Letter to a monk who is enduring sorrows in a coenobium and
who desires solitude (no date)
No matter where I have been - in solitude or in human society -
light and consolation pour forth into my soul from the cross of
Christ. Sin, which has possession of my entire being, does not
cease to say to me, "Come down from the cross."
Alas! I come down from it, thinking to find righteousness outside
of the cross - and I fall into misery of soul: waves of agitation
swallow me. Having come down from the cross, I am found to be
How can I help my calamitous state? I pray to Christ to raise me
up unto the cross again. As I pray, I myself try to be crucified, as
one taught by experience - he who is not crucified is not Christ's.
Faith raises me up onto the cross; reason, falsely so called, full
of faithlessness, brings me down from it. As I myself act, so do I
advice my brothers to act!
What else shall I add? I will add, Blessed is the man that endureth
temptation (James 1:12). In that He Himself (Jesus Christ) hath
suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted
(Heb.2:18). I desire that these words of Holy Scripture be realized
in you. And you - be consoled! Do not be fainthearted because you
have been conquered in warfare - this is unto spiritual skill or
experience, and for humility. Peace be unto you!
I will say in addition ; the general path of ascetics is, through
practicing patience among men, to heal the infirmity of the senses,
to see God's Providence, and to enter into mental prayer. Someone
else, by God's Providence, enters therein by another way - but we
should go by the common path. Read about this in Homily 55 of
St. Isaac (the Syrian) to St. Symeon the Wonderworker. Some find
that solitude is the shortest means to spiritual success, while others
say that love for one's neighbor leads to spiritual success.
My heart likes the latter more, because love for one's neighbor is the
indispensable duty of each one, while not many are capable of
From 'The Collected Letters of St Ignatius Brianchaninov" (Russian)
Moscow,1995 This translation was published in Issue Nos.270-71
of The Orthodox Word p.91-92, St Herman Press, Jan-April 2010