«We appre­ci­ate some­thing when it’s no longer part of our life». This thought comes stronger and stronger to my mind, every sin­gle day for the past few years, since the time I went to live in Paris as a stu­dent (now I live per­ma­nently in France). Dur­ing my stud­ies I had read a book under the title God in Paris. Even though I don’t quite remem­ber the plot, this title still haunts my mind, but as a question.

I can still recall the first answer I was given regard­ing this ques­tion, when I set foot in France. The answer came from a nurse at the first hos­pi­tal I worked in, when she saw the cross hang­ing from my neck; «Take it off imme­di­ately, where you think you are? France is a pop­ulist state, thus it is for­bid­den to wear reli­gious sym­bols in pub­lic spaces!«
The sec­ond answer came a year later, when I was invited for lunch dur­ing Lent. Every­one was curi­ous about my exact beliefs and then has­tened to enlighten me about the hypocrisy and the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church. «No! For­tu­nately, such an old-​fashioned God has no place in mod­ern France» they added proudly.
The third answer came dur­ing my third year in France, from a French col­league. While hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, I told her that I’m Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian and pra­ti­quant, a French word dif­fer­ent from the word croy­ant (believer) used to describe a per­son who prac­tices his/​her beliefs. She was sur­prised as she told me that she thought only believ­ers of Allah live accord­ing to their beliefs. «I have never heard any­thing about Christ!«
So God is ban­ished from Paris…from the pop­ulist French state… Maybe ban­ished but surely not absent… «To the unknown God»…
Decem­ber of 2015, my fourth year in France. Since long ago I had heard about the Solan monastery, which is an ortho­dox female monastery near Avi­gnon in South­ern France. As Christ­mas was com­ing, I thought it would be nice to attend the Ves­per and the Ser­vice on Sun­day morn­ing. After I had con­tacted the nuns, I set off with a friend on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. A five-​hour trip by train led us to a vil­lage, one-​hour dis­tance from the monastery. A man around 70 was expect­ing us in order to give us a ride. We got in the car and started mak­ing acquain­tances. He was French and he had been work­ing in Geneva for many years. I couldn’t resist ask­ing him how he had found God and became Ortho­dox.
The answer was sim­ple, yet stag­ger­ing: «I did not find God. He set me up and found me!» He told us he had found by chance some ortho­dox lit­er­ary works and then he searched orho­dox hymns on youtube. He also recounted that when he found the Ortho­dox Church of Geneva, he and his wife real­ized that they had finally found what they had been search­ing in vain all those years in Catholi­cism! The liv­ing God had set them up. His wife was a cat­e­chist in a catholic parish. When she told the priest there their deci­sion to be bap­tized ortho­dox Chris­tians he sim­ply said «I under­stand you!»
«We had been told that in the mir­a­cle of feed­ing 5000 peo­ple, the bread wasn’t really mul­ti­plied but that every­one had a piece of bread in their pock­ets!!!! You can under­stand how weak this God looked like.» added our dri­ver.
When he found Ortho­doxy, he aban­doned every­thing, he and his whole fam­ily were bap­tized and they moved nearby an ortho­dox monastery in order to be actively involved in parish’s work…
The fol­low­ing morn­ing at the Ser­vice I beheld a spec­ta­cle too unique to be hap­pen­ing in France. I saw decently dressed peo­ple arrive early in Matins, attend silently the Ser­vice, singing hymns and be actively involved. They had the enthu­si­asm and eager­ness of a neo­phyte, which reminded me of my first years as a Chris­t­ian…
I spoke with the major­ity of them and heard their sto­ries. I found out that in many cases their deci­sion to become ortho­dox Chris­tians had caused them be rejected by their fam­i­lies…
«At work every­one couldn’t help ask­ing what was wrong with me, because I didn’t wear jew­elry any­more and instead of grum­bling, I was always happy and smil­ing. What had hap­pened? I was sim­ply bap­tized ortho­dox Chris­t­ian» said to me a woman who was the head nurse of a hos­pi­tal in Avi­gnon.
Like the Chris­tians of early times, the same enthu­si­asm, the same trans­for­ma­tion or, bet­ter, the divine change… The same hap­pi­ness which causes one’s face to glow…
To my inquiry how they had found God and Ortho­doxy, every­one gave me the same answer! «He found me, when I couldn’t find plea­sure in any­thing, He came to meet me! How? I don’t really know… But my ques­tion mark was turned into a bless­ing excla­ma­tion mark!«
Well then, God in Paris!!!
The only thing left for me is to pon­der on whether I have this enthu­si­asm. Me whom God found and blessed so much even from my crib… To ask myself whether I am that happy, whether my beliefs cost me any­thing, whether my life was so extremely changed under the light of His pres­ence. And last but not least, to won­der whether I have self­ishly con­cealed this gift from the peo­ple around me who yearn and keep search­ing for the One, yet Unknown, my God.
Do I?
Where can I go and hide from Your face?!


Ο καθένας μας, όσο μικρός κι αν είναι, είναι μεγάλος για τον αιώνιο Θεό.


Έλα να πλοηγηθούμε μαζί! Να πλοηγηθούμε μαζί στην Ελπίδα που χαρά ζει. Και γιατί ζει χαρά και χαράζει τώρα και στο διαδίκτυο; Γιατί είναι ωραίο όταν πλοηγούμαστε να μοιραζόμαστε! Να μοιραζόμαστε τις σκέψεις μας και τις εμπειρίες μας για πρόσωπα που μας εμπνέουν, για γεγονότα που μας προβληματίζουν, για βιβλία που μίλησαν μέσα μας αλλά και για να ανταλλάζουμε ιδέες για παιχνίδια, κατασκευές, παρουσιάσεις και πολλά ακόμη θέματα. Καλώς ήρθες!

Έλα να πλοηγηθούμε μαζί

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