Russian Orthodox christian Presbyter and a member of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church
Saint John of Kronstadt, fully John Il’ich Serguiev, aka Holy Father John of the Kronstadt
Russian Orthodox christian Presbyter and a member of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church
Worthless is the charity of the man who bestows it unwillingly, because material charity is not his, but God's gift, while only the disposition of the heart belongs to the man. This is why many charities prove almost worthless, for they were bestowed unwillingly, grudgingly, without respect for the person of our neighbor. So also the hospitality of many persons proves worthless because of their hypocritical vain-glorious behavior to their guests. Let us offer our sacrifices upon the altar of love to our neighbor, with heart-felt affection: 'for God loves a cheerful giver' (II Cor. 9:7).
Would a beggar, who is fed upon crumbs from his master?s table, be proud of being fed upon his crumbs? What is there for him to be proud of? Of his poverty? The beggar is myself, the master is the Lord; the crumbs from His table are all beneficial and natural gifts.
Your own malice is the bitterest of all evils. Is it then possible to correct malice by means of evil? Having a beam in your own eye, can you pull out the mote from the eye of another?
When you see your body wasted away through sickness, do not murmur against God, but say: 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job 1:21). You are accustomed to look upon your body as upon your own inalienable property, but that is quite wrong, because your body is God's edifice.
Wherever a man goes, he always comes back home afterwards. So it is with the Christian, whoever he may be, whether he is a person of distinction or a simple one, rich or poor, learned or ignorant; wherever he may be, whatever station he may occupy in society, whatever he does, he must remember that he is not at home, but on a voyage, on the way, and that he must return home - to his father, mother, to his elder brothers and sisters; and that this home is heaven, his father - God; his mother - the Most-pure Mother of the Lord; his elder brothers and sisters - the angels and saints of God; and he must also remember that all his earthly duties and works are artificial, whilst his real duties are the salvation of his soul, the fulfillment of Christ's commandments, the cleansing of his heart.
Whilst reading or listening to sacred works, honor heartily in those who wrote them the image of God the Word, or God the Word Himself, speaking through them. Remember always, whilst reading books of spiritual or worldly contents, that man is God's image and that this image of God is in the thought, word, and spirit through which he speaks. Accustom yourself always to look upon every man with deep respect, as upon the image of God, but especially when he speaks, and above all when he speaks of God. Oh, how divine he is then! From being accustomed to men, from being acquainted with them, with their everyday life, from being accustomed to the gift of speech in ourselves and in others, we set little value upon this gift, we even sometimes despise it in others; and thus the devil, through our self-love and inattention, blasphemes the image of God in men. We must by every means humble our hearts and subdue our proud intellect, lest we should be like the contemporaries of the prophets, who looked on them only as sweet-voiced singers, and nothing more; they did not wish to fulfill their commands, they even despised, persecuted, beat, and killed them; lest we should be like those, by whom " no prophet is accepted in his own country." However insignificant and unimportant the man may be, honor in him the image of God, especially when he speaks with love, and, above all, when he speaks of and does the works of love.
Who [God] is reflected in the pious mind as the sun is reflected in a drop of water; the purer the drop is, the better, the clearer will be the reflection; the more turbid the drop, the dimmer will be the reflection; so that in the soul's state of extreme impurity or darkness, the reflection entirely ceases and the soul is left in a state of spiritual darkness, in a state of insensibility.
Why do we toss about and trouble about trifles? Why are we so greedy after enjoyments, money, honors, dress and various other things? All these are dead, perishable, transitory.
Why does a man sometimes suddenly get into such a frenzy that he becomes violently angered, speaks quickly, abruptly and incoherently, wrings his hands, tears his hair, or in his passion strikes others, foolishly breaks everything that falls into his hands, and behaves like a madman, or like one infuriated ? Evidently because in his heart the subcelestial spirits of evil are working, instigating men to every wickedness, and breathing evil and destruction upon all and everything. Why are there both suicides of all kinds, as well as murderers of others? From the working of the immemorial suicide and murderer?the Devil?in the hearts of suicides and murderers. This is why Christ, the Savior, and the Christian religion command everyone to have that meekness and humility which do not allow the spirits of evil and pride, seeking the death of all and each one, to work in the hearts of true Christians. The Lord says: "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."2 The wrath of man is a terrible unnatural phenomenon in a man; it is often aroused in the heart by the most unimportant causes ?mostly through the self-love or pride concealed in our heart. We must remember that "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
With all your soul honor and love in every man the image of God, not regarding his sins, for God alone is Holy and without sin; and see how He loves us, how much He has created and still creates for us, punishing us mercifully and forgiving us bounteously and graciously. Honor the man also, in spite of his sins, for he can always amend.
With God all things are possible (Mk. 10:27). With God the thought itself is deed. He speaks and it is. Short and clear. And all the worlds stand by the Word of God.
When you ask anything of the Lord, immediately contemplate His merciful and generous Right Hand, bestowing upon you His gifts, for it is His Right Hand that has given, and still gives, from God's abundance, everything to all, and consider as foolishness any doubt whether you will or will not obtain that which you ask for - a foolishness similar to that of which the Psalmist said, "The fool hath said in his heart: there is no God."
When you observe that your heart is cold and prays unwillingly, stop praying and warm your heart by representing vividly to yourself your own wickedness, your spiritual poverty, misery and blindness, or the great benefits which God bestows every moment upon you and all mankind? and then pray slowly and feverishly.
When you pray either aloud or to yourself for others for instance, for the members of your household or for strangers, even though they may not have asked you to do so pray for them with the same ardor and zeal as you would pray for yourself. Remember the commandment of the law: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19:18). Observe this rule upon all occasions.
When you say a prayer, He (The Holy Spirit) is in every word of it, and like a Holy Fire, penetrates each word.
When the foolish thought of counting up any of your good works enters into your head, immediately correct your fault and rather count up your sins, your continual and innumerable offenses against the All-merciful and Righteous Master, and you will find that their number is as the sand of the sea, whilst your virtues in comparison with them are as nothing.
When the light of faith or God's truth dwells in your heart, only then is it tranquil, firm, strong, and living; but when this is cut off, then your heart becomes uneasy, weak as a reed shaken by the wind, and lifeless. Do not pay any attention to this darkness of Satan.
When you are praying, watch over yourself so that 0not only your outward man prays, but your inward one also. Wherever I am, as soon as I raise the eyes of my heart in my affliction to God, the Lover of men immediately answers my faith and prayer, and the sorrow immediately departs.
When you are threatened with temptation to sin, then represent to yourself vividly that sin is exceedingly displeasing to God, Who hates iniquity. "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity." And in order to understand this better, imagine a father, righteous and severe, who loves his family, and is trying by every means to make his children well-principled and upright, in order to reward them afterwards for their good behaviour by the great riches he has laboriously laid up for them, and, who nevertheless sees, to his grief, that the children, disregarding their father's love, do not love him, do not pay attention to the inheritance so lovingly prepared for them by their father, but live disorderly, and rush impetuously to destruction. Mark, that " sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,"1 because it kills the soul, because it makes us the slaves of the Devil?the destroyer of men; and the more we work for sin, the more difficult will be our return, and the more sure will be our ruin. Dread, therefore, every sin with the whole heart. When your heart inclines to evil, and the evil one begins to undermine your heart, so that it is completely removed from the rock of faith, then say to yourself inwardly " I know of my spiritual poverty, my own nothingness without faith. I am so weak, that it is only by Christ's name that I live and obtain peace, that I rejoice and my heart expands, whilst without Him I am spiritually dead, I am troubled, and my heart is oppressed; without the Lord's Cross I should have been long since the victim of the most cruel distress and despair. Only Christ keeps me alive: and the Cross is my peace and my consolation.
We often meet our favorite thoughts in others, and it seems to us as though they had been taken away from us, as though they had been new ones and formed our own exclusive property. Presumptuous thoughts! What? Is there not only one God, the Lord of all intellects? Is not His Spirit in all who seek for truth? Have we not one sole Enlightener, 'who lights every man that comes into the world' (Jn. 1:9). Glory to the one God, Glory to Him Who loves all and bountifully bestows upon all His spiritual and bodily gifts! Glory to Him who is no respecter of persons and Who reveals the mysteries of His love, omnipotence and wisdom unto babes (cf. Lk. 10:21)!
We only call the Lord, God, but in reality we have our own gods, because we do not do the Will of God, but the will and thoughts of our flesh, the will of our heart, of our passions; our gods are--our flesh, pleasures, money, dress, etc.
What a grand creature is man? What a wonderful creation of God, created after His own image! If even in a fallen state he is capable of accomplishing the many wonderful works which he has produced and still produces, as we constantly see, both in history and in the present time, then of what might he not be capable in a state of holiness and perfection! But that which in him is above all deserving of attention, wonder, reverence and the most heartfelt gratitude is that he may be likened to his Creator God; that he is predestined to immortality, to eternal bliss in God, and with God; that he will someday shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of his heavenly Father.
What do I need? There is nothing on earth that I need, except that which is most essential. What do I need, what is most essential? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me. On earth, which is the place of my wanderings, my temporary being, there is nothing that is truly mine, everything belongs to God and is temporal, everything serves my needs temporarily. What do I need? I need true and active Christian love; I need a loving heart which takes compassion on its neighbors; I need joy over their prosperity and well-being, and sorrow over their sorrows and illnesses, their sins, failings, disorders, woes, poverty; I need warm and sincere compassion for all the circumstances of their lives, joy for those who are joyous and tears for those who are in tears. Enough of selfishness, egoism, living only for oneself and acquiring everything only for oneself: riches, pleasures, the glory of this world; enough of spiritual dying instead of living, grieving instead of rejoicing, and carrying within oneself the poison of selfishness, for selfishness is a poison that is continuously poured into our hearts by Satan. O, let me cry out with King David: Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart. Grant me, O Lord, true life, dispel the darkness of my passions, disperse their power with Thy strength, for with Thee all things are possible!
What does the daily invocation of the saints signify ? of different ones each day, during the whole year, and during our whole life? It signifies that God?s saints ? as our brethren, but perfect ? live, and are near us, ever ready to help us, by the grace of God. We live together with them in the house of our Heavenly Father, only in different parts of it. We live in the earthly, they in the heavenly half; but we can converse with them, and they with us. God?s saints are near to the believing heart, and are ready in a moment to help those who call upon them with faith and love.
What is grace? It is the blessed power of God given to he man who believes and who was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. It is the power that cleanses, sanctifies, enlightens, that helps in doing good and withdraws from evil, that comforts and gives courage in misfortunes, sorrows and sickness. It is the pledge of receiving the everlasting blessings prepared by God in heaven for His Chosen ones.