Elder Barsanuphius II


Another excerpt from Elder Barsanuphius.

“Once,” recalled Fr. Barsanuphius, “when I was still a novice, I walked out of my silent cell on a warm July night. There was no moon, but a countless multitude of stars shone in the dark sky. I loved to walk through the secluded alley of the Skete garden at this late hour so that, left alone with God, I might tear myself away from everything mundane. I walked up to the big pond and suddenly saw our schema-monk, Fr. Gennadius, who had already spend sixty-two years in the Skete. In recent years he had not crossed through the Skete gates at all and had forgotten about the world.

“He stood motionless and gazed at the water. I called to him so as not to frighten him by my sudden appearance. I approached him: ‘What are you doing here father?’

“‘I’m just looking at the water,’ he replied.

“‘What do you see there?’

“‘Don’t you see anything in it?’ Fr. Gennadius asked in turn.


“‘But I,’ said the schema-monk, ‘am contemplating the wisdom of God. You know, I’m semiliterate; I only learned to read the Psalter, but the Lord makes known His will to me, the lowly one. And I’m amazed that learned people often don’t know the simplest things regarding the faith. You see this whole starry sky reflected in the water? That’s how the Lord settles in a pure heard – consequently, what blessedness a soul must feel which has acquired purity… Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). Here, no matter how I try, I cannot acquire purity of soul, even though I know how important this is. And do you understand what purity of heart is?’ Fr. Gennadius asked.

“‘I don’t know by experience, since I don’t have it,’ I replied, ‘but I think that purity consists in complete passionlessness: he who possesses neither envy nor anger nor any other passion has a pure heart.’

“‘No, that’s not enough,’ objected the schema-monk, ‘it’s not enough only to rinse the vessel out – you still have to fill it with water, after uprooting the passions you hve to replace them with the opposing virtues. Without this the heart is not purified.’

“‘And do you hope to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Fr. Gennadius?’

“‘I have hope I’ll be there,’ he said confidently.

“‘Since you yourself say that you don’t have purity of soul, and only the pure in heart…shall see God?

“‘And what about God’s mercy? It makes up for all that’s lacking. It’s boundless, and I have the firm hope that the Lord will not reject even me,’ the schema-monk said; and in his words could be heard deep faith in God’s mercy.’”

Hearing such a conversation, you forget that a “semi-literate” man was speaking, who had only learned to read the Psalter. What profound lessons such people can give! There was no small number of them in Optina, in the Skete.

-Elder Barsanuphius, p. 211


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