85[hocna] CARRYING OUR CROSS
- Mar 4, 2000Recently I came across an Internet poll that asked the question "Should
patients and doctors have the right to participate in physician-assisted
suicides?". When I checked the results of the poll I was surprised to
see that out of 39,374 votes, 65% voted "yes", 5% "don't know" and only
It caused me to think about our society which encourages us to run away
from our Cross. Since our society stresses the importance of a
self-seeking existence it naturally follows that difficulties and
anything that causes us pain should be avoided at all costs. This
leaves the door open to suicide, euthanasia and abortion.
Our Holy Fathers taught us to carry our Cross and that our Lord will
bear the greater part of the burden. Below is a true occurrence taken
from the life of Elder Ambrose of Optina 1812 - 1891. I don't believe
any further comment is necessary
Fr. George Kosov, the now-famous priest of the village of
Spas-Chekriak, of the Orel Province, related the following: "When I
arrived at my parish, I was seized with panic: What am I supposed to do
here? No way to live, no way to serve! The house was old -
dilapidated; the church - you go to serve and you might fall through the
floor boards. There was almost no income; the parishioners were far
from the church and from the clergy. The people were poor; in the best
of times they could barely feed themselves. What could I do here? I
was then a young priest, inexperienced; on top of that my health was
weak, and I coughed up blood. My matushka was an orphan, poor, without
any dowry. Consequently, neither from here nor from there was there any
support, and I also had younger brothers on my hands. It remained only
to run away. That's what I contemplated. At that time the glory of
Elder Ambrose was great. Optina Monastery was thirty-six miles from
us. Once in summer, on a sleepless night I raised myself up from my
pillow. It was neither light nor daybreak; I put my knapsack on my
shoulders and off I went to him for a blessing to leave the parish. At
4:00 in the afternoon I was already at Optina. Batiushka didn't know
me, either by sight or by having heard about me. I went into his 'hut'
and there were already people there - a crowd, waiting for Batiushka to
come out. I stood on the side to wait. I look, and out he comes, and
straight at me through everyone he beckons me to come to him: 'You,
priest! What on earth are you contemplating? to abandon all? Eh?
Don't you know Who assigns priests? And you want to leave?... His
church, see, is old; it has started to fall down.... But you-build a new
one, a big, stone one, and warm; and the floor - make it wooden.
They'll bring sick people there, so it will be warm for them. Go home,
priest, go; and kick that nonsense out of your head. Remember - a
church; build a church, like I'm telling you. Go, priest; God bless
"But I had no sign of priestly garb on. I couldn't utter a word. I
went home right away. I'm walking and thinking: what on earth is this?
I have to build a stone church? At home you're almost dying from
hunger, and now build a church. How skillfully he consoles; there was
nothing to say.
"I came home and somehow dodged my wife's questions; well, what was I
supposed to say to her?! I said only that the Elder didn't bless me to
ask for a transfer. What was going on in my soul then, you can't even
put into words....
"A nagging depression came over me. I want to pray but no prayers go on
in my mind. I didn't talk with people, not even with my wife. I became
lost in thought. And I began to hear, both night and day, mostly at
night, some kind of strange voices: 'Get out,' they say, 'quick! You're
alone and there are lots of us! How are you going to fight with us?!
We'll be the death of you altogether!...' Hallucinations, it must be....
Well, whatever it was, it finally got to the point that not only was I
unable to pray, now blasphemous thoughts began to pop into my head....
Night comes. I can't sleep-and some kind of power throws me right off
the bed onto the floor, and not in a dream, but right when I'm wide
awake. It just picks me up and tosses me from the bed to the floor' And
the voices, even more dreadful, more terrible, more persistent: 'Get
away, get away from us!'
"Terrified, barely remaining sane from the fear I was going through, I
again rushed to Fr. Ambrose. Fr. Ambrose, as soon as he saw me,
straightway, without questioning me at all, says to me: "'Well, what are
you scared of, priest? He's one, and there are two of you.' "'How is
that, Batiushka?' I say. "'Christ God and you-see, that comes out to
two. And the enemy-he's one. Go home,' he says, 'and do not be afraid
of anything that's before you; and the church, the big stone church, and
warm-don't forget to build it. God bless you!' "And with that, I left.
I come home, and it's as if a mountain had fallen from my heart. And
all fear fell away from me.
Right then I began to pray to God. I put an analogion in the church
behind the left cliros before the icon of the Heavenly Queen, lit a
lampada, lit a candle; and I began, all alone in the church, to read a
Canon to Her. I began to add some of the other prayers.
"I look and, after a week, someone else came alone, stood by himself in
a corner, and together, with me prayed to God. Then another, a third,
and already they began to gather and fill the church...."
We will add to this that now, by the care of Fr. George, a large stone
church, a hospice, orphanages and schools have been built, and from all
the ends of Russia worshippers come for advice, a blessing, prayer and