28 August 1954
You think so foolishly. You write that there is no God, man dies and everything ends with that, there is no life beyond the grave, it is only man's invention.
In his day the prophet David said: 'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" ' [Ps. 14.1], and here you have joined yourself to this foolishness. You think so flippantly, but I believe deeply and am convinced that God exists, there is a future life, there is eternal torment for sinners and eternal bliss for the righteous.
How could I not believe in God when wherever I look, everywhere I see and contemplate God's wisdom and goodness. With what wisdom everything is created, and how harmonious is the whole earthly sphere! The Holy Church sings: 'How magnificent are thy works, O Lord; Thou hast made all things in wisdom'.26 Thy works are marvellous, Lord; wherever I look, everywhere I see thy creative hand. I look at the sun and see it shedding light like a golden plate and warming the whole globe. And what numbers of animals abound in the forest, each with its own characteristics. The horse is so large and yet it obeys man; the Lord created it to help man. And the cow eats hay and its stomach makes nourishing milk for man. And the meek lamb, how much good it does for man; we get fur coats, stockings and much else. I look at the bird kingdom -simply marvellous, how decorative they are and what a variety of species. And in the earth what a variety of worms and insects; there are even worms that shine at night like lights. I look at the ant and wonder at its labours - it exposes my laziness. And the wise bee gathers such sweet honey for man from the different flowers. And look in the water; there is the special kingdom of fish, how many different species; all live and move according to God's purpose.
I love nature altogether. I come into the forest and wonder at every tree and knoll and I contemplate the Almighty Creator. Now I am thinking and wondering at how I came to appear in God's world. My conception was like this: my father's seed fell on my mother's ground in the form of a worm and grew in my mother's womb for nine months and I gradually came into the form of a man. At the end of the ninth month according to the law of nature I came as if out of prison into the wide world. I received an Orthodox baptism; I thank God that I am Orthodox. I believe with certitude in God, in the Holy Trinity, and I believe in Mary the Virgin Mother of God and in all the saints extolled by the Orthodox Church. I believe in the Ecumenical Councils and the whole of Holy Scripture according to the catechism; I believe in everything that our Holy Orthodox Church teaches us.
But this is sad: our Orthodox do not all know their Orthodox teaching; they waver and some even fall into various sects and schisms. They do not know, poor creatures, that all heresies and sects are based on pride and self-suggestion; they say 'we are saved'. They do not recognize the whole Bible but select only what justifies their teaching. One sectarian told me that they know the whole Bible inside out. But I am not surprised at this knowledge of theirs: the Pharisees too knew the whole Bible, but they did not live by it and did not recognize the Truth; they crucified the Lord.
Again I am wondering at God's wisdom. I love the moonlit nights of winter, everywhere utter silence; I put on my fur coat, felt boots and warm cap, go out into the yard and marvel at God's wisdom — the moon is shining, and so many stars, the whole sky is adorned with them, far away and still farther, just single little stars, endlessly. Marvellous are thy works, O Lord, in wisdom Thou hast made them all!
The more I look at nature, the more I wonder at nnd come to know the omnipotence of the Creator. I was not educated; I have not even read scientific books,; I have written this from my feelings, having read the Bible a great deal. My life has passed; I am already in my eighty-second year.
According to the word of the Holy Spirit, man's life on earth is seventy years. Of course many die without reaching that age, but it is an average number. If a man is vigorous he may live eighty years, with difficulties and illnesses after that. Death is an immutable law; the whole race of man from Adam to the Second Coming will pass into another world, and their bodies, at God's command, will rise again. Even those bodies which have been burnt will also rise again; I have no doubt of this. With God everything is possible. Even this beautiful world will in time be done away with, as is said in Holy Scripture.
Mankind has become so earthbound! People have quite forgotten that this life of ours is the path to eternity and a preparation for it: they get excited and worked up in this vale of tears. You meet very few with whom you can even talk about the one thing needful.
26. Psalm 104, sung at the beginning of Vespers. "
I love Father John's spirited and childlike response to whatever letter he received from this person.
I sense his grief that this person has so easily brushed aside the wonder of creation so easily in favor of not believing, not seeing God in all His handiwork in this wondrous creation.
Every so often I myself am taken aback at what a miracle it is simply to exist and that EVERYTHING is a miracle. but through its familiarity to me now, as well as the mud that smothers my soul through sin, the "wonder of it all" is so hard to know. So I pursue knowledge that is esoteric and heady.
For a time I found refuge here, in these constructs of thought, but I believe now there is no food here for the sustenance of my soul. Food is to be found in the unknowing of that which I know by my insistent will to know so that I may know in order to know.
The goal of a man is union with God. In my pursuit "to know" I have excluded God and replaced Him with knowledge. This is not all, of course, that I have replaced Him with.
I believe it is my duty, for my soul's sake, to guard that "wonder of it all" that I possesed as a child and which possessed me. If I leave this wonder unguarded, it is so easily stolen by what is so commonly esteemed as knowledge but which is a false knowledge which my fallen intellect grabs a hold of and makes me wise in my own estimation.