Letters to I., in ryassaphore, K., in monasticism, M.
Fr. Victor is your confessor. Confess to him.
I will briefly answer your questions.
1. You wanted monasticism, so learn monasticism — the feeling of loneliness and abandonment go along with the course.
2. What can be done? Learn patience, patience, and patience, and humility will sprout with it — “grow out of it.” Out of this comes true spiritual life, and not an imitation of it.
First the Lord gave you His gifts for free, unearned; now He wants to see the fruits of your love and faithfulness — your labor.
My spiritual father received the gift of unceasing Jesus Prayer and all the fullness of its joy in his youth, and then the Lord took this gift away from him. All the rest of his life Fr. Seraphim sought this lost drachma — he labored humbly and patiently, and the Lord returned this gift to him just a few days before death as a proof that He had accepted Fr. Seraphim’s lifelong tears.
I already consoled you on this subject — remember the last time you were in my cell.
Remember, do not forget, and do not anger God with thanklessness and impatience.
Monastic life is lifelong labor, and when and if God will give you consolation is known only to Him. Our job is to patiently endure and humbly humble ourselves.
God’s blessing to you.
I congratulate you with the Feast of the Myrrh-bearing Women — take your example of faithfulness from them.
Dear in Christ I. and M.!
I am writing to you by Batiushka’s blessing. He sends you God’s blessing, and is worried by your childish lack of seriousness: one of you says that faith brings her no joy or anything else, another says she is ready to live like an unbeliever.…
Is this a Christian conversation? You should have heard that The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12), that you cannot achieve anything without labor, and the whole basis of this consists in committing yourself minute by minute into God’s hands with the prayer: “Thou Thyself do as Thy will wouldst have it,” not merely in word, but in deed.
The minute that a person wants to do something with himself and by himself is a minute when true, spiritual, grace-filled life is stifled. No true fruits can come out of this state, despite all possible efforts. Because the Lord said: Without Me ye can do nothing… (Jn. 15:5). Accept everything that is given to you to do as an assignment from God Himself, and do it as divine work.
Then your thoughts will be with the Lord. This can be learned with God’s help.
If you speak of the monastery, then all the more must you not slacken, but exercise yourself in constant prayerful thoughts of God.
Whoever strives for monastic life needs first of all to test himself, whether he is really ready to bear the labors and deprivations that the monastery dwellers bear. But we prevent God’s grace from helping us by our faintheartedness.
The Holy Church is the first and most lawful educator of Christian souls; we must delve into the essence of Divine Services, their spirit, meaning and significance, because: whoever has not the Church as mother, has not God as father.
If you have the opportunity to learn to type or to receive a musical education, then who could be against it?
This could come in handy in life for the glorification of God, and the Lord blesses this.
The main thing is not to stifle the spirit of faith, and to labor over the education of your inner man.
Be healthy and under God’s protection.
Respected sister in Christ I.!
I am writing to you by Batiushka’s blessing, who sends God’s blessing to you and M., as well as to your suffering parents.
He greets you with the ongoing Great Lent, and desires that your pity and compassion for your own mother would reach the point where you would finally approach her, not only on the street, but with the warmest sympathy and willingness to help her in any way that she might need help right now.
Perhaps she abandoned you before out of her inability to take care of you as she should have, but now that you no longer need this care, you should help her, if only for the sake of Christian duty: Honor thy father and mother… (Matt. 15:4–6).
They themselves will answer for their own deeds, but we will be held accountable for our own relationship to them. We must not forget this, and depriving our mother of attention in a moment of difficulty is not commendable by civil or Christian law.
Many situations in our lives are governed by a deeper reasoning than what appears to us from a distance.
It is therefore easy and simple for us to judge, but to help is sometimes beyond our strength. We have to at least sympathize, especially with those who are related to us by blood.
You yourself understand that a “pretty aunt” cannot replace a mother, and therefore it is necessary for you to restore a warm, family relationship with her, and not turn the other way from her on the street because she has managed to sink so low.
Let all the others do it — you cannot convince them all, but her own daughter should make this condescension and see her as she was when she spent those sleepless nights over your cradle, with good will, as in your early childhood, as you remember her.
So, respected I., you should try to rediscover your mother. Life will of course be different from what it was in your childhood, but she is now as helpless as a child, she needs looking after and care; and do not regret that you might have to sacrifice something for her — she is a seriously ill person who, left without assistance, is threatened with untimely death.
Take this care upon yourself as a duty, and you will be fulfilling one of God’s commandments, although this is not easy. But you will cleanse your conscience when you enkindle a familial feeling that was lost perhaps by no fault of yours. The Lord only accepts the prayers of the merciful, and therefore it is not to your benefit to run away from any contact.
Let us be healthy and guarded by God.
Dear in the Lord I.!
I read the prayer [of absolution] in absentia over your head, thanking the Lord that He gave you the opportunity to open up, and not be disturbed by the present temptations — this is a redoubled monastery attack. Confess, repent, and be more attentive to yourself and to your thoughts. All the rest has been written to you already: strive to live in the presence of your Guardian Angel, and you will see how wondrously he will arrange everything. You joined the monastery by your own free will, so do not now think about any other way of life. Learn to live in the monastery and monastically, as much as you can. We pray for you always.
There is one thing I would like to ask of you: that you would be more attentive to and strict with yourself. Do not worry about fulfilling all the rules. If you have fulfilled them — thank God! If not — Lord forgive me! Do not fulfill them compulsively, but with discernment regarding your own physical and spiritual state.
The Savior saves us, and not our podvigs and labors. May the Lord help you!
God’s blessing to you.
I., my dear! Novice I.!
My heart was filled with grief upon reading your letter.
Everything that was written in it is not news to us, and all of this was once foretold to you. But why speak of that now? Your choice has been made, and he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). In your patience possess ye your souls (Lk. 21:19). In any case, your current state of total disturbance must be treated. But how? We do not seem to have any time, and do not foresee having it; we have no opportunity for spiritual converse, and none is in sight. “And my soul has fainted.” We must without binding ourselves by any extra ascetical labors turn inward and find a friend who could replace and fulfill everything that we cannot get, what was lost by entering into a new living situation.
I., this is your Guardian Angel. As soon as you feel his proximity, and a desire to be with him all day from the moment you awaken, this evil spirit of loneliness, despondency, and slackness will disappear, for a strong aid, intercession and support will be ready for you in all circumstances. Your external perception of monastery life will disappear, and a new spiritual vision will open up, which will give birth to a feeling of pity and sympathy for all, and a spirit of living prayer.
This is how we shall treat our illness.
When the occasion arises, write about what hurts the most. This is how we will replace our lost contact. Also, dear girl, accept monastery life as it is, without requiring complete resemblance to what you imagined and still imagine it to be. The Lord Himself knows what He is doing. You have a sober, bright mind, so do not squander this gift of discernment you have been given; otherwise this nonconformity of reality to desire will cause disturbance to your whole being.
We will pray that our being would be tuned to accept from the Lord all that He sends. We need hope and faith, but again, we will not expect the desired visible grace; rather with hope and faith we will accept that the Lord is leading us along that path which has its end in the salvation of our souls and in peace in the Lord. What patience and humility we need for this! Now we only know this theoretically, by word of mouth. But practice has already begun, and everything is revolting within. We will pray hard that the Lord would help us to live through this untimely sorrow and despondency. But it is very, very important for us to know our infirmity and powerlessness.
The Lord is near, and He sees you.
He will not allow you to fall completely.
Preserve the Lord, and He will preserve you.
I read your Confession, and prayed, and forgave you according to the authority given to me.
Do not despond, I., this is a school. It is always especially hard in first grade.
God’s blessing to you for your podvig of living in a monastery.
We do not forget you, and don’t you forget us; knock on the third window from the edge and call the ambulance — your Guardian Angel and our prayers.…
Yes, dear Matushka K.,
Now you are talking about the very thing that I explained to you for so long.
Now it is too late to talk about this, because you now have to walk the path that you obstinately chose without my blessing. However we do not have the right to despair even in this case, and there is no reason to. This science at hand is especially hard because we are compelled to disappointment in the person closest to us: our self. When you fathom the abyss of your infirmity you will be freed from all opinions about yourself, and everyone around you will be as angels in comparison with you. Then God’s mercy will reward you with some consolation. Does the fact that no one asked you when you should be clothed, or tested you about your capabilities, really deserve amazement? Who asks a novice? The very fact that she came to the monastery presupposes total obedience to the monastery’s rules and way of life.
Therefore, Matushka, start reigning yourself in, and warring with the villain who imperils you, opposing his intentions. Do not even think about leaving the monastery, because that will be your total disaster and ruin. Now you have to struggle against your passions — it is the only way out. Weep over your infirmity, see your sinfulness, and ask, ask for help.
As for the deacon—cease all meetings, and if it is impossible to avoid them altogether, remember that there can never be anything between you and him or anyone else. You are not able to be simply a friend, and therefore you need to avoid all contact. Remember, K., that even a novice will be punished with sickness and sorrow for her betrayal, while a ryassaphore or stavrophore nun loses her rights to an [Orthodox] funeral rite after her death if she did not keep her vow. You are very preoccupied with yourself and have not understood this with your mind, while your heart is not struggling against sickness. The Lord gives you these privileges because of your infirmities and sicknesses, but how do you make use of His mercy toward you?
Have pity on yourself. You are only creating more and more torment for yourself. If you would only start little by little to war with yourself, you would receive satisfaction. No, I will not try to persuade you like a child to stop playing with fire; persuasion will not help. You yourself understand what you need to do. I will pray for you, that the Lord who knowest all things would save you.
God’s blessing to you.
Dear in the Lord M. and Mother M.!
Now I cannot help you with anything other than prayer. You did not listen to me earlier when you were I., and now I haven’t the strength to help you, for I myself have grown old and infirm. But judging from what is happening with you and your mother, everything has come full circle.
Now you need to enclose yourself once again in your parents’ house and fulfill your filial duty, redeeming by your patience what should have been redeemed. Only, get Matushka Abbess’ blessing without fail. You can work in the church.
There is nothing for your mother to do in the monastery, and her weakness would be a serious temptation there. So you must bear her infirmity and help her by your presence and prayer.
You will only survive the oncoming trial if you are with God. Live with your mother in a godly manner, with love and patience, and everything that happens will be unto your salvation. After all, why hide it—are there really many in the monastery who are living with God? Get clear on this thought, that it is not the place that saves a person. If you live with your mother also as you lived in the monasteries, it means you have not learned anything, and you do not want to make use of the chance God has given you for salvation.
Help D.’s mother by your prayers for him, and your joint prayers, especially her maternal prayers, will be heard. I am fulfilling your request for prayers for your close ones, except for A. and M.
God’s blessing to you for your return home.
Every time your mother breaks down, go with her to Confession; receive Unction every fast, receive Communion no less than every other week. Thus will you assist each other; your mother will help your soul, and you will help her body.