How can one convey the most important thing about family life in a few words? Archpriest Eugene Ambartsumov, a well-known pastor in St. Petersburg, wrote such a letter of advice on the occasion of the wedding of the young Gleb and Lida Kaled. They carried these words with them their entire lives and remembered them when Gleb Kaled became a renowned priest and professor, and Matushka Lida raised five children and many grandchildren.
Dear Gleb and Lida,
It is with great joy that I address the two of you together. From now on, I wish you always to have shared thoughts, shared friends, and a shared heart. I’ve heard good things: that first you drank to a shared life, the second time to shared joy, and the third time to shared sorrow. Each one of these inevitably accompanies us through our life’s journey. Now you have been united in the name of shared love. In the future you will become invisibly united by thousands of threads, time and again. Every year you will become more necessary for each other.
I don’t now wish you any special happiness – for happiness will not fail you at first even without my wishes. What could be greater in a family than the joy of a newly arranged life? I wish you in the future the continual strengthening of the sense of family, love, mutual respect, and friendship.
I’ll not speak of the great upheavals that so often destroy families. I believe and know that our thoughts on this matter are so united and strong that your family will be spared this.
We are always on a journey.
I’ll say something else. Conceit should not be tolerated, which always impedes making the first steps towards reconciliation and rejects the outstretched hand restoring unity. There can and should be admonitions, but there should never be any score settling. As a mutual friend told me upon parting, the barometer of your spiritual life, and a very sensitive one, are all your interrelations: their heights, their freedom from the lower things – or, rather, the degree of approximation to freedom, chastity in love, mutual forgiveness, and service to the other with one’s talents.
Our rest should be brief.
A short break, and then once again on our way! Your movement will be facilitated by mutual support during the inevitable and divergent minutes of loss of strength, lack of faith, and despondency. May we be preserved from collecting debts from our spouses in the minutes of their weakness!
This is very painful and – alas! – it happens; but it is not loving.
From now on your movement will be mutually dependant. One of you should not go on ahead, leaving your companion far behind the corner. Becoming closed to another in the family will mean the beginning of inner alienation.
With becoming closed come supposed inconsistencies of character. A shared life and mutual openness can sometimes lead to a certain disrobing in relations, to negligence in dress, to dishevelment and scatteredness in the presence of the other. This is the beginning of the loss of mutual respect. In this regard it is good to remember and repeat your behavior when your mutual love arose and grew.
I remember you with particular love, I congratulate you, and with all my heart I ask that all things great and small arrange themselves for you. Congratulate your parents on my behalf. Forgive me for everything, and in particular for having added roses with thorns to my verbal bouquet, instead of simply warmly embracing you, kissing you, and wishing you every happiness and all His mercy. So, with kisses,
Your brother Eugene.
Вy Archpriest Eugene Ambartsumov