Daily Meditations


Fr. Maximos went on to comment on the next fruit of the Holy Spirit, which according to St. Paul is kindness. “In the Greek original, Paul refers to kindness as chrestotis, with the Greek e in

the chre and not with an i as it is in Christotis, meaning ‘being anointed by Christ,’ or ‘becoming Christified.’ Chrestotis with an e means something different. It means usefulness. It seems that what the apostle meant is that the person becomes useful.”

“Excuse me for interrupting you, Fr. Maxime,” I interjected, “but when I first heard you talk about chrestotis, I went to the New Testament, first in the Greek original, where it is spelled chrestotis, as you pointed out with an e, and then I looked into the King James Version, which translates it as ‘gentleness,’ and then to the Revised Standard Version, which translates it as ‘kindness.’ Which is correct?”

“They are all correct. I believe that a gentle and kind person is also a useful or helpful person. I’ll explain shortly. But thank you for clarifying these differences in translation. I’ll start with the assumption that the actual interpretation of the word chrestotis implies being useful i:q the sense of being helpful. So chrestotis means several things. It is important to penetrate the meaning of these words so that we can know what St. Paul probably had in mind when he used that term.

“So to repeat, a chrestos person is someone who can be accommodating, easily pliable in three ways: in the hands of God, in his relationships with other people, and in himself” I noticed confused looks on everybody’s faces. How does one become useful or pliable in the hands of God? Fr. Maximos explained. “The God-centered person does not put any resistances, doubts, or fears into his relationship with God. He surrenders to God and has no anxieties as to what will happen the next day.

“I remember when I was a child,” Fr. Maximos went on. “I did not want to pray to God and say, ‘Thy will be done.’ I would say to myself, ‘What if God wants something of me that I don’t want myself? Isn’t it better to ask God to do what I want Him to do?’ That’s how I thought as a boy. I did not know at the time that God never violates the will of a human being and that He never wishes anything which is not good for us.

“So the useful or pliable person is not afraid of God. He surrenders to God in absolute trust. At the same time such a person is not fearful of his fellow human beings. He is not afraid of himself He does not have a bad relationship with himself. Spiritual work helps us to familiarize ourselves with ourselves. It helps us to establish a good working relationship with ourselves. Such work cancels out phobias and resistances and at the same time cuts down the distance between us and other human beings. When spiritual work is done properly, it offers human beings the gifts mentioned by Paul, which render them truly free.”

“But isn’t fear part of the human condition, like the fear of death?” Teresa asked.

“No. Fear of death, or any fear for that matter, does not belong to an authentic human existence.”

In light of all the tragedies and evil in the world, I found Fr. Maximos’s statement remarkable.

“In reality,” he explained, “all fear boils down to the absence of love and trust in God. We do not surrender to God because we are afraid. I am certain that many of us would be reluctant to say, ‘Okay, God, tell me what You want me to do and I will do it.’ Few of us would be ready, for example, if God wished for us to go and live in the depth of a jungle full of wild animals. I am not sure I could do such a thing myself. But the truly liberated human beings are not afraid. They move about in total freedom, which is the result of being ‘useful’ or chrestoi.”

“Surely such people are rare, to be useful to others and kind to themselves,” Emily pointed out.

“Unfortunately, yes. Our biggest problem is ourselves. I remember how a wise eldress once advised a nun who was difficult to get along with. That nun created problems in the monastery and, as a result, felt guilty. One day, she went to her eldress and told her of her intention to leave the monastery so that she would no longer be a source of tension and division. The eldress advised her to stay put and work on herself. ‘Besides,’ she said, ‘wherever you go you will carry yourself with you.'”

“So what’s the moral of the story?” Emily asked.

“The moral,” Fr. Maximos replied, “is that the source of all your problems is really yourself. That should be the starting point of your spiritual work. Get to know who you are. Get to know yourself. Get to know your weaknesses, your mistakes, your shortcomings. Do not justify your actions, but be a fair judge with yourself, without panic or angst or any pathological guilt feelings. Do not get disheartened because you discover evil inside you. Just examine yourself the way you are. That way, you can work on those aspects of yourself that need fixing. As you consciously work on yourself, as you work on your weaknesses, plunge into prayer and study. The destructive passions will then begin to recede, and gradually you will become more at ease and more familiar with yourself.”

~Adapted from Kyriacos C. Markides, Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality