Worshipping idols and honoring icons

Sometimes there is a monk or another in the Holy Mountain who at first sight seems a mad man. He is atypical, jokes, makes grimaces, but soon you find out if you greet him that he may make you muse when he tells you things from your life.

This is what happened to me on one of my pilgrimages there. On one gorgeous afternoon I was at one of the cells from Lacu Hermitage with many monks among whom it was one who was special.

When I met him the first impression was very strong. First of all what shocked me was his rare humbleness. He kissed the hands of all people regardless of their age or social status. It didn`t matter that you were a monk or a simple pilgrim in the Holy Mountain. In thought he was crazy. However who knows him, knows that he is not crazy in the signification we give it to the word, but mad for Christ in the true meaning of it.

That father only plays the role of the fool in society, his method is to protect himself of praises and vainglory. When I arrived at the cell I saw that he took my hand by force bent and pressed his lips on it in an unfeigned kiss.

I was shocked and puzzled seeing that gesture but I understood that it was caused by the profound humbleness for the entire creation. I did not deserve such a considerarion for sure. So I replied that I was the one who was supposed to kiss his hand and I had no idea why he changed the roles. He smiled without answering me. I couldn`t stop thinking that he had a problem. But I understood soon that I was the one with problems.

Being seated around the table for having a snack the subjects of conversation came naturally. In this time the monk began to make small jokes which made all of us smile. And this is what he wanted to make us smile. He looked at me while I was wondering if he followed any treatment. In that moment he smiled and told me what I was thinking about him, that he was crazy.

Then  he surprised me talking about my personal and professional life, about things known only by me and never shared to the others. The other monks looked at me smiling faintly. All those present there knew him, except me. As I found out later, I was not the first person to whom he told what the person had done in his life or what he was supposed to do further on to improve it. 

Then I came to know indeed this beautiful father who wandered going on pilgrimages from place to place in the country and in the Holy Mountain without monachal robes but respecting the monachal votes and correcting the people by simple words but with a great meaning and importance.

I was curious to find out from his mouth what opinion he had about worshipping the Holy Icons. Wasn`t it a kind of worshipping idols which is forbidden by the Orthodox teaching? The question took his mask down. His face became serious with such a profound look I had rarely seen. He had turned into a speaker of God.

`If we regard dully what a man does in the church while he honors an icon making the sign of the cross before it and we don`t think we may say that he worships a sculpted image. But the icon across the ages was a myrrh gusher, it cried and shed blood, spoke or changed its initial position. There are tens of examples or maybe hundreds as you found out. The wonders of an icon can`t be made by a sculpted image. That is why it can`t be put any mark of equivalence between an icon and a sculpted image. Worshipping a sculpted image it reminds of worshipping idols. If you worship idols you do nothing else than putting them above God. This is called abandonment. The Holy Trinity, GTheotokos or the Saints are not idols. When we honor an icon we do not honor a sculpted image but the person who is represented by the icon. Although we make the sign of the cross before the icon in fact we worship in spirit and truth the person who is painted by the icon maker. Now you understand why honoring icons is not the same thing with worshipping a sculpted image as the sectarians believe? Their confusion is huge and they don`t make any effort to understand the things the way they are, the father ended his discourse shaking his head with regret.

Excerpt from the book Down to earth, complete edition, author Ionuț Riteș.