When you become Orthodox, or even when you are being attracted to it, you find many things to read. Among those things were stories of wonderful Elders, spirit bearing Fathers, who exhibited incredible humility, delivered people from illness and demonic influence, and who seemed to be able to read the hearts of men and women who came to them for advice. Sometimes, their counsel was supportive and nurturing. Other times, their words could be challenging and corrective.
So, given my experience of the Faith thus far, I wonder where have all the Elders gone? I know that events in history have had in impact. I have heard of some who live today though I haven’t met them personally. While these may be true Elders, compared to the past, they seem to be few and far between. Maybe its just because I am an American convert living in the rural South, but I have another idea.
Maybe there are few Elders because we are no longer worthy of them. What I mean is that it has been my sad experience that no one wants to be corrected. Years ago, as a young man, I was impressed with these words from Proverbs: 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
12.1 Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
12.15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
This is just a few verses among many that deal with true wisdom and foolishness. The King James version uses some harsh words: hate, rebuke, scorner, reproof, brutish. No one is mincing words here. But this may lay at the heart of the matter. We think much of those who speak kindly to us, who mainly encourage us on the path we have chosen, or who simply give “helpful hints for hurtful habits.” To give advice that comes to the level of reproof or instruction is to cause offense. People then go off in a snit and refuse to communicate because the one giving advice had hurt their feelings. The voice of the watchman has been lost. We will hear no warning for what we do.
So, again, what would a group of Elders do with people like us? They wouldn’t have much to do. We don’t want correction, we don’t want instruction, and Lord knows we don’t want to be reproved or rebuked. Its too embarrassing or it just makes us angry. Our pride will not abide with contradiction.
Where have all the Elders gone? On Mt. Athos everyone? When will we ever learn…when will we learn?