ON SINCERITY IN PRAYER

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

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?

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

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

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?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WALK WITH GOD?

27.10.2021

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

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

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

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU. 

24.02.2022

 

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.

HE FOREMOST HERESY

HE FOREMOST HERESY. ON THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS OF RUSSIA  26.06.2022

 

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

Today we commemorate All Saints of Russia. In addition, it is the day of the Venerable Fathers of Holy Mount Athos. We commemorate the people who were just like us, but who succeeded in becoming saints then.  The foremost heresy dwelling in our contemporary Church and difficult to turn out from it is the conviction of many people that the time of saints passed long ago and became a part of history, and that we cannot live like saints, because we have fundamentally different conditions. How different are they? They are different due to our slackness and hypocrisy. I can understand when people neglect their salvation and feel sorry for that or keep silent with shame at least. However, some people hypocritically find excuses for their negligence in spiritual life providing some theories about being in such a time and conditions and appealing for taking this as a fact.   

Excuse me, these phrases, which pass on from one Christian to another, do not agree with my heart. “The only thing left for us is repentance. We can find salvation only through overcoming sorrows.” I have a question, “What do you mean by repentance?” If we have a look at the root of this word, we will find out it comes from the Greek “metanoia” (μετάνοια), a “change of heart.” Change requires a feat and an action. If we understand repentance only as admittance of our sins, it means nothing. Do you think demons do not know they are sinful? They do know, but they do not do anything about this. This is not repentance; this is demonic repentance. In the Holy Gospel, we read that Judas, who betrayed Christ, repented and hung himself then. (Mt. 27:3) He repented. But was this repentance? No, it was not.  

When we say, “Only repentance is left for us,” I always want to interpret this phrase. What do you mean by repentance? Could it be that Saint Antony the Great did not practice repentance? He did it in the IV century, 1600 years ago. What do you think Venerable Sergius of Radonezh did? He repented. What is the difference between our and their repentance? They differ only by our hypocrisy, which we mix in this word. 

Repentance in its full meaning is an action. This action is executed within asceticism and spiritual life. The Holy Fathers came through this repentance, gained the experience of it and passed this experience on to us. Do you want to have repentance? You should act the way the Holy Fathers did. In order to act you should have determination and courage. Not simply, “Lord, I am sinful.” And what of it? What have you done to change, to have this metanoia? You should act correctly, and your acts should bring the result. “We meant the best, but it turned out as usual” will not do. You should have the result. Throughout two thousand years saints have come this way through sweat, sorrow and tears and left you their experience and you thoughtlessly say, “This experience will not work for me. It is obsolete and a part of history. We have only repentance.” But what is repentance? 

It may seem that our ancestors, who led saintly lives in Ancient Rus, had different conditions. What conditions did they have? You may try to imagine yourselves in the shoes of those who lived during the Tatar-Mongol yoke. Those were horrible times. It was not convenient at all. An enemy could enter your house any day, abuse your wife, take her captive, kill your children and parents, humiliate and simply tread you to pieces. In the first centuries of Christianity, people could be deprived of their lives for belonging to Christ through terrible and unimaginable sufferings. Was that time convenient?  You should compare that time to ours. We do not have our pension increased and think this is the end of the world. At that time, if you were a Christian, the main issues were life and death. In addition, you should try to love your enemies.  

It seems to me our time is not inconvenient by its external conditions, the matter is in our hypocrisy. We allowed ourselves hypocrisy; we have let ourselves deceive ourselves, people surrounding us, and God. Moreover, lying, we quote the Holy Gospel and the Holy Fathers, this is shameless. I can understand a sinner, who realizes his or her sinfulness and drops his eyes, remaining silent and humble. On the other hand, when a Christian pours quotations and some fine words, but does nothing – this is a shame. Shame is a gift of God, given to a human from the moment of creation, and we have lost this gift. Discredited it as useless. St. Symeon the New Theologian asked his teacher St. Symeon the Devout, “How should I find salvation?” To which the latter answered, “Always judge your conscience and call Jesus all the time.” Our conscience gives us discomfort, which is why we have hidden it in a wardrobe. It makes our life a misery. First of all, we would like to live comfortably, but it does not let us. Even in prayer, we seek warmness, tenderness and joy. It concerns our asceticism as well. When I ask, “What do you want from your spiritual life?” “I want everything to be peaceful, comfortable and kind.” I say, “You need to go to Buddhism then.”  If you want Christ, Who bears the sorrow of the world every day and every moment, are you ready for accepting Him with all this? At this moment sometimes, it happens like in the Holy Gospel, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (Jn. 6:66) Only a few stayed. 

Let us come back to our consciousness. Let us stop saying that we have different times. Holy Father Seraphim contradicts us saying, “Times are the same. There is no determination.” In comparison to me, Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov has indisputable authority, and he says these words. The matter is not in the times, it is in our indetermination. We have the necessary conditions, the same help God sends us, and the same love of the Holy Trinity, which has not diminished. Something happens inside of us. 

Father Philaret tells me, “I stand within the new church and there are so many saints surrounding me. I even feel a little ashamed.” Let us look at them more often. Not in the eye of one another, being hypocritical, but at them. Many of them hold crosses in their hands; this is the sign of martyrdom. The venerables have crosses too, as being a venerable equals martyrdom as well.  In fact, Christianity is martyrdom, as the Lord says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mt. 16:24) There are no other ways or conditions. Ready for the cross, then follow! If not, go and consider.  

All Saints of Russia, pray to God for us! Most Holy Mother Theotokos, Protectress of our Holy Homeland, save us! Holy Trinity, our Lord, glory to You!

About the STAGES OF THE JESUS PRAYER

About the STAGES OF THE JESUS PRAYER

Every one of you might have tried to pray and keep the commandments not only visually, but in your heart, and realized that your head is a mess. We cannot separate our thoughts from intentions, extract what God says from what comes from the devil, our passions. That is the reason why we cannot decide how to act, as before any action there goes a thought. It seems to us that we sincerely want to change, but we have no opportunity for that.  We say to ourselves and to God, “O Lord, I want to resist this intention, but I do not know why it is not listening to me.” We resemble a blind in a forest who bumps into trees, goes the wrong way, changes direction, slides down the slope and hurts himself. 

The Holy Fathers came through this path and told us based on their experience: child, do not get desperate, something can be done about it, if you act right. If muddling starts in your mind, then the act should be directed inside your mind. We should practice mental prayer that puts everything in place for us. 

All starts with verbal prayer, and one has to get used to it.  At the beginning, when the prayer is verbal, it helps, but not completely. You call Christ: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, but muddling in your heads does not stop. You should pronounce it a considerable number of times, but should not get desperate as nothing significant happens to your mind. Those who tried to do it, might agree with me. 

It will start to help when the prayer becomes mental. Because if the problem is in the mind, then the prayer should reach the mind. At that point everything is going to change, and you will find it pleasant. Through the Jesus prayer Christ will come into our disturbed mind, and as the Light, He will separate thoughts from intentions. And you will understand when to resist your sin.  Then our mind will have the power of accepting a thought or not. But this prayer is only a mental, not a tacit one. If any evil thought will make its way to the heart, it will respond with sympathy, as the mind has been partially enlightened by Christ, while the heart has not.  

I ask you to forgive me for touching such high-flown issues, but we should have a sense of purpose and see the line of work. A heart becomes passionless when Christ has already come into it and there is no space left for sin. That is why, I remind you, for those who want to practice the Jesus prayer, all should start with a verbal prayer. You should pronounce a million times, ten million times: Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ and you will get used to it and it will become natural to you. After that it will gradually come to be mental. When it comes into your mind, enlightens and separates your thoughts, all will become obvious to you. At that moment, in some measure, you will be able to fight for the pureness of your mind. Do not get discouraged by the fact that you cannot change at once.  

SAINTS ARE THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE

SAINTS ARE THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE. ON THE DAY OF SAINT NICHOLAS THE WONDERWORKER 22.05.2022

We have one more great patron now. This fact melts our hearts and brings hope. We have one more protector of our monastery, to whom we may come running, tell everything and receive his help.    

Today I would not like to talk about Saint Nicholas as a wonderworker above all. Many people have spoken about this, and even the definition has stuck to him: Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Because a number of wonders and quick help are related to him. 

Today I would not like to speak of him as a great wonderworker, but as a happy person. This man did not have wonders in the first place in his life, but he had happiness instead. This is the main thing in the life of every Christian and every saint who is striving after God. Wonders are not the main thing. A person, being a wonderworker, may be unfortunate. Meanwhile, some other person, being absolutely far from supernatural, may be very happy, as there, in his or her inner world, everything has taken place. Even now, we addressed him in our prayers and asked to relieve us from diseases, fire and earthquakes, and help us while traveling, in our family life. We come to him like any saint, and sometimes do not see that their lives were not all roses.  They were persecuted and misunderstood, fell ill and suffered from different troubles. Those people, whom we ask to relieve us from all this, bore this during their lifetime. They suffered from various diseases, persecution and defamation. Nevertheless, they were happy at the same time. Their happiness did not depend on external well-being, it was built deep inside. The Lord says, “Where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6:20). Their treasure was there and they were attuned to it. Having external troubles and burdens, they could be very happy.   

Saint Paul the Apostle, when he listed his grievances, which he came through in his Christian life, said the following words, which may even seem immodest, “I might have endured more than any of the Apostles” (“I labored more abundantly than they all” (1 Cor. 15:10)) But he was a very happy person, as Christ dwelled in him. This is the most significant and convincing reassurance, when Christ is inside. In this case, even if Christ asks, “What would you like to change?” this person, who has exclusively met Him, might answer, “No, no, I am fine, I will endure all this. I have you, and this is so important that I can put up with anything. My patience is proof of my sincere attitude towards you. I am ready to overcome any grief, which You allow to come and which is within the power of Your good providence, so that I only had a relationship with You, so that I would never lose You, and this is my proof.” 

So, I would not like to say that Saint Nicholas is first of all a Wonderworker. You know, I have met different wonderworkers during my spiritual life. Happiness must be nothing but pure, not mixed with anything else, without falsehood, implications or notes. A person is either happy or not. Moreover, if he or she is really happy, nothing can steal their happiness. “Neither illness, nor hardship, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, – nothing will separate us from the love of God, Who is in Jesus Christ Our Lord.” 

I do not know why, but today I wanted to tell you about Saint Nicholas as about a happy person, who succeeded in his life. I am not talking about his external well-being; I mean that he acquired the Kingdom of Heaven inside of him. That is why he shares it so generously with us. As soon as we call him, he shares it at once. Nevertheless, sometimes we diminish this saint by asking too many worldly things from him. He has an incorruptible treasure, heavenly wealth, but we come and ask for some trifle. However, he helps us even with this and gives generously. We should not stop only at this; otherwise, it will diminish our relationship. Ask him for heavenly things, he has them in abundance and is ready to share.  

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