Dear Mother Valentina, thank you for remembrance and kind wishes.
I am growing more and more aware of how low humankind has fallen; hence – the importance of our Savior Jesus Christ. Accomplished deeds won’t save any soul; only Christ offers salvation to people. He is the Savior of all who believe in Him and realize their need in the Savior – that is those who think of themselves as sinners unworthy of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ came to call precisely this kind of sinners to repentance and salvation.
The 2nd volume of the works of Bishop Ignatiy (Bryanchaninov) is fully devoted to prayer as such and in particular – to the Jesus Prayer. From time to time try to read the instructions of the Fathers of the Church in the “Otechnik” (a set of life stories of the Holy Fathers of the Church, ascetics and monks and of their edifications). This book is very refreshing.
May the Lord bless you all, enlighten you and comfort.
I just wanted to finish the letter, but on second thoughts decided to add a few words.
The state of entire mankind and of every person as an individual is that of the fall and corruption; and an individual alone, by his/her own efforts is unable to improve his/her being and acquire salvation and become worthy of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is Who restores people – this is the reason of His coming to the world; but He restores only those who believe in Him and acknowledge their own corruption, or in our usual wording – their sinfulness. This is precisely what the Lord Himself says: “I have not come to call the righteous (those who believe to be good and righteous), but sinners, to repentance – those who have realized being corrupt, sinful and are powerless to improve themselves and who, addressing the Lord Jesus Christ beseech His help, or to be more precise, are imploring the Lord to have mercy and cleanse them from the ulcers of the sin and heal them from the leper of the spirit, and to grant them the Kingdom of God not for some good works accomplished by them, but exceptionally out of His God’s mercy.
People choosing the right spiritual way begin to see more and more of their sins until ultimately the spiritual sight allows them to see themselves completely affected by sin and spiritual leper; until ultimately they wholeheartedly feel their being all-out mired and impure and become aware of being unworthy even to pronounce the name of God. However, they can just like the publican, not daring to look up, with a heartfelt pain exclaim: “O, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Staying in such spiritual state of mind for a long time, a person comes out from it justified, as the publican was.
But if people believe that they are good and consider that some of their sins, even serious ones, were not intentional and happened through no fault of theirs but because of circumstances or interference of other people or demons, such people will inevitably fall into a spurious state of mind - into obscured temptation and offense. May God save us all from it!
To keep on the right track, people must heed to their own state of mind and behavior, checking by Christ’s commandments their words, thoughts and aspirations, never justifying themselves, but trying, as far as it is possible, to improve, never accusing others, but confessing their sins before God and gradually skilling humbleness before God and other people. And in result, God will gradually reveal to such people their fallen nature, their corruptness, and their indebtedness to Him. The debt of different people is different: one person owes five hundred denarii; another one might owe only fifty, but irrespectively, neither is able to pay off the debt.
It is important that the Lord, out of His mercy, may grant forgiveness to both. So, there exists no righteous person who would not need the Savior’s mercy.
And here is where God’s wisdom reveals itself: a downright sinner will sooner humble himself and come to God and get salvation, than an outwardly righteous man. As Lord Jesus Christ said, publicans and sinners precede many outward righteous in the Kingdom of God.
By the great wisdom of God, sins and demons help man’s humbling and through it get salvation. That is why the Lord did not ask for the tares to be picked out from the wheat: without tares, pride might come forth, while God stands against pride. Pride and haughtiness cause man’s destruction.
What conclusion is to be drawn from the above-said? Get to know your iniquity and sinfulness; do not accuse anyone; do not justify yourself, but humble yourself – and the Lord will raise you in due time.
Oh, God, be merciful to us, sinners. Forgive me and pray for me.