On the Day of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

Cave Church of St.Nicholas, the Iveron Monastery of Orsk



In peaceful and favorable times, the Church has always given birth to less saints that in the times of sorrow, hardship and deprivation. This is because peaceful times give birth to fanciers, those people who live in some dreams. Christianity is a cross. The mere word contains a cross and a cross is the symbol of Christianity. Those Christians who avoid their cross somehow are not Christians, they are dreamers who call themselves Christians.     

The times of sorrow have given more saints, favorable times less. If we speak about monasticism, only strict monasteries where there were hardships, feats and obedience, produced good monks. Meanwhile, some comfortable city monasteries with good meals, amenities, a scheduled routine, and even individual cuticle scissors and fingernail file, give less saints. If monasticism does not strive after sainthood, this is not monasticism, but this is a sad, a very sad theater. 

The worst thing is hypocrisy before God. Even if you are a sinner, a lazy person, a fornicator, you should be honest. But if you are the same sinner, lazy person and fornicator, but present yourself as a saintly person and hide your worthlessness behind holy robes, this is hypocrisy and a play before God. This is the problem. Those monks and nuns, who seek a comfortable, full-bellied and contented life, are not the monastics, but hypocrites. Read the Lives of the Saints and you will see they are all on my side. This is what I am telling you, they will all be on this side.  They will prove it not by their words but by their lives. 

Saint Nicholas is one of the saints who had never avoided his cross but said to the Lord, “I am Yours. Give me my cross, the one which is destined for me, and I will bear it.” This is why he became a saint. This is why he brings joy, not sorrow, to God.  

Many Christians make God sad and many Christians, as it is said in the Gospel, will become very much surprised on the Last Judgment when they will see themselves in a place they have never expected themselves to see. 

Saint Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!



Sermon before the Common Confession, St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai



The root of all sins, the nature of any sin, if you look for the essence of it – is selfishness. Selfishness is the opposite of love. So, if God is Love, selfishness is the opposite side, the side of satan. And all of us suffer, every person to some extent, all of us suffer from this disease of selfishness.  

What did Adam and Eve do in paradise? Ate an apple or what? They let selfishness prevail over love. God asked them, – God who was their Father, Who loved them, Who protected them from evil, diseases, and troubles, – He asked them simply, as a Father,  “Please, do not eat this.” Well, what was the problem there: to eat or not to eat. They were not hungry I guess. But really, were they? Why would they not just obey? There was nothing crucial about it. What was crucial?  The preference for selfishness over the beloved Father was the crucial point. To top it off, who did they prefer, look, God is the most lightful being on earth; and a serpent came – the vilest one.  They do not believe God but do believe the serpent.   They do not listen to God who asks them in a clear and simple way, as a Father, “Do not eat, please.” They do not listen to Him. But they do to this serpent which whispers them to their ears, “Eat. Do not believe Him. God told you that you would die. Do not believe Him.” Look, do they prefer their Father to this vile serpent, actually they prefer this vile serpent to their Father. 


Humans let selfish action happen. So that there are catastrophes, misconceptions from global to personal ones, misunderstandings between close people.  Get down at the bottom of troubles and you will find selfishness, which is the root of any problem. No one wants to cede, no one wants to humble themselves. I. I, I – “I” is everywhere. This is our main disease. Selfishness. This is the root of conflicts and global wars in the world. Millions of people die. Selfishness is a starting point here. Preference yourself to everything. This selfish act ends up with hypocrisy, when we start to blame God at the end. That is what Adam and Eve did. Well, they trespassed and their Father told them, “You trespassed, yes, I can see that. I can see that you broke commandment,” – they should have repented of it saying, “Forgive us.” But they insincerely started to find excuses. Adam blamed Eve, “You gave me this woman, so she taught me to do so, it was not my fault.” Eve blamed the serpent, “This was the serpent, You let it come and it seduced us.” Finally they blamed God, “You gave me Eve and You created the serpent. You could see this situation, couldn’t You? Where were You, God, at this time?” Even having trespassed, a human can not admit guilt and that is why one can not be healed. They committed a mortal sin. And anyway they try to find excuses to justify this sin, find someone else to blame so that it was not me. 

A starting point of a repentance is the act of admitting your guilt. Yes, it was me, who else? It was my fault. It was all my fault. All hardships of my life were my fault. I go to church regularly but nothing is happening with me. Whose fault is it? Is it God’s fault? It is my fault.


When Sophrony Sakharov was a young man, his heart was so ardent but his brain could not follow it. So when he was in the Second World War he saw a lot of problems and sorrow. Out of a sudden he revolted against God, “God, my heart is in pain for this suffering world but where are You?”  Why me, a little man, can feel the pain of this world but where are You now?” And God came, being hung on the Cross, his hands and legs were in blood, his heart pierced, and He said, “I am here. Look where I am. I am here both in wartime and in peacetime.  In the times of well-being when people self-indulge a lot, I am here, and in times of war, and in times of peace. I am here always.” Then He told him, “Was it you who was crucified? You just sit here feeling blue. You can not even fight with your own sin from penance to penance but you argue about world issues and fairness of world creation. But look at yourself sincerely. You can not even change anything inside of you.”


Sometimes modern people argue about wrong things in our country, world but sometimes I want to say, “But is everything ok with your family? Is everything ok inside of you? Is it really all great and right there?” This is the most deceitful situation. In order to cover your sin, to neutralize it somehow you switch to something global.

We are all infected with a sin, there is no even one healthy cell. And the root of all sins is selfishness, when you prefer yourself to the whole world. I am the center of the universe. But God should be the center of the universe, then through Him there should be your neighbor. But in our case “I” is the centre of the universe. 

One more thing, there is one important detail when we talk about sins. Small sins, big ones… Could you tell me please, when a husband cheated his wife one time or one hundred times, is there any difference here? No difference, he is a traitor to the full.  You betrayed your motherland one time or one hundred times so you are a traitor to the full, there is no difference in quantity. But then again, satan tries to alter our understanding: well, these are just little things. My delightful neighbors, these little things build our life globally. Our life is like a chain made of these little things. And every detail has its meaning. Sometimes we can relax, it seems to us that it is just a little thing. But if there are one hundred little things, it is one hundred times more. And how many of these little things we do, not only a hundred but thousands, millions of them. This is already tremendous weight, which can bear down heavily upon us and kill us in the end. 

Every sin is something that, the root of a sin is not what you have done, but that you have betrayed the Lord again. He asks you again, “Please, do not do that,” but you would do it. This is the essence of a sin. An extent of filth or extremity of a sin is not even so important here but this esse. You were asked, the Lord asked yo,u “Do not do this,” but you did it out of spite, again. You do it even when you really have some strength not to do it. I would understand it if it was really hard to fight a sin, but these little things. Well, in this case with little things we can win, can’t we? So we betray God over every little thing. It would be a different matter if you were severely broken once. We say “little thing” so it means it is something small, and when fighting with it it is easier to win. So, win this little thing and another one also.

The longer you do not cure disease, the deeper it goes. Blood spreads it all over your body, delivers it to every cell. In the beginning it was only one body organ infected but later this disease will spread all over the body as cancer does. If cancer is not treated, its metastases will spread all over the body. The most terrifying situation is when a patient goes on the rampage. A doctor says, “Your situation is quite serious. If you do not summon up, you will die in half a year.” But the patient is just grinning at his face saying, “Comme on, what can you see in this scan?  I feel well today.” This behavior will kill our patient not in half of a year but even earlier. The one who has sense will summon up and start a treatment course. But the one who does not accept a disease, can not realize this contamination by a sin will die very soon.

Symeon the New Theologian says, “There are many people on the earth who live automatically, physiologically but their soul is already dead.” Once I came to wash the corpse of my acquaintance who died five minutes ago from cancer. I came, we washed him, put on clothes, turned him and, he died five minutes ago, and saw the corruption of the body, already. Five minutes ago he was alive but this corruption process was already on for days, months, he was sphacelated inside. 

So it seems to us, it seems that we are alive but the sphacelating process is already on. Someone can call it the process of aging. I would rather say that this dying process is inside of all of us, the dying process is on even in our children. It is on, it is on. And this process was triggered by a sin, nothing else, no physiology, but by a sin. It was provoked by a sin.  

Forgive me, please. Ok, who is going to take Communion?

Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, in the abundance and riches of His loving-kindness, forgives these children. I am an unworthy priest, under the power vested in me, absolve you of all of your sins always, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.



Sermon for the Sunday of the Blind Man



The Lord told him, “Be healed,” and he became healed. Sometimes the Lord uses other forms. Why? Why couldn’t He simply say to this man the same words He said to the man who was lying near the pool of Siloam? “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”1 Suddenly, the Lord uses the form: He spits, makes clay with the saliva and anoints the eyes. The almightiness of God does need a form. He can say something and it will be. However, He does it for the sake of the fact that we live and think in the format of this world and because we are formed, we have a shape. Everyone of us has a form.   He does this because He does not want to be absolutely unintelligible and unfathomable for a coarsened human who exists in the format of this world. As Saint Gregory Palamas said that the essence of God is unfathomable and a human can in no way fathom it. We cannot understand WHAT God is, what He is like and we can either determine or perceive Him. This is why, not to be absolutely unfathomable for people, God enters the format of this world Himself the way known only to Himself.    

For example, we have just received the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. God could simply enter us spiritually but He takes up a form of bread and wine and gives us His Body and Blood in this shape. He does this all for the sake of a human who goes by this. Of course, a venerable person, such as Saint Symeon the New Theologian, who has attained the state of contemplation and who goes beyond the format of this world, he perceives God without a shape, he experiences Him in a different way. But this “different way” is unfathomable for us.  We cannot understand the measure of Saint Paul the Apostle who says, “I was in the Heavens and saw it. But I cannot describe all this to you, as I will have to give you earthly examples but what I saw was not of earth. Yes, I heard something there but I cannot communicate this to you because again I will have to give you some earthly analogies but everything is so different there. You can see and feel and understand everything in a different way there.”   

Nevertheless, this is for those people who have stepped so high that they do not need a shape any more. They can pray without icons, they can pray the way… as the Lord says to the Samaritan woman, “The times will come when you will pray in the Spirit, and not in Jerusalem or on that mount of Gerizim. You will not need a form any more.”2 But we are too formed, too fleshy, too earthy, and the Lord descends to us for our sake to take us by the arm and pull us gently to the place which is beyond any form.   

There is another extremity when people attach themselves to a form too much and lose the contents. Let us take a look at today’s Gospel again. What will we see there? The Lord heals the man who was blind from his birth. As it is said in the Gospel, no one has ever heard about such things. I can understand when at the Clinic of Professor Feodorov they operate on the eyes which still have life in them. But what if there has never been vision at all? It seems one should only be amazed at this event and be in awe but we see the Old Testament Pharisees and Lawyers who attached themselves so much to the form that they have lost the contents, the essence itself.   They say, “It’s Saturday. No one should heal on Saturdays.” O Lord! You should have forgotten what day it is witnessing such an extraordinary event! Look, what has happened! You should not remember if it is a Monday or a Saturday today after this. But they are too attached to the form.  

These were the Old Testament Pharisees and Lawyers. However, even now we have the New Testament Lawyers, who are attached to the form so much that they lose the essence. We execute everything to the last letter of the law without thinking that there is a human behind this law. 

There is a precious state, the state of the middle, a sense of measure. No one can teach this sense, as it is, perhaps, in the heart. The sense of tact, the sense of measure. A person feels. He feels he should not turn either to the right or to the left. He feels the person he speaks to: say less and you will offend him, say more, and he will become offended too. It is very difficult to feel this middle in order to say the right thing and enough of it. With men this is impossible.3 No one can learn this. Some people study this at different psychological courses. They might learn something there. However, this won’t be perfect. This is because they cannot understand that all this does not come from our head, but it comes from our heart. It comes from God.  This is why you should not go to psychological courses where they teach you how to make the better of your opponent, but you should go to church and seek God, Who is this sense, the sixth sense, and Who will be our mind, heart and consciousness. Again, no one can teach you consciousness. If there is no consciousness, where will you take it from?  

O Lord, enlighten us with your Holy Spirit, so we become a little more sober. 

1 Jn. 5:8

2 “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.’” (Jn. 4:21)

3 “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)



Some people might say, “Only ten?” but others will exclaim, “Already ten!” Perhaps someone will be surprised at the “success” we have made: ten churches were built at our monastery, more than thirty tonsures were performed and more than 2500 pilgrims visited our monastery during these ten years. 

At the same time, we become more and more amazed at the mercy of God and protection of the Holy Theotokos. Sometimes it feels like everything is being built and arranged by itself and we, sinful people, have nothing to do with this all! 

Certainly, many things are built and delight the eye. However, no external activity is the most important thing for us. Holiness, reunion with the Living God and our inner transfiguration – this is what we are striving after with our mind and heart. This is why the theme of the Jesus prayer, by which our monastery tries to live, is so interesting both to us and to the people who come to us. 

And it is not by chance that the monastery is named in honor of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, the one of the most venerated on the Holy Mount, which preserves an experience of the tacit prayer for many centuries. We believe that the Theotokos blesses us for the feat of prayer. Surely, we do not succeed in performing it to the full extent but, as they say, the Lord kisses mere intentions.   

Ten years… Meanwhile, we still keep striving for spiritual heights, we wish to “fly high”, understanding that for doing this we should have wings strengthened by humility. According to the Venerable Abbess Arsenia (Sebryakova), “Only humility brings passionless repose to our heart, peace to our mind and fancilessness to our thoughts,” thus it gives us a pure prayer and makes our “flight” safe and truly spiritual. 

In addition, probably the most precious thing that we have acquired during these ten years is the vision of our weakness and realization of the fact that we are only at the beginning of our way… the way of the fanciless doing to which the Venerable Abbess encouraged us. “We should come to hate the dreaminess which carries us far away from God and distracts our souls from the main thing, which is repentance.” Meanwhile repentance is not only the acceptance of one’s sinfulness but, as our spiritual Father says, it is an action. Repentance is a change (first of all) of oneself for the better. It is the transfiguration of an inner person.   

We sincerely admit that we only start our movement towards humility, this “downward” movement, in order to know ourselves, our worthlessness, inertness and lack of spiritual purity and to acquire an impregnable reliance on God and trust in our Heavenly Father to live in Him without hesitation.     

A life with the Living God means being real, here and now, “Lord, Jesus Christ…” We will keep trying to go to Christ the way we have tried during these last ten years and we will try to bring more joy and less sorrow to God, the Theotokos and our neighbors by our feats. 

We heartily thank all our benefactors, friends and pilgrims who helped us by their prayers, work or donations to build the monastery, our spiritual ship.

The Clergy and the Sisters 

of the Iveron Monastery



On the Day of the Iveron Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos



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

Today our Monastery turned ten. Once, ten years ago, entering upon this path, we were so amazed by everything and it seemed to us we were joining some festive procession, like the one we have just had. The Cross and icons ahead of us, the incense is burning, lots of exultant people around who are rejoicing and exclaiming, “Christ is Risen!”  It seemed to us everything would be so merry, cloudless, poetical and beautiful. Thousands of pilgrims would come to us, they would respect and glorify us. We would receive awards and compliments, “What a marvelous monastery it is!”   

Ten years have passed, and, you know, I feel like an old and beaten soldier who has lost one hand, one leg, and a half of his heart, who has lost a half of his friends, family and a half of himself. But, glory to God, the remaining half of this soldier is filled with Christ, because Christ does not leave an empty space, He occupies it.    

Everything seemed to be beautiful but we did not even suppose that we were embarking upon the path of war and that this war is very cruel and pitiless and there will be its heroes and traitors at it. There will be the winners and those who turned back and walked away. Everything will be there, as the Lord said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”1 Today I understand these words of Christ better than ever. When He says that you take this path to Me, the sword will divide families, the closest people, a wife will go one way and a husband the other, one will choose this side, the other the opposite one. They will not simply separate, but they will do it in hatred towards one another. 

War is a part of God’s providence. Nothing on earth happens outside God’s providence. God’s providence about war ruins all castles in the air, dreams, fantasies, and illusions, and everything becomes as it is. Here is a hero and here is a traitor. This one was killed because he did not observe the rules of war. He used to say, “Mister General, I know it myself, Sir.”  And he got killed the same night, as he left his military family. 

When we founded the monastery, people told me this was not an easy business. You know, I did not even suppose how difficult it is. Everything is destroyed, all my dreams, fantasies, and beautiful illusions I fancied. Everything happens in a different way. When people prepare themselves for a war they test their flashlights, sharpen their knives and polish their stars. But after the first battle they do not even remember if they still have those stars on or they were torn away.  They do not think what shoulder cord they will have or how bright their cap badge will shine, if only they were alive. I have nothing left except for the gratitude to God and hope to God. I have nothing left, but Christ and the words, “Glory to God for all things,” because at this point everything is totally fair. At this point no lies or spinning will work. In war it is either black or white. It puts everything in its place. The one who lies does it through his teeth, the one who is a hero remains a hero. Someone changes sides, someone comes home. Glory to God. Nothing bad happened, everything is alright.     

Why do I say I have nothing left but my gratitude to God? This is because I live in this situation, because this is Christianity, this is monasticism. It is not like when some people come to a monastery and think, “We will pray the Jesus prayer and have exalted states when we will have tears running down our cheeks and love for one another.” They come and here is such dirt, such blood. “Lord, I did not come for this.” You do not understand where you have come! Why did you come here? Go home! Pack your things and go home! Keep out of the way! People fight here! While you are getting in the way, attracting everyone’s attention and keep interfering with your opinion, “And I think this should be done this way…” Leave us alone and let us win smoothly!  

O Lord, deprive us of all those fanciers, dreamers and egotists. Give us two heroes better than forty of those who are worth nothing. We will go into battle with those two. Lord, glory to You, there is only a half of me left. It means I need to seek my second half somewhere. I will seek it in You. Sweetest Jesus, help us. 

It is better to be covered with wounds, but sober, than to be unharmed, but completely drunken and having fancies about Christianity and monasticism. Everything has ruined. Some melancholic pictures of sisters who stitch and sing, “Alleluiah!” Everything was destroyed. Only the truth remained. This is the truth of God. This is the truth about ourselves, about what we really are. There is only a half of me left, and Christ, and the Mother of God. Glory to God! It should be like this. Nothing more is needed. 

Most Holy Theotokos, help us!

Glory to Thee, our Lord, glory to Thee!

1 Mt. 10:34