“For if we do not have this, all else is nothing”: A letter by St. Theophan the Recluse discovered

Penza, January 30, 2015

The Penza folklorist Sergei Zelev has published a newly-discovered letter written by St. Theophan the Recluse, found in a village in the Penza district, reports the Penza diocese.

The letter is authentic and written by the holy hierarch’s hand, reports the dioceses. The piece of paper yellowed with age and folded in half into a small envelope has been preserved to our time since 1888.

On the front of the envelope is written: “To Nizhny Lomov (Penza Dist.), Dormition Convent, to Respected R. Nun Martha (Ivanovna Klimova).” Here in the lower left corner is a round black postal mark with the date, “23 February, 1888” and an inscription in the outer circle reading, “Shatsk, Tambov D., Post. telegr. cont.”

On the reverse side of the envelope at the bottom is some text in black ink (in the old Russian orthography): “An authentic letter from His Eminence Theophan, Recluse of Vysha, written to Nun Cleopatra (formerly Martha Ivanovna Klimova).” On this side three are three round postal marks, the central one being cut out.

Here is the text of this spiritual-instructional letter, translated into English:

St. Theophan the Recluse St. Theophan the Recluse
22 Feb. 88. May God’s mercy be with you, worthily respected M. Martha! You ask me to write to you, but you did not write what it is you request to know. The only thing left for me to do is to wish you salvation of soul: which I now do.

You of course know how to work for salvation… Just the same, I will remind you of what should be done before all else…

The main thing is the fear of God. When it comes, then like a good householder, it will arrange everything in the soul as it pleases. Do you have it? If you do, thank God, and preserve it; but if you do not—awaken it: for it is present in our soul, and if it does not manifest itself it is only due to our inattention.

The first child of the fear of God is a contrite spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled. May the feeling of contrition never leave the heart!

In order to uphold the fear of God, we must always hold on to the remembrance of death and judgment.

As soon as you wake up, call this remembrance to mind, and you will live the whole day with it in your heart as your first advisor.

Join to this the awareness of the Lord’s presence near you and in you, so that He sees everything, including what is most hidden. This awareness and the remembrance of death have the fear of God inseparably with them. When this trinity settles in your heart, then your prayer will come from the heart, with constant crying out to the Lord Savior.

That is all!

If you have this in you, no matter to what degree, then your work of salvation is afoot; but if not then you need to raise it all up in the heart. For if we do not have this, all else is nothing…

Save yourself!

You have done well not to try to come to our monastery, for due to my ill health I never receive visitors. All the best. Bishop Theophan.

This letter was preserved in the archive of the pious Klimov family in Nizhny Lomov.

2/6/2015

See also
St. Theophan in Vysha St. Theophan in Vysha
Varvara Kashirina
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Varvara Kashirina
On January 19, 1894, on the feast of the Theophany, Holy Hierarch Theophan peacefully reposed in the monastery of Vysha, having lived there for twenty-eight years, twenty-two of which were spent in strict reclusion. The period of reclusion is one of the most hidden periods in the life of the Vysha ascetic, known only to the Lord.
Let us Learn to Pray. Part 3 Let us Learn to Pray. Part 3
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Is your conscience troubled because you say prayers hastily? That is justifiable! Why do you listen to the Enemy? He is the one who spurs you on. "Make haste, hurry up," he says. That is why you do not sense any fruits from your prayer.
Let us Learn to Pray. Part 2 Let us Learn to Pray. Part 2
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Never turn to God nonchalantly, but always with great reverence. He does not need either our bows or long prayers...
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The presence of prayer in one’s life means that the person is spiritually alive; without a prayer he is dead.Standing in front of icons and bowing is not yet prayer itself—those are only attributes of prayer. The same can be said about reading a prayer: whether recited by memory or read from a book, it would be not prayer itself, but merely a way to begin.
Holy Fathers on the Holy Spirit Holy Fathers on the Holy Spirit
St. Theophan the Recluse, Met. Philaret (Voznesensky)
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St. Theophan the Recluse, Met. Philaret (Voznesensky)
The Holy Spirit is an immaterial fire: the light of faith, the warmth of love, the tongues of fire that speak in the heart of God’s Law. He awakens us from the world’s charms, leads us to hope in God, and encourages us toward repentance. If we do not prevent His action, He directs us along the narrow path of self-denial. Grace transforms everything it touches into a priceless treasure.
Homily on the New Year Homily on the New Year
St. Theophan the Recluse
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St. Theophan the Recluse
“Happy New Year,” we greet each other now. But has anyone given any thought as to how new this coming year is? And where would we get anything new from it? In what way does the present day differ from yesterday, or from the first day of the past year? And in the future, will there not be same interchange of days and nights, the same turn of months and seasons as there was before?
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