Humility is the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is when nothing can disturb the stillness of the human soul, there is prayer in the human soul, and there is God in prayer. Humility is such a state when no circumstances, no enemies, no friends, nobody can disturb your peace. Only the perfect own it outright, in our case it is a procession to humility. If we strive for humility it rewards us with the means to achieve it. And, in reverse, if we do not desire to, we do not achieve anything. 

One cannot be forced to be humble, one can easily be bullied and develop tricks of survival in the world of intimidation and severity, while humility is born in free will, it may be born when a person is willing to get it. It happens when he or she sees the point of it. A person cannot desire what he or she does not understand. When a person realizes what humility is he or she wants to practice it, to study and to own it. Humility gives happiness, peace, comfort, and love. On the other hand, if there is no humility, there are only troubles, misfortunes, quarrels, and disappointment. There is no monasticism without humility, but no one can make anyone practice humility. If one declares he wants to become a monk and he does not care to practice humility, thus he desires some other kind of monasticism, a kind he made up for himself. Just like Old Testament Pharisees: they wanted to be with God, but somehow without God. They made an ugly religiousness. 

When you find God in prayer, you do not need to find excuses, it has happened already, there is no need for either explanations nor talks. The one who does not believe in anything should find excuses. And God needs no excuses from you, He needs you to find Him in prayer. Do you know what it is like to be with God when you find Him? It is as if someone put His arms around you, and nothing else matters. No excuses, no explanations. It feels good and that’s it. That is how it should be with God. A boss or a judge may want your justification, not God, but before God you may only cry with joy, recognizing your imperfection, as He wants you to know He loves you no matter what, He wants you to feel safe in His arms and doesn’t want to let you go. With such God it all works easily. And it’s very hard with God who makes your existence unbearable, judging your every step ready to punish you for any sin. Glory be to Thee, O Lord. It is very sad when Christians make some dreadful judge out of God, it’s sad for God and it makes me scream: “People, He’s not like that, He is not like that at all, that’s about us, not about Him”. There is a picture of the prodigal son, he has knelt before his face buried into dad’s knees, his dad has hugged his head and he is sobbing, this bad, lost son. There he is, crying tears full of shame, tears of gratitude and sympathy towards his father, crying with joy, as his father is so kind that he is ready to accept him the way he is, kissing and embracing him. 


Reading from Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth (22:48) 

There is such a notion in spiritual life as the “remembrance of death”. Remembrance of death is a gift of God, which is not perceived profoundly and spiritually by all people. “Remembrance of death” sounds a little fierce, I would call it “a sense of time”. Those who feel time come into the state of the all-wise Solomon the Ecclesiast. The sense of time brings a human to a sober and wise state. What do I mean by state? When people have a constant sense of time they take everything as ephemeral, everything they come across in their lives- both sorrows and joy. They welcome joy without exaggerative euphoria or unreasonable delight, as they know that the earthly joy is temporary. The same goes with sorrow, they overcome it humbly, mildly and patiently as they realize that the sorrow won’t last long. They come to realize these things, due to life experience, and it is also good when this realization also comes from the Holy Spirit. At that moment, people start to perceive time and feel the vanity of vanities in it. They see that everything comes and goes and passes away. Thus, their attitude becomes even. Neither happy moments make them too emotional nor grievances make them fall into despair and feel as if everything will end. 

Therefore, ask God to award you with the sense of time. We can also call it the sense of death. When people have it, they become humble and bear everything with stillness of soul. On the other hand, we can’t take and insert it theoretically into our hearts. I suppose, we should suffer and live through hard times to achieve it. Grief and life itself wizen up a person. Some people consider our time as horrible, some think it is unusual and for somebody else, it is noble and wise. We have come to a point when everything is unstable in this world, we have no idea of what to expect tomorrow, whether we will have halcyon days or the end times will come. Now we remain in this state and wander. All we need is to have the understanding of the Ecclesiast in order to overcome these troublesome, dangerous, complicated and dark times without getting hysterical. Many Christians, waiting for the end times, catch this hysteria, which makes them do foolish things.  The more complicated the time is, the more wisdom and patience we should have. But we can’t have them for nothing, we should gain them through our spiritual life. That is why, living in such a troublesome or even a frightening time we should speculate less and pay more of our attention to prayer and spiritual life. Speak less about the Last Day, plots and other scary issues and pray more.  If God lets us live in these times we should not, as per St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), “attempt to stop the flow of this river with our feeble hand”. In other words, do not attempt to stop the course of history. 

We have to live through this time, but the way we will live through it, is up to us.  People can’t interfere with the providence of God, but we can change our attitude and live spiritually or thoughtlessly. All that God gives is goodness, He doesn’t bring anything evil. We either draw something good from His wisdom or foolishly make things worse for ourselves. Now we should not argue, gossip, search for the news, but pray very hard instead. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us”.


These are the following words of the Holy Gospel in the service of tonsure, which we have just heard, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt.10:37) People often hear these words, but only some of them – perceive. I deliberately say “perceive” instead of “understand” them; as “understanding” relates more to one’s mind, but “perception” is about one’s heart, which is more sensitive and lives in subtle and delicate states. Not everyone is able to perceive the meaning of these words intended by God. There is no disrespect for parents, or any desire for excellence on the part of God.   These things are alien to God’s nature. The essence of these words can be explained as, when people get to know God through spiritual life, they have such a joy of Heaven, being close to God, that they simply forget everything, even their fathers and mothers. 

      Nevertheless, not all of those, who come to serve God, even after having been tonsured and having lived a monastic life, come to this state. As a rule, everything stays on the level of mind and in a raw state. The purpose of a life in monasticism is to come closer to God, as much as possible. When people achieve this, they have such a spiritual delight, that they even forget their fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and everything, which used to be dear to them; and they do not need to compel themselves to do it. For them, God pushes everything into the background and nothing else matters.    

However, I need to make an important remark here – a monk or a nun should not come to be indifferent to the world. He or she reunites with God in the mystery of monasticism and starts to perceive the world through God. While God is not indifferent to the world, He worries about it and takes care of it. God loves the world, even if it has walked far away from Him.    

      You need to understand this important issue right now, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt.19:26) If you think, “I will pray for the whole world and I will embrace everyone with my kind heart” – it will not work, as all of this is nothing, but your imagination. Only God can embrace the world. And the purpose of our monasticism is to reunite with God, and love the world through God, but not by ourselves. We should not play and pretend to be in love. In fact, this is all not true when you love for five minutes, then you do not. When you are in God, you will have it all. But the way to God goes through a cross, that is why you received these crosses tonight. 

       “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mt.11:12) The Kingdom of Heaven should be gained through suffering: through your tears, pain, sweat, and blood. At the same time, Our Lord says, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:30) When someone makes you do something, it is hard. When you are supposed to be paid for your work, it is easier, as you have motivation, but it is still hard. But when you do something out of love to your Heavenly Bridegroom, you try to please Him day and night, because you are a slave of this love, and all your efforts become blessed. Even though the notions of “work” and “effort” remain, they become blessed, as you give yourself to God all the time; and the more you give, the more you gain. I wish your monasticism were not some tragedy, and, at the same time, I would not like it to be gained without suffering. You should understand, it is hard work. But we should voluntarily give our consent to it. In this case, this work becomes a great pleasure and transforms into a big joy.  


The essence of hesychasm is in finding maximal silence. Not external, but internal silence. When a person keeps aloof from his or her personal concerns at most. Monks are not idlers, they work hard, but they do it according to their obedience, without making any plans. They do not invent their obediences, but receive the tasks. That is why, in a way, they are free. Their spiritual guide and abbess think for them. They do not make plans for their future, but live for the day. They try to hold back their emotions and longings. They do not even demand from God, “Give me the spiritual state I want to have here and now.” No, they… 

humbly count their beads, reciting the Jesus prayer and wait for God, Who will come to them Himself. They do not ask for anything, but say, “Lord, let me only look at You and address You, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”” They do not hasten their spiritual success and do not even make plans for their spiritual life, not to mention their short-term earthly life. They take everything with humility and patience, and find their only joy in belonging to God and saying to the Savior, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and work. Meanwhile, God gives them at a time and to such an extent, which He considers necessary. 



In the Holy Gospel Our Lord reproves the Pharisees and the Old Testament people in general. We can underline these words “Old Testament people” pointing to their rottenness and falling to pieces. God compares them to whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. (Mt. 23:27). And, by contrast, the new people, the new Israel, the New Testament reverse the situation. Starting with the first Christians, misunderstood by the rest of people, who came to the tombs of their first martyrs and saints, we don’t consider tombs as the place of rot and filth, but venerate them as the source of particular Grace of God. It used to be centuries ago, and it is so now. 

What is the difference between the relics of righteous people and the corps of corrupting Old Testament people who’d remained in that state until now? The tombs of sinners are filled with decay and cadaveric poison. While the tombs of the righteous fulfilled with the Grace. This is the essence of their nature. They accumulated the Grace of God during their whole lives. As per St. Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, a Christian’s purpose of life is incessant attainment of the Glory of God. Holy Father Seraphim gives a very simple example: seek something that brings you more Glory, shape your life order according to it and draw it, draw it! He means “draw” the Glory and fill your body with it, so that it stopped being the residence of sins and demons and became the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. Like a vessel that keeps filling with the Grace of God. The saints did not just fill the vessels of their bodies and souls with it, they overfilled them and the Grace flowed out to the world. That is the miracle and the mystery of holy relics. 

Why am I saying these weird words? I say it without looking over my shoulder and seeking for somebody’s opinion or approval. I say it as I know who mother Silouana is. We all know. The contemporaries of St. Symeon the New Theologian were confused by his veneration of his spiritual father St. Symeon the Devout as it was a veneration before canonization, rather solemn and special. He even paid his price for that. But he knew who he was talking about as he had been near him.  

During all those years we were near mother Silouana. That is why we know whom we bury today. Some people got in touch with her in their every day life. Relatives knew her as a mom, granny, family member. While we know her from a different angle. We know her as a saint. And we are not afraid of declaring this fact, we are not ashamed of speaking the truth aloud.  

Holy Father Seraphim had not been canonized for a long time. And, even if according to the Church canons the worshipers couldn’t sing: “Pray God for us!” and sang: “God, rest the soul of your servant Seraphim” instead, even in those times they got the Grace in abundance from him.  As he used to say: “Don’t worry, come to my little tomb and address me as a living one”. 

I do not perceive this situation as a usual death. Due to this is not a usual death. Mother Silouana was not a usual person. She was special, rather special. On the one hand, we, being only humans after all, say: it is a pity to let you go, mother, it is sad we will never talk to you, embrace you. On the other hand, trusting our spiritual state we realize that she may do much more for us now.  As she is close to God. S. We will keep knocking at her door like we used to and ask: “Mother, please, pray for us”. We didn’t just come and knock, we knew that we would ask and it would work. Let us come to her the same way! Glory to Our Lord! 

You know, when mother Silouana passed away right after the vigil on the day of commemoration of her saint Silouan the Athonite, I pronounced the following bold words: a new saint is born in our monastery. She may appear the sole saint. But I feel it this way. 

Lord, help us!

A death may turn to sorrow, disappointment, even a break down. At the same time it can be perceived in an oppositely different way…

Monasticism is a great joy

Speech on the day of another monastic tonsure

“…All the sisters came to me at one time to be near me, to be instructed, to be inspired, and so to improve themselves. Sometimes I heard from some sisters the alarm: “Father, if suddenly we are separated, if suddenly you are not there for some circumstances, we are anxious, how should we be then?” Mark my word now: It’s not scary at all, but it’s scary if you yourself leave me. No one can separate, and not even death can separate. You can be in my spirit, in my outlook, even if we are far away, even if circumstances separate us. That’s not a big deal at all. You can always be there for me. The scary thing is if today you came to the monasticism, made me throw, told me to be faithful, and after a while, after one thought, a second, a third, you begin to leave – that’s when you will be separated from me. I may be at arm’s length, eye to eye, but you will not be with me – that’s what’s scary.

Everyone very often says in monasticism about obedience: obey, obey… It is impossible to obey if you do not hear, or if you do not want to hear. You can’t obey, believe me. We already have a small, but our own experience. Yes, our monastery is young, only ten years old, but we have our own little experience, and from that experience I tell you: it will not work. I was just reading a prayer, and there were the words: work, pray, abstain, be patient, and at the end the most key word: HOLY. That is the goal of monasticism. Whoever understands all these things in monasticism, but whoever drops this last key word HOLY, he gets some terrible monasticism – a monasticism of some laws, rituals, rules. But in his monasticism, if there is no joy – joy in his relationship with Christ, joy in his relationship with his confessor, joy in his relationship with his sisters – it is not monasticism, it is ugly. If you lose joy just a little bit – this is a reference point for you, that you start to do something wrong, somewhere you allow yourself slyness, somewhere you allow yourself to understate things, you lose joy. AND MONASTICISM IS JOY.

…God give you spiritual joy, that you may have prayer. Prayer is possible only in a heart that is not troubled by thoughts. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God… The sight of God is already heaven. This is the kingdom of heaven. Just looking at God is already heaven.

You want to be led. At some point, take your hand away, say: “That’s it, I’ll go on by myself.” Well, come on, I’ll wait for you later … with bumps, with broken knees … ”


Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

July 4, 2022