Dear Fr. B.!
We are obligated to pray for baptized people, for they received the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism. We cannot pass judgment on these people before God’s judgment, and only the Lord sees the inner man. How did they live, what made them tick, whose prayers upheld them in this life? The Church prays for everyone, and if there is no repentance beyond the grave, then there is help for them before the Terrible Second Coming of the Lord through the intercessions of those close to them. Can we possibly refuse help to the suffering?!
I ask for your holy prayers about my infirmities.
Rebuilding the churches of Orlov
Dear Fr. I.!
Brotherly greetings to you and congratulations with the feast of the Kazan Mother of God, and Joy of All Who Sorrow. May our Heavenly Queen, the Theotokos, give you strength, reasoning, resolve, and zeal in your labors for the glory of God’s house. The volume of work and expenditures involved are frightening by human standards, but by God’s standards all is possible for him who burns in spirit with faith and hope in God. All three letters that I received from you have made me very glad in this respect. The Prophet of God himself has looked upon you in your labors to build his church, and has breathed his fiery zeal into you. By his prayers, may aide in everything never cease. My heart also rejoices over the church of the Iveron Mother of God. It is all so alive in my memory.
The venerable elder, Fr. Arkady Obolensky, used to serve in this church; he was a man deeply beloved and respected by Orlovians. Time has not erased the memory of practically everyone who served in the Churches of Orlov in those days, they were so meaningful and Godly-wise — servants of God.
That you were the co-founder of the Iveron church also testifies to your many gifts, to your love for God and God’s love for you. Therefore, although the photographs I received from you make my heart burn with sorrow, they also bear witness that the abomination of desolation of that church has fallen into the strong hands of a wise builder. We daily raise our prayers for you.
The church immediately came to life from the moment you entered it. This makes me recall the experience of Fr. George Kossova of the Chekrak Church of the Savior near Volkhov, where I went as a pilgrim in my youth. He received a half-ruined church in which to serve, and a completely dying-out, neglected parish; and he began to pray.
First he was alone — today, tomorrow, a week, a month. He did not even notice how his prayers gathered a flock behind his back. The blessing of the Optina Elder Ambrose revealed an elder and healer in this married, parish priest, who expelled demons from the suffering.
Only prayer and a burning spirit can restore the walls of a church, and more importantly, the temples not made by hands — the souls of the lost — and return them to God revived. May it be so, Lord, may it be so!
Thank you for the invitation to visit Orel and venerate the holy shrines so dear to me, to visit my distant childhood. However, this is hardly possible for me now, for I am old and weak. God only knows how much longer I will burden the beloved earth, for my soul has already begun to long for the heavens, and to love it more than the earth. But as folk wisdom goes, “prepare for death, but sow the wheat.” So, my current sowing is not likely to be the final one. I would very, very much like now, not to see, but only to know, that the holy shrines so dear to my heart have once again come to life.
Forgive me, dear Batiushka.
We pray for your labors.
With love in the Lord,
Your lowly intercessor.
When you truly become a father
Dear in the Lord Fr. A.!
Neither men nor angels know the days or hours — only our Father in Heaven has placed this within His authority.
Therefore live every day in God. The natural end of our life will come earlier than the general end, and this end will be the beginning of endless Eternity. Live in such a way that this endlessness would be the joy of life in the presence of the Lord. If the doctors caution about your Matushka’s health, then you should take care of her even more than they do. For this you must observe God’s command in close relations also, and consider the limitations placed upon you by your service before the altar of God. Then everything will be alright. Any precautions are a sin for lay people, never mind for a priest.
Purify your heart, and then your service will be pleasing to God. Professional singing rarely brings a living voice that reaches the Lord. The heart must have a longing for God. Then no one will turn their attention to the singing, but everyone will reach after you for God. Do not think about transferring to another parish before the time comes.
Give yourself over to God’s will, and accept everything, every day from His hands, without peering into the distant tomorrow.
Those people will call you Fr. A. when you truly become a father to them, and your spiritual counsels conquer their former opinion of you.