Gabriel, an atheist philosophy student at Mount Athos

Some years back, a young student approached me. He told me he was an Atheist, although being very reluctant but also having the intensity of a serious seeker, but that he would be content to believe and yet he could not. He tried for years [to believe] without any effect.

[He told me that] he spoke with educated and professors, without having satisfied his thirst for something important. When he heard about me.

He spoke with professors and the educated, but his thirst for something serious was not satisfied. He heard of me and decided to share with me his existential need. He asked me for scientific proof for the existence of God.

I asked him “Do you know integrals or differential equations?”

He said “Unfortunately no, I am a Philosopher”

I told him, jokingly “That’s a shame! Because I know how to prove it like that”

He felt uneasy and became quiet for a while.

I said:  “Look, I’m sorry I joked with you,  God isn’t  a mathematical proof or an equation. If He was anything like that then all the learned people would believe in Him.  There are other ways to get close to God , you know.  Have you been to Holy Mountain Athos?  Ever met an Ascetic monk ?

“Father, no, but because I’ve heard so much, I’m thinking about going there. I could even go tomorrow if you told me to do so. Do you happen to know anyone well educated to meet?

“What would you choose? Someone who is educated but can make your mind dizzy or someone that can wake you and who is a saint?”

“I’d like someone educated because I fear Saints”

I asked: “Faith has to do with the heart, why not try a saint?  What’s your name?”

He said “Gabriel”

I told him how to go to an Ascetic Monk. I gave him the way to find him and all necessary directions, even draw him a map.

“You should go and tell him the same thing you told me. Tell him ‘I am an Atheist, but I want to believe in God, I want proof of his existence”

He replied “I am frighten and ashamed”

I asked “Why are you frighten and ashamed of the Saintly man and not of me?”

After a few days he went and found the ascetic conversing with a young man in his yard. On the opposite side four others were sitting on some logs waiting. Among them Gabriel found a tentative seat. No more than ten minutes later the Elder finished his conversation with the young man.

He asked : “How’s are you, Lads ?” “Have you taken a Turkish Delight? Did you drink water?”

They said “thank you, Elder”, with secular gentleness .

He said to Gabriel, “Come here,”  picking him out from the others. “I’ll take the water, and you take the box with Turkish Delights, and you come closer so I can whisper a secret: It is okay for someone to be an atheist, but having the name of an angel and be an atheist? That’s the first time I’ve seen  a thing like that.”

He almost had a heart attack after this surprise.

How could he know his name? Who informed him of his problem? Finally what, was that the Elder wanted to tell him?

He asked: “Father, could I speak with you for a while?”, barely been able to whisper.

“Look here now, it’s getting late. Take the Turkish Delight, drink some water, and go to the most nearby monastery to spend the night.”

“Father, I wish to speak with you, is it not possible?”

“What shall we say, my boy ? What was the reason you came?”

He said to me that “to this question I felt my breath quickening immediately. Faith flooded through my heart. My internal world became heated. Without any logical arguments doubts were solved, without any talk, without the presence of a clear-cut answer. The ‘if’s, why’s and but’s’ were all automatically annihilated, and all that remained was the ‘how’ and  ‘from now on, what?”

The subtle nudge of a saint gave his thoughts what a learned man could not. A saint who was a graduate of only the fourth grade of elementary school. Saints have much enlightenment. They operate on you, but you feel no pain during this operation. Without opening your stomach, they make a transplant. Without the use of a ladder or secular logic they lift you to never again walked peaks. Without making your mind tired they plant the seed of faith in your heart.

Source: Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries
By Metropolitan of Mesogeas Nicholas

January 2015

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