Sermon for the Sunday of the Cross. 19.03.2023


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

Today is the third Sunday of Great Lent and it is dedicated to the Veneration of the Holy Cross. All this week is dedicated to the theme of our Lord’s Cross. There are the following words of the Lord in the Gospel, “I brought a sword.”1 Not many people understand what these words mean. What sword did Christ bring? 

When the Most Holy Theotokos brought the Infant Christ to the Temple of Jerusalem, She heard the following prophecy, “A sword will pierce through your own heart also.”2 Along with the honor of being the Mother of God, the Most Holy Theotokos accepts this horrible prophecy, “A sword will pierce through your own heart also.” This sword Christ is talking about. He also says, “If you desire to be My disciple, take up your cross and follow Me.”3 

We are so far from the times of the first martyrs, that a cross has become a kind of decoration for us. We choose a cross to our liking at a church shop, paying attention to whether it is silver or gold and to the shape of the cross. And there is a wide range of choices for us. Thus, the external shape has begun to lose its essence, its mere meaning. A cross is not jewelry that we wear. The Cross is literally a sword that will pierce not only through the heart of the Holy Theotokos, but also the heart of every Christian, who follows Christ.  If this is sincere and deep, the Cross becomes a sword for everyone. 

In England, there is a statue near the Parliament, a monument to a king. I might be mistaken now; I guess it is dedicated to King Richard, who holds the sword by its hilt hoisting it. He holds this sword with a cross-guard above the hilt like a cross. This is a very good analogy. A cross and a sword is the same issue. This is the sword and this is the cross Christ is talking about.    

Some people, unfortunately, understand this incorrectly. They hear only the first phrase saying that your Christianity will divide you from your relatives, from those who are unchurched, who did not follow Christ, you will have a conflict with them and you will even be persecuted.  And some people misunderstand this, the meaning of the “sword,” they think they will fight against their relatives. They will separate from their father, mother, brother and sister. Those Christians who misunderstand the meaning, think this is the war against their unchurched family. 

In fact, this cross is in bearing the misunderstanding of the people who are the closest to you. It consists of misunderstanding, judging and even persecution by the closest people, by one’s family. A father will not understand his son, a wife will not understand her husband and there will be separation.  

Those who understand this incorrectly, begin to fight. They apply the sword to destroy their opponents. Meanwhile, those who understand the meaning of this sword and cross correctly, through the Holy Spirit, realize that this sword will pierce through their heart. It will not be the heart of their enemy or opponent, but it will be their own heart. Our heart should be very vivid, reverential and delicate, as the note on which God sounds is a very-very delicate note. 

So many of you are standing before me now. Who is hearing God? It is sad, isn’t it? Even children are not hearing. They hear they are hungry. This happens because our heart has become coarse. This coarse heart of ours hears only some rough and striking notes. It ceased to perceive the subtlest note of God. Our heart is so rough that it is sometimes compared to a stone. It has become a stone. And this subtle note of the Holy Spirit simply bangs against this stone just like against concrete.  

In order to make our heart softer, we need to moisten it. Do you know how people’s hearts moisten? The sword, which Christ is talking about, injures our heart and spills the blood. Blood moistens the heart as well as do blessed tears. They moisten and soften this stony heart. When it becomes soft, responsive and flexible again, it becomes living.  It resembles dry grass, which has dry blades, but its roots still have some life in them. The only thing it needs is watering. The Holy Fathers watered this grass, this little growth, with their tears and blood. There is a saying of the Holy Fathers, “Do you want to acquire the Spirit? Give your blood and sweat and acquire the Spirit.”  

To make your heart alive, you need to water it. Perhaps, my words might seem harsh and make no point for someone. This sword pierces a stone heart and it bleeds. The blood softens the heart, its callousness and hardness. Thus, it becomes soft. 

Blood and tears, this is what Christ is talking about. This is the mystical essence of the Cross. It is enigmatic even for many Christians, because they simply do not get this, but it is excusable. At the same time, some people do not want to understand, because this issue brings pain. And we are not ready for pain. We do not want it and escape it. We run away from this sword. 

The Lord pierces our heart with this sword like a surgeon. He does not kill it, but revives it in fact. He spills the blood. However, this issue is very hard, this is why we run away.  

The only thing, which we stop our Christianity at is, “Lord, help me. Lord, strengthen me. Lord, give me. Lord, console me.” This “Lord” and everything I have listed does not comprise, “Lord, here is my heart.” The Lord says in the Holy Scripture, “My son, give me your heart. I do not need your goats and rams, I do not need the candles you lit and the incense you burn. I do not need your donations. I will miraculously give you everything and everything will be built. My son, give Me your heart.”4 Giving heart is very painful. At the same time, it is beautiful and noble. If you only knew how sweet it is to give your whole heart to Christ! To the Sweetest Christ, to the Beloved Christ, to the Most Precious Christ. To give Him everything.  

Lord Jesus Christ… 

1 Mt.10:34 (“I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”)

2 Lk. 2:35 (“A sword will pierce through your own soul also.”)

3 Mt. 16:24 (“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”), Mk. 8:34 (“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”)

4 Prov. 23:26 (“My child, give me your heart.”)



Sermon on the Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas. 12.03.2023


Now we remember the first story from the Gospel telling us about the paralytic, whose relatives brought him to Jesus, so He healed him. As there was no space, they even dared and removed the roof of the house to lower him there. The Lord heals him and says the words, which He usually says when healing someone, “Your sins are forgiven you.”1 Thus, the Lord puts emphasis on the reason for our illnesses. When Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, they did not know what an illness or a sorrow were and they were in a blessed and blissful state.  After the Fall, when the Lord determined the situation of the first people, He said, “Sorrows will now accompany you.” And He said to the woman, “In pain you will bring forth children2 and you will belong to your husband, who will not necessarily be just and kind.” To the husband He said, “You will have to procure food for your family and work very hard to make the earth give you its fruit. You will have to apply much effort and overcome sorrow.” At any moment of healing, the Lord names the reason for our sufferings.  

However, sometimes people ask a legitimate question. They wonder, “You say the reason for suffering is sin. Nevertheless, very often I see that dishonorable people live prosperously enough, while righteous people suffer and have illnesses and misfortunes.” When we look at our lives soberly and do not simply speak in quotations from the Gospel, certain questions arise in our mind. These questions bring us doubts and wonderings. “” You say, a righteous person will not be left, but we have seen so many righteous people who lead a sorrowful life and bear a big burden. Also we see a lot of unjust people, who acquired their wealth unrighteously and live like lords. You say, they will answer for their unrighteous wealth and the Lord will punish them with diseases or some other troubles, but there are many examples of such people who reach old age and then have big marble monuments on their tombs.” 

In other words, people have an inner temptation concerning the unjustness of God. They do not understand God and this is why a protest arises inside of them and their faith makes a small crack, through which satan himself puts more temptations into our hearts.  

I would like to advise you with something, which helps me at such moments of temptation. I do not try to understand everything and I remember that the Wisdom of God is bottomless, while I am a small worm standing on the shore of the ocean, not able to encompass it within myself, this entire ocean inside my small head. The only thing I understand, if I live every situation through to eternity, the truth will come to me. No matter how long the unrighteous man lives with his unrighteous wealth, he dies in the end.  This is an undefeatable law, and we all know this. No matter how long a righteous man suffers, he will die too. And his sufferings will end. Both, the wellness of the unjust and the suffering of the righteous will come to an end one day. If you begin to live all the events of your life through eternity, everything falls in its place. 

We have one more parable now, of the rich man and Lazarus. How long did the rich man enjoy his wealth? Well, he may even live for a hundred years. But what is a hundred years compared to eternity? If we draw eternity as an endless line, our life will be a small dot compared to eternity. In this regard, all our questions and wonderings will simply vanish in this eternity.  

Our purpose is not to live our lives in comfort and prosperity here. Our goal is to live righteously in this dot. Sorrow often accompanies righteousness. This is why the Lord says, “Do you want to be My disciple? Mind that you will have to take your cross and follow Me,” as righteousness has a big price. Righteousness is always a choice. It is often a choice, which costs one’s effort, losses, misunderstanding, persecution, and sometimes even death.   

Now our young men choose between life and death. This is their choice. This choice characterizes them for eternity. Someone might make another choice and die all the same. And this will characterize him for eternity. It depends on how we pass into eternity, in what quality we will stop for it. A thief who does not repent will cross the threshold of eternity being a thief. Meanwhile, the righteous, and I regard even the repentant thieves and those people who cry over their sins as righteous, they cross the threshold of eternity in the state of repentance. They inherit the benign eternity, the others do not.  

Do not try to understand everything. This is my first piece of advice. Simply commend yourselves to God, like little children. God knows all. Do you remember when we were little children, there were certain moments when we, glory to God, said according to our childish understanding, “Well, I don’t know. Dad and mom know better. They do not want any bad thing for me.”  This is why you should learn to trust God, even if you do not understand Him sometimes. Secondly, let all your esteems be based on eternity, on its essence. In this case, everything will be in its place. Everything is very short and temporary in this life. Everything will pass. This moment is already gone. I said the sermon and I am going to serve again. 

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

1 Mk. 2:5

2 Gen. 3:16



Sermon for the Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas. 12.03.2023


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

Today’s second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. Do you know the story of Saint Gregory Palamas? Yes, he was an Athonite monk, he strived on Holy Mount Athos. The monastic tradition has existed on Holy Mount Athos for a thousand years to this day. This island has belonged to monks for a thousand years already. There are no secular inhabitants there. For a thousand years, it lawfully exists as a men’s monastic republic where no woman has ever set her foot. This is not because someone disdains women, but because this is simply a men’s monastic island, a men’s maritime republic of people who gathered there united by one common theme of monasticism and who dedicate their whole attention and lives to Christ.   

When monks are tonsured they make vows, and one of the vows is agamy. One more is staying at the place where you were tonsured and remain obedient to the Elder, before whom you bowed and who tonsured you, until the end of your life. The monastics make vows to observe not only the purity or chastity of their bodies. Also at tonsure they are given their prayer ropes, which symbolize not only a simple prayer, but a prayer which helps them to keep their inward chastity, a chastity of mind. Look, even the notions of “thoughts” and “ideas” are different. Not only a long thought, but also a short idea should not let you be somewhere outside of Christ. 

This amazing place exists until now and attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. As the world has lost Christ to some measure.  

Seeking after Christ, I traveled a lot around the world. I visited Athos more than forty times, but also I visited many other places on our planet, involuntarily getting up close and personal to them.  I went to America not for the sake of seeing America, but to find a person there, who was an Athonite monk and who opened nineteen monasteries in America. He created the monasteries in the way that their inhabitants live like Athonites in seeking after Christ, in concentration, in Christ. I was in England, but not for seeing England, its Parliament or other places of interest. I went there because there lived a person there, who founded a monastery. This man was Father Sophrony Sakharov, who dedicated his whole life to seeking Christ too. 

In pursuit of the theme of Christ, I involuntarily traveled to these countries and I saw that the major part of their population lives in a post-Christian epoch. These countries used to be Christian. Old Europe is full of churches, but they are all dead. Who discovered America? Christians did. America is dead for Christ now. 

Meanwhile Athos is a unique place, this theme still exists there. Everyone lives by one theme, desire and aspirations. Everyone talks about Christ and with Christ. Everyone does not simply take their prayer ropes with them, but they use them as a link with Christ. It is like a thread, Christ holds one end and I hold another. Do you remember, when we were at the kindergarten, the teacher tied us to a rope, if we went somewhere? We went in a straight line after the teacher, our caregiver, without deviating to any side. The same way a monk holds his prayer rope. One part of it in his hand, another, in Christ’s. He holds to Christ saying without ceasing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” 

Saint Gregory Palamas lived in the XIV century. He was an Athonite monk and inherited the Athonite tradition to the full extent. These traditions belonged to the people who abandoned all the joys of this world, they refused a family, marriage, art, science, and traveling. They closed themselves on this island, and even more, in the space of the island, they closed themselves in a dark cell. For those who have never come across monasticism and who do not understand it, this all seems to be a prison, a prison for the human soul.  Our souls are always anxious for impressions, pleasure and happiness. But people suddenly close themselves voluntarily in this prison of a dark cell. However, other people see life in their eyes. And not simply life, but a sparkle of joy. They see the Divine Light in the eyes of those people who live by it. After a meeting with such a monk, people’s stereotypes and insight into monasticism change. A monk is in a prison of his cell, but his eyes beam with joy. At the same time, I cling to the joys of this world and I am always exhausted, I have neither life nor joy in me.  Why is this so? What is so special about them? 

Regarding the story of Saint Gregory Palamas, we know he was an Athonite monk, and we are acquainted with his works on prayer, on the Jesus prayer in particular. There is one more historical fact we know about him. A controversy he engaged in. Sometimes a false humility tells Christians, “Do not meddle in anything, do not argue with anyone, do not do anything.” And all of a sudden an Athonite monk leaves Athos in order to argue. He leaves his cell to meet his opponent. What made him do this? He cared for God and came out to defend Him. He came out to protect Christ and the experience of the Athonite monasticism. 


The story tells us there was a Greek, who came to Byzantium from Rome, where he acquired his education. Catholicism has very strong science, intellectual and scholastic science. This man, his name was Barlaam, was a scholar who gained a very good education there, in the West. When he came back to his motherland, Byzantium, due to his education, he was accepted at the emperor’s court with honor. People listened and paid attention to him. This man came back and brought not only knowledge, but also self-opinion with him. It seems to him that his intellectual theoretical knowledge allows him to judge practice.  He came to Athos to become acquainted with the Athonite tradition of monasticism. In the innocence of their heart, the Athonites told him about their practice of the Jesus prayer. Like little children, they revealed to him about what was happening to them. They opened the state of contemplation during the Jesus prayer before him. The state of contemplation is a unique state, when a person comes out of the format of this world and steps into the space of the Divine world, into the parallel world. There, everything happens in a drastically different way. As Saint Paul the Apostle said, “I saw it, but I cannot tell you what I saw, as the things I saw were not of this world. I heard, but I cannot explain what I heard, as there are no earthly words to describe this.” 

When Barlaam came to Athos and the monks told him about their states of contemplation, he did not understand them, as he had never experienced this. He had never been in such a state. It would be a different matter if he only did not understand them, but he began to laugh at them, moved by his pride and arrogance. He said, “They are insane. This is spiritual exaltation. They are impassioned and in a state of delusion. Everything they see is a mere illusion.”

Saint Gregory Palamas, who could simply remain in  his cell and have no argument with anyone and keep his inner peace, comes out to meet his opponent and says, “You are a madman, stop. Who do you argue with? You studied theory, but you are standing before those who practice and those who do not know this spiritual world from books, but live in it every day, every night and every hour.” 

He does not leave Athos because Barlaam had significant authority being highly educated, but because a part of the population of Byzantium leaned towards his side. However, a part of people heard and sided with the authority of Saint Gregory Palamas. Even a church council gathered to discuss this issue. The Athonites said during the moment of contemplation, they saw Divinity as the Uncreated Light, the Light of Transfiguration. To which Barlaam said, “This is a simple physical light.” Saint Gregory insisted, “No, this is a Divine Light.” Glory to God, His truth defeats this heretic through Gregory Palamas. However, Barlaam confused many people, he was not alone. He had a follower Acindynus after him.   

Regarding the essence of this controversy. This was not even an argument about the Uncreated Light, and not about the way people see God. Most probably, this is an argument on the knowledge of God. In the end, Saint Gregory proved that God is not experienced through intellect. 

Intellect works with the space of this physical world. Meanwhile, God is a subtler and higher issue. Intellect always hits a wall. Hitting a wall, instead of admitting its limitedness, it says out of its pride, “God does not exist.”  In fact, you have come to a dead end and God does not exist in this state for you. God does not belong to an intellectual realm, He belongs to the realm of being. You cannot speculate about God, or rather, you can, but you will never meet God in this way. You will always talk about God, talk much and in a complicated way, but you will never meet Him. You will meet God in the state of prayer. This is not a state of reasoning or thinking, this is a state of miracle. God has come and everything fell into place. There are no more questions. Here I am, here is God. Amen. All speculations only interfere. This was the essence of the controversy.  

Even now, a part of churched people tries to seek God through intellect. They go to church throughout their lives, but have no result… You know, once an Abbess, an acquaintance of mine whom I loved very much and who is deceased now, told me during our conversation about prayer, “Father Sergiy, I have been a nun for fifty years and an Abbess for twenty-five years already. I know how to build, to sing, I know the Church canons and how to manage a monastery. But I do not know how to pray.” No, she knows how to read the Psalter, to sing at a service and hold the midnight office. Nevertheless, in the end of her life, she realized that praying and reading are not the same things. You may read and read until you read it to tatters, and you may sing until you lose your voice. But there will be no God. Not at all. Prayer is when God is there. You and God. 

The previous week, the first one, was dedicated to the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Look, now is the second week and the Church gives it to one person, Saint Gregory Palamas. The Church empathizes how deep are the spiritual moments he touched upon, explained, and won in a controversy about them. By his prayers, O Lord,  let us not only walk, but have something happening to us, so we stop saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” to the emptiness. Sometimes people say, “I am tired of listening about Christ, show me Christ Himself. I want to meet Him so badly.” Unfortunately, even those people who go to church all their lives long say these words. 

This happened to our beloved Father John of Kronstadt. He did not simply go to church, but walked hand in hand with Christ. 

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



Sermon for the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy



Today’s Sunday, the first Sunday of Great Lent, is dedicated to the Triumph of Orthodoxy. We have just served the moleben of the Triumph of Orthodoxy and read the Gospel. It told us a story about a master who left his ninety-nine sheep and went seeking for one that went astray. It is not by chance that we read this Gospel today. The Holy Fathers and the Holy Spirit chose it.

Today I would like to take pity on pagans and justify them a little. Before the coming of Christ, people wandered in different directions seeking God. But I want to excuse them a little, and I want to explain why they acted this way.

Since creation, people have had a yearning for God. Regardless of whether someone is born to an atheistic or non-Orthodox family, somewhere deep inside, on the genetic level, we have this longing for God. A person may be raised in a non-Orthodox environment, but somewhere in his or her conscience, there is a small prompting voice.

Why did poor pagans always create idols for themselves? Because they had this thirst for God, but they could not discover the Unfathomable God, Who was unknown to them.  Now, in Christian times, the Holy Fathers can fathom God in His Divine darkness through the Holy Spirit. In other words, to perceive His shapelessness in the format of this world. God, His essence, is not limited by the format of this world. The Holy Fathers, when they practiced noetic prayer, passed beyond form and were granted vision of the essence. They experienced the Unfathomable and shapeless God very definitely. These people however were unique. People such as Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov were one in a million, or perhaps, in a billion. One in a century or two in a century. These people entered the Divine darkness and perceived the shapeless and limitless God. What does our vision work with? It works with shape. God however cannot be limited by anything, as He is Perfect. Any limitation will deprive Him of perfection.  

These poor pagans had the yearning but did not have the vision. This is why they formed idols as best they could, according to their carnal and earthly understanding. Nevertheless, their thirst made them do something. For this reason, today, on the Day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, I do not have any hatred, disdain, or disrespect towards them. Only pity arises in me. Poor pagans, they could not fathom God the way Christians can in the Holy Spirit. Rare Christians can perceive the shapeless God through the Holy Spirit. Because we are not all rare, the Lord condescends and takes shape for our sake. 

He is present in the form of an icon, and lives with us through this icon, filling it with His Grace. The Lord fills His True Cross with His Grace. This happens not only with a tangible hand-made Cross, but also in the sign of the Cross we make on ourselves. The Lord enters the shape and sign of His Cross with His Grace and works wonders.

God enters the blessing of a priest, which bears the form of IC XC – Jesus Christ – and fills this act with His Grace, His Divinity. This is why when a priest blesses someone, God touches the person through this blessing. 

God enters the calling of His Name mysteriously. Christ Himself says, “In My name they will cast out demons.” Not by simply calling upon ‘Me’, but ‘My Name’. God in His Grace enters His Name in the mystery of the Jesus Prayer. We call “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” into our heart. If we do this sincerely, with pure heart and mind, Christ Himself enters our heart. 

God enters the shape of bread and wine and makes them His Body and Blood, which we literally receive inside of us. This is not imaginary, and it is not symbolic, this is Christ Himself. If we believe otherwise, we should not receive Holy Communion as this is not a game; this is very serious and significant. We come to the Sacrament of Holy Communion and take the Body and Blood of Christ Himself.

Here however, a question arises. After partaking of Holy Communion, why do some people gain something, while the others remain empty? Saint Symeon the New Theologian said one precise phrase. It is precise for those who comprehend it. He said, “God is Fire, Who seeks matter.” To make fire burn, one needs matter that will kindle and ignite. This matter is our spiritual state of sincerity and seeking after God. If we have it, the Lord touches this matter, kindles it, and it comes to life. I mean spiritual fire, not physiological. Those who have no such spiritual matter have nothing to ignite.  

Many religions have a notion of god. There are monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam. God exists for them, but He is shrouded somewhere beyond the world. He is believed to exist, but He cannot enter into personal relationship with people in any form or shape. On the contrary, in Christianity, before Christians are enlightened by contemplation through which they can see the invisible and unfathomable God, Christians like every one of us, except Holy Father Seraphim, who could experience God without a shape, the Lord condescends and comes to us through the forms and shape of this world, to be tangible and perceivable. Have I wracked your brain? Glory to God!

Saint Paul the Apostle was very pleasantly surprised when he found an altar in the Areopagus of Athens dedicated to the Unknown God. The pagans realized somewhere deep inside of them that He existed, and they installed this altar among their hand-made idols. At the Saint Sergius-Holy Trinity Lavra, above the entrance to the Dormition Cathedral we read the inscription, “To the Known God.” Christians already know God. He ceases to be unknown, unfathomable, beyond-the-world, transcendent and blurred. God becomes Known, perceivable, tangible, and real for Christians. God Is Who He Is. “I Am.” This is how He identifies Himself.

Blessed Feast to everyone! You have come a week closer to Pascha. I congratulate you. May the Lord save you.

Glory to Thee, our God! Glory to Thee, our God! Glory to Thee, our God! 



Sermon after the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. 03.03.2023


“The doors of repentance do Thou open unto me, O Giver of life.” The Holy Church sings about repentance, as repentance is the door through which people come into the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is the door and the Church sings “the doors of repentance” meaning that there is no entrance into the Kingdom and reunion with Christ without repentance. 

It seems to be very simple and clear when people do not have repentance because they just do not want to. There are so many people on earth who do not even want to hear about God and they do not want to repent; they simply do not need this. It seems to be simple, you do not want to and you do not have to do it. However, there are many people who want repentance badly. They seek repentance as a change of their lives, as an escape from their vileness and worthlessness. They want to run away from the state which is always bringing heaviness and pain to their hearts and making their conscience ail, as their conscience accuses them of betraying their beloved God.   

This part of people wants repentance. They want to but they cannot repent. It happens to many Christians. “I do not simply want it, I want it to tears. But I cannot.” For some reason repentance does not come at once, it stops and stalls, or does not work at all. Sometimes people come to a state when they do not believe in their repentance.  They lose faith and hope in their success, and do not believe the Lord will accept them. 

I would advise such people to recollect a story from the Old Testament about Saint Jonah the Prophet and the Ninevites. The Ninevites came to the last point of corruption and they called down the wrath of God. There seemed to be no return to the relationship with God and no hope at all. This is why the Lord sent Jonah to the Ninevites not even to bring them to their senses, but to announce, “That’s enough. The Lord’s patience has exhausted itself. It is over. Ninevites, the wrath of God is waiting for you.” The Prophet did not go to teach them, but to inform them they had crossed the terminal line and would have nothing more. 

Having heard this horrible sentence, these Ninevites do not suddenly fall into despair, nor do they break bad and enjoy their last days, as everything is lost all the same. All of a sudden, some sober change takes place in their minds and hearts. The whole city comes to a state of repentance and they all repent before God. And the Lord lays His mercy on them. This is unexpected even for Jonah the Prophet. “How is this? You sent me to announce to them that the cup is full and Your wrath will fall on them. I came here on Your behalf to tell them all this and now I even look awkward as a prophet. I am turning into a false prophet now.”  

At this moment, he comes to desperation. Do you remember? He leaves the city in this state, sits exhausted, partly defamed as a prophet, and sad in the heat of the sun. Remember one more moment? We will read it on Great Saturday. There was a pumpkin growing nearby. It covers him with its leaves and protects from the scorching sunny rays, relieving Jonah from external and internal sufferings in a way. But even the pumpkin dries out suddenly. What does the Lord say to him then? “You have pity for the pumpkin you did not plant. How will I not have pity for the people I created and led through their lives. Don’t you think I will not have mercy on them even after they crossed the terminal line, the point of no return?”

People have such a notion as “the point of no return,” but God ruins this notion. He breaks it, goes there, pities them, and restores everything as it was. 

Desperation offends the mercy of God. Desperation and loss of faith humiliates the unlimited love and mercy of God. There is no point of no return in God’s love, if only a human sighs somehow in the direction of God. Not even make a move, but sigh at least. 

When you fall into despair, when nothing works, remember the Ninevites. Remember the festive sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on the Great Feast of Pascha, “Come, the first and the last ones. The Lord wants to take pity on everyone.” If nothing else, you might have sincerity. Give Him your sincerity at least. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” will be enough. 

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





Before the Cherubic Hymn, a priest or a deacon exclaims three prayers for the catechumens. The first one sounds like, “Catechumens, depart. As many as are catechumens, depart.” 

In ancient times, those people who prepared themselves for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and who were not yet the members of the Church through the Baptism, were called catechumens, or those who prepared to enter the Church. According to Tradition, they remained in church only up to the Cherubic Hymn, before this most mysterious moment of the Holy Liturgy, when the mystery of consecration of the Holy Elements and the Eucharist took place. At that moment, they departed, and their departure symbolized that they were not full members of the Church; they only turned in its direction, but had not finally crossed the threshold of the Church yet. They had only affirmed their intentions, but something else should happen next. 

Nowadays we do not have this tradition of catechumens. There is no tradition of their leaving in the middle of the Liturgy. This is why in some churches they omit these Ecteniae for the Catechumens, as they seem to make no sense. However, I think, these Ecteniae brought meaning not only for the catechumens, but they also bring deep meaning for us, who consider ourselves the faithful. We have already crossed the threshold, we are members, we are already something. We are faithful already. But to a greater extent, this happened only technically. Yes, we are accredited as faithful; many of us can provide their Certificate of Baptism and produce witnesses. “Yes, I am baptized, I am a member of the Church, I am not a catechumen.” But in fact…     

Catechumens are already not pagans, but they are not yet full Christians. Nevertheless, unfortunately, in fact, those who proudly bear the banner of the faithful, sometimes do not even correspond to the zeal of the catechumens. We do not even have sincerity, which the catechumens of the first centuries had. Catechesis itself was a big responsibility for the Christians in the first centuries.  Оглашенные – это уже не язычники, но еще и не в полной мере христиане. It was a big deal to stay for a half Liturgy and then leave. Some people stay and you leave. You, contemporary people, try to be in their shoes. How will your pride and your egotism take this? She is staying and I am leaving. But then, they were not made to do this. They did it voluntarily, sincerely, and from all their hearts. This was because those people, who came to the Church, had come to the point of desperation recognizing their sinfulness and inner damage. “Publicans,” and I say this in commas, came to the Church then. They were those people who prayed like the Publican, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”1 Or they were like the woman, who said, “Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masterś table.”2 These kinds of people came to the Church then. They were those who recognized from the bottom of their hearts their unworthiness, their nothingness, and their damaged nature. If we suppose that these Ecteniae were not pronounced, those people would have humbly left, their eyes down, like the Publican, at the moment of a special coming of Grace.   

As the Old Testament Prophets said when God approached them too close, “Lord, leave me, I am a sinful man and my sinfulness cannot bear Your holiness. I am a sinful man.” This was their righteousness; this is what righteousness is. “Lord, I am nothing.” This is righteousness.   

Very often our righteousness is turned upside down, like the righteousness of Jews and Lawyers during the times when Christ came on earth. For them, righteousness was observing the law. Для них была праведность – это соблюдение закона. If you observe the law in meticulous detail, you may raise your head proudly and come into the holiest of holiest. For us, Christians, righteousness is the feeling of our nothingness and the greatness of God. Salvation comes only through the Grace of God, but not through our worthiness. Surely, we need to apply effort to the Grace of God, but no matter how much effort we apply, everything will tell us this is not enough, totally not enough, as there is no result. We confess, cry, repent, stand up for a prayer, and break our forehead. Something happens, but this is only something, but there is still no change. There is no drastic change. Well, today it is a little better, tomorrow it is a little worse. And this happens without ceasing.  

No one should omit the Ecteniae of the Catechumens. It does not sound for those who prepare themselves, but for us, who bear the banner of the faithful. The catechumens and the faithful. There was a differentiation between those who were preparing to come into the Church and those who already were the members of the Church in ancient times.  Nowadays the notion of the faithful has become so relative. How faithful are we? This is a relative notion.  In word, we are faithful, but in deed… there is nothing more to say, only to lower the eyes and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Rhetorically everything is beautiful, right, and smooth, but practically nothing works and there is nothing.  Glory to God, nothing works. This is for us to finally realize that we cannot do anything without God. No one can become faithful without God. We cannot leave the hope in our own feat, “Lord, wait a little bit. I will strain myself a little more, and everything will work.” The Lord stands aside and smiles. Sometimes He smiles and sometimes cries, “Madman, when will you come to realize you need Me? You cannot do this without Me! You only call yourself faithful, you cannot do this on your own.! You need a guide, a Moses, who will lead you by your hand.” You may only burst with pride on your own and become a mockery. To be “Faithful” in commas, this is what you can do by yourself.  

This is why we will never remove “the catechumens.” This ectenia is about us. As far the faithful are concerned, I do not know who they are… We are standing here only by the help of God’s mercy. We are here not because we are so wonderful people, who sacrificed their sleep on Sunday morning, got here by bus or by car or walked on a frosty day. “Hello, Lord. Here I am. Look at me. I have come here so beautiful.” We should come here on tiptoe, like worthless  people, who were allowed to enter. We were merely allowed to come in and are being tolerated. Christ our Lord tolerates us. And we are simply… Even ancient catechumens were better than we are. We are worse than they were.  

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

1Lk. 18:13

2Mt. 15:27



Sermon on the Sunday of the Last Judgment 19.02.2023.

Church of the Protection of the Holy Theotokos, Kuvandyk


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




On Sunday of the Prodigal Son 12.02.2023

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, the City of Gay


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lk. 15:29-30

Mt. 19:30



Sermon after the funeral service 16.02.2023.

St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, the City of Gai


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

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

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

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

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



On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee 05.02.2023

Saint John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Lk. 18:11

2 Lk. 18:13

3 Ps. 52:4



New Savior Monastery of Moscow 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

1 Lk. 19:5

2 Is. 66:2

3 St. John of the Ladder



St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City, 31.12.2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations on the coming holiday.