I want to serve the church, but I am afraid of leaving my job…

– I am retired, but I still work, as my pension is little. I spend a considerable sum on medicine and housing costs. Our priest invited me to work at our church, to help him with the documents. I would like to serve the church, but I am afraid of leaving my job. What should I do?  

– You should not leave your job if you need money for living. Help your priest as much as you are able to, if you have an opportunity for this. 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

I would like to visit your monastery.

– Having listened to your conversation, I started to pray the Jesus prayer and gradually came up with the Arizona rule. But I did not ask for a blessing from my spiritual guide for this as several years ago I did ask him about this prayer, but he said I should on no account pray with it because I had little love in my heart… I have been praying it for six months and I am afraid to ask him as he might prohibit this… I do not want to be deprived of this rule. Please, Father, bless me! I am going to visit your monastery in autumn and am saving up for my trip now.  

– Yes, please, of course.

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Is it alright to receive the Eucharist frequently?

– I noticed if I do not receive the Eucharist for a long time I get sick, both spiritually and physically. Is this normal to feel the need for frequent Communion (every Sunday or every other Sunday)?

– It is good when a person receives the Eucharist often. 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Is it possible to buy an icon painted by you?

– All my life I lived in sin. I have realized this and try to improve, but I have been sick for many years and have problems with walking. I am a disabled person of group I. It is unlikely I will be able to come to your monastery for a service and take a blessing from you as I live far away in the suburbs of Moscow. I have a big favor to ask. I have a granddaughter Sophia (she will turn 2 soon), and I would like to buy an icon of Saints Faith, Hope, Charity and their mother Sophia painted by you. I hope to have your blessing this way and teach my granddaughter our faith, so the Lord forgives me, who is unwise…

– I will not promise. It is easy to promise, but hard to accomplish. An icon requires time and work. I am afraid of making promises. God willing… 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Is there any use picking a fight?

– They say, there is no use picking a fight, but if you do, you should win. Is it true? 

– Of course, if you do, you should win. But what is your victory? This is an important question. You won. You proved. You got it…but you have no joy as there is emptiness inside of you. Then what do you need this victory for? You should feel good inside. Sometimes two people argue. One beat another in this argument due to his or her eloquence and drive and talk around the opponent even if he or she is not right…  Meanwhile, nothing but hollowness remains inside and no joy of such victory. When people conquered Berlin, they had great joy because the victory was holy. At the same time, there are victories which are not even holy, but sinful.  A strong man came and beat a weak man. Is this a victory? Humanwise, this may be a victory, but in accordance with God, this is a defeat. One feels wretchedly inside. However, if you pick a fight and reconcile everyone, this will be a true victory.      

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

May I pray together with a recorded voice?

– Father Sergiy, could you please tell me if I may use and pray together with a recorded voice in order to avoid distraction of mind during the Jesus prayer?  

– Yes, you may. Some people have already asked me to record my voice. I will record it and we will share it on the Internet. 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

May I take the Eucharist at a church where they do not pray for the Patriarch?

May I take the Eucharist at a church where they do not pray for the Patriarch?

– I am from a much suffering Ukraine. I was churched a long time ago. Ten years ago, I moved to a village to nurse my mum. I sing in a small church choir, read, and work as a church warden. I love church services very much. More recently, unbelievable things are happening. Before the services and during the sermons, everything comes down to politics, and people have stopped praying for the Patriarch. I often take the Eucharist, as I was blessed to do so by my spiritual guide, when I lived in the city. What should I do? How can I take the Eucharist at a church where the Patriarch, given to us by God, is scorned. My soul is worn out with suffering, while the situation is getting worse. All Russian sites, even the Orthodox ones, and yours, are blocked. Only the megaphones of the liberal and global power are available. Frightening aggression comes from everywhere; we will soon be killed for speaking Russian.    Father, what should I do? Can I take the Eucharist at a church where they do not pray for the Patriarch? Or should we not go to church any more and pray at home? I am all in tears, it is very hard to overcome this.

– The fact some priests do not pray for the Patriarch is a sin on their conscience. I think you may take the Eucharist, as we do not have an official schism yet. Try to reflect less on these issues because such reflections and thoughts may strain you. Leave the reflections for prayer. When a person prays, he or she does not reflect. Their mind is in God, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” You will have to be patient for some time. All things must pass. This is a fact of life.  

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

May one be punished for his or her past sins?

May one be punished for his or her past sins?

– Father Sergiy, you visited Japan, which is why I would like to ask you the following question. The Olympic Games are taking place in Tokyo now. Just before the beginning of them, two leading specialists were fired due to the errors of their youth. The director of the opening ceremony was fired because he joked about the Holocaust 23 years ago. And the composer, who worked on the music for the opening ceremony quit because, according to his own words, he bullied challenged children in his school years. The providers declared that such deeds of the leading specialists will be considered as a mockery of the Paralympic Games.  Do the Japanese have that much righteousness and inner purity? I guess in our country such deeds are impossible. 

– Having visited Japan only for ten days, I cannot judge the whole nation. It would have been thoughtless and not wise.  As far as the punishment for long time sins is concerned… it seems to me the whole world has gone mad in its hypocrisy nowadays.   On the one hand, some people punish the others for past sins, but on the other hand, the same people stimulate and even fight for immorality.   This is just madness! The world lives in the time of hypocrisy. I have accidently come across some information about an American film director who was convicted for many years for having some relations with women long ago.  Meanwhile, the same people who judge him popularize not just relations with women, but all kinds of existing sexual deviations. This is why I think the world has gone mad in its hypocrisy. 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

May one pray while lying?

– I am from Ukraine. I am a cook and work in shifts. After standing 16 hours on my feet, I read the rule lying because I am too weak to stand. May I pray in this way?  

– Yes, you may. Callistus, Patriarch of Constantinople, when he was a cook at the St. Athanasios Lavra on Athos, did not have an opportunity for secluding himself and reading the rule.    Nevertheless, while preparing the meals, he recited the Jesus prayer incessantly and became a great saint. His ascetic works are a part of the Orthodox spiritual collection the “Philokalia.” Pronounce the Jesus prayer all the time and try to direct it into your heart.  

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

May people sit during a church service

Why do we stand during church services?

– Some saint said, “Son, give me your heart, but not your legs.” Indeed, the Lord needs our hearts, but not our legs. What does it mean that He needs our hearts?  All talks about love without a sacrifice are idle and sometimes even blasphemy. “I love you so much,” says a man, “but I will not stop smoking even for your sake.” Some people cannot do the simplest thing and say they love someone. You prove your words are sincere when you give your heart, when you make a sacrifice. Then your words are true. So, in these words, “Son, give me your heart, but not your legs” we can see the relation between the heart and the legs. Of course, there are extreme cases when people are really sick and they need to sit. This is a different story than when people are lazy and not even ready to make a small sacrifice for Christ’s sake.   

Why do we stand during church services? We make a sacrifice for God. We compel ourselves. That is how we prove our love is supported by our deeds. All Orthodox asceticism is built on this basis: we always sacrifice for the sake of our Beloved One. The contemporary liberals say, “God does not need your earthly bowings and all that stuff. You just need to love everyone and that’s it.” No, you will not be able to love everyone without going through asceticism, which will force your ego out of you. Otherwise, your ego will not let you love anyone. It will always prevail. True love starts when egotism is defeated. In order to defeat egotism, one needs to practice asceticism – for a long time, throughout one’s whole life. Be ruthless and strict with yourself. It is trivial to speak about love without asceticism. 

 

Archpriest Sergiy Baranov