27 October 1947
Do not be too shut off from others. If you go to name-day parties, go, but be concentrated there too, in the presence of God. You have no one there with whom it would be suitable to share your experiences openly, which might be useful, and you must not speak with inexperienced people, for they can distort things. St Peter Damascene said: 'In the beginning I suffered a great deal at the hands of inexperienced advisers'.
Do not be surprised if people sometimes look at you as though you were queer when you speak to them, because their understanding is different from yours. Be discriminating and speak in accordance with their turn of mind.
It is bad that you are not able to be silent. St Arsenius the Great always repented of much speaking, but never of silence. After reading the books of the Holy Fathers, of course you find Bishop Theophan's books dry. They can be compared this way: the Holy Fathers' writings are
cream, and Bishop Theophan's are skimmed milk with water added.
You write that remembrance of death is a great virtue. St Chrysostom prayed to be given remembrance of death. Remembrance of death is a gift of God. Somewhere it says: 'Remember your end and you will sin no more'.
The Lord keep you, my spiritual child."
Father John once again mentions to his spiritual child not to share openly with inexperienced spiritual advisers as harm can come from such persons.
Father John continues here of the necessity of his spiritual child to tailor her words according to state of the hearer of these words. If both are not, so to speak, fighting the same battle, the inexperienced advisor who may have less knowledge about the battle or may not even be aware of there being a battle or if being aware, has not yet learned through experience what to advise and where and when according to the situation.
As when two armies pitched in battle do not use the same tactics over and over(unless of course the wisest course is to use the same over and over) because in the effort to undo each other much shifts in the tide of the battle and for the one to overcome the other often a shift in tactic is used.
The Holy Church, her Holy Scriptures and her Holy Fathers make it plain that there is a real enemy stalking our every move,"seeking an opportune time" over and apart from ourselves who are fallen creatures in rebellion against God. This enemy is said to be very ancient, intelligent and powerful.
If a spiritual advisor has not this understanding, then advice from him can confuse one who fights along the lines that the ancient battle described in Scripture is not myth or fancy, nor merely psychological in the modernist understanding of the human creature as being without soul. Or if a soul is granted, it is not spoken of in the true sense of how the Church understands and heals the soul. The person in this conception of the person seems to be thought of as a conglomeration of chemicals whose balance needs to be adjusted with a pill here, a pill there, a little therapy according, of course, to the a priori understanding of the human creature to be this conglomeration which needs healing of the kind which springs from the hands of this views' witch doctors.
So, returning to Father John, his advice is to learn silence in lieu of speech as silence(and again the silence he has in mind is not the kind which a timid person may naturally choose over the fear of disclosure through speech, as when it would be be sin to be silent in certain matters) does not need repentance as does much speaking.
And finally, in this letter and in many others in this collection of his letters, he impresses upon his spiritual child the remembrance of death to cease sinning.
To die. To not be. These are sobering thoughts. Entering a cold, dark grave in the earth that consumes the flesh. That the spirit may leave its former dwelling, its tent to stand before God, stained by its deeds. No money to offer to bribe, no merit of our own to say, "Look, God, look at how good I am."
All these things stay behind in that body to rot with it, to not stink up Heaven along with the odor of the Death creeping in that body which once housed life but was not able to contain that life. And giving up the ghost, it goes hither to the Earth, to be reused as God has ordained.
May God have mercy on all of us.
Read the previous post in this series:
Brothers in Flesh and Spirit. The twin monks with PhDs who are saving children - Hieromonks Kirill and Methodius are graduates of the Polytechnical Institute, and are doctoral candidates. However, they declined a career in America, choo...
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