“One day, as I was talking my usual walk in the woods, I met a fellow villager. When he saw me carrying the cross, he asked me:
– What is this?
– The cross of our Christ, I replied.
Since he did not have any positive thoughts in his mind, he said to me:
– Arsenios, you are silly. You don’t mean to say that you believe in God. He does not exist. These religious stories are made up by some priests. We have evolved from the monkey. Christ was simply a man like all of us.
When he finished, he got up and left. His twisted thoughts filled my innocent soul with black heavy clouds. Being alone in the woods, I began to think that maybe God does not exist. As I was feeling confused, desperate and extremely sad, I asked Christ to give me an indication of His existence, so I could believe in Him. But He did not respond.
Feeling exhausted, I lay on the ground to rest. Suddenly, a positive thought, full of responsive gratefulness, entered my innocent soul:
– Hold on for a second! Wasn’t Christ the kindest man ever on earth. No one has ever found anything evil in Him. So, whether He is God or not, I don’t care. Based on the fact that He is the kindest man on earth and I haven’t known anyone better, I will try to become like Him and absolutely obey everything the Gospel says. I will even give my life for Him, if needed, since He is so kind.
All my thoughts of disbelief disappeared and my soul was filled with immense joy. The power of my grateful thought dissolved all the ambiguous ones. When I started believing in Christ and decided to love Him as much as I could, solely out of responsive gratefulness, I experienced a miracle which firmly sealed my grateful thought. Then, I thought: I do not care any more if someone tells me that God does not exist!”
As the story of the Elder regarding his grateful thought did not completely satisfy me, I asked him with a certain curiosity to tell me about the miracle he experienced in the woods.
Father Paisios was found in a difficult situation and replied that he could not tell me about it. This way, he indicated that I, too, should not look for miracles, but rather trust my feeling of responsive gratefulness, as it is the key which opens the door to every good.
Later on, Father Paisios told me that he had seen the Lord.
“The righteous Christian does not practice good acts for his own benefit, i.e. in order to be rewarded or to avoid hell and gain paradise, but rather because he prefers good to evil. Everything else is a natural consequence of the good that fills our soul without having asked for it. This way, good has dignity; otherwise, it originates from the cheap attitude of ‘give and take’.”‘
~from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, by Priestmonk Christodoulos