HUMBLE AND LOVING FAITHFULNESS
Father Michał Legan OSPPE talks with Father prof. Bazyli Degórski, a Pauline Father, a prominent patrologist, and a laureate of the Phoenix Award 2015
FR. MICHAŁ LEGAN OSPPE: – What, according to Father is the deepest value of the monastery and hermits’ life and do we notice this value in the Year of Consecrated life announced by pope Francis?
FR. PROF. BAZYLI DEGÓRSKI OSPPE: - The deepest value of monastery life is, undoubtedly, fulfilling Christ’s evangelical rules which appear in three vows of: chastity, poverty and obedience, and which we solemnly vow in the church. These vows give powers which – thanks to God’s grace – make our ministry to other people and the Church easier. All of them lead to the virtue of love, being the principle of Christianity and the essence of Triune God who is Love. Fulfilling vows without love, that is, without anchoring in God – Love, does not matter, is ordinary egoism, looking for oneself, the Pharisee desire to show others our virtue, greatness, heroism; shortly speaking – temptation to which monks became subject in the history of monasticism, when they forgot about Lord’s words: ‘You cannot do anything without Me’. Whereas, what is the deepest value of hermits’ life? Certainly, this is being with beloved Lord based on love. This is what reflects the motto of our Paulines’ Order: ‘Solus cum Deo solo!’. What the first excellent Christian hermit lived with – Paul from Teb, our beloved patriarch. So, it concerns experiencing this ‘angelikos bios’ (angel’s life) in this world, which will fully become our contribution in eternity. For, if it is true that in every man Christ comes to us, and if it is certain that the essence of hermits’ and religious life is being and talking with God – and this is, for example, every presence with another man, every meeting with him in a confessional will become being with God. So, may our confessionals be homes of hermits – our protoplasts to whom people thirsty for God would come numerously!
– What is the deepest sign of the desert and where can we find it today?
– A perfect Christian, whom a monk wants to be, is also a knight, soldier of Christ, is Christ’s athlete, sportsman. For this reason, monks used to go to the desert, so as to fight against a devil and demons, as Christ’s soldiers, and with the usage of Lord’s grace. For a soldier goes to fight where there is an enemy. Where can we find such a desert today, such a field of a fight for Christ? I think that there are a lot of such deserts, such places. There is so much evil in the world, as well as violence, sin! A Pauline soldier-monk should appear there, in order to fight against satan, evil, like the saint patriarch did.
– What is the most important and the most beautiful for Father in the life of a monk?
– Love to Christ, to other people, in whom He comes to us, and love to the Church in which He lives and acts through the Holy Spirit. Shortly speaking: humble and loving faithfulness to vocation according to the example of Lord’s Mother.
– Have Father had a master - guide on the road of inner searches of the soul? What experience has Father had in this area?
– Undoubtedly, I have, because it is impossible to lead oneself on a difficult (although excellent!) road which leads to Father’s Home. Now I am thinking about St. Bazyli the Great – an excellent legislator of Greek, Eastern monasticism. The bishop of Cappadocia put much pressure (as all Fathers of Desert and great monks) on the value of a spiritual guide, spiritual Father. Bazyli often quoted this wise warning from the Holy Scripture: ‘Woe to a loner, as when he falls down, there is nobody who would help him stand up!’ For this reason, he emphasized the community form of monks’ life more than hermits’ life. According to St. Bazyli, the hermits’ lonely way of life can be undertaken only by a virtuous monk. ‘Verba docent, exempla trahunt!’ (Words teach, examples attract) – as the ancient people used to say, from whom we can also learn a lot. It is a shame that also in our, ecclesiastical environment we cut out our own roots, for example, by decreasing a number of hours of Latin lectures (not saying about Greek language!).
– Theology is a discipline in which harmonious connection of scientific studies and a humble prayer. As John Paul II wrote. ‘faith and reason are like two wings on which the human soul rises towards contemplation of the truth’. Can I ask for a testimony – what is theology for Father, why is it worth studying it thoroughly and does it help in uncovering God on the level of faith?
– All great theologians - including St. Augustine from Hippon and St. Thomas of Aquina - stated that it is impossible to be a theologian in its full sense, when one is not the man of prayer, and when one has not got any contact with God about whom one wants to discuss theoretically. One can only be a religion expert, but not a theologian without a prayer! And the other way round: one cannot have a proper contact with God without knowledge about God, theological knowledge. It is obvious: how can we believe in God, whom we do not know or if it seems to us, that we know Him, but this knowledge is superficial or maybe even bad?! Hence, it is necessary to study theology in order to contemplate the Truth more easily, and live with it and pass it over to others. All Pauline Fathers should learn, get education and develop knowledge all the time. Let’s recall our Father Paul from Teb! St. Hieronim wrote about him that he was ‘extremely educated’. So, a Pauline Father, wanting to be a follower of his patriarch, should try to become similar to him. I assure: knowledge will not bring any harm to anyone!
– Ethos of a scholar – why is it worth, in Father’s opinion, to develop one’s knowledge? Are intellectual searches helpful or do they disturb in development of Christian life and human formation?
– Undoubtedly, they are helpful! When we get education, when we get to know the truth, we get closer to the Truth. However, it concerns good, not superficial knowledge, not pseudo-knowledge. The last one may distract us from God, may cause that somebody will manipulate us, or try to distract us from faith. Somebody was right to state that little knowledge makes us farther from God, and much knowledge – brings us closer to Him.