June 2011

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908)

“My sweetest Saviour! Having come down from heaven for the service of mankind, Thou didst not only preach the Word of heavenly truth in the temple, but Thou wentest through the towns and villages; Thou didst not shun anyone; Thou visitedst the houses of all, especially of those whose fervent repentance Thou didst foresee with Thy divine gaze. Thus Thou didst not remain sitting at home, but wert in loving intercourse with all. Grant to us, Thy priests, to be also in such loving intercourse with Thy people, so that we pastors should not shut ourselves up in our houses away from Thy sheep as if in castles or prisons, only coming out of them for services in the church or to officiate in the houses of others, only out of duty, only with prayers learned by heart. May our lips be freely open to discourse with our parishioners in the spirit of faith and love. May our Christian love for our spiritual children be opened and strengthened by animated, free and fatherly conversation with them. O what sweetness, what bliss Thou hast concealed, O Lord, our boundless Love, in the spiritual converse warmed by love of a spiritual father with his spiritual children! And how is it possible not to strive upon earth with all our might after such bliss? Yet it is only a faint beginning, only a faint likeness of the heavenly bliss of love!”

– St. John of Kronstadt


In 1998, the memorable 1,000-year anniversary of the Baptism of Russia arrived. This was a major publicity time for the Moscow Patriarchate publishing department, and Metropolitan Pitirim applied all effort with an almost mystical dedication.

“The preparation for the 1,000-year anniversary of the Baptism of Russia was for us a time to sum up the Russian Church’s historical path. We considered very important the theme of the Church’s lower echelons’ service of Church and Fatherland: priests, deacons, and acolytes, and their 1,000 years of tireless labor, the aggregate of that immeasurable spiritual experience by which we live today. We know very little about the lives of the white [married] clergy—those who bear the weight of the whole world on themselves. Most historical research is carried out along the more noticeable higher clerical ranks. Russian writers also found the simple village priest uninteresting—our classical literature often portrays only caricatures. Our duty was to gather this spiritual experience by bits. We began that work in those days.”

Met. Pitirim notes on this subject, “Today we are canonizing many priests [new martyrs]. But for what are we canonizing them? Their parish and family life is remembered the least; we mostly remember that they were shot—either in 1917 or in 1937, or in the forties. Meanwhile, a priest’s true podvig is his parish and family life.”

Full article can be found here. Hat tip to Fr. Anthony.

A group of little children were playing. They were running about, picking flowers, singing, and rejoicing, because the grace of God made them happy. Then they saw a monk who was crying.

“Look,” they said to him, “the Lord decorated the heavens with stars and the earth with rivers and gardens; hawks fly high above the clouds and enjoy the beauty of nature; birds sing beautifully in the fields, but you, a monk, sit in your cell and do not see the whole beauty of God. You just sit and cry. What are you crying about in your little cell, when the sun is shining, the world is full of beauty, and there is joy everywhere on earth?”

“Children,” replied the monk, “you do not understand my tears. My soul cries for you because you do not know God, Who created all this beauty. My soul knows Him, and I want all of you to know Him, too. That is why I am sorrowful, and with tears I pray to God for you, that you would also come to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit.”

“What does it mean, to come to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit?” “You cannot know God with your mind. But when you read the Holy Scriptures, where the Holy Spirit dwells, it will delight you, and so you will come to know God and will serve Him with joy day and night. When you know God, the desire to think only about the things of this world will leave you, and your soul will strive to see the glory of God in the heavens.”

“But we like flowers, and we love playing and having fun.”

“You love roaming through the fields and picking flowers; you love singing and listening to the chirping of birds. But there is something much more wonderful than all this in the heavens: Paradise, where the Lord lives with the angels and the saints. In Paradise there is also rejoicing and singing of songs- but another, better kind. And when the soul hears those songs, it can never forget them, and earthly songs no longer attract it.”

“But we love to sing.”

“Sing, my children, to the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Sing in humility and love.”

“Still, we don’t understand why it is you are crying.”

“I cry for you, my children. Looking at you, I pity you, and I ask the Lord that He would protect you, so that you would come to know your Creator and Lord. I look at you and, there, you look like children of Christ. As you grow up, may you not lose the grace of God; may you not begin to look like your enemy, with bad thoughts. It is my desire for you that you look like the Son of the Most Pure Mother of God. This is what my soul desires. This is what I pray for. I feel pity for you, children on the earth. I cry for all innocent children and orphans. I cry, my children, for the world, and I mourn for all the people of God.”

“O Lord, send down Thy grace upon the children of the earth, children whom Thou lovest. Grant them to love Thee through the Holy Spirit, and teach them to glorify Thee.

“With tears I beseech Thee: hearken to my prayer, and grant everyone to come to know Thy glory through the Holy Spirit.”

“Children, love God like the angels love Him in the heavens.”

“We have never seen God. How can we love Him?”

“My beloved children, think always of God: that He loves you and gave you life in order that you might live with Him forever and bask in His love.”

“How can we know that God loves us?”

“Love is recognized by its fruit, my children. When we are in the love of God, we fear sin, there is peace and joy in the soul, we want to remember God all the time, we want to pray, and there are good thoughts in the soul.”

“How can we find out what kind of thoughts dwell in us, and which of them are good and which are bad?”

“So that you can tell good thoughts from bad thoughts, you have to keep your mind pure in God.”

“We do not understand how we can keep our mind in God, when we have never seen God and do not know Him. And what does a pure mind mean?”

“My children, think about the fact that God sees you, even though you don’t see Him. Keep this thought in mind, and you will always walk before the eyes of God. Although it is a small love, when you keep my word, it will grow into a big love, and then, through the Holy Spirit, you will come to know what it is that I am telling you and all that you do not yet understand.”


From Elder Silouan of Mt. Athos (in Russian), Moscow 1996, pp. 408-410; reprinted in the Orthodox children’s magazine, Kupel’, No. 2/1997, Moscow, from which it was translated by Paula Lahdemaki. Hat tip to “Photini.”

Athonite monks working in the orchard.

“Provide yourself with such work for your hands as can be done, if possible, both during the day and at night, so that you are not a burden to anyone, and indeed can give to others, as St. Paul the Apostle advises (cf. I Thess. 2:9; Eph. 4:28). In this manner you will overcome the demon of listlessness and drive away all the desires suggested by the enemy; for the demon of listlessness takes advantage of idleness. ‘Every idle man is full of desires’ (Prov. 13:4 LXX).”

– Evagrius of Pontus (The Philokalia Vol. 1; Faber and Faber pg. 39)