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Letter 2

Theophan-Pic-1

The vanity of worldly life.

I got all caught up in speculating as to what could have happened, and it turns out that your grandmother was a little sick. Well, “grandmother; “there is a victorious word. For grandchildren, there is no warmer place than at grandmother’s, and for grandmother, there is no one dearer than good grandchildren. For this we must thank God.1 You should comfort your grandmother more often and listen attentively to what she says. Old women have a wisdom acquired through life’s experiences and labors. Often they unknowingly express in simple words such wise lessons as you could never find in books, even if you searched entire libraries.

Although you have given a very satisfactory explanation as to why you have not written for so long, it would be all the same proper to impose upon you an epitimia, small though it may be, with a view to correction. I think, however, that perhaps you would be better disposed to correction if I thanked you for writing, and for what you wrote. And so I thank you. You promise to be open. Good! Openness is the most important thing in correspondence; otherwise there would be no reason to even begin it. Always write straight from the shoulder. Write what is on your mind, and take care to state fully the questions which are stirring in your head and begging for an answer. Only then may solutions be arrived at, just as parched ground receives water. This is the simplest method of both acquiring and fixing in the mind concepts which elucidate subjects and matters which we consider it necessary to have a clear vision of in our mind’s eye. What would be the use if I were to write you about one thing, and your mind was occupied with something else? It would be empty words, as if two people were having a conversation with their backs turned to each other, and each person was discussing what was in front of his own eyes. It seems that we have already established that we will not concern ourselves with abstraction, or draw up plans and theories; instead, our conversation will be on life’s everyday occurrences. And so we will proceed step by step.

You write that you are “dazzled.” You say, “For about two days I have been making the usual social rounds here. First I went to the theater, then I went merry-making, then I went to a party. What kind of crowd is this, with the kinds of things they talk about, the kinds of abstruse opinions they have about everything, the kinds of manners they have? All this is barbarous to me, and I will never be able to collect my thoughts in this mob.” This is the first time you have been exposed to this; you will get used to it. The impression you have received, after your quiet and simple family life in the village, is entirely in the order of things. That is where your judgment was formed as to what is true and false in life, although I am not exactly sure just what it is that has lodged itself in your mind from the past. It is also possible that, while on the surface there seems to be disapproval of such things, deeper down there is sympathy for them and a desire to repeat them. The life of which you have seen a small part has stupefying characteristics. Those who participate in it also see that everything is not what it seems, but all the same they are drawn to it, like an opium addict, who knows what is in store for him: He is like a madman, who, in spite of everything, takes his drug, or perhaps for that very reason he takes it.

How are you doing? Are you still attracted to that place? Would you find it desirable to live your life in this way? I ask you to sketch me a little picture.. and be truthful.

St. Theophan the Recluse

Note:

1. Fr. Seraphim Rose’s note: “Good, warm atmosphere for spiritual life-lacking today.”