—Your Beatitude, it has been forty days since the repose of the famous spiritual father, the elder Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov). Tell us, please, when and under what circumstances you met Fr. Kirill, what kind of impression he made on you, and how you became his spiritual child?
—I first met Fr. Kirill in 1969, when I entered the Moscow Theological Seminary. He confessed the seminarians (this was during the Dormition Fast). According to the then-existing tradition, the spiritual fathers of the Lavra would come to the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary’s church to confess the seminarians, so they could commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ the next day. Fr. Kirill was one of those who confessed the students, and I went to him for confession. Actually, at that time I was still an applicant, getting ready to take my exams. And then after this confession I began to go to him during my studies and afterwards for spiritual care.
—Were you able to choose your confessor? Why did Fr. Kirill in particular become your spiritual guide?
—God brought it about; He arranged it all so that I wound up specifically with Fr. Kirill.
—And what, in your view, is distinctive about people like Fr. Kirill, that drew people from all corners of the former Union to him?
—God gave this man a large measure of Christian love. He loved all people: both those who thrived in spiritual development, and those of us who were neglectful. This love created a mutual feeling—people also loved him, and were drawn to him, because love is the meaning of life. Every person seeks attention and mutual human love, and Divine love. We live by this love. He was full of love, and it attracted people to him.
—Did the Lord reveal to him what problems people were coming to him with?
—Fr. Kirill was a man of few words. There are spiritual fathers who give lengthy instructions. He would say a few, very simple words, which at first glance seemed ordinary, but in fact were very deep—then they compelled people to act, to change their lives. This is a property of spiritual words which are full of the Christian love.
—Did you take his blessing at every stage of your obedience?
—In everything that concerned the monastery, in my tenure as rector, of course I took his blessing. But as for that which happened not of my own will: my appointment to certain positions, to new hierarchical obediences—I came to see him to ask his holy prayers.
—They say that when you became metropolitan, you went to see Fr. Kirill in a skufia, without a klobuk. No one in the Lavra knew about it, but upon meeting you he called you “metropolitan.” Is that true?
—Yes, that happened.
—Perhaps you have some vivid memories connected with Fr. Kirill, or moments in your life when you had to decide some important spiritual question?
—At first glance, the spiritual life is nothing remarkable, consisting of simple, everyday episodes. But if you are attentive to them, they will bring great spiritual benefit. Fr. Kirill was full of love and patience for us sinners every day. He only slept for a few hours each day, and the remaining time was devoted to the people who came to him in an endless stream, receiving the faithful who are suffering and in need of some kind words and guidance. These interactions took up all his time. We could rest in our cells after the services and our obediences, but he had no such opportunity. His amazing spiritual diligence was astounding. He was chosen by God. He always answered simply, but precisely, and tenderly, with great love.
—Do you also have to constantly receive guests? What do you draw your strength from?
—The Lord grants it, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cope. Priests and laity usually come with problems, failures, and various sad reports. And all of this must pass through you. Everyone is in need of some compassion and consolation. It’s a heavy cross, and only those who are familiar with it can understand such a person.
—It happens that, during confession, penitents want to solve some spiritual problems. Not everyone has a spiritual father, therefore they often go to the nearest church to the priest there. How should they relate to the answers, to truly receive that which is necessary and useful for their souls at that moment?
—If we pray, “O God, reveal Thy will by the mouth of this priest!” then we must fulfill what this or that priest or archpriest says to us the first time, even if we don’t agree, or it’s not what we expected or wanted to hear. When a believing man begins to run from one pastor to another in search of an answer which would agree with him, then confusion arises in his soul, and he loses himself and becomes inept in the spiritual life. If we ask God with confidence to reveal His will to us, then we must go and fulfill whatever is said to us.
Fr. Kirill’s answers sometimes put people at a dead end. For example, one woman decided to go to a monastery, no matter what. It was her longstanding dream. But Fr. Kirill spoke with her and blessed her to get married. She did not obey him and did what she wanted. After a year, she was unable to stay at the monastery, and she left, and was suffering. And in the end, she got married anyways. There is a myriad of such examples. A couple wanted to adopt a child, but Batiushka did not bless them, and, conversely, another couple had an abortion, but the elder blessed them to adopt a baby from an orphanage, and this child became the solace of this couple’s whole life.
—What should we learn from people like Fr. Kirill?
—Fr. Kirill lived according to the Gospel, unswervingly fulfilling the commandments of Christ. He found a Gospel in a building destroyed by shelling during the war, when death was hovering all around. Thus the Lord called him. He carried the Gospel with him and read it, and every word of Christ remained in his heart until the end of his days. In this way the desire to devote his whole life to God was born.
We should also strive not to approach our Christian duties formally—going to church out of habit, helping people out of habit, thinking we have to give people money. But if we give this money with love, or simply reach out our hand to someone who is suffering, giving them a piece of our heart, we fulfill the commandments of Christ. The Lord will receive our sacrifice and the sacrifice of love which Fr. Kirill brought to God and men throughout his entire life.