Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai

August 20, 2023


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

In the Gospel God commands us not to judge. He says definitely and clearly, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”1 This commandment of non-judgmentalness seems so easy to keep. So what, what is so hard and deep there? I am going to ask a question, I am going to ask questions and, maybe, this commandment will become more complicated. God Himself was in conflict with lawyers throughout the whole Gospel. Did He not judge them? He judged. Not only did He judge them, but He was also angry with them. He was angry with lawyers, human absurdity, and people’s sins. And in the heat of the moment, He even said these words, “How long shall I bear with you?”2  

Then I want to ask one more thing. The Church was established, it was developing, and there were the Ecumenical Councils. What were the Holy Fathers doing there? They judged. They were judging heresy and heretics. If we consider it thoroughly, try to comprehend the situation, we will get some confusion. How should we understand the commandment of non-judgmentalness? So, on the one hand, He definitely says that we must not judge. On the other hand, He judges Himself. We can see that the Holy Fathers judged and were even angry. We have this confusion now. But how should we keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness? 

There is only one possibility, one reason to keep this commandment. If you know your infirmities, your depravity, what will happen to you? You will be very careful in your arguments, cautious in any estimation, accurate in actions, words you say, you will be careful even with your thoughts. The greatest wisdom or, I should say, the beginning of the greatest wisdom is when a person did self-research. Since this point, wisdom appears. People, who do self-research deeply and sincerely, cannot avoid becoming disillusioned with themselves. If you look back at the past, turn over all your mistakes, absurdities, sins and filth, you will never miss the wisdom of self-cognition. We should cognize our worthlessness and inadequacy. If you think that you mean something, you are insane then. It means that you understand nothing in this life. 

Once a woman told me, “Father Sergiy, it is so hard to go towards the truth if you do not even know where it is.” I said, “It is not that scary when you do not know where the truth is and where to go. The scariest thing ever is when you know where the truth is and you go there as an armoured train, but the truth is not there in the end.” This is an awful situation. When you do not know something, you ask the way, don’t you? When you do not know the road, you will ask, “Could you tell me, please, how I can  get there?” “Where should I go?” It is scary when you know the road, but it leads you nowhere. And you keep going and going. 

The first advice for a person lost in the woods is to stop. Stop and maybe you will be found. Do not go far away. Do not go far away because you do not know the way, you are confused, you have lost your direction, you will go and go, but what if the road is wrong. And you will go far away from help and those who are looking for you. First, you will lose the road, then you will go away so far that you will not even be able to hear voices, which call you back. Then you will reach the point of no return. 

In order to keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness in a right and wise way, you should cognize yourself. Try to remember how many times you were wrong judging something.  What if you are wrong again? I told you that the Holy Fathers judged at Ecumenical Councils. But this kind of judgement was not their personal one. It was a consensus patrum, it was the general reasoning of the Holy Fathers. They were listening to each other and then made a decision, but each one could be mistaken or could reason in a wrong way. That is why they were consulting with each other. This way they could find the right solution.

There is another extremity here — the western world is infected by it, it is an insanity of western world. They understood the commandment of non-judgmentalness perversely. They stopped judging perverted people, fornicators, libertines and murderers. They stopped judging lies. They lost the truth. They are confused. In the western world is like this now. But when you ask them, “Why do you act like this?” They would answer, “We keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness.” What is the result of it? 

In order to understand everything said by Jesus, comprehend, accept and act in the right way we need to have the mind. An insane person, who is listening to even the wisest advice, will spoil everything, this person will go the wrong way. Well, a Christian mind — have you ever noticed how a Christian mind is called — humility. Christian wisdom goes through humility. What is humility? It is not a superficial theatre with “sorry,” “forgive me,” “give me the blessing” — this is not humility. You have true humility only when you know yourself through lapsing, through your worthlessness. Real humility is very careful. You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of your decisions, you start getting advice, you always check yourself. This kind of person needs a spiritual guide. And you find a spiritual father indeed. 

Some modern people say, “It is impossible now to find a spiritual guide.” For you — yes. Because you do not have a real need. You do not need which is not crying but yelling, “I am zero; I am not a zero but I am a minus! Everything that I do in my life is just absurdity, insanity. Give me a worse spiritual guide, let him be an alcoholic, I will be alright with that because I am even worse. I cannot do anything on my own.” St Ambrose of Optina once said nice words, “I had better be a novice of novice rather than be obedient to myself or listen to my mind.”

When we read the Gospel, we think, on the one hand, that everything is simple and clear. However, if we try to comprehend it thoroughly, we will see that the Gospel is deeper and wiser. The Gospel is closed for ignorant people and opened for humble ones. Yes — yes, no — no3, everything is simple. 

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

1 Mt. 7:1

2 Mk. 9:19

3 Mt. 5:37



Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk



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

Congratulations on the Transfiguration of our Lord!

On this day, the Lord takes three of His disciples, ascends Mount Tabor, and transfigures before them. Why does He take only three disciples when He has twelve of them? Does He give prominence to them? Does He love them more than the others? He has twelve but takes only three of them. However, we know that the Lord is unprejudiced. He cannot love one more than another. God is Perfect Love. Perfect Love cannot be less or more, it is always perfect. 

Why three disciples? The remaining nine must have had temptations, as they were humans anyway. Perhaps, there was a little envy, jealousy, or even some simple human offense. Wasn’t there any space for twelve on the mountain? There was space but He took the three. The Lord seeks the one who is able to accept. However, this does not mean, the three were perfectly able to accept.  

Once I heard the following story on Holy Mount Athos. In one skete, the Holy Fathers were serving the Transfiguration of the Lord. It was a small skete church, where a hieromonk was reading the Gospel for the Transfiguration describing how the Lord transfigured, “And Peter says, ‘Let us make three tabernacles.’”1 Tabernacles, or huts, in other words. The hieromonk read this passage and became silent for a while. At that moment, an Elder said, “Peter, Peter, what are you saying? Do you really want to hide the Glory of God into a tabernacle?” How earthly you think. Does the Glory of God need a booth? Where do you want to hide it? Let it shine for everyone.  

This proves that the Lord seeks the one who can accept. Anyway, He takes those three chosen with Him and even they are not able to encompass. Just in a few days, we see that they are not able to accept. Peter betrays. As far as the rest two of them are concerned… The Lord tells them, “I am going to be crucified.” To which they say, “Grant us that we may be, one the first and the other the second in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Look, how earthly they are. On the other hand, shame on you, the Teacher tells them He is going to be crucified and you should cry bitterly because of this but you annoy Him all the time asking, “May James sit on Your right and John on Your left in the Kingdom of Heaven?” They cannot encompass it yet. The Lord is seeking someone who is able to encompass but cannot find even among them, even among those He takes with Him to Mount Tabor and transfigures before.   Meanwhile, they experience this in an earthly way. “Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” It might seem they should be in awe and speechless because of the event, but they think about such earthly things. 

The Lord says, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”2 He said so not because He despises pigs nor does He give offense to people, whom He compares to swine. This is only a comparison. A pig does not understand what pearls are, it prefers lentils, it is of interest to it. People often think the same way, “Give me something, so I can feel it and put it into my pocket. What are You saying about some high things? We cannot touch or smell them, or deposit them into our account. This is all very vague and uncertain.” It cannot be accepted. Our mind cannot accept it. 

When were they able to accept? Someone will say, on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on them.  Is this all? But before Pentecost, Peter betrayed. Do you remember how Apostle Paul speaks about himself? “I am one of the Apostles and one of monsters, as I persecuted Christ’s Church.” The Lord gave him so much Grace and he wrote so many holy words. But after what did God give it to him? After this suffering feeling of his cruelty. Peter changed. “Feed My lambs,”3 – the Lord tells him. But before this, He tests Peter’s repentance, “Peter, do you love Me?” “I love You but I feel very ashamed.” He cried throughout his life. Apostle Peter always had red eyes as he cried often.  

The Lord did not simply give His Holy Spirit to the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, but He gave Him after their deep repentance. It was not for nothing, otherwise, they would not have accepted. 

Look, throughout the Old Testament, the Lord tries to give to the chosen people of Israel the promise. They cannot accept it. This is because they are damaged by pride. They are the nation chosen by God. And this drives them crazy. Believe me, they are the same way now, in Jerusalem. They cannot help being the Peculiar people. This is why they cannot acquire the Holy Spirit. As to encompass the Holy Spirit, one should squeeze oneself out of this place. This place should be vacant for the Holy Spirit. Drive yourself out of this place, and the Holy Spirit will come in. As long as you and your “I,” which is embroidered, adorned, and written with the capital letter, is there, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to enter. We say, “Come and dwell in us.” To which He answers, “I would like to come, but there is no place for me there. I would have come. I am not proud, I am humble, I am kind, I am loving. I would have come, but there is no place for me there. You are there and do not yield to me.”  

Transfiguration of a person is possible only after repentance. Once I heard the following horrible words from my spiritual child, “My conscience does not reprove me.” You are dead, my dear. You are dead. Conscience is the gift of God to people, so they might feel pain. Conscience is a pain, which indicates your sinfulness. But if it is silent… Look, let us compare ourselves to Holy Father Seraphim. Who he is and who we are?   His conscience ached. A thousand days and a thousand nights on the rock, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” A thousand days and nights… Do you think he was standing on that rock, simply practicing asceticism, and admired himself thinking what a great ascetic he was? Not at all! All these thousand days and nights were full of sorrow and pain about himself. This is why there were those thousand days and nights.  But if he did all this for the sake of mere asceticism and admired himself thinking how he would fly up into the sky in a rocket, these thousand nights would be worth nothing. How did he pray? Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. One cannot say this commonly or theatrically. These words can be uttered only through great sorrow, when your conscience aches. If your conscience does not ache, you are dead for the Kingdom of Heaven. You see the miracle of Transfiguration but say, “Let us make three tabernacles.” Let us hide all this, let us deposit it into our bank account. Lord, have mercy. 

Everyone of us is called for the miracle of transfiguration of our own nature, which is fallen, worthless and rotten. However, this is possible only for those, who have repentance. For those who have only prayer, asceticism, and vigilance, it will not work. It works only if one has repentance above all. There is no repentance without acceptance of our own sins, without feeling horrible about ourselves, without crying over ourselves. There is no repentance in those who do not cry.   

Sweetest Jesus, forgive us.

Blessed Feast to you all.

1 Mt. 17:4, Mk. 9:5, Lk. 9:33

2 Mt. 7:6

3 Jn. 21:15



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!

If a person saw God, he or she would have been in such an awe, in such an extraordinary state, that if someone told him some news, he would not hear it. People would ask him what was going on in politics or economics, or even they would ask if he had eaten anything that day, he would not remember whether he had eaten or not. He would have even forgotten his last name. This is the great admiration a person would have on seeing God.  

However, there is one more state. It is when a person sees his or her fall in all its depth and feels a deep pain, to the bottom of his heart.  At this moment, if someone asks, “Have you eaten something?” he would have answered, “I do not remember. I am so sorrowful, I do not remember anything.” This is because he has an acute vision of his worthlessness, which overwhelms everything. “Let’s go for a walk,” “let’s have some rest,” “let’s have some meal,” “you know,” “you see,” nothing is important for him, as he has a great sorrow deep down in his heart. 

I am telling you about these two visions: when a person sees God and forgets about everything and when a person sees himself, in all the depth, unadorned, without hypocrisy, in the raw. In both cases, he would have forgotten anything because these are so strong feelings, just as a blow on one’s head. He forgot everything. People ask him and have no reaction from him. 

Many people who come to church become obsessed with the idea to see God. This vision is impossible without the other vision. Before a person sees his worthlessness, the vision of God will be dangerous for him. It will deprive him of eternity. This is because people are gravely sick, sick with vanity through and through, in every cell. If he suddenly sees God, his vanity will simply tear him apart, he will burst and go mad.  

We all move towards God, but without passing through this first point to the depth, to the very truth, the highest vision will be devastating for us. We all move towards God, but we should pass this point of repentance. This is how the highest will be safe for us, so no one above shows us the depth of ourselves. The deep vision of ourselves will always bring us down to earth. 

Often Christians want to skip this first point and fly up high at once. You know, the reason, among all the others, why people need a spiritual guide? To give a pull at the leg, when you fly up without having repented. Sometimes, one should pull very hard, and the person will fall and hurt himself and ask in amazement, “I wanted to fly to God and you pulled me by the leg. And you were so rude and cruel that I bumped and hurt myself.” 

I remember, when we were young priests, our spiritual guide told us, “It is better to lose your leg or hand, or, as the Lord says in Gospel, an eye, than to lose your soul through vanity, through your pride.” It is better to lose your hand or leg than your eternal life. 

You should not go to the Kingdom of Heaven by the way round. This will be a great mistake; a great and, perhaps, irrevocable mistake. Because there is nothing that will help a deluded and proud person, who has a stable self-opinion as of someone spiritual. This happens because he would not listen to anyone. There is a definition given by the Holy Fathers. They explain shortly how vanity develops. First, a person says during an obedience, “I do not care about my superior.” Then he will say, “I do not care about my spiritual guide.” And then, there will be, “I do not care about the Bishop.” And then, “I do not care about the Patriarch.” Finally he will say, “I do not care about Apostle Paul. He was a human too.” In the end, he will say, “I do not care about Christ.” That’s it. Amen. The end. There is no way back. If he reaches this point, there is no way back.   

We want to see Christ very much and we are eager to see the Uncreated Light. But the Uncreated Light is unreachable without immersion into a deep darkness. The deep darkness of our worthlessness, shame, filth, and corruption. Those who do not immerse in it will not find it possible to ascend to Christ. There is no other way. Do not try to deceive God or yourselves. Do not elude or skip it. There is no other way. 

Sweetest Jesus, save us!

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



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

For the day of Saint Prince Vladimir, the Equal of the Apostles 

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai

July 28, 2023


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

I congratulate you on the Patron Saint’s Day! Today is the Feast of Saint Prince Vladimir, the Equal of the Apostles. What is the difference between real faith and religious fanaticism? The latter always invites aggression. Fanatic people wish to prove, oppress, and convince someone that they are right. But people of true faith share their joy, the joy of faith they have obtained. This acquisition is something light and kind, indeed. That is why if you are a really faithful person and you are in the Holy Spirit, you will never invite aggression, prove your faith, or hammer your world view into the heads of other people. A real believer wants to share his delight and his small miracle of faith with other people. 

Prince Vladimir was surrounded by malicious tongues, and now he is surrounded by modern neopagans or, so called, Russian heathens. They try to convince us that Prince Vladimir Christianised Rus’ by force. So there is this question here if he was a religiously fanatic person or a man of proven faith, who just sincerely wanted to share his joy, his small miracle of faith which he had obtained.

Heathen people were not so simple. They were people of rigid rules, often even violent. Well, do you think now that it was so easy to Christianise these people? One day these heathens killed Vladimir’s grandfather, just like that, without any civil deals. And they were imposed to abjure their religion. Do you really think that these people would give up so easily? They would have never done it if they had not seen some reasonable core, some light in Christianity, at first. Second, they would have never abjured their existing views if they had not respected their Prince Vladimir and followed him willingly. 

Surely, we cannot say that all heathens followed him immediately. But evidently there was some critical number of people who could accept the sincere faith of their Prince, and follow him. In this religion, which was new to Russia and which the Great Prince brought from Greece, they saw some advantages. They saw how proven faith can be superior to fanaticism, I mean, they saw how love trumps aggression. I say it again, fanaticism invites aggression, it forces, convinces violently, stresses out, feels angry when proving something. Proven faith lives differently, it has a different nature. People of proven faith share their joy, their treasure. You cannot prove it, you cannot impose faith forcefully. It can be imposed, but when the oppressor goes away, this imposed faith will collapse. However, Christianity was instilled into the Holy Rus’, and people have been living with this faith for a thousand years. 

But at the same time, there are these frenetic people who made up the neopagan religion of their ancestors. Where did they take it from? There are no written sources which can present the beliefs of their ancestors. Suddenly they made up a new religion which provokes aggression towards Christianity. They made it up. Now they force themselves to believe it and make other people do it also. They say that Prince Vladimir made a mistake and Christianity is a religion of weak people. That is why the history of our country is a bit flawed. But how can it be? Christianity has already been in this country for one thousand years. So many saints were born here. If it is a religion of weak people then check the history. You will see how many victories there were, how many conquerors were defeated. There were so many attempts to destroy our country, subjugate and eliminate its people, but we rise up like that Russian vanka-vstanka doll. They try to destroy us but we rise up again, they try again but we rise up. And that is our power. Our power is not an aggression, our power is truth and the truth is in Christ. 

Our country and its people should be really grateful to Prince Vladimir, who turned around the way of Russian history. God gave us Orthodox Christianity through this historical figure. Our Orthodox culture gave us so many pieces of art. The Trinity of Andrei Rublev, our Dostoevsky, Pushkin – all of them were Orthodox Christians. Our scientists, our clerisy. Some people say that the Great World War was won by the atheistic USSR. But look, that was the 40’s. There were people who had been Christianized before the revolution, they were fighting. Their mothers would give them the “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High” prayer and Crosses. It was still that same Holy Rus’, which was continuing by inertia. Christ’s commandments were in our intuition even when these atheistic times took place. Atheists, when they were fighting against the Church, could not create anything new. They replaced the Trinity by three portraits, remember? They could not create anything new. Cross Processions were replaced by demonstrations. They even tried to replace relics by the dead body of Lenin. The whole institute is working there in order not to let this poor thing fall to pieces. They process it somehow, process it, embalm it. They could not create anything here as well. 

There is a story. I do not know if it is true or not but it is said that in the 20’s something happened with a drain system and the mausoleum was flooded. When people reported about it to patriarch Tikhon, he said, “The way the relics are, the way the myrrh flows.” Saint people’s relics emit myrrh which smells nice and pleasant but that body in the mausoleum emits, you know, “The way the relics are, the way the myrrh flows.” 

In Soviet times, we were brought up at schools, but if we look at it differently, we were brought up on Gospel commandments which were paraphrased a little bit. Humans cannot create anything. Something that was created by God and embedded into the sense of our lives by His Providence cannot be altered. The modern scientists, these frenetic people, quack that there is no God but they do so great discoveries. Look at this word “discover”. So you only discover God’s commandments, you only discover them. And then, you may create something inside of these commandments. Change this commandment and everything will collapse. 

Once I gave this example. Have musicians ever thought about whether musical stuff was created or discovered?  Try to change it and there will be cacophony. The laws of music, colours and shades in painting. A painter creates a piece of art inside of these laws. Let him change the laws and there will be something ugly. Scientists make their discoveries inside of these laws, but they call them “the laws of nature”, we call them like the “commandments of God”. Nevertheless, they do not create these laws, they only discover them. That is why we use this word “discovery.” Change this law and everything will collapse. 

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



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Saint John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai 



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

Slaves work for food and because they do not want to be beaten. If they work poorly, they are beaten. Servants work for a salary; they earn as much as they work. This relationship is different and more profitable. The philosophy of the Old Testament people made them be either slaves or servants. Their relationship with God was slave-like, “Lord, we will behave, may earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and illnesses never come to us. If we misbehave, we know punishment will follow.”  

The Old Testament people lived somewhat like servants, “Lord, I will behave, and You will not only punish me, but also give me something in this life.” Even in the Psalter King David says the following words, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.”1 In other words, righteousness itself presupposes some kind of prosperity.  

Christ comes and brings a new religion, a new philosophy, and, as it might seem,  His disciples should have even more. However, His very first followers have the same thing He does: a cross, crucifixion, humiliation, persecution, beating, and the most extreme of this all – death. During four centuries, the first four centuries, Christian blood flew like water only because people were Christians, only because they confessed their faith. You do not protest, do not organize any demonstration, but the mere fact of your Christianity is the cause for persecution, tortures and killing you. What kind of religion is it? One might be confused.  

What did Christ bring to us? What did He offer us? Before Him, people at least had a status of slaves: behave and you are fed and not beaten. Moreover, they had a status of servants: work properly and you earn a lot, you are rich and your family is prosperous. But suddenly Christ brings this confusing religion. Certainly, at first He heals the blind, sick and lepers. In the beginning, people respond to this and follow Christ, but suddenly His gospel ends with Cross, Golgotha, and the very shameful death. A Roman could not be crucified. Only outlaws and the most worthless people could find their death on a cross. But we have this absurdity. What did He bring to us? If He did not bring anything, it’s absurd again, then why did so many people voluntarily die for Him during those four centuries? In the Lives of Ancient Saints, we read how Christians were tortured at the Amphitheater of Athens. They were torn to pieces by lions, crucified, cut into pieces. Meanwhile, a woman was running there with her child across Rome. “Where are you running?” “There, to the place where they torture Christians. I am a Christian too.” “Mad woman! Don’t you realize they will kill you too?” “I understand this.” “But you are twice mad! You go there yourself and you bring your child with you!”   

This is not fanaticism. There should be some deep and strong reason why those people did so. On no account, some people will not do or tolerate something, much less go to death. In no way they will do this, as this is madness and nonsense. But what did saints have? Perhaps, they had something more than the Old Testament people. They did not only have a contract with God for not having earthquakes, plague or flood; or receive a remuneration in the format of this world and then not to sleep overnight thinking how not to lose this money but multiply it, scaring the inflation and considering what to do with it at all.      

One of our priests told me about a ridiculous situation. When there was instability in 2008, a director came up to and asked him, “Father, how do you keep your money?” (He thought that the priest had a lot of money.) The priest joked, “I keep them in gold bars, as they are not prone to inflation.” He joked and forgot about it, but in a month, the director came up to him again and said, “Ok, describe me the process how you recast the bars and where you hide them.” The priest said he did not even understand if the director was joking or not. He only answered, “Are you serious? I only joked. I do not have gold.” 

Those Christians might have had something. No one should live in illusion. Perhaps, it is possible for some time but then the illusion will fade away like a mist. They had something very real and dear. The Lord says in the Gospel, “A man sold all that he had and bought a pearl.”2 Only one pearl. The man can give his money for it because he knows its price. He can tell an imitation, a mere bead, from a precious thing which costs all his possessions.  

Christians understood what was their priority and the most precious thing on earth. Some people will say family is the most precious. Go to the cemetery, look at the graves of your parents – this is your family. A husband lost his wife, a wife buried her husband, or the most horrifying thing – some people have lost their children. This is the scariest thing – to outlive your children. Priests constantly stay by the coffin. Well, very often. By the coffin, all meanings and values go to pieces together with the deceased, who goes to pieces too. Some people dedicate their lives to art, science or social service. Believe me, everything goes to pieces. All this can be and should be, but this is not the major thing for a human.  

By Christ, Christians acquired the most valuable treasure – Him. After the Ascension, He remained with them with His Holy Spirit. They acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and were ready to die for this real treasure… Fanatics have some spiritual ardency but they go to pieces. In order to test whether this is an imitation or a precious pearl, there is only a cross.  Illusions go to pieces on a cross. Everything you fancy, dream and worry about will go to pieces when you are on a cross. Only a true treasure will stand out. It is strong and unshakeable. This is why Christ brings Himself and the theme of a cross. To be with Him, one should go through a cross. Cross is His theme, it is inseparable from Him.  

Today we commemorate the Passions of Christ again. The Apostle says, “It is foolishness to the Greeks, to us it is the power of God.”3 It is foolishness to the Greek because they do not know and do not understand this. How can you understand something you do not know, what does not have any shape in the format of this world, and what is beyond the world? They do not understand.  Apostle Paul comes to the Areopagus of Athens, to the wisest people of Athens, who constantly meet to share wisdom with one another and compete in their thoughts, and tells them about Christ. To which they say, “You behave like a madman, Paul. Come next time, perhaps we might listen to you. You behave like a madman now.” These wisest people on earth, exactly on earth, cannot encompass Christ with their earthly heads. Their heads are too narrow for Him.   

Some people who come to Orthodoxy want to be either slaves or servants. You should understand Orthodoxy is not a religion of slaves or servants; it is the religion of children. A child will follow his Father wherever He goes. If a father goes to war, his child will share his fear and fate. If a father goes to cross, his child will unconsciously share it; the cross will come through his heart anyway. If we set our priorities right and realize what is primary and secondary in our life, then we will win through these hard and horrible days because we will fight for the highest Value. If we fight for something earthly, we will lose, because this war does not make sense.   

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

1 Ps. 36:25

2 Mt. 13:46

3 1Cor. 1:23-24



On the Day of the Venerable Saint Sergius of Radonezh and Grand Duchess Elizabeth the New Martyr 

Church of Saint John the Warrior, Chelyabinsk 



In the Revelation of Saint John the Theologian, in the passage about the Day of Judgment and the last days, there are the words describing thousands of righteous people in white garments who will come to the Lord. As it is said there,These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.”1  

Today we commemorate Grand Duchess Elizabeth the New Martyr. Grand Duchess Elizabeth had all earthly happiness. She had a wonderful, dear, and loving husband, a very noble person, Sergey Alexandrovich Romanov. Their marriage was very good. It is not often that spouses are completely like-minded. They had no contradictions, she agreed with him, and he agreed with her. This was the way they lived.    Their marriage was blessed by God’s grace because both he and she were faithful people, sincerely and deeply faithful people. She used to be a Protestant since birth and no one statutorily claimed that she should convert to Orthodoxy. She could have remained in her own faith but she desired to be together with her husband in full measure, all the way through. She studied the Orthodox faith (perhaps, first of all she studied the faith of her husband) and then chose it, even though supposing that her relatives who lived in Germany within a different tradition might judge, reject and become sad because of this. She followed her husband not only in earthly and existential things, but also in the spiritual realm, embracing Orthodoxy. 

I repeat once again: this was a happy marriage. But it happened that her husband, the Governor-General of Moscow… There was much evil in Russian people in those times and this evil was like a plague. These new revolutionary ideas contaminated people. They spoke about liberty, equality and fraternity, but in reality, there was anger, hatred and aggression. They spoke about one thing, but in fact, there was something absolutely different. Those people who spoke about liberty, equality, fraternity and love, suddenly allowed themselves unimaginably horrible things. A revolutionary and terrorist, Kalyayev, threw a bomb into the carriage of the Grand Duke and the Governor-General of Moscow Sergey Alexandrovich. This carriage had just left the Kremlin. Elizabeth Fyodorovna heard the explosion and her loving heart realized everything at once. She ran to the place in the dress she had on and was the first to arrive. She found nothing but the pieces of the carriage and her husband’s body. She did not find the whole body, but the pieces of it scattered across the square.  She was shocked and strained so much that she walked around  and collected the remnants of her husband into the bottom of her gown, being as if in a mist. It causes me pain to speak about this now. Can you imagine how she felt?   It is even hard to imagine. Nevertheless, in a few days, the person who had come through such a tragedy, horror and extreme degree of sorrow, came to the cell of the murderer, brought him the Gospel and said she forgave him. 

This is beyond our comprehension. This murderer should be punished in the cruelest manner, so no one else had any desire to do so. However, she acts most unnaturally: goes to the cell of her husband’s murderer, asks him to repent, brings him the Gospel, and says she forgives him. She brings him forgiveness from her deceased husband.    

Do you remember what I told you when I began this sermon? I said, these righteous people who will come to the Kingdom of Heaven, come there out of the great sorrow. This is what we can attribute to Elizabeth Fyodorovna first of all. As far as this sorrow is concerned, she did not run from it then, but involved herself into it further on. She did not seek the quiet and solitary life of a widow to heal her broken heart with silence and some simple comfort. She goes in for this sorrow again. She goes to the humiliated, miserable and sick. She comes out to meet the sorrow of this world. She comforts people when one might think she and her heart needs comfort itself. The wounds in her heart take time to heal, but she goes in for sorrow and visits the most terrible places in Moscow. She visits the homeless, killers, fornicators, all those people who have dehumanized themselves, people like those who killed her husband.   

There are the following words in the Psalter: “We acquire by wasting.” Elizabeth Fyodorovna acquired not according to earthly, but spiritual law. She began to waste herself and through this “wasting” she began to acquire her inner person. She began to acquire Christ, God’s grace, into herself. It strengthened her and gave meaning to her life. It gave life itself because Christ is Life. Without Christ everything dies. He is Life. He is Eternal Life. She was striving after this Life. She was not only striving after it but invited everyone to this life. She called there the Sisters, who gathered around her at the Convent of Martha and Mary, and  everyone whom they visited and helped.  

Have you got sisterhood here? She is your great protectress and beautiful example. 

How should we live our life? When we were children, we looked forward and life seemed to us an everlasting chain of events. When we are old, we look back, and it seems to us our life was a little flash in eternity; it flared up and died out.  Life is Christ. Without Christ it is a mere flash; it flares up and goes out. No matter what we do, what vacation we choose, everything should be in Christ. To have everything in Christ, we should first find Him. Many people talk about Christ but very few know Him. This is true.

Blessed Feast to you! Today we have two Feasts: the Day of Elizabeth Fyodorovna and Venerable Sergius of Radonezh. I have just told you about the great sorrow which Saint Elizabeth was bearing. She was bearing it voluntarily and with joy. However, we can also say the same thing about Saint Sergius. The words “the Bleeding Heart of the Russian Land” are often attributed to him. He went to Christ and did not ask for joy, he went to Christ in order to share Christ’s grief over this world. Sorrow. 

We often come to church with an expectation that everything should become alright at once, that we should find consolation, comfort, and our life should improve. But look, Venerable Sergius goes in for the sorrow for the Russian Land consciously. Venerable Elizabeth does it consciously as well. And from this sorrow, they draw joy, but this joy is of a different kind. There is the joy of acquiring and the joy of giving. It is more pleasant to give presents than to receive them. Isn’t it? Give, and the Lord will replenish it immediately. The more you give, the more the Lord will replenish for you. If there is a gap, something will fill it.  

Glory to our God, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Blessed Feast to everyone of you!

People are often proud of the great name of the saint they have. You know, it is not an honor, it is a big responsibility. Perhaps, it is not a joy, but a great shame to bear the name of the Saint who is worlds apart from you. This should not elate a person, but make him or her humble. May us all think about our heavenly protectors, compare our lives to theirs, lower our eyes, and humble, humble, humble ourselves.   

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

1 Rev. 7:14



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk

July 16, 2023


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

A person, whose mind is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who thinks in terms of this world, has a myriad of reasons to argue with God. This person falls out with God, which is the worst thing that can happen, this person rebels and accepts distrustful thoughts. It may happen to people whose mind is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit. If we look at this world, we will see that it is not perfect, though it is the creation of God. There is a confusion and misunderstanding in an instant, “God, You are so Almighty, You created this world in such a wise and thorough way, why does this world happen to be so awkward in the end. Why is it imperfect and why are there so many misunderstandings?”  Earthly people think this way, and they will always alienate God, they will always have reasons not to trust God. If one thinks in an earthly way, then this person is going to see flaws and imperfections all-around him. 

Someone can object to me, in the heat of the moment. Well, if a person is not a believer, unspiritual, so this kind of person looks at this world and says,  “Why are there so many misunderstandings? There are wars, and betrayals, and cataclysms, and earthquakes, and floods. God, is it right for all these things to be in Your wise plan?” If you think in an earthly way, you will always have a reason to fall out with God, there will always be some reason for it. And this reason will be quite objective if we consider it in an earthly way. Whilst a believer understands that creativity in relation to a person is ongoing. Creativity is still happening, your soul is being refined. The soul of a person can be refined by love, and love is a cross. 

How can we build a simple and trusting relationship with God? How can we throw away all these mistrustful thoughts? How can we learn not to see those things, which we should not see in order not to lose a trusting relationship with God? 

The only simple way — the only one, there is no other — is to build a relationship with God in the spirit of love. Why do I say this? Only this can help. One loves not for something, but just because, for nothing. If relationships are built in order to get something, which is, – this I can understand, but this no, this I can accept, but this no — well, this is not love, this is already commerce. Love lives briefly and simply. I love Him. Amen. That is it. I do not need anything else. Maybe you have some questions, maybe you have, but I do not. God, I love You. That is it. I do not need any explanations, my Lord, because You cannot explain everything to me, because I have a very small head and it cannot comprehend all Your Wisdom. Trying to understand everything is not right. The right way is to trust through love. I simply follow You because I love You and I need nothing else. I do not need any ideals from You, none…let there be some misconceptions, imperfections, it does not bother me because my love is above it, my love is stronger than this.  

If you are going to build a relationship with God in this way, nothing will disturb you. Your faith will not be shaken, because it will be deprived of  thoughts about Him such as: Why did He do it this way? Why did He make this mistake? Mistake? Yes, mistake, because the result is bad. Today there is this war – so He made a mistake somewhere. A close relative died – He made a mistake somewhere. Brother betrayed brother. Doesn’t He exist at any point of the universe and in any moment of it by means of His Providence? He does. So, if we see imperfections somewhere and God exists in it, it means that He is guilty. What’s the use of us? We are imperfect and prone to make mistakes. But God, if He is present with His Wisdom in every situation – He is wrong again then!

If I am going to think this way, I will be immersed in distrustful thoughts towards God.  Well, we can assess each other, but God, through our love to Him, should have such a great meaning for us that it will be just blasphemy to assess His actions. Do you understand? Who am I to assess God? This is blasphemy! Was He right, was He wrong, what did He do right, what did He do wrong. How can I avoid this blasphemy? How can I avoid this temptation of thoughts?

I should learn how to love Him just because, for nothing. You love for nothing, just because. It should be brief and definite. That is it. Nothing else. I do not want to say anything else, I just love Him. If we build a relationship this way, it will make it all easier. We always feel pressure in our heart, the pressure of these thoughts, temptations, which destroy our simple and sincere relationship with God.  These are thoughts, overthinking. There are things, which are a shame even to think about. There are things we can consider…for example, mother and father — they are holy, but it is for those who have a good upbringing. And God — we do not even dare to reason whether He did something right or wrong. This is above all for us. I do not reason here, I just love Him and accept everything the way it is. 

If we are always going to look at misunderstandings, we will always be tempted. God, give us a pure mind. A pure mind thinks simply, briefly, it does not go into these riddles of thoughts. This kind of mind cannot be directed by evil or become involved in these riddles, from which we cannot escape. 

Love God selflessly. Love Him when you have joy, or when you have sorrow, when you are happy, and when you are miserable. Love Him not because He gave you something or promised you something. One loves not for it. Love God just because. It will make it all easier.

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




Archpriest Sergiy Baranov



This saint is called Saint John of San Francisco and sometimes, Saint John of Shanghai. He is our fellow countryman, who was born in Rus. The history of our great Motherland went the way that after the revolution, the great persecution of our Church began. Saint John had, together with a large number of the Russian intellectuals, to leave the country first for China; this is why there is such a prefix to his name as the Bishop of Shanghai. He served in Shanghai and guided the flock of our immigrants, who lived in an alien land and suffered hardships. He took care of little orphans, who by circumstance were left parentless in the foreign country. A big community of parentless children gathered around him there.   

When the Cultural Revolution started in China and the Church was persecuted as fanatically and terribly as in Russia, Saint John had to take all his children, who were gathered around him, and leave for the Philippines. They lived for some time in the Philippines, but circumstances made them leave the country and move somewhere else. 

They decided to move to America. In those days, America was not as ungodly as it is now, it was a bit different country. America, of those times, harbored a great number of our immigrants. However, in those times, America passed a law prohibiting him from coming into the country together with such a big community. The Lord helped Saint John, and for his sake, another law was signed, valid for just one day, as an exception, and Vladyka John with all his numerous flock, including the parentless children, settled down in San Francisco, the West coast, California. There he lives his last years, he builds new churches, he guides our immigrants, and he dies there. Some time later, he is glorified as a saint for his exceptional feats. These feats do not include only the feats of good deeds, but also a mystic feat, his life in Christ. 

In thirty years, when his relics were discovered, they appeared absolutely incorruptible. By good fortune, I had an occasion to visit San Francisco and this church, which was built by Vladyka John, and to pray by his relics. He was lying there incorruptible, only because he had been lying for thirty years there, his relics became brown, as dark wax. As I have already said, his relics rest in the church that he built and dedicated to the Icon of the Theotokos “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” and the old church there is also preserved, where the orphanage for his children was located.  Some of his children are still alive. They were children then, when Saint John saved and guided them but now they are very old people. 

You know, there is one peculiar thing about them. Everyone of them, remembering Saint John, said one and the same thing, “Vladyka John loved me more than the others.” Perhaps, this might sound subjective when everyone says, “he loved me more than the others,” but in fact, there was so much love in him that everyone who met him thought that Vladyka loved him or her more than the others. This is what an abundance of love he had. By the way, his love was not something sentimental, it was spiritual and he could even be very strict.   

Some modern people imagine, as our notion of love has changed, that love is only some funny business when you pamper your object of love. In fact, if a person is truly in love, he or she is worried about the fate of the beloved. To pamper and leave your beloved to die in this damaged state. How can a loving heart permit this? This is why we say that Vladyka John had much love, but some people think about sentimentality. 

Today we have just read the Gospel dedicated to the Enlightener and we found the following words there, “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”* This means that true love is not only a relationship, communication and the feelings of joy and delight. It appears that the one who loves gives his or her life for the beloved. He literally dies for the beloved in life circumstances and misfortunes every day. It is related to the fact that the object of love sometimes behaves in a way that brings him or her to destruction and this hurts the one who loves. The object of love, for example, our children, do not only bring us joy but also make us sad. We give them our whole life, our whole soul, and they often upset us by their inexperience in life. Don’t they? They upset us by their naughtiness and disobedience. Meanwhile, we have to give our life for them.  

In other words, when we speak about love, some people expect only a kind of inspired delight and flight, but actually, the highest understanding of love is on the cross. The Highest Love is Christ on the Cross. This is the meaning of the highest love.  In this meaning, the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep, the sheep who might be butting, disobedient, and wandering off in different directions.  Poor shepherd, he gets blisters on his feet trying to gather them! But the sheep might be ungrateful. In this very meaning, this is the highest manifestation of love. It is easy to love the one whom you like and who is obedient. But it is hard to love the one who brings you much sorrow, discomfort and even great pain. 

This is the kind of love Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco had. By his prayer, let us understand the meaning of love a little, let us see the point of love and bring ourselves to it. I say “bring ourselves” because it is sometimes scary to go ahead with the love I am talking about. It is painful and brings discomfort and uneasiness. Nevertheless, we should go in for it looking at our Originator of the Feat Jesus Christ.  

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

Thank you for today’s service. It was a pleasure to pray together with you. May God help you!

*Jn. 10:11



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

The Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron monastery of Orsk 

June 18, 2023


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

Today we celebrate the day of All Saints who have shown forth in the land of Russia. For ten centuries, Orthodoxy in our land has probably given thousands, or even millions of saints. We venerate all these people for having fulfilled God’s commandment. I will tell you a surprising thing. Well, more than likely you expect that I will tell you that they fulfilled God’s commandment of love. Of course, we know that this is the main commandment of God, “Love one another”. But today I want to tell you something else. They fulfilled God’s commandment to be holy. They fulfilled the commandment of God, Who said, “Be holy, for I am holy and your Heavenly Father is holy.” 

Why do I put this commandment first and foremost, and prefer it to the commandment of love? Well, love as a concept can be understood very relatively, indeed, everyone has their own understanding of love. And some people, who are really damaged, may call anything love. Well, why did people become saints?  Because they were able to fulfil this commandment, the main one, “Be holy.” And this commandment includes the commandment of love. It is impossible for a man who is not holy to fulfil the commandment of love. Why? Perhaps, this is a very complicated thing that I will say, but I will try to explain and want you to understand it. 

When Pontius Pilate before the crucifixion of Jesus asked with slight sarcasm and irony, “What is truth?” And Jesus answered, “I am the Truth.” Thus, He emphasises that the truth is not “what”, but the truth is “Who”, I am the Truth, the Truth is in Me. The whole world, the cosmos, is Christ-centred. Take away this main link – Christ, and everything will collapse. 

The same can be said about love. What is love? Love is not “what”, but love is “Who.” God is Love. Christians learned this truth. This truth is very complicated and awkward for many people. But there is no other way. The Holy Gospel gives us this key phrase: God is Love. Love is not a feeling, love is not a state, love is “Who.” God is Love. If we try to find love outside of God, we will keep falling  into the perverse understanding of love. I tell you again, now modern people in the West are ready to call love any disgrace, and for them this is also love. It is so because the main truth of love was taken away. Love is not “what”, love is “Who,” God is Love. 

The Russian saints fulfilled the commandment to be holy. They managed to do it. They managed to do it because of the main and very important reason. Modern Christians have lost this reason. Therefore, they constantly find themselves in delusion or spiritual disorder. They wish for better things but do the worse. And, well, this word “delusion” has somehow become the main word in Christianity. We use this word most of all. We think about this topic most of all. Even more than about Christ. Even more than about love. Because we can somewhat see such disorder in Christians. 

Christians begin to understand holiness as a state, as righteousness. They think that holiness is about being righteous, being positive, and being a good person. And they are mistaken. Holiness is not a state. Holiness is Christ. If you have Him inside you, He will sanctify you. Neither your good behaviour, kind thoughts, nor ascetic feats can make you a saint. Some people, Christians, seek in their prayer, in their spiritual exercises, a state of lightness, peace, some kind of pleasure. And they are confused again, as they are looking not for Christ as the key link of holiness, but they are looking for some state. But Christ for them is somewhere apart.  

Forgive me, maybe I am telling you some complicated things. But it is hard to speak about God, isn’t it? God is a very complicated topic to discuss, it is not easy. So sometimes we need to talk. Saint Symeon the New Theologian wrote many volumes of books about God. If we open it, we will say, “But what did he write about here” – well, it was hard for him to explain. I would like to climb a bell-tower and shout to our modern Christians, “Stop being afraid of the commandment about holiness!  God created us and endures us for the sake of our holiness.” What is the mistake? When we think that holiness is our achievement, our effort, our so-called good deeds, our kind behaviour, our self-compulsion to love one another. Without Christ, no matter what high moral goals you set, without Christ holiness is impossible. Because He is holy. Holiness is the prerogative of God. We can fulfil the commandments of holiness only in union with Him, through Him, if we let Him enter into us – that is we are in the process of deification. 

We have now partaken of Communion, what does it mean? We let Christ enter into us. Of course, we take Him really only if we are sincere, but not if we desecrate Him by our state, our… indifference, our absence of reverence.

When praying, when we keep holding Him inside of us: Jesus, Jesus, – this process can also be considered as taking Christ inside of ourselves. Fulfilling the commandments without Christ is a state of Antichrist. Only with Christ, for the sake of Christ. Christ – everything is Christ-centred. Nothing is possible without Him. That is why we do not experience holiness. We confuse holiness with searching for some states. Even the highest moral virtue, if it is without Christ, will be only kind, light but not holy. It is happening because only Christ is holy, not us, but Christ is holy. Once some people came to me and said, “Our relative died, he was a nice person but he was not faithful.” Well, he died as a nice person and that is it, he did not unite with God, and that is why he did not go to the good eternity because good eternity is Christ, holiness is Christ. And again this word  delusion… but what does this mean?  It’s essence is when a person looks for holiness outside of Christ but in himself. I am righteous, I am virtuous, I am reverent, I am hard working, I, I, I… There is no, no place for Christ here. Take away the “I” and give this place to Christ, and in an instant some seedlings, green branches will appear, life will begin. 

Millions of our predecessors, who became our Russian saints, differ from us not in their zeal, many of us have it also, but the direction of our zeal is wrong. This main notion distinguishes them from us, they sought holiness through Christ, not in themselves – this is a key point here. They became saints, great saints, the greatest saints, who are as different from us as the earth is from Heaven. 

Do not be afraid of this commandment. I often say, it is a shame to say this phrase, “I am not holy.” It is a shame to say such a  phrase when Christ is hanging on the Cross for you to become holy. We can say it crying, with tears, “unfortunately I am not holy,” – we may say it this way. But if you say it “you know, actually I am not holy,” so this way it sounds rude, insolent, this is disgraceful behaviour. Christ is hanging on the Cross but you stay here and say this, “You know, actually I am not holy.”  Why are you not holy? Because you are neglectful, because you are indifferent. You must become a saint. But do it not on your own but through Christ. Everything is in Christ. Glory to Him, always now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

The Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk



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

I have a question for you. Raise your hands those who is willing to make mistakes. Oh! Here is one insane woman. You should visit a doctor. Usually, people do not want to make mistakes consciously. Do they? Why should we make mistakes? Mistakes always lead to a trouble.  

Then I have another question. Who of you can do without mistakes? No one again. As a rule, no one, except for some queer people, wants to make mistakes cautiously because mistakes bring discomfort in our lives and ruin its mere structure. 

No one can do without mistakes. We always make mistakes. How do you think, why does this happen? Don’t you know? I think we are all crazy. Forgive me, of course. Well, who then does not want to make mistakes but keeps making them? The one who is wrong in the head. I guess, we are all wrong in the head.  Do you know why this is so and what is happening there? There is a mess in our head. We do not see obvious and simple things and constantly make mistakes because we have a mess of thoughts there. The “smarter” (in commas) we are, the more mistakes we make, as our intellect, or what we call it, is our insanity in truth. Too many thoughts.  These thoughts tangle with one another and mix, and we cannot distinguish in this mixture the answer to what we should do, how we should act correctly, as everything is so confused there. 

We may turn a simplest business into the most complicated one. Do you know who helps us in doing so? If you go to church for a long time, you might hear and know that God is the greatest simplicity. And everything is definite and clear in this simplicity: yes is yes and no is no. Do you remember what the Lord says in the Gospel? He says, “Let your word be simple: your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” A word comes from a thought, it is brought from the head. If everything is complicated in one’s head, it will never give a simple word, this word will never give a simple decision, and everything will always remain complicated. We are ill ourselves, but there is someone who stimulates and makes our illness progress. Who do you think this is? Surely, this is not the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes, everything is very simple and definite: this is a sin, this is the truth. “My child, do it this way and you will be happy and do not do it that way.” But when the truth and false are mixed in one cocktail, you will never distinguish what to do and how to act, as everything is confused.  

Satan mixes our thoughts and makes everything complicated in order to make us insane in these murky waters, deceive us and possess us through this in the end.  Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit simplifies our thoughts. He makes our thoughts and actions simpler. We think in a simple way and understand everything simply. Well, simplicity is relative and the truth is relative too. Someone might say, “Oh, the truth is so complicated, one should think a lot, dig to the roots, and come at the truth.” However, for someone the truth is very simple. Stop digging and set yourself to Christ. He is the Truth. That’s it. Nevertheless, you do not trust Him, but you trust your thoughts and you keep spinning in this whirl. Christ is the Truth, not you. You are a poor man, as if someone has lowered a mixer into your head and mixed everything there. I tell you as a spiritual guide, I sometimes want to cry. We may pervert and make complex the simplest thing ever. I sometimes want to say, “What’s going on? O Lord, everything is so simple. What is happening to you?” 

They say, people may go crazy because of the Jesus prayer. It might happen  not because of the Jesus prayer, but due to incorrect practice of it. Has someone understood the essence of the Jesus prayer? What is the essence of it? When we say the Jesus prayer, we practice the stoppage of our thoughts in one point and in one phrase, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” At this moment, we turn away from all the mess in our head and simply say, “Jesus, Jesus.”   What have I already told you about the truth? Christ is the Truth. Our thoughts, logical conclusions, all those labyrinths, where we go and never find the way out, are not the truth. Christ is the Truth. This is very simple and short, “Jesus, Jesus.” 

You see those people who say the Jesus prayer with their mouths and wander in those labyrinths of logic with their heads, have nothing to do with the Jesus prayer. They go mad not because of the Jesus prayer, but because of being highbrows. The Jesus prayer, on the contrary, teaches us simplicity of mind where everything is simple. But those people think they say the Jesus prayer and it sends them a thousand of revelations and they enjoy them and go crazy. If the Jesus prayer has the right way, it will not make anyone crazy. Quite the opposite, it brings people back to sanity. Stop, o man, in your thoughts, and come back to your senses. No matter how high you fly in your thoughts, they are mere fancies and illusions; satan deceives you, he will fly with you up to the Sun, but then will smash you against the ground. 

It is very easy for a spiritual guide to distinguish who says the Jesus prayer correctly and who does not. He sees who is in a good spiritual state and who is insane. Those who have a sober head, act soberly, very simply, laconically and shortly. Meanwhile, those who have a mess in their heads will turn the simplest business into a universe disaster.  For example, one may give a tree sapling to two people. One of those people would be a simple headed person, another one, though being faithful, with a mess in his head. The one having a simple mind would say, “Lord bless me to plant this tree.” He digs a hole, puts a little manure in it, plants the tree, covers the roots with soil, waters it with three buckets of water, crosses it and leaves.   

At the same time, the one who has a complicated mind will make a whole business out of this. “Let us read the Akathist for planting an apple tree. Interesting, are the Akathist for an apple and the one for a pear tree differ or not? ” They read the Akathist. “Let us have a round procession with this sapling.” They go. “Let us do something with the roots.” In the end, while they do all this, the roots become dry, and soon after the planting, the tree dies.  “Lord, where are You?” He says, “Madman, I was crying for three hours when you were making a spectacle of yourself. I was here, but you were too smart to ask Me. Even if I tried to say something to you, you would nevertheless say, ‘Lord, wait. I will read up the Akathist.’” 

No one goes mad because of the Jesus prayer. People go crazy because of their highbrowness. You see, the main criterion, those who think simply, say simply and act simply and everything is simple in their lives. Everything surrounding them is simple. Meanwhile, it is very hard and sometimes even unbearable near the person who complicates everything.  Lord, have mercy! It’s impossible! Someone prays sincerely, “Lord, give me some intelligence!” He thinks intelligence is many thoughts. “The more thoughts I have, the smarter I will be.” Today, when you come back home, think about my words. Is having many thoughts speaks for your intellect or… What is it called in psychiatry? Schizophrenia. God forbid! Where everything is simple there are a hundred Angels, where everything is complicated, there are no Angels.2 They have all flown away.    

Forgive me.

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

1“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Mt. 5:37)

2The quote from St. Ambrose of Optina.



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai

June 11, 2023

Let us discuss the presence of evil in this world. This is our experience. Well, someone can say, someone who thinks frivolously, we can stop him and say, “Well, think about that!” To which he might answer, “There are no sinister forces, there is no devil.” But we stop him again and say, “But where does it come from? Look, it comes from the outside. Do you want this evil”? “No”. And he will say, “This is my habit.” But there was a reason for your habit, this habit appeared somehow, this temptation by evil appeared from somewhere. There was your answer to this evil, but this evil came to you from the outside. This suggests that in our world, in being of our world there is a dark power which tries to spoil everything around. If there had not been a light power as an opposition to the dark one, the latter would destroy this world, our world simply would not exist. This fact proves that there is a light power which opposes sinister forces. This is a continual fight. On no account do I want someone to think that these forces are equal, – on no account do I want that! In an instant, one question appears, well, why, if God is almighty, why would He, as someone may think, let this dark power act, why would He let this power be? Have you not thought about that? 

This evil power entered into us and united with every cell of our body. So in order to destroy this evil one should destroy all of us. We are all contaminated by this evil, every cell of ours is infected with it. But God loves us, He feels compassion. That is why God has a wise plan, a long term plan. He lets this evil tempt us so that we would be able to show our inclination to kindness, to make a choice. He can not become our Friend by force, without our choice, He can not become our Father by force. One can become a lord or a leader forcefully; one can come and conquer. But one can not become a friend forcefully. So, that is why God let us show our inclination for Him. We make our choice when resisting a temptation. 

Not having any temptation, one may say that, “But I have already shown everything.” I do not believe you. The very first hardship will show that, actually, you have already shown everything, the very first hardship – and you have already changed your mind.  Your inclination is not reliable, this is not true. I love You while everything is good. But there appears just a little, small unpleasantness and I do not love You anymore. This is not love. These are commercial relations. Love is unconditional. So, in order to show this unconditional love to God, we have to be tempted. And this silly dark power does not even suspect that it helps us to resist temptation. This power tempts us and lets us win this way. Having repelled temptation, we say that, “God, it is not that I simply tell You,  “Jesus, I love You,” – but I prove it every day.”

Now there are many words out there, but it is hard to believe them. There are so many different words. People speak lofty language but do sordid acts. So, word means nothing if not proved by action. But what is worse is that this word can be hypocrisy. That is why any word should be proved by action. In order to prove our sincerity to God, we have to constantly resist temptations, which provoke us – whether we really love Christ or not.  

Look, what Gospel we have read today, if someone can remember, “He who has not left father or mother for Me is not worthy of Me.” He does not say, “I do not want to see you.” He says that your love for Me is not complete. So, you can prefer an imperfect father or imperfect mother to the Perfection of God. He does not say I do not want to see you, I am offended, I am angry. He says, “Not worthy of Me” – the quality of your state is not worthy. “Who has not left a son or daughter is not worthy of Me.”

I, as a priest, saw so many lives for the last 30 years. One goes to church sincerely, ardently. Then a temptation came – a disease of a child, your own disease, your career is destroyed, friends left you – and your relations with God got on the wrong side. So, it means that your relations with God were not sincere, it means that you always needed something from Him. “God I want nothing from you but only You Yourself! This is my main wish.”

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day.  This was their way. God says, leave your father and mother, leave your son and daughter, leave your property, as apostles did. They were poor people. Their property was – a boat and a fishing net – they needed it to make their living. God came, “Follow Me”. They left their boat and net, and they went to some place unknown. The same happened with all saints: leave this, leave this, leave this. But the last…last thing God says in the Gospel, “Do you want to be my disciple? Take your cross.” 

Now it is very often the case when people are coming to church to achieve completely different goals. Where to read to make my family feel good? Where to read to manage hiccups at work? Where to read to make this or that part of my body healthy? Only a few people enter a temple and approach not to that, or that, or that icon from which they can ask for this, for that, and for this. They go straight to a rood. To the Cross on which is Jesus with blood flowing down. Sometimes I may say to people who need this, and that, and this from Jesus, “Go to the Cross. Look at His hands, legs. Ask Him.” And it may happen that your tongue can not even move. One has some power to only say, “God” and that is it but then there is some pause. 

All saints, there was not even one saint, we remember today, apostles, hierarchs, righteous saints, we remember martyrs, we remember different archieratikons, venerables, but there was not even one saint who entered the Kingdom of Heaven without a personal cross. This cross is like a key which can open this door. It is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without a cross. On an icon we can see that the righteous thief enters the Kingdom of Heaven with the cross on his shoulders. It does not matter what archieratikon, I say, you had when you strived – as a righteous lay person or a monk, as a hierarch or a priest, as a venerable, as a martyr, especially as martyr. No one entered the Kingdom of Heaven without a cross. 

This is the answer to the question why does evil exist? Evil is a marker which reveals the quality of our Christianity, it is like an acid test. We may see through this evil – if we agree with it or resist it. We may even be succumbed by this evil but we cry about it and this is our fight. We do not agree with it but evil fights with us and this process is our inclination to Jesus. Evil can win one hundred times but we go to penance through this shame and announce our confusion and this process is our inclination to Jesus. 

Why does evil exist? Now we do understand it, right? To fight it, to beat it. If we do not conquer this evil we will run away from it all the time but it will keep catching us occasionally. We need to win it as the saints did. Everything is for Christ’s sake. But the main thing, I would like to emphasise it, not only for Christ’s sake but with Christ. I do not believe that someone was able to win evil without Christ. These are arrogant people with self-importance. One day this self-importance thing will betray them, it will collapse. Why did the Lord let this happen? For us to become firmly convinced of our imperfection. We should understand it properly so that we cry and scream, “ Lord! I lost this battle one thousand times and finally I got that I can not be without You. I can not. Do not leave me and I will not leave You. Only like this can I win.” 

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



May 7, 2023


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

There was once a  great Orthodox Elder, Ephraim of Arizona, who passed away just a few years ago, whom many know as a great and powerful elder. He was once a novice, the youngest novice to another great Elder, Joseph the Hesychast of Athos, a cave-dweller already canonized by the Holy Church. Once the  young novice Ephraim heard from Elder Joseph that the way of ascension to God is as if it were a ladder with different steps.  The Holy Fathers, the Venerable Saints who strove for Christ, are on different steps: some higher to God, some lower. Then young, naive Ephraim asked, “Father Geronda (from Greek Γέροντας), and where am I?” The elder answered, “Nowhere. You are not on the ladder because you have not repented yet.”

Elder Joseph, an experienced spiritual warrior, identified the main work of the ascension to God. Repentance is the first step. And if you have not achieved it, all your other feats are feats of the antichrist, feats of proud satan. Perhaps someone may have read about when satan appeared to Antony the Great, saying, “You keep vigils at night, but I don’t sleep at all. You fast rigorously and I don’t eat at all. All your feats are nothing. I can do better than that. The only thing I cannot do is humble myself. I can do all this out of pride in myself. I can stay awake, I can rub my knees red when I pray, I can neglect eating, I can go around the world and even do good deeds, but out of my pride and not out of love. I can go around, do good deeds and admire myself for what a wonderful person I am. I can do it all! All, except humble myself.”

 You only  begin to enter the spiritual life at this first step of repentance. Those who have not passed this point cannot even dream of a spiritual life. They are just building  castles of sand that will collapse. You build, you shape, you think you have something monumental already. You have prayed so much, done so many good deeds, gone to church so often – and suddenly it collapses in an instant. You are not on the ladder because you have not repented yet.

There are two reasons that a person is allowed to experience grief. First, grief is allowed to sinners for humility. Secondly,  it is allowed to righteous people, for perfection. And the biggest mistake is when a sinner, who has not yet repented, who has not passed this point of repentance, suddenly thinks that he is allowed to have grief for perfection. Grief for perfection is allowed to those who have repented, those who have already gained experience through repentance. But if the hapless novice, the hapless Christian, who has just come to the Church, suddenly thinks that grief is allowed to him for perfection but he has not yet passed the point of repentance, he, poor man, does not understand that this grief is his own wrong behavior, grief he is bringing on himself. The commandments of God are not commandments of prohibition, not a desire to rule over a poor man. God does not say: I order you to do this, I order you not to do that. God’s commandments are recipes for happiness. God says to us, “Do this and you will be happy. If you fail to do so, you will be in bad health, you will suffer, troubles will follow you”. The man does not keep the commandments and is in grief all the time. And woe unto that foolish ascetic if he thinks that he has already ascended to that degree of spiritual life where grief is for his perfection. This was true for Seraphim of Sarov – grief for perfection – and for Sergius of Radonezh – grief for discernment. And for us poor people who have not yet passed that initial point, grief is for our sins.

There was once a nun named Eupraxia living in Orsk. In Soviet times there were no monasteries and our Orsk nuns lived in flats. I visited her and gave her the Eucharist. She had such a serious illness, you know.  When I arrived her asthma was choking her. I started to read the communion prayers and she almost fainted. But the moment she received the Eucharist she came back to life, as  if she was resuscitated in an intensive care unit. I asked, “Mother Eupraxia, where does it hurt?” And then she told me, mispronouncing the Russian words (she was a Chuvash woman), “My sins hurt”, – she understood exactly what was hurting her. She, being such a good nun, never once told me, “God visits me to perfect me.” She would always say that her sins hurt. 

Hapless is a novice, a monk or any Christian who has not passed that period when he realizes that all his problems are of his own making, but suddenly starts saying: “The Lord has visited me with grief, it is for my perfection, my humility.” You have no humility, you have a high opinion of yourself! “My spiritual father has chastised me, and he has done it for the sake of my perfection.” Your spiritual father’s not perfecting you, he’s just not controlling himself anymore! That’s why he chastised you. Saint Ephraim of Katounakia once said, “Do not upset God, do not break the commandments, He will take His grace away from the confessor and the confessor will give you a thrashing”. And then He will restore His grace upon him, and he will be peaceful and kind again. 

The most crucial mistake is to misunderstand why grief occurs. I doubt that, of those of us standing, there are many people here who are sent grief for perfection. So far, grief is still for our wrong behavior. It is a violation of the law, the law of happiness, and that is why we are unhappy all the time. Let’s sober up, get back to reason. Realize who we are and where we are. And then maybe we’ll just come to that first step on the ladder and hear  Elder Joseph say, “You haven’t repented yet.” 

Lord, take away our folly and give us reason, which Christianity calls humility of mind. Some people think they are really wise, but if they are just wise, they are spiritually insane. Orthodox wisdom is called humility of mind. Without the word ‘humility’, wisdom becomes the wisdom of this age, thus becoming spiritual madness. The man is so clever, so well-off, understands everything, but does not believe in God. So what? Then he dies and is buried with his wisdom, even if no grief visited him in this life. Buried and forgotten. All his wisdom is five feet under. If he does not succeed to the Kingdom of Heaven, what is his wisdom? It is foolishness. 

To Our God be the glory always, now and ever, and unto  the ages of ages. Amen!