Liturgical Life: The Center of Pastoral Care
In his novels and his Athenian stories, Papadiamandis mentions the exploitation of the piety of the faithful by pastors and monastics. In his novel, Merchants of the Nations, he presents the abbess of St. Cosmas, Mother Philikiti, who, “with Fathers Marthonos and Vincent, divide among themselves the offerings of piety” given by Mouchras’s pious wife. Papadiamandis does not usually intrude into the private lives of the clergy, as the center of his thought is not pietistic or moralistic, but liturgical and ecclesiological. For this reason, in his writings he charges the clergy with the responsibility of “ministering the worship.” Worship is the center of pastoral care and, more generally, of the life of the Church. This is why it is primarily on the level of worship that true shepherds are distinguished from “professional priests.” When Papadiamandis found himself in Athens, the “New Babylon,” he was especially grieved when he saw many priests who were not true shepherds: they did not care for the people of God and were not interested in the proper performance of [liturgical] worship. Such priests are like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Although they have ostensibly dedicated their lives to offer help, they ignore the needs of the people that appear before them with wounds from the various “thieves” of daily life, in a “half-dead” state. Only some priests, such as Papa-Nicholas Planas, are good Samaritans and have mercy on them. Papadiamandis recognizes that the people’s greatest hunger is for good shepherds—shepherds who imitate Christ, Who, “when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”‘ When “professional priests” neglect the liturgical life and abolish the Church’s order of services, they are incapable of true Orthodox pastoral care, the heart of which is the life of worship.’ The absence of true pastoral care on the part of the shepherds is a cause of doctrinal divergence, delusion, and heresy.
[S]ince the majority of people thirst for religious instruction and those responsible and competent do little to meet this need by drawing on pure and orthodox sources rather than foreign and distorted ones, it was only to be expected that many pious and well-intentioned people would be misled, in good faith, on hearing the Christian doctrine, albeit adulterated, wherever this is preached, because when the springs and fountains grow cloudy, with those in authority concealing the clear spring waters, men and beasts, dying of thirst, will prefer to drink from the cloudy stream, finding some slight hope of deliverance in this, rather than die of thirst….
—The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis by Dr. Anesti Keselopoulos