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August 8, 2023

My Elder Saint Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos) - 1 of 5

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

With the opportunity of today's feast of our Holy Father Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa, the Wonderworker, I am publishing a transcribed speech that I did in the context of "Demetria 2020" at the parish of Saint Demetrios in Brahami of the Sacred Archdiocese of Athens.


The topic of the speech will be, as I was given, "My Elder Saint Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa."

I knew him for about 20 years from my teenage years and then after graduating from theological school, I went to him in Edessa and stayed with him until the last moment of his life, when I closed his eyes.

I have written hundreds of pages about him, but in this speech I will emphasize a few vivid points.

1. Professor at the Empirical Theological School

In my Elder, Saint Kallinikos, I learned very well what I have been saying since then and write in all my books, that Orthodox theology is a spiritual medical science. I write it, I say it, others have said it too, but I lived it in practice.

We say that Orthodox theology is not similar to philosophy, nor to some other sciences, but it is more similar to medicine, because medicine heals man.

The students go to Medical School and are taught theoretical science, the anatomy of the body, the diseases of the body, the treatment of the body, but it is not enough for one to learn theoretically about medical science, at the same time one must also do workshops during the studies and then to do practical exercises in clinics, in order to learn in practice what this science is and what it means for disease and treatment. And when someone finishes Medical School, he goes to a Hospital to work for many years to get his qualification and then he becomes a doctor and can practice his profession.

This is exactly what happens in the Church. We say that theology is a spiritual medical science and we say this, not just theoretically, but also practically.

When I finished the Theological School of Thessaloniki, Metropolitan Kallinikos invited me to come to him and I responded to the call of this holy man. He had already been elected Metropolitan. I knew him since I was fifteen years old, when I was in Agrinio, where I studied at the Middle School, while I come from Ioannina. I spent four years in Agrinio, and in this Metropolis Kallinikos was the Chancellor. I knew him there for four years, and then fifteen years in the Sacred Metropolis of Edessa, Pelli and Almopia.

When I went to him I felt that I was leaving for a Theological School, an academic School, and indeed I went to an empirical Theological School, where I would do my practical training, where I would do the practical application of what I was taught theoretically, in order to learn theology in practice.

When I went, I told him my intention to become a monk, a hieromonk, and he immediately recommended me to read the "Handbook of Counsels" of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, that is, "about the protection of the five senses." This showed what sense he had of the monastic life, how much of a monk he was, as we will see below. I read this to find out what the hesychast tradition of the Church is.

Then I slowly started giving sermons. In the beginning he was a teacher without expressing it, without appearing to be a teacher, but he taught me with his actions, with his words, with his silence, with the smart advice he gave me, listening to the way he preached. Then he began to teach me how I should prepare the sermon.

He used to tell me that you can't go up to the pulpit and say whatever you want, but you have to prepare. And the preparation is first to find the thematic sentence, which is to find a topic that you will develope, to find a sentence, to write a sentence that is your subject - this what a thematic sentence means - and then to start working on it, so to limit the sermon to the topic and not to talk about all the topics from the Fall of Adam to the Second Coming of Christ, as many Preachers do.

Then I began to see in him and to enter into the liturgical life of our Church. I saw a mystagogue Hierarch, a Bishop who liturgized with compunction and I understood what the Divine Liturgy is. Little by little, he introduced me to empirical doctrine, by learning what the teaching of our Church is empirically. The same thing happened in the pastoral ministry, that is, he taught me what the Priest should do, how to work with his flock. And he didn't teach me in a theoretical, didactic way. That is, he was not sitting at a table and I was in a chair and he was telling me all these things, but I was seeing them in action and where necessary, an explanation was given. I saw them, because he was an empirical theologian incarnate and his every movement was truly theological.

Therefore, I learned pastoral care, but I also learned the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, and I repeat, he himself was a wonderful teacher. Many times he did this without speaking, with his silence, with his example, with his humility, with his love, with all these things that characterize a person who really knows things and experiences them, I feel he communicated daily with silence and speech.

This is because, as you know, one cannot learn theology, to learn the knowledge of God, if one does not find a person who has this knowledge of God. That is why his whole life, but also my life near him, was an initiation into ecclesiastical life, it was a life without words, a life of love, and of freedom.

He showed me this opening, he did not keep me for himself, as some spiritual fathers do who keep their spiritual children for themselves. He did not keep me for himself, he gave me the freedom to go to the Holy Mountain, to meet Saint Paisios, Saint Ephraim of Katounakia, then Saint Sophrony the Hagiorite, who reposed in Essex, England. And he urged me to go to them, and when I returned, he expressed his joy and said to me: "Tell me what these holy men told you so that I too may benefit." This shows the great humility he had, and this humility is a sample of holiness.


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