… In lowliness of mind,
let each esteem the other better than yourself.
If disgrace befell over you, be glad,
for if it is unjust, then your reward will be large;
and if it is just, then, having learned from it,
you can avoid the retribution.
From “Ascetic Directions”
of Nilus of Sinai
Those of lowly mind are never in a hurry or confusion; they have no hot and superficial thoughts; but they always stay in peace. There is nothing that can make them amazed, confused, terrified… On the contrary, all their joys are in what is pleasing to the Lord.
When they touch the forehead to the ground and direct the sight of the heart to the Holiest of the Holy,… they dare to pray only thus: whatever is going to happen to me let it happen by Your will!
From “Spiritual Directions”
of Isaac of Syria
In a small monastery, located in a provincial town situated on the bank of a large river, an elder Zosima lived.
With the Support of God, he had been helping people for many years, and numerous miraculous healings were carried out by God through that elder.
Many other things also happened thanks to his work, although people often did not consider them as miraculous signs. Those who talked with the elder obtained faith, hope, and love and learned to live consciously and in harmony with God’s Providence.
The elder had a disciple — a novice Nicholas.
* * *
Nicholas once asked the elder:
“Zosima, why did you decide to become a monk? Have you ever dreamed about having a family and about children? Or from the very beginning you dreamed only about God?”
“No, not from the very beginning. Everything has happened in my life…
“Yes, I’ve dreamed about children. But God had made it so that all His children became my children, and thus I had an opportunity to care not only about the children of my own.
“There are people who live on the Mother Earth like orphans, without feeling God the Father! They live in their loneliness and pray to God, Whom they consider as a ‘Terrible Incognizable Judge’, to be merciful with them! They do not perceive the One with Whom they are trying to talk. They do not feel His Great Love and do not give Him their love in response!
“It seems that people have forgotten about wonderful opportunities given to them by God! They have forgotten how to see, hear, and understand their Heavenly Father! They have forgotten how to work miracles of God…
“Why do people live as if God does not exist? Why do they immerse themselves into hell while living on the Earth in their bodies?
“This happens because they have lost the purity of souls! And in order to return to this purity, one should wish this first!…”
* * *
At this time, a young novice came to the cell of the elder Zosima. He crossed himself, bowed to the ground, and wished good health to Zosima and Nicholas.
Then he asked:
“How can I learn to hear the Voice of God?”
“You tell him, Nicholas, and I’ll listen.”
The story about the sick monk healed by Nicholas increased greatly the respect of other people towards him. And many were ready to listen to him, even though he hadn’t accepted a monkhood yet.
“In order to hear God’s Voice, we should learn to stay in the silence of the spiritual heart; that is, the silence of the mind submerged into the expanded spiritual heart. In this state of the heart, opened by inner love and filled with warmth and tranquility, we understand the Lord! We can ask Jesus to come to such a purified and opened for Him spiritual heart.
“Initially, a spiritual heart is limited by the volume of the chest of the body. But it is so only at the beginning, while the love of the soul has not learned yet to expand and merge with God’s Love, which has no boundaries!
“The Heart of God is endless! It contains everything and everyone, embracing them with Its Love!
“To begin with, inhale and exhale slowly several times. Feel that space in your chest which becomes filled with the air. This is the place where the spiritual heart is located.
“Try to send love to all creatures of God from this center — towards all directions.”
“How so? I’ve heard that love can lead to the sin!”
“That is not love but lust! Real love is a ladder that leads us to Heaven! Love is the lamp of the soul that allows us to see the right path in the midst of darkness and evil!
“Moreover, we should not consider as lust that desire which appears in a man towards a woman or in a woman towards a man. This desire is destined to teach souls to love and care about each other! For people who live in the secular world, this is a great means that helps them to develop their ability to love!
“Only the life by one’s own bad desires should be called lust! And it doesn’t matter whether a man has desired a wife of another person, sinful food because of his gluttony, or that which another person can’t give him.
“Love, as opposed to the lust, is when one thinks, wants and does good for the others, but not for oneself…
“You can learn to look forward from your spiritual heart so that your sight of the soul will be caressing kindly all that you see — like a ray of sunlight!
“You can also learn to look back from your spiritual heart, to that space where God can be always seen.
“When you start seeing the Unearthly Light with the eyes of the heart — come to me or to Zosima. We will teach what to do next.”
At that moment, they saw through the window how a dead body was transported to the temple for a funeral service.
The young novice asked the elder:
“Can you, Zosima, like Jesus, bring that person back to life?”
“No, I can’t. God doesn’t need to prolong the life of that man in that worn body.
“You may recall that Jesus didn’t heal everyone and didn’t return all the dead to the life on the Earth. The purpose of His work was not to make disabled people walk and blind people see! He didn’t work either in order to return the souls, which were already given to death, to their bodies! If He only had healed the sick — people would not have remembered about Him for thousands of years. The Power of God was revealed through Jesus so that we could comprehend the Teachings of God and learn to live according to these Teachings!
“Each one of us is the soul that doesn’t die with the death of the body! This soul can learn to live in Unity with God during the life in its body.
“Here is a dead body lying in a coffin. It is the same as during its life: it has arms, legs, head, and a heart… But it’s not alive! It is so because God took the living soul out of it!
“Thus, by God’s Will, the soul is united and separated from its body.
“Therefore, that is important what a person has time to do while God fills his or her body with life. This depends on what we direct our strength and thoughts.
“You, for example, want to become a monk. This desire is commendable! But who is a monk? It is that person who lives one to one with God and does everything for Him!
“You want to hear God’s Words and Advice. It is good! It is important! The easiest way to do this is to start listening to the voice of conscience.
“Conscience is the manifestation of the Voice of God in us — the very first manifestation. And thanks to an attentive attitude towards it, the Voice of God can become quite clear for us.
“If we try to ignore the pangs of conscience, do not pay attention to the problems posed before us and act against conscience because of our self-interest — then its quiet voice gradually ceases. And the soul then stops perceiving the problems that are to be solved. In this way a person can fall into the abyss of sins, and then he or she lives without conscience, without God! Such a person is called — unconscionable.
“If, on the contrary, we listen carefully to the voice of conscience and try to behave in a way that we have nothing to reproach ourselves for — then, quite soon, we will be able to hear the Voice of God, Who is always ready to give us advice!
“Learn to observe with attention how you live before God! Try to maintain the purity of the soul — and then everything will be easy: you will be able to feel your spiritual heart and later God!”
* * *
When Zosima and Nicholas stayed alone, they continued talking about a monastic life. They talked about this many times but again touched this theme:
“Now you should make the choice that not everyone has a chance to make. The knowledge and skills that you already have are gained by others usually only after several years of a monastic life. You, on the other hand, have learned a lot already: you can feel God’s Will and hear God’s Advice. Now you can start doing in the secular world what you have learned from me. You will remain a monk before God, and you will be able to speak freely about Him before people.
“Soon I will leave this place — and it will be difficult for you to be here: your life can take different courses…”
“Are you testing me again? My decision is firm: I don’t want to do back to a worldly life. And the austerity of the monastery will reduce pride in me and give me more humility…”
Zosima became silent, as if he was looking with the inner sight at the path passed by him… He recalled how he was persecuted and humiliated, how he was accused of being attracted to diabolical machinations because he could… hear God! Nevertheless, through those difficulties, he united even stronger with the Will of God…
He did not tell Nicholas about all this.
The latter guessed but did not try to clarify. Instead of this, he asked about another thing:
“May I ask you now why you don’t administer this monastery? You could change many monastic rules… And why don’t you teach other monks that which you’ve taught me?”
“These are good questions. It seems to me that in the future you yourself will be responsible for everyone in this monastery…
“As to your second question, I need to explain that in order to teach someone something in the spiritual field — the desires of both parts are necessary: of the one who teaches and of the one who learns.
“Sometimes it happens that a person comes to the monastery and is accepted there. Because of this mere fact, this person begins to believe that he or she has come closer to the holiness. It seems to this person that avoiding the temptations of a worldly life is a great feat in itself…
“Often such a person thinks that now the prior will be responsible for him or her before God, that the prior will edify him or her and give the absolutions of the sins and that the life in a monastery by itself will bring him or her closer to God… But this is not true! It’s possible to live in a monastery as in the secular world, being fettered by the passions!
“Only a person alone can change himself or herself! It is he or she who should cleanse the soul of the vices! Only to that person who lives so God allows to approach Him! Even if a teacher full of holiness is near, that teacher won’t be able to make clean the disciple who does not keep himself or herself pure!
“The task of the teacher who can see better the flaws of the soul consists only in explaining what the vice is and how to correct this defect.”
“You’re right. I also often rely on you more than on myself and on God. I think that I can make mistakes in understanding the Will of God…”
“… You also believe that I am never wrong and that I will save you from all your errors…” — Zosima added, and they laughed in unison.
The elder again rejoiced inwardly at the ability of Nicholas to listen attentively to each one of his words. He also was happy that through these words, his disciple not only came to the understanding of the problems of other people, but also found in himself even the smallest traces of wrong thinking. “It was not in vain that God led him to me! It is not in vain that I teach him! Maybe he indeed will manage to perform the true and great service! Maybe later the whole monastery will be under his guidance…”
They continued their conversation:
“Many people believe that if someone’s sin is absolved by a priest — then it disappears. But this is not true. And it’s important that you learn to explain this to people!
“The defect of the soul will disappear completely only when every sinful act provoked by this defect becomes repulsive for that soul! In other words, then a person will stop wanting to do this type of indecent things and will not be able! Only then he or she will be free from this vice or defect!
“Among our brethren there are those who could master the inner silence with the help of the Lord. They began to learn the heart love. But not all of them have understood that only this is necessary, that only the spiritual heart, opened for God, allows living a truly monastic life! Only the heart full of love allows us to cleanse the souls and to do everything as a service for God!”
Nicholas listened attentively and then said:
“But I still can’t always subdue my mind… Sometimes I condemn what is bad. I still have unanswered questions. When I see evil and hear spiteful words, rejection raises inside me!”
“To see and understand that something is bad is not the sin of condemnation! If you can’t see evil in someone — you can’t help him or her!”
“Yes, I understand this, but I still can’t discern this totally.
“In my youth, I saw only the good in people, and many times I was wrong about them and betrayed by my best friends… After that I, on the contrary, started noticing only the bad in people — only the filth and dirt in them. And then despair came, and I even lost faith…
“Now I am learning to see everyone as you see them. That is, I try not to condemn, but to seek the light in every soul, even if it shines only slightly, and appeal to this light, and not to the darkness of vices that are trying to extinguish it.”
“Yes, this is exactly what you need to. It is essential to see all the vices and problems of the soul, but also to find that light which is still shining in it. If we appeal to the best in someone — then there is a chance that this person will feel the Hand of God, always stretched out to him or her! And if that person feels the Presence of God and holds His Hand — then he or she can begin to get out of the abyss of vices. Of course, it will be possible only if this person is capable of understanding the meaning of this work on the transformation of the soul.”
“I understand all this with my mind. But sometimes I keep condemning others… For example, when they say unfair words about you…
“Just yesterday our prior called you again… He probably lectured you and humiliated you in every possible way, as he always does! Why do you listen to his accusations, as if they were fair? You never object the slander, said against you! God speaks through you and the miracles happen through you, glorifying this monastery, but you, it seems, even don’t have a right to object?”
“Don’t judge someone precociously when you don’t know everything about him or her…
“It is easy to see flaws of that person who is in full view of everyone and undertook to administrate people…
“Comprehend, Nicholas, nothing ever happens to anyone that isn’t necessary for God! Only those events come to our lives through which we can become wiser and purer or through which our neighbors can realize something important!
“Even if a person who is reproached unjustly is not guilty, then — through this — others can see their own flaws!
“But this can happen only when a righteous soul is in the state of peace and gentleness, similar to the smooth surface of a lake in calm weather.
“On the contrary, when one tries to object and prove one’s rightness — nothing but debate will result from this. And there is little benefit from a debate because the debaters always hear only themselves and try to prove only their own rightness. Even if you hold the objections within yourself and do not say a word — even in this case such inner state will hinder you from helping another person.
“It is necessary to look at all situations from deep calm and together with God! From this deep calm — the words rise that are proposed by God and that can be said out vocally.
“Moreover, only from the calm that exists in the depths of your expanded spiritual heart, you can perceive God clearly and communicate easily with Him, as well as see distinctively the difference between the good and the evil!
“… Nevertheless, sometimes there is no reason even to talk with an unreasonable person full of vices: words won’t change anything in him or her… This means the time to understand hasn’t come yet to this person… Not to everyone it’s possible to help right now…
“Our prior is a good man: he is strong and persistent. We had been close friends for a long time, dreaming of a pure life before God and of spiritual accomplishments… Afterwards our destinies parted. When I came here, he already had been a high-ranking head of the monastery and already had done a lot here. I, on the other hand, was persecuted by everyone… and had nothing but God in my heart…”
“So, probably, he accepted you here because of the miracles you perform, in order to bring glory to the monastery?”
“I don’t think so — he didn’t know about this at that time. I already knew that God could manifest His Power through me, but he didn’t know this fact, yet he helped me…
“Ignatius is not envious! Still the earthly holds him tight and doesn’t let him go towards the Freedom of God. It’s a pity because he might have achieved a lot, since his power of the soul is great!…
“When someone has risen high above others — it’s not easy for him or her to start perceiving herself or himself as ‘small one’ and start learning! It’s not easy for such a person to replace completely his or her own will with the Will of God! It’s not easy to deny everything perishable in oneself!
“For a person who aspires to live for God, it is also difficult to humble the pride and become the instrument of God’s Providence!”
* * *
Zosima fell silent for a long time. He recalled what united them in their youth with Ignatius: their high dreams, their desire to serve God… He also recalled how, many years later, he came to the monastery. God then said to him: “This is the place where you will live and work for the Glory of God till the last days of your body. Here you will be able to do a lot of good things!”
Ignatius then looked at him as at some miserable person that couldn’t manage to achieve anything in life… He began telling Zosima about his important plans and affairs… He did not send the miserable away but allowed him to live in the monastery…
It was good, although from that moment Zosima had to do a lot of almost useless things for all day long or even work on something completely meaningless…
During this time he passed through numerous lessons of patience and humility and learned to be in Union with God, no matter what his body was doing. He reaped a lot of benefit from these humility and patience tests.
Zosima recalled how later Ignatius saw for the first time the Power of God manifested through Zosima.
Then a blind boy was healed. God did this for all to see.
Ignatius realized what had happened and turned pale…
Then they talked in private:
“From what time could you do this, Zosima?”
“The first time it happened long ago, about ten years… I didn’t understand then how all this worked… But at present I know the Will of God and follow It relentlessly. And God can do through me what is necessary for His Glory! Without Him, I can’t do anything.”
Ignatius then assigned a special cell to Zosima and allowed him to receive people. He also allowed him to ignore some rules of the monastery.
And he himself drifted apart, retired into himself, thinking, ‘God has not given me this…’
He did not begin learning what he could master.
Afterwards, there was another moment when Ignatius could make progress…
Zosima recalled how he hoped that he would be able to help Ignatius to cognize God…
Ignatius fell very ill then. He was in pain, barely stood on his legs and barely could speak but did not stop the liturgy…
After that — monks carried him on their hands to his chamber. However, he did not call Zosima, did not ask him for help…
Zosima then came himself.
Ignatius lay on his bed, being pale because of pain. In spite of this, he was suppressing his moans…
“Is it time to die?” — he asked.
“No, not now, Ignatius. It is just kidney stones coming out. Soon you will feel better. Forgive me, God does not allow me to remove your pain completely…
“When you feel very severe pain, recall all the evil that you thought and did, ask God for forgiveness! In this case, together with these stones, all that is dirty and heavy will leave you! You will be well! You will even outlive me! God has sent this to you for the purification of the soul!”
“Forgive me, Zosima! I was unfair to you… Maybe it was envy… I believed that only I was right and righteous before God… But He works miracles through you, He chose you…”
All the week Zosima was with the prior.
During this time, Ignatius became softer, listened attentively and did a lot…
But then he again changed. He decided to experience the Power of God in himself; however, it did not work… He tried one time, another time, but nothing happened… And then it was as if a door was shut… He himself chose this: he himself stopped trying to build a new life with God from the very beginning… It seemed that he kept feeling the resentment about his incapacity…
It is not easy to let only love rule over you! The mind impedes this! Human selfishness impedes!
In spite of everything, he could have done this…
* * *
After a pause, Zosima continued their conversation:
“Ignatius helped me a lot. Thanks to his help, I also could help other people. But I still couldn’t help him much…
“From our every conversation he obtains a little understanding each time… He also permitted me to teach you! And not just to teach as I teach other people, but to prepare you so that you can replace me when I leave…”
“What are you talking about? Who can replace you?”
“Well, replace or not, but you will have to do my work after me!
“I said many words to people from the peace of the heart, where the Creator dwells. But now to be silent is more appropriate for me than to speak.
“Sometimes one should first hear the words in order to realize what God’s Love is and how to experience His Great Silence and His Presence in it.
“And you should learn to speak in such a way that the Silence of the Creator, our God the Father, becomes apparent behind your words. Now you should learn, whether you are speaking or staying silent, to convey the Presence of God to that person who has come to you for advice and help.
“It can be often heard and read that Jesus — Living and Resurrected — is now with us and that the Heavenly Father is Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient! But as long as the soul hasn’t experienced this by itself, as long as God’s Love hasn’t touched the heart, these words will remain just words, repeated over and over again in prayers or in empty sermons…
“It is important how you keep silent, how you speak, how you listen! All this determines whether or not God’s Presence will reach the spiritual heart of the person with whom you talk, whether or not the door to the innermost sanctuary of the soul will be opened!
“Now it is your turn to give spiritual help to people. Now you, instead of me, will listen to everyone to whom I’ll point.
“So many people come every day… I’m tired… I’m tired of human wanting…
“If they realized that we live not for ourselves but for God — then, maybe, they would come to their senses… But it’s not easy to explain this to people… How much has been said already about the love for our neighbors…”
Zosima sighed and offered:
“Let’s go to the garden… People brought me a cherry sapling. Let’s plant it together!”
* * *
The next day a couple that was not young already came in the cell of Zosima.
Nicholas sensed that they did not trust him. It was not surprising: they surely went for advice to Zosima but not to a novice, unknown to anyone!
However, this didn’t disturb Zosima at all. He greeted them kindly and said:
“Now you will talk with him, and God will give you advice through him.”
“But how is that? We came to you…”
“Not to me, to God!”
And God’s Silence fell upon them all. Soft and transparent Peace embraced them and filled them from inside.
Nicholas could not figure out whether he could create this state of God by himself or if it was Zosima who helped make God’s Presence so palpable. Or maybe it was God Himself Who manifested His Help…
The visitors started their story:
“We came here to ask God about a baby. We have been praying for many years but without any result. We still have no children. In the Bible, there are stories when God let people in old age give birth to a child… But maybe we are not worthy of this grace. How can we find this grace? What should we do to deserve it?”
Nicholas immediately felt what he should say in response. He was picking his words for some time, then said:
“Why do you want necessarily to have a child of your own? A lot of children are already born; they live in orphanages and don’t have parental care.
“Take a child from there and bring it up. In this case, you will receive happiness and a child will find caring parents!”
“We thought about this as well… But what if we fail to love a child that is not our own? What if its character is difficult and we can’t cope with it?”
“Doesn’t it also happen with one’s own children? Doesn’t it happen so that parents can’t cope with the upbringing of their own children?”
“We thought the Lord would help us…”
At that moment Zosima entered into their conversation:
“God indeed helps, but only when you listen to His advice! Will you be able to accept His Help with humility? Will you be able to help another person?
“A hundred miles from your estate, there is an orphanage. A girl Tanya of twelve years old lives there. She is thin and a bit sickly. But when she lives with you, she will get stronger in the fresh air! This girl could have been born by you, but you didn’t want children at that time. Now she is an orphan and you are alone… Nevertheless, it’s easy to fix this situation. She can become your daughter…”
“Maybe we should take a small child so it wouldn’t know that it was adopted. We have dreamed so much…”
“You’ve come to ask for advice and help from God…
“Now think and decide by yourself what to do further.
“Many people are willing to adopt little children. But if you adopt Tanya, this can change a lot in her destiny! It also can change a lot in your life! Everything will begin anew… And what concerns nursing — you will nurse grandchildren…”
Zosima smiled in a special way. He did so when God allowed him to look at the beautiful future:
“You indeed will get that miracle about which you asked God! You can do this in accordance with His Will! Now go…”
The couple bowed to the ground and went.
Outside the woman quietly asked her husband:
“Will we go for Tanya right now?”
Nicholas did not know if he heard those words or just understood what was happening in the souls. But joy and tenderness flooded him!
“Did it work?” — he asked the elder Zosima.
The latter smiled gently:
“Don’t you understand it yourself?”
“I understood. Still I can’t do it as you do. Until you said it, I hadn’t seen the girl…”
“Don’t worry! You will learn to penetrate deeply into every situation with the help of God!”
* * *
Nicholas could not feel God in all the occasions when people addressed him their questions and concerns.
Only when they were together with the elder Zosima, everything was easy. But when Nicholas was alone and people came to him with their sorrows, he felt that the whole responsibility lay only with him, and sometimes nothing happened! So after a few serious failures, he said to Zosima:
“It is clear that I am not ready yet! Don’t force me to do something that I am not ready for…”
Zosima did not object.
It was hard for Nicholas! He felt unworthy, did not know what to do and suffered…
One day Zosima handed him a thick notebook with pages yellowed by time:
“Take it. I haven’t written sermons, and I haven’t written down all that I’ve heard from God. I didn’t think that it would be useful for someone… Still it is something. Maybe it will serve you.”
Nicholas took it with reverence, thanked Zosima and went to his cell.
He opened the notebook at random and read:
“Despondency means the absence of God in your life.
“If you are despondent — this means that your love for God has cooled and that your love for neighbor has diminished too.
“If you keep God in your heart, if your heart generates love, light, and warmth every second — then sadness can’t arise.”
Nicholas read these words and they scalded him! He thought that he was already firmly established in the field of spirituality, but it turned out…
He kept reading:
“Why does weakness appear? Because the will-power has become weaker in a person. The previous aspirations of this person have become less appreciated by him or her. And the most important reason it happens is that this person does not see the need of God for his or her work!
“How did the Apostles perform their great deeds? They — by Their love for Jesus and the Heavenly Father — opened access for the Power of God to flow through Them! And They directed that Power to those people to whom They were trying to help.
“They strove to leave for people the knowledge received by them from Jesus!
“The world of people condemns, judges and punishes…
“God, on the contrary, does not do so. He loves all His children. He loves even lost ones. And He wishes the good to everyone and is ready to show everyone the Path to the happy life in the Light!
“This is the essence of the forgiveness of God!
“Human courts should be on the Earth to stop the evil of those who are blind and deaf because of their hatred and other vices…
“And what is the ‘God’s judgment’? It is when we, perceiving ourselves before God, see our flaws and our future destinies…
“The one who services God should master God’s forgiveness: God’s unconditional Love, which, like the Light of the Great Sun, flows equally to everyone!
“For every human soul, sent by God to the Earth, there is a feasible task. And to fulfill this task may constitute a great feat of transforming oneself and all around!
“Even if the work entrusted by God to the soul is not great yet — it will be very good if one does it happily!
“It will be fine if, out of the aspiration to do good, we start to act in accordance with the Intention of God!
“It is important not just to say comforting words to a person. Such words are easily forgotten — and then this person will again start seeking the comfort from other people…
“Apart of this, we need to see what would be good for that soul and show that person the possibility of resolving with joy and understanding the problem posed by God!
“Why do you condemn the folly of your younger brothers?
“Everyone will come to the understanding in his or her own term!
“It is said, ‘from love to hatred there is one step’. It is not true! The one who can hate one’s neighbor, whom, as one thought, one loved before, did not love that neighbor at all!
“Love forgives the offences!
“It is said, ‘God commanded to endure…’
“And a stupid one will suffer and endure while others are doing bad things with him or her…
“But the wise will step aside from the evil that they cannot correct and change.
“If your hands suddenly become dirty — you need just to wash them.
“There is no need to wait for the dirt to fall off by itself.
“And don’t ask for the help of God for this.
“In the same way, it is necessary to keep the soul clean!
“One should cleanse everything in oneself through one’s own efforts — including the body, the mind, and the emotions! And this cleanliness should be maintained! Without this, it’s impossible to perceive the Most Beautiful One or, in other words, to hear and feel God!
“How to rid oneself of the resistance to the God’s Will?
“Sand allows water to pass through it; clay doesn’t. Natural properties of matter are different.
“Why does the matter of the body become ill? Normally, because bad properties of the soul affected it.
“It is necessary to transform those soul’s qualities.
“And then the disease of the body will leave, and the soul will shine with purity!
“When the soul does not love — it is dying, so to speak!
“We can lift ourselves out of the abyss of sins, vices, and suffering, and rise, ascend to the life in purity and God’s Love!
“Silence of the spiritual heart becomes filled with the Words of God — and then the understanding penetrates the soul!”
Reading again and again these notes of Zosima and recalling everything that he had already learned from him, Nicholas again and again raised the state of the soul to the perception of the Holy Spirit. He was mastering the continuous Union with God.
* * *
Time was passing, but Zosima still did not call Nicholas to help him with the visitors.
That day Nicholas was busy, chopping wood for the monastery. He loved such work, and it was delightful to watch his robust and strong body wielding an ax.
Unexpectedly, he was called to the elder Zosima, who said that there was an important task for Nicolas.
In the cell of the elder, there was a boy of about fifteen years of age. His right arm was hanging like a whip. It was evident that he had come to ask for the healing.
Zosima said to Nicholas:
“Here is some work for you: you can heal Paul!”
Immediately, Nicholas sensed what he should do. He didn’t need even to think about this for a long time. The Light of the Holy Spirit embraced him like the Flow of the Great River!
He said cordially to the boy:
“Let’s go: you can help me to chop wood for the monastery! I stopped this work and ran here.”
The boy replied sadly:
“I’m a bad worker: my right arm has been paralyzed for a long time. I don’t feel it at all…”
“It’s doesn’t matter! We will look at it! Let’s go!”
While they were walking, Nicholas felt clearly and strongly how the Holy Spirit was flowing through their bodies. He only slightly directed this Flow, Which was coming from the Depths, to the spine of the boy and to his injured arm…
He was observing those Streams of God’s Light, merged as a soul with Them and heard, as if from far away, how the boy was telling him that he was ashamed of his weakness, that he liked one girl, but couldn’t court her because of his defect… Besides, what can a man do in a village without an arm?…
When they came to a woodpile, Paul with surprise moved the fingers of his right hand:
“I have some strange sensations in my hand… Look! Fingers are moving!”
Nicholas did not give him time to keep thinking about this:
“If they move — then take an ax! Help me! I am already exhausted! Not like this! Hold it with both your hands! With one hand, you won’t do much!”
They worked for about an hour, taking turns: working with an ax and then making a woodpile. All this time, God’s Light flowed through their bodies.
“Well done, my friend! You’ve helped me a lot! We did it quickly together! Tomorrow you arm may have some pain, but don’t worry! It is because it was without work for a long time. Go to a bathhouse to warm up! And ask the elder Zosima to give you some medicinal ointment.”
They went to the temple. The service had not started yet. It was very quiet.
“Paul, thank God for your healing!”
“I don’t know many prayers… Which one should I use?”
“Say it in your own words! Don’t use a prayer! God hears any words and even thoughts!
“And remember that since God restored the strength of your arm, you should always do good with it! Never do evil!”
Nicholas was standing next to the boy and could not find words to express his gratitude to God…
On the way back to the cell of the elder, they met a kitten. In the monastery, there were a few cats that regularly brought a fair offspring.
Nicholas took this gentle and purring animal into his arms and said to Paul:
Paul gently touched fluffy fur with the palm of his recovered arm…
“It’s so nice!… Once, when I was a child, I was forced to drown some kittens. I didn’t want to, I cried, but in spite of everything did this. Since then, I had never stroked any cat, feeling guilty before them…”
“Maybe your beautiful girl will be glad to get such a gift.”
“Yes, sure! Can I?”
“Of course! Take it! For the luck of both of you!”
* * *
When the door of the cell closed after Paul, Zosima praised Nicholas:
“Well done! And you were saying that you couldn’t work! With God — everything is feasible!
“But how to determine where the limit of human capabilities is? The reality is the following: when you come to the limit — God opens before you new gates, giving you new possibilities for new achievements. He offers new tasks for the soul!
“The mind united with the spiritual heart and illuminated by God’s Love cannot anymore be obscured by anything! In this case, God directs the will of the person who entirely devoted herself or himself to the service for God! And each time, those words arise which can help another soul! And the Power of those words is great!
“God fills those words with His Power through your opened and expanded spiritual heart!”
Parables about the Elder Zosima
Written down by Anna Zubkova
Under the editorship of Vladimir Antonov
and with his commentary