Dear Fr. V.!
I thank you for remembering me, and for the books.
The measure of your difficulties is unfathomable and can be very accurately characterized in three words: struggle for survival.
It seems to me that outwardly you are under a press, and inwardly under a weight. If it were not for God’s mercy, all your efforts would be in vain.
During our times God’s power is particularly apparent as it works in our infirmities. This can be seen on the scale of our whole country, and in the life of each person. The words of Hieromartyr Benjamin [of Petrograd] sound in our ears as a testimony in which our real strength hides for these times:
“…We need more faith—we, the pastors, need to have more faith. We must forget our self-reliance, our mind, our learnedness, and give place to God’s grace.”
Lord! Increase our faith!
We pray that we might all be granted God’s grace: to you for edifying labors, to us in order to bear our own infirmities, as well as those of others.
I ask your prayers for my lowliness.
We are only strong in God’s strength
How well I can imagine your state—inwardly and outwardly, for I also walked the same path in my time, if not a harder one. Unlike you, we were bound hand and foot, and our every word was weighed upon the unrighteous scales of the Church’s enemies.
However… God’s strength is made perfect in weakness; I have seen this in actuality all my life, and we are only strong in God’s strength. As Holy Hierarch Benjamim of Petrograd said on the threshold of death, we need to abandon learnedness and mind, and arm ourselves with faith. We need faith! Then God will be behind us and with us. I would yet add that I would wish for you to pray and ask for the gift of love, so that love might be the compass that would indicate the sure direction in any situation, and turn any person into a friend.
I have proved this on myself, even in exile. Otherwise, glory be to God, the harvest is great, and you are sent as a laborer. So, labor. Now you have no time to pay attention to yourself—God’s children are all around you crying and stretching out their hands to you, and they are often quite unreasonable. Could there be any time for yourself? May the Lord give you wisdom and strength.
I thank you for your letter; I am very pleased to have a true picture of your affairs.
I pray for you devotedly. I likewise ask your prayers for my lowliness and infirmity. I’ll sit down next to you and sing with you in unison about how I do not fulfill my prayer rule as I would like to, and circumstances do not allow me to occupy myself with Divine contemplation. But all my moaning is crushed against the immoveable rock of faith that “this is how it must be,” and thus has God ordained.
Live not as you would like to live, but as God wills. How good it is to see your powerlessness in all of this, how easily self-reproach comes forth, and humility follows not far behind. Only hope in God’s mercy remains. This is just what is needed.
I ask your hierarchical blessing and prayers. I am already old and give myself joyfully and eagerly into God’s hands, which I wish for everyone else, for I don’t know of anything better in life.
P. S. Thank you also for the book. It is very timely as practical instruction. Only, if you decide to re-print it, it would be good to give some information on the wise batiushka.
Everything from God
Dear Fr. D.!
In answer to your ruling hierarch, it would be good for you to hearken to God’s will for you, and continue to serve peacefully in your parish. This does not at all mean that the Lord’s answer is final. You just need to keep praying and wait until the Lord calls you to serve in the rank of priest.
I write this way to you because I myself always kept to such a rule in life: “Do not ask for anything, and do not refuse anything.”
I myself was ordained, and I accepted it as a natural course of life (I was drawn to the Church from childhood). I accepted also a seven-year suspension from serving as from God, and was returned to service by God’s will before the term was over. “Everything through Him, everything from Him, and everything to Him.” That is how we live.
Now that I have reached the end of my life’s path, I can witness to the fact that there is nothing better nor surer than to live according to God’s will. Life’s circumstances quite clearly show us God’s will. For the present moment, you have received it through your bishop.
I will not get into the household question. You and your spouse can decide for yourselves what’s best for your family. Do not forget that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. It is good when they are also of one soul.
May God give you wisdom!
Fr. John is referring to his seven-year prison sentence [trans.].