Thou Hast Proved Me, O God and Knowest.....The Life of Hieromonk Vasily
Originally pubished by the Brotherhood of St Cyprian, Moscow, in
cooperation with Optina Monastery, 2002
English translation by a nun of St Xenia Skete, Wildwood, CA
Copyright @ 2009 by Christ the Saviour Brotherhood Publishing
Russian Orthodox believers were shocked when, on Pascha morning in 1993, three young monks, were brutally murdered at Optina Monastery. The story of the martyric deaths of Fr. Vasily, Fr. Ferapont and Fr. Trofim spread throughout the country, which was then (and still is) undergoing a powerful resurgence of Orthodox life after years of represion.
In 'Thou hast Proved Me, O God and Knowest...'the reader comes to know Fr. Vasily through the remembrances of friends and family and through his own writings. His life provides insights into the struggles of a convert, because although baptized in infancy, Fr. Vasily returned to the Church as an adult. It also sheds light on contemporary Russian society and monasticism. (From the backcover)
The Writings of Hieromonk Vasily
What do I resemble when desiring to overcome my pride? I resemble a man trying to move a mountain with his own hands. I use all my knowledge and apply all my strength. I can see that my desire is unattainable-the mountain remains unmovable, but I do not give up my labors. I can see the futility of my efforts. I cry over my helplessness, lament over the impossibility of fulfilling my intention.
Despondency clouds the mind, sloth binds the body, and
hopelessness wounds the heart. "What is it all for?" these passions ask me, "No one needs your labor." And I reply, "It is needed for God Himself is helping me in it!"
Why do the same words, which yesterday I did not even
notice, today astound me by their magnitude and wisdom, so much so that I want to hold them forever in my heart? It is because of the inconstancy of my heart. Yesterday it was like ice, and therefore everything sophisticated and austere made it ecstatic, while today it is like melting snow, that rejoices in light and warmth. What takes place in the depth of my heart where neither my sight nor my mind penetrates? There, like the sun with its sunrises and sunsets, repentance is born and dies.
It is frightening to see in yourself a readiness to commit any of the most onerous sins. This is a bottomless abyss, a hellish precipice; it is eternal torment and death. Seeing this in yourself, you must always and unceasingly call out for help and mercy. I live, and I uphold faithfulness only outwardly, by God's mercy, but the Lord sees my infirmity and does not allow circumstances and burdens beyond my strength.
While washing yourself in the bathhouse, think: "I am
preparing my body for burial, washing and anointing it,"
and, "as I wash the dirt from my body, so do Thou also,
O Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 50:10). In this way you will always conquer the indulgence of your body.
When you judge someone else, you [must] pray thus: after all, Lord, it is I who have sinned. Forgive me and have mercy on me!
By the waters of Babylon, there have we sat down and we wept (Ps. 136:1) The rivers of Babylon flow from my heart-the rivers of judgement of my brothers, ambition; the rivers of faintheartedness, fear and dread before various obediences; rivers of self-pleasing and self-pity; rivers of love of glory and anger, despondency, laziness, sadness; the rivers of all impurity, blasphemy, faithlessness, cunning, and uncleanness. I sit by my heart and weep over the endless flow of these rivers. Underground abysses feed these rivers, and the rivers of my passions feed the bottomless gulf of my sinful heart.
Lord! It is an abyss, the abyss of hell. In it there is no
support, no comfort. All is clamor, all is wickedness, all
is emptyness. God, in Thy name save me and give me
Thy hand, as Thou didst to Peter.
Don't you see how daily you add sin to sin? Why do you
return every day to the slimy excrement of your passions and vices?
Don't you see how everything you do reproaches you, your ignorance, impurity of mind and heart, your imperfection? Everything you have-your deeds, thoughts and feelings-are detrimental, flawed, mixed with vice and impurity; all is impoverished and orphaned.
Don't you see how the passions surround you and play with you, handing you around to each other? Don't you see how they leave you alone for a time and, standing a little distance away, watch how you, a weak person give yourself over to vainglory, forgetfulness, carelessness?
They laugh, because one touch from them is enough to destroy all your peace and quiet and make it disappear; they laugh, because you are their inheritance, their slave, even a slave who thinks himself free. The sight of a slave with such high self-opinion, considering himself to be a master, gives them particular pleasure. Do you see your sin-flowing heart? How it slanders your brothers, all people, the entire world, night and day?
Heal me, Lord! Seal the flow of impurity, sin and vice.
Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 50:10). Because of my deeds I deserve eternal torments, but the Lord secretly nourishes a hope in my soul for His mercy. Otherwise it would be beyond my strength for me to live.
St Poemen the Great said, "Believe me, children, wherever Satan is, there will I be". He did not only think this way, he felt it.
The Lord allows you to see your heart as it slanders the
brothers-the Lord, and the whole world, day and night.
Then you see all the imposibility of correcting yourself,
the endlessness of your fall, the abyss of hell. Then you
quite admit that wherever Satan is, there will you be.
This is an awareness, a thought. But for St Poemen the
Great, it was a feeling. The difference is like night and
day. Therefore you only lament over your sinfulness,
while St Poemen the Great pours forth endless tears.
His soul felt the reality of the torments of hell and knew
We need to love everyone as we love ourselves, and be
ready for death at any hour.
But another thing is possible: to love your neighbour as
yourself, to pray for him as for yourself; thus, seeing that
the sins of your neighbour are your sins, you descend into hell with these sins for the sake of your neighbour's
"Lord, Thou gavest me love and changed everything for me, and now I cannot act in any other way ; I can only go to torments for the salvation of my neighbour. I moan, I
weep, I am terrified, but I cannot do anything else, for it
is Thy love which leads me, and I do not want to part with it; in it I gain hope of salvation, and seeing it within me, I do not despair utterly".