SERMON FOR THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MONASTERY
On the Day of the Iveron Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
Today our Monastery turned ten. Once, ten years ago, entering upon this path, we were so amazed by everything and it seemed to us we were joining some festive procession, like the one we have just had. The Cross and icons ahead of us, the incense is burning, lots of exultant people around who are rejoicing and exclaiming, “Christ is Risen!” It seemed to us everything would be so merry, cloudless, poetical and beautiful. Thousands of pilgrims would come to us, they would respect and glorify us. We would receive awards and compliments, “What a marvelous monastery it is!”
Ten years have passed, and, you know, I feel like an old and beaten soldier who has lost one hand, one leg, and a half of his heart, who has lost a half of his friends, family and a half of himself. But, glory to God, the remaining half of this soldier is filled with Christ, because Christ does not leave an empty space, He occupies it.
Everything seemed to be beautiful but we did not even suppose that we were embarking upon the path of war and that this war is very cruel and pitiless and there will be its heroes and traitors at it. There will be the winners and those who turned back and walked away. Everything will be there, as the Lord said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”1 Today I understand these words of Christ better than ever. When He says that you take this path to Me, the sword will divide families, the closest people, a wife will go one way and a husband the other, one will choose this side, the other the opposite one. They will not simply separate, but they will do it in hatred towards one another.
War is a part of God’s providence. Nothing on earth happens outside God’s providence. God’s providence about war ruins all castles in the air, dreams, fantasies, and illusions, and everything becomes as it is. Here is a hero and here is a traitor. This one was killed because he did not observe the rules of war. He used to say, “Mister General, I know it myself, Sir.” And he got killed the same night, as he left his military family.
When we founded the monastery, people told me this was not an easy business. You know, I did not even suppose how difficult it is. Everything is destroyed, all my dreams, fantasies, and beautiful illusions I fancied. Everything happens in a different way. When people prepare themselves for a war they test their flashlights, sharpen their knives and polish their stars. But after the first battle they do not even remember if they still have those stars on or they were torn away. They do not think what shoulder cord they will have or how bright their cap badge will shine, if only they were alive. I have nothing left except for the gratitude to God and hope to God. I have nothing left, but Christ and the words, “Glory to God for all things,” because at this point everything is totally fair. At this point no lies or spinning will work. In war it is either black or white. It puts everything in its place. The one who lies does it through his teeth, the one who is a hero remains a hero. Someone changes sides, someone comes home. Glory to God. Nothing bad happened, everything is alright.
Why do I say I have nothing left but my gratitude to God? This is because I live in this situation, because this is Christianity, this is monasticism. It is not like when some people come to a monastery and think, “We will pray the Jesus prayer and have exalted states when we will have tears running down our cheeks and love for one another.” They come and here is such dirt, such blood. “Lord, I did not come for this.” You do not understand where you have come! Why did you come here? Go home! Pack your things and go home! Keep out of the way! People fight here! While you are getting in the way, attracting everyone’s attention and keep interfering with your opinion, “And I think this should be done this way…” Leave us alone and let us win smoothly!
O Lord, deprive us of all those fanciers, dreamers and egotists. Give us two heroes better than forty of those who are worth nothing. We will go into battle with those two. Lord, glory to You, there is only a half of me left. It means I need to seek my second half somewhere. I will seek it in You. Sweetest Jesus, help us.
It is better to be covered with wounds, but sober, than to be unharmed, but completely drunken and having fancies about Christianity and monasticism. Everything has ruined. Some melancholic pictures of sisters who stitch and sing, “Alleluiah!” Everything was destroyed. Only the truth remained. This is the truth of God. This is the truth about ourselves, about what we really are. There is only a half of me left, and Christ, and the Mother of God. Glory to God! It should be like this. Nothing more is needed.
Most Holy Theotokos, help us!
Glory to Thee, our Lord, glory to Thee!
1 Mt. 10:34