Responsive Gratefulness, Miracles and Love – the Elder Paisios


Responsive gratefulness (translating the Greek philotimo) is a very strong theme in the teachings of the Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. The following is taken from the book Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain.

Elder Paisios stressed that our acts are worthwhile only if they are done out of a grateful predisposition. He always urged us not to struggle out of self interest, but rather out of responsive gratefulness. Even our faith in God, should be based on our gratefulness. He used to say:

The person who asks for miracles, in order to believe in God, lacks dignity. God, if He wishes to, can make with one of His miracles everybody instantly believe. However, He does not do so, because He does not wish to exercise force on man’s free will; man will then end up believing in God, not out of gratefulness or due to God’s excessive kindness, but due to His supernatural power.

What God respects and values most is to love Him just because He is kind.

Christ was incarnated, mocked, whipped, crucified, out of His extreme love for humankind; He shed His blood for us. All these facts explicitly indicate to everyone that He is the true love. Impelled by the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we should love Him in return and believe that He is our God, for “we know no good apart from Him.”

If someone, who sees Christ’s sacrifice and love, does not believe that He is our God, and in order to believe asks for miracles, he will neither be able to truly love, nor to truly believe in Him.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


21 responses to “Responsive Gratefulness, Miracles and Love – the Elder Paisios”

  1. orthodoxmichael Avatar

    I like this. In answer to the question, “Why doesn’t God show me miracles?” someone leaned over and said, “We are not worthy of signs and wonders.”

  2. artisticmisfit Avatar

    What page in the book? I think we have the same library. 🙂

  3. Mary Avatar

    Thank you for this. Much food for thought.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’ve been chewing on the Greek, philotimo, all day. I like it more and more.

  5. Margaret Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen! This is a beautiful “bit” to meditate on, including Love God because He is kind!

    I am reminded of two things immediately: The story of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus told, and in it when the brother in torment asked that Lazarus be sent to his brothers still living, believing they would believe if a ghost or spirit appears to them and then Abraham says ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

    The second thing I am immediately reminded of is the gratitude of a young child when you do something for them that is quite easy for you to do and they are so profoundly grateful and in exuberance express their gratitude over and over and tell others; for instance, if you get out the watering sprinkler and turn it on on a hot day for your children to play in, without them asking you!

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Love God because He is kind. Yes. I just don’t understand the drive that so many folks seem to have to create a theology in which God is not kind. Orthodoxy is not free of it, but it is far from dominate.

    The only explanation I can come to is that we know God created us in His image and likeness and we want to return the favor (we just ignore that fact that we are sinners and He is not).

  7. Ioannis Freeman Avatar
    Ioannis Freeman

    Thank you, Father Stephen, for bringing these paragraphs from Elder Paisios to our attention.

    Because two days ago was the Feast of Timothy, the Apostle of the Seventy (22 Jan), “timos” has been on my mind lately. Timothy’s name combines “timos” and “theos,” to render an English equivalent such as fear of God or respect for God. Similarly, “philos” and “timos” combine to convey “the fear of fraternal or familial love as is fitting of the Church,” such as the fear of caring for one another in Christ. Perhaps we fear that we will not see how things will turn out from what we do for others. Needing to see results from care-giving is similar to asking for miracles–tangible evidence from God. On the other hand, waiting on miracles that are visible/tangible outcomes reduces gratitude. Gratitude inspires me even when not seeing the results of what the Church does for others, but rather gratitude comes from believing that what has been done for us induces thanks (e.g. to be grateful that all of us are fearfully and wonderfully made). In this sense, God calls me just to listen out of love. I wish that my response to God’s love–to listen out of love–were more consistent.

    One additional thought:
    The “philos” in the reference from Elder Paisios appears to address God as divine Friend, who has done something so wonderful for us that any response other than “timos” for “philos” misses the mark. I need more time to reflect on philotimos, and appreciate the chance to begin further reflections about philotimos with these remarks.

  8. ioannisfreeman Avatar

    Quoting from Elder Paisios: “Impelled by the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we should love Him in return and believe that He is our God, for “we know no good apart from Him.” The return of Love so magnificent comes less as obligation (emphasizing in particular “…we should love Him…”) as attraction–how could Love as great be received as obligation? Therefore, I might add that it is not an obligation of response, as might be one interpretation of Elder Paisios’ observation. Instead, the Apostle John enjoins us Christians to receive great Love–“Love divine, all Love’s excelling” to borrow a line from a hymn by Charles Wesley–and we are “impelled” or perhaps “driven” into the arms of Christ, our Lover, without coercion, for anything less than surrender or hint of obligation misses the mark of authentic response to the Lover.

  9. Danilus Avatar

    Hello, where can I find more pictures from Elder Paisios?
    Thank you

  10. fatherstephen Avatar


    The easiest thing to do is to “google” on his name, then at the top of the page click on “images” and there you’ll find a number of them.

  11. tom Avatar

    father stephen i thank you for these thoughts which are not new but it is good to know how naturally god acts in life and if miracles come they seem to come when least expected i am sure there is purpose in this but it is enough for me that i trust,however i have a question which has been in my head for many years it is this in life i am the one who gives but because i do not receive my feeling of loneliness deepens,i know this is because of where i live in finland horrible self satisfied people but i have allways wanted to believe in a god who is able to affect people through their conscienses so i just pray god help me even though i live in a country of self satisfied people who have no wish to share anything

  12. Sacred Hearts Avatar
    Sacred Hearts


    Please forgive me if I speak out of turn. Fr. Stephen has specifically asked that questions addressed to him, be left to him to answer. However, I feel compelled in this instance to exercise the corporeality of the spiritual gifts, in the hope perhaps that I might lighten Fr’s burden, in some small way.

    In a recent address at a Wall Street conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury told his audience (economists, theologians and others) that “fat cats” are not necessarily “bad people”, just victims of a terrible misunderstanding — a misunderstanding they share with people who have lots of money (or who aspire to have lots of money). True wealth he says, is the sum of one’s loving relationships with people “not the number of naughts on the end of a balance sheet”.

    Tom, God is not limited by the qualities (“good” or “bad”) of the created orders. Also, it is worth keeping in mind that God owns “all the sheep on a thousand (i.e. all the) hills” and will one day call each shepherd, each steward, to account.

  13. Mark Avatar

    Dear Fatherstephen, Please read, from the paragraph beginning on Pg 98 through to the end of the book on Pg 104 (with particular attention paid to pgs. 99-101), David B. Hart’s book, “The Doors of the Sea.” Dr. Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, is a man of superior intellect and preeminent theological insight, and has written a book of towering importance regarding the love of God and His perfect beauty. I recommend this book rarely, haltingly, and with much circumspection, but, having read some of your blog, think it something you might find….hmmm…valuable. Thank you for your posts, I’ve both enjoyed and learned from them.

  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’ve read Hart. He is hmmmm valuable. 🙂

  15. Mark Avatar

    Hmmm….an interesting reply. Much to be considered in it…what is said. And unsaid. 😉

    Have you by chance, Father, read Doors of the Sea?

  16. Karen Avatar

    Mark, I love Doors of the Sea. I bought 2 copies–one for me to mark up and one to loan/give away. That’s rare for me. I usually use the library. Although I’m a college grad., I had to employ my dictionary to get through it, though–Hart’s vocabulary is precocious. I’m trying to work up the courage to tackle The Beauty of the Infinite! 🙂

  17. Mark Avatar

    Well, well, well. Imagine that. I tip my hat to you, Father. An interesting comment, indeed. I’ve given away several copies of Dr Hart’s book, most to no avail, sadly. But, I keep an extra copy on hand at all times. Just in the event an opportunity arises.

    His telling of the Samoan man, on the pages I suggested, makes me weep every time I read it. His words there are so vital, so telling, so consequential, so revealing, so….. essential, to knowing the purity of God’s love. I have shared those paragraphs many a time. I hope, to some avail.

    As for Beauty of the Infinite, yes, it is a difficult read, but please do so, read it. 🙂 Tis worth the time in the dictionary. (btw, Hart now writes a monthly column in First Things!)

    And Story & Promise? By Robert Jenson? Another important read….well, to me.

    Perhaps you’ve something you’ve read, very close to your own heart, you might share with us all?


  18. Karen Avatar

    Sorry to confuse you, Mark, but I intercepted your conversation with Fr. Stephen because I am a fan of Hart’s book, and you apparently mistook my response for one of his. I agree–Hart’s account of the man whose child drowned pierces to the heart, and he says many wonderfully true things in such a beautiful way.


  19. fatherstephen Avatar

    Yes. I’ve read Doors of the Sea and Beauty of the Infinite. Indeed, I called Hart when I read Beauty of the Infinite, and had a good conversation. He said it had been his Dissertation – and that it would have benefited by being half as long. It is wordsome, though it took me back to my days in the Doctoral program at Duke – lots of Post-Modernist literary stuff. I enjoyed it.

  20. Mark Avatar

    Dear Karen,

    I read the response from yahoo and not here. Thank you for the explanation, I am rather not just a little bit embarrassed.

    To Father Stephen, thank you for the reply, and, speaking of Duke, I sat in with Messrs Jenson, Reno, Hauerwas & Wilken, and several others, at a conference there not too many years ago. It was enlivening, to say the very least.

    That said, I shall, from here on in, be much more circumspect in my posts.

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