Before we continue to acquaint our readers with the answers of Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin) to our questions—questions troubling for many Orthodox—we would like to speak of one episode to which we were witnesses. Among those who arrived to Elder Iliy that day was a woman with a son sick with cerebral palsy who could not walk. They were from central Russia. George Bogomolov, as soon as he found about them, said they could jump ahead in line. They spoke with Batiushka for no more than seven minutes. The woman, raising her son by herself (her husband left), decided not to take too much of the elder’s time, even though she probably had much to say to him. On the other hand there were those in line who talked for twenty minutes or more. They asked if it’s worth it to sell their cow. No one was listening—we were accidental witnesses to one such conversation.
I heard many years ago, as George once said to the crowd: “They come and start to talk about cats …”
We later met the mother of this sick boy when she was waiting for a taxi and we began to speak with her. She was an amazing woman, calm and steadfast. Her son Victor experienced serious complications after a vaccination, but I saw not a hint of melancholy in her eyes. She came to the Church three years ago and now it is much easier for her. For her but a few minutes of communication with Fr. Iliy was enough to understand something important.
But we continue the story of our conversation with the elder.
—Batiushka, there are many broken young families now, and not only young spouses, but also those who have lived together for 20-25 years are getting divorced. Why is this happening? What needs to be done to save the family?
It’s all, of course, in our morality. We must remember, above all, that God exists and that man has a soul. Eternity exists. To recognize this truth there are so many arguments that one person cannot count them all—we can even say that a million is low! They all speak about it. Look, man, at yourself! Look around you! Look at life and at truth. We have the Holy Scriptures which from Adam until our very time bear witness to God, and how many examples and manifestations of the other world. We have thousands of such examples! They all speak of the Truth of the Divine! Nothing is against it! We won’t be mistaken if we say there is zero evidence against God. There is only the prelest of the devil and those unhappy people, in the fullest meaning of the word, who don’t want to confess the Truth of the Godhead, and the real history.
And we, it would seem, thanks to Christianity and to our morally stable life have attained so much! So much: in technology, in culture—so much of everything! In development … For example, rockets, and now wireless telephones … thanks to the New Testament and thanks to Christianity.
But man does not want to admit that he is eternal and that he has a soul. Of course this is from the devil. But if man lived according to the Law, he would see how poor he is if he is without God! He would see how unhappy he is—as in this world, so in the next, which will be unavoidable. Ask any grandmother or any scientist. We have so many great scientists. Lomonosov founded the first university. He was deeply believing. How he reflected upon the sun! Behold the terrible mass, like the spark before You—before You, before God! Look at his poetry. So many great scientists we have had in the previous and present centuries.
So, about what you asked, no, it’s not from teachings. It is only from the corruption of the soul. It is youth, who don’t want the good for themselves, and don’t want to penetrate into history. They don’t know anything! They refuse God. They are absolute ignoramuses. Look, they don’t understand life, they don’t know life! And when we live a godless life, of course life in us is lacking, sinking. A man without God is belittled. He doesn’t truly live: neither inwardly nor outwardly. However, he doesn’t want to admit that which makes up the true positives in life: to confess God, to recognize eternity, and to admit that your souls are eternal. He doesn’t want to do this. Not because he has no proof or evidence, it’s just that the devil, of course, twists him around. They only need to say: “Lord grant me to understand Your Truth!” Or the first words of the Savior: Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is eternity, it is the proper life. And if life will proceed this way—as now—it’s a departure from God, and that’s it! It threatens dire consequences.
We have now the brochure “The Last Call.” It’s unknown, maybe an adult, but they say that a child wrote it. Many have read it. Of course, it’s fearful even to think, I even don’t want to say, what this godlessness and apostasy threatens.
You asked about the family. Family is a cell, a small part of our community. The condition and strength of the family determines the condition of society. The weakening of the family threatens dire consequences. It's all the loss of morality, the loss of the conscience, the loss of awareness, the loss of an orientation, of that which is important in life.
—Batiushka, what does Orthodoxy mean for Russia?
—Glory to God that now it’s at least called "Russia." At least the word is in the name of the country—Russia. It’s a more ancient word. How many centuries already have passed. The Communists wanted generally to obscure everything of the past. How can a plant develop if you cut it at the root? So it was for us under the Soviet authorities. They wanted nothing old, only the new. But it is demonic—the devil attunes people to discarding our history, Russia, our roots. Thousands of the greatest heroes and military leaders! How many of our past inventors were thrown away! They weren’t mentioned. Only: revolution! revolution!—as the lisping one yelled it. He needed only revolution, and that’s it. Of course, Russia is a great country. Holy Rus! It was called Holy Russia. Indeed, it was great. How great the people were, healthy, mighty! What are we all now? We are just small fries, even if you look at outer appearances.
No, you can’t deny that, glory to God, many people now are coming to faith. They are coming consciously. It is a delight. It is good, of course. People fill the churches and understand what man lives for, in what consists life, and the meaning of the life of man. It’s not about life in the fast lane, but namely in our high morals which Christianity has bred—such an achievement here of the proper life and the realization of our eternal life.
—Why did the Holy Fathers encourage restraint? What does it give us?
—Well, of course! Restraint goes without saying (laughs). Of course, it is precisely on restraint that ascetics are built. Our ethics, strength, and conscience are built on restraint. If you do not control yourself then how is it possible? The Church has established its typikon. With deep regret, people besmirch the Church, priests, and hierarchs. They absolutely do not know the essence of our spiritual and ecclesiastical life, do you understand? How did we used to do battle? For the Faith, the Tsar, and the Fatherland!
If not for restraint we would be lead to unpleasant consequences, in a family, for example. Take children: parents allow them all kinds of things. There are not a few examples of when children killed their parents. What for? Because they allowed them too much of everything! Do you understand? It’s a question of upbringing. And the Church is first in training a person, for example in Lent. Not every family allows everything, but perhaps they are permissive in terms of buying: food, clothes—it’s luxuriousness.
A son asks: father, buy me a car. Wait, earn money yourself, then buy a car or something different such as an apartment for example. Then it will be valuable to you. And when it’s all served on a silver platter … We need to work, then you will value your car, take care of it, and even drive more carefully.
—Batiushka, you mentioned bishops. How should we view a bishop in the Church? How should his flock relate to him?
—If by secular reasoning, then a bishop is a boss. We must understand Christianity. People attack the faith but they don’t have an accurate understanding about the Christian faith, about what is faith. The history of Christianity begins from what? We have the feast of the Trinity. What is the Trinity? It’s the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, and thus on the world. The Lord promised that after His Ascension He would send the Holy Spirit. And we don’t understand … Not knowing the faith we don’t understand the essence of life. After all, from an insect to a huge animal: elephant, camel; from a small petal to huge trees—all live thanks only to the action of the grace of God, to the action of God’s power, to the Wisdom of God. Even if from a recidivist, about whom it’s terrible to speak, is taken the power of grace, he won’t be able to live another day. Everything abides only by grace. Youth, godless people, different denominations and confessions—God preserves them all by His grace. And to the world after the Passion and Resurrection, after His Ascension the Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit, at first upon the apostles, and through them the whole world. The first heirs of the Holy Spirit were the apostles. They ordained leaders for the first followers of the Savior. We must read about it. Unfortunately, we don’t know the New Testament and the history of Christianity.
And, by the way, theology is the most comprehensive of all the branches of knowledge. After all, it takes it’s beginning from the Old Testament. But, unfortunately, people don’t want to know it. The devil, of course, deters them all. Some consider that a believing man is a dim-witted man. It was Kruschev who said that fools cross themselves. Of course, he was confused. Through him how many were killed—thousands of people! Without having considered, he gave away Crimea which had always been Russian. There the sea spilled Russian blood. He turned out to be a traitor. He thought that believers should be sent to madhouses. And so it happened. How many people were sent! He almost wound up there.
—Batiushka, we wanted to know your thoughts on Ukraine. Now the schismatics want to seize the Kiev Caves Lavra, and they are gathering signatures on the internet. How should Ukrainians and Russians respond to this?
—This Ukrainian turmoil began with Maidan. The riots of these cronies went too far. How many thousands have died, and how much has been destroyed. There are consequences to this day. Insolence. Bandits easily grasp power. The conscience for them does not exist, nor does law. As it’s said: the law doesn’t apply to fools.
—In the past twenty years psychics, fortune-tellers, and healers of all kinds have become very popular. People are willing to pay them huge amounts of money for their “help,” often their very last. What is the danger in such fascinations?
—It is all apostasy—having lost true faith, the consequences of atheism. In the old, pre-revolutionary times, we had missionary seminaries and spiritual schools. Then they gave a correct understanding of faith. When sects and abnormal teachings arise, it’s all, of course, a product of demonic power. Man strives to know something true, but doesn’t have the right direction, or correct teachings. The most terrible for us is schools where children aren’t receiving a correct understanding of the essence of life. And, of course, when man wants to know something above the commonplace, he is caught by all the enticements, like a bird. Take the chicken: she has no good feed, and if you give her some kind of sand, she’ll peck at it. Such are people—infected by all kinds of sects.
—Father Iliy, how can we battle pride? You go to church, you pray, but you cannot defeat it within yourself. There are anxieties, doubts, and despondency. How can we resist them?
—Remember that our whole earthly life is short. It is not guaranteed even for one day in this world. But the Lord has shown to us eternity. The Lord could create everything for this life, could deliver from the devil and from all abnormalities and turn man towards Himself. But inasmuch as man is the crown of creation, he is endowed with a will. For example there are twelve apostles, and among them—Judas. The Savior—the God-Man knows that Judas will betray Him. He could save Him as the other apostles. The Lord gave him everything needed to believe, but … The Lord guides every man to goodness, but maintains for them their volition. We are temporal. Our whole life is too short, too limited, and the Lord points us to eternity. How many empires, how many states there have been … the Lord shows us our future unending eternity.
—Batiushka, last question. You often encourage us to pray for our president, Vladimir Putin. Tell us, please, why is it important to pray for the president?
—It’s self-evident. After all, it’s the president. You yourself see in the media what restraint, strength of mind and will are necessary to possess in order to manage such a large, multi-ethnic country as Russia. Place any man there—will he succeed? After all we all are limited, no matter how bright we are. And critics … We now have many who love to engage in every criticism and demonization of the president and other authorities. But put such a person in their place for one day—will he manage? It’s always easier to solve someone else’s problems than your own. We have the same kind of thing in families.
What did the revolution do? There was a tsarist regime—how strong and powerful the country was, with a strong navy, army, and police. And when they began to undermine it, what happened? It’s enough to say that 70-80 million, even about 100 million people were slaughtered in the genocide of the Russian people. How many people, without a trial or investigation were killed! Some morality! They said that in Russia there was exploitation, but it’s not so. What did the communists do? In just one place 11,000 were shot. How many barges were flooded with people! Kolyma, Solovki, Magadan … So many were shot and killed. What did these “honest” people do, above all Ulyanov and Stalin?
We must hold on tight. The people elected the president. He gives all his energy to the country. Prayer for the president is quite necessary and important. Obviously, only God can strengthen him.