Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of St. Elisabeth Convent, answers various questions of the parishioners.
-Have you ever met people whose repentance was similar to the repentance of St Mary of Egypt?
-The repentance of St Mary of Egypt is an extraordinary example. Having worked in the Church for a long time, I have seen people come in a miserable and poor condition, and the Lord provided them with a chance to begin a new life. They went through a complete transformation. Of course, they didn’t walk on water and they didn’t live in deserts but it was evident that the Lord gave them power to oppose sin, to get the better of their own self, and the outcomes were visible.
When you see the result, it makes your faith stronger. In any case, we need to witness the acts of God with our own eyes. We need it badly, particularly when we are in trouble.
-Why are we more accustomed to the time of repentance and fasting than to the season of Easter joy?
-We all are ill, both spiritually and physically. We are more likely to feel sorrow than joy. It is much harder to be happy than to cry. Joy is beyond our capabilities.
It is with this long fast, self-denial, temperance, and restrictions of earthly joys that the Church prepares us for celestial delight. We will embrace that delight when we arrive at the Bright Resurrection of Christ. However, we have to work hard to preserve that joy through the entire Bright Week, the entire Easter season until the Ascension, and throughout the entire year in general.
Orthodoxy does not necessitate one’s grim and stiff repentance, when one doesn’t care about anyone else. Orthodoxy is primarily centred around the joy of the Risen Christ, which ensues when an individual humbles down and feels that God loves him and is always near.
-When anything bad happens, it has become common to hear, “Well, that’s the Great Lent for you…” Is Great Lent really to blame for all our misfortunes?
-We are always looking for someone to blame for our own sins or the trials and sorrows that we have to go through.
Whenever someone tries to make any spiritual effort and to get closer to God, there are more sorrows, that’s true. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you want to get a result, if you are not afraid of moving forward, if you exert yourself and start working spiritually and fighting the sin, you must be aware of the fact that the sin won’t give in so easily. It will fight tooth and nail. You will observe within yourself the things you have never thought existed. You may have had a peaceful life and thought that you were a good person who loved God and your neighbour. Nevertheless, when you get more involved in Christian living, when you start going to church and trying to lead a spiritual life, everything goes awry. You are shocked to find out that you are not actually a decent person: in fact, you are a disgraceful sinner. Your mask goes off. It is baffling for a proud person to see his sins and his nefariousness, so he becomes desperate and dreary. That’s the usual scenario.
What you should do in this case is be patient. You talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk. You decide to follow Christ to the end. You might choose a big and unbearable prayer rule and appear to be holy in your own eyes but then you will turn out to be incapable of anything… It is extremely embarrassing to humble down in this case. It is hard to admit, “Yes, Lord, forgive me, I am but a little child who has put on a grown man’s clothes.” You’ve got to know your level. That is why it is greatly beneficial if you seek advice of more experienced people and ask your spiritual father for his blessing of your abstinence and prayer rule.
Life of Orthodoxian christian is not easy…really at the beginning one could find certain obstacles…but through the time overcoming them is almost commonly done by ourselves. Little by little to discover the way of being one part of our Church will be shown by God. For me is a huge blessing to belong to the Orthodox Community.