Sermon on the Sunday of the Last Judgment 19.02.2023.

Church of the Protection of the Holy Theotokos, Kuvandyk


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Today is the second last Sunday on the eve of Great Lent, and it is dedicated to the theme of the Last Judgment. On this day we think most deeply over the Last Judgment and over the destiny of every one of us after the Second Coming, that is, the final placement of souls for all eternity.

The Gospel says that every one of us will have his or her own placement and future life. The Lord divides us into sheep and goats. The sheep will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, while the goats will experience eternal suffering.

I underline the word “eternal”, as it is the most terrifying one. Any punishment having a limited term has a light of hope in the end. It will come to an end one day. When a punishment is not limited by any term and we hear that it will last forever, this is terrifying. 

Sometimes the topic of eternal suffering raises questions which people cannot answer. There are many logical and reasonable questions: “What about those people who were born in a Muslim country, or those primitive people dwelling on some islands? What about those people who were born during the Soviet times and in such circumstances simply had no faithful parents and no one to teach them faith? They lived like this all their life and were decent people who observed the law of their conscience. Could it be that the Lord will send them for eternal punishment?” These are very reasonable questions.

In addition, pity and basic human sympathy cause people ask the following question: “If we take a Christian who seems to have the desire but cannot succeed, after all, every one of us falls and rises from confession to confession again and again, will such a Christian inherit everlasting suffering?”

Others ask God this categorical question: “If You knew in advance that nothing will work with me, why did You create me at all? To live this short life and endure terrible never-ending suffering?”

People ask many critical questions like these. No priest, if he leads a sober life, can answer all of them completely. Sure, one may answer a question with some thoughtlessness, but thoughtlessness will not satisfy people. One may even argue away, explain away, quote something, but people’s hearts will not accept this, as they will not get the answer.

The answer to this question is in fact clear. We are very limited in our understanding of the wisdom of God. The main thing we should realize is that we cannot understand everything. This should calm us down to an extent and quiet down our trust in ourselves. “Lord, I realize I cannot understand everything, but I simply trust You. I have no choice. My ancestors trusted You, my parents did so, saints also trusted You and they succeeded. Those people who tried to find the answer to every question, they lost their trust in You. It is impossible, and they lost their trust. Christians are good and sober people and they have always lived according to other principles. I might understand something and I might not, something may be simply beyond my comprehension. Lord, the only thing I realize is that I am limited and Your wisdom is limitless. I simply trust You.”

This is true and profound faith. This faith does not come from knowledge, but from an inner disposition towards God. “Lord, I simply believe that You are Love and Great Wisdom. I simply trust You. I do not seek an answer to every question that comes to my mind, in my reflections, from evil thoughts, and from those people who tempt me. I simply trust You. Glory to God for the things I understand and glory to Him for all the things I do not.”

This is how our ancestors lived. They lived according to the principle: where everything is simple, there are a hundred of angels in this place, where everything is complicated, there are perpetual temptations there. These temptations are related to doubt. Doubt gives birth to distrust, even distrust towards God. “Lord, I do not understand and I do not accept this. This is why I distrust You, and our relationship breaks. My relationship with You, Who is the main Purpose, ruins.” And outside of You everything ruins too. There is no point outside of God. When people do not understand the reason for their life, it becomes hard to live for them.

Every person bears sorrows throughout his or her life. Raise your hands those of you who are deprived of sorrows. If your children do not fall ill, you become sick, your friends betray you, your own sins ail you, your traits of character torture you, cowardice, hatred, anger, jealousy, any dirt which dwells in us, tortures us. If there were no God Who fills everything with meaning, it would have been totally unbearable. When there is God, there is a point. In this case, even your child’s sickness and, forgive me, even your child’s death becomes filled with a deep meaning which you cannot understand, but which you accept, trusting God and believing He placed meaning in this. Then you can bear and overcome this.

The main mistake made by Christians is when they try to downgrade God with His limitless Being to the level of human comprehension. This God loses His greatness and limitless wisdom. You try to limit Him to your understanding and you thereby make an idol out of God. You downgrade Him to a human level. Let Him remain the Unfathomable God.

At a certain time during the Liturgy, before the moment of consecration of the Holy Gifts, a priest says secret prayers in the altar, and he addresses God with a very exact word “unfathomable.” He is not completely unknown, and at the same time not fully comprehensible. He is unfathomable. God opens His wisdom in part, while another part is covered with Divine darkness and remains unreachable for our understanding. He is God because He is beyond our comprehension. However, He is great and benevolent, we know this from living our spiritual life. How many times did we simply trust Him without trying to understand everything in detail and everything was alright? But when we argued with Him at moments we did not understand His benevolent providence, everything went badly. 

Christian wisdom is called humility of mind. It is not simply wisdom, but wisdom dissolved by humility. Humility is understanding yourself. It is understanding the greatness of God and understanding yourself as a limited person. 

It is a great deal and a great virtue to live with God and trust Him without any conditions. “I simply trust You because I simply love You so much. Let it be as it is going to be. Let it be as You bless it!”

Glory to our God, always, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages!




On Sunday of the Prodigal Son 12.02.2023

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, the City of Gay


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

This Sunday and the week of preparation for Great Lent is called the Week of the Prodigal Son. Today we recollect the Gospel parable about the Prodigal Son. He was a son of a rich and righteous father, who was also a kind and hardworking person. The son asks him to receive his part of the inheritance, leaves his country, and wastes everything, which his father had gained by hard and honest work. He thoughtlessly fiddles away his property, loses everything and becomes a beggar. He comes to a state when he is close to death from starvation. He is famished and in order to sustain his life he works as a swineherd. He is so hungry that he is even ready to take the food from the pigs. And he is deprived even of this food.   

At this moment, he comes to his senses, as per the Gospel, and says to himself, “I perish with hunger while my father’s servants eat better than I do in my situation. I will go to my father to be his servant, but not a son anymore.” 

Always, almost always, when we listen to, read and discuss this parable, we usually talk about the worthlessness of the Prodigal Son. It has been said so much about his worthlessness already, that it sounds habitual and familiar.  Nevertheless, today I would like to talk about his courage. Perhaps, at first, this might confuse some people, as how can we talk about the courage of a worthless man.  

You know, one should have courage to turn back and go back to the place where he had all honor, where he was a son of a rich father, who had possessions and servants, and where he had all preference and privilege over all those people who dwelled in his father’s house. He was his beloved son.  In the end, in contrast to his prior position, he returned as a worthless man, in rags, skin and bone, having neither honor nor good appearance. He had the courage to come back and say, “I am ready to be a slave, accept me as a servant here.”  

Has anyone tried to be in his shoes? Try, take it on. Would you go back to the place where you had all honor in such a sleazy appearance? 

In most cases, it is very hard to trample over one’s pride. This is an extreme case. Most often it appears hard for us to trample over our pride and admit some details of our bad deeds. We even try to blur and erase them as soon as possible, so no one notices.  These are minor details of our life, our biography. However, to fall so extremely from the height he had to the bottom, come back to the place where you were known as someone significant, and be ready to become a slave there, this is worth something. This speaks about his having courage.  

Meanwhile, his brother, who lives in his father’s house, who preserved his honor and enjoys the position of the only heir, lacks courage to cross the threshold of his father’s home when he hears that his father accepted the younger brother who behaved that badly.   He lacks courage to overcome his resentment when he says, “Father, why have you accepted him? I have always been with you, I have never left you or defamed your name. I have never failed you. And yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this worthless man comes, you kill the fatted calf for him and put a ring on his hand.”1 In ancient times, a ring was a symbol of kinship and inheritance. 

This trouble-free brother does not find courage and inner strength to overcome his pride and resentment. While this worthless man does. Look, many who are first will be last, and the last first.2 

What was the nature of his courage? Sometimes we speak about a hare who was driven into a corner by a wolf and has nowhere to escape. It turns back and jumps on the wolf, as it has nowhere else to go. This is the nature of courage of the Prodigal Son – he has nowhere to escape. He was in a dead end.  This dead end made him courageous. This dead end of desperation made him do something. There are two ways out of it. The most weak and worthless choice is to put one’s head in the noose. While a courageous choice is to admit that you have come to this dead end, push off it and move back.  

In order to become courageous, one should overcome great pain and desperation. To some extent, it is like overcoming a dead end in one’s life. I do not even know how many thousands of people I confessed throughout thirty years, but I made a certain note. Usually, those people who know what sorrow is, are stronger. They are like tempered steel. While those people who do not know sorrow are pampered, as if they were raised in a greenhouse. They are relaxed and not mobilized.  

The Lord often sends us sorrows. We wonder, as we have come to God and said, “Here we are, we are your children now. We are baptized now and we go to church on Sundays and it seems to us everything will be smooth.” But suddenly we have sorrows.  

First, sorrows give us a true picture of ourselves. Before you went to war, it seemed to you you were strong and brave. The first bullets whistled past your ears and you are shivering all over and your legs give way. This is a good fear; courage comes after this fear. When a person experiences a great fear and overcomes it, courage comes to him then. While those who see it only on the TV are unsafe.  

In this parable, we see a very sad story of the fall of the Prodigal Son, but we also see his beautiful repentance. He came back from this disgrace, worthlessness and piggishness. Exactly, piggishness, as he even warmed himself and ate among pigs. He pushed off this bottom and moved back. There are many beautiful moments in the story of the Prodigal Son. We should only see and imitate them.  

There is no repentance without a descent to the depth of your worthlessness. This is the way of all Holy Fathers. Before they ascended very high, in the mysteries and in the principles of spiritual life, they descended to the hell of their nothingness. They dug that deep. Usually we bury everything very deep so no one sees, but they had courage to dig out themselves and see the depth of their fall. 

Sometimes we wonder why Holy Fathers cried without ceasing. If only every one of us dug out and saw the inside out, we would all cry and cry very bitterly. 

This is why this story of his coming back and his father’s joy is kind; it is both sad and noble. He came back in the end, came to his senses, found courage in himself, lowered his head and prostrated himself at his father’s feet. I guess, there is a Rembrandt’s painting, where the Prodigal Son kneels before his father, his face buried into his father’s belly, while his father embraces and caresses him. This story is both sad and beautiful. This man is on the one hand worthless and on the other, he already has something courageous and beautiful in him.    

This is the way of Christianity. One cannot become a venerable without descending to the hell of his nothingness and piggish rotting at first. 

Glory to our God always, now, and unto the ages of ages! 

The coming week is a usual one. There will be fast on Wednesday and Friday. On the rest of the days, we eat as usual. In a week, there will be a Meat-Fare Week. We do not eat meat during this week, but we can have everything else. Therefore, in two weeks, there will be the Forgiveness Sunday and then Great Lent begins. We will examine ourselves, what we have inside of us. And cry. 

Lk. 15:29-30

Mt. 19:30



Sermon after the funeral service 16.02.2023.

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, the City of Gai


Every one of us, old, middle aged, children, lower our heads and go in one direction, towards death. No one has objected to this and no one has contradicted it. We lower our heads and go meekly into the chasm of this appalling, worthless and disgusting death. We throw our parents, friends, wives, husbands, and even children in this chasm, our heads lowered meekly, and no one tries to change anything.  

Nevertheless, there are people on earth, who objected and said, “No, we do not agree.” These people are Christians who put up with the fact of physiological death, but they do not want to put up with the fact of eternal death. This is why Christians pray for their deceased regardless of this disbelief. They pray and believe that they only came over to another state. They left their physiology, but their soul remained alive and they are waiting for our prayers there.  

Christians are those people who disagreed. They simply disagreed to forget their parents after having buried and let them go to that black hole of nothing. No, they pray. They go to cemeteries on Radonitsa, the Day of Rejoicing, because there is something inside of them, which contradicts the fact of death and makes them sustain their interaction with the dead. Christians do not agree with the fact of their children’s, wives’ or husband’s death. For some reason, there is something in Christians, in their unconscious mind, which works and makes them go to cemeteries and churches. They go there, light candles and involuntarily talk to their deceased. This happens because they do not agree. 

We should not agree. If we agree with the final fact of death, the meaning of our life will be simply lost. Why were we born? What do we live for? To go into a black hole and that’s it? There is no sense in it.  And nonsense leads to distress. It is just unbearable when there is no point. On the contrary, when everything has its meaning, there is hope. 

This is why we have gathered here not only to honor the memory of the deceased and to render homage to his relatives, but we also gathered to be with him. Though physiologically he is not with us any more, he is alive. And he will live forever. We will also go there, but we should not agree to this appalling fact of death so simply, our head down. We should break this certainty despite everything. 



On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee 05.02.2023

Saint John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Starting from today, the preparation for Great Lent begins. This Sunday is called the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. The Lenten Triodion is opening. The next week is a fast-free week, there will be no fast on Wednesday and Friday. Then there will be a usual week, and then there will be a Meatfare week, Forgiveness Sunday and Great Lent.    

Great Lent is coming; we are getting closer to it. This Sunday is called the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee because today we read a Sunday Gospel about the events which happened to the Publican and Pharisee.  Today we listen to this Gospel. Have you listened? Do you remember, there were two men praying at a church? One was a Publican. Publicans were the sort of people whom they despised in Jerusalem. They collected taxes and worked for the conquerors of Israel, the Romans. They seemed to belong to their nation, but at the same time seemed to be aliens among them. They were collecting assessments from their own people for the profit of Rome. This is why they were regarded as betrayers of the people.   

In addition, it often happens that when people deal with money, they face a great temptation. This is reflected in their character and behavior as well. Surely, while they were collecting taxes, they left something for themselves, treated someone unjustly and ignored their conscience. This is why publicans were regarded poorly.  

Two men, a Pharisee and a Publican are praying at a church. Pharisees, unlike Publicans, were respected by the people because they externally observed the law.  They fasted and prayed ostentatiously; and everything they did was externally beautiful and splendid. These were such a kind of people, zealous towards the law.     

Curiously enough, the Lord answers to these two prayers in a way people do not sometimes expect. The Lord disregards the prayer of the “righteous man” and looks favorably on this worthless man, a Publican, and prefers him. This happens because there was great arrogance, pride and selfishness in the Pharisee. Listen to his mere words, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men -extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.”1 Look, what haughtiness and arrogance he has! While the Publican, who realized his nothingness, remained kneeled and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”2 There was truth in his prayer; and where there is truth, there is God. Yes, this truth was disgraceful, very specifically disgraceful. This was the truth about his nothingness and worthlessness. However, this was true. For the sake of this only truth, he becomes acceptable and pleasant before God. There was a great falsehood in the prayer of the Pharisee, as, according to the Holy Scripture, “There is none who does good. No, not one.”3 

Every one of us is gravely damaged by sin, by this sore; every cell of us is damaged. If people do not realize their damage, and moreover, being damaged they allow themselves to be proud of themselves and feel some superiority over others, this is a great falsehood. Where there is falsehood, there is no God. This is why the Lord turns away from them.  

Often, when we pay attention to some events or lives of the saints from the Gospel, we want to imitate them at once. When we see the point of the Publican’s repentance, we involuntarily begin to imitate him. Sometimes this happens in a funny, distorted and awkward way. One cannot imitate the Publican only because he or she has the goal to imitate him. In order to come into the state of the Publican, we should see all the depth of our worthlessness. In this case, you will naturally cry out from the bottom of your heart, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” You cannot perform this artificially, or this will be awkward and very disgraceful. You will resemble the Pharisee, just taking another role. 

When we go to Church, live spiritual life, pray, work, humble ourselves, and the Grace of the Holy Spirit gradually comes upon us. It does not come because of our results, but because of our sincerity before God. The Grace of the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and we begin to see soberly, the way everything is. The Pharisee saw too, but he saw everything in a distorted way. He saw the distorted truth about himself. This distorted truth assured him he was something, while God’s truth shows everything as it really is. It shows people how worthless they are. 

Sometimes people wonder why such a phenomenon exists. The closer people to God, the more they cry. It may seem, you are closer to God and farther from sin. You should rejoice instead of crying, because you come farther from sin and closer to God. Why do they cry? Because the closer they are to God, the purer their vision is. A person begins to see keenly, purely, the way things are. They begin to see themselves in contrast to God. This knowledge about themselves upsets them, and they cannot help crying. 

One might think, “I am an average person. I live like the others. Others have some sins and I have some.” This does not bother people much. They live, do not even cry, and do not ever bother about this. While a saintly person begins to see very keenly the truth about himself. He looks into the very depth of his heart and sees betrayal, fornication, anger and murder, predisposition for all this. There simply were no circumstances and an opportunity for committing this. Believe me, every one of us has the potential for becoming a murderer, an adulterer, a betrayer, or anyothing else. We can make a long list of all things, the predispositions which lay in our heart. We only had no chance to act on them, or God protects us from doing this by life circumstances. Our neighbors and the education we got from our parents also protect us. However, we all have this very deep inside.     

Woe unto you, who do not know yourselves. Such people are insecure. They are not safe, as due to their inexperience, they might relax and all this may reveal itself at the most unfavorable moment, when they do not expect. While saintly people are always mobilized, concentrated, and see their worthlessness very subtly and keenly. This is why they are concentrated. They say to themselves, “I know myself. May the Lord grant I will not relax and nothing springs out of me.” 

You cannot imitate the Publican artificially. Nothing will work. Live a spiritual life. Through your spiritual life, acquire the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which will become your mind, vision and heart. You will come to see everything as it is and not the way you feigned. And then… Some people say, “I read from the saints that before praying one should think about his or her sins first, become a little upset, cry, and only then begin to pray.” No one needs this theater. You know, when you meet God, tears will run in torrents down your cheeks. These tears will be natural.  

Sometimes non Church going people say, “What has happened to me? I entered the church and began to cry. I did not think about anything, or meet anyone, no one told me anything, I just began to cry.” This is how your soul met God and felt its worthlessness. It needed no stimulation, or recollections, or pressure on it. A person only came in… Or, you know, what happens when you meet a saintly person. You meet a saintly person, remain close to him, and you feel embarrassed. You feel embarrassed and ashamed.   

I have traveled a lot seeking saintly people. I visited Athos more than forty times, went to England to the Monastery of Saint Sophrony Sakharov, and to America, when Elder Ephraim of Arizona was still alive. People always ask me to tell them what I was talking about with them. I say, “You see, I cannot explain this to you. You should experience this.” When you stand before a saintly person, all your questions seem to be silliness. When you go there, you have lots of thoughts in your head. I will ask this, I will talk about this. But when you meet him and look him in the eye, all your questions vanish.  You only want to drop your eyes and say, “Pray for me.” It becomes embarrassing to ask any questions. All questions come from your silliness. He would ask simply, “Child, what do you want?” “Nothing. I just wanted to stand by your side. May I?” “Yes, you may.” He would pat your head and take you by the hand. He understands very well that you do not need to say anything at the moment. “Child, are you feeling good?” “Good.” “Why do you cry then?” “Because I feel both good and ashamed. This is why I cry.”  

The state of the Publican cannot be played like in a theater. The state of the Publican comes naturally through encounter with the Holy Spirit, Who enlightens our mind.  Human, fathom yourself and you will fathom God. You will learn you are worthless, come into a sincere state, and the Lord will be able to approach you in this sincerity.  God does not come to a place where there is dirt, hypocrisy and falsehood. He does not go there. Become the truth. Become the bitter truth. This is unpleasant, disgraceful and uncomfortable. Become this truth and the Lord will come up to it. He will even embrace you in your worthlessness. You will be a worthless person, but you will not be a hypocrite. 

There are three weeks before Great Lent. Mobilize yourselves and think about the coming of Great Lent. I wish there could be more and more people here during Great Lent, as after it there always comes Pascha. One cannot experience spiritual Pascha without fasting sincerely. You cannot experience Pascha without crying and suffering. Spiritual Pascha differs a lot from an emotional Pascha. This is not the 1st of May, 7th of November, or a New Year. These are drastically different feelings.  

Father Gregory will start the panikhida now. Today we commemorate the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, our saints, who during soviet times proved their faithfulness to Christ. They were not only unafraid of persecution, abuse and oppression, but also they were not afraid of death and they went for death, so as to not deny Christ. The XX century gave our Church as many saints, as no century, or all centuries together did. We will commemorate them now.  

Glory to our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages! 

1 Lk. 18:11

2 Lk. 18:13

3 Ps. 52:4



New Savior Monastery of Moscow 


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

In today’s Sunday Gospel, we listened to a very moving story of a worthless man. He was both pitiful in appearance and in his status among the fellow countrymen, as he was a publican and bore the general judgment of people. Perhaps, in part of his worthlessness, he also bore a determination of his spirit.    

Many people of different stratum, positions and ranks, whom one could prefer, surround the Lord. But the Lord pays His attention to this very worthless man, preferring him to the others at this moment. He calls him by his name and says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”1  

There is a belief that on the Last Day many people will become surprised, as they will not find themselves at a place where they expected to be, and because they will see those, who they did not expect to, close to God. Many people will wonder and become disappointed. One thing is the judgment of people, quite the opposite is the judgment of God. The Lord always prefers a timid and humble man and says, “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit.”2 

There is a phrase of the Holy Fathers, “I did not fast, I did not pray, I was not vigilant, I did not prostrate myself on the ground, but I humbled myself and the Lord saved me.”3 Everything I have listed is precious before God, but in this expression of the Holy Fathers, the priority of spiritual values is set.  Everything of this, prayer, fast, vigilance and asceticism, might be valuable and precious, if this is dissolved by humility. If there is no humility in any of these actions, these virtues might have a foul smell before God, because they will bring a proud opinion about oneself. 

“But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit.”2 The Lord prefers a humble person to a talented, great, and clever one. First of all, He pays His attention to him. 

I would like to emphasize some moments and differentiate between true spiritual humility and inferiority. These are two drastically different states. Humility always brings peace, timidity, love, and shyness, beautiful and kind shyness. While inferiority might bring jealousy, vanity, pride and hatred to the one who is more successful than you are or whom they prefer to you. 

These states are dramatically different in their effect and nature. Inferiority and humbleness, humility, are different states. God does not need the inferior ones. God needs and loves the humble, because they bring peace, mercifulness, timidity, and chasteness. These are the effects of a humble heart. God loves such people and seeks them. 

And not only God. Every one of us may feel the state of a person who communicates with us. It is always pleasant to deal with humble people. It feels peaceful, calm and secure with them. Our soul always seeks a humble, kind and timid friend. 

Humility may not necessarily be too educated, wise, beautiful and great. Humility is a mystery of one’s heart, by which we determine its effect coming in our direction and in the direction of the world. Humility cannot be played or performed, as it will be artificial, false and disgraceful. Humility is a natural state of one’s heart, which is born in the process of spiritual life. If a person leads a correct spiritual life, his or her heart will be raised in humility. If they strive correctly, they will surely be humble and come to a correct realization of themselves and their relationship with God. “Lord, I am nothing. You are Everything.” In this case, people will naturally have a state of love and gentleness, and even modesty, very beautiful and kind modesty.   

Venerable Elder Sophrony Sakharov tells the following story. When he lived on Athos, near the Agio Paul Monastery in a cave, and spent his time as a hermit in especially attentive prayer, he was a spiritual guide for many hermits of a Greek monastery. Because of his correct, attentive and reclusive spiritual life, his spiritual senses were very keen. He says, at that time, he met such Fathers on Holy Mount Athos, who walked in the Uncreated Light without suspecting this themselves. 

How could such a phenomenon be? You are in an outstanding spiritual state and you do not give esteem to your extraordinariness. He says, their life went so stably, gradually and smoothly that they did not come into this state with a jerk or hurriedly, but so smoothly that this state became natural for them. They did not see their extraordinariness. It seemed to them, this was a natural state of a human and everyone should be and live like this.   

A correct spiritual life presupposes smooth and gradual movement towards the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not jump or run, but we keep going stably. We do not stop and do not force the pace to stop again and catch our breath. It always happens like this. A person forces his pace first, then becomes out of his breath, and stops in order to recover his breath. This stop might be a little defeat. 

Go stably and straightly. In this case, your result will be reliable. The main thing is that in this straightness and stability, everything will come naturally to you. You will not have a self-opinion, considering yourself as something spiritually high. You will think that everyone lives like this and you do not amount too much. Then, on the Last Day we might become surprised when the Lord will call us from the furthest place and say, “My friend, leave your last place and come higher, I am asking you.” 


Glory to our God! Glory! Glory! Glory! Always, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen! 

1 Lk. 19:5

2 Is. 66:2

3 St. John of the Ladder



St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City, 31.12.2022


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

I congratulate you with the coming New Year. It is a very bright and cheerful feast in one’s childhood, while with aging, we become more reserved. Our emotions come down and we remain in a kind of medium state, as the Lord may grant to us. We realize we need to thank God for the past year, which He gave us to live through. There was something good and something bad in it.  We thank God for having, perhaps, one more year of our life, which we will not waste, but which we will use like a good servant multiplying our spiritual assets. 

One may live and constantly lose time. A day has passed and that’s it. The fact that time goes by is an unalterable law. The difference is that someone is gaining in the course of time and someone is always losing and does not redeem time. We are short of time. Someone multiples his or her earthly wealth. Well, at least this, at least they work on this. Some people do not even apply their efforts to gain earthly things. They simply lie on a couch in front of the TV criticizing all and everyone: the government, their friends, neighbors, and the city administration.   I could understand if they worked all day long. There are different cases. People come to confess and I hear different stories of life. It happens that a person is hard working; this poor man works and works, but the Lord gives him a very sorrowful life and nothing is getting on at all.  This happens not because he is lazy, but because it happens. However, there is another kind of grievers over their destiny, who do not do anything themselves and accuse every one of their sorrows. They keep complaining, and complaining, and complaining. I always want to tell them, “Get up and do something.”  

Once I was in hospital with an old man who told me, “I am a retired man and once in three days I go keep watch as a watchman. I earn three thousand. My young neighbor sits on a bench and laughs at me, “Uncle Alik, you are a stupid man, you work for only three thousand.” To which I say, “Sasha, and you sit from morning till night drunken and live off your mother’s pension. You even manage to drink off her pension. Bring her at least three thousand and make her happy.”” He also said, “The matter is not about the three thousand. The point is that God looks at me and sees that I am not lazy, that I work even being retired, as much as I can. I can go and buy some sweets for my grandchildren for these three thousand. All in all, it is good I am not a lazy man.” 

With the course of time, we do not celebrate holidays that recklessly. Especially New Year holidays. Children have less behind them and more ahead. They live in a state when their parents take all their sorrows, troubles, and problems upon themselves. Children simply wallow in their parent’s care. The whole life seems to be easy and careless to them. They do not even suppose what sorrows their parents go through to make their life easier. When people grow up they involuntarily immerse themselves into the problems of life. A year passed, and we do not only recollect what good things we had this year, but involuntarily we begin to recollect whom we lost this year, who is gone, and that we had not only happy, but sorrowful events in it. These are the prosaic details of everyday life. These are the facts of adult life. The more we live, the more we lose, and there remains less and less of time.  

A person begins to feel time, to sense it. Time becomes tight and tangible. For children it is blurry like a pink cloud. While adults perceive time as something tangible: it ends, it passes away, and it comprises much sorrow. Having sorrows in our life is law. A faithful person understands the point of sorrow. While an unbeliever cannot fathom the providence of God. This is why he becomes puzzled, protests, falls into despair, and quarrels with God. This quarrel causes him pain too.   This sorrow of quarrel with God adds to the sorrow, which already exists as a fact. He does not understand God and protests. Any protest brings sorrow and pain. Any quarrel brings sadness instead of happiness. Above all, a quarrel with God. At the same time, a faithful person comes into the vision of God, understands, and sees the providence of God everywhere.  Both in happiness and in sorrow he always sees the wise providence of God. Because of this, he feels no pain at all. His pain simply diminishes, as he understands its meaning. He bears it and he agrees to it.  

Happy New Coming Year to you! May God give you a long life, so you will be a good and obedient girl. Your life will be happy then.  If you grow up naughty, your life will be bad. But we believe you will be a good, kind, modest, and obedient girl. You will have many friends then and your main friend will be God. And I will turn green with friendly envy. 

Congratulations on the coming holiday! Sense time. Do not waste your time. How few people we have now… What is the population of Gai now? 38 thousand. How many people do we have here today? About 30? 38 thousand and 30 people. Look, the difference is drastic. So few people on the eve of the New Year, especially, on the eve of the year, which is not going to be calm, on the eve of the year, which takes all the pain and sorrow of the previous one: the fear of war and instability.  Those people who say, “I will not think about this” are insane. Well, you will not think about this, and this will pass by you? On the contrary, think. Think how you will live in this situation. Think. 

30 people and 38 thousand. Well, perhaps 30 more people have come to Father Vitalis too. But in relation to 38 thousand… this is a state of some… obnubilation. 

Congratulations on the coming holiday.


It seems to some that faith can be found after hearing someone. However, it is not faith, it is sympathy to others’ experience or it is reliance on others’ experience, so to say. Faith is not an effort you make to verify something that you cannot comprehend or contain in your heart. Faith is a certain state of enlightenment of your mind and heart. But it is very difficult to explain. It is as if you were an unbeliever and have become a believer.

Once a funny story happened on Mount Athos. A Frenchman, a very educated person and atheist, came to the Holy Mount. His life was coming to an end, and as any man whose life is drawing to a close, he started thinking, “What do I live for, what was I born for, what have I become a professor for if everything ends?” And, among other things, he started looking for faith, which he did not have, and went to the Holy Mount.

He visited all the elders there so that they could convince him of the existence of God, and showed him faith. But none of them could prove anything, or he could not hear anything, to be exact. They all spoke to him, but he was not able to hear. Then one day he comes to the last monastery, the Docheiariou monastery, where the icon ‘She Who is Quick to Hear’ is. It is one hour and a half way along the sea from our Russian monastery. Father Charalambos, a Greek, still lives in the Docheiariou monastery. He is nearly ninety, and he has lived there since the previous brotherhood – old-dweller. Having a mind of a child, short in height, he is as a child himself, unremarkable, half naive, half God’s fool.

I met him for the first time when I came to the Docheiariou. Some frescoes were being restored and there were scaffolds inside the church. I go into this church, and the first person I see is Charalambos. He is almost running towards me and shouting in Greek, “Be careful, there is an iron beam, you may hit your head.” I bent down and walked under it. The second person comes in, and he also runs toward him, trying to protect… He was running for the whole service that way, warning everyone who went inside and outside. It ended with him hitting that beam and falling down.

And never had Father Charalambos told any wise teachings, and did not know much about difficult issues of theology…

So, our Frenchman came to the Docheiariou monastery, and the first person who got his eye was not an elder, not a theologist, but this “child” with naive eyes, at the age of ninety. Charalambos says, “Why have you come?” “I am seeking faith, I am a professor, I know the significance of Athos and would like you to convince me.”

There is a very deep well near the church in the Docheiariou monastery. Once there was a problem with water. The fathers prayed, Saint Michael the Archangel showed them this place, and now they have very good delicious water. Father Charalambos leads the Frenchman to this well and says, “How can you not believe in God? This well was given by Saint Michael the Archangel. We had not had water, and now, look, the well is full.” “So, what you are saying is that Saint Michael the Archangel came with a shovel and dug this well for you…”

And suddenly this skepticism and irony made Charalambos so enraged, that he grabbed the professor’s shoulders, started shaking him and shouting, “How dare you not believe in archangels!” Then he took some water and told him, “Here you go, drink this!”

And do you know what happened next? The professor drank the water – and became a believer. Suddenly something was revealed to him, something that he commented on with astonishment, “How could I not see it yesterday?”

He was an unbeliever and became a believer.

A few words about the guidelines of spiritual life

In the Lives of the Fathers you can find a guide given by an elder to his disciple that follows: when a strong and cruel enemy is going to attack, one monk gets armored, takes up arms and confronts the enemy. This is a stupid monk. A wise monk will climb up a tree.

The first one is stupid as he has overestimated his strength. Poor him, he doesn’t understand, he fails to realize that this is an uneven contest. So uneven that he would neither just stand up to, nor even stop the enemy for a moment. No one needs his seemingly brave death, except for his vanity. Those who think they can win using only their own strength, art and courage are already beaten by the spirit of pride and self opinion which prevents them from thinking soberly and without emotions.

A wise monk climbs up a tree, that means, firstly, he runs, secondly, not anywhere, but to the place where he is going to be rescued.  He climbs the tree, up there, where his Christ is. The tree is an allegory, it means upwards.

A wise monk is naturally modest while estimating his capabilities and experience. Experience that has been gained from confession to confession, from fall to rise and from fall again. An inner weeping gave rise in him. A grief, and not even for being a great sinner, but more for having no self-control. As he grieves for his sins, but he can’t help committing them. He weeps, rises and falls again. He comes close to despair and there at the edge of doom, at the edge of the hell, he starts to yell, to cry: “O Lord! I can’t, I can’t do anything, I’m broken, I’m desperate. I’m eager to do something, but I can’t do anything. Only You can help me, and I’m nothing without You, just a zero! Lord, have mercy, I’m dying!”

And finally he comes to be a wise monk. Those who climb up a tree, in other words, run to Christ, have an experienced and endured wisdom which is their spiritual immunity that will work not only for their mind, but also for their intuition.

It is not by chance that I start with this example. In the course of our conversation we shall come back to this issue, because it’s a crucial one for us. We don’t fight against sin, but we avoid it.

It may work some other way for the perfect, but for us who are new in the faith, weak and stupid, it is all like that, and I make a point of it. We run, but not just run, we hurry to our Christ, Christ the Savior.

The beginning of a sin is in our mind. It comes to our thoughts in our sleep or from the depth of our sinful memory. It stays in our mind and keeps disturbing our heart looking for sympathy. A stupid monk takes up arms and fights against thoughts, while a wise one runs, he is afraid of slowing down. He knows well that after the Fall of our first parents Adam and Eve, humankind inherited a broken, split inner world.  One’s mind, heart and will that used to work together had got scattered around. A man of faith with his mind realizes that the sin is bad, but in his heart he sympathizes with the sin against his mind. The heart is trying to fight, but there is no will, and that’s it. A wise monk understands it all and accepts it for granted as the result of the Fall, of corruption. That is why he’s afraid of slowing down, he runs at once, runs in his mind from those thoughts and feelings. He tries to avert his mind. And go straight to Christ. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner” – right here.

On the contrary, moving from an evil thought to a neutral or even a good one, from thought to thought, from impression to impression, our mind will come back to sin again.

Our sinful mind is like a dog let loose, wandering anywhere. It can find some healthy food, but also can wander into a dump, which is more probable.

In this respect I’d like to point out that our trouble is not just evil thoughts, but our mind let loose, wandering anywhere: in idle, even good, dreams, illusions, seemingly neutral thoughts. The problem is not that you think of something sinful and dream about something good, the trouble is that your mind is loose, it wanders and sometimes will surely find its way to the “dump”. A wise parent will try to engage his child in some activity (I’m not talking about work, but some activity), so that less time is wasted in idleness. So that he or she had less time for playing tricks. The same thing with our mind: leaving it idle we let it wander in dreams, in idle thoughts, and it can find its way…

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5:8)

Many people feel sure that a pure heart is a heart free of evil thoughts, but both heart and mind could be littered by good thoughts, just like a mess of good things. And so, the heart is pure when it is simple, not complicated, not hoarded by any stuff. A pure heart is free both from a sin and from a pile of complicated idle thoughts and feelings. Why shall the pure in heart see God? Because there are fewer obstacles between them and God, they look straight at Him. Their mind is not distracted by anything foreign or parallel. They look straight at God and only at Him.

We can’t think only about God, we need to pay attention to our earthly concerns. Surely, we can’t, but to be honest, like during a confession, we have many minutes, even hours, during the day and night, when we can say: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner”.

If we find some time for this exercise, our mind will get used to running away from evil thoughts and feelings. It will run to Christ and stand by Him inconspicuously, without visualization. It is very important. We should stand without visualizing Christ, without the illusion of the presence of God, but before God. The difference is that the God we try to fancy, imagine, invent is our imaginary god, while the real God opens up Himself, not otherwise when a man discovers Him on his own. That is why when praying we should stop our creativity, stop fancying and imagining and let God speak for Himself. For this reason, inconspicuously, without visualization, we keep our mind cold and simple, all simple, in order not to push into the background the image of God who always looks at us. The thing is that there is often our creativity which stands between Him and us. It fancies, creates, worries, i n t e r f e r e s.

I’d like to say a few words about discernment.

People talk a lot about it at present, but these talks are a little bit vague and indefinite. More often, I see that it is understood as the act of intellect. I believe that discernment, as a gift of God, is a charismatic state. Spiritual discernment is when you know the answer, neither the way it is, nor your own answer, but when you speak for the Holy Spirit.

Look, where he’s driving at…

That’s true, as the gift of discernment has always been considered to be the highest gift in the Church. Please note, I tell you again that this gift is not granted to academicians or professors, but to people of proper spiritual life. Careful, prayerful and concentrated life. They own this gift to the full extent. We become acquainted with this gift of the Holy Spirit, but to a lesser degree.

Our discernment should tell us that we are still not perfect and our life is full of mistakes. Therefore, we should be careful with our reasoning, more often ask for advice and don’t make hasty decisions. This would be a kind of discernment, not bad for us.

As a matter of fact, we usually know which option to choose, but our fanciful mind makes the issue more complicated by excessive reasoning, it confuses, distracts us, makes us panic. We had better pray. We had better pray properly, and during the prayer think about Christ, not about the problem. The purpose of prayer is not to explain to God what’s happened and why it’s happened. Could it be that God doesn’t know? The purpose of prayer is Christ Himself, which means that we should mentally find Christ and stand before Him. When you stand before Him there is no reason talking or explaining anything. You realize that He understands it all, knows it all, and thus simply say to Him: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner”. And it should be said in a simple, easy way. Otherwise complexity will lead you away from God.

I’d also like to talk about obedience. Oh, what a miracle, what a mystery it is! And I’d like to give it further understanding than just getting the job done. It doesn’t matter if you did it or not, but the way you did it, the way you describe it in your mind matters.

Two novices are carrying a log. One of them thinks a good thought: of course, no one needs the log to be there, but I carry it, because it’s my obedience, as the abbot told us, I must obey, and otherwise, it’s a sin. Another novice is carrying the log without permitting himself to say anything, except for: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. And so, the first one, even though he has a good thought, is in a tricky position, as his mind and heart do not always work together. His mind says: you have to obey, but the heart has a touch of distaste to the abbot, and he can’t help it, the heart wants what it wants.

The novice with his good thought brought distaste about his abbot due to his inexperience. An experienced one did not allow himself to think about the abbot at all, neither in a good or in an evil way. He kept his mind bound, bound to Christ. And the place where Christ dwells is pure.

Many Holy Fathers set obedience before fast and prayer. And it is really so, as a prayer will not work without obedience.  A true, spiritual and deep obedience makes one’s mind simple, consistent and non-disputing. Such a mind can stand pure before God. In other words, a mind free from thoughts can stand face to face with God. People of the Western Church pay more attention to humanism and thus they are supposed to come to God. In the East people seek God and through God they have love for everyone.

When we hold back our emotions, good impulses, impressions it seems to be dryness, indifference… In fact we hold back what belongs to us, something touched by a sin, in order to get from God what is God’s. A pure and perfect sense of love and compassion for every living thing.

And it won’t be an illusion of goodness and love, it will be love itself.

Why am I speaking of illusions? Check yourselves and say whether your feelings, or relations are perfect. Tonight we say “I love you”, and tomorrow we’ll betray and get angry. That’s just the way it is. We are not perfect ourselves, but we can become perfect through God.

Due to that we don’t seek goodness, we seek God. And through God we get better, purer. 

And it works for everything – first of all, we seek God, then – all the rest.

Many people say that by keeping the commandments they come closer to God. And I can’t keep the commandments on my own. I want it badly, I cry, but I fail. I believe everyone fails, because if there were only the commandments to consider, Christ would have left only the commandments. But He left us Himself and said: For without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5). That is the reason why we don’t attempt to act only visibly, but realize that our act of faith should be based on a proper tacit spiritual life.

Proper spiritual life brings one’s mind to Christ. And through Christ our visible feat takes a wise and sensible direction. Our visible feat will never be complete without spiritual life.

Spiritual life is not about inward struggle, it is about avoiding struggle. And running to Christ.  In this case a struggle should be understood as a struggle with evil thoughts. We don’t need it. We should only struggle to keep our mind on Christ. Do not pay your attention to anything sinful. Even though you contradict a sin, you waste your time on it, wasting your spiritual strength. Just leave it to Christ. Even a struggle, an argument against a sin will all the same get your soul dirty and leave a memory of the sin, and one day your heart will respond with sympathy to it.

Let only Christ be in your heart.

You will admit that without thinking about our sins we may stop perceiving our imperfection, our corruption. But if, living a spiritual life, you keep approaching Christ, you will start to see clearly through Christ, hear through Christ and comprehend through the Holy Spirit. And this comprehension will allow you to have a clear-eyed view of yourself and of Christ. You will recognize yourself as a poor sinner, infinitely small in comparison to the great perfection of Christ, who shortens the distance coming to meet us. 

A pure heart is keenly aware of a sin. That is the reason why the saints, getting more pure, kept crying more over themselves.

You may examine your sins, meddle with them and, thus, acquire humility. But also you can seek Christ who is the light, the purity, the spiritual vision and you will have a clear, keen and simple vision. That is to say, first of all, Christ, and then, repentance through Christ.

Not the kind of repentance you squeezed out of yourself or made up for yourself, but the one born from the Holy Spirit. And it will work for anything: first comes Christ, then (an unfeigned) repentance. First, Christ, then love (whereas Christ is love Himself).

Why did our Lord leave us the sacrament of confession?  So that we, after having sincerely confessed our sins and having heard from Christ “I forgive and remit your sins”, could stop keeping the memory of a sin which is the dirt that stains our heart dwelling there even in contradiction with us. Pin up to your heart the memory of being a great sinner, but do not take the details of your sins for a treasure.

Keep your mind in a clean place. Let your heart experience only something good and pure.

Do not let in anything bad, do not pay attention to it or waste your feelings on it. Let only Christ be there, inside your soul.

Do not try to change the world by worrying about it. You will lose yourself and won’t save the world. You may present the world with something real instead of good but idle feelings. Give it sainthood, if this is too much, let it be your aspiration for it, sincere, not a false one. But in no case, your own sainthood, for it’s not true. Sainthood is the reflection of the light of Jesus Christ through yourself.

In order to reflect you need to be in His glory.

Always be with Christ. Your thoughts, feelings, emotions, concerns should not come from you, but they should come from Christ.

Christ is a Bridegroom and you are only His best man. It’s a position of trust and highest importance.

Why do we dare to practice the Jesus prayer? Why do we talk about spiritual life? Do we recognize ourselves as saints or at least righteous ones?

No, we pronounce the Jesus prayer specifically because we are sinners. Great sinners. We are dying and searching for a remedy of salvation, and can’t find some other one.

We need to do something, otherwise, it’s going to be hell.

And owing to our false humility, which is close to self-indulgence, it would have been very stupid to give up the remedy which Christ gives us through the Holy Fathers.


Arcpriest Sergiy BARANOV.

October 2011.


The day was overcast, wet, and grey. No. It was completely gloomy, black. This day was unbearable. The car was moving across the town bleakly and monotonously. I wanted it to move even slower, so that the car would completely stop, turn around – just not go there…

I was being taken to the funeral service of a little 4-year-old boy who was kidnapped by a maniac, brutally tortured and cruelly killed by having his small child head smashed with a hammer. For three days, the town was helping the parents, young people, look for their little angel. Nobody even suspected that he was so near, in the cellar of a neighboring house, in horrific torments, in his child terror that freezes one’s blood. We were going there.

I had no right to simply perform the rite and quietly leave.

-You just have to, father, you have to calm down the parents. Tell them words of comfort, support them.

I have to say something, explain what has happened, connect it to God’s providence, with His role, His plan in this horrific tragedy. If His name is Love, how then to explain and connect it all?

I had to…

But I’m just a young priest with a very short experience in life. I was weak, I can do nothing, I don’t want to get out of the car. What do I say to them, so as not to insult, not to offend in such a moment with an empty word, maybe sublime, but empty. Just a little bit wrong – and in this precarious position, when all the nerves are like a stretched string, a thoughtless word can not comfort, it can insult, kill.

They probably couldn’t make out the words then. There were two half persons in front of me: a half mom and a half dad in front of a small coffin.

Half – because with their consciousness, they were only half here. It was like they were drunken, or in a fog. In a critical situation, a protective function of the body was turned on: the consciousness was blunted. Otherwise the heart would burst, it couldn’t bear the problem in its full volume and sharpness.

I had to, I was told I had to comfort them. I could do nothing. I was just praying, I tried to read smoothly, just not to cry myself and not worsen a situation that was already hard.

I read, I sang the finishing prayers, amen. And all I could have said, I said in a few words: “Your little son is now where there is no crying, no insults, where nobody hurts anyone, where children are not killed. He is there now”. And that is it.

That’s when my words ran out. But that is also when I was faced with the questions: “Why?”. Questions that man always asked God in hard, critical, unbearable situations, when he’s no longer asking, but screaming them upward! Screaming with reproach, rebuke, even malice! Why?

For Your name is Love! For You can do anything! Why, answer me.


I started asking questions, and HE gradually, very patiently began answering them. Starting with the simplest, crudest, to the most delicate and spiritual ones. 

I started to partially understand some of the WHY’s. It makes me a little stronger, a little less contradictory in His side. And sometimes, when my crude nature is able to look into the delicate moments of His providence about man, the heart is able to soften with gratitude, thankfulness to Him! Even in moments of grief and unhappiness it becomes able to say, “Glory to God for all things!”

So, why?

From the simplest.

Why does pain even exist? For what? 

If man is created for joy by the good Creator?

That is exactly why.

To be in joy, you need to be in conditions that give that joy, and, on the contrary, breaking those conditions of joy, we get the absence of joy, that is, sorrow. 

It’s hard for man to reflect on these things, with his callous mind, after the fall, and sometimes, he just doesn’t want to work on these things with his lazy brain. Let it flow the way it flows. But when God can’t explain it through the mind, can’t get to a person in his crude, beastly state, He is then forced to act through instincts. One of them is called an instinct of self preservation.

Why is tooth pain part of the human physiology? Because if it didn’t exist, our teeth would last a week, maybe a month. We’d chew on bones, stones, we’d crook metal parts and lose our teeth. 

But the loving God, when we do not hear His soft voice, begins to scream at us with that pain: “Stop! Stop! You can’t do that, it’s dangerous for you”. Just like any other physiological pain, for example, heart ache. We can run to some goal, run and run, speed up, run out of all resources of our bodies, reaching the critical stage, when the heart can just not bear it and burst, and in this moment, God is screaming to us through that pain in the heart: “Stop, child, you’ll overstrain, sit down, catch your breath, I care for you!”

This is how it is with any physiological pain. 

But it’s the same with the soul. Any breach of the moral law will bring you pain. Pain as a scream from Him: “Child, you can’t do that, it’s unnatural, stop!”

The pain of betrayal, jealousy, envy, offense, the pain of anger, as the absence of peace in the heart, and so on.

Sometimes loving parents they watch they child make the first steps in life, not having the experience of pain, stubbornly get into the place where it’s dangerous. So then, mom and dad, not finding other ways to overcome the stubbornness of their little fellow, allow them this little experience of self-will. Let it hit them a bit, so that next time, they’ll be more careful, more attentive, safer. The heart of the parent breaks at hearing their child weep, but they do this in something small, so that they don’t get the full outcome in something big.

It’s all simple and understandable, but still, there is WHY.

Why do the righteous and the innocent suffer?


Why does Christ invite us to the Kingdom of heaven and then, right away, offers us the cross?

Why does His joy go through the Cross?

It’s very difficult for us, even more so, it’s unnatural. Lord, we cannot understand You, and without understanding, how can we accept You?


Before my eyes stand the parents of a young girl who committed suicide. In a young age where you can still live and live, and then, all of a sudden… It happens more and more often recently. I’m afraid to judge, so I’m trying to understand, why she and others became able to make this step. But this step is but a moment. What was going on before the person crossed that threshold? It happens sometimes that a person has died a long time ago. He was still walking, blinking, moving in space, eating, drinking, all by inertia, but the soul has already reached the point of no return, and suicide was already a logical point. 

Any sickness is accompanied by pain as a signal, as an alarm bell: you’re sick, you need treatment right away, otherwise it’ll be lethal. The sickness of the soul is also accompanied by pain, and often even stronger than physical pain. And then it feels like itd be better if your arm or leg hurt, just not the soul. This pain in its critical stages can become even greater than the fear of death that is natural for man. It can be so unbearable that death can seem like the way out.

The thing is, where does this way our lead to. But the person doesnt think of that, he is in so much pain that he just needs a quick way out.

She was sick and that’s why she died. But what exactly is her sickness, why? I’ll let myself say one thing, that may seem like complete nonsense at the beginning. But that is exactly what I’ll say. Her negative experience of pain that led to a horrific end, happened as a consequence of an absence of positive experience of pain.

I want to explain this crazy phrase. 

We were returning from our pilgrimage to the Holy Mount of Athos. The past days made my fellow traveler, not a church person, face many questions that he thought and asked me about.

In particular, the man couldn’t understand the reasons, the goals behind such extreme asceticism, the particular examples of which we had to encounter: “I don’t understand why to take such extreme ascetic practice. They could just pray for their souls, work in joy. Why redouble it, why to be on edge?”

That is why, my dear; try to understand what I’m going to tell you: their goal, their joy, just like ours, are in becoming one with God, there’s heaven in God, there’s delight – the Kingdom of Heaven.

But we can only become one with Him in likeness, when we become like Him in the features of our souls. Things that are like one another become one, and, on the contrary, opposites push away from one another.

We can be taken to heaven, artificially made to live there, but if our inner state will be contrary to God, we won’t find peace there. We’ll be in contradictions, and contradictions will bring discomfort and pain, and heaven will turn into hell. So, we can only unite to God in likeness [to Him].

And if He’s Love?

And what is the main attribute of love, I’d say, its point?

It’s sacrifice.

Sacrifice is the main sign through which we can see the presence of love, its quality. There’s love only where there’s sacrifice. Otherwise everything is an illusion, deceit, something different. A mother sacrifices her sleep, her strength, her habits and her health for her beloved child. She loves him, so she can’t do differently – that is the law of love. She’ll even die for him without thinking, because she simply can’t do differently, she’s a prisoner of love. And this captivity, although it can be hard, sometimes even unbearable, – it’s voluntary, it’s desired.

I’ll say even more: it brings you joy. Like a young man that sincerely loves dreams not only of speaking words of love to his beloved, he yearns for feat for her, for suffering, he longs to die for her. Because his true love compels him to action, and that action is his joy, his point.

But our likeness to God, our state of love should not be an illusion, a philosophical idea. It lives only in action. Love must be expressed, it must be. It must become our BEING with all its attributes and signs, the main one of which is sacrifice.

If you want to be My disciple, take up your cross and follow Me. The Lord does not say: I don’t want to see you without your cross – it’s just that without it, you won’t be like Him. You will be different, you won’t be  love, love that can’t be without sacrifice.

The saints understood this, they experienced this very deeply and sensitively, so they took the feat of sacrifice upon themselves artificially, through asceticism. Through it, they stimulated sacrifice within themselves, fostered it, pulled its strings, bothered these sides of the soul, in order to nurture, grow this.

Sacrifice is the food of our likeness to God, its energy.

The saints understood it, desired it, sought it.

But our souls, simple, mortal, should also have this food and energy. Otherwise the static state of our inner world will become like a bog, will rot, die, will lead to the irreparable. So our life is constant dying through sacrifice. The expression of our true being, of living according to God is in dying for Christ.

This is the true life, point.

Now I understand the reason, the point of suffering. 

A soul that is capable of suffering, one that is in sacrifice is an alive soul, there’s love in it, there’s God dwelling in it, there’s life happening there, there’s a point.

I began asking questions, and HE gradually, very patiently began answering them. Starting with the simplest and crudest ones, up to the spiritual, the delicate.

In the middle of the 20th century during the horrid world war, when humanity committed horrific things in the relationships between separate persons, between nations, countries, human sacrifices numbered millions: the elderly, women and children perished. In that time, still a young hieromonk, elder Sophronius of Essex wondered. The question that was a protest, the question that was a scream up there, upward:




Why is it unbearable even for me, sinful and insignificant?

Where are You? Why aren’t You there? And then He saw God, crucified on the cross, Who said to father Sophronius: “Was it you Who was crucified for them?”

He saw Christ – not that historical Christ, far-away, two thousand years ago, that was some time crucified for us. He saw the Christ of today on that very cross, in that very sacrifice.

He wasn’t the one who made people kill, make war, act brutally. He just left them to their own will. Left to get through to the hearts of people. To scream at them. My poor, unhappy people, please finally understand how sick you are. You absolutely cannot live by yourselves: the way that seems right, the way that you want. You will surely do everything wrong, you’ll start fighting, feud, kill. That all is in you. In everyone, in everyone… in each one of us.

Together with the mother of a tortured baby there, upward, with protest, also screamed the mother of the maniac: “Lord, why? He was a wonderful child, a kind-hearted teenager, why did he become like this and commit what he has committed?”




Because that is present in all of us after the fall. We are in an abnormal state, we’re all capable of sin, of murder. God is holding back our tumult, and in our well being we start thinking that everything is well. Our instinct of self preservation is faded, it seems like everything is going by itself, going well.

And then, to shake within us the sharpness of seeing the problem, He does not punish, He just steps away, and we begin punishing ourselves, going to the terrible, and in this terror we scream:


Why have You abandoned us?

Because victory still has not been attained, the battleground is our hearts, and God cannot, without our voluntary participation, attain victory. He is bounded by our freedom. He can only scream to us, implore us, offer us help.

God is screaming to us that the situation is serious, so critical that He doesn’t even leave the cross, and He isn’t on the cross for Himself, but for our problems. And just like He was receiving spitting from men on Golgotha two thousand years ago, He still is right now. 

Spits and offenses, not understanding of the fact that people are themselves to blame for all of their problems. And He cannot fix anything without our participation, without our own work.

Coming back there, in my memory, back to that funeral of the baby, I involuntarily place myself in his parents’ shoes, in his own shoes, in the shoes of the maniac, and there’s room for me everywhere, for I am human. Human with a small h, yet, because I carry the flaws of the fallen nature. There’s sickness very terrifying, very horrible. And if I see it sharply, very sensitively, and will receive treatment, with God’s help, meaning that I will follow all of His commands and suggestions, then I will be able to overcome it. And on the contrary, if I just let it be, the sickness will progress and develop, and the terrible will happen: from a creature made in Gods likeness, I’ll become a beast, a freak.

The process of healing means receiving bitter treatments, procedures, the following of a regimen. All of this restrains my freedom, my “I want”. But it also gives results. I begin feeling well, my mood goes up, I begin experiencing the feeling of joy, and along with me, my loved ones rejoice and so does my Doctor – Lord God.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen.


Saint Paisios of Mount Athos shared that once he stayed alone in his hermit cell, doing his monastic prayer rule. In the utter silence, his heart was set in quiet, peaceful and attentive prayer. At some point, his soul smoothly transferred to a state of contemplation, and he saw the Uncreated Light which filled the whole space of his cell, and Father Paisios himself. This Light penetrated the whole being of the elder and filled him with peace and non-ecstatic quiet bliss which instilled the feeling of humbleness and humility. 

Father Paisios was not able to say exactly how long this contemplation of the Uncreated Light lasted. After this moment of grace, Father Paisios started to come to his senses and had to sit down. He grabbed a glass of water, had some food…, and suddenly cried. He was crying because just a moment ago, he was filled with uncreated grace, and now it had seceded and he was back to the mundane everyday things, like food and water. 

After the Holy Spirit visited him, the elder more deeply felt his human imperfect nature that has its physical needs.

Father Paisios was thinking, “I am dust and ashes. I should have forgotten about food and about myself in general, after God visited me. I am still such a carnal man…”

When God visits a sinful man, this will always be accompanied by the feeling of unworthiness and deep repentance on man’s part, which differs from the feeling of delusion that often tempts hermits with a high opinion of themselves and their worthiness. 

While using this example, I would like to focus on another moment also. Namely, Saint Paisios of Mount Athos, as well as all of the Early Church Fathers, noticed that when grace visits one, during this state of contemplation, they would always lose track of time. In a way, they kind of “dropped out of  time itself”. Having united with God, in the state of deification, they assumed His characteristics, one of which is being “outside of time”. Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages eternally. The person does not realize how much time he spends in ecstasy, be it five minutes or the whole day. With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 


I once spoke to my friend, a hieromonk who could not understand and as a result, could not accept the practice of saying the Jesus prayer fast.  He was an educated person with a strong logical reasoning and I had to explain to him in a logical way.


“Can you tell me, please, when do you read faster: when you read out loud or in your head?”- “In my head, obviously.” “As an educated person, you are probably familiar with the method of fast reading, when you scan through the text, getting the meaning of the text, without focusing on the linguistic details of it.”- “Yes, sure.”

If this method works with a complex narrative, where the ideas and events are changing quickly, it is surely possible with a short prayer that repeats. We repeat it without pauses where unneeded things can interrupt it. Later when it becomes a habit, one wants to say it again and again. You finish one and the next one is coming, without losing your focus or getting distracted by something else. Our goal is not a full focus, our goal is God. Focus is just a means. 

A very important moment in the practice of the Jesus prayer is being in an imageless state in which the mind does not live through logical and visual thinking, but exists in a simpler non-visual, inward thinking way. Such a mind is fast and light because it is simple. It can say the prayer fast and many times. Which carriage will go faster? The one that will have fewer obstacles on the way. The smoother the road is, the faster the trip is. Thoughts matter; they are the obstacles that slow down the movement. 

Thoughts come from visual thinking and logical reasoning. Let your mind move into the area of a non-imaginary and simple state and you will have fewer obstacles. 

This will also work better, if your mind is not in or out, but through constant work you will train it to be next to your heart.  It is very peaceful, non-visual and focused there. 

I used the word “next to your heart”, not “in your heart.” This is very important, because only grace can enter your heart, and our business is to stay by the door and knock at it, with humility. We cannot break in the door. It is the most Holy Place, the key for which is with God. No technical tricks will help you enter there by yourself. We are standing by the door with humility and knocking, or even better- just standing and waiting. However, if your humility, work and dedication develop your skill in finding the place next to your heart, this means a lot. It is peaceful and quiet there.

The threshold of the Kingdom of Heaven has a scent of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The prayer here occurs without any linguistic form but through impression, instantly, especially by a person who has a skill of prayer, for whom it works intuitively, very simply, but also very precisely. Without any illusions or fantasies. God is simple, He is also experienced simply, without obstacles and interferences. The Holy Fathers teach us not to overcome obstacles but to work around them while moving only forward, faster and faster. It is not surprising that their interior prayer of a Single Thought would accelerate. This acceleration would break them away from the earth; the laws of friction, of contact, and finally of movement that would change from horizontal and temporary to vertical – directly to God. The vertical stops time. It is the territory of the Holy Spirit.


Once someone told me that it is hard to pray for others with the Jesus prayer, because the image of that person distracts you from God. This would be  true if you do not have the skill of interior prayer without using visual images. But if your mind did acquire this experience of prayer without imagining, the person you pray for will go though your prayer as an impression without distracting you from God. You would experience that person as a point without accompanying properties and other difficulties. And most importantly, you can experience two or more people, not like two or three points but like one. And the whole of humankind – like one simple united body. 

When they teach you to play the piano, you first learn to hold your hand properly. If this is not done correctly from the beginning, the musician will not be up to standard all of his or her life. In any science, the basics are very important. In the science of all sciences, the Jesus prayer, the mentor forms the correct direction of the novice’s movement. It may not be very clear for a novice at first, he may not understand everything; but he simply trusts his mentor.

It is important to have fewer thoughts, impressions, emotions, fewer complexities and more simplicity, stability and hard work. Everything will come naturally. That is why they say, “Say the Jesus prayer and it will teach you itself. Your spiritual father will only keep an eye on you.” 

Simple things can be done faster, for that exact reason they are not difficult. The Fathers of Athos are an example here – they are experts, whose experience cannot be understood theoretically without actively experiencing their holy work. 


I plead to our Lord and the Holy Theotokos for forgiveness, and they forgive me at once. This was all simple and easy. Before the moment when the Holy Theotokos explained to me the essence of repentance; everything became very serious and even frightening. In fact, They forgive you, and very fast. However, in order to stop the existence of a sin, someone needs to die. I do not die, I am forgiven. But the Lord dies again. He dies for my every sin and gives me one more chance for forgiveness, and then again and again… I confessed one more sin, one more betrayal of Christ, perceived His forgiveness, and, all of a sudden, my eyes met the eyes of the Holy Theotokos. She was very sad. Moreover, she cried. At that moment it came to me as a revelation, I was absolutely forgiven. But this forgiveness was bought at a high price, just like 2000 years ago, on Golgotha; the same happens now, at my confession. It is not a simple, “Forgive me” and “I forgive you”, and that’s it. Not at all. It ends for me. But what about Him? For Him it is again Death. As it happens, this is not that simple and easy. Giving my consent to a sin, I make it exist, I give it life, the energy of my soul.   And it begins to exist, act, and poison everything in me and all around me. It becomes my suffering, my illness. I have not mentioned or controlled it yet, but it is going to torture and kill me. It co-exists with me. It is in me. When I realize it, I go to confession to Him, to my Savior.  As giving life to a sin, making it exist, is in my power. While in order to get rid of it, or rather kill it, someone has to die; and I am not ready for that and not able to do that. That is when God takes my sin upon Himself and dies with it, stopping its existence. This is the way it happened there, on Golgotha. The Lord took upon Himself our flesh, in full, with existence of sins, except for sympathizing sins; He took this flesh and died with it, killing its sins. It is a dreadful sacrifice. And everyone should understand this sacrifice was not for His Own sake; He sacrificed Himself for the sake of a worthless person, for me. It was not only then, 2000 years ago; it happens every day, for my every sin.  I was standing before the Theotokos, realizing this, and was afraid of asking for a penance, as a small co-suffering and co-dying with Her, and Him. I asked only for an absolute forgiveness, understanding, what price will be paid for it by Her.  My not changing resembles the situation at Gethsemane, when the Lord suffered for us until sweating blood and told His sleeping disciples, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? (Mt. 26:40) For your sins.” I do not do anything, I do not want anything, I do not compel myself for a little bit. Christ bears everything for me. Until sweating blood. Meanwhile, I only tell Him, “Forgive me,” – He forgives and dies. And I am still living.

April 2016.