A window into Russia’s past: The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace

Truly the church is heaven upon earth; for where the throne of God is, where the awful mysteries are celebrated, where the angels serve together with men, ceaselessly glorifying the Almighty, there is truly heaven. And so let us enter into the house of God with the fear of God, with a pure heart, laying aside all vices and every worldly care, and let us stand in it with faith and reverence, with understanding attention, with love and peace in our hearts, so that we may come away renewed, as though made heavenly; so that we may live in the holiness natural to heaven, not binding ourselves by worldly desires and pleasures.
-St John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), spiritual adviser and confessor to Russian Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II.

The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace (Baroque), consecrated for use in 1763 under Empress Catherine II (r. 1762-96). Executed on Empress Elizabeth Petrovna's order (r. 1741-62) by Francesco Rastrelli.

The Imperial Chapel at the Winter Palace (Rococo), consecrated for use in 1763 under Empress Catherine II (r. 1762-96). Executed on Empress Elizabeth Petrovna’s order (r. 1741-62) by Francesco Rastrelli.

The Imperial Chapel or “Grand Church” at the Winter Palace was completed in the Rococo style then immensely popular across Europe. Its Russian name is Cобор Спаса Нерукотворного Образа в Зимнем дворце. It is where Emperor Nicholas II Alexandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse) were married on 14/26 November 1894, on his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)’s birthday.

Portrait by Laurits Tuxen of the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II and the Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, which took place at the Chapel of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, on 14/26 November 1894.

Portrait by Laurits Tuxen of the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II and the Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, which took place at the Chapel of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, on 14/26 November 1894.

The chapel was designed by the Italian maestro Francesco Rastrelli, who was personally in charge of the three-tier iconostasis, whose magnificent icons were painted by Ivan Ivanovich Belsky and Ivan Vishnyakov. The Italian Francesco Fontebasso painted the evangelists in the church’s spandrels and the “Resurrection of Christ” plafond in the vestibule.

It was constructed during the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter I’s daughter, from October 1753-June 1763, and dedicated in Empress Catherine II’s presence by Archbishop Gabriel (Gavril) Kremenetsky on 12 July 1763. The church is located on the piano nobile in the eastern wing of the Winter Palace, and is the larger, and principal, of two churches within the Palace. A smaller, more private church for the use of the Imperial Family was constructed in 1768, near the private apartment in the northwest part of the wing.

The gilded pulpit of the chapel from which sermons were delivered and the Gospel read.

The gilded pulpit of the chapel from which sermons were delivered and the Gospel read.

Western-style icon of the Lord's Ascension into heaven on the chapel ceiling.

Western-style icon of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven on the chapel ceiling.

The western wall. As is tradition in all Orthodox churches, the entrance is at the west and the iconostasis and altar to the east.

The western wall. As is tradition in all Orthodox churches, the entrance is at the west and the iconostasis and altar to the east.

As the ‘chapel royal’ of the Russian Imperial Family, the chapel was designated as a nominal cathedral, dedicated to the icon of the Lord ‘Not-Made-by-Hands’ (see here). This eponymous icon, painted by Feodor Ukhtomsky in 1693, lavishly decorated with gold and diamonds, was placed near the sanctuary by Archbishop Gabriel in 1763.

The Cathedral of the Not-Made-by-Hand Image of Our Saviour in the Winter Palace, by Eduard Hau (1866).

The Cathedral of the Not-Made-by-Hand Image of Our Saviour in the Winter Palace, by Eduard Hau (1866). Painted during the reign of Alexander II.

Russian copy, undated, of the Icon of Christ 'Not Made by Hands'.

Russian copy, undated, of the Icon of Christ ‘Not Made by Hands’.

The Imperial Chapel was targeted early on in the Russian Revolution by the atheist Bolsheviks, who ordered it closed for worship in May 1918 just two months after Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication. It is now used as an unconsecrated exhibition hall of the Hermitage Museum. Between 2012 and 2014 a comprehensive restoration project resulted in the recreation of the original design of the Court Cathedral. The icons, the candelabra, the standard lamps and pieces of the iconostasis, the pulpit, the lantern and the altar canopy were returned to their original place.

May divine services one day again be held in this beautiful church!

Profound examples of holiness: the Royal Martyrs in their own words and through the words of those who knew them

In 1905, twelve years before Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication and three years from his own repose, St John of Kronstast, who had served as confessor to Nicholas II’s father Emperor Alexander III (r. 1881-94, d. 1894), spoke these prophetic words:

“We have a Tsar of righteous and pious life. God has sent a heavy cross of sufferings to him as to His chosen one and beloved child, as the seer of the destinies of God said: ‘Whom I love, those I reproach and punish’ (Rev. 3.19). If there is no repentance in the Russian people, the end of the world is near. God will remove from it the pious Tsar and send a whip in the person of impure, cruel, self-called rulers, who will drench the whole land in blood and tears.”

Image

Nicholas himself made a similar observation about his fate when speaking to his Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin. In his diary, Stolypin noted with some degree of incredulity that Nicholas spoke these words without any hint of alarm or distress. This must have taken place sometime before the latter’s 1911 assassination at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of the Emperor and his eldest daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana. Immediately after the assassin, Dmitri Bogrov, shot him twice, causing panic to erupt among those around him, Stolypin calmly rose from his chair, removed his gloves and unbuttoned his jacket, exposing a blood-soaked waistcoat. He sank into his chair and loudly exclaimed “I am happy to die for the Tsar” before motioning to Nicholas in his imperial box to withdraw to safety. Nicholas remained in his position, and in one final gesture Stolypin bowed to his sovereign, blessing him with a sign of the cross and saying “May God save him!”. Bogrov then attempted to stab Stolypin, but tripped and was subsequently caught and hanged.

“I have a premonition. I have the certainty that I am destined for terrible trials, but I will not receive a reward for them in this world… Perhaps there must be a victim in expiation in order to save Russia. I will be this victim. May God’s will be done!”

Image

Nicholas II smiling in a signed photo taken in 1898, his fourth year on the throne.

Image

A signed portrait of the Empress from 1899, five years into her reign with Nicholas II.

According to Anna A. Vyrubova, the Empress’ closest confidante, best friend and lady-in-waiting, in Her Majesty’s Lady-in-Waiting, p. 171 (reprinted in Orthodox Word, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, Ca.,  Vol. 34, No.5 (202) Sept-Oct, 1998,p. 215), a Russian holy woman by the name of Maria blessed the Empress in December 1916 when she visited her cell and foretold her eventual martyrdom:

“In December of 1916, Her Majesty traveled from an emotional rest to Novgorod for a day, with two Grand Duchesses and a small suite.  She visited field hospitals and monasteries and attended the Liturgy at the St. Sophia Cathedral. Before her departure the Tsaritsa visited the Yurievsky and Desyatina Monasteries.”

“In the latter she visited Eldress Maria Mikhailovna in her tiny cell, where the aged woman had lain for many years in heavy chains (this was self inflicted – Editor’s notes) on an iron bed.  When the Tsaritsa entered, the Eldress held her withered hand out to her and said, ‘Here comes the martyr, Tsaritsa Alexandra!’  She embraced her and blessed her.  In a few days the Eldress reposed.”

Image

In 1917, the venerable St. Metropolitan Makary (Макарий) Nevsky of Moscow beheld the Savior speaking to the Tsar in a vision:

“You see,” said the Lord, “two cups in my hands: one is bitter for your people, and the other is sweet for you.” In the vision the Tsar begged for the bitter cup. The Savior then took a large glowing coal from the cup and put it in the Tsar’s hands. The Tsar’s whole body then began to grow light, until he was shining like a radiant spirit. Then the vision changed to a field of flowers, in the middle of which Nicholas was distributing manna to a multitude of people. A voice spoke: “The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself and the Russian people are forgiven.”

Image

As the First World War dragged on with mounting casualties and no conclusive end, causing a decline in morale and furthering discontent among those disposed toward revolutionary sentiment in the armed forces and urban factories, the Empress and her older daughters continued to serve actively as hospital nurses. Numerous historical accounts of the Empress’ life during the war years, especially the memoirs of the women who perhaps knew her best, her dear confidantes the Countess Anna A. Vryubova and Baroness Sophie von Buxhoeveden, recall her dedicated service in the blood and disease-filled hospitals of wartime Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Despite that Nicholas and Alexandra disliked her cousin, the blustering Kaiser Wilhelm II, and had decidedly English cultural sensibilities (Nicholas II and Britain’s King George V were first cousins, as their Danish mothers were sisters, while the Empress Alexandra and her older sister Ella, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, had grown up at the court of their grandmother Queen Victoria), as the war dragged on, communist and anarchist groups working to subvert the monarchy and undermine the war effort at the same time began to circulate pamphlets and scrawl graffiti attacking the Empress as a German “imposter”, “traitor”, “spy”, and worse. According to this superb Pravmir article from May 2006 on “Tsar Nicholas and His Family”,

As soon as the war broke out, the Empress and the four Grand Duchesses (Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia) became nurses; and hospitals were opened at Tsarskoye Selo, near the family’s residence, where wounded soldiers were brought. They worked long hours, diligently and tirelessly following the commandment of Christ to visit the sick, since “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25.30).

Anna A. Vyrubova, the Empress’ closest friend, wrote: “I have personally seen the Empress of Russia in the operating room, assisting in the most difficult operations, taking from the hands of the busy surgeon amputated legs and arms, removing bloody and even vermin-ridden field dressings.” Vyrubova says that she was a “born nurse”, who “from her earliest accession took an interest in hospitals, in nursing, quite foreign to native Russian ideas. She not only visited the sick herself, in hospitals, in homes, but she enormously increased the efficiency of the hospital system in Russia. Out of her own private funds the Empress founded and supported two excellent schools for training nurses, especially in the care of children.”

Unsurprisingly, this is the same Empress who wrote in her diary at some point during that fateful year of 1917, “In order to climb the great heavenly staircase of love, we must ourselves become a stone, a stair which others will climb.”

In this deeply moving poem to Empress Alexandra, “To My Beloved Mama”, which she composed at Tsarskoye Selo on April 23, 1917, just over a month following her father’s abdication, the 22-year old Grand Duchess Olga wrote:

“You are filled with anguish.

For the suffering of others.

And no one’s grief

Has ever passed you by.

You are relentless

Only toward yourself,

Forever cold and pitiless.

But if only you could look upon

Your own sadness from a distance,

Just once with a loving soul-

Oh, how you would pity yourself.

How sadly you would weep.”

Image

The Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna as a young girl.

These are the qualities of a saint, ones which the young Princess discerned in her own mother. Grand Duchess Olga, clearly a beautifully gifted writer possessed of praiseworthy talent as a poet, evidently perceived the devastating combined impact that her father’s abdication and the Tsarevich Alexei’s incurable hemophilia continuously wrought on her mother’s emotional, physical and spiritual health.

As the following letter from the Princess indicated, Grand Duchess Olga, as the oldest of the children in the Imperial Family, consciously served as a kind of envoy for her beleaguered parents to the outside world beyond their prison walls:

“Father asks the following message to be given to all those who have remained faithful to him, and to those on whom they may have an influence, that they should not take revenge for him, since he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone, that they should not take revenge for themselves, and should remember that the evil which is now in the world shall grow even stronger, but that it is not evil that will conquer evil, but only love. . .”
~ Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, writing from Tobolsk in the Urals during the Royal family’s exile there in summer 1917, about a year before their brutal execution.

Image

Emperor Nicholas II sawing wood with Alexei during the Imperial Family’s winter at Tobolsk.

The change in the Grand Duchess’ tone is remarkable: from an already highly perceptive young woman, it is evident that the several harrying months spent under house arrest confined to a few small rooms at the old Governor’s House in Tobolsk had caused the close-knit Imperial Family to keep a more eternal perspective. We read of a young woman both clearly aware that her words would eventually be read by many people who heartily supported the Romanov monarchy and the cause of their liberation from the Bolsheviks, and acutely aware that her father abhorred the continued bloodshed of the civil war between Whites and Reds.

Image

Nicholas’ exhortation for his supporters to refrain from further bloodshed in the cause of his liberation is at first glance surprising (though not when we take into consideration the Emperor’s profound concern for his people, whom he loved as much as he did his own children), and indeed, extraordinary, all the more so given the successes so many White army forces were having against the Bolsheviks at the time the Grand Duchess wrote this letter. One can only infer that the Imperial Family were permitted to receive little to no news of ongoing political developments outside the walls of their prison. Nonetheless, for the former Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias to write that “he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone, that they should not take revenge for themselves”, one comes away with a clear sense that the Imperial Family anticipated their eventual martyrdom.

Image

The Imperial Family depicted in traditional Russian costume as New-Martyrs and Saints of the Orthodox Church.

Reading the following poem, another one beautifully composed by the Grand Duchess Olga, its meaning is unmistakable: by the time that she wrote these words, it is certain that the Imperial Family expected to be martyred. The Princess’ poem here is both hymn and dirge, a psalm of praise and one of sorrow and fear, but above all, a canticle of deep faith and a discernment of God’s will in all things. True of saints’ writings, we see that the centrality of the Princess’ poem is not her dwelling on her own anguish or horror at the thought of a potentially agonizing death, or lamentation at the thought of her earthly life cut short so abruptly, but a profound trust in God’s providence that His purpose guides all things and that, ultimately, He would work good out of evil.

Image

I do not know how many months or weeks before her death the Grand Duchess wrote this haunting poem, but I come away thinking that it is truly astonishing – and almost unheard of today- for a young woman my age to be so accepting of a possibly imminent death or any manner of torture. So long as the Imperial Family, with God’s aid, continued to endure and persevere in faith, withstanding all evil and, above all, forgiving “our neighbors’ persecution”, the Grand Duchess prays, above all, to receive strength to “pass the last dread gate” into eternal life.

Grant us Thy patience, Lord,

In these our woeful days,

The mob’s wrath to endure,

The torturer’s ire;

Thy unction to forgive

Our neighbors’ persecution

And mild, like Thee, to bear

A bloodstained Cross.

And when the mob prevails

And foes come to despoil us,

To suffer humbly shame,

O Savior aid us!

And when the hour comes

To pass the last dread gate,

Breathe strength in us to pray,

Father forgive them!

Image

Here is a beautiful quote from Saint John the Wonderworker (1896-1966) on the Emperor, which the younger saint said in July 1963, the 45th anniversary of the martyrdoms:

“Why was Tsar Nicholas II persecuted, slandered and killed? Because he was Tsar, Tsar by the Grace of God. He was the bearer and incarnation of the Orthodox world view that the Tsar is the servant of God, the Anointed of God, and that to Him he must give an account for the people entrusted to him by destiny, for all his deeds and actions, not only those done personally, but also as Tsar. . . Thus did the Orthodox Russian people believe, thus has the Orthodox Church taught, and this did Tsar Nicholas acknowledge and sense. He was thoroughly penetrated by this awareness; he viewed his bearing of the Imperial crown as a service to God. He kept this in mind during all his important decisions, during all the responsible questions that arose. This is why he was so firm and unwavering in those questions about which he was convinced that such was the will of God; he stood firmly for that which seemed to him necessary for the good of the realm of which he was head.”

 Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us that He may save our souls!

St John of Kronstadt on divine love

Image

St John of Kronstadt on divine love

“Great is Your love, O Lord: You have wholly spent Yourself out of love for me. I gaze upon the cross and marvel at Your love to me and to the world, for the cross is the evident token of Your love to us. ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (Jn. 15:13). Your life-giving Mysteries, Lord, serve as a perpetual glorious proof of Your love for us sinners; for this Your Divine Body was broken for me, for us all, and this Blood was poured out for me, for us all. Lord, I glorify the wonders accomplished by Your Holy Mysteries upon Your believers, to whom I have ministered Them; I glorify the innumerable cures of which I was witness; I glorify Their all-saving action in myself. I glorify Your mercy to me, revealed to me in Them and through Them, and Your life-giving power, acting in Them. Lord, in return for Your great love, grant that I may love You with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself, grant that I may also love my enemies, and not only those who love me.

-St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ; Holy Trinity Monastery pgs, 319-320)

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

St John of Kronstadt on drunkenness and addiction

Quote

The incorporeal enemy enters the heart of man through satiety and drunkenness — this can be felt by anyone who is observant.

This is the reason why, with the growth of drunkenness, the inclination to drunkenness increases so terribly (because the power of the enemy over the man increases)–this is why you notice in drunkards a power involuntarily drawing them to satisfy their passion or their inward craving for wine. The enemy is in the hearts of these unhappy people.

How can the demon of drunkenness be driven out? By prayer and fasting. The enemy enters the hearts of men because they have given themselves up to a carnal mode of life–to gluttony, and because they do not pray.

It is, therefore, natural that he can be driven out from them by opposite means–that is, by prayer and fasting.

— St John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Incredible words of wisdom from St John of Kronstadt

Fear evil like fire. Don’t let it touch your heart even if it seems just or righteous. No matter what the circumstances, don’t let it come into you. Evil is always evil. Sometimes evil presents itself as an endeavor to God’s glory, or as something with good intentions towards your neighbor. Even in these cases, don’t trust this feeling. It’s a wrong labor and is not filled with wisdom. Instead, work on chasing evil from yourself.

Evil, however innocent it looks, offends God’s long-suffering love, which is His foremost glory. Judas betrayed his Lord for 30 silver pieces under the guise of helping the poor. Keep in mind that the enemy continuously seeks your death and attacks more fiercely when you’re not alert. His evil is endless. Don’t let self-esteem and the love of material goods win you over. When you feel anger against someone, believe with your whole heart that it’s a result of the devil’s work in your heart. Try to hate the devil and his deeds and it will leave you. Don’t admit it as a part of yourself and don’t justify it. I know this from experience. The devil hides himself behind our souls and we blindly think we’re acting by ourselves. Then we defend the devil’s work as something that is a part of us.Sometimes we think that anger is a fair reaction to something bad. But the idea that a passion could ever be fair is a total and deadly lie. When someone is angry at you, remember that this evil feeling is him. He’s just fooled by the devil and is a suffering instrument in his hand. Pray that the enemy leaves him and that God opens his spiritual eyes, which have been darkened by the evil spirit. Pray to God for all people enslaved by passions because the enemy is acting in their hearts.
st-john-of-kronstadt1

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Perhaps you hate your neighbor, despise him, don’t want to talk to him peacefully and lovingly because he has been rude, arrogant, or disgusting in his speech or manners. You may despise him for being full of himself or proud or disrespectful. But you are to blame more than he is. “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23). So, teacher, teach yourself. This kind of anger is worse than any other evil.How could evil be chased out by another evil? How can you take a needle from the eye of another person while having a log in your own? Evil defects must be fixed with love, kindness, resignation, and patience. Admit yourself as the worst of all sinners, and believe it. Consider yourself the worst one, chase away any boldness, anger, impatience and fury;you may start helping others. Be indulgent about the defects of others, because if you see their faults all the time, there will be continuous enmity. “The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.”(Psalm 129:3). “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”(Matthew 6:14).

We can feel from time to time the most perfect love for God without loving each other. This is a strange thing, and only few care about it. But love for our neighbor will never come without our own effort.A real Christian doesn’t have any reason to be angry about anybody. Anger is the devil’s deed. A Christian should have only love inside and since love doesn’t boast, he shouldn’t boast or have any bad thoughts towards others. For example, I must not think about another person that he is evil, proud etc; and I must not think that if I forgive his offense he would laugh at me or upset me again. We must not let evil hide in us under any pretense. Evil and anger usually have many different veils.Don’t yield to gloomy feelings in your heart but control and eradicate them with the power of faith and the light of the sane mind. These strengths will make you feel secure. ‘Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you’. (Psalm 25:20).

Gloomy feelings usually develop deep in the heart. Someone who didn’t learn how to control them will be gloomy, pensive most of the time and it will be hard for him to deal with himself and other people. When he comes close to you, sustain yourself with inner strength, happiness and innocent jokes: and they will leave you soon. This is from experience.

Lord, give me strength to love everyone like myself and never to get angry or work the for devil. Give me strength to crucify my self-esteem, my pride, my greed, my skepticism and other passions. Let us have a name: a mutual love. Let us not worry about anything. Be the only God of our hearts, and let us desire nothing except You. Let us live always in unifying love and let us hate anything that separates us from each other and from love. So be it! So be it! If God showed Himself to us and lives inside us as we in Him (according to His eternal Word), wouldn’t He give us everything? Would He ever trick us or leave us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Now be comforted, my dear, and know nothing but love. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:17).

icons-st-john-and-st-matrona

Beginning on Sunday, August 12, 2012 and lasting through to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, many special holy icons and relics were present at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This myrrh-streaming double icon depicts two pillars of the Orthodox faith in Russia. Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), offering the Communion chalice and a benediction, is shown with Saint Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952) because when he saw her as a young, blind girl in a crowd, he predicted that she would be his spiritual successor. Blessed Matrona healed many people of their spiritual diseases and predicted numerous marriages, events and deaths- including her own.

St John of Kronstadt on inner peace of soul

Quote

When holy peace reigns in my soul, then surely the King of Peace dwells within me, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and then especially I ought to be full of feelings of gratitude to the Lord of Peace, and endeavor with all my strength to preserve this peace within me by means of fervent prayer and by abstaining from every sin, both inward and outward.

-St John of Kronstadt

“The day is a symbol of …”

Quote

“The day is a symbol of the fleetness of earthly life: morning comes, then day, thereupon evening, and with the advent of night, the whole day has passed. Life will pass the same way. Just like early morning, first there is childhood, then just as full sunrise and midday, adolescence and adulthood– thereafter, God willing, just like evening, old age– and then unavoidable death.”
-St John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life as a priest at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

The light of the Gospel enlivens our hearts

Quote

“Our heart is like the darkened earth; the Gospel is like the sun, enlightening and giving life to our hearts. May the true sun of Thy righteousness shine in our hearts, O Lord!”
-St. John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

St John of Kronstadt: “Watch over your heart. . .”

Throughout your life, watch over your heart and notice those things that hinder its union with God. Let this be your sciences of sciences and with God’s help, you will get accustomed to perceiving quickly what distances you from God and what draws you nearer to Him. The Deceiver strives very hard to stand between our heart and God. It is precisely he who distances us from God with various passions: carnal lust of the body, lust through the eyes and earthly pride.

Distinguish between the Life-giving Spirit and the spirit of death within yourself. When your soul has good thoughts, you feel good and buoyant, you experience tranquility and joy, this indicates that the Holy Spirit is in you. Whereas when you have unkind thoughts or unkind inclinations of the heart, you feel burdened and troubled. This indicates that the evil spirit is within you. The evil spirit is the spirit of doubt, disbelief, passion, constriction, sorrow, and confusion; whereas the righteous spirit is the spirit of unshakable faith, the spirit of benevolence, the spirit of noetic freedom and expanse, the spirit of peace and joy. Through these indicators, ascertain what spirit is active within you.

“Continually turn to God. . .”

Quote

Even the saints of God were at times seized with diabolical despair and despondency.What, therefore, can we sinners expect?

O, the enemy often wounds us by the wrath, humiliation, and cruel despondency of the heart! We must continually turn to God and be every moment with Him, in order that we may not be besieged with the wrath and despondency of the enemy.

-St John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life as a priest at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.