Letters By St. Theophan the Recluse on the Last Judgment

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Death and Judgment

Life is short. One hour, another—and then death. Give an account! And we can’t say that we forgot to keep a record, for all our deeds are there. They are waiting for us to be read and for our punishment to be meted... that it was all really that way and we have nothing to say about it, no justification. They will be checked with the law and the sentence will be given... Would that it were only for a number of years! But there it’s forever. Woe to us! But we don’t feel like having compunction! And we don’t want to give up our sins... How can this be?! May Thy will be done, O Lord, Who knowest all things, and save me.

Be healthy and happy. Your prayerful intercessor,

Bishop Theophan. December 10, 1874

The Last Judgment

There have been so many predictions that the end of time is right around the corner. And none of it came true. The Savior said that no one knows the time. So there is no point whatsoever in guessing or being disturbed by other people’s guesses. That there will be a Second Coming, this we don’t doubt. And neither do we doubt that it will come suddenly unawares, despite all the great signs beforehand. We have only to ceaselessly wait for the Lord, and prepare ourselves for the meeting, without guessing about the time.

* * *

O Lord, help us to pass this year in the fear of God. Could that be what your dream was about?! Nothing upholds the fear of God so strongly as the remembrance of the Last Judgment. There is no need to give in to the spirit of despondency over this. We should only look carefully around us, and whatever is not pleasing to God should be immediately removed, and if necessary, cleansed away by confession. Then trusting everything to God’s mercy, it is only left for us to be of good cheer. The Lord at the Last Judgment will not only be as if judging us, but also as if justifying us all. And He will justify everything if there is at least some small possibility to do so.

January 13, 1873

How will we justify ourselves at the Last Judgment?

“You have nothing to justify yourself at the Last Judgment... no (good) deeds.” Don’t even think about justifying yourself by your deeds. Justification completely depends upon the Lord’s death on the Cross. But there are side issues, which are also like conditions... and although we cannot imagine them perfectly, we can sincerely desire to search for them—to imagine a certain success... feasible, but according to our strength... I gave Varvara Alexandrovna a task—to decide what a “good defense” before the judgment seat of Christ consists of, about which we pray at the ectenia... and to write me an answer. Well, you also had to write an answer. I will be waiting for your answer. But I instructed Varvara Alexandrovna: Even if she can’t decide it in a lifetime... let her at least think about this every day and every hour.

And what shall I write to you? “Decide, and right to me right away.”


How is it that the holy fathers are grateful for Gehenna?! It is a great blessing that the Lord has revealed to us about Gehenna. If knowing that there is a Gehenna we still live so carelessly, then how would we live if we didn’t know about it? Now some will sin and sin, and then think about it.

The graveyard

The graveyard! What is the need to fuss so much over it? It doesn’t matter where we’re buried. What benefit does the soul get from its place of burial?...

Remember the old saying, that once we’ve left the church... So! If there is something wrong with the soul, we won’t be able to fix it with funerals.

March 3, 1881

St. Theophan the Recluse
From his letters, translated from Azbyka.ru by Nun Cornelia (Rees)


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