ABOUT OUR HEAVENLY PARENTS
St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City, 03.12.2022
If people who do not attend Church become frightened or something unexpected happens to them, what will they scream? They will scream, “Mum!” (in the Russian language). A member of the Church will cry instead, “Lord” or “Mother of God,” but a non-believer will cry “mum.” This is because this word is the dearest and the warmest to any person. All hope is in this word. Friends, acquaintances and colleagues come and go, but a mother will always remain a mother. This is why a person will involuntarily scream out “mum.” While a church goer will cry “Lord,” as everything changes for a believer. The Lord is both father and mother, and everything else for him or her is Jesus the Sweetest.
Moreover, a church person may cry, “Mother of God!” Those people who have a very sincere, warm and trusting relationship with the Holy Theotokos need no explanations as to why. Sometimes people come and ask, “Whom should I pray to?” This is probably the silliest question I hear when people come to Church, “Whom should I pray to?” You should pray to God and the Holy Theotokos. I do not like when people pray to one saint who is responsible for the liver, to another one who takes care of their vision, and to one more who helps in business. All saints are in God. I can ask St. John of Kronstadt about the business, health, and wellbeing of my family. In the same way you may say, “O Most Holy Theotokos” or “Sweetest Jesus.” You haven’t finished yet and He already answers back to you, “I know this all. You may not say anything more.” You only say, “Sweetest Jesus” and He answers, “I’m doing everything for you already.” If only you had this relationship.
There are many people here now and most of us do not have our mums with us already. Sometimes we wish we could come to our mum. But she is gone. And the Holy Theotokos is always there. She is always, everywhere, and in any case “O Most Holy Theotokos!” This is so secure, warm and holy. This is so holy that I want to say this repeatedly “O Most Holy Theotokos, Most Holy Theotokos…” If someone keeps bothering and calling a person, he may become irritated and say, “Listen, enough is enough. Stop calling me every moment!” Meanwhile motherhood has everlasting patience and the motherhood of the Holy Theotokos and the fatherhood of the Sweetest Jesus possesses this eternal patience. There are billions of people who live on earth and who say and cry “Lord” every minute and every second but this does not irritate Him. Every moment He answers back, “I am hearing you. I am already taking care of this. I am here with you.” Every moment, 24 hours, “Lord, Lord, Lord.” From every corner of earth and every point of the universe, “Lord, Lord, Lord.” In different languages, people of different creeds and cultures. How many people on earth say “O Most Holy Theotokos!” at the same time? She does not become tired, nor does She become irritated. She answers at once, “I hear you.” O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
We should only make our Heavenly Parents happy. Our Heavenly Parents work and work hard and we should make Them happy. We should come up to Them and say, “Lord, I have received a good mark today. I overcame myself and read the prayer rule, regardless of being tired and lazy.” “O Most Holy Theotokos, I know how You love me and You also love my enemy the same way. For Your sake, I came to him today and we made peace. This is my small present to You as a present to My Mother.” She is a Mother who is worried about the quarrel between Her children. There is no mother who does not worry when her children are quarreling. Surely, She becomes sad and feels sick at heart. Every day we should be grateful and simply say, “Thank You for having heard my request.” We should answer Them with something, we should bring Them our gratitude. Lord Jesus Christ we thank thee!
It is a pity not all the inhabitants of Gai are here. The Holy Theotokos has come to your place. Such a wonderful icon! All this case is soaked with myrrh because it streamed from the icon. It did not just appear drop by drop, but it streamed. For fifteen years, this Iveron Montreal Icon traveled in this case all around the world, giving strength to people in all countries. In the end, the keeper of this icon, José Muñoz, an Orthodox Spaniard who lived in America, was ritually killed by satanists on the day of the horrible feast of Halloween. This day is celebrated in the West and even here, in the Holy Rus, they began to celebrate this disgusting feast and this is frightening. On that very day, 25 years ago, José Muñoz was murdered in his room at a hotel in Athens and the icon disappeared without a trace. The icon is gone and the keeper was cruelly murdered. Glory to the Providence of God, he left the case before going to Athens. Perhaps, he did not realize why he left it and the people to whom he entrusted the case did not see the whole picture. After his death, the friends of José Muñoz, who were now the keepers of the case soaked with myrrh, went to Holy Mount Athos, to the same hermitage where the missing icon was painted and found its twin sister there. The Elder painted two icons. The Greek monks gave that icon to José’s friends. The icon was put into that very case instead of the stolen one and now it began to travel giving us joy and strength. And when we see it we say at once, “O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”
SERMON BEFORE THE NATIVITY FAST
St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral, Gai City, 27.11.2022
Tomorrow is the beginning of the Nativity Fast, which will last until the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the 7th of January. This fast is not strict; we may have fish before the New Year, except on Wednesdays and Fridays. However, the main thing in a fast is not what we eat. We Christians, should understand what God wants from us. We should realize what He wants and what we should do.
The Lord says in the Bible, “Why do you bring all those goats and sheep as a sacrifice to me? Aren’t they are Mine? Everything in the world is Mine anyway.”1 Then He continues, “My son, give me your heart.”2 I do not need you to sacrifice a lamb or put up a candle. Or rather this is not the most important thing. He says, “My son, give me your heart.”
What does it mean, “My son, give me your heart?” Do you remember how the Lord in the Gospel judged the Pharisees who were obsessed with executing the external laws so meticulously? We eat this, but we do not eat that, we do this, but we do not do that. The Old Testament Pharisees had so many instructions and they observed them sincerely, as the Lord says, they “strained out a gnat.”3 They did this all for God’s sake. However, throughout all the Gospel they, who executed everything up to the smallest detail, do not make Him happy, but irritate Him instead. God Who is Love becomes irritated. Moreover, He becomes angry with them. God Who is Love… We are used to considering love as sentimentality and human kindness. Meanwhile God Who is Love encompasses more complicated hints and God Who is Love allows Himself to be angry with them and even scold them. He says the following words, “How long shall I be with you?”4 I am so tired of your hypocrisy. And He calls them hypocrites and Pharisees. In addition, he says the following phrase, “you are like whitewashed tombs.”5 Whitewash is said there, whitewash is a white paint. You are like whitewashed tombs, attractive from the outside and upholstered in velvet, but you are full of stench and decay inside.
The most frightening is that the Lord says this not only to the Pharisees. He says this to the contemporary Christians, if they live only by executing the external law and feel content with this. Moreover, they even admire themselves. Just like the Pharisee from the Gospel who prayed, “I thank You that I am not like other men: adulterers and sinners, alcoholics and fornicators, I am not like this, I am fine.”6 Everything is fine, except for his arrogance and pride. He admires himself.
In order to understand what God wants from us, He says, and I am repeating this, “My son, give me your heart.” He needs no external rites, no external acts, even though we have all of this in Church and the external Church ceremonies are blessed. Nevertheless, we should have an order of priorities. There should be an external compound, but it should be secondary. The main is our internal compound.
What is this, an internal compound? Again the Lord says in the Gospel, “If you look at a woman to lust for her you have already committed adultery with her. If you envy someone’s wealth you are already a murderer who can ignite his envy to such a degree that he may kill for this fortune.”7 This is why the Lord in the New Testament draws our attention to the fact that all our acts should be directed inwards. Even on the level of an idea or a thought, we should not allow sin to come into us.
Very often we look at this carelessly. I only allowed myself a thought. And so what? Wife, you should tell your husband what thought you allowed yourself to have and look him in the eye. Or you, husband, tell your wife what thought has flashed through your mind. It seems to pass swiftly, but you detained it and agreed with it. When people say a little betrayal or a small betrayal, what is the difference between them? Betrayal is betrayal. No matter whether it is small or big, you crossed the line and allowed yourself to commit it. If you did cross the line and allowed yourself a small betrayal today, tomorrow a big betrayal will follow the small one naturally. This is a natural law, as you have stepped across your consciousness.
This is why, you see, now, in the beginning of the fast, set yourself a goal; try to take control over your thoughts and sinful ideas. Then come to me in tears and say, “Nothing worked.” Catching a thought is like catching air. A thought is so subtle and light that it seems you are catching air as it slips through your fingers. Some people believe this is impossible, they put up with it and feel content with the external doing, they try to execute external rules at least. However, the Holy Fathers contradict them with their whole lives and say, “No, this is all possible. This is possible.” The Lord would have never given us unfeasible tasks. If He says, “cleanse the inside of you,” He cannot deliberately give us an unfeasible task. Therefore, this is partially possible. But this is the whole science of the Holy Fathers making us pure not only from outside but also from inside.
Our thoughts should be filled with prayer. In this case, nothing sinful will come into them. We will resemble a vessel, which is full up to the brim and nothing more can be poured in it. It is full and there is no empty space there. If our inside is filled with prayer, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Holy Theotokos…”
I want to ask you, we, being Christians, very often execute the moral law. We try not to drink alcohol, fornicate, steal, adulterate, deceive, and we try to work hard and earn an honest livelihood. And now I am asking you, did unfaithful communists do all the same things I have listed to you? They did it all. Everything I have listed, except for praying. What is the difference between us? We are called to execute not only the moral law, we are called for something more. We are called to reunite with God through prayer.
I come down to the issue of prayer on purpose, so you realize what the main thing in Church is. A Liturgy takes place and everyone should stop and forget where he has put or hasn’t put his candle, where he has turned or hasn’t turned to, and he should also forget everything and pray. The main thing is prayer. Surely, everything external exists and it should be, but the main thing is prayer. Our mind should be busy not with external activities but with prayer. The choir should think not about the notes, but about prayer, and the notes will come out of them naturally. If they think about notes, they will sing notes, but they will not have prayer and there will be a dissonance between the priest and the choir. This dissonance may also be between the priest and the parishioners who are at the church. Everyone should be in tune. Everyone should pray and everything will work naturally.
This is why, please, I would like to sparkle your zeal for prayer. Learn how to pray. Prayer is not an easy thing. Very often, we say, “I read” or “I sang,” but “I prayed” sounds in a different way. “I prayed” is not “I read,” “I sang,” or “I stood.” This is something different. This is a mystic state of a person who remains in a parallel world. This world becomes parallel for him and he stays there with Christ.
Sweetest Jesus, save us!
Congratulations on the beginning of the Nativity fast tomorrow! Do not overeat tonight as we always prepare for a fast in a way that we feel bad the next day. God blessed everything, but everything should have its measure. God does not forbid anything, however He forbids excessiveness. Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia is one of my favorite saints. We often have a kind of religious fanaticism: this is prohibited and that is prohibited, and that is totally prohibited, and if you do this you will surely go to hell at once. One day Elder Porphyrios sat with his spiritual children and said, “What a loving God we have! He created the flavor of food and its smell in order to treat us with it and make us happy.” Satan did not create taste, neither did he create smell, but he created excessiveness. We may simply eat tasty food, enjoy it, stop in time, and glorify God. But satan created excessiveness so we overeat like pigs and serve the cult of food.
A person may wash himself with a fragrant soap and smell good. This is not a sin. But when we pay three wages for a bottle of perfume, this is excessive. And what about a simple observance of elementary principles of hygiene… Some people show fanaticism believing that one should not brush his teeth before the Eucharist… Can you imagine how a priest should receive your confession after this? Clean your teeth in the morning, rinse your mouth, and take the Body of Christ into your clean mouth. Fanaticism will surely invent something; it will make up some external perversions.
Well, I have bored you enough already. Forgive me.
1 ”To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” (Is. 1:11)
2 “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” (Pr. 23:26)
3 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Mt.23:24)
4 “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Mt. 17:17)
5 “For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Mt. 23:27)
6 “God, I thank You that I am not like other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” (Lk. 18:11)
7 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:28)
8 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Mt 23:26)
ON SINCERITY IN PRAYER
On Mount Athos I visited a hermitage where there is a grave of St. Elder Joseph the Hesychast, the place where he died. And the fathers told me a very moving story. Once there lived a father whose disciples were constantly leaving him. He barely found a disciple, lived with him for some time and very soon the disciple left. They were confused by his smoking, in addition, his temper must have been bad. The father was not young and getting weaker, so he prayed: “Most Holy Theotokos! Please, send me anyone, let him be lame, cock-eyed, disabled, may he just cook some food for me”. He had prayed at night, and in the morning he climbed down to the berth. A boat moored to the shore and the father saw a young man land, he was lame and cock-eyed. This father still lives, though he is an old man already. He had no skills in anything, but people still call him for panigiri – patronal festive days – as he is an extremely good cook, and is able to treat everyone. You see, Our Holy Theotokos listens and wants to help even such a monk who lost his disciples, something wrong was with him, but even his prayer was heard, as it was sincere. And She sent him that lame and cock-eyed novice.
Do you remember the moment when Our Lord drives a legion of demons out of a demon-possessed man? “So the demons begged Him, saying, «If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine”. (Lk. 8:31) And God meets even the prayer of demons. Who is worse than demons? He could have said: “No, I won’t even listen to you”. For another thing, what is the point of it? The main thing is that nothing changed for the demons. God meets their request, they go away into the herd of swine, madden it and “run violently down the steep place into the sea, and perish in the water”. (Mt. 8:32) In other words, God is ready to meet the requests of every one of us, but this is not enough. We also should bring some diligence and sincerity. Love conquers all things. “Love suffers long and is kind” (1Cor.13:4) – the Holy Gospel says. How should one suffer? Love will suffer it all. Seek this basis. No philosophy, idea or profit will help you overcome suffering, as love does. You may admit, where do we, who are egoistic, cold, proud and selfish get love? But even a strong desire for love, a grief for love, a breath taken for love is the step made in the direction of love. This is a tiny winy love. I was holding the liturgy tonight and looked at Konstantin out of the corner of my eye. And thought: “I don’t know this man at all, but I already love him so much” (hugs father Konstantin). And then I looked at the other side and saw another father Konstantin. My dear! I know him a little bit longer, but still not enough. And it doesn’t matter, as a true love loves someone for nothing. Why am I looking at him? I don’t know. He might be a hypocrite. Oh, no! While my heart suggests: “No, he is good”. You can’t deceive a heart. You may play games with somebody, but won’t deceive the heart. The heart says: “I love you!”
Father Sergiy is presented with the icon of Saint John of Shanghai.
– You know, I came to San-Francisco and venerated his relics. Then I visited his orphanage, sat in his armchair. And I remember one thing: at night we drove from the Cathedral to the Church of St. Metrophanes, bishop of Voronezh. And one of the children, whom St. John brought over from China to the Philippines, and then to the US, San-Francisco, was among us. This child, who was an old man already, told us a very moving story: You know, whenever you meet anyone of the children saved by the Archbishop, every one of them would say: “He loved me most of all.” In fact, that would be true as St. John had such a big heart, that he loved everyone equally and everyone perceived and received his love in full from his heart.
May the Lord save you! He is an amazing saint. It feels so good when you stand by his relics. He remains incorrupt. Beard, hair. Only his body darkened a little bit due to the time he had lain in the grave. But it is absolutely imperishable. Those people who witnessed his act of faith used to say: “Even for the Orthodox Christians, who read the Lives of Saints every day and know many wonderful stories, his life seems extraordinary.” The act of ascesis was on the second place for him, but the act of love was on the first one.
WITH MEN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE
I presume there are no such people who go to church insincerely: out of self-interest or for a show. All people go to church sincerely, nevertheless, we can’t change, though we want it badly, it ends in no result. It seems to us that God should help our genuine desire and we should achieve something, but we are constantly going around in circles. We cannot overcome our weaker selves and often become desperate and cry, “O Lord, how long shall I bear this? I’m not my own master. What happened to me?” Above all, we need to understand one crucial issue in Christianity, which often cannot be perceived by church-goers. When we come to desperation and cry in tears, “O Lord, why is it not working?” Our Lord gives us the answer: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). As long as we try to get rid of our sins on our own, we will run around in circles. We will do it eagerly, sincerely, all in tears, but with no result, until we come to realize that with men it is impossible. Stop trying to do it on yourselves. You will not succeed, no one will. Only with God all things are possible. What does it mean? It means we need to put aside our individual “I” and trust everything to God. You can’t pray, can you? Let God pray in you. You can’t deal with your inner vices such as envy, jealousy, anger, judgment of people, can you? No, you can’t. Then, who can? God can. He is not envy, He is not angry, He is not irritation, He is Love. Let God have your heart which through your “I” has got used to be envious, jealous, angry – let God have it, and let His personality – Love act through it. At this point, some people may wonder, “Do I have to give up my own personality then and stop being myself?” In fact, this is the way your personality manifests itself giving way to God: My Lord, let You act, let You think, let You feel in me in a good way. It is a pity to see some Christians going to church for years without understanding how Christ should act through them. St. Apostle Paul pointed out precisely: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). On the one hand, it sounds weird, but on the other, for those who lived that way, it is natural. I let Christ have my thoughts and feelings. When everything goes through Him, through His great pureness, everything becomes true, humble, righteous, good and simple. O Lord, I can’t do it, please, You act in me. And so that You were in me I keep saying in my heart, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ”. He should be there. There is a beautiful story about St. Ignatius the God-bearer, after he was tortured and his heart cut up, people saw letters “Jesus Christ” on it, such a great impact it had on him.
On Athos they have a tradition of taking already clean bones of fathers three years after their death and putting them carefully into an ossuary. At Karoulia the monks showed me the jaw of a Russian father, which bore an even sign of a cross on its inner part. Yes, it must be a coincidence, but a very pleasant one. His mouth, within 50 or 60 years, through all the time he lived on Athos, must have been pronouncing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Jesus Christ.”
Our physiology and psychosomatics are also related to spiritual life, so that spiritual influences bodily life. When we look at each other, we always see some undertone. While we look in the eyes of a saint, we raise no questions, don’t we? It’s all very simple and clear.
Glory to Our Lord! Not to us, shame on us, but Glory to God! And, grabbing at Him, we will climb out. Do not try to do it on your own, it’s in vain, even though you set your heart on it. Our “I” put as a “number 1” ruins it all. Our “I” should only be behind God.
Christ works wonders! Christ loves you! Christ is purity! Christ is the truth! Christ is a great simplicity, He is perfection! Take Him away from us and there will be no us. Dirt, clay. When God created us, He took clay, sculptured a lifeless dummy and breathed the Spirit in it. Should He not breathe, we would have stayed clay. He takes the Spirit and we turn into clay again.
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
St. John the Baptist had come before Theophany, the day on which Christ manifested Himself to the world, and the key message of his sermon was the following: “Repent!” When Crist came, He repeated the same: “Repent!” How correctly and deeply do we understand this word? After all, if we don’t get the point of it, our acts will be wrong and fruitless. What is the essence of the word “repent”? Does it mean that we should admit, be sorry and cry over our sins? Everything I’ve mentioned Judas also had. Did he see his sin? Yes, he did. Was he sorry about it? Yes, he was. Did he cry over it? Yes, he did. Nevertheless, nothing changed him. Repentance comprises all those things. But something is missing. Something that Judas missed, but St. Peter had? Admit your sin, repent sincerely, feel sorry about and even cry over it, and then put up with it and accept yourself (as you are). Can proud people see their imperfection? Yes, they can. Can they admit it? Yes, they can. Can they cry over it? Yes, they can. But repentance hurts proud people, their heart burns. They can’t admit it and bear the ugly, shameful, horrible truth about themselves. They are tortured by severest pain so much that it is easier for them to commit suicide, like Judas, rather then keep bearing this horrible truth about themselves. While humility relieves from that pain.
The beginning of repentance is to see, admit and cry. But repentance must be finished: you need to put up with yourself, accepting the horrible truth about being worthless, dirty and shameless. Who can encompass it, then? I was brought low, and He saved me. [Ps, 114:5] The grace of God can help. Please, do not confuse, I don’t mean that you should understand humility as an agreement to sin. No, I don’t agree with the sin, I only agree that I’m rotten and stop fighting myself. I stop proving to myself and the others that I’m not like that. The fighting is stopped and the pain is relieved. I put up with it, I accepted it, yes, that’s the way I am. At that moment peace comes. And after humility comes healing grace. Above all, it soothes a desperate heart with hope that nothing is lost and it is still possible to amend everything, even for you. After that, in place of pain here comes silence, peace, goodness and joy. When Our Lord says: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” [Mt. 10:34], he means the burden of his words on the sinners. These words are hard to bear and accept without humility. God awards the humble ones with His grace. Some people all their lives long may say that is the way they are. There are rascals who keep saying: “I am what I am, and I won’t change”. This is not what we call repentance.
TOMORROW MAY NEVER COME.
Sermon after the Sunday Liturgy 7.11.2021
Time is getting on, feel it. It doesn’t depend on the short period left for us. On the whole, in relation to eternity there will always be little time, as time can not be stopped, it is getting less day by day. No matter how long we have left to live, we will be critically short of time, because we don’t have the sense of time and that is why we can’t come to realize what time is. If we did not just feel time, but lived keeping in mind the every-second loss of time, we would have been constantly saying: “no time, no time”. We are always leaving something till tomorrow, till the day after tomorrow, because we don’t have the sense of time. Essentially, this space of time is our prison. One day we will get out of it to the timeless space, to the place of eternity where God is. But as long as we are still under the rule of time, we will be in this prison. It pressures us every moment before crushing us in the end. All of us should go through this state. It’s another matter that someone lives a mad life, but still remains in the general stream of time. While spiritual people live with the sense of time. And, in the end we will all be crushed by this time.
You see, Our Holy Theotokos, more honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, lived inside the time too. She was joyful with the birth of Her Divine Son, she was happy to see Him grow up, grow to maturity. But She always lived in the Spirit, otherwise She won’t be able to give birth to God. For the Spirit everything is possible, He enlightens the mind by Divine Revelation, that is why She knew from the beginning Whom and why She gave birth to, what was going to be in the time to come. And so, She kept going to that critical terminal point where time clenched Her heart, there on Golgotha.
It is not enough to read about the Saint Spirit. We, Christians, should be in the Spirit, our mind should be enlightened with Him. We should always keep in mind that time will crush us in the end. This sense of time, the feeling of constant time shortening should make us sober, we should define priorities. All things pass, all things go to pieces, and the main thing comes. Every one of us should go through this terminal point of oppression as Our Lord Himself passed through it and gave us the example. Meanwhile, we keep on living like immortals.
In today’s Gospel the rich man lived like an immortal. And it is not the point whether being rich is a sin or not. Some poor people sin more due to being poor because of their idleness. One shouldn’t judge in these terms. The main issue is not the richness of that man, it is the fact that he made his richness the only purpose of his life, and forgot about the main thing. Some time ago, the money slipped through his fingers and he found himself poorer than Lazarus.
These days we often hear about death. And sometimes I want to scream: people, wake up, call to your minds that you are not immortal, reevaluate your lives. Run to church, go there more frequently, not more rarely for fear of contracting an illness. Confess, take Communion every week. By the facts of life Our Lord reminds us that tomorrow may never come. I often compare people without the sense of time to those who come to a minefield. They spread a fancy white cloth, put their hampers on it, and take out cheeses, sandwiches. While bombs explode next to them and parts of human bodies, blood and dirt shatter all the way around them. Meanwhile, they wipe themselves and go on in their insanity:”Let us put the fruit in this vase. Did we take forks?” A mad picture.
Sometimes I hear the news – during the ten years of the war in Afghanistan we lost less people than we lose now per week. Blood flows like water, death all around us, and we behave like madmen, we are occupied with anything, but the issues of eternity. Think, tomorrow will never happen for somebody. For a non-believer the sense of time is a burden, people don’t want to hear about it, as if in that way they will stop to be under the rule of time. At the same time, for those who believe, it is sanity of mind and thus, sanity of life, which will not stop at the terminal point of strain and death. And beyond that point opens the space of eternity, fulfilled with the Spirit, Who brings joy and optimism. Life without God is hard, it can break you down. Go to God. Run to church more often, observe the praying rule at home, don’t put it off till another day.
TO RUN AFTER THE FATHER
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
I congratulate you with the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Lord comes to earth, gathers his disciples, establishes them in faith and not only unites people, but also unites them in one Spirit. Then He leaves them for the three terrible days after His death on the cross. These terrifying days appear to be such a shock and pain for them, that they feel as if the ground dropped away under their feet. However, in three days He appears before them and stays for 40 days with them in order to affirm them again after those horrifying days of His crucifixion and funeral.
Then, all of a sudden, He ascends into the Heavens. It would seem, He has already made His sacrifice, everyone has overcome these dreadful days and reunited at last, and no one would like to separate, but the Lord leaves them again. But He leaves relatively. You know, this resembles a situation when a parent releases a hand of a tired child and walks forward, keeping a little distance, so that the child has to catch up. It may seem to the child that he or she is so tired and ready to give up. While the parent keeps walking farther and farther ahead; and this is not about only a parent, but about parental safety and parental love. And the child stands up, wipes his or her tears and follows the parent again.
The Lord acts so wisely… He did not come to be a king here on earth and make the lives of those poor and sincere people comfortable. He came in order to drag them there, upwards, with Him. If He would hold them by the hand all the time, they would have never been safe, they would have been relaxed and used to having this hand and receiving everything at once. In this case, the Lord as if stimulates their spiritual dynamics, making a distance between them. And they have to stand up and drag themselves to the place where their Parent is. They even see His back, that is why they are afraid of losing His sight beyond the horizon.
Very often in our spiritual life, it seems to us that the Lord has left us. He has not; He has just walked a little further, in order to stimulate our fear of losing Him. So that this concern mobilized us again and made us wipe our tears and smear the snot, drag ourselves after Him and hallow, “I have stood up, I have stood up, I am running! Wait for me, please! I am going after You!”
It is no good being led by the hand all the time, this will make you relaxed. So, the Lord, as a wise Parent, makes this distance sometimes. We remember the warmth of His hand, the love in His eyes and His closeness to us. Then, all of a sudden, He steps aside. This memory makes us stand up, wipe ourselves and run forward after Him again.
Have a joyous Feast!
Glory to our God always, now, and unto the ages of ages!
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WALK WITH GOD?
Abraham was righteous and he walked with God. Isaak and Jacob were righteous and walked with God. One of the reasons why people are righteous is when they are ready to spend all their time with God. No matter if they go, sit, lay or sleep. This is a spiritual state of righteous spiritual people. And they acquired righteousness walking with God, because they lived every moment of their lives as if they were at the Last Judgment. Everything was revealed to them every moment, and not only the visible things, but, as Our Lord is the reader of the human heart, they showed their entire inner world to Him. Please, get used to this as well. If we live by God, we need to keep this thought in our minds, we need to walk with God. And not just walk with Him, but have our soul wide open before Him. Since nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest. I guess, everyone has experienced that in his or her life. In the end, all the secrets will be revealed no matter how good you are at hiding them. The cat will always be let out of the bag somehow.
I was in Saint Petersburg, three thousand kilometers away, but I felt sick at heart when you misbehaved, I feel it all the same, everything will come out. If it is not revealed through the Holy Spirit, it will come out through people instead. Nothing can be hidden. Why is it safe to walk with God? Because God gives us directions every moment: do it this way, it is safe, and do not do that at any cost. Just look at the insanity of our first parents Adam and Eve. God told them, “Please, do not eat, you will die” – such strong and horrible words. But they did not believe Him. Satan said: “Eat, you will not die” – and they believed him. They did not trust God Who is the origin of everything good, Who is Goodness Himself, Who is their Heavenly Father. Though, they absolutely believed that nullity. And what was the result of it? As usual. There is a hymn sung before Lent: “Adam sat opposite Eden and cried over his nakedness.” His progeny keep crying, his children keep killing each other…
Nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest. And if we consciously do evil, as a natural result, we will reap the fruits of it. Sow the wind and to reap the whirlwind. Afterwards we even take offense at God: “O Lord, why do I have such a destiny?” You made it yourself. Please, remember, that all of your feelings, thoughts, even a part of your thought, even something you have not noticed yet, everything is known to God. So, please, walk with God, and you will be safe.
TO HEAR THE WORD. SERMON ON SUNDAY OF THE HOLY MYRRH BEARERS. 08.05.2022
Today, on Sunday of the Holy Myrrh Bearers, we recollect the events related to the women who were near Christ during His lifetime and even after His death, they could not leave Him. After the burial of Christ, His disciples were both full of sorrow and fear, because they remained simple people. The Holy Spirit had not descended on them yet and had not made them “gods”, with no initial capital, according to God’s grace, as the Lord says, “You are gods” (Ps. 81:6). Human wise, we may understand St. Peter the Apostle, who said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Lk. 22:33) and betrayed Him right away. Every person happens to fear. That is why I repeat, they did not only come through a big sorrow, but they also felt a great fear of the dreadful persecutions, which actually happened soon. When He was near, holding them by the hand, they felt secure. Then, His Fatherly hand was not there, and they simply felt as if the ground dropped away under their feet.
Fighting down their terror, at night – and it is even scarier at night – the women, not the men, not the Apostles, went to the Sepulcher. They did not even know who would roll back the stone from the door for them. They went knowing that the Sepulcher was sealed and guarded, and that the disciples were persecuted. Nevertheless, some force made them go, in the middle of the night, fighting down their terror. The strongest power on earth is the power of love. Nothing can be stronger. Whether it be duty, a sense of responsibility, the fear of punishment, nor even the fear of death. People, who are spurred on by love do not even fight their terror, they simply forget about it. What makes a cat jump furiously at a huge dog while protecting her kitten? What makes her mad? Love does.
Those Myrrh Bearers went at night fighting down their terror and shiver, guided by the power of love to the One, Who was buried there, behind that stone. They had not read the Holy Gospel yet and they did not know what would happen next, that He would resurrect to His great glory. They were still simple women who saw only the burial of a dead man.
In order to have such a big power of love, one needs to fall in love. Meanwhile, in order to fall in love, something should happen in the relationship. They were not captured by His words or by His teaching, as some other people could also speak wisely and beautifully. First of all, Christ did not bring the word, but He brought Himself in that word, in the way people listened to Him and felt the Spirit of Him, the Spirit of Love, the Divine Spirit. These days, the Holy Gospel has been examined through and through, learned and resolved into quotations, but at the same time, it may remain dead and moving no one. We may stand on the ambon and say a rhetorically strong and structured sermon, but it may lack the Spirit and soul sometimes. Christ should speak through the preacher, who shares the word, in this case, the word will be convincing and it will conquer nations.
They heard neither a wise word, nor a homily from Him, but they felt Himself. For not only listening to Him, they needed to enter into a relationship with Him, which was subtler and deeper than listening. “Eye to eye”, as people say, when no words are needed.
That is why our purpose in church is not only reading and learning, and not simply going to church. We need Him. If we have stood out the Liturgy, but He was not there, then the Liturgy was dead. He should be there, and this is our purpose. We should not just come, fulfill our duty and leave satisfied. Throughout our whole spiritual lives, we should always be concerned about seeking Him, repeating all the time, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Where are You, Beloved?” These are the words of a soul, which is the bride of Christ. We should say so not only at a Liturgy, but also during our whole lives. Whether we work, do something, or go somewhere, we should not stop reciting the prayer, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
Our hope and faith are tested on the cross. It is easy to love in favorable times. However, on the night after the Crucifixion, it turned into a cross-bearing, fear and challenge. Moreover, some days ago, thousands of people surrounded Him, but then, only a few remained. Only those who loved Him truly. And love guided them, making them fight down their fear and sense of danger. It pushed and pushed them there. They could not sleep, sit, eat, or drink. They strained after that place and went there.
THE PURE IN HEART WILL SEE GOD
Today’s Sunday Gospel reading was about the blind man. We have heard a story of a man, who was born blind and who could not see this beautiful world the way we do. The Lord healed him and gave him the joy of seeing all this beauty. Just imagine, there is a big difference between being in total darkness and, on the opposite side, being able to see the beauty of this world at once. What a joy to see the people who are near and dear to you and whom you only used to hear, but now you can see them! To see everything you have been told about, while you have had nothing, but associations, as you were born blind. It’s one thing when a person can see and then loses his or her vision. It’s another thing when a person was born blind and he or she has no images at all. All of a sudden, this wonderful world opens up before him. This was a shock, but in a good sense of the word. This was joy.
He was born blind. We all come from Adam and Eve, and, as St. David the Prophet says, “in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 50:7). We all come damaged and blind into this world. We do not see the spiritual world. We do not even imagine how beautiful it is, because we have nothing to compare it with, as we are born being able to see what we can see. Only from saintly people, we learn that the world is wonderful. But we cannot imagine it, as we are born this way. We resemble that blind man, who could perceive something around him. He feels the things partially, as the people around him tell him about them. The same way the saints tell us about the beauty of the spiritual world. We trust them and their experience, but we do not see anything ourselves.
How should we come to see this spiritual world? The Lord says the following precise words to express the concept of such a vision, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt. 5:8). We try to lead moral and ethical lives, but we do not see God. And we ask, “What does the Lord mean? What is that, the purity of heart, which allows seeing the spiritual world and even seeing God in it? What is the point of this purity?”
I would like to tell you the most important thing, please, take my point: whether we get dirty with mud or chocolate, we will be dirty anyway, won’t we? Christians do not get this subtle matter. It seems to them that purity of heart consists only of purity from sinful thoughts. In fact, this purity is of a different kind; it is in chastity, in being free from impurities, both good and bad ones. That was the way of life of the Holy Fathers-Hesychasts, who recited the Jesus prayer and entered the state of contemplation. Even a pile of good thoughts may push God into the background, and we will be dirty as if from a chocolate, and our hearts will not be pure. It happens that some people stimulate having good thoughts throughout their spiritual life. There is even a saying, “you should always have good thoughts.” Nevertheless, thoughts remain thoughts. They all the same make a mess in your heart, and it will lose its chastity without impurities, both good and bad ones.
Maybe I say something complicated and you do not get me? Lord, help us, so that all of us can understand.
When we practice prayer, the silent noetic prayer, we should realize that we strive after the purity of heart, which allows us to see God. Our heart should be free not only from sinful thoughts, but also from anything, which is not God. Our mind and heart should contain the sole short, chaste and pure thought – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. As soon as something else comes there, even something really good, it will make this chaste, very precise and short thought complicated and obscure. Crystal-clear water is the one free of impurities.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we pray, we should think neither about good, nor about bad things. We should hold, I even say “hold” instead of “think”, we should hold in our heart one short thought, which should transform into the Person – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. After that, when you will be in Christ, the whole world will enter your heart with Christ, and you will pray for it. However, all this will happen in Christ. There are cases when you expect people to do some certain good thing, and he or she says, “Sorry, I have been thinking about something good, but forgot to do this simple thing.” These are the words of spiritual fanciers. We should be realistic and experience Christ in reality. And everything will come to us, as long as we are in Christ.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU.
How can a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven be explained to a human?
Any explanation would not suffice, as these notions and knowledge of the Mystery of the Kingdom of God are not of this World. As per the Holy Scripture, this Mystery and the entrance to it are situated deep inside our hearts.
No one can explain this… St. Apostle Paul had trouble describing the Kingdom of Heaven due to the necessity of descending to earthly stereotypes, while Up There things are considerably different, and all earthly examples and concepts were insufficient, that is why he found it hard to talk about it, just like all the saints. People cannot learn about the Kingdom of Heaven unless they enter It.
But on their way to the Kingdom of Heaven inside their hearts in the mystery of tacit prayer Christians make a crucial mistake: they suppose they can enter it by their practical abilities, stubbornness and courage, but they push too much and give birth to some psychological states which they take for anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven, while it is only psychological ardor.
In addition, when a person does not stop it and demons, on their part, help to make the excitement stronger, it results in a more serious error. Our heart has feelings, emotions and passions – this may be called an outward part of it, and it also has an inward part deep inside where spiritual life takes place and that is the spiritual center of a human. Therefore, this inward part of a human heart cannot be entered by any artificial practices of silent prayer, with breathing from the mind to the heart. Some people wrongly assume they can achieve it, but only God can open the door to that center, to the Kingdom of Heaven. It opens from the other side. Moreover, a poor, naïve person who started to practice silent prayer and who supposes he or she should breathe correctly, bring his mind up and down, push and show great zeal, should learn about this main condition of avoiding the mistake – the door opens from the other side.
People talk much about mistakes in silent prayer now. Sometimes it even comes to paranoia.
But you should keep in mind only that no matter what you do, no matter how you breathe or sit or concentrate or push – you will find only delusion on this side. The door to the Kingdom of Heaven opens by God, and unless He does it, our spiritual state will remain as it is…
Nevertheless, our purpose is to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven and enter It. In order to do it correctly we should stand by the door and call patiently: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” We do not break into it, we do not try to open it, we do not push. We just stand and humbly call: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…”, but this door appears to be an obstacle between the Kingdom of God and us. And very often we get disappointed, broken down as Christ remains behind the door, we are eager to meet Him, experience Him. We want Him to become a real Person instead of some good high idea. At that moment, we see the difference between the saints and us. They have a direct knowledge of God, while we have a Person behind the door.
To avoid despair, a breakdown and disappointment we need to realize that we are separated only by a thin door, and He is there listening to us. We don’t see Him because of the door, the burden of our flesh, and our non-spirituality. We have not entered it yet, but we can anticipate it. And this anticipation is inspiring!
We do not need to hurry – and this is inspiring too! We can pray this way during our whole life without despair, exhaustion and break down. He is close, very-very close – behind this thin screen, and we whisper as if into a keyhole: “Jesus, Jesus…” But do not push on Him, do not force Him. Let Him decide when to open the door. And we will content ourselves with staying at the door as it is very-very close already “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…”, even closer than I stand to any of you now.