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
Man builds himself a house, and lives in it; the animal a lair, and lives in it; the bird a nest, and hatches it?s young ones; the bee a hive with honeycomb, and lives in it, preparing honey for itself; the spider weaves a web, and, living in it, catches food for itself by means of it. Was it not, therefore, fitting that the Creator should build Himself a house not made with hands? His Body?as He built it in the womb of the Virgin Mother, as He even now creates temples for His Body in the life-giving mysteries?the Creator, Who has built and continues to build bodily houses for all sentient or sentiently-spiritual creatures?
Many rich men and high dignitaries would willingly exchange their palaces for the poor man's cottage if they could only acquire his peace of heart.
O All-merciful Lord! Grant me the divine gift of holy prayer, flowing from the depth of my heart. Gather together the dispersed thoughts of my mind, that it may always strive towards its Creator and Savior. Destroy the burning arrows of the evil one, which tear me away from Thee. Quench the flame of the passionate thoughts that devour me during prayer. Cover me with the grace of Thy Most-holy Spirit, that to the very end of my sinful life I may love Thee alone with all my heart, all my soul and mind, and all my strength, and in the hour when my soul takes leave of my mortal body, O Sweetest Jesus, take into Thy hands my spirit when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.
O, woe, woe, woe to us who bear the name of Christ, but have none of the spirit of Christ in us; who bear the name of Christ, but do not follow the teaching of the Gospel!
Leave all human injustices to the Lord, for God is the Judge, but as to yourself, be diligent in loving everybody with a pure heart, and remember that you yourself are a great sinner and in need of God?s mercy. But in order to deserve God?s mercy, we must forgive others in every way. So be it! So be it! The Lord is everything to all: he is the Judge as well as the generous giver of gifts, and mercy, and the cleansing from sins, and the light, the peace, the joy and the strength of heart.
Let no one think that sin is something unimportant?no, sin is a terrible evil, that destroys the soul, both now and in the future life. The sinner in the future life will be bound hand and foot (meaning the soul) and cast into outer darkness. As the Savior said: " Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness;"2 that is, he entirely loses the freedom of his spiritual powers, which, being created for free activity, suffer through this a kind of overwhelming inactivity for every good work: in his soul the sinner recognizes his powers and at the same time he feels that these powers are bound by unbreakable chains?" he shall be holden with the cords of his sin." l To this must be added the terrible torment arising from the very sins themselves, from the consciousness of our own foolishness during the earthly life, and from the image of the angry Creator. Even in this present life sin binds and destroys the soul. What God-fearing man does not know what sorrow and oppression strike his soul, what torturing, burning fire rages in his breast when he has sinned 1 But besides binding and destroying the soul as it does temporarily, sin also destroys it eternally if we do not repent here of our sins and our iniquities from our whole heart. Here is also a proof by experience that sin destroys the soul temporarily and eternally. If it happens to any God-fearing person to go to sleep without having repented of the sin, or the sins, he has committed during the day, and which have tormented his soul, these torments will accompany him the whole night, until he has heartily repented of his sin, and washed his heart with tears (this is also from experience). The torments of sin will wake him up from sweet sleep, because his soul will be oppressed, bound a prisoner by sin. Now, suppose that the man who has gone to sleep in any sin and is tormented by it, is overtaken during the night by death : is it not clear that his soul will go into the other life in torment, and that as after death there is no place for repentance, he will be tormented there according to the measure of his sins 1 The Holy Scriptures also testify to this.
Let others mock at you, oppose you, when you are under the influence of any passion; do not be in the least offended with those who mock at or oppose you, for they do you good; crucify your self-love and acknowledge the wrong, the error of your heart. But have the deepest pity for those who mock at words and works of faith and piety, of righteousness; for those who oppose the good which you are doing... God preserve you from getting exasperated at them.
Let us measure the worth of our prayers by human measure or by the quality of our relation to other men. How do we behave to other people?
Let us put away from us our spiritual short-sightedness, and let us cease concentrating all our attention upon temporal, earthly things; let us foresee with our mental vision the future, everlasting life, and rise in our hearts to our heavenly country. Indeed, it is incredible short-sightedness for the immortal soul only to look upon the present, visible things, generally relating to the senses, and flattering our carnal nature, and not contemplate the life of the world to come ? the blessings which 'eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,' but which the Most Merciful and Most Wise 'God has prepared for those who love Him' (I Cor. 2:9). Of what do we not deprive ourselves through this voluntary short-sightedness?
Life without activity is not life, but something monstrous--a sort of phantom of life.
Likewise every true thought contains in itself a proof of its truth. This proof is its vivifying effect upon the heart.
Love every man in spite of his falling into sin. Never mind the sins, but remember that the foundation of the man is the same--the image of God.
Love every person, regardless of his sinful state. Sin is sin, but the basis of a human being is one and only ? the image of God. Sometimes, the weaknesses of people are apparent when, for example, they are malicious, proud, envious, stingy, greedy. But remember, that you yourself are not without evil, and perhaps, there may be more of it in you than in others. In any case, with regard to sin, all people are alike; ?For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God? (Romans 3:23); we all are guilty before God and we are all in need of His mercy. That is why we have to tolerate and mutually forgive one another, so that our Heavenly Father may forgive us our transgressions (Mat. 6:14). Look how much God loves us, how much He has done and continues to do for us, how He punishes us lightly yet pardons us so abundantly and benevolently!
In order not to be subjected to the continual harassments of the evil spirit, we must constantly have in our hearts this prayer to Jesus Christ: Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me!
In order that you should have steadfast assurance during prayer, of receiving every spiritual blessing from the Lord, believe that by uniting yourself unto the Lord during your prayer you become one spirit with Him (cf. I Cor. 6:17), and that God is most gracious, almighty and wise. He is all-perfect perfection, therefore, you, too, according to your perceptivity, according to your faith and love, will become a partaker of His Divine perfections. In the union of your soul with God, do not consider anything impossible or difficult of fulfillment, 'for with God all things are possible' (Mk. 10:27) - not only the things which you can think of, or are thinking of, but also those which you cannot think of, or which you think of as impossible, for God is an infinite Being, and all His perfections are infinite.
In reference to the fulfillment of that which you ask of God in prayer, believe that it is as easy, and even incomparably easier, for the Lord to fulfill each of your words than it is for you to pronounce the words, and that if there is the word, there is also the deed; for with the Lord there is no word without the deed; no word shall return unto Him void (cf. Isa. 55:11), according to His word. Remember constantly during prayer that God is That Which Is, and that from Him everything proceeds: both the thought concerning anything, and the word concerning anything and everything ? that He is all wise, almighty and all gracious.
It is necessary to rouse the heart to pray, otherwise it will become quite dry. The attributes of prayer must be: love of God, sincerity, and simplicity.
It is written: 'I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall come to all people' (Lk. 2:10) - not just to some people. Again, it is written: 'Let all the earth worship You and sing to You' (Ps. 66:4 LXX) - not just part of the earth. This singing is an expression not of grief but of rejoicing. Since this is so, let us not despair, but pass through this present life cheerfully, conscious of its joys.
Keep a strict watch against every appearance of pride: it appears imperceptibly, particularly in time of vexation and irritability against others for quite unimportant causes.
Learn to conquer evil by good, malice by kindness, meekness, and humility.
If God does not leave a blade of grass, a flower, or a small leaf of a tree without His good providence, will He leave us?
If God has given us Himself, if He abides in us and we in Him, according to His own true words, then what will He not give me, what will He spare for me, of what will He deprive me, how can He forsake me? 'The Lord is my shepherd: therefore I lack nothing' (Ps. 23:1).
If he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him' (Lk. 17:4). As the Searcher of hearts, the Lord knows that men are liable to very frequent trespass, and that, having fallen, they often rise up again; therefore He has given us the commandment to frequently forgive trespasses, and He Himself is the first to fulfill His holy word. As soon as you say from your whole heart, 'I repent,' you will be immediately forgiven.
If you see the fury and hear the howling of the tempest, or read of shipwrecks, think of the storm of human passions causing daily groans and disturbance in the hearts of men, wrecking the spiritual ship of the soul or the ship of human society; and pray fervently to the Lord that He may subdue the tempest of sins, as He once subdued the tempest at sea by His word, and that He may root our passions from our hearts, and re-establish in them unceasing tranquility.
Images or symbols are a necessity of human nature in our present spiritually sensual condition; they explain visually many things of the spiritual world which we could not apprehend without images and symbols.