Elder Ambrose of Optina Monastery said, “We should not forget that in our age of ‘sophistication’ even little children are spiritually harmed by what they see and hear. As a result, purification is required….You must understand that Paradisal bliss is granted to no one without suffering.”
A person walks on the path to salvation not only by his good deeds, but also by his patient suffering of various griefs, illnesses, misfortunes, and failures (Luke 16:19-31, Mark 8:31-38, Romans 6:3-11, Hebrews 12:1-3, and Galatians 6:14). Jesus Christ gives us the power which is needed for transformation, and prepares us to live with a strength under the most difficult conditions, preparing us for the peace that is eternal, and He comes and stands next to us in our suffering.
Without suffering we can not join ourselves to the cross, and when we do take up our cross in suffering, it is with our Co-Suffering Saviour. Sickness and suffering are not given to us by a wrathful and punitive God because we have sinned, but rather allowed by this loving God who co-suffers with us. It is Western juridical misconceptions concerning sin which has tended to distort a proper recognition of suffering and its connection to sin.
During this Covid 19 Pandemic, we are all experiencing separation from our friends and family. Additionally, many are experiencing job loss, compounded by the added financial worry that has come with the loss of income. I, like most priests I know, am also heartbroken that I can not receive pilgrims to the monastery, many of whom are like family to me. Yet I know in my heart that this suffering is salvific, not only for myself, but for all those I love and care about.
This is a call from the Lord to repentance, and is therefore a gift from the Lord Most High. We now have an opportunity to go inward, where we can deepen our prayer life, and enter into the Silence where God is speaking to each of us. These are indeed difficult times, yet if we look deeply at what is happening, we can also see that they can be the best of times.
With love in Christ,