Let's face the reality: People are suffering because the true source of joy is being consciously banished from their lives
Editor's note: Here's another never-before-translated tidbit of wisdom from the priests of Russia. (Follow us on YouTube). He's not speaking English here, but sometimes he does, and he is very good. Full English transcript follows below the video.
Fr. Artemy Vladimirov is a very prominent priest in Russia, especially popular among Moscow's English-speaking population for his intelligence and perfect command of the English language.
He has a strong internet presence, travels regularly to the US to lecture, and published a book in English in 2010, called Bright Faith, which aims to introduce Orthodox Christian spirituality to Westerners. (Transcript provided below)
Fr. Artemy is very soft-spoken, a rather unusual phenomenon in Russia, where forceful priests who often speak bluntly and directly are more the rule than the exception. Meanwhile, he often uses symbolic and poetic language, betraying his literary background (Let us know what you think of it in the comments!).
Here, he speaks of Depression, the bane of the wealthy, profligate world....how to reverse the darkness and turn it into light.
Many of you know that in most prosperous European countries, for example, in Sweden, people suffer from depression and unexplainable low spirits. The same situation is in the cities which offer the most comfortable life both for natives and the so-called refugees who get 1000 euros pro month with free accommodation.
In the USA, which is well-known for the highest energy consumption per head (higher than in Europe, not to mention the Third World Countries), people can't do without psychologists, psychoanalysts, astrologists and psychiatrists. And almost everyone is on antidepressants.
It's reasonable to take medicine in some cases but when it comes to the majority of population, there's something fishy here, isn't there?
It turns out that the level of prosperity and increasing demands don't bring happiness to the soul. They don't give liveliness, joy and hilarity to the heart. On the contrary, cherished and overfed teenagers who are provided with food and lodging don't know how to deal with their inner emptiness and how to fill it. They suffer from a lack of life purpose. Looking for adrenalin, they sometimes do terrible things, extreme or suicidal. Others lash out irrational aggression, enjoy making others suffer. What does this clearly show? That life without Jesus Christ is empty.
Those who haven't gained a foundation in Jesus Christ and don't know the living God and who removed themselves from the Grace of God are not completely people, but two-legged intelligent creatures suffering from never-ending inner pain. It's not the body that is in pain, but the soul, our eternal self.
That is why the loved akathist to Our Sweetest Lord Jesus (a type of hymn recited by Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Christians, dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the persons of the Holy Trinity) that we read with special feeling and deep thought, contains such words:
Jesus, Gladness of my heart!
How unexpected and amazing this phrase sounds! For the person distant from the church and any religious feelings, religion and faith are just a set of rules, mostly prohibitions and taboos. One can't do this and that - what a boring life! Such people can think these rules are to be followed only because "the highest Authority keeps monitoring us"…
Naturally, the soul that has no reason to be joyful avoids desperately such boring morality lectures.
Meanwhile, King David, a distant relative of the Incarnated God, foreseeing the coming into the world of Our Lord Jesus Christ, addressed to Him, the Son of God, such mysterious words:
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)
God is Fullness who fills all in all. He is the Saviour, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the Fountain, the Reason and the Destination of human existence. He is the copiously flowing fountain. Only through the living unity with Jesus Christ and mysterious contact with Him through faith, repentance, prayer and following His commands we can feel that our heart comes to life after being dead. The space of the heart is being filled with mysterious enliving joyful water - the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
So, faith, hope and love are very fair, vital and inspiring qualities. Paul the Apostle, thinking about the fruits of faith, puts the joy of existence as one of the main ones. Jesus Christ addresses to His followers:
“Except you be converted, and become as little children (in heart), you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”. (Mattew 18:3)
And the kingdom of heaven will not enter you.
Let us remember golden days of our childhood. At the age of 3, 5, 6 years we were able to be happy with each coming day. The world, amazing and eternally diverse, was attracting us. Our innocent soul was amazed with colours of summer and autumn. Every sound, line or shape, every little stone and blade of grass were objects of our long contemplation and, maybe, even reflection (if kids reflect when alone). This is a sign of a fair, meek, lowly in heart, prayerful, wise Christian soul who perceives the holy gift of life as precious. If our short life on earth is so beautiful, then what and Who does the soul find “fairer than the children of men» (Psalm 45:2)?
He witnesses about Himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Life with abundance. He is Light (1John 1:5), and there is life for all people in this Light. Thus, true faith in the Resurrected Christ, the faith seeing and hot, above all, tingles in a heart as a mysterious joy. “Eureka! Something was shown to me! I've found something what my soul has been looking for from my youth”.
Christ the Saviour is really the living reason of our being. He is the perfect example, the ideal Who we can and should strive to. He is not a cold Absolute, hidden somewhere far way. But He is the living God, Who sees us, hears us and loves us, stretches His arms to us from the Cross. What is more, He offers His help to us every minute or second of our life. He supports and strengthens us, keeps us from temptations, stretches out His helping hand to us in our fight with the evil that knocks at the door of our heart.
“Jesus, Gladness of my heart!”
Truly believing Christians start and end their day with thanking God.
“O Lord, thank you for the night. Bless my coming day.
Let us remember our ancestor, the Prince Vladimir the Radiant Sun, Monomakh who was the descendant of the Saint Prince Vladimir the Great. He took part in more than 44 battles during his life, rich in events. The Prince Vladimir Monomakh adored nature, hunting, home coziness. He was a faithful husband ещ his wife and had a peaceful character and was not looking for wars. How did he begin his day? He got up with the sun (and that is why he got such an unusual nickname) and immediately addressed a glorious prayer to the Creator.
“Thank you Lord, that You gave me to see Your fabulous light. Add to me a month or a year of life so that I can repent in all my sins and praise Your Holy Name.
So, the best cure for sorrow and distress, the Pushkin blues and melancholy, for despair, that sometimes snaps at our heels, is love and faith in Christ. Not the kind of faith which evil ones show (for they also believe and shake at His presence), but the faith which makes our heart thank God and which leaves a fair smile on our face. We are called to fulfill a fair covenant in our short, and for that reason so beautiful, life with prayer to God and love to people.
So, let us not forget the first words of Christ addressed to the Apostles and the Myrrh-bearing women right after rising from the dead:
“Rejoice. And again I say, Rejoice”.
And that is why the akathist makes us think about the words:
“Jesus, Gladness of my heart!”