What is the difference between a spiritual life and a cultural, intellectual life? What is the role of the confessor in this life, and can anyone become one? Is confession possible by Skype? Do priests confess to each other? And what is better for preparation - a book with a list of sins or the simplest words? We talk about this with the monk Sretensky monastery and the teacher of the Sretensky Seminary hieromonk Irenaeus (Pikovsky).
Hieromonk Irenaeus (Pikovsky)
- Father Irenaeus, what is a "spiritual life", how does it differ from ordinary life, in what is it manifested?
- The concept of "spiritual life" is very multifaceted. Some people think that the spiritual life is a purely religious life, implying observance of some prayer rules, fasting, visits to the temple on certain days, in particular, on Sundays, on church holidays - that is, it equates spiritual life and religious life.
Other people can say that the spiritual life is the life of cultural people, hence, by "spirituality" they mean education, reading, the ability to orientate in theatrical fashion, or, for example, in good classical art. In this case, "spirituality" can be understood and secular spirituality, that is, intelligence, culture, education.
When we read in the New Testament about life in the Spirit, then πνευματική ζωή - "spiritual life" from the context of the New Testament is in a completely different light: neither in the first nor in the second sense of the above. Spiritual life, according to the apostle Paul, is, first of all, life in the Holy Spirit. That is, it is a person's life, with his flesh, his soul, with his mind, with his intellectual abilities, completely directed towards God. Such a person reaches out to God, develops in God, thus being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not the life of man, the wind of the wavering.
Everyone has a spiritual life, but in some people it is changeable
By the way, by "spirit" in the Bible we can understand not only the Holy Spirit, the Personality, the Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, which we designate with a capital letter. But the "spirit" (πνεύμα) in Scripture can mean the wind, that is, a kind of a whiff. Thus, one can say that every person has spiritual life, but some people have this life exposed to every wind blowing (it is also spiritual: today this wind blows in one direction, tomorrow - in the other, even if this wind of changes is filled, it seemed highly intellectual objects). And the life of a man who lives according to God is the life of a man who is moving after that wind that leads him not to the ravine, not to the roadside, or to the wall, but leads him on a straight road up, forward, to the eternal future.
So, the spiritual life is life in the Holy Spirit. What is most important here?
"When we talk about what is most important in the spiritual life, then above all, we mean by this the most important thing for a person who is looking for the Holy Spirit.
So, for Christians, the spiritual life is life according to the Holy Spirit, that is, life in Christ, and life in God, in another way: life under the protection of God, when a person follows Christ, and then the Grace of the Holy Spirit fills it. This is the most important thing in spiritual life. Of course, to seek God, to seek Him and to find Him, because He is the main object of our search, He is the way and the truth and life, as Christ said of Himself (John 14: 6). Having found Christ, man has found everything: life, truth and path. In fact, the final point, the final of our path is Christ. As the elder Porphyry Kavsokalivit said, Christ is everything, He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.
Having found Christ, man fulfilled his destiny. Having found Christ, he reached the highest of his career height. Living in Christ - entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Father Irenaeus, tell me who is the confessor?" What is it for, how do they become and how to choose it?
"Who is the confessor?" Most often now, as a confessor, we mean a priest, a shepherd, to whom one can come to confession. But the word "confessor" differs from, say, the word "priest" (priest), from the word "presbyter" (the elder), from the word "shepherd" (shepherd, preceptor, preacher), that the confessor first of all requires his personal desire to acquire the Holy Spirit and, if possible, his knowledge and ability to transfer a part of what he himself had acquired by the experience of life - to other people. Someone may say that they do not become good confessors, but they are born. In this, indeed, there is some truth. There are all the same people have a predisposition to accumulate knowledge, to the ability to transmit them. Predisposition to being a sensitive, responsive person, to being a subtle psychologist of the soul of another. But when we speak of a true confessor, we first of all speak of such a priest who is full of the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is a Gift from above. Therefore, any person whom the Lord graciously accepts from above can be a confessor. But, first of all, by appointment, of course, such a confessor is a priest who is ready to accept confession and intercede in prayers for those people who ask for his guidance and spiritual help.
It is very important that the shepherd, whom we seek, himself sincerely seek God
- How to choose it?
- Sometimes they say: this kind of thing drags on like that, but it is not always so. Sometimes, some slender, very strict to himself, tight-fitting, serious youth finds a good confessor in a plump, cheerful, flamboyant and loving father.
Of course, the choice of the confessor involves some search, comparison. But sometimes this is not required. If you have met a priest, even the first one on your path or the second who is openly accepting your confession, not for the sake of self-interest, not because he wants to own your soul, but because he perceives confession as his service to God, can be a confessor. Because he correctly directs his way.
Not always a good confessor is the elder by age. It is very important that the shepherd, whom we are seeking, sincerely seek God. And then it happens, in addition to his will and against his infirmities, the Lord through him will give relief to the soul after the confession and some wise advice even from a seemingly eloquent, not very talkative priest. We, even more so as seeking someone who accepts our confession, we also pray that the Lord will send such a shepherd.
- Who is your authority in spiritual work? For you personally.
"Number one, of course, Lord Jesus Christ." He is the Landmark, because He is the Chief Archpastor, among all the pastors that we now have.
This is a very personal matter. But I can say that for me the authority of our monastery is Bishop Tikhon - as a confessor of our brothers and as a man who was able to create a very interesting and sincere monastic life in the monastery. The authority is, of course, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill in his tireless sermons on the gospel of the gospel. He has remarkable interpretations ... Many now, perhaps, pay attention to him only as a leader of the Church, but he has a magnificent interpretation of the Scriptures. And for me as a lover of the Holy Scripture, this is also very important and very interesting, and therefore, of course, he is a great authority for me. For me, the great fathers and, above all, those who lived on the Holy Mountain are great authorities. Or the present confessors, besides, they are not necessarily world-famous people, they can be ordinary monks who try to live according to Christ, seeking the most important thing in monastic life - the monastic life. For me, sometimes, the parishioners are the authority, who, despite all the sorrows of this world and all those temptations that surround them, can reach such spiritual heights, which monks can only dream of. We stumble in some small temptation and are already falling on one knee, and they are pulling on themselves titanic works: at work, caring for the family, raising children - and at the same time keep fasting, prayer. They are sincere, sympathetic, kind people, not malicious ... For me, of course, they are very, very great authority and, so to speak, feedback, because not even me, but they teach me how sincerely they repent, how they wholeheartedly seek God.
A good confessor is adaptive: he always tries to understand what problems a person is living with
- What should be the modern confessor?
- These are two words, absolutely not related to each other, talking about different things. What is a modern confessor? The confessor must be just a confessor, this is the most important thing ...
- Namely, in modern conditions?
- Well, what does "modern conditions" mean? They seemed to be different hundred years ago? The same were passions and vices. Just bought other instruments. If earlier people were seduced by some frank pictures in newspapers, or, for example, in postcards, now the Internet is the platform where this or that passion develops, or lust. If earlier people could quarrel because they did not share, say, some part of the forest, or the skin of a sheep, now people quarrel because they have a common area in the entrance. Spiritually, nothing has changed, it only seems to us that we have become, so to speak, more advanced, because we have a mobile phone, but this did not make a person better. We see: how many technical devices are in modern people, and people, while not getting better! The world did not acquire peace after the Internet appeared, however paradoxical it may seem.
Therefore - what is a modern confessor? This is the confessor who lives in our day. That's all. Its most important thing is to be a spiritual father. A good confessor - he is adaptive, he always tries to understand and hear what kind of problems a person lives in, and so it has always been. St. Basil the Great meditated on the theme of philosophy and the use of pagan books for the education of youth. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh reflected on what it was like to be a doctor who meets death in the war. Some other confessor will reflect on how to keep the modern family from disintegration. The future believers will probably think about other categories. They will always be modern in that they will be sensitive to the problems that people are experiencing. But the modern confessor as a concept, it seems to me, does not take place, because the confessor always has to be a confessor - and a point! But if only the word "modern" is put on the first place, in the sense that he is obsessed with some technical devices, social networks, correspondence by e-mail, mobile communication, then in this case he can scatter himself and lose the main thing, for the sake of what it serves, actually. It is always necessary to be a confessor, full of the Holy Spirit, and not of other spirits or blows.
- A question from the same area, sometimes, you hear that someone is talking about confession on the phone, say, in SMS ...
- Confession by phone is impossible by definition, even if there are more modern devices ... Now there is a video link in the form of Skype. Confession through skype will not be a Sacrament. This can be a conversation, advice, recommendation, yes, it is possible, though by SMS, even by ICQ, it does not matter through which technical devices. But confession as the Sacrament of the Church, where two are near and Christ is among them (Matthew 18: 20), it can not be realized remotely. It is not for nothing that the Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, calls the family the Little Church, says that it is two people - husband and wife - that are a small church. Christ in fact compares marriage with the ultimate unity. The two will become one flesh (he speaks of the family), the husband will cleave to his wife, and the two will be one flesh (Eph. 5: 31) - this is said in the Book of Genesis, hence the conjugal union is the unity of the two (men and women) , the two become one flesh. This ultimate union can not be without intimacy, in all senses of the word. The family is not a family if the husband lives in Antarctica, and the wife lives in Australia all her life. They are a family by passport, but in reality they have different problems, they live in different worlds - their own hobbies, interests, work, preferences. That's why we say that the family is the Little Church, that the couple are side by side, side by side, they have everything in common: thoughts, feelings, property, children, etc. Therefore, confession as a Sacrament occurs only when a confessor, a pastor and one who comes to him for advice, confessing - stand side by side, really stand side by side in the face of God. Therefore, all the sacraments in the Church ... I would even venture to call them in inverted commas "intimate" intimacy - when everyone stands in one place, in one temple, gathered in the name of Christ, shoulder to shoulder, in one formation ...
The most important thing is not to give advice, but to have the patience to listen to people who want to pour out their soul before God
- Tell us about your first experience of making a confession, and how would you advise the one who is going to confess for the first time?
"I remember clearly when I first had to confess at the end of sorokoust in our Skeet. There was a children's camp, and the first ones who came to confess me were children. Many of them did not know what a confession was, and it was very difficult for me to explain it to them. Therefore, I gave no advice to anyone. On the first day of the confession, I could only read permissive prayer, and so at that moment I very sincerely asked God that the Lord would strengthen my soul to be the one who testifies before Him, to the Creator, the sincerity of those who came to confession. Now, it seems to me, this is the most important thing - not how much to give advice, how much to have the patience to listen to people who want to pour out their soul before God.
- You are the confessor of one of the seminary courses - those students who are preparing to receive the priesthood, and some have already become deacons or priests. How do you build spiritual work with them?
- Of course, I'm a very young priest and I'm very scared when they treat me like a confessor. Rather, I am the staff of the Sretensky Monastery appointed to be the spiritual leader of the course, but this does not mean that it made me a confessor. No! It is my duty to listen and receive those who come to me for confession, so I do not undertake spiritual guidance by myself, I do not even try to "help" anyone, in extreme cases, with a kind word console. Therefore, I can only share what other people can perceive from me to the extent that they believe that I can be of use. Therefore, the ministry that I now carry, I do not call work, in any case - it's not a job! I do not create anything. And work, by definition, is connected with creation, doing, creativity. But in regard to spirituality, everything is done by the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the Perfecter of this Mystery; I can tell only by my weakness that I experienced it in my experience, I read it in "smart" books, but how much a person will learn it depends on himself, on his inclination toward God, and on how much the Lord will put these words in his heart .
- What can you give advice to young people, who comes to confession?
- Do not stop at what has been achieved, go ahead, set final goals, achieve results - this applies to everything. This concerns the results not only of spiritual life. Learn to pray - and learn to pray, learn to sympathize with other people - and learn it! This also applies to the professional sphere. I do not see anything wrong if a person does a career: on the contrary, in my opinion, a person who has been able to go through the entire ladder of career growth, from an ordinary secretary-referent to the director of the enterprise, will be able to excel in the spiritual life. He was able to accumulate his internal resources, plan his time, he could find a common language with the team, he was trusted, so, in my opinion, the most important thing for modern youth is to set goals, achieve them, and find ways to achieve them. But at the same time do not leave behind such traces, for which it will be painfully painful - in the form of, say, abandoned "second halves", which he played (or played) and "thrown out"; in the form of theft, for which they can be imprisoned; in the form of mortal resentment, in one form or another, injustice, which will be remembered by surrounding people. And so move upwards, leaving no traces behind, sinful actions.
Confession is the Sacrament, where the two are near and Christ is among them: it can not be remote
- How do you think it is necessary to build relations with a confessor?
- The simpler and more trustworthy the relationship between a confessor and a confessor is, the better. After all, the most important thing is trust!
The confessor is not a magician and a sorcerer, not one who disrupts and resolves. The confessor is someone who is ready at any time to listen to a person, accept his confession, before God to testify the sincerity of repentance, to be an intercessor before God in his prayers is the most important thing with regard to the requirements that can be presented to the confessor.
- If you suddenly give up, what are you doing?
- I start all over again! If the spirit of despondency is completely overcome, I try to change the kind of current activity. I sat - I get up, stood - I walk, I was like - I sat down, etc., and if it's not a spirit of despondency, then I just start all over again. Of course, there are times when you become tired of the spiritual ministry. This is when people come up with the same problems, and you see that they do not want to be corrected. They are looking for "free ears" to pour out the problem, they are not looking for a correction of their own soul! They are looking for excuses for their own actions, good or bad. They want the priest to praise, or gasp, gasp, or wish to spouse the spouse, spouse, government, etc. That's why you get tired: when people come and look for you not as a witness before Christ in the sincerity of repentance, but as a person - I emphasize - not a spiritual person, but a person - who will listen to you and stand on your side. There is no personal change in speech. It is very bad when a person searches for "free ears" in the priest, but, unfortunately, there is such a perception in the secular environment that the priest is obliged to listen. And I believe that in some cases the priest is not obliged to listen - if a person bears nonsense and seeks to justify their actions.
The most important thing is not to hide from yourself: in the hidden rooms the devil lives
- Should a confessor have a confessor? Tell us how the priests are confessing ...
- Of course, in my opinion, all priests should have one to whom the priest goes to confession, everyone needs to feel the need for confession.
In the Epistles of the Apostle James we are talking about that we confess to each other. If the priest, even wise in experience, gray-haired, believes that he does not need a confessor ... I am afraid, of course, to make harsh judgments, but, in my opinion, pride is already speaking in him so. A true confessor is always a humble person who considers himself not the highest, even if he feels in himself the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit. He still understands that he needs a doctor, he needs someone who will testify before God about his sins. Because we are not angels, we are not saints. Even a wise old man is capable of committing a sin, can fall, has the right to make a mistake, and he needs an assistant, comrade-in-arms, a close person whom he trusts, to whom he can resort to confession.
Of course, in cases when some hermits live far from a large clump of clergy - it happens that the priest in the distant parish serves, or in the monastery only one priest - confession is rare, but still it must occur. Therefore, we have full-time confessors of dioceses - the priests who are enjoying authority. It happens that the gray-haired, old-fashioned elder in the monastery go to confess to much younger priests, not so much trusting their experience (because on a minor age the priest can not so much say how old the elder), but trusting them in the sacred dignity. The elder goes to confess to a younger priest, because he needs someone to witness before God the sincerity of repentance. I saw such priests in the years that went and confessed to the young priests, because they had a need for confession. And it seems to me that this is just a good, normal state, than vice versa, when some confessor thinks that he has already reached certain heights, and through his exaltation subsequently falls very low.
The simpler and more trustworthy the relationship between a confessor and a confessor is, the better
- How do you act if you are at a loss to immediately solve some spiritual problem?
- I can not solve spiritual problems for other people. When it comes to myself - because I also have many spiritual problems - if I do not know how to solve them, then I go to someone for advice. I try to look at myself from the other side, I try to rely on what I can hold on, which I, at least, did not fall down, follow certain principles that hold me, the commandments, life principles, the schedule of the day, my duties etc.
But if we are talking about people coming to confess to me, and I find it difficult to help them with some kind of advice, or I can not perform the Sacrament for one reason or another (for example, I am far from the person who is waiting for help from me), then I am sending him to some other priest who will be closer or faster, more intelligent. If this person trusts me, I can offer someone else instead of myself, say: "This is the father who will better understand your problem." Or, for example, say: "You know, I can not help you in this matter. I can listen to you, but to give some spiritual advice or do something more - unfortunately, no, because I do not have enough experience, I do not fully understand the essence of your problem. " I think I have a right to confess honestly to another person that I can not always help him.
- The last question: what do you advise a person who goes to confession for the first time? How can he prepare for confession?
"Confession is, above all, a revelation of one's own conscience." The most important thing, probably, is not to hide from yourself. In the hidden rooms, in the dark places the devil lives, who is hiding from the light. Everything that we bring to the surface, we uncover, we take out of our souls, we represent to the judgment of God. The Lord is the Light. Where there is light, there is no darkness. Where there is a bright, hitting ray of sun, there it is destroyed, sin is burnt, the devil is cast out. The most important thing is to open the heart so that the Light of God can penetrate through the door of the heart. And He will commit sin, He will cast out the devil.
From the spiritual ministry you get tired when you see that people do not want to be corrected
Therefore, the most important thing in confession is sincerity: do not conceal, do not start a story from afar about some minor things: "Father, I ate a cookie, it might have been melted milk ...", but to begin with the most important: "Anger I am such that I can not tolerate my own neighbor. " Or else: "I go to obscene sites, I'm sorry for being frank, and I do not want to admit that I'm doing it arbitrarily, because of my own idleness. Nobody forces me to this, I come myself. "
If a person does not begin to feel the most important, and "melted milk" begins, and in the rest, except for milk, they say, I'm good - therefore, he does not want to drive out of the soul of the devil, so with this bald, smelly, barking dog, he is ready to live . She will always bite him if he is comfortable ... "Okay," please, but a sensible person will say: "I do not need these wolves and dogs that are constantly chasing me, I'd better get rid of them." And how to get rid of them? First of all, to open my heart to the Lord, to bring to the surface my sins, to speak in words as accurate as possible, what is happening in my soul, from which dogs I want to get rid of, what demons, spirits of wickedness in heaven are persecuting me, what vices in me have taken hold, what habits became my second nature. Here from this, the most important, it is necessary to begin: not from the big list of sins! Sometimes it happens that a person who starts talking simply, from conscience, as he himself understands, not adjusting to the terminology prescribed in special books. This is how he can more quickly realize what is happening in his soul. He will take those words that are on the surface, those words with which he communicates every day. He will be able to explain these words the content of the problems that he is struggling with. Therefore, I would not always start with some special books about confession.
It happens that the gray-haired elder in the monastery go to confess to the young priests, trusting their dignity
In the second stage, when this person already has some purpose - he wants to live with God, then I would recommend the Gospel, which is a guide. And the main question that you can put yourself in the second stage: where is the place of God in my heart? Where is the place of God in my life? Then we can say that man is called to obey the commandments of God. And this is not even his duty, but simply the steps by which he ascends to God. It is not a kind of karma that overcomes it. Unfortunately, it is now widespread such a perverted secular notion that to live according to the commandments means to enslave yourself, to set boundaries in your behavior. It's just not right! Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinth 3: 17). The apostle Paul constantly preaches that we are now living not within the bounds of the law, but within the framework of freedom of grace. I would say more, in the words of Blessed Augustine, as I usually say to my parishioners: "Love God and do what you want." It seems to me that in the second stage, such a position "love God" gives an understanding of what is really right. And then you yourself will seek those commandments on which you can lean. Then your desires will already be, so to speak, actions performed "in the manner of God."
I can not solve spiritual problems for other people
And already at the third stage - polishing the details: "Yes. I am ready to open my own conscience, I want to be constantly with God, I'm looking for Him, I'm interested with Him ... ". And the polishing of the details is when we misunderstand something, what is happening in our own soul, or we stumble on some repetitions, or we are wrestled with such temptations, delusions, in which we do not have experience ... That is, when the spiritual life is really already true spiritual abuse, and you already see in which secret rooms the devil hides, but you do not yet possess the instrument of the Word of God that can drive it away. Then serious spiritual literature, attentive life is needed. Because you did not just open the door to God, not just God willing to let in the heart, but you create such conditions of your own life that the devil could not even come near you, you drive him out on the outskirts! This is the real spiritual warfare about which the Monk Nicodemus of the Holy One writes. This is a very interesting book, I recommend it to all, it is called "Invisible Brane". But this book, like the "Ladder" of St. John, the hegumen of Mount Sinai, can be recommended to those people who, at least in their own words, are able to tell what is on their conscience, who are looking for God. In my opinion, neophytes should not recommend a serious, theologically overloaded literature, give them at once "solid food" - to fragile souls, which even the commandments of bliss can not realize.