There was a small monastery in a provincial town. An elder called Zosima lived in that monastery.
And the rumor about him reached even the capital. The elder was known because of the Divine miracles that accompanied many of his acts and words, and his advice helped many people to a great extent.
One day the prior of the monastery, archimandrite Ignatius, received information that a minister would visit the elder. That man was not only a minister, but a person close to the monarch!
The prior called Zosima and told him:
“Tomorrow a minister will visit you. You, Zosima, try to do your best! It would be great if he donated money to our monastery, so that we can build a new temple! Don’t let him leave you without this!”
Zosima lowered his head and said quietly:
“What are you saying, Ignatius? Why do you think like this? We still do not know if we will be able to help this person, but you already are looking for some gifts of gratitude from him…”
Ignatius was not accustomed to hearing any objections to his words and replied quite sternly:
“Are you going to teach me, Zosima? In this way you are caring about the good for the monastery! Do you want to achieve the glory of the disinterested miracle worker for yourself only? Have you forgotten how you came to this abode like a beggar? Do you remember how you were received here kindly in memory of our former friendship? Do you understand that with my permission you live here ignoring some of our strict regulations?”
“I haven’t forgotten, Ignatius! I haven’t forgotten our friendship! And how you received me — I also remember! I always remember all the good and forget all the evil and bad, as if it hadn’t happened…”
“So if you remember, then you could repay me and the abode that received you!
“I know how you act and think! If you had authority, you would give away all the property of the monastery! Look, what a hospital we have built thanks to the donations! But we still don’t have a new temple!
“This is, Zosima, maybe the dream of my life — that a new temple will remain in the monastery after my administration! We both are not young anymore, so we need to think about what we will leave on the Earth after us!”
“I can’t ask him about this… You yourself can tell him later if everything succeeds… You will invite him for a dinner and tell him about your dream.
“I’ll go…” — Zosima said this even more quietly, almost in a whisper.
He lowered his head as if in shame and was at the point of walking towards the door.
“Promise, at least, that you will try to do your best with the minister!” — the prior said, already mildly.
“Sorry, Ignatius, I can’t promise you anything! All this will depend on that man and on God… You and I are only His servants, only the instruments of His Grace…”
* * *
The next day a fuss started in the monastery because never before had a visitor of such a rank come there.
A monk ran up to the elder Zosima and said that the minister had arrived!
However, Zosima said:
“Let him wait. Let him sit in the room where everyone waits. God had brought other people before him, so I must listen to them first.”
“What are you saying, Zosima?! Are you crazy, or what?! This is — a minister! How can you make him wait?! Just yesterday you were informed that he would come!…”
“And what? A minister is not a human? And what is a human? A soul that lives before God, being dressed in a body… And what grades are assigned to that body is not interesting to God! He differentiates people in other way! So, let him wait for his turn.”
“But how can I tell him this? You, Zosima, go and tell him yourself!”
“I’ve already told him,” — Zosima smiled…
In fact, the minister was standing at that moment in front of the open door, being accompanied by another monk, and heard everything that the elder, who spoke loud deliberately, had said…
To the surprise of everyone, the minister bowed to the elder Zosima and quietly said:
“It’s all right, I’ll wait… God in the next world demands from people other than here, in this world… Show me where I can wait.”
Zosima calmly prepared himself to listen to his visitors.
The minister was accompanied to the room where other people were waiting to be received by the elder.
* * *
The minister had a big and tall body of about a fifty year old or more. He already had some grey hair and was wearing a black frock-coat instead of a full-dress uniform. It was evident that he had been preparing himself for this visit and had been thinking a lot…
When the monk who accompanied him began saying that he would report to the prior and the latter would make the elder receive him, the minister calmly objected:
“Don’t! Let him do his work! Don’t disturb him! I’ll wait. How many people each day wait in lines for my audience!… So now it’s my turn to wait in a line for the grace of God!”
He sat on a bench next to a small wizened old woman of about eighty years old…
She was knitting a sock very quickly, moving skillfully her knitting needles and at the same time, without even looking at her handiwork, saying tenderly comforting words to her neighbor who was wiping her tears with a handkerchief:
“Do you remember I told you that they would not send us away?! God is real! And the elder will receive every one of us!”
The minister was not stupid and understood that “they” wanted to send all the visitors away so that the elder would listen only to him.
He looked with curiosity at the old woman.
She also, in response, paid attention to him:
“Don’t worry, my dear man! I will not delay you! I will be back in a moment! The elder has helped me a lot, and now I only want to give him some socks and mittens so that he could give them to good people!”
She pointed at a canvas bag full of her handicrafts: small ones for kids, big ones for adults.
“Do you want, my dear man, that I give you my socks as well? They are warm! You will put them on for the night and sleep very well!”
With these words, she pulled a pair of wool socks out of her bag and handed them to the minister.
He took these socks with a slightly trembling hand…
“Let me buy them! In this way, you will get some extra money,” — he said handing a large banknote to her.
“What are you saying? This is a monastery, not a market! Take the socks for your health!”
They were silent for a while, and then the minister asked:
“Tell me, if it’s not a secret, how did the elder help you?”
“Yes, many afflictions happened to me… The Lord took all my family, but left me, the old one, here. I was sitting near the graves of my relatives but had no tears to cry… I became grey because of sorrow… I did not know how to ask the Lord to take me to Him as well… It was not possible to live: I had no means for this and what for! But death was not coming!
“Then one pilgrim took pity on me and brought me to the elder.
“He taught me how to live joyfully with God so that my relatives in another world would not be sad looking at my tears! He also advised me to get a nanny goat, my Marusinka! This is how we live now. She is my ‘breadwinner’!
“In the summer, we go together to pick mushrooms, berries, and medicinal herbs. In the winter, I spin yarn from her wool and knit mittens and socks for children and adults. They all are like family to me!…
“The last time the elder hinted that I would not have to wait too long: I will pass away soon, thank You, Lord! That is why, I hurry to give away all that I have made, for the winter is soon!
“My neighbors promised to take my nanny goat so my Marusinka will not perish!…
“Oh! It’s my turn already! I probably have bored you with my talk, my dear man! Forgive me!…”
She quickly picked up her knitting and bag and hurried to the elder.
* * *
The minister’s turn came.
Zosima welcomed him kindly:
“Come in, Alexei! I am glad that you were waiting calmly! It has helped you already!
“Now tell me, what is your fear?”
“It is some stupidity! A shame to say! But I cannot overcome this fear…
“Once a fortune-teller foretold that I would be killed by a revolutionary terrorist…
“And now I suspect that every unknown person is my murderer and that this person is going take out a gun and shoot me! Or I see in someone’s hands a suspicious package and immediately think: ‘A bomb!’ I doubled my guard! I fear leaving my house! I cannot sleep because of nightmares!…
“I’ve already confessed and took communion… I asked to sanctify my house… I went to the doctors… I am taking sleeping pills… But nothing helps!
“I understand by my mind that all this is nonsense, that one can’t escape one’s own fate! And I know that the death can happen to everyone at every moment and that there is the Will of God for everything!
“Nevertheless, this fear keeps torturing me! I live like in hell!… Help me! I do not know what I should do!…”
At this point, the elder suddenly got up and threw something at the minister… This something hit him in his chest…
The minister, fainting from fear, fell heavily on a bench…
… He saw his body from above… And the object thrown at him by the elder was slowly rolling across the floor…
The Living Light — caressing, gentle — was all around! And Alexei was allowed to enter this Light… It was so good there, impossible to express with words!
Then he felt that something gray, as if a heavy burden, pulled him out of this Light. He saw what this burden, which didn’t allow him to stay in the Light, was…
He saw his entire life: his significant faults before the Face of God and that good which was already done by him and which could be done in the future…
… When the minister found himself again in the body, the elder Zosima was standing near him and holding out a cup of water:
“Drink some, Alexei!”
The minister started drinking this water in sips, realizing slowly what had happened to him.
The elder sat down near.
Words were unnecessary. The understanding was penetrating into the soul.
They were sitting like this for a long time, being immersed into the silence in which God’s Presence is so vivid. Inside that silence, the understanding comes without words.
“You will not have this idle and stupid fear anymore since you have known your death. But don’t forget in the bustle of a worldly life what God has shown to you! If you correct the evil inside yourself and do that good which is not done by you yet — then you will live your life on the Earth not in vain,” — Zosima said slowly after a long period of silence.
“Tell me, elder, what did you throw at me instead of a bomb?”
“It was the ball of wool yarn that old Matrona forgot here; you see how it served us!” — Zosima smiled tenderly.
… The minister went to lunch with archimandrite Ignatius.
And other visitors began entering the elder’s cell again…
* * *
The minister indeed started trying to do many good things.
He fulfilled what archimandrite Ignatius had asked him to do and sent a lot of money for the construction of a new temple in the monastery.
… One day the novice Nicholas, observing the process of the construction of the new temple, asked Zosima:
“How would you spend this money if it was given to you?”
“It’s not my affair to decide this! For our prior this temple is great joy! For many monks too! For the congregation it is also important…”
The elder smiled and added:
“Ignatius was right: I would never be a good prior of a monastery! I would probably give this money to Aksinya, who once sent you to me. Then she could open an orphanage and a temporary shelter for people in troubles. She can discern people and — through her attention — provide necessary help to everyone.
“It’s not only through earthly temples that people can come closer to God! The Presence of God can be felt everywhere! And everyone should always fulfill His Will!
“One of the main tasks of the soul that lives on the Earth consists in building the Temple inside it — the Temple for the Living God!
“This Temple should be raised in the spiritual heart full of love! In this case, God can live in this Temple built for Him! God lives then in the spiritual heart of such a person! And this person becomes gradually inseparable from God! This soul becomes God’s Soul!
“Such Souls are Those Who are invited to the Eternal Life!
“On the contrary, those people who are not looking for God in their earthly lives cannot find Him after the death as well!… It turns out that they have lived in vain: they have pursued wrong things and acted in a wrong way…”
“Does it mean that their existence on the Earth was completely useless?”
“God does not create anything useless. Everything has its use and purpose. This is true for the life of every creature, whether it be animal, tree, grass, or ear.
“Yet the predestination of each being is different, and the benefit that God obtains from their earthly lives is different too.
“It is important for people to understand the meaning of their lives!
“People are distinct from other creatures, which cannot understand their predestination, although they have it. In other words, they can’t comprehend what benefit they can bring by their lives…
“But people can comprehend this!…
“Here is an example for you:
“Do you see those people who are building the new temple right now?
“Among them, there are those who just think about their work as about something during which they carry stones.
“There are also those who think that they do this work for which they will get some money and live well.
“Besides, there are those who put their efforts into this activity because they believe that they are building an earthly temple for God, and they consider this as the most important. For this reason, such work brings them joy!
“Like in this example, we can live, as if we were carrying heavy stones, without seeing the meaning of our lives. And such an existence brings neither light nor joy to us! And there is little benefit for us from it!
“We also can live doing our work as some obligation, some duty for which we get money: if we work well, we get lots of money; if not, only a small amount.
“Besides, we can live being aware of the meaning of our lives before the Heavenly Father! In this case, our lives change completely!
“When we live in this way, we do everything, whether it is a small task or a large one, with love for God! Every day of life then becomes important since each day we put new ‘bricks’ in the construction of us as souls. Each good deed becomes such a ‘brick’!
“And love grows in our spiritual hearts! And we perceive ourselves more and more before God! Then God becomes for us — during every action — the Assistant, Advisor, and Friend!
“Then we begin to build the Temple for God — in our spiritual hearts!
“… Earthly temples are necessary. But they are only symbols that remind us about the fact that God also lives here, on the Earth, and that He is always looking at us. Earthly temples remind us about Heaven, about another life, and about our Heavenly Father!
“Nevertheless, in any earthly temple, we can stand as an emotionless wooden statue, without feeling the Presence of God.
“Or it could be the other way around: in every place, where we find ourselves, we feel God in the Temple built in our spiritual hearts. In this case, we are inseparable from God. And the Path to Heaven is open!
“To transform oneself as a soul, to become the soul similar to a huge burning candle, which shines and scatters the darkness, is also that work which is done for God!
“It implies to transform oneself-soul into the Fire of God’s Love that illuminates the Temple of the Heart and all the space around!
“Not everyone considers this as work…
“But this is the most important work in a human life because it is done for God!
“… The light of a candle is not big. But hope is born when we look at its light: as if the darkness has no more power in that place where a candle burns…
“On the other hand, the Fire of Love kindled in the spiritual heart can be huge!
“… Everyone can live a life of light and joy, illuminated by the love of the spiritual heart!
“Why does the light appear in the spiritual heart? And why does it happen sometimes that there is no love in the soul?
“The Presence of God in the spiritual heart kindles the Divine Light in the soul!
“God’s Love flows from the heart of such a person and begins to kindle other hearts with this Light-Fire!
“And then the Fire of Love in the souls can become stronger and stronger!
“Have you heard the word ‘hearth’? People say this about that house where love reigns. Yet this cannot be said about the house where there is no love.
“People in whom the Love of God has become strong can be the Fire That warms, feeds, and protects everything and everyone around!
“And it is not necessarily for such people to live as one family in one house. It’s possible to build such a relationship with anyone in the same way if we remember that all people are the children of God: brothers and sisters to each other!
“These people can carry the Light of God and be It!
“If the Fire of Love burns in the hearts stronger and stronger, then these people cognize what it means to have the Heart of Christ! In this case, they cognize the All-Embracing Love of God!
“And from that time on the Source of the Inextinguishable Love of God shines in the souls! It’s like the Sun! The Sun illuminates equally all creatures and warms them!
“Thus the Temples of God should be built and illuminate! And then we should shine from It serving in this way to God and people!”
Parables about the Elder Zosima
Written down by Anna Zubkova
Under the editorship of Vladimir Antonov
and with his commentary