"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
Humankind searched for God, its Creator, for a long time. Submerged by the darkness of sin, it called upon the Heaven. Moans, cries, screams, suffering and illnesses filled the face of the earth; blood, sweat, and tears soaked it through. People were trying to find the rescue from death. However, when the Lord came to them and opened His embrace, people were frightened at the sight of such proximity of God, of such divine love and beauty.
People had wanted to find a God in order to tremble at His sight and serve Him as slaves, but the Lord came to them as a defenceless Baby, and His entire life on earth was devoted to serving people. Man was looking for God on the throne of earthly rulers but he found Him in a poor cowshed. In His last minutes on earth, the Lamb of God, who appeared to people in order to teach them to live with God, takes all our pain, sorrows, and wounds on Himself. The world did not accept God; the world crucified Love. But Love won because Love never dies. The world turned its back on God but the Lord was praying for those who crucified Him, “They are not aware of what they are doing, forgive them.” The Lord never ceased to love us humans, and He made a miracle before His Passion — through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper, He united with each one of those who were with Him. This moment of Communion is impossible to perceive. Everything that a person can embrace with his or her reasoning is situated on earth. Here the Lord gives us eternal and imperishable love that tramples down death, that triumphs over the world and the sin. This heavenly gift makes us immortal, if only we believe that we are God's kin, that we are immortal, if only we are not afraid of the road that lies beneath the feet of those who are eager to fight with sin inside their hearts and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That road means constant suffering due to the sin that dwells inside our souls and does not want to die out. It is alongside with that sin that our passionate, corrupt and transient old self dies. Its death may take years. Not just great ascetics but each Christian who professes Christ, joins the Church, and becomes a part of the Body of Christ, is bound to die. This death is painful and this life is an ordeal which only courageous, humble, and pure souls can pass. By dying for the sin, we are born for God. As she gets closer to God, the person distances herself from the world, and her soul that has seen the Light of the Love of Christ feels that the world of sin, the world that is violent in its core, the world that considers love to be insane, is alien to her. Once God's grace finds its way into a person's heart, it makes it ache forever. That person's heart can no longer be immured by the sin; it suffers as it encounters the sin, and can only be comforted by the Heaven, not the earth. The life of a person who has encountered God changes; all joys, lures, and attractions of this world turn into a prison for the heart that yearns for God. We lift up our hearts, but there is sin inside our hearts, and it is this sin that we have to cut off with a knife of faith and repentance, with a knife that tears us apart. We have to bid farewell to the sinful part because it is temporary and cannot go into the Kingdom of Love ruled by the Eternal God.
When a person receives the Communion, she burns down the sin but there is the devil hiding behind the back of every communicant and waiting for the moment when he can take revenge on the person. The devil does his best to trick us and lead us astray, using our bodily infirmities, so the life of a Christian becomes a struggle, an “invisible war” against the “prince of this world”. The world attracts the person, while God calls us into the Heavenly Kingdom that begins inside one's heart when, in spite of the horror of the sin that is revealed to those who come to know God, a person breaks free from the darkness. Our souls knock at the door of the Kingdom of Heaven, looking for the Saviour. It is the Lord who is the Saviour of souls. The more one can see her sinfulness, the more one can see her impurity, the more love her soul may accommodate, because it longs for salvation.
During every Liturgy, a church is filled with grace; Angels and Saints take part in this Feast of Love. However, it is so difficult sometimes for a person to get to the Holy Chalice; it is hard to put up with the fact that it is not her own merit but God's Love, God's forgiveness and humility that rescue her from death. Time relentlessly flies forward to the point at which the Eternity starts. We have met God, and this fact has to change our lives, our world outlook, our blood and flesh, and make us able to love, hope, trust, to be patient, humble, and grateful. We cannot forget about our encounter with God; we cannot un-learn that there is a different kind of life, that is pure and beautiful. Our souls feel sad, and everything without God becomes useless. The person starts to seek for the meaning of her life only in God.
We escape death and we see life but this life demands our choice. God is waiting and calling each one of us, which is why we will never be able to justify ourselves with our ignorance or unpreparedness. We will be held responsible for our decision either to live for God and follow in the footsteps of Christ, or turn our backs on Him and pursue our own ways that lead not to the Heaven but into the depth of the earth, into the grim grave. A soul that did not get to know God, did not humble herself down, and did not answer the call of her Creator, will be buried in darkness forever.
Fragments of the meeting of the monastic sisters of St Elisabeth Convent on July 21, 2014
Nun Joanna: I would like to ask you a question that has been haunting me for a couple of years now. Certainly, something has been changing over time in my perception of this question. How do I ask a priest during the confession in order to hear God’s answer? I am aware of the fact that if I am not ready to hear the answer, I will not hear it even though God might utter it. Sometimes it seems to me that I ask an earnest question while in fact, deep inside my heart, I am reluctant to hear God’s answer to it, and therefore, I will not hear it. Sometimes the enemy makes me anxious by saying that I will only receive the answer I want to receive because it will be a human and a worldly answer. There are plenty of aspects like this. Sometimes my soul is at peace, there is no conflict inside, and I am through a more or less calm period of my life. And this is when the Lord acts through the absolution prayer, through your prayer for me, Father, when you pray that God would help me, lead me and reveal everything to me. However, it is very hard for me to receive aid through words. What should I do? I don’t understand. Sometimes this problem gets so acute that I can be on the verge of despair because I encounter a dead-end, a wall. I have questions with no answers.
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: Most often, questions are related to one’s inner state. As soon as this state changes, the questions also change. There is one question that you have to answer when you are calm: “How can I remain peaceful?” And when you are agitated there is a different question: “What should I do? Where should I run?” Anyway, you address your question to God so it has to have an answer. Elder Paisius said that there is a cure for cancer, though no one knows about it, but it is near. Actually, everything is here, God has said everything. We cannot add anything to it. There are answers to all questions in the Gospel. How do we accept them, how do we hear them and apply to our own lives? I know some answers but I am not ready to accept them. Either the enemy may interfere or the person herself may be unable to cope with it, which is why she limits herself. I believe that I know everything I need for today. The issue is whether I apply this knowledge to my life or not. This depends on my trust in God and on how much I dare not spare myself. You know everything already, don’t you? You should love your sisters and not trust yourself when there is something that prevents you from loving them. You should renounce your own self but you prefer to trust the sin.
Nun Joanna: That is what I was about to say. I have a feeling that in my case it is not Christ in our midst but my sin that impedes me and distorts everything I see. Perhaps, only on few occasions did I see the true situation around me as it is in reality, undistorted by my own sin. Most of the time, I probably see everything through the lens of my self-love. It is extremely hard to reject this vision.
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: You have got to fight with it. I can tell you about my personal experience. Sometimes it appears to me that everything around me is a total mess. However, I know for sure that this feeling is not sent by God. You need to calm down and come to your senses. If you are to change anything at all, you should do it peacefully, calmly, thoughtfully and meaningfully, not being overridden with emotions of despair, doom and gloom. So you should ask yourself at once: “What emotional state am I in now? Does the Spirit of God dwell in me now, or is there a bitter feeling of anger, reprehension, or resentment?” In such case you should postpone your dealing with certain issues until you come back to normal. You will probably have no questions then. You will see that the Lord acts.
Nun Joanna: It is extremely difficult for me to struggle for my love, if I seldom meet a certain person and whenever I meet him or her, I see him or her from only one side, that is, usually he or she is on the sunny side, but when I meet the said person, the sun does not shine, as a rule. The same person may be different in various situations. Often you can see only some of the traits of their personality, and you do not know what that person could be like in his or her dealings with other people. Perhaps, sometimes it is God’s Providence that tests me: I can meet the same person for years, and he or she will always be not much of anything.
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: The problem lies not in that person but in you.
Nun Joanna: I know that the problem is in me. But when you cannot see a smile on the person’s face for years…
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: Can it be that you cannot see it but it is there?
Nun Joanna: Maybe. I see that the person is always grievous-looking and aloof. I should be thinking that it is merely an illusion. I would like to ask for prayers because this is my personal problem and I do not want to place that burden onto anyone else’s shoulders. I feel that my weak strength is not enough to carry this load, however hard I try to do it throughout all these years, or maybe I must try harder and put more effort into it. I am fed up with that way of looking at things. I see that finally, I have to learn to see everything as beautiful as it really is. I have been reading Father Sophrony’s books lately. It took me many years to get to open his books but thanks to God’s mercy I started reading and understanding what he wrote. I have realised that if one does their best every day, only then will they humble down. I would like to humble down very much because it is my pride that separates me from my neighbour. If I do not put myself under the biggest stress I can handle, I will never achieve the most important thing. I simply wanted to share the thought I consider to be the most vital for me nowadays.
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: Each one of us has his or her own acceptable level of stress, and we cannot judge other people. For one person, even one word is a big enough stress, and for another person many words aren’t. For one person, a prayerful sigh will be enough, and for another person incessant prayer is not the end of the game. This is dealt with on an individual basis, there should be nothing like a conveyor belt here. God teaches each one of us on an individual basis, and He treats each person delicately: He does not humiliate or abuse each person but instead He guides us humbly and waits until we are ready.
Nun Joanna: Father Sophrony is a great man, a great man of prayer, and a great ascetic. There is a huge gap between the two of us. Nevertheless, his book is still close to me because the Elder does not set any concrete standards in it.
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: This is what freedom is all about, when a person does not insist or mentor you but simply shares his own experience of abiding in God. This is very beautiful and inspiring. If we manage to launch the Christian school here, we should take care to teach children with love. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes that many children do not return to church life after they graduate from a Sunday school. God brings them back ten years later, through various sorrows, and this is because the school had a wrong approach to their education. Why don’t children in families obey their parents? It is because the children do not see their parents as friends. The Lord says: You are My friends. We have to consider that. It is God’s trust and beauty, it is His boundless love towards human beings that can accomplish something. Even the most callous heart will reply to it. This is when the growth begins; this is when one starts to trust God. This is when one begins to see that God takes care of her. But this does not happen automatically. That is why we would like to help everyone but some people are not ready to receive our help. This is not because God cannot help, it is simply that one must be ready for it.