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:
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…
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.