Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894) was a prolific Rus- sian spiritual author, whose writings remain influential to the pres- ent day. Born George Vasilievich Govorov, the son of a priest, he became a monk at the Kiev Theological Academy in 1841. After his ordination to the priesthood the same year, he served the Church in a number of assignments, including as rector of several theological schools and as a member of the Russian Mission in Jerusalem. In 1859 he was consecrat- ed Bishop of Tambov, and four years later was transferred to the see of Vladimir. In 1866, St. Theophan petitioned for retirement, and moved to the Vysha Hermitage in the Tambov province. After six years he went into reclusion, during which time he wrote the majority of his works, which include translations, scriptural commentaries, several books on the spiritual life, and a voluminous correspondence. He reposed at the age of seventy-nine on the Feast of Theophany, January 6, 1894. He was glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988.
The present work was first published in Moscow in 1885, as a sixteen-page booklet, and was published eight more times before the Revolution, sometimes separately and sometimes as part of collections.
THE ORTHODOX WORD
It is an inspiring work, in which St. Theophan vividly emphasizes the impossibility of salvation without the Cross, and gives the reader a practical guide in living the Christian life as a cross-bearer.
God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14), says the holy Apostle Paul. How did this holy Apos- tle attain such a disposition that he wished to glory in nothing other than the Cross of Christ? The Cross is, in every way, affliction, oppres- sion, and humiliation—how can one glory in it? However, the holy Apostle gloried in it and, along with him, of course, all the Apostles, and after them all the other cross-bearers gloried in it as well. Why is that so? Divinely wise men had their eyes opened to the great mean- ing of the Cross, valued it highly, and gloried that they were made worthy to bear it. Instead of oppression they saw breadth; instead of grief, sweetness; instead of humiliation, greatness; instead of dishonor, glory—and they gloried in it like someone else would glory in some splendid adornment or rank.
Oh, when will the Lord grant us, too, such sense and disposition as to understand and experience the power of the Cross and begin to glory in it?
Here is a brief, general explanation of the meaning of the Cross: The Lord accomplished our salvation by His death on the Cross; on the Cross He tore up the handwriting of our sins; through the Cross He reconciled us with our God and Father; and through the Cross He brought down upon us grace-filled gifts and all heavenly blessings. But this is the Lord’s Cross itself. Each of us becomes a partaker of its sal- vific power in no other way than through our personal cross. When the personal cross of each of us is united with Christ’s Cross, the power and effect of the latter is transferred to us and becomes, as it were, a conduit through which every good gift and every perfect gift (James 1:17) is poured forth upon us from the Cross of Christ. From this it is evident that the personal cross of each of us is as essential to the work of salvation as the Cross of Christ. And you will not find one saved person who was not a cross-bearer. It is for this reason that everyone is surrounded by crosses on all sides—so that we will not be hampered by having to look for crosses to bear, and so that we will not be far from the salvific power of Christ’s Cross. One can say it this way: Look around yourself and you will see your cross. Bear it as you should, unit- ing it with Christ’s Cross, and you will be saved.
Although everyone bears his cross reluctantly—and for the most part crosses are not simple but complex—not everyone looks at his cross through Christ’s Cross. Not everyone turns it into a mechanism for his salvation. Therefore, not everyone’s cross is a salvific cross. Let us take a look at all the possible crosses and see how one ought to bear each of them, that they might be a force unto salvation.
There are many crosses, but there are three kinds: The first kind are outward crosses, consisting of sorrows and misfortunes and, in general, of the bitter lot of our earthly sojourn. The second kind are inward crosses, which arise from the struggle against the passions and lusts, for the sake of acquiring the virtues. The third kind are spiritual, grace-filled crosses, which are laid upon us through absolute devotion to God’s will.
Below I will say a few words to you about outward crosses. These are the most complex and diverse crosses. They are scattered on all our paths and are encountered at almost every step. These are sorrows, misfortunes, the loss of loved ones, failures at work, every sort of deprivation and loss, family troubles, adversities related to outward circumstances, insults, of- fences, wrongful accusations, and, in general, our earthly lot, which is difficult for everyone to a greater or lesser degree. Is there anyone who does not have one or another of these crosses? And it is impossible for us not to. Neither eminence, nor riches, nor glory, nor any kind of earthly greatness will deliver one from them. They became a part of our earthly sojourn the moment the earthly paradise was closed, and they will not recede until the heavenly paradise is opened to us.
If you want these crosses to be unto your salvation, make use of them in accordance with God’s intention when He appointed them to mankind in general, and to you in particular. Why did the Lord arrange that on earth no one would be without afflictions and bur- dens? So that man would not forget that he is an exile, and so that he would live on earth, not as someone in his own land, but as a stranger and a foreigner in a foreign land, and might seek his return to his true homeland. As soon as man sinned, he was cast out of paradise, and outside of paradise was surrounded by sorrows and deprivations, and every kind of discomfort, that he might remember that he is not in his own place but is under punishment, and that he might take care to seek pardon and a return to his own rank.
So, seeing afflictions, unhappiness, and tears, don’t be surprised— endure them and don’t be annoyed. That is how it must be. It does not befit someone who is a criminal and disobedient man to have total prosperity and happiness. Take this to heart and bear your lot with equanimity.
But why, you will say, do I have more, and someone else has less? Why do misfortunes burden me, while someone else has good fortune in al- most everything? Why am I torn up over sorrows, while someone else is consoled? If this is the common lot, it would be dispensed to everyone without exception. And, in fact, it is so dispensed. Take a look and you’ll see. Today it’s hard for you, while for someone else it was hard yesterday or will be hard tomorrow, while now the Lord is permitting him to have a rest. Why are you looking at hours and days? Look at someone’s whole life, from beginning to end, and you’ll see that everyone has it hard, and very hard. Will you find anyone who rejoices his whole life? Even kings often can’t sleep at night from anguish of heart. You have it hard now, but haven’t you seen happy days before? And, may God grant it, you’ll see more of them. Be patient! The skies above you will clear. In life, as in nature, there are both bright and gloomy days. Has there ever been a time when a storm cloud didn’t pass? And has there ever been anyone in the world that thought it wouldn’t? Don’t think that way about your own grief either, and you’ll rejoice in hope.
It’s hard for you. But is this an accident without cause? Lift up your head a little and remember that there is the Lord, Who takes paternal care of you and never lets His eyes drop from you. If sorrow has over- taken you, it’s not otherwise than with His consent and will. It’s none other than He Who sent it to you. He knows quite precisely what, to whom, when, and how to send it; and when He sends it, He does so for the good of the one to whom it’s sent. So, look around—and you’ll see God’s good intentions toward you in the afflictions that have overtaken you. The Lord either wants to wash away some sin, or to lead you away from a sinful deed, or to cover up a greater sorrow with a smaller one, or to give you an occasion for patience and for demon- strating faithfulness to the Lord, so as to show forth the glory of His mercy upon you later. It is, of course, one of these that relates to you. Seek out what it is precisely, and apply it to your wound like a plaster, and you’ll assuage its burning heat. If, however, you don’t clearly see precisely what God wanted to give you through the sorrow that has overwhelmed you, raise up in your heart the general, non-speculative belief that everything that comes from the Lord is for our good, and give a shove to your disturbed soul: this is what is pleasing to God. Endure! He whom He punishes is like a son to Him!
Above all, pay attention to your moral state and its corresponding eternal lot. If you’re sinful—and of course you’re sinful—rejoice that the fire of affliction has come and is burning up your sins. You keep looking at sorrow from an earthly standpoint. But you will be borne away to another life. Stand at the Judgment. Gaze upon the everlasting fire prepared for sins, and look at your sorrows from that standpoint. If you have to be condemned there, what sorrows would you not want to bear here, if only not to fall under that condemnation? You’d want to be cut and burned now every day, if only not to fall under inde- scribable and unceasing torment there. Is it not better, in order not to experience that there, to bear sorrows that are not so great now, and through this to be delivered from the eternal flame? Say to yourself: “Such blows are being sent to me for my sins,” and thank the Lord that His goodness is leading you to repentance. Then, instead of fruit- less grieving, recognize what kind of sin you have, repent, and cease sinning. When you are so disposed, of course you’ll say: “This is not much. According to my sins I deserve more!”
So, whether you’re bearing the common bitter lot or you’re expe- riencing personal sorrows and afflictions, endure with equanimity, re- ceiving this with thanksgiving from the hand of the Lord as a rem- edy for sins, as a key that opens the door to the Heavenly Kingdom. Don’t complain, don’t envy anyone else, and don’t give yourself over to senseless grief. For in sorrows it happens that one person is vexed and begins to complain, another loses his self-possession and falls into despair, and another immerses himself in his sorrow and only grieves, without moving his thoughts and leading his heart on high, to God. All such people do not make use of the crosses sent to them as they ought to, letting the favorable time and the day of salvation slip by. The Lord hands them the making of their own salvation, and they spurn it.
Misfortune and sorrow have befallen. You’re bearing a cross. Make it so that this bearing will be unto salvation, and not unto perdition. For this it’s required not to move mountains, but to make small chang- es in the thoughts of your mind and the dispositions of your heart. Arouse gratitude within yourself, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, repent, and correct your life. If faith in God’s direction of all things has left you, return it to your bosom, and kiss the right hand of God. If the connection of your sorrow to your sins is hid- den from you, sharpen the eye of your conscience, and you’ll see and mourn over your sin and moisten the dryness of your sorrow with tears of repentance. If you’ve forgotten that the bitterness of your earthly lot redeems you from the bitterest eternal fate, revive your recollection of this and to your equanimity add the desire for sorrows, so that for the small sorrows endured here, eternal mercy from the Lord will meet you. Is all this very difficult? Yet such thoughts and feelings are the threads by which our cross is connected to Christ’s Cross, from which flows salvific power for us. Without them the cross remains upon us and weighs us down, but has no salvific qualities, being separated from Christ’s Cross. Then we’re not saved cross-bearers, and cannot glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Having told you a little of the much there is to say about outward crosses, I invite you, brethren, to walk in wisdom, redeeming the time of sorrow and afflictions with placid, grateful, repentant endurance. Then we’ll feel the salvific effect of these sorrowful crosses and will re- joice when we’re subject to them, seeing through them the light of glo- ry, and we’ll learn to glory in them not only for the sake of the future, but also for the fruits we receive from them at the present time. Amen.
Of the three kinds of crosses, I’ve told you a few words about one, that is, about outward crosses: sorrows, misfortunes, and deprivations. Now I’ll tell you something about the second kind of cross, inward crosses.
Inward crosses are encountered by us during the struggle against the passions and lusts. The holy Apostle Paul says:They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). Cruci- fied? That means that there is a cross upon which these passions and lusts are crucified. What kind of cross is this? It’s the struggle against them. To crucify the passions means to weaken them, suppress them, and uproot them. If a man fights against a certain passion a few times, he weakens it; if he fights a little more, he suppresses it; if he keeps fighting, he will totally uproot it, with God’s help. As this is a difficult, sorrowful, and painful struggle, it’s truly a cross, raised up within us. When someone is fighting against the passions, sometimes it seems as if his hands are nailed, as if he’s wearing a crown of thorns on his head, as if his living heart is pierced. That is how heavy and painful it can be for him.
It’s impossible for there not to be labor and pain, for although the passions are foreign to us, nevertheless, coming from outside, they’ve grafted themselves onto our body and soul to such a degree that they’ve penetrated into all their structures and powers. Try to tear them out, and it will hurt. It will hurt, but it will be salvific, and this salvific as- pect is attained in no other way than through pain. There is a con- dition known as a polyp—a kind of foreign body arises in our body, grows, and puts out roots. If you don’t cut it out, you won’t be healed, but if you cut it out, it will hurt. Let it hurt—this pain will bring back your health. If you leave it and don’t cut it out, it will also hurt—only this pain will not be unto health, but unto the increase of the disease, perhaps even unto death. What about anthrax—how is it treated? The pustule is cut out, the spot is cauterized, and then a poison is applied and rubbed in. It’s painful, but on the other hand, it’s curative. But if you leave it as it is, the pain will be there, and what’s more, you won’t escape death. So it is with fighting against the passions or uprooting them—it’s painful, but then again it’s salvific. But if you leave the pas- sions and don’t uproot them, they’ll still cause burdens, pain, and suf- fering—however, not unto salvation, but unto perdition and spiritual death, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
What passion is not painful? Anger burns, envy dries one up, lust enfeebles one, miserliness does not let one eat or sleep, and offend- ed pride murderously eats away at one’s heart. Every other passion as well—hatred, suspicion, peevishness, man-pleasing, passionate attachment to things and people—all of them cause us torment, so that liv- ing with the passions is like walking barefoot across knives or coals, or like the condition of a man whose heart is being sucked at by snakes. Again, who is without passions? Everyone has them. As soon as there is self-love, there are all the passions, for this is the mother of the pas- sions, and it does not exist without its daughters. However, not every- one has them to the same degree: one person has one of them, while in someone else another one predominates and is in charge of the others. And since each person has passions, there is also torment from them. The passions torture and crucify each person—however, not unto salvation, but unto perdition.
Thus, bearing the passions, one is tormented by them and perish- es. Isn’t it better to take oneself in hand and bring about suffering in oneself—also concerning the passions—but unto salvation rather than unto perdition? One has only to turn the knife around and, instead of satisfying the passions, to strike oneself with it, to strike the pas- sions with it, beginning the fight against them and contradicting them in everything. Here there will be pain and suffering of heart, but it will be a healing pain, after which there immediately follows a com- forting calmness, as occurs when a healing plaster contacts a wound. For instance, someone gets angry—it’s difficult and unpleasant for him to overcome it, but when he overcomes it, he becomes calm. But if he satisfies it, he’ll be disturbed for a long time. Someone is offended, and it’s hard for him to master himself and forgive. When he forgives, he becomes peaceful, whereas when he takes revenge, he sees no peace. If a passionate attachment has flared up, it’s difficult to extinguish it. But when you extinguish it, you’ll see the light of God, whereas if you don’t extinguish it, you’ll walk around like a broken man. So it is with regard to every passion. A passion torments one, and the fight against it causes afflictions. But the former destroys, while the latter saves and heals. One must say to every passionate person: “You’re perishing on the cross of the passions. Destroy that cross and set up another: the cross of the fight against it. And you’ll be crucified on it unto salva- tion!” All of this is clear as day, and it would appear that the choice is not very difficult. However, in fact this doesn’t always prove true.
One ought to be amazed at our blindness. Someone suffers from a passion, and keeps on satisfying it. He sees that by satisfying it he brings more and more evil upon himself, but he goes on satisfying it. What inexplicable enmity against ourselves! Someone intends to take up arms against a passion, but just as soon as the passion awakens with its demands, he immediately goes after it. He again gets ready to fight it, and again yields. This happens several times, with the same success. An inexplicable enfeebling of one’s moral powers! Where is the delusion and deception? In the fact that the passion promises mountains of pleasure for satisfying it, while the fight against it promises nothing. But, after all, how many times has it already been experienced that the satisfaction of the passions does not bring happiness and peace, but torment and lethargy? It promises much, but gives nothing, while the struggle promises nothing, but gives everything. If you’ve never tried this, test it out and you’ll see. However, our trouble is that we don’t brace ourselves to test it out. The reason for this is self-pity. Self-pity is our most flattering traitor and enemy, the first offspring of self-love. We pity ourselves and bring about our own destruction. We think that we’re doing good to ourselves, but we’re doing evil; and the more evil we do, the more we desire to do evil. From this, evil grows, and our final destruction draws nearer to us.
Let us be inspired, brethren, and let us go courageously to the cross of self-crucifixion, through the crucifixion and uprooting of the pas- sions and lusts. Let us turn away from self-pity and become enflamed with zeal for self-accusation. Let us acquire the heart of a physician who, when necessary, makes sharp incisions and cauterizations even on beloved and respected persons. I’m not going to show you the meth- ods and the whole process of the struggle. Get down to business, and it will clarify and teach you everything. Bring to mind that peace, that joy, and that light which will establish themselves in your heart after the overcoming of the passions, and by this enkindle your zeal to rise up against them. Light, peace, and joy arise from the very beginning of this struggle, and they keep growing and rising, until at last they’re crowned by a peaceful disposition of heart, in which God rests. And the God of peace truly unceasingly abides with him who reaches this stage. Then it is fully proven that the Cross is the tree of life.
The paradisal tree of life remained in paradise. In its place the tree of the Cross was set up on earth. The goal of both is the same: if a man eats, he will live. Come, cleave to it with your lips and drink life from it. You will cleave to the Cross when, having spurned self-pity, you become zealous for self-crucifixion; and you’ll begin to drink life from it when you enter into the struggle against the passions. Each conquest of the passions will be the same as receiving life-giving sap from the life-giving Cross. Do it more often, and you will the sooner slake your thirst and be filled with life. Wondrous are the properties of self-crucifixion! It seems to take away, but in taking away, it gives; it seems to cut off, but in cutting off, it imparts; it seems to kill, but in killing, it gives life. It is none other than the Cross of Christ, by which death is trampled down and life is given. What a good thing—but the labor is great! The first step is to labor—the first conquest of yourself, the initial resolution to struggle. Later, no matter how many skirmishes there are in battle, it becomes easier and easier. Zeal will flare up more powerfully, your knowledge of how to overcome will be increased, and the enemy will grow weaker. As, in ordinary battles, soldiers are only frightened to begin, while later this is no longer the case, as everything becomes easy for them, so it is in spiritual warfare. Just begin, and the battle will heat up on its own and become easier. Then, the more ar- dent and lively the skirmishes become, the sooner the end of the battle will come, and the closer peace will be. Not enough strength to begin? Pray. The Lord will send it. Surround yourself with thoughts about the danger of remaining in the passions, and in this way you’ll spur yourself on from their darkness to the light of freedom. Animate in yourself the feeling of the torment of the passions, and you’ll burn with irritation against them and with the desire to rid yourself of them. But above all, having confessed your weakness before the Lord, stand and knock at the door of His mercy, and cry out for help. Help will come! The Lord will look upon you, and the light from His eyes will burn up the self-pity in you and will enkindle the zeal to courageously arm yourself against the passions. And if the Lord is with us, who can be against us?
O Lord, Thou Judge of the contest, Who hast inspired us with zeal to enter upon the struggle of the fight against the passions, do Thou Thyself give us the strength to stand therein, that under the banner of Thy Cross we might fight the good fight, looking unto Thee, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2), Who by the Cross didst establish salvation for us and therein didst grant us life. Amen.
It yet remains to explain to you the third form of the cross that is salvific for us: the cross of devotion to the will of God. I’ll tell you a word or two about it, because a complete teaching about it exceeds my strength. It is those who are already perfected Christians that ascend this cross. They even know this, and would be able to speak about it clearly, fully, and with power. How could others speak that way? It’s impossible not to mention this, so that one of you, who has overcome one or another of the passions and has calmed down a little inwardly from the anxiety caused by it, might not think that he’s already done what he ought to do, or what is expected from a Christian.
No, even in this case not everything has been done yet. Even he who has completely purified himself from the passions has not yet ac- complished the main Christian activity, but has only prepared himself for it. If you have purified yourself from the passions, now offer your- self up as a pure and unsullied sacrifice to God—one that is befitting to Him Who is Most Pure. Look at Golgotha. The cross of the wise thief is the cross of purification from the passions, while the Cross of the Lord is a cross of pure and unspotted sacrifice. And it is this one that is the fruit of devotion to the will of God—unquestioning, total, and irrevocable. What raised our Savior up onto the Cross? This devo- tion. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed that the cup might pass from Him, but He expressed His resolute decision about it this way: Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt (Matt. 26:39). At His words I am He (John 18:5–8), those who had come to bind Him fell to the ground. But then they bound Him. Why? Be- cause He had first bound Himself by His devotion to the will of God. Under the Cross, all creation trembled and the dead received life, but He remained on the Cross, for He had given up His spirit to God.
Such are all who have grown unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). They are all crucified, so to speak, on God’s will. All of their movements, thoughts, and desires are nailed to that cross. Or, they no longer have these things at all, in the usual sense—everything that is theirs has already died, swallowed up by the will of God. What moves such people are God’s beckoning and God’s inspiration, which, in a way known to them alone, are im- pressed in their heart and determine all their actions. The holy Apostle Paul, referring to himself, describes this state thus: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 2:20). As soon as he was crucified with Christ, he, an apostle, a perfect man, ceased to live himself, but Christ began to live in him. Or, he began to be in the kind of state about which he writes elsewhere: It is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
This is the height of Christian perfection to which man is capable of attaining. It is the beginning of the future state after the Resurrec- tion, when God will be all in all (I Cor. 15:28). This is why all who are made worthy to receive it are often in opposition to all the ways of earthly existence, and either endure persecution and torment, or be- come and are considered as fools, or withdraw to the wilderness. But in all these forms of outward fate, their inward state is the same: they are alone, with God alone abiding in their heart. They live and act through Him alone, concealing themselves in the most inward, most profound stillness, in the total absence of any movement. It is said that high up in the outer limits of our atmosphere all the movements of earthly ele- ments cease. Only the universal element exists there peacefully. This is an image of those who are crucified with Christ, who have ceased to live their own life and have begun to live only in Christ, or, to put it another way, who have ascended the cross of devotion to God’s will, which alone becomes their quality of soul and acts in them with the denial of every personal judgment and action.
I have nothing more to say to you about this. And this has only been said in order to give you a hint as to where the end is, where we need to be, and what we have to attain, and so that, knowing this, you would resolve to consider every good thing that you have or do to be as nothing, if you have not reached this height of spiritual life that has been determined for and expected from us. Many have the idea that Christianity is the same as other kinds of life, but this is not so. It begins with repentance, ripens through the fight against the passions, and is perfected when the pure, inner man, immersed in God, is cruci- fied along with Christ. For ye are dead, says the Apostle, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Here everything is accomplished inwardly, unseen by people, and known only by one’s conscience and God. The outward here is nothing. It is, of course, a proper covering, but it is not a definite witness, nor even more so is it the producer of that which is inward. How often outward, well-ordered behavior is like a coffin that’s beautiful on the outside, but full of bones!
Seeing this, brethren, let us stand at Golgotha by the crosses, and let us begin to compare ourselves to those who bore them and them to us, to see which one applies to us. Simon of Cyrene, who bore Christ’s Cross (cf. Matt. 27:32), is an image of those cross-bearers who are subjected to outward sorrows and deprivations. As to those who represent the cruci- fied wise thief and those who represent the Lord on the Cross, I have just told you above: the former depicts those who are fighting against the passions and the latter depict perfect men, crucified in devotion to God. And whom does the cross of the bad thief depict? It depicts those who serve the passions. The passions torture them, torment them, crucify them to death, without giving them any comfort or good hope. Using these images, compare your crosses to these crosses and accordingly determine who you are—Simon of Cyrene; the wise thief; an imitator of Christ the Lord; or the bad thief, consumed by the passions.
Whoever you find yourself to be, expect a corresponding end. I will only add this: throw out of your head the idea that you can, through a comfortable life, become what you must be in Christ. If true Christians do have pleasures, they’re absolutely incidental. The most distinguish- ing characteristics of their existence are sufferings and sicknesses—in- ward and outward, voluntary and involuntary. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and into that which is within it. The first step here is the immediate change of your will from bad to good, which consists in a heart of repentance. This is reflect- ed in a deadly pain from the wound of contrition, from which blood flows like sweat during the whole course of the battle against the pas- sions, and which only closes after the attainment of purity, which leads the Christian up onto the cross of crucifixion together with Christ in doing the will of God. Everything is sorrows, sicknesses, and burdens. One can say it this way: the state of consolation is evidence of a circu- itous path, while the state of tribulation is evidence of the right path.
Pondering this, rejoice, cross-bearers! And what about you, who are comforted? Listen to the words of Abraham to the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Luke 16:19–26). Here you are comforted, while others suffer for the sake of Christ and His sacred law. But in the next world it will be the opposite: those who have walked the way of the Cross will be comforted, whereas those who were comforted will suffer. You’ll say: “So, evidently it’s forbid- den to make merry or allow yourself some kind of pleasure.” Well, do the main thing first, and later you can allow the other. For some, the only thing they do is this: today a ball, tomorrow the theater, then an outdoor party, light reading and conversation, and all sorts of amuse- ments—passing from one pleasantry to another. But not a thought for the main thing, for how to attain the state which every Christian must have. What fruit can one expect from such a life? Is our inward rela- tionship to God in Christ supposed to mature by itself, despite that outward disorder?! How is it supposed to mature? Can a candle burn in the wind? Does life increase from the ingestion of poison? No. If you want good for yourself, get rid of pleasures and enter on the path of the cross of repentance, burn up in the fire of self-crucifixion, be tempered in tears of heartfelt contrition—and you’ll become gold, or silver, or a precious stone, and in due time you’ll be taken by the Heavenly Householder as an adornment for His most bright and most peaceful mansions. Amen.