Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, answered questions from viewers of the program “Church and the World” on April 25, 2020.
Question: I’ve been living in self-isolation for two weeks already. I can’t go outside, can’t visit anyone, I’m dying of boredom. What would you advise?
Metropolitan Hilarion: First of all, I would like to advise you, and not only you, but many of those who are watching us and who are now facing the same problems, to learn how to live an inner life. Unfortunately, we are very dependent on external circumstances. Very often people connect their whole lives with various circumstances: they are busy with work or study, or both, then they entertain themselves, and thus time passes, and living seems not boring for them. But when a person suddenly finds himself in four walls, he begins to ask himself what he should do.
In fact, one’s happiness, as Jesus Christ tells us, does not depend on one’s wealth, material goods, or external circumstances. It, first of all, depends on one’s inner world. If you learn how to create your inner world in such a way that you will never be bored, it will be the best thing you can learn in the current situation.
What do we, Christians, have? First, we have prayer. Even now, when many of us are unable to go to a church, no one can prevent us from making our own apartment and our own heart a church. Devote your time to pray to God. Moreover, it is possible to pray to God in different ways. It is not necessary to just read the prayers that are printed in the prayer book. You can just sit and talk with God. You are bored, you are alone, you have no one to communicate with: turn to God. Speak with Him, tell Him everything that bothers you, that has hurt you, everything that worries you. And then try to hear the answer. Maybe you won’t hear it right away, maybe the answer will come through some circumstances in your life. But if you turn to God, He will certainly respond.
In addition, there are many things that you can occupy yourself with in self-isolation: reading, watching interesting movies, getting acquainted with those literary works that you have not had time to get to know yet. Learn to engage yourself in this period of self-isolation. This art will help you throughout your entire life.
Question: What books should one read, what movies should one watch during the period of self-isolation?
Metropolitan Hilarion: I would certainly advise everyone to read the Bible. Moreover, the Bible is a large book, it consists of two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you have never read the Bible and it is the first time you hold it in your hands, do not try to read it from the beginning to end. Actually, I would even advise you to not read the Bible from the beginning, but open it right at the part called the New Testament, and start reading it from the Gospel of Matthew. Read it, then the Gospel of Mark, then Luke, then John. After these four Gospels, you will already have an idea of who Jesus Christ is, when He lived, what He taught, and most importantly, you can understand why Jesus Christ is still relevant, that is, what you can apply from His teachings in your own life.
You ask what movies you can watch? Again, there are so many interesting movies. I would like to share with you my impressions of one film that I watched last year, I would highly recommend it. It’s called Breakthrough, it’s an American movie of 2019. It is based on a true story, and the story was this: several children fell through the ice. One boy spent more than 15 minutes in icy water, and when he was pulled out, he was unconscious. Doctors said that the boy will not return to life, and even if he returns, he will not return to consciousness. But his mother was a deeply religious woman, she said, “I will pray, I will do everything so that he returns to life.” Throughout the film, she shows how she prayed, how she cared for her son, how she did not allow talking about how he would not survive in his presence, although he was in a coma. In the end, this boy returned to life contrary to the prognosis of all the doctors.
This is a very touching story, the film was shot in a touching way. And the most interesting thing in this film is that it absolutely truly reproduces the story that happened only a few years ago in one American town. I think such films show what faith can do, even in our difficult conditions. And now, when some of us are under the threat of the virus, when our loved ones are in a difficult situation, prayer is the most important thing we can help them with.
I would like to finish today’s program with the words of Jesus Christ, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”(Lk. 11,9).
I wish you all the best. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, and God bless you all!