– Father, I struggle with prayer! I do it mechanically. I know all the prayers of the prayer rule by heart and all the prayers of the service. I say the words, but my mind…
– Your mind is with the vanities of the world? – asked the confessor raising his head.
– Exactly, Father, exactly. I know myself that it’s wrong, but when it comes down to practice, I can do nothing about it. It must be burnout.
– Now, let’s have no more of this fashionable nonsense! – the confessor suddenly reacted sternly. What a wonderful excuse for spiritual sloth! Burnout, indeed! So, you’re saying that God abandoned His servant, right? First, He ordained him, then decided to abandon him? Do you actually understand what you’re saying?
– But, Father, everyone says that a person can become indifferent to the service.
– If you don’t believe in God, you will become indifferent. Do you believe in God?
– Of course, I do! I believe!
– Then light up a fire inside yourself and serve! Burnout, indeed! What will they come up with next!
– I can’t do it, Father. I don’t seem to care about anything anymore.
The confessor became thoughtful. Crossed himself. Looked carefully at the priest, whose confession he was listening to, and suddenly said:
– You’re coming with me after the service.
– Where to? – the priest asked, surprised.
– We’re going to light up a fire in your soul…
The cemetery was wet and empty. Who’d want to be there, especially when it was such a wet spring? During the few hours of sunshine, people had managed to tidy up the graves and make everything neat in time for Pascha and Radonitsa, but on the commemoration day itself, they had to serve the panikhida and congratulate their departed relatives with the Bright feast of the Resurrection with umbrellas in their hands.
– How many of your parishioners are there here? – the confessor asked the priest.
– I can’t say how many exactly, there’s some in every row. In eight years, I served the funeral service for so many, it’s impossible to count them all.
The priest started walking slowly along the central row of the gravesites, reading the inscriptions on monuments and the signs nailed to crosses.
– There’s an old lady here and those two were from our parish.
The priest crossed himself.
The confessor walked after the young priest singing quietly, “With the spirit of the righteous…”
They walked up to a new, fresh mound of earth with a big wooden cross.
The priest stopped so abruptly, the confessor nearly walked into him.
– What is it?
– But that’s… – exhaled the priest and finished in a strange voice, – that’s uncle Kolya…
– What uncle Kolya? – his confessor asked.
– Ten years ago, he gave me a book on spiritual life. That book by the Recluse, Theophan. I started going to church after reading it. How come I didn’t know he died…
The priest crossed himself several times and fell to his knees before the grave, right into the wet grass, which was still dirty from the soil of the recently dug-up grave.
– Give rest, O Lord, to Thy departed servant…
And together they sang, “With Thy saints give rest.”
– Where should I drop you off? – asked the confessor.
– At the church. I want to serve a panikhida.
– But don’t you have “burnout”?
The priest only shrugged, then added,
– Forgive me.
Translated from the Russian by Maria Nekipelov