Soul Scarification

It is a thankless job to work as a tour guide in these latitudes. In summer, all our potential sightseers either jet off to vacation at destinations with a more palatable climate, or they toil away at work, for themselves and for those who jetted off. But during the remaining nine months of the year our tours sound like this:

“Look to your left—it’s truly a sight to behold during the summer!”

But, on the other hand, since we yearn for summer so badly, we are much too sensitive concerning anything that’s green and blooming. Now, if we get hold of a grateful listener once the summer finally comes around, our mind begins to dally with images that are actually a perfect match for parables.

“You know,” I uttered with a wise air as we were passing the lawn disfigured by scarification, “plants are truly much like us....”

My guest, a sophisticated lady, condescendingly glances at me and I can’t help but agree with her. I don’t like it either when someone gives me baby talk in the vein of “my little doggy completely understands me” or “my flowers feel everything.” So, I finish my statement rather cunningly:

“But if you don’t hurt them, they’ll come to no good!”

She ponders over what I’ve just said for a moment, and then I see how the expression on her intelligent and strong face suddenly changes to show acceptance and vulnerability. She nods slowly in response.

Suffering is surely something that anyone can understand, like the fact that suffering makes us human.


I see our guests off and return to inspect the lawn. How similar! Just two days ago this lawn looked like this:


It’s perfect, isn’t it?

And it didn’t get this way on its own. First, the ground was leveled, and not just once. It was exactly in accordance with the words of the prophet: Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth… (Luke 3:5) So, those hills were leveled and it required great physical effort, sharp tools, and a good eye. Valleys were filled in, and it was dirty work, because only water could thoroughly cause the loosened soil to settle.

Next, the leveled surface was sown with good seed ... and that’s also a reference to the Scripture. Only a good seed will produce a grass parterre, only select seeds from a trusted supplier.

It was important to choose the moment of the first mowing—both in terms of time and weather—so as not to damage the surface with the lawn mower wheels and cause the grass to lie flat, so that it would start to put out side shoots in good time. It was also important from that point on to mow it at the right height at the right time, so that the mowing wouldn’t weaken the grass but thicken it instead. Doesn’t it all sound like proper spiritual care?

It was necessary to nourish and water the burgeoning beauty—just as we can’t blossom without the grace-filled help we receive through the sacraments of the Church.


It turns out that our lawn was overgrown with moss. It was beautiful green moss. Not only did it not spoil its appearance, but it even masked small bare patches. The only trouble was that moss is akin to passions.... Especially the passions of pride and vanity, the ones that particularly harden the heart. Moss won’t quit growing or stop dead. It will keep growing and growing until it swamps anything that was cultivated, thrived, and yielded fruit. What’s worse, it won’t even stay green! It will turn out to look like some deadly Martian transplant and, as a result, those who reside here are pushed to plunge into truly deep melancholy.

And there’s a bunch of it! Look, in this photo, we worked on this plot for the second time:


And here we worked on it the third time!


I would not compare scarification with afflictions or hardships—scarification aims to work at the surface, it doesn’t dig in, but only scratches lightly instead... It rather resembles slight reproach and disrespect from others. And that’s what is actually necessary to remove a layer of our external decorum—so that we could come to confession and say, “Lord, I am filled to the brim with filth!”

Sometimes it turns out to be sufficient and it allows us to continue living and moving in the right direction. But it is also sometimes just like our lawn—when it has too many bare patches and when its roots run riot... All you have left to do is saturate it with some powerful poison. That’s when it will begin to look like this:


It is the same effect when we encounter injustice against us—it destroys the roots of passions in us, tearing us away from our attachment to earthly things. And, speaking of our lawn again, we can either mourn losing its beautiful appearance or rejoice, because the uglier the bald spots look today, the more weeds and unwanted plants have died.

But then comes a moment when all that hard work pays off and the lawn grows back.



It looks almost identical to the one we had at the beginning. But that one was dying, while this one is coming back to life...

You must admit that there is a great difference between the state of a soul that decays in its passions and the soul that comes alive to life in eternity. And yet, the untrained eye may not notice any difference between them at all. That’s what is really frightening! But it is certainly not frightening when we suffer from offenses or injustice.

Nun Natalia (Kaverzneva)
Translation by Liubov Ambrose


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