Home > Lessons from the Fathers > Discussions With Youth, , by Elder Barsanouphy of Optina

Discussions With Youth, , by Elder Barsanouphy of Optina

† † †

29 March 1912

Recently there came to me some students from the Theological Academy, and they recalled their first visit to me, the unworthy one. There were quite a number of them, and among them were several hieromonks. All of them had a theological education, many of them gave eloquent sermons. Along the way they reasoned among themselves, “What can he say that would edify us; after al!, Igumen Barsanouphy doesn’t have a theological education.”

“We came to you,” the students later told me, “and you posed a question which none of us could answer. Opinions were divided. When we asked you, you gave a straightforward answer which at first surprised us, but on second thought we all agreed with it. You asked, What is life? And you defined it in two words: Life is blessedness. At first the students protested: What do you mean, blessedness?

At every step of the way them are misfortunes, sicknesses, aggravations. You said that life is blessedness, and not only that we believe in the blessedness of eternal life, but that here, on earth, life can be blessed if we live with Christ, if we fulfill His commandments. If a man is not attached to earthly goods but relies completely on the will of God, lives for Christ and in Christ, then his life becomes blessed even here on earth. Christ Himself said that there are gates to the attainment of blessedness. This was a rather original analogy, and we did not understand you and were perplexed as to what gates you could be referring to.

Then you explained: blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for they will receive even greater blessedness.”

What I said to those students, I can say lo you; Christ calls all to blessedness. It is now Pascha, and the Royal Doors are open, but no one who is not consecrated may enter; only priests and deacons. But anyone who so desires may enter the gates of blessedness. Just how one enters is another matter, but one can and must enter. Nowadays many people live according to the flesh and do not seek spiritual happiness. What do they want to attain? Wealth, primarily, then glory. They neglect nothing in pursuit of their aim. The Lord said that because lawlessness would increase, love would wither away. A majority of people have turned aside, they have gone away from Christ, and those people who do not share their views, the people of this age call old-fashioned, backward, impractical….The Lord preserve you from being “practical” people! Always be with the Lord. Christ is in our midst, He was and will be.

Impractical people are often accused of being prideful. He’s a proud one, they say, and they honestly believe it. The first Christians were accused of being proud. They are brought before the leader, let’s say, and he gives the order, “Bow down to the idols!” “No, we won’t bow down; we’re followers of the One God, Who created heaven and earth, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“You’re full of pride. Humble down before the gods.”


And they are taken off to be tortured. The leader demands a false humility. To fulfill his command would be to renounce Christ, which is, of course, impossible. In our own lives we hear people say, “Humble down, live like everyone else; don’t be so proud, don’t stand out from the rest of us.” Don’t listen to such advice. Those who give in and fall away from Christ perish eternally.

I sometimes ask my visitors: “Do you have children?”

“Certainly,” they answer. “Sons and daughters.”

“Have you plans for their future?”

“I’d like to see my son as an engineer; he himself is so inclined. My daughters I’d like to see married to someone who is well off and of good social standing.”

“And you think they will be happy?”

“Of course!” they answer confidently. And they don’t give a moment’s thought as to how to help their children acquire Christ. They say money can buy everything, but all the money in the world cannot buy Christ. And without Christ there is neither life nor salvation.

Translated from Besedi Startsa Arkhimandrita Varsonofiya

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: