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(100th anniversary of the repose of St. John of Kronstadt)

December 20, 2008 by the old calendar (by the new calendar the date will be January 2, 2009) marks the 100th anniversary of the day of repose of the great Russian luminary, the righteous priest St. John of Kronstadt. St. John occupies a special place in the list of saints, being of great significance not only in spiritual terms, but also on a historical plane, having been sent by the Lord as erstwhile Jonah was to Nineveh, in order to prophesy to the Russian people and to the whole world the coming universal cataclysm and the onset of apostasy, i.e. the end times.

The life of the pastor of Kronstadt
St. John of Kronstadts power of healing
St. John of Kronstadt and the patristic inner prayer
St. John of Kronstadt and the enemies of Christ
St. John of Kronstadt as server of the Divine Liturgy
St. John of Kronstadt and Russias spiritual crisis
St. John of Kronstadts prophecies about Russia
Memoirs of a Kronstadt resident
Pastor of all Russia
Orthodox Spirituality
St. John of Kronstadt

St. John of Kronstadt and the patristic inner prayer

Of great merit is St. Johns work in preaching the patristic inner prayer to Russia. St. John wrote that the vision of God is a requisite for prayer. St. John himself was granted visions of spiritual forces, both of the lower and higher order. Once a certain abbess stood together with St. John near one of the bridges across Neva River, while a funeral procession passed by them. The saint told the abbess that he saw demons in the procession, who were rejoicing over the perdition of a drunkards soul. On August 15, 1989, on the day of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin, for the first time in his life St. John was granted a vision of the Mother of God and heard Her blessed voice calling him a dearest child of the Heavenly Father.

St. John of Kronstadt
St. John of Kronstadt

In view of the fact that when starting upon inner prayer, novices suffer from the wandering of thoughts that is inflicted upon them by the devil, St. John offers practical advice on how to overcome this impediment. He writes that in prayer there is the sin of inattention to which we all are subjected terribly; we should not forget it, but repent of it; we are inattentive not only at home, but also in church. When you do your rule of prayer, especially by the prayer book, say the words of the prayers with heartfelt strength, do not hurry from word to word without having felt its sincerity, without having instilled it into your heart, but work constantly at feeling with your heart the sincerity of all that you are saying. Many church readers, who read with facility, end up with false prayer: with their lips they appear to be praying, they seem to be pious, but their hearts are dormant and do not know what the lips are saying. This happens as a result of their hurrying and not thinking over with their heart what they are saying. Only those can pray quickly without harming their prayer, who have learned to engage in inner prayer with a pure heart. All others should wait until each word of prayer is echoed in their own hearts. Sometimes it is well to say a few words of prayer of ones own, full of ardent faith and love for the Lord.

We should not always converse with God using the words of others, we should not forever remain infants in faith and hope, but should manifest our own mind, offer from our hearts our own good words; moreover, we get used to the words of others and our prayer becomes cold. And how pleasing to God is our own babble, which issues directly from a believing and grateful heart.

Out of his own spiritual experience the saint offers us the following revelation: Try to achieve a child-like simplicity in your dealings with people and in your prayer to God. Simplicity is mans greatest blessing and merit. God is absolutely simple, because He is absolutely spiritual, absolutely good. May your heart, too, refrain from dividing into good and evil.

Speaking of his own endeavors with the Jesus prayer, St. John writes: When you have Christ in your heart, make sure you do not lose Him and together with Him your inner tranquility, for it is bitterly hard to begin anew; all your efforts to attach yourself once again to Him after falling away will be hard and will cause many bitter tears. Cling to Christ with all your might, attach yourself to Him and do not lose your sacred connection with Him. Christ, introduced into the heart through faith, dwells there in peace and joy. When you notice that your heart is cold and unwilling to pray stop and warm your heart with some dynamic vision for example, of your iniquity, of your spiritual poverty and blindness, or of Gods great and continuous blessings upon you and all of mankind, especially Christians, and afterwards continue to pray unhurriedly, with warm feeling; even if you do not have time to finish all your prayers, that does not present a problem, since much greater benefit accrues from warm and unhurried prayer than from reading all the prayers without any feeling. It is well to pray continuously, but not all are capable of such an effort, thus to each his own. Whoever is unable to cope with lengthy prayer should preferably pray briefly, but with an ardent soul. One should ceaselessly address the Lord and be with Him every single moment, in order to avoid being overcome by demonic irritation or dejection. By using the spirit of dejection, the enemy has led many people away from the narrow and salvific path and unto the wide and smooth path of perdition. While praying count yourself for nothing and accept prayer as a great gift from God. Pray without any hesitation, with heartfelt simplicity: just as it is easy to think, so should it be easy to pray. Prayer is the breath of the soul just as air is the breath of the body. Our souls breathe with the Holy Spirit. One cannot utter a single heartfelt word without the Holy Spirit. While praying you are conversing directly with the Lord, and if your heart is open through faith and love, you will at the same time breathe in the spiritual blessings issuing from Him. Learn to pray, force yourself to pray; at first it will be hard, but afterwards, the more you force yourself, the easier it will get, but initially you must always force yourself. When you pray to God, look with the eyes of your heart inside yourself, at your soul. The Lord is there, in your thoughts and in the movements of your heart, just as He is outside of you and everywhere. The hearts insensitivity to the genuineness of the words of prayer comes from disbelief and insensitivity of ones one sinfulness, which comes, in turn, from a hidden feeling of pride. From his feelings during a prayer a person can discover whether he is full of pride or humility: the more ardent is his prayer, the humbler he is, and the more insensitive the prayer the greater his pride.

All these instructions on the part of St. John concerning prayer are aimed at novices, since they concern mostly verbal prayer and only the beginnings of inner prayer. The saint himself, however, had attained the supreme gift of constant inner prayer, which was confirmed by Hieromonk Nikander of Valaam: In truth, Father Johns face bloomed with Gods grace, with constant inner prayer. During the sanctification of the Holy Gifts, Father John submersed himself entirely in inner prayer, his face became wondrously transfixed, and it was apparent that he did not see those around him and even tarried in saying the priests exclamations. Deep and ardent prayer attracted him completely to God. The Muscovite judge Peter Pavlovich Yastrebov also confirmed that while St. John served the divine liturgy, during the priests prayers in the altar he was granted spiritual visions. At such moments the saint seemed to be somewhere far away, seemed to be conversing with God, Whom he clearly saw in front of him on the altar table. Such moments left an indelible impression on the faithful.

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