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
Cleanse your heart during all your life, so that it, or your soul, may be capable of seeing God afterwards; only care for your body and its requirements as much as is necessary for maintaining its health, power, and decency. It will all die; the earth will bear it all away.
Concerning honoring and invoking the saints in prayer...What is it founded upon? They are in God; they are rich in spiritual gifts; they are in the land of the living, and in the land of abundance; whilst we are in the land of death and of spiritual hunger. God has taken them unto Himself to preserve our life. " God did send me before you to preserve life," said Joseph to his brethren. Abraham - Noah: the rich man in hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus. Noah, the deliverer from the deluge. " Blessed is he whose race is in Sion, and who hath kinsmen in Jerusalem.
As our God is indivisible, we also must be indivisible, as though we were one man, one mind, one will, one heart, one goodness, without the smallest admixture of malice - in a word, one pure love, as God is Love.
As rivers flow into the sea, so the souls of men should flow toward God.
All thoughts, feelings, every disposition of the heart tending to destroy love and create enmity, proceed from the Devil.
All you who draw near to serve God in prayer, learn to be like Him, meek, humble, and true of heart; do not let there be any deceitfulness or duplicity nor coldness in your soul.
Almsgiving is good and salutary when to it is united the amendment of the heart from pride, malice, envy, slothfulness, indolence, gluttony, fornication, falsehood, deceitfulness, and other sins. But if the man is not careful to amend his heart, trusting only to his alms, then he will obtain but little benefit from them, for he builds with one hand and destroys with the other.
A man becomes spiritual insofar as he lives a spiritual life. He begins to see God in all things, to see His power and might in every manifestation. Always and everywhere he sees himself abiding in God and dependent on God for all things. But insofar as a man lives a bodily life, so much he does he do bodily things; He doesn't see God in anything, even in the the most wondrous manifestations of His Divine power. In all things he sees body, material, everywhere and always - "God is not before his eyes."
A man feels the oppression of sin in his heart the weariness and anguish of sin: if he has not Christian hope in his heart, what does he do? He has recourse to artificial means to drive away the oppression and weariness, to culpable distractions, and not to Christ, Whose 'yoke is easy' for our heart and Whose 'burden is light' (Mt. 11:30), not to prayer, not to repentance for his sins, not to the Word of God, which 'is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, comfort' (II Tim. 3:16; Rom. 15:4). So it happens in most cases. Hence the necessity for worldly people to have theatres and a multitude of other amusements. Some have recourse to suicide. The experience of obtaining that which we pray for greatly strengthens Christian hope in our heart. And he who is attentive to himself will easily observe this experience.
When entering the temple of God to pray, we should know and remember that we are the children of the Heavenly Father, and have come into His house; therefore we must stand there with son-like feelings of sincere love and gratitude in fervent prayer. Our spirit should cry, ‘Abba, Father!’
A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart - love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love - how good will conquer evil.
When some inward disturbance or weakness of the heart prevents your pronouncing the words of the prayers during Divine service, then consider such disturbance and weakness as an illusion of the enemy, of the demon; throw aside the despondency, the faint-heartedness, and timidity, and speak concerning the name of the Lord without hurrying, calmly and intentionally louder; you will thus overcome your disturbance and weakness, and will obtain courage and strength. Everything is possible unto those who believe and trust. We must struggle and conquer.
A Priest, like an angel of the Almighty Lord, ought to be above all passions and spiritual disturbances, above all worldly or vain attachments and fears, occasioned by demons; he ought to be entirely in God, to love and fear Him alone. The fear of man means that he does not yet entirely cleave to God.
When you are in the temple, remember that you are in the living presence of the Lord God, that you stand before His face, before His eyes, in the living presence of the Mother of God, of the holy angels, and of the first-born of the Church that is, our forefathers, the prophets, Apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, reverend Fathers, the righteous, and all the saints. Always have the remembrance and consciousness of this when you are in the temple, and stand with devotion, taking part willingly and with all your heart in the Divine service.
An impure heart – that is a heart occupied with earthly passions – feeds itself on the carnal desires of the eyes and worldly pride; it cannot see any of the things we have indicated.
When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.
Do not be despondent when fighting against the incorporeal enemy, but even in the midst of your afflictions and oppression praise the Lord, Who has found you worthy to suffer for Him, by struggling against the subtlety of the serpent, and to be wounded for Him at every hour; for had you not lived piously, and endeavored to become united to God, the enemy would not have attacked and tormented you.
When you go to visit any of your relations or friends, do not go to their houses in order to eat and drink well, but go there in order to take part in friendly and sincere conversation with them, to refresh your soul from worldly vanities by friendly and loving interaction, to be mutually comforted by your common faith. For ‘I see not yours, but you,’ says the Apostle.
Do not be irritated with those who sin; do not develop a habit of noticing every sin in others, and judging them, as we are so inclined to do. Everyone shall give an answer to God for himself. Correct your own sins; and amend your own heart.
When you see a beautiful girl or woman or a handsome youth, immediately lift your thoughts to the supreme, most holy Beauty, the Author of every earthly and heavenly beauty, that is, to God; glorify Him for having created such beauty out of mere earth; marvel at the beauty of God’s image in man, which shines forth even in our perverted state; imagine what our image will be when we shall shine forth in the kingdom of our Father, if we become worthy of it; picture to yourself what must be the beauty of God’s saints, of the holy angels, of the Mother of God Herself, adorned with the Divine glory; imagine the unspeakable goodness of God’s countenance, which we shall behold, Carnal desire is sweet, but it is sinful, corruptive, and repugnant to God. Do not attach yourself with your heart to any girlish or female beauty, but to the Lord God alone, Who has created every beauty for His own sake, and say: ‘It is good for me to hold me fast by God,’ to God alone, and not to fleeting carnal beauty.
Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.
When your heart is touched by thoughts of fornication, or impurity, evil, or blasphemy, or when thoughts of malice, envy, avarice, covetousness, gluttony, darken, wound, and oppress you, then say to yourself, with firm, heartfelt conviction, that all this is an imagination of the Devil, and all such ideas and thoughts shall immediately vanish. Blessed is he that ‘speaketh the truth from his heart’. Tortured will be he who imagines or thinks of evil and sin in his heart! ‘Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.’ Despise the carnal delight of sin, for it is a provocation of the perishable flesh. When a thought of doubt in the truth comes to you, say, that this thought is an illusion, whilst the truth remains-eternal truth.
Evil is corrected by good; faults by love, kindness, meekness, humility and patience. Acknowledge yourself as the greatest of sinners. Of those who appear to you to be sinners, or are sinners in fact, consider yourself worse and lower than all. Be rid of all pride and malice against your neighbor, all impatience and bad-temper, and only then - with love and long-suffering towards them - try to cure others. Until then, cover the sins of others with your indulgent love.
With death all will be taken from us, all earthly goods, riches, beauty of body and raiment, spacious dwellings, etc., but the virtue of the soul, that incorruptible raiment, shall remain with us eternally.
God is nearer to us than any man at every time. He is nearer to me than my raiment, nearer than the air or light, nearer than my wife, father, mother, daughter, son, or friend. I live in Him, soul and body. I breathe in Him, think in Him, feel, consider, intend, speak, undertake, work in Him.