Elder Porphyrios and the Scantily Clothed Women
Two incidents from the life of the holy Elder Porphyrios demonstrate the discernment we must have regarding our neighbor.
The Girl With the "Super Mini Skirt" Has a Wonderful Soul!
Years ago, when the Elder served at the Polyclinic of Athens, while walking in the area of Omonoia one day with two girls who were his spiritual children, he saw from across the street a young woman coming with a sexy appearance. She was wearing the familiar "super mini skirt" which was fashionable. When they saw her, the Elder said:
"What do you have to say? What are you thinking? Are you judging that woman?"
"No, Elder", they responded, understanding their position.
"You do well to not judge her", said the Elder. "Do not judge people from their outward appearance. That girl you see has a wonderful soul! She has a dynamic soul. That which she is doing now, that is provoking, is due to the strength of her soul. Imagine what would happen if that girl came to know Christ, and knew everything that you knew. Then she will certainly reach a high place."
This was the way Fr. Porphyrios counseled and taught. He guided through life and experience.
They Came to the Elder With Indecent Clothing
One day, when I went to the Elder, he met with some girls who had come to see him. However, they were dressed indecently. Elder Porphyrios chatted with them on various spiritual topics, but he made no comment regarding their appearance. I, admittedly, was internally indignant with these girls, who went to such a holy Elder dressed in this way, and I was scandalized by the fact that Elder Porphyrios did not make any observations.
When the girls left, he said to me, smiling:
"Mr. (so and so), I am not as strict as you are."
Of course, I knew immediately that he had captured my thoughts and scandalization. But I asked him:
"Why do you say that, Elder?"
He said then:
"Those girls came here with that appearance and I did not make a comment. I have another tactic. Because, even if I did talk about their appearance, since they have no faith in Christ, they would not comply. I first attempted to bring them to faith in Christ, and then, by themselves, they will understand their error and correct it."
Source: Ἀνθολόγιο Συμβουλῶν Γέροντος Πορφυρίου, σελ. 168, 169. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.
I struggle with this very problem nearly every Sunday myself. I am not proud of myself and I cannot understand my attitude. I am sure I am being tested and failing miserably.
We are frequently confronted with a myriad of outfits that have no place in church whether that is a skirt far to short or men in short pants, shower shoes and sloppy tees. This snippet of an interview, it finally makes some sense. These people are just "playing" at church. They have no real understanding, no real care. For them it's social, a lark, something to make the best of but no real meaning for them. They come and go regardless of the gravity of the service and have no comprehension of it's importance. It's no use to comment or correct. They are raised by parents who have barely taken the time to have a rudimentary understanding themselves. Our only hope is that one day "they understand their error and correct it". For some reason that puts me to rest and clears my head.