On Faith Indestructible and Faith Destructible
Alexey thought a lot about what he had seen and learned lately. He thought about the schism in the church, about the multiple divergences in beliefs even among those who were now called “schismatics”, about how the decrees on “eradicating heresies” are written and how they are interpreted and even more terribly hardened by the people endowed with power to execute them, about the weak-willed and thoughtless obedience of some people and about the incomprehensible cruelty of others…
He thought about a person’s willingness to accept death for their faith…
He also thought about how the ongoing persecutions could be stopped: “Is only one faith necessary for all? Is it possible to be so that there will be no hostility and intolerance in the faith among people? And what is faith in general?”
Once Alexey asked the elder Nicholas:
“Why is there so much hostility between people, so much hatred due to faith?
“And what is faith in general?”
“Faith is a great power! This power grows out from the mind — into the soul.
“Who has strong faith — it’s easy for such man to live! It is — as a small leaf on a tree branch feels the same as the whole tree!
“Faith is the power that holds this leaf together with the twig and the tree itself. And if faith is weak, then this man is like a leaf which was separated from a branch and is driven by wind: to one disastrous place it will be brought, then to another…
“Our monastic happiness is simple: we must always live by the soul — with the Lord! The soul joins with God — through deep faith and pure love!
“And God’s Love is the wonderful Power that feeds the soul and as if knits with the Creator!
“The human body is like a leaf on that Tree of God.
“Time is given to this little leaf-body to blossom, turn green, turn yellow, and perish… And the soul — remains inseparable from God, if it has become filled with love for the Lord during its life, if it has grown fast to God! And if the soul has not grown fast to the Lord — then it, as well as the body, is perishable like a fallen leaf may perish…
“And what benefit the tree had from that leaf — it is no longer your concern.
“At your hour you were born, at your hour you will accept death! And God will judge by merit: are you worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom — or not…”
“And how to know: what is good for God — and what is not?”
“Namely for this — is the secret of the heart prayer! When you feel God in your heart — then you understand His Will! That’s why joy comes — when you obey Him! You yourself have already experienced this many times…
“And if you have conceived something not smoothly — then like the sky is darkly clouded. That — you also will feel: not efficient, it means, you has planned, the Lord does not want that!
“Above all us, He is: including, above your life and above all our destinies!”
“And does it mean that nothing depends on the person in his or her destiny? Can’t one change anything, can’t help anyone else? Has one just to believe, to love — and that’s all? So — like a plant — only both to live and to die?”
“How does it ‘not depend’? Depends! To abase pride in oneself, to eradicate vices, not to sin due to weakness of will, not to give way to one’s own wrong desires, yet to learn the heart love, to apprehend the Will of God! It depends on just a person! And it befits to live so — that everything is only for God! And the rest — He will rule!
“Joyful is such a life with God, when by His Will you live!
“Joy happens when God is in your spiritual heart! It’s already more than just faith…
“When God’s Love overfills the soul, then you are not separated from God: He is with you and you are with Him! And your life — belongs to Him completely!
“Let everything be with us — according to His Will! And nothing is sad at that time, everything is joyful, if you understand that everything comes from Him! And it is inappropriate for us to resist His Will!”
“And how do we always know that we understand His Will right and that we are not mistaken? How many interpretations for every word of Scripture people have come up with! How much evil is done — ostensibly for God!…”
“You, Alexey, do not mind too much!… You — feel by the heart! You know already — how! So — you will always feel the Truth of God with your heart even when your understanding cannot be able to!
“Faith and love for God allow one to not fear death of the body. And — to pass worthily all tests falling out in life. And to do the good that is in your powers, but that, which you are not able to change, — to not have sorrow.
“And more importantly — always remember about the hour of death. Man should have understanding that everyone in one’s own hour will give answer before the Lord.
“Life is of great value! This is the truth!
“And often a worldly man thinks that nothing is beyond the life of the body… But a spiritual person knows the reason to give bodily life for the sake of saving the soul. And many people did it!
“There is a special state of the human soul, in which faith is so strong and deep, in which faith and love have so transformed the soul — that one does not fear for oneself anymore.
“To transcend the conventional dogmas and experience the Living God — that’s the most important in the faith indestructible! It is only possible to feel — in the heart spiritual! Then the soul will not doubt that God exists and that God is Love, as Jesus taught!
“And then you can stop ‘being afraid for yourself’: fretting for the life of your body.
“You can stop being afraid for what people will think and talk about you… — be it fame, shame, condemnation of the crowd… Those, in whom pride is strong, are afraid of shame and reproach! Words of praise — are pleasant to our pride! And reproaches — cause it pain…
“All this is feared for one who has one’s own main thoughts and concerns — about oneself! But the soul, strengthened by faith and love for God, is no longer afraid of it!
“There is a belief with which a person becomes so full-blown to God, so much accepts to oneself God’s Will that he or she is not concerned anymore for oneself!
“Jesus Himself died on the cross by a death which was determined for the atrocities of criminals. For us — He accepted it! So — we could see the possible Great Power of the Soul! For — His words to be remembered! For — us to know that there is no death for the soul, but beyond this threshold — the Heavenly Kingdom will admit the worthy ones!
“And — with joy, Christians were ready to accept the martyr’s death — to follow the Lord!
“So faith can convert any suffering — into purification and transformation of the soul. That’s the power of faith!”
“But why is necessary torture, suffering, death — the end of which cannot be seen?”
“… I do not know… For some reason, it does not happen otherwise in a sinful world… It is evident that through this, we receive the cleansing from sins, take our eyes off this material world — to look to Heaven, in humility try to get understanding of the Wisdom of God…”
… After a pause, the elder Nicholas added, as if answering the thoughts that had not been expressed aloud by Alexey:
“… Yes, you are right, Alexey, in your thinking that most people believe in a stupid… Living in a blind and fanatical faith, at times, they commit terrible crimes… And by what they call as their ‘faith’, they justify their atrocities…
“Not to the Heavenly Father, the faith of such people is directed, not to Jesus, — but to rules and ceremonies ostensibly ‘saving’…
“Faith that results from fear — makes man a mindless slave, blind instrument of those who instill this fear!
“But faith that grows out of love for God — brings a person closer to the Lord!
“So, it turns out that troubles come because the faith of most people originates from fear. They think that, if the wrong ritual is performed, then death awaits them…
“Worse still, many people think that to execute those, who are of another faith, is a feat for which sins are forgiven…
“And there are those, who stimulate this folly in low-minded people, and through that strengthen their power over the riches of the world, over the vast lands. This is the terrible crime, the greatest sin!
“And not only among the Orthodox, such misfortunes multiply… And the Latins in their countries initiated the inquisition…
“A weak soul is afraid of ‘not so believe’ and for this to ‘burn forever in hell’! And therefore it is easy for these villains to command those who are overwhelmed by fears and prejudices!
“Such broken faith sometimes ruins all one’s life, turns into despair and meaninglessness. One was believing, believing — and then suddenly this one is told that it was untrue how he or she have believed, and that his or her faith was wrong and he or she have to believe in a new way… — and faith is broken…
“And people cling to at least some ‘saving’, in their opinion, ‘correct’ faith…
“Weak souls and scanty minds feel lost, if what they believed in is suddenly called ‘heresy’, delusion, crime. It turns out that such one is facing an unbearable choice: he or she does not know whom to believe now?! It is because the faith of such a person was not deep. And such a person wants more quickly to follow another leader, to switch faith to a new one, to start believing in the ‘salvation’ by new rituals…
“Faith is easily broken if there is no love for God and no depth of understanding!
“And the Essence of indestructible faith — this is God Himself! With such faith — nothing is scary!”