In reverent memory of the Serbian Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic) who recently reposed due to complications from the coronavirus, we are publishing a sermon about him by Metropolitan Nicholas (Hatzinikolaou) of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki.
I can see something stained, but not dirty… The cassock is torn, full of holes, patched, worn, short, askew and unbuttoned at the neck. The skufia is old, greasy, worn out and thrown on the head as if it were not supposed to be there. His socks are short and have fallen down, his feet are very red and swollen…
His shoes are in bad condition. He is always lost in thought. Everything that’s old and worn out is already in the rhythm of the most intense life. Looking at all this, you only think, “It should be thrown away.” But all this may have acquired a value, serving the purpose of hiding the treasury, concealed under all this garbage of our hurrying world of fashion. The façade of this treasury is deliberately poorly cobbled together—the picture is drawn in a slipshod way.
He has a sharp-featured face. It is unusual, wild, dark-skinned and with many wrinkles. He has keen, sharp eyes.
His body is well-fed (he didn’t pretend to be an ascetic), clumsy and even “motionless”. Its shape is immense and in the forced movements—awkward. He has an abandoned air.
His gait is heavy and asymmetrical.
His voice is like a cawing. It is shrill, harsh and colorless. When he sings, it becomes even worse—all sense of musicality is lost. A total absence of music.
His words have many forms, but are without structure, and jumps from topic to topic in conversation.
His path is disorganized, sometimes authoritarian and unpredictable.
A liturgist. He moves everything from its place. Only the holy chalice remains in place while he celebrates: this is precisely what he cares about and is unshakably consistent in his concern. Order gives place to confusion—usually under the onslaught of noisy interpretations of established foundations, which he distorts so elegantly and tastefully. As he likes to say: “I am calm… a restless soul.”
By his side, even if you consider yourself to be something, and something important, you have to be silent, forgetting about your importance or, in extreme cases, silently protest inwardly.
If you speak, you waste your dignity. If you are a child by nature, at first you get frightened, and then you go crazy with enthusiasm next to him. If you dare to outsmart him, you will only lose and get confused.
If you think you know something and are in a hurry to do what you think is necessary, you will hear what you have never thought about. If you are organized, in his field of attraction you completely lose your tempo.
If you are right, you don’t know where to hide.
He seems to be unmethodical, asymmetrical, chaotic in all ways. He is almost unlikeable if you are guided only by sight and hearing.
If you judge and think, you are tempted. If you stick to what you see and don’t think, you will soon violently reject him.
Taking everything into account, he is a statue, a sketch, a person from the outside. Of course, I have exaggerated a little, laying it on thick and emphasizing the negative traits. I hope to find a balance further on.
His voice is unpleasant, there is no rhythm, and the tempo is heavy. But his word is magical, unheard of, genuine, stunning, true in content.
His appearance is unattractive; but his look is magnetic and penetrating.
He generally looks strange, but his touch, even when it does not concern your life, is equal to real affection. From afar he is an animal, close up—a child, a big child!
When you look at him as an outsider, he seems rude to you and you hasten to judge him. As soon as you meet him or take a step towards this meeting, you will find a rare master in front of you. In addition to words (and they aren’t empty), he always has something to provide; he is like a magician: Hop—and you’ve already gotten something!
He never forgets about charity and sincerely shows his gratitude to those who did him good—always original, deeply-felt gratitude, but with no pretensions. This is his prestige: to respond with thanks, no matter what others do to him.
When you listen to him spontaneously, without preparation, his style is heavy, fragmentary and inconsistent. But if you follow him with thirst, all these “cracks in the universe” will be fused, your soul will be healed and he will become for you a stream of wisdom, a source of truth, a feast of spiritual diversity, a foretaste of the unique value of everything and everybody.
Outwardly, he is like a flower, framed by thorns that protect his precious imperishable beauty. Inwardly, he is like a defenseless picked wild flower and gives the joy and aroma of being. He is absolutely alien to flowers from a flower shop. He doesn’t contain anything artificial, of the “showcase”. His perfection was cultivated in the spirit and manifested in the world without any techniques or embellishments.
He is untouched by the course of history, the prejudices of the consumer society, the lies of compromise, but he is always present in current events, sanctifying them.
He is a bishop. But there is no connection with the usual image of a bishop. Neither style, nor image, nor word, nor facial expression indicate the usual revered template. His archpastoral miter, panagia, dikerion, trikerion and all the vestments are strange. Everything is free from market exploitation: sold—bought, memorized clichés, price tags, prevailing patterns and schemes of the bishop’s and the-subservient-to-him mentality.
Everything follows the rhythm of practical logic and breathes his freedom.
He cannot be cloned, he cannot be imitated.
He doesn’t conceal anything. No attempts to embellish himself, no entertainment expenses to represent himself more expensively. On the contrary, he spontaneously worsens his image. It even encourages you to treat him unfairly. Although, maybe he doesn’t even know about it. He is unpretentious, just the opposite of hypocrisy, and holy truth.
Who is he? What did he want to show by all this? Were we able to see it—what he really is—or not? Is it ignorance in him or does he hide in himself the ark of dominance unknown to us? Is he stubborn, strange, or is he a giant of the spirit hidden from the eyes of this world?
His mind is bright and enlightened. The flexibility and simplicity of his consciousness are always and everywhere. His knowledge seems to be confused and unclear. His memory is endless and thought is fast. The thought and liveness of his mind amaze. His judgment and synthesis are unique. He understands everything deeply. His conclusions are even more beautiful than what he knew or experienced creatively, plunging into the mystery of truth and life.
His breadth of vision of reality is amazing. He is a place for everything—in his mind, but much more in his heart. He is a cosmic, versatile and supernatural man. His presence is always associated with security and strength. He is conscientious, brave and fearless. Courage and initiative itself—that’s who he is. Youth and freshness. Creative and destructive. He is full of life.
Dedicated and innovative, jolly and deep, he is a bearer of meaning.
He has the deepest kinship with antiquity and tradition. He has a strong link with what is further than we are from the Eschaton. He is a fighter of our time and its victor. Unique. Inimitable. Full of freedom.
His sense of history is astonishing, the feelings of the Holy Fathers are convincing through his participation in their experience; his theological balance is unusual and his knowledge of philosophy is rare. He is an expert even in the most hidden details of the truth and its innermost secrets.
It doesn’t matter where he was born, how and what he studied, where he travelled, what books he has read and even written. Fortunately, he is like no one else. What he does is like nothing else—and this is neither for the better nor for the worse. He has goodness and greatness. He is a truly great person.
He always speaks of the mystery of the incarnation of God. Christ is perfect God and perfect Man—the God-Man. Based on this, everything in life is extremely Divine and at the same time extremely human; and more: both are quite compatible.
His heart is overflowing with kindness, ready for the greatest sacrifice. His friends are those who are attacked, forgotten, accused and mocked. And he…The rarest scholar, sociable like no one else. His friends are children. He is a child himself. The wisdom of an old man, the simplicity of a child. He grew old and remained a child. He accepted the Kingdom of God like these little ones (Mt. 18:6). He becomes everything to everyone (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22) and does everything for the least of the Lord’s brothers (cf. Mt. 25:40).
He looks like a savage, but there is holiness in his soul. Without outward grace, he is full of the grace and beauty of the inner man. Abundance of love, and absolutely for free.
We thank him.