Recently we talked about the nunnery of the Most Holy Mother of God in the ruins of the Holy Virgin in Rostov. The Abbess Athanasius (Silkin) heartily thanks all the kind people who responded to the request for help to the temples of the ancient monastery. It is gratifying that the revival of the Tikhvin church began in the year of the 110 anniversary of the service in it of the Divine Liturgy by St. Tikhon (Bellavin), Archbishop of Yaroslavl and Rostov (1907-1913), the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
In preparation for the bright holiday of the Nativity of Christ, we talked with Mother Athanasius about bringing us closer to the Lord.
The Abbess Athanasius (Silkin)
- More recently, the society unanimously welcomed the restoration of the destroyed holy monasteries. Someone saw in this the revival of Russian spirituality, someone - the opportunity to work for the glory of God, and someone - the Lord's call to leave everything and follow Him. And now the discussions have emerged: are there not many monasteries in our country, and do they need so much of the modern world? Mother Athanasius, what do you say to those who ask these questions?
"Monasteries need the modern world no less, and perhaps more than the ancient one." Monasteries are a place of concentration of the grace of God. Such places are necessary for people, so that they, driven by different winds along the waves of everyday life, could have islands where they will receive favorable support.
Monasteries are a place of concentration of the grace of God
Many people, for example, found themselves in our monastery, admit: "Strange phenomenon, but here even the air is some other!" It would seem that such a physical laws can not be. The air is mixed, and behind the walls is the city life, a raging world ... But, no matter how troubled the soul, coming to the bosom of the monastery, it calms down, heals itself. Here you do not hear abuse, foul language. And every word that comes out of the mouth, one way or another, is directed to salvation. The whole situation in the monastery is concentrated on one thing - prayerful communion with God. All thanksgiving, every thanksgiving, every petition for help, moves the Lord to mercy, and this blessing covers everyone who enters the territory of the monastery.
- Why, then, is there no such kind of national support for the restoration of temples and monasteries?
- Probably, you do not mean support, but that, as it seems from the outside, temples and monasteries are not always restored very quickly. The emphasis is on this. Human support is always felt. It happens that you do not even hope for it, when suddenly it appears. From the experience of our monastery I say.
The Lord, as the World Architect, has His own plan
The Lord has human hearts, and the Lord encourages them to do a good deed. Let's notice why. Not for the sake of reviving brick walls and stone buildings. The Lord, as the World Architect, has His plan. From our souls, in the final analysis, a spiritual universe is built. We, as bricks, fit into it. At the same time, for the reliability of the clutch, the strength of the clutch, the Lord unites us by some kind of activity. Reviving the shrine, we come into contact with each other. Together we experience, we build together, we rejoice together. Very often during such a good activity, the paths of various people intersect, which, perhaps under other circumstances, would never have met at all. How it expands the spiritual horizons of all!
But how quickly the temple or monastery will recover depends on how it seems to me how many people it is important to involve in this matter, how many souls should participate in this. If the result happens too quickly, then, I think, the circle of those involved in it will be limited. But the Lord wants to save everyone!
- The monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997-th year. However, then the holy monastery, founded in the end of the XIV century by Saint Theodore, nephew and beloved disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh, resembled only fragments of frescoes in the destroyed cathedrals. Everything was in utter desolation. It is difficult even to imagine the trials that had to be completed in order to return to this space a prayer spirit.
The unutterable grace of God - to devote your entire life to Christ
- Commenting on the period before my arrival in the monastery, that is, before 2011 year, is almost impossible for me, and it is not necessary. I, most importantly, understand for myself that the Lord has given me the opportunity of all the abilities and powers that I have, to apply to the glory of God for the restoration of a unique monastery. I thank the Lord that I had such an opportunity. The unfulfilled grace of God is to devote your whole life to Christ. What can a monk dream of yet?
"Mother, do you remember your state, feelings and thoughts when you first saw the monastery entrusted to you?"
- I realized that I need to restore the monastery from scratch. It was very interesting: in a new place for itself to plant a garden. I realized that this is a big responsibility, and I need to approach very wisely to every decision, but at the same time take several problems at once, several directions. And I realized that I was here by the Providence of God, that without God's help I can not make a step here either. And, of course, the Lord will help me to accomplish all that is necessary. I realized that I should never be afraid: the Lord shows me His closeness in a special way. And I thank the Lord all these six years for every day I lived.
Restoration of the cell phone building
- Can you tell us about what was done in these six years?
- Over the past few years, I have done what I, crossing the threshold of the monastery, did not even dream of. And now, turning back, I wonder how the Lord helped me in this! We managed to legally formalize the use of the land on which the ensemble of the monastery is located, all its buildings, albeit in an emergency condition. With God's help, they conducted outdoor water supply systems, local sewage systems, a gas pipeline, carried out design studies, expertise and began restoration work on the nursing corps. Already strengthened the foundation, made a complete replacement of the dilapidated roof, repaired one of the celled porches. Now we are engaged in restoration work on the Tikhvin temple. And about that work, which is accompanied by clearing of the territory, clearing of blockages, mud, broken bricks, cleaning from burdock, about the elementary order, improvement on the territory of the monastery - and there's nothing to say.
But, stretching forward, I see how much still remains to be done, so that the monastery actually acquired its lost spiritual, missionary significance.
Cell Phone Building
- What are the priorities now?
- Of course, the nursing corps must be restored in such a way that life can live in it. Of course, we need a functioning temple on the territory of the monastery. There are two churches on the territory of the monastery, and both are in such a condition that it is impossible to conduct divine services in any of them. This is the main pain! We serve in the church of St. Nicholas, attached to the monastery, which is located outside the gates, outside the monastery ensemble. This is an amazing temple, very beautiful, ancient, but still want to have a monastic heart beat in the body of the monastery, so that the Divine Liturgy was performed within the walls of the monastery. Of course, we also have plans to develop a pilgrimage sooner or later, but in order to organize this, it is necessary to put in order another corps. Pilgrims should be accepted, placed, fed. Of course, the monastic family should be replenished by zealous, pious women by this time, which in itself is a very important and complex task.
Postcard "The Monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin", the beginning of the 20th century
- What are the main sources of the life of the monastery? Are there situations when there is nothing to pay on accounts?
- Such situations arise constantly. And there is always no money. All the time you think, as far as possible in such circumstances, to balance further. And now, at the most critical moments, you see that the Lord is near. He does not leave us and the human heart disposes to the monastery. And help comes through people. Now mainly through donations that from different parts of the country flow into the general trickle and help us live, pray, work, act, hold on and rebuild the monastery.
Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Mother Athanasius, such support pleases, considering that the majority of Russians live from the salary to the salary. At us in fact in the country the unique phenomenon is observed - working poor. And some grieve that their lept is too modest for the restoration of holy monasteries, while others stand up for the position that those who have profited from its natural resources should sacrifice to Russian temples and monasteries. How all the same it is reasonable to act in cramped circumstances?
- "I can not help, because I have very little" - these are the thoughts that arise in a person because of a feeling of envy. Anyone can contribute. Yes, let her be modest by everyday concepts, but she is at times more than the contribution, given from excess. You see how much the Lord gives to the widow's mite! He says that this widow has put more than all! Therefore, he who mourns, which can give little, in vain so argues. Let each one serve as much as he can. And the Lord himself will appreciate the category of this alms. She, in this alms, has a category not on the amount of money being introduced, but on those heartfelt intentions that a person feels when she contributes: how unselfish it is, how much with a good impulse, how much it is not mixed with vanity. Only the Lord knows about this heartfelt intention. He will appreciate alms.
Yes, it often happens that a person experiences: he would like to give more, but can not, is limited by some situations. However, from experience I know how the Lord covers with the mercy of these people, how their life circumstances are being adjusted, how their various hardships are passed by their family. How even that difficult constrained situation in which a person turns out is somehow always resolved positively. So in your little boat you can overcome everyday storms, while huge ships can crash.
- There are examples where, it would seem, old women were building temples for more than modest pensions in dying villages, and suddenly life returned. They so expressed their love for God, their joy, that they can now openly confess the Orthodox faith. But is it right to expect reward from the Lord for your donations? Now I will do good deeds, and I will be happy. Is not this expectation a crookedness?
"The sensation of man can not be slyness, that he must fulfill the commandments of God.
The first and greatest commandment is what? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12, 30). When a person promotes that the place where the Eucharist is celebrated and in a special way the name of God is glorified, restored and blossomed in all its beauty, he fulfills the commandment about love for the Lord. What is this evil idea?
Without love for one's neighbor one can not love God in any way
And the second commandment, which unites all the others, is to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12, 31). The Near is the one to whom we render mercy, for whom our personal interests, like those of a good Samaritan, go to the background. If we have such people, then, therefore, we have neighbors, through whom Christian love is born in our heart. Without love for one's neighbor, one can not love God. The apostle John warns about this: He who does not love his brother whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he does not see? (1 In. 4, 20). And without love of God, salvation is impossible.
To help orphans, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the homeless and the poor are our duty. We must do all this because we are God's servants. All the acts of compassion that must be performed for the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven and justification in the Lord's judgment are listed in the Gospel: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, receive the wanderer, clothe the naked, visit the sick man, come to the prisoner. And all this is bequeathed to us for our own good. He who does not fulfill the law of mercy, according to the Lord, will understand his loss on the Day of Judgment: Since you did not do this to one of these smaller ones, you did not do to me (Mt. 25, 45).
Thus, everyone who does good and believes that the Lord will comfort him is right, because blessed are the merciful, for they will be pardoned (Mt. 5, 7).
Monastery church dedicated to the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God
- What can I do to help the monastery, except financial means?
- We have such experience. When we participated for the first time in the Orthodox exhibition with our needlework, we were approached by women and asked: "Do you need cuts of fabrics, globules of yarn, accessories, braid?" They have all been kept from a long time, all in very good condition, but for some reason it was not used. We accepted this with gratitude. From glomeruli, we impose different products, from fabrics sewed and clothes, and household utensils. They offered their products at the next exhibition, and all this was in demand. After all, our products are made with love, with prayer, with their own hands. Can you imagine what a paradox? The man gave the glomeruli and cloths, which he did not need. And these globules and cloths without any pathos served to restore the monastery. Hence, this person also potentially participates in the revival of the monastery.
Many of our friends help us with their labor. We, sometimes, accumulate work, where physical strength is required. Sometimes, we need someone's intellectual resources. For example, we did not have a monastery site, but there were good people who created it, update it, tell us about us on the Internet and thereby help to make the new human souls aware of the monastery.
- Now on the Internet there are confessions of former novices and novices, in which the life of modern monasticism is drawn impartially. Obviously, there are many superficial stories in these stories, but they can sow doubts among lay people about the advisability of helping monasteries. Is there any excuse for unrest?
- People who want to donate to a temple or a monastery, nothing will stop if their desire is sincere. What is the population of the Earth?
- About 7,5 billion.
- Imagine - 7,5 billions of human souls. And they are all different, all have different aspirations, different wishes, different outlooks and so on. If one of these 7,5 billion says that they can not find a place in the monastery at all and ten more will join their voice, can this stop the good deeds of those who know that let not a billion, but a few hundred thousands of their place found? Well, it's unreal! And I think that someone who says that he is stopped by such stories from giving mercy to monasteries, simply gives a false reference. This is the first.
The second. Why does a person leave the monastery and, as you say, do not become a monk? Well, then, he is not predisposed to become one. Because not everyone can carry military service, for example. And even from those who can carry military service in principle, not every person then remains in the army as a regular military man. And even from those who remain in the military cadre military, not everyone, for example, serves in special units. From the level of training a person depends on what kind of a niche in life he can choose. It's another matter, imagine, if a person just served a year in the army and bears a special unit just because he was not able to bear the required physical exertion and training. And here he is, whitewashing his weakness, will someone blacken, pour mud and others else to set up, so that they do not think anything good about the Special Forces soldiers. Although we know that it is these people who have the highest combat, physical, psychological training, who are ready to act and protect us under the most extreme conditions, to thank for ensuring public safety.
The monsters of the monastery on haymaking, the beginning of the 20th century
- But there is also such: "communicating with the wise will be wise," "you will be reverend with the Monk." If a person even accidentally enters a monastery, does not a particular spiritual environment penetrate into his soul, unless his heart is filled with Christ's love, to which the holy abode is impregnated?
- There is a saying: if a cucumber is put in a brine, he wants or does not want, but after a while will become salty. This is about the same expected result when a person enters a monastery, of which you are speaking. But this conclusion is quite arbitrary. The fact is that a person, first of all, has free will. Therefore, in whatever environment he finds himself, he continues to have his will free. Whether it's in the world or in a monastery. A person in any environment must follow the will of God. And there are people who are not ready to limit their will anywhere: in the family, at work, in public places, or in monasteries. They everywhere revolt, criticize, irritate, annoy themselves and others. What can I say? Voluntary is unbearable everywhere.
Tikhvin temple today
- Mother Athanasius, today various psychological trainings and books are popular that teach that you must love yourself first of all. The appearance of kindness is presented as a weakness of character. Altruism is like a mental disorder. Help the poor and sick - as a threat to their own well-being: they say, they have such a fate, so stay away from them so that their problems do not become yours.
- The fate of the poor and sick, maybe so, but everyone has his own cross. And this cross is given to everyone by chance. In this universe, all have their crosses. And everyone can bear as much as he can bear. For one, cross is to bear your illness. And for another - always be with this person, bear his infirmity on yourself, ease his suffering. We all need to remember the apostolic commandment: Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6, 2). This is one point.
The second point. You know, when we talk about love, then let's turn to the original source - to the Holy Scripture, to the commandments of the Lord. Because whoever says anything from people, even recognized by the wisest of the wisest, is a mortal man. Sooner or later he will appear before the Lord. That's where his true deeds, thoughts and worldview will be revealed: whether he was carrying the truth to the world or not. Let us, as long as we still have the opportunity, to follow the commandments about the love of our Savior. The Lord speaks of the commandment of loving God. The Lord speaks of love for one's neighbor. The Lord does not pronounce the commandments of love for himself. Let all who proclaim love for themselves, ponder over this.
Females of the monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin on the eve of 1917 year
What does it mean to "love your neighbor as yourself"? This means that self-love should be equivalent in relation to love for others. Let's say someone says: "I love myself so much!" It will be quite a healthy feeling if exactly the same attitude is projected on the neighbors. That's as much as you love yourself, love and others. Then it will be correct.
Our earthly life has a limit. It will end for everyone. Everyone needs to have time to fill themselves with love, so that they can remain with God in Eternity. So we again come to the conclusion that charity, charity, compassion is the fulfillment of the commandments of the Lord, this is the projection of our love for God and people.
And, conversely, the person who says that he loves only himself and is indifferent to the problems of others, as a rule, is potentially ready for the most inadequate actions. If we read the police reports, we will just be convinced that their heroes were guided solely by their selfish interests.
The Abbess Athanasius (Silkin)
- I always thought that the heroes of such chronicles do not like themselves. They are unhappy. They seem to have lost something, but they do not know themselves: they try to put the word "eternity" out of the fragments of ice, but it does not work at all. I feel sorry for them. Mother Athanasius, maybe each egoist needs a selfless Gerda girl who will sing about the baby Christ and thereby return the loss?
- St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) wrote: "In order to love your neighbor as yourself, you first need to love yourself correctly." And he explained: "The right love for oneself is in the fulfillment of the life-giving Christ commandments."
He who loves himself, appreciates his life as a divine gift, he strives with all his might to become a slave of God from the slave of passion, cares about the perfection of his soul and the fulfillment of the will of the Lord. And, saving yourself, saves and thousands of others.
Egoists, of course, are far from the right love. They take for love the indulgence to their weaknesses, whims, lusts, seclusion on their "I" - and thus behave towards a fall. St Ignatius noted that if you measure the evil done to a person in his life, you will end up with the fact that his fiercest enemy did not do him as much harm as he did to himself. And, to be honest with yourself, it turns out that many hate themselves.
Is it possible to help the egoist to regain the loss? The Lord will not leave his mercy without help. As a rule, a person who is fixated exclusively on himself, sooner or later finds himself in very difficult life situations. And then he begins to feel his loneliness, to freeze in the cold that he created around him. And through his repentant tears comes the mercy of God. The Lord will descend to him, forgive his errors, send him to the aid of kind-hearted people. And the person will become warm, and his soul will be transformed. This often happens. But do you really have to fall into something to make the soul transform?
- Should we look for an opportunity to help someone?
"Some are looking." The Lord leads others to some specific circumstances, and then rendering help to others becomes a matter of their whole life. Everyone has different ways. Everyone has different stories.
But, in fact, we are surrounded on all sides by situations where we can offer our help. And always next to us there are people who need our attention and care. I am glad that charity traditions are reviving now, and various social initiatives are emerging. Good deeds go ahead of the person. And when he is no longer left in this world, the good deeds done by him will still give a gleam to his name. We still remember those who created temples and monasteries, developed hospitals, shelters, gymnasiums, universities.
- How to be a man who wants to help and temples, and old people, and children, and shelters for cats and dogs, and more on many points? Choose one direction? Or can everyone do a little bit of it?
- I think this is again an area for the reasoning of the person himself. Certainly, everyone, when he puts his strength into something, expects from this certain result for his soul. That's why he should act.
And the restoration of temples and monasteries is not a separate direction, it is an expression of our love for God, this is the fulfillment of the most important commandment. Who does a person receive a fertile support for his good deeds? Who sends him all the resources? Of course, you will say that this diligence, strength of character, a person's ability to help him earn, be active, give joy and so on. But the words of the Lord: Without Men, you can not do anything (John 15, 5). Let's imagine what a person can do without intelligence, without talent, without hands, without legs? All that we have, all our skills and knowledge, all our inspirations and insights are God's gift to us. We ourselves are not our own, we are God's.
- Now is really a fertile time, when people of different ages and statuses unite in order to create good deeds by common efforts - both targetedly and systematically. Can you say what brings them together? What do they have in common, for example, with those brothers and sisters who help the monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin?
Love is impossible without sacrifice. And the sacrifice is always accompanied by love
- All people are different. Everyone has a different mood of the soul. But at the moment when a person does good, he has a kind of love for the one to whom this good is directed. This feeling is the main feature. Without love, it would be impossible to sacrifice anything. It is impossible for a man to tear himself away from himself and give it away simply if he did not have the beginnings of love before. And as soon as a person begins to sacrifice, this wonderful feeling begins to grow in him: in fact a part of his soul remains in that matter, in the person to whom he devoted himself. Love is impossible without sacrifice. And the victim is always accompanied by love. Through this man realizes the true meaning of life, unites with God. This inexplicable inner pacification comes, that you are afraid to lose it.
We must always remember the highest manifestation of the love and sacrifice of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Divine love raised Him to the cross. This was done by Him for the love of the fallen, sinful human race, for the deliverance of man from the power of the devil, from the power of sin.