Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk

October 1, 2023


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

Recently I had a conversation with one man and he told me, “Father Sergiy, you teach how to say the Jesus prayer and you talk about deification. I would like to make a remark on this subject. The main idea of the Jesus prayer and all spiritual life in general is repentance. The main and the only idea is repentance.” In the course of this conversation, I remembered some words of God, Who said, Our Lord Jesus Christ said these words, “…without Me you can do nothing.”1 And these words concern everything. Literally everything. These words are about our repentance as well. At first, I knew it as some kind of theory when I had just read these words. But when I started repenting sincerely, I learned these words as a matter of practice. God, I cannot do it without You. No matter how sincere I am, no matter how courageous I am. I cannot do it without You. I wish no one could repent and I wish that man, who told me about repentance, also could not repent without Christ.  

I mean there could be some kind of repentance, in some kind of way, without Christ. But the main idea here is not just any repentance but the one in Christ. There is a man who is in prison. He repents sincerely but he does not believe in God. Yes, he repents, he admits his sin, he regrets it. But there will be no real repentance without Christ. “…without Me you can do nothing.” Your repentance in the format of this world is like this: “Yes, forgive me, I am guilty, I will redeem” – that is it, nothing else. This kind of repentance will die together with you. May you have a nice, beautiful, flourishing, moral and virtuous life.  But that is it, nothing else. 

Pay attention that Judas Iscariot also had some kind of repentance. Did he repent? Yes, he did. He even returned money. Did he admit his sin? Yes, he did. Was he sorry about it? Yes, he was. He came and gave the money back, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”2 But he did not change and he remained the same Judas. What was the result of it?

Now many theologists may start arguing with me asking whether Judas rued or repented. Well, after all, it is just a word-play. But he tried. What made him do this? Maybe there still was some conscience. What other power was there to make him rue? Nothing but conscience. He got money, he was safe, the Pharisees would protect him, Rome would protect him. But some power did not let him have peace. There was a part of his conscience, which tormented him terribly. This torment was so horrible that it was easier to hang himself. But he did not repent. Our Church does not commemorate him as a repentant thief. Instead, it remembers him as Judas only. Even though he was sorry, admitted his sin, and gave the money back. 

You know, when this person said the following words, “The most important thing here is repentance. Deification is something like lofty matters and we do not need it.” I was confused at that time and objected to him rather gently, but now I would reply strongly, “My dear, you know, repentance is impossible without Christ. If God did not enlighten your mind, it would be impossible.” Many people live on this planet and they have no idea how much they are contaminated by sin. Each of us is poisoned by sin so much that you could easily become Judas. Forgive me but it is the truth. Everyone could do whatever, any sin. If, God forbid, some situation or weakness occurs, you may fail it. If God does not enlighten our mind, we will fail. We live like nothing happens, we are relaxed, nothing bothers us. Well, maybe there is something that bothers us, but just a little. Moreover, this “a little” is nothing to compare with that abyss of sin we do. If God does not enlighten…but how does God enlighten us? In the evening, you, fully satisfied, go to bed, you are calm, you read evening prayers, you paid taxes, your children are fed, it is all good…in the morning, something suddenly happens to you. What is that? Were you thinking about it? Did you consider it? No. God has just touched your heart, your mind and you are crying now, God.

Look at this contrast: you were all right in the evening just like everybody else. But in the morning you cannot even articulate a word because you feel this lump in the throat. Was it a result of your thinking through? Was it your repentance? Was it a result of your mental analysis? No. God touched you and your mind was opened, so you could see yourself as you really were. So you saw yourself and got terrified. In desperation, you cry, “God, what am I doing! Yesterday I was fully satisfied but today I can see what I am doing? What is happening with me?” Having a nice appearance, which I try to maintain, I hide the internal stench from myself, my close people and even from God. But God came suddenly and opened this book.

Sometimes the Holy Fathers call the Last Judgement as the Judgement of shame. Why? Because all of us will be open in front of the whole world. An envelope, which covers our inside world, will be turned inside out and we will be not just opened but turned inside out as well. The whole world will know and see not only our actions but even the shortest shameless, dirty and shabby thought. This is why the Last Judgement is called the Judgement of shame. However, only unrepentant sins can be shown there. Repentant sins, which are covered by confession, will be erased. 

There is a story in the Ancient Patericon. When angels were carrying a monk to the Kingdom of Heaven, some demons appeared and said, “He had this sin.” Angels said, “Did he repent?” “Yes, he did.” “So he does not have it then.” The mystery of confession is invaluable, we need it to not be burned in hell on the Last Judgement Day, and to not even reach it and be burned in the fire of shame. 

The essence of deification is when God saves you, God thinks for you, God is your mind, God is your heart. It is not I who saves, it is not I who thinks, it is not I who feels but God. “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”3 All the saints were striving for this, “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” He is the only Truth, He is the only Innocence, He is the only Love. Not me. Let’s stop being hypocrites. What love can I be, what innocence can I be, what truth can I be? I am filth and stench. Try to remember your confession. What love and innocence could there be? We just want to hide it all and not be ashamed.

Repentance is an important part of the Jesus prayer, but the main idea of it is Christ without Whom repentance is simply impossible. To be more exact, there will be some repentance but only in the format of this life, on earth, and it will die together with you. Repentance is possible only in Christ. This time I speak about deification. Yield your mind to Christ, to Christ’s mind; yield your heart to the heart of Christ. This way something will probably happen. You need deification. Stop saying meaningless words about repentance without Christ. The essence of Christianity is in these words of Christ, “…without Me you can do nothing” Nothing. You cannot even repent. We can find ourselves on the level of Judas. Did he admit his sin? Yes, he did. Was he upset? Yes, he was. Did he give the money back? Yes, he did. So, what was the result? That is it. The end of the rope was the next step. “…without Me you can do nothing.”

Jesus the Sweetest, save us!

1 John.15:5

2 Mat.27:4

3 Gal.2:20



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Church of the Iveron Icon of the Holy Theotokos

 Iveron monastery of Orsk

September 17, 2023

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

Once two pilgrims were going up the Holy Mount Athos. One, two, three days passed. Suddenly, on the third day one of them said, “Why don’t we talk with each other? Why do we keep silent?” The second pilgrim answered, “We do talk. The thing is that we talk in a format of spirit. We do not use a word format, but the spiritual one.” And this way of talking is usually more precise.

It can quite often happen  when we cannot find appropriate words to describe delicate situations, which are not connected to rude, earthy things but to spiritual events. Sometimes, it is so hard for a spiritual guide to explain some delicate things to a disciple if there is no spiritual connection. In this case, a word has no power. A word is pronounced, and pronounced, and pronounced but nothing happens because your partner in conversation is not with you spiritually, he cannot understand your word. Or a worse thing may happen, they pervert your word. 

Do you remember the verse of the Gospel where disciples asked God, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”1 He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them I speak in parables.” Well, who can know and understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven? The one who is in spirit, in spirit of the Gospel, in spirit of Christ. Some people read the Gospel throughout their lives but according to their life quality they can realise that they understand nothing. They had been reading the Gospel all their lives but understood nothing in the end. Someone opened the Gospel, read it, closed it and never even approached it again. He understood nothing there. 

The task of tacit prayer life is to eschew the realm of constant thinking process and complicated reasoning. We think, and think, and think, and think. Sometimes we hear, “Look, what a smart person, he thinks a lot, he speaks    floridly, he can understand complicated things.” But sometimes those smart people cannot understand very simple things.  For example, they cannot realise that they are hurting the feelings of others right now. They speak floridly, but actions are opposite… You can differentiate smart and silly people by their quality of life, by their actions. Today in the Gospel there has been a word, everything is simple, the whole Gospel, “Love God and your neighbour.”2 So you can differ people by their actions towards God and by their actions towards neighbours, and it doesn’t matter how smart you are. 

The modern world is boasting now by its brainpower achievements: how far are we from monkeys. We have smartphones, some cutting-edge technologies. However, when we talk about our relationships, how far are we from monkeys in this case? Monkeys. They yell, they rob each other of bananas, they argue, rag, behave awfully. But each of them has a piece of high technology in a pocket and at home. Simple things humans cannot do. They cannot stop a war. But they figured out how to make a bomb, very complicated schemes! But how to negotiate about something — they do not even know. How far are we from monkeys? Monkeys are social animals and even they have some laws to survive.

I wanted to tell you that there is a division of terms: mind and intellect. Intellect is an ability of reasoning. We can encounter this ability in psychiatric hospitals as well, sometimes we can encounter exceptional abilities to reason.  Some people cannot even stop this process — reasoning. Their intellect reasons, and reasons, and reasons, so they start to experience sleep deprivation and insomnia in the end. They may even start to jitter, they may have a nervous crisis. So, the ability to reason has nothing to do with the mind. You have the mind when you can understand the essence of things. You may reason incessantly but at the same time you may not understand the essence — what God wants from you. What this situation is about and what God’s plan is here. 

Therefore, the mind can understand the essence of things, it understands it briefly and simply. Intellect can confuse the mind sometimes. It happens because there are plenty of thoughts there. Well, try to find the essence in this pile of thoughts. Psychiatry. Thus, holy people were thinking in a simple and brief way because they were enlightened by the Holy Spirit. They did not search for the truth but they were praying, and they knew this truth in a simple and concise way. 

She understands that she is happy and that’s it. Isn’t it? And I need to finish as well.

Glory to our God, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Glory to Thee, our Lord! Glory to Thee, our Lord! Glory to Thee, our Lord!

1 Mt. 13:10

2 Mt. 22:37-39



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk



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

In today’s Gospel we read about a master who planted a vineyard, fenced it in and hired labourers to work in the vineyard and take care of the grapes. And then, when the time comes to harvest, he sends his men to go and collect what is his. And suddenly strange things start happening to these labourers. Suddenly, instead of acting like hired servants in this vineyard, they somehow feel like the masters of it. And when the master sends for his share of the grapes, not only do they not give it to him, but they beat and insult those whom he has sent, and dismiss them with nothing. Again and again, and even then, the master of the vineyard sends his son with the words, “Perhaps they will be ashamed and cringe when they see my son” (They will respect my son. (Mat.21:37)). But something insane is going on with these labourers, they even kill the son thinking that now the heir will be killed and the vineyard will be theirs. 

The Lord spoke this proverb in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, rebuking the people of Israel, to whom the Lord had given a vineyard to cultivate, and that they should then share with the whole world this Mystery of Oneness of God. That they would share with the whole world the knowledge of the One God. But Old Testament Israel suddenly comes to embrace its God-chosenness not as a responsibility to the world, but as an honour. And that honour drives them mad. Nothing drives a person so mad like pride, like the feeling of being chosen, of being extraordinary. “I am chosen, I am different from other people, I am unique.” They go mad, their minds are corrupted because the Holy Spirit is gone from them. The Holy Spirit cannot stay where there is pride. The Holy Spirit only fills the space where there is humility. The Holy Spirit leaves them and they go mad because the Holy Spirit IS the reason. Not the ability to think, we all think, but we still do stupid things. This means that a reasonable person is not the one who thinks, but the one who understands the truth. These people think, but they lose their minds, they go mad.

And they are replaced by a new Israel, namely the Christians. But like the people of Old Testament Israel, Christians very often make the same mistake. They think that just through receiving the Sacrament of Baptism they are immediately adopted by God. By family name. But you can’t be a son by family name. You can only be a son by the spirit. It can often happen in life that you have the same family name, but you are very different people. “Is he really your son? He’s not like you, he is of a completely different spirit. We can’t even believe he’s yours”. That is, an heir, a true heir of the Spirit. You can inherit houses and land by family name. You can get a share of the estate by legally proving that you belong to the family. But you can’t get your father’s or mother’s spirit, you can’t get into that family’s spirit by any legal procedure. You can’t just do that by proving your kinship. Kinship is only proven by the spirit. Children often intuitively mimic their parents’ behaviour, sometimes even their gait. 

I have a case where a boy grew up without a father, his father left the family when he was a child. And he’s got some of his father’s manners, somewhat intuitively. That’s fine for some small things, but if you haven’t received the spirit, you’re not a child, you’re just a legal heir. How often do Christians think that they are adopted by the mere fact of their baptism, that they enter the vineyard, the Church of Christ, and have a part of their inheritance here. And it makes them so full of themselves that when unchurched people come into the church, they treat them very arrogantly. 

This is especially true of us clergy, of course. Sometimes our pride, the size of our rank, makes us think we’re the keepers of grace. “We’ll give it to this person, we won’t give it to that person. This one’s worthy, we’ll give him a little bit. And that one is not worthy.” But if you still felt like a hireling, you would be very careful about your opinions, your judgements, your actions. “Who am I, anyway? The Lord looks at his heart and I only look at his outward appearance”. But appearances can be deceiving, just as my appearance can be deceiving. I walked out onto the amvon in a beautiful garment, and I almost look like a saint. But the inside is rotten. There is no spirit, but a stench. 

Christians must be responsible for their Christianity. Not proud of their Christianity, but responsible. We should always keep in mind the possibility of offending our Christianity and our Christ. Because they judge Christianity and Christ by us. And they often judge very sadly, saying: “These Christians speak well but they live badly”. 

There is a book about a missionary in the Altai. One hieromonk was a missionary in the Altai before the Russian revolution. This is a Buddhist region, by the way. He was very eloquent, very educated, very passionate, very daring. He once asked the Buddhist lamas to gather around him so that he could tell them about Christ. These lamas gathered politely and listened to him without interruption. He spoke very passionately and boldly for about half an hour. He looked at them and felt that word by word he was setting their hearts on fire. And when his fiery sermon was over, a venerable lama came out and said: “Dear missionary, we listened to your sermon about Christ with great trepidation. It is indeed a Divine religion, it is very convincing, your faith is very convincing. But when we see the Christians who have come to Altai to work their farms here, when we look at the lives of these Christians, suddenly our faith and our reverent attitude towards Christianity crumbles. As long as there were no Christians, we didn’t lock our houses, we didn’t have murders, we didn’t have thefts, we didn’t have many other things, our people lived piously. Then you came here and we started having all these things. What you said really touches our hearts, but the way you live ruins everything, destroys everything completely”.

Do you know what the worst thing is? I have been a priest for almost 30 years and I understand very well that the sins of the priest are not a problem for the people. Because people realise that he is a human being just like them, of the same flesh and blood, with his own weaknesses, character traits, genetic background. And the people will readily forgive the priest’s shortcomings and confusions. But the hypocrisy of the priest is very hard for the people to bear. When he, who has the same sins, talks about high things, and then immediately does bad things. This is the thing that is very hard to bear.

People who do not go to church often say to me: “We can understand that a priest can be a drunkard and a money-grubber, we can understand all that. What we don’t understand is why nothing is done about it. Why has this become the norm for you? Or at least why you don’t cry about it”. Every Christian must not present his Christianity as an honour, must not walk with his head held high in pride: “Here I am, a Christian”. Every Christian must walk with his head down, because he must feel that everyone he meets can say: “Here he comes from church and he is not a good person”. This is certainly true of all of us. 

You can only become a son by the spirit. Do not delude yourself that once you are baptised you will automatically enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Person was baptised? – We’ll hold a funeral service. Not baptised? – We will not do it. It’s as simple as that. And the Lord says in the Gospel that some people will be surprised to hear Him say at the Last Judgment, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire”. And then they will cry out, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name?” But He will say to them, “I tell you I do not know you. Depart from Me”.

Being a Christian is a big commitment. The fact that we have been allowed into the vineyard, the Church of Christ, is like receiving an advance payment; through baptism we have only just entered. And you have to work really hard to become an heir. 

I recently returned from my trip to the Crimea, and as I was driving back I looked out the window and saw endless vineyards stretching to the horizon. And it dawned on me: every plant has to be pruned, tied up, earthed – and there are these plants as far as the eye can see. That’s a lot of work. Oh, it’s a lot of work! And then we stand there in the shop with a bottle in our hands and grumble: “This grape wine is a bit expensive”. And when you think about how hard it is… the sweat and the blood is in that bottle. Or the grape juice. Then you might want to pay a little more. If you fathom that person’s toil.

Likewise, the work in the spiritual vineyard, in the Church of Christ, is sweat and blood. If you stop working on it, it will dry up. And above all, I say that again, you must become a son, a son by the Spirit. So that people don’t have to ask: “Is this really your son? He is a stranger, he is so different from you. Yes, if you look at the passport, the surname is the same, but it’s a completely different person”. You should become a son, and that’s a lot of hard work.

And one more thing. We have to be very humble with unchurched people who come to church for the first time, because they are watching us very closely. Greet them very modestly, shyly, humbly, even with a sense of shame. Because they come in with an unblurred eye. We’ve got used to each other. And he, the unchurched, comes in with a clear eye and immediately sees the picture: here is a hypocrite, there is another, and another; oh, they are all like that here, and the priest is the same. To be a sinner is not so terrible, to be a hypocrite is terrible.

Lord, save us from this. Give us honesty and humility.

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