Orthodox America

   SPIRITUAL COUNSELS - From the Selected Letters of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava

Which church to go to, and the 'unseen warfare'

...I received your letter with your name-day greetings for me in good time...

You ask: which church should you attend, the Russian community church or the school church?  If you are needed in the school church, it is better to go to that one.  Do not let the brevity of the services distress you. Length or brevity are of no consequence, what counts is a prayerful atmosphere, which can be present even at short services if they are conducted unhurriedly and with concentration.  At festive services it is harder to keep oneself from being distracted; quiet services and those held at home better facilitate concentration.

If the passions strike you from time to time, this should not distress you. We must continue the "unseen warfare" all our lives.  The battle itself is not a problem; there is trouble only if we become weak in it.  If this does not happen, our spiritual life is in good order.   The peace that is with you in battle bears witness to this.  But we must beware that we do not feel a different kind of peace, the kind one feels when there is no battle. This kind of peace is dangerous.  It indicates that the enemy has done away with open battle and wants to build an invisible and clever snare for us!  In cases like this one must intensify one's usual vigilance and sobriety! Do not weaken in any way!

Sincerely and respectfully,    Archbishop Theophan
4/4/1930   Varna   

How to prevent sorrows from disturbing one's peace of mind, and confession

You ask: can one keep the sorrows which befall one from disturbing one's peace of mind?  In order to answer this question one must differentiate one's own peace of mind from spiritual peace which is grace-filled. Sorrows always disturb one's peace of mind to a greater or lesser extent, but they can never disturb spiritual, grace-filled peace.   For this reason we must work at acquiring this peace throughout our earthly lives.

Next you ask: can you confess to a priest that you have something against him?  When dealing with most ordinary priests, one should not do this. This will only bring harm and will be of no profit.  It is enough to confess in a general way, without indicating who is involved. 6/25/1930        Archbishop Theophan Varna

(Selected Letters is available from the publisher: St. John of Kronstadt Press, Rt. 1 Box 205, Liberty TN 37095. 79pp.,)