of Mesopaea and Lavraotikysky Nikolai (Hadzhinikolau)
Explain this world
"Your Eminence!" Many people know about your brilliant education: first you studied at the Physics Faculty of Thessaloniki University, then at Harvard, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, did astrophysics, mathematics, biomedicine ... I have not forgotten anything?
- Indeed, I did. And all this is a wonderful activity.
- Through so different and complex subjects, did you seek yourself or God in your youth?
"I think both." Only I would call this not "search", but "thirst". Thirst for something new for me, genuine, primordial, deep, strong and mine. I can not tell you exactly how or what it was. I grew up in a family where almost everyone was involved in physics. My mother is a physicist. Dad, too, as we thought, devoted himself to exact sciences, although by education he was a humanist, he graduated from the Faculty of Law. But at home for us for all exact sciences played a paramount role.
- Did you feel a desire for the Church and for God already then?
- No. Then I felt a craving for learning, for knowledge. But she grew up in a family that lived by the truths of faith, not theoretically, but truly, freely, truly. And this atmosphere gave birth to useful, we can say - "dear to the heart," doubts. I wanted to feel what would clearly and definitely come out of my own soul, and not to wear the whole life of someone else's shirt that my parents put on me, not to live in what I perceived instinctively, carried away by emotions or because of external circumstances.
- Nobody interfered with the freedom of your choice at home?
- My father himself was extremely freedom-loving person and never in any way interfered with the choice and vocation of children. But it's just that when someone is engaged in physics in the family, the other becomes a physicist, one carries away another ... The situation in our house was such that I, and my brothers and sisters gained their self-expression through physics.
- When did you first feel the call?
- I did not feel the call, but passed, as I said, during my student years through a period of good internal doubts (I want to emphasize this!).
For me, then, the moment of exploratory truth was very important. When I was in America, I understood: you need to set a goal and go to it. The goal seemed to me as something immense, huge, filling me from the inside. And one day - I remember that day: 1 February 1984 year - this moment has come: I have reached the goal of the study. For me it was an amazingly powerful experience! But, strangely enough, suddenly I felt that there was nothing left in my soul. Although I achieved my scientific goal, and even more: the result has surpassed all my expectations (as happens in science: you set a goal, conduct a study and only after you realize that the result is much more significant than the one you counted on). And so, despite all this, I felt: there is still a free place in me that is waiting for my filling.
- And it was filled with training in the theological faculty?
- No. This has nothing to do with teaching, but with the search for God and life in the Church. Before my eyes there were wonderful examples of a real, genuine, true word of faith, to which my heart was always open. I came from Thessalonica, during my student years during the holidays I visited Holy Mountain, spent several days there, met with the elders. But my heart was silent. I looked at monasticism as something good, what people are committed to, but not mine. Holy Mountain gave me a personal experience of faith, memories, pictures, which at the right time floated to the surface.
Then, at 1984 year, I felt that science is an interesting thing that I really dreamed of doing in my life and did not intend to leave it at all, but unexpectedly, next to science, something more beautiful, filled with amazing content, authentic and completely different. And this convinced me. Besides, I always understood that I can not explain this world with the help of one science.
"Have you explained it now?"
A world that has only equations and proofs is very limited. You will not find in it the answers to any questions of knowledge
- Now I do not want to explain it. Now I fell in love with him without explanation. I actually began to understand this world better. The world, which is only thoughts and feelings, equations and proofs, our personal experience, is very limited, it does not answer almost any questions of cognition. But there is a world that can lead you beyond your sensations, release from prison the narrowness of your logic of proof. And this second world can improve the scientific knowledge of the world first.
- So one thing helps the other?
"That's how I feel." I am very happy, because God gave me an intuitive understanding that in the Church - the truth.
If this is not a hug, it is not the Church
- A decision to become a member of the Church?
- I took it for 23 days. 23 days have passed since the moment when this thought visited me, and until the moment when nothing else went into my head. I decided to deploy the steering wheel of life and take the risk of swimming in a completely different direction. And I praise God for that.
- During these 23 days, you did not have a desire to back down?
- Yes it was. Will, rational desire. Suddenly the thought came to me: all of a sudden, what we call the Church is not what we see: gracious priests with beards, cassocks, icons, frankincense, candles and lamps - but only an organization of a religious type that exists in order to cover the psychological uncertainty of people, their fears, anxieties, a sense of suspense, and there is nothing else there? .. Therefore, I am very grateful to God and to those people whom I met in my youth: thanks to them thoughts of deeper things in the period of my "blessed doubts" Whether the upper hand. When I thought about monasticism, I immediately decided to leave science. And the first thing was to abandon the idea (with which at that time I was already used to it) about myself as a scientist. Occupation of science was the most delicious food for me and seemed to me vitally necessary. In this there is nothing wrong, and to this day it gives me pleasure to be interested in the scientific chronicle. It brightens up my life, serves as a sweet seasoning for my truth.
- What should the Church symbolize today?
- It should not symbolize anything, it should be. "Symbolize" is an image, an idol. And "to be" is a being itself.
- You wrote that the Church should be a "hug" ...
It's amazing - to experience a different reality on personal experience
"If it's not a hug, it's not the Church." But the scourge, the letter of the law, the verdict, the hyperbole form. This has nothing to do with the truth. The Church is that which resurrects, enlightens, liberates, reveals a person. Imagine not rationally, but with the help of feelings: the world lies in the arms of God. God is the One who offers Himself to man. Is not it wonderful? Leave this world and taste a little different life? Yes, I think so. And it's even more amazing to experience a different reality on personal experience. True, in our life, rational perception dominates, and it prevents us from doing this. Therefore, the Church remains for us something that is part of our culture and tradition, something hypocritical, concealing a lot of flaws.
One day, at the invitation of the students, I visited their school. We talked, and we had a very interesting conversation. One child asked: "Forgive me for my question, but they say that in recent times many have turned to religion. In your opinion, is this correct? "I replied:" Religion as such is uninteresting for me. What is religion? Religion is "it's time for exams, graduation or university entrance exams, I'm not prepared and I'm going, put a candle, so that God will help me pass the exam." But there is no such God! Another religion means that I squeezed out the abscess, it hurts me, I can not sleep all night, I put on my aching place, I run to the doctor, I do everything I can, I hardly endure and imagine a God Who will appear and decide my problem. But there is no such God. "
Without God, death is meaningless
The deceased elder Joseph Vatopedi
- There are also more serious situations, the lord. Where is God when people lose children or when children suffer from incurable diseases? You wrote about a man who looks up to the sky and exclaims: "Why is it me, Lord?" This is a reproach.
- This is a reproach, but there could be a question. Neither one nor the other is not bad. This is very understandable humanly. How could this happen to me ?! In the epilogue of the book to which you refer, I talk about a meeting with a girl who died when she died. I said to her: "May I ask you? (in me, then, a doubt arose in God ...) Have you ever asked yourself the question: "Why did this happen to me, Lord?"? "" No, "he says. - Father, I asked myself every time: "Why did this not happen to me, Lord?" And I do not expect death, but enlightenment. "
This is the door through which God's fellowship with this girl happened. Such a God, in Whom we doubt now, with death and the rest, is not. Can there be a God who will allow death (in the sense that we understand it) ?! For me, the meaning of death without recognizing the existence of God is inexplicable!
Imagine our life. In the past I am an astrophysicist and therefore I know: we live in a world of colossal distances. It's incredible! I will now tell you how vast the world is. Light, which has a very high speed, reaches about a second from the Moon to the Earth, about 8 minutes it needs to overcome the distance from the Sun to the Earth. From a more remote planet, it takes 3,5 hours. From the "first Sun", which is outside of our Sun, - 3,5 years. Our galaxy is so big that it has 200 billion stars. The diameter of the galaxy is about 100 thousand light years, that is, light will take 100 thousand years to go through it. And there are 100 billion of such galaxies in the universe. Or take the time: the age of the universe is, as they say, 13,7 billion years. These are inconceivable quantities!
"But what is consolation for us?"
- I will continue. You live 70, 80, 100, let 200 years old, but no more! So do I. I now 53 year, and I'm already finishing my life. My path is less than the point. There is a death that we can not determine: not when it comes, nor how. We only know one thing: she will certainly come. Well, is it possible that your life was this "nothing"? One famous physicist said that we came to the theory of everything, according to which we are the result of the redistribution of particles from nothing. It's a tragedy! It seems to me, with the help of such theories, we understand very little of what could be understood about this world; they lead away from the assumption that there is something great, hidden from us and superior to our understanding, but what we ourselves can integrate. And such a view could include in us a different logic, establish our connection with God!
- How do we survive the pain of parting with this land, even if we believe in life after death? How to survive the pain of losing a loved one?
The pain of losing loved ones is a testament of our love for him. The question is how to instill this pain of hope
"I think we should give ourselves the freedom to survive this pain." Pain is the evidence of our love. When I lived in America, I often changed apartments. During each move, I felt like I had to tear the soul out of its habitual situation. I loved my walls, my furniture, my rooms and the way in which my things, photographs, books, objects were placed in them - I was attached to them. How much stronger we are attached to man! And if this is your child, whom you raised ... You dreamed about his future, planned his life, hugged him and pressed him to him - and now he is leaving you! Is it possible not to experience this as a pain ?!
"It's even worse if he suffers before your very eyes." You will say: test ...
"I'm not telling you: test." This is the most real test, and a huge, sometimes unbearable. I do not want to experience the suffering of a loved one either to myself or to anyone else. But this is a reality that exists in our lives. And through this pain we see, at least I see, a great love for the person who suffers, and I pity him. And this is the testimony of love. Do you understand me? The question is how to instill a little hope in your pain.
- What helps us to see this prospect?
- Vera. And what is important is not what helps, but what prevents us from noticing it! Our time is very rational. Our friends are equations, proofs, but this is not the only way of knowing. There is another knowledge - to reconcile before the great and unknown that surrounds you. I will give you an example. With the help of physics today we can see, understand, explain only a very small part of everything. For example, the universe only at 4 percent consists of a substance visible through telescopes, radio telescopes, gamma rays. 23 percent is dark matter, 73 percent is dark energy. So in recent years, scientists say. And it is here that the secret is hidden: not in 4 percentages, which we see, but in 96, which we do not distinguish.
God is a servant, God is a psychologist, God is true
"But you know it, because you have a special education." A simple person who does not possess this knowledge does not have such close contact with God, how can he feel what exists outside the world in which he is?
- I will answer you very simply. A century ago, the Greeks, who lived where we live today, absolutely did not have the knowledge that I told you today, nor the obstacles that face the modern man. They had faith, and she gave them much greater comfort in comparison with what we have. Today, we do not stand the suffering that people have endured before.
- Why? Our life has become easier?
- Our life has become more selfish. It is driven by our desires. I want to - and it will be as I want. And if it does not work out that way, I do not accept it. This is the result of logic based on so-called human rights and only. And how wonderful, when a person can accept, limit his "I" and see what our ancestors saw. They were at a less congested intelligence much more internally filled than we are.
- Probably to come to this, you need to look for it internally?
"What you are saying is a stochastic approach: here I am sitting and thinking about the search for God. But there is something more accessible to all, simple, practical and effective - to have a little philosophical mindset. He will allow us to see things in simplicity, humility and authenticity. Without pride and pretensions. Like that girl ... she had great humility. When I say: "What is it for me, and not for my neighbor?" - this is pride. Or: "Why did God do this to me?" God did not do this! There is a situation, you get into it and ask God for help.
- Why do most people come to God, to the Church, to faith in difficult situations, when it is necessary to ask for help, and not in favorable ones?
- I think, because they want what I already told you. In the Church they are looking for God the psychologist.
I found God in my happiness, in my success, which did not fill me. God was more than my success. Reading the texts of saints, where they describe their experience of experiencing God, everyone sees that there is a door leading to the Lord through joy, freedom, peace, hope. There is another, it leads a person through trials, hardships, sorrows. Both doors lead to God. And imagine the priest who got into a difficult situation, he can only turn to the Lord with the words: "I'm alone, I'm naked, I can not anymore, help, I need Your presence." And he will feel it, this is the presence of God, through consolation. This is a great thing!
- Usually a person feels the presence of God, when he fulfilled what he asked of him. Is not it so?
- This is true. We are in touch with the created miracle, with the fulfillment of the petition, when God is our servant. We have demands, He comes and executes them, and if not, we are unhappy with Him.
- Usually we give vows to God, and if after that nothing changes, we complain that there is no God, and if the petition is fulfilled, then He exists ...
- This is "God-servant", "our own God", created from very human material. This God is not the God of Revelation. The true God is not some "higher power", no "higher sense", or "good." He is a Person who, like a magnet, has drawn me to the Church. It is God as a Person.
Soon the Christmas is coming, and we celebrate it not in order to diversify our lives. What does Christmas tell us about? God as a Person has become a Man! If you realize this, you will be shocked!
Christmas: a fairy tale or reality?
Nativity. Copy of the fresco of the 12th c. from the cave temples of Cappadocia
- And we celebrate this event only once a year?
We celebrate Christmas more than once a year - but every moment of our lives: God as a Person has become a Man!
- No, we celebrate it every moment of our life. And in the same way every moment of our life we experience Christmas, Resurrection, Crucifixion, Epiphany ... I'm talking about the ideal. A humble Christian experiences these events incessantly.
On Christmas, God becomes Man, so that divine dimensions can be revealed to man. If this were rational reasoning, it would have been overthrown. And we have evidence of life experience. I put them next to world discoveries in science. These are the greatest moments that are given to survive a person.
- But not all and not always?
- Everyone. I live by it. It surrounds me. It will come to you!
"Your Eminence!" You spent two years on the Holy Mountain, which you call the "University of the Heart". Is it probably easier to be close to God due to solitude and distance from the world?
"Solitude helps a lot!" And people who are eager to communicate with God choose this path. When I wanted to become a scientist, I chose a university with the best conditions for achieving my goals. So these people, having a vocation for monasticism, considered Athos the most suitable place. But recently you uttered the wise words of life that in everyday trials and failures a person can turn to God and find them in them. And this is also a wonderful meeting!
- And how many times in your life a person can survive the great moment of meeting with God?
- Somehow, at the moment of my doubts, I told one inspirational professor of medicine (he had already left this life): "There is no God." He asked: "Why?" - "Because there are no Christians, people of God." "Open your eyes and look around!" All people, every person who has not only flaws, but also virtues, make up the image of God and give you the opportunity to meet Him. I find God in my neighbors. "
- You said these words about the fact that there is no God, at the moment of doubt?
- Yes, I had six years of useful doubt. And till now sometimes I can doubt God. I like it because I know: as a result of doubt I will approach the truth. I will explain. I come to the hospital and I see a girl a little over 20 years old, I see how she suffers. Next to her weakened by suffering parents. And instead of giving advice on religious topics with a cold heart or mechanically, I say: "Lord! Why is that? What kind of world is this in which we live ?! "I can not say anything else. And everyone will say this in a similar situation. At such times, I also doubt and say: "Where are You, Lord?"
- And after you find Him?
"All people find it for Christmas." And this is a meeting with the true God. True, the Jews expected that God would come, that He would descend from heaven with glory and honor, with angels! But nothing like this happened. Only the Child in Bethlehem. And they could not say of Him that God came to the world.
- And how do we know that this is not a fairy tale, not a beautiful story with a Christmas tree, nursery and colorful lights? Everything looks very theatrical ...
"What you are saying is a wrong experience of Christmas." After all, soon after the birth of the Bogomladenets persecution began and 11 million people gave their lives for Him. And this can not be called a "fairy tale" in any way. They gave their whole lives without a remnant for Him, for His Resurrection. And I left my secular life for God's sake. Do you really think that I did it for the sake of a "fairy tale"? Our time does not understand this, for him Christmas is fairs, darts and gingerbread that came to us from the West, but it's a pity! Christmas is an opportunity to meet with God. And it is much more valuable than our meeting with you and the conversation here.
God I do not believe in
Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaea and Lavretiotics (Hadjinikolau) at the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, St. Nicholas Church in Tolmachi, Moscow
- You are very close to the youth. Youth is our future. I know that many people come to you to discuss what worries them. In your opinion, what are the main problems of young people today?
For me, the future is not an earthly future. And we all have a future in the perspective of eternity
- First I would like to make one amendment. You said that I am close to youth. No - for every person! Now we are talking with you, I do not know you, I do not watch TV, but I came with confidence to you and not for some purpose, and now I am near you, as well as next to these young people, as well as nearby with the old man who is dying. I really like being close to the youth, because it's a rebellious part of our society (and not because our future is behind it). We all have a future in the perspective of eternity. For me, the future is not an earthly future. It is an opportunity that flows from the earthly future to eternity.
- But we really experience the earthly future ...
- And I too experience it, though I experience also that, another, eternal. If we look at these guys, we will see how we destroy them by what we give them. Recently, an atheist and such a person immersed in politics approached me. And he says: "I do not know ... my heart opens to faith, but still my philosophy is somewhat different." I ask: "Are you an unbeliever?" - "Well, no, I would not say that." "I'm sorry," I say. - "Why?" - "But I'm an unbeliever." - "In terms of? I do not understand ... "-" I'll tell you what god I do not believe in. " If God is "this Church of luxury, provocation, hardness of heart, hypocrisy, careerism, painful reactions," I also do not accept it. And now imagine the love that is spoken of in the Gospel! Imagine the Church, which, like rays, exudes bliss - "Blessed are the pure in heart ... blessed are those who are persecuted for the truth ..." - "Yes, this is also there ..."
So, if you, a church person, can not testify about this love, about these blisses, then be quiet. If we, priests, can not do this, then it's better to "cover our shop." When a young man approaches me, I try to instill in him hope and such a worldview that he can do what brings him joy, and then I will rejoice with him. I want to see through this another dimension of life. And then with the young is much easier than with adults.
Liturgy: to lower God to the earth
- Do you know young people who come regularly to the temple?
"I myself would not go to such a Church, which people talk about as something pitiful. They go where there is hope. Two or three years ago I was called to sanctify the school. Children could not calm down, teachers tried to calm them, scolded them. At last all calmed down. When the consecration is over, the director says: "Today we have a Metropolitan visiting, he is so wonderful, he studied there, did something in his life." The children got a little interested. "And if he agrees, we'd like to invite him to us again, so that he will teach you a lesson in physics or in biology." I say: "Guys, I am very grateful to you for your trust and I will come with great joy to you to conduct a lesson in both the physics I know and in biology. But I think I can give you something more. Teachers can teach you other teachers. Let me come and serve the Liturgy. I will send God to you on the earth. " The children applauded. And I say to myself, "They probably did not understand what I said to them!" They certainly did not believe that I could do this, but they felt intuitively that this was something good, what they wanted, why they stretch themselves.
The main problem is the lack of authenticity in the Church
Metropolitan of Mesopaea and Lavraotikysky Nikolai (Hadzhinikolau)
- You are against luxury in the Church, expensive vestments ...
- I do not blame anyone. But I think that simplicity adorns. Although to cross the threshold of the Church to modern man is not hampered by luxury. Its not so much. The main thing is the lack of authenticity in the Church. This lack of authenticity of the word. Our Sacraments are simply rituals ...
- Many times you said that the Sacraments should be performed for free, that people, for example, should not pay for the wedding ...
"Is not this self-evident?" Here's an example: a wedding. All give bridal gifts: relatives, friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters. So can the Church not be able to make a gift to them? Why does not she open her arms to them on this day?
Once I went to a wedding for a well-known high-ranking person. He did everything to make this wedding I did. I went, married with all my heart, I blessed the newlyweds. Our metropolitan distributes the "New Testament" printed by the Vatopedi monastery in a beautiful gift edition with gilding. I gave them this "New Testament", I blessed them. They were moved. And the father of the family kept repeating: "Oh, what a wedding!" But I served as usual. Nothing more! Then he says: "Please, stay still, go into the house." I answer: "I can not, I have to go, I have a vigil at the moment." And he: "Well, what is the all-night vigil! Please, come in! "I went in, we made a joint photo, as he wanted. I stayed a little longer, blessed his house and was about to leave. And so I stand in the doorway, he holds out an envelope to me. I say: "I am very grateful to you, but I have no reason to take this envelope." - "I beg you! You see how much I have! "And he had a feast for a thousand people, catering and the like. "So rejoice! - I say. "But I have more than you." You have money to give me. And I came to give you grace. " "It's for charity," he says. But I refused: "Thank you, it's not necessary."
- You did not even take charity, but why?
"So I came to the wedding, and not to raise money for the charitable affairs of the metropolia." And, you see, you would have acted just like that father. And it's good that people want to give, but the Church does badly if they want to receive.
- We are used to giving, not getting ...
- Somehow I was called to serve lithium. I was a hieromonk. And then the woman opened the bag, looked in it and already held in the palm of the money to pass me on. I did not begin to stretch out my hands to her, as it is customary for her to kiss her, and I say: "God will rest the dead!"
"Did you know what would happen next?"
- Of course. "Bless me, Father." I say, "You have already received my blessing." "Well, I beg you, Father!" - "Do not. I went into the temple, served you in a few minutes. I do not take such sins on myself. " She threw up her hands: "This one will be a saint!" That's all so simple. I tell her: "I beg you, take the money away." "Father, then prayer will not work." - "If you do not give me this money, then maybe it will work, and maybe not. But if you give it, it just will not work. "
This is the way people think. And there is nothing good in this. Is it not so?
- So. But the Church also collects with a plate for candles, for needs, for something, for something else ...
- All this can be both good and bad. It all depends on how it happens. We in our metropolia are ready to abandon the plate - we do not need it. But there are also emergency situations, as it was with the victims of the fires. The whole nation rose. If the Church did not rise, she would be immediately blamed for this!
- Yes, by all means.
"If the Church refuses the plates, the question immediately arises:" Yeah, but where do they get their own money? " where, I wonder, they hide them! There is such an evil skepticism ...
- This is the distrust of the people.
- Despite this, in our metropolis, as I know, people have a great willingness to participate in the life of the Church. Many gave us a very solid amount of money. These people donated to us, the Church, and put money on a plate. And for me there is always a question: how can I dispose of this money? But the very fact of their sacrifice shows that people want to sacrifice. And then the plate is a good deed!
Divine life can begin here
Metropolitan of Mesogin and Lavraotikiy Nikolay (Hadzhinikolau). Photo: A. Pospelov / Orthodoxy.Ru
"Your Eminence!" Our cycle is called "Another Dimension." Do you think our life is here, in this dimension, in which we live, or somewhere else, where do we imagine we hope that it exists?
- I do not agree with your "imagining". "Hope" seems to me small, "believe" - it's much more. "Another dimension" is not a place. I would say a little differently: naturally, our life is in this dimension, and everything starts from here, but our life is not only in it. It's just a bit different. And my participation in our conversation will be justified if I managed to arouse your suspicion that there is another life with a different logic, different from "I eat, I study, I marry, I'm getting old, I'm dying." What is something other than 70 kilograms, 70 years, 70 euros per month, per week, per day, which people earn. A different perception of life. Divine life can begin already here on earth.