The fatherly embrace
Fr. M., Fr. M.!
What have you done?
What are you saying about God, and what are you doing, all the while reproaching everything and everyone for not opening fatherly embraces, or teaching you how to live? What human embraces do you want, when the Father, God, has received you in His embrace, and you have brought Him three such clear and simple vows: obedience, non-acquisitiveness, and chastity?
These are simple vows, but they are also the work of an entire monastic life. You will learn them everyday, and there are no vacations or weekends. Our true elder of God, Schemamonk Luke of Valaam, often would say, “I am not learned, but I am crushed,” considering this crushing by the mortal and pestle of life to be the best academy, where the teacher is the Lord Himself.
Do you believe in God, or not? Do you believe that nothing happens in our lives without God’s Providence, especially not in the Church? You gave your vows not to your spiritual father, not to me, but to the Lord Himself. You do not need to be a genius in order to understand the meaning of the words you pronounced, but to fulfill them in life is the work of a monastic — a long work; you have stood only at the very outset of this path.
I am obligated to witness to you that my answers to you and your entering the monastery were according to God’s will.
That school, which you went through under the guidance of a spiritual father and from which you fled, was the school of monastic life, where you were supposed to begin your acquisition of patience, humility, and obedience.
You turned out to be a careless pupil, and your self-will pulled you out of the monastery. You renounced what was Godly, you renounced your faithfulness to your vows, replacing them with empty promises to people with whose care no one entrusted you, and into whose lives you have intruded as a wrecker, and not as a helper. You need not look far for examples:
--What are your promises worth to your co-worker? Did your cares over the injured party last for long?
--Your illicit deeds out of “help” for K., by estranging her from her parents’ protection? And how did this end? What dishonor you have brought upon her and her parents — you cannot help her in any way. You can’t say you didn’t know this. A monk, never mind a hieromonk, cannot get married. What will she become with you? A fornicator, and victim of hell.
According to the canons, if you do not cease your unlawful relationship, and die without repenting of your deeds, then you will be counted as a suicide, and will be deprived of an Orthodox burial. This is the finale to your present affairs, but as for what awaits you in Eternity — I will remain silent.
So do not procrastinate. Bow down before S, ask for her forgiveness, ask the forgiveness of your friends who followed you out of ignorance, and return to the monastery with repentance. But first, fall down in repentance to Christ through your ruling Hierarch, and place a beginning to your salvation.
You have read so many patristic books, and therefore your confession of total ignorance of the ABC’s of monasticism sounds very strange.
You were not sent in vain to serve as sexton in a church for two years, in order to learn the services and have a look at the work of a priest. Neither was your spiritual father mistaken when he recommended you for ordination. Everything would have been alright, if it were not for …. I should reveal to you, dear Fr. M., the reason for your fall: it is your “self.”
This sin produced blindness in your mind. The consequence of this was the perversion of your will, which in turn distorted your conscience. Finally came the inevitable end to the chain — the corruption of your body.
Analyze this all deeply, and start uprooting the deadly thorns from your life which have cast you down.
Begin with the end — restore purity to your body. Again, this will take time and work, and patience in pain and afflictions. The pains and afflictions will not come from people, but through people from God.
Have pity on yourself first of all. The Lord cannot save you without your participation.
Matushka, be wise
Dear in the Lord, Matushka Abbess M.!
Our desert of trial goes on throughout our life.
Lessons are given to us in these beginning stages of this spiritual school, out of which we are to comprehend not only in mind, but in real, practical life, the infinite depths of our own feebleness, so that by avoiding all the various delusory traps of the enemy, we can give ourselves to God, to His strength, and wisdom; and give our whole life unto Christ our God.
The second and not unimportant point, proceeding from the awareness of our infirmity, is thankfulness to God for all things: for the days, the hours, and the minutes of prosperity with an awareness that it is sent to us by God’s power to strengthen us; for the bitter times, for our stumbling on our chosen path and the path of our salvation, as invaluable lessons that will remain in our memory and hearts all our lives. Thus, even your own weakness which induces daydreaming is edifying.
There is no one recipe to cure these illnesses; whatever suits one or another person’s frame of mind or heart, and physical strength or weakness. If you find that afternoon naps bring unnecessary frustration instead of the repose you expected, then stop taking them. But then you should change something in your daily regime—go to rest earlier in the evening. It is easier said than done, but you need to find your own mean, which will be to the benefit of your soul and body. When you are in good health, sleep seven hours at night, and in illness, eight is allowed.
Matushka, be wise. But the most important and effective thing is a living relationship to the Lord, for all things are for Him, all is from Him and to Him.
It is the same with respect to “home.” Well, could this be from the enemy? In the center of town, in the monastery. And there is no control over it from people; not from people, but with God there is great mercy. Pray to the Fervent Intercessor for all monasteries, that She would protect Her home for maidens from the enemy’s aggression. It is very good to take up a daily practice of the rule of the Theotokos. According to the testimony of Archbishop Seraphim (Zvezdinsky), this prayer visibly works miracles. Establish a rotation amongst the sisters, so that this rule would be practiced everyday. Then give your whole lives and one another unto the Mother of God.
With respect to your Mother, do not worry about anything, and pray that she would live a little longer for your brother’s sake. Help them without sighing, but in measure. Do not break off ties with S. G.; not only is he needed by you, but you are very needed by him. As for the Catholics, Vladyko has already told you everything; but you should influence G. little by little—after all, he did not enter into contact with them consciously, more likely it was they who intentionally showed concern for him.
They have this system down pat, however this is not a Godly system, but rather human planning. So you should relate prayerfully to him, for the sake of the help he gives the monastery, and for the sake of the salvation of his soul. That is all.
May the Lord give you strength. The Mother of God has chosen you to serve Her; fall down before Her when your strength fails you. Be more condescending to the sisters—today’s generation is feeble.
We will not change the monastery rule, but we will have condescension for those who need condescension, as a divine gift of love.
God’s blessing to you, Matushka.
April 1, 2001.