Saturday, January 2, 2021

Interview With a Popular Orthodox Christian Metropolitan About the Challenges of his Childhood


Interview with Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol in Cyprus

By Elita Michailidou

On February 19, 2020

Interviewer: Does Metropolitan Athanasios have a worldly name? Did he have a worldly name?

Metropolitan Athanasios: Of course, I didn't fall from heaven!

I: What is your name?

MA: Andrew

I: When were you born?

MA: February 8, 1959

I: Tell me about your family?

MA: My father was born here, next to the Metropolis, Marathonos Street, and my mother is from the diocese of Limassol.

I: Elder, how were you raised?

MA: So, I was raised well. My parents were well-off but they were not religious people, and in my childhood I had no religious education; only my grandmother was a pious person. She was an illiterate woman but wise according God and she was the only one who sometimes spoke to me about God, but secretly away from my parents.

I: How were you as a student? Were you a good student?

MA: I was a good student. I wasn't a bad student.

I: Did you listen to music? Did you read books?

MA: I played music.

I: What kind of music?

MA: Clarinet, accordion, piano and violin.

I: Did you have a beautiful voice?

MA: Well, not so much. As you know, my voice is not that beautiful.

I: What class did you love the most?

MA: Modern Greek. I liked it very much.

I: What author do you remember?

MA: Papadiamantis. I liked Papadiamantis very much!

I: A favorite of Odysseas Elytis, as well! What else do you remember about your former life?

MA: Look, I was not a child of the Church in my childhood years, but when I went to High School, through various acquaintances, my friends and classmates, God introduced me to the Church.

I: At what age did you lose your father?

MA: In the sixth grade. Almost 11 years old. My father was 36 years old and my mother 34. Young people.

I: How did you decide to receive chrismation?

MA: I wanted to become a monk from the age of 15. I connected with the Church and read spiritual books. I listened to various stories about ascetics, about monks and these fascinated me and I wanted to become a monk. But I didn't know where to go because I had never been to a monastery. I knew nothing. Just so you understand, I took my bike and went to the Convent of Saint George to become a monk. I didn't know that there they are nuns, women! I was 16 then, I secretly left the house and I went really far and I got there, in the evening, and I found some nuns. They said: "What do you want here at such an hour with your bike?" I said: "I came to become a monk!" The nuns did their cross! They said: "My child, here you cannot become a monk. Here there are women!" I said: "What does it matter if I also stay here?" I couldn't understand that they were nuns and it was impossible for me to stay there. They took me to the abbess, who was a holy eldress, Synkletiki, and the poor woman did her cross! "My child, now you're gonna get us in trouble," she said. "And do your parents know?" I said: "No, they don't know!" She then called a taxi, paid for it and sent me home. And she put the bike in the back. Later I learned about the monasteries, about Kykkos, about Stavrovouni, and so on.

I: So you did this all on your own? Without anyone talking to you about it?

MA: No, no one talk to me. I searched on my own.

I: Do you think it was a calling?

MA: I don't know if God called me. All I know is that I'm almost 61 years old now and I have been following this path for about 45 years. I never regretted it! Not a second. Not for a fraction of a second did I say, "Perhaps I didn't do the right thing." Okay, I haven't been an overachiever, but....

I: What do you mean?

MA: Spiritually. I'm not a holy man. I believe that even if I were reborn I would make the same choice. I am very happy with what I chose. What I would not do again, perhaps, is I would probably not become a Metropolitan again. I would like to be a simple monk.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.