It seems to some that faith can be found after hearing someone. However, it is not faith, it is sympathy to others’ experience or it is reliance on others’ experience, so to say. Faith is not an effort you make to verify something that you cannot comprehend or contain in your heart. Faith is a certain state of enlightenment of your mind and heart. But it is very difficult to explain. It is as if you were an unbeliever and have become a believer.
Once a funny story happened on Mount Athos. A Frenchman, a very educated person and atheist, came to the Holy Mount. His life was coming to an end, and as any man whose life is drawing to a close, he started thinking, “What do I live for, what was I born for, what have I become a professor for if everything ends?” And, among other things, he started looking for faith, which he did not have, and went to the Holy Mount.
He visited all the elders there so that they could convince him of the existence of God, and showed him faith. But none of them could prove anything, or he could not hear anything, to be exact. They all spoke to him, but he was not able to hear. Then one day he comes to the last monastery, the Docheiariou monastery, where the icon ‘She Who is Quick to Hear’ is. It is one hour and a half way along the sea from our Russian monastery. Father Charalambos, a Greek, still lives in the Docheiariou monastery. He is nearly ninety, and he has lived there since the previous brotherhood – old-dweller. Having a mind of a child, short in height, he is as a child himself, unremarkable, half naive, half God’s fool.
I met him for the first time when I came to the Docheiariou. Some frescoes were being restored and there were scaffolds inside the church. I go into this church, and the first person I see is Charalambos. He is almost running towards me and shouting in Greek, “Be careful, there is an iron beam, you may hit your head.” I bent down and walked under it. The second person comes in, and he also runs toward him, trying to protect… He was running for the whole service that way, warning everyone who went inside and outside. It ended with him hitting that beam and falling down.
And never had Father Charalambos told any wise teachings, and did not know much about difficult issues of theology…
So, our Frenchman came to the Docheiariou monastery, and the first person who got his eye was not an elder, not a theologist, but this “child” with naive eyes, at the age of ninety. Charalambos says, “Why have you come?” “I am seeking faith, I am a professor, I know the significance of Athos and would like you to convince me.”
There is a very deep well near the church in the Docheiariou monastery. Once there was a problem with water. The fathers prayed, Saint Michael the Archangel showed them this place, and now they have very good delicious water. Father Charalambos leads the Frenchman to this well and says, “How can you not believe in God? This well was given by Saint Michael the Archangel. We had not had water, and now, look, the well is full.” “So, what you are saying is that Saint Michael the Archangel came with a shovel and dug this well for you…”
And suddenly this skepticism and irony made Charalambos so enraged, that he grabbed the professor’s shoulders, started shaking him and shouting, “How dare you not believe in archangels!” Then he took some water and told him, “Here you go, drink this!”
And do you know what happened next? The professor drank the water – and became a believer. Suddenly something was revealed to him, something that he commented on with astonishment, “How could I not see it yesterday?”
He was an unbeliever and became a believer.