In the Synaxarium, on the 3rd day of September, St Basil, among other things, says, “Make no mistake thinking that everyone is saved in monasteries. Many people are attracted to a virtuous life, but only a few accept its yoke”. What do these words mean? They mean that those who do nothing for their salvation, are mistaken, thinking that they would be saved living in a monastery. They are indeed wrong, for it is obvious that if a lazy person is burdened by living in the world just as well as he would be by living in a monastery. What should he do? First of all, he should give up his laziness and his thoughts about joining a monastery. He who withdraws from his laziness will be saved even in the world; he who adheres to it will perish in a monastery or in the most remote desert.
One city dweller, in a conversation with the Venerable Niphont, said that whoever wants to be saved must definitely go to a monastery, because in the world you cannot be saved in any way. What did the venerable answer him? He said, “Child, a place can neither save or destroy a person; it is only deeds that save or destroy us. A holy dwelling place or a holy dignity is of no use to someone who does not fulfill the commandments of the Lord. Saul lived in the midst of royal splendor, and perished; David lived in the midst of the same splendor and attained the crown of salvation. Lot lived in the midst of the lawless Sodomites and was saved; Judas was among the Apostles and inherited Gehenna. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children is flattering his own folly and vices. Abraham had a wife and children, as well as three hundred and eighty male and female slaves and plenty of gold and silver. This did not prevent him however from acquiring the name of a friend of God. How many servants of the Church and desert-lovers have been saved! How many nobles and warriors! How many artisans and farmers! How many of them were in the midst of noisy capitals and silent villages! On the other hand, in the same ranks and estates, in the same places and at the same time, countless people perished. From kings to slaves there are children of the kingdom of heaven, and from kings to slaves there are children of perdition. Son of God’s holy Church! Do not turn your mind and heart towards the temptations of the world. The salvation of our God can be found in every place if we fulfill His holy will. The Lord equally accepts a righteous soul into His arms whether from a throne, a plow, an altar or a battlefield. Do not despair therefore if you live in the world. If you have sinned, you can draw closer to God again through repentance. Everyone, do the deeds of your calling, which God has bestowed on you. Be pious and philanthropic and you will be saved. On the contrary, those who do not abandon his evil deeds and evil will inevitably perish even if they retire into a silent desert”.
These words make it clear as daylight that there is no point for you to go to any monastery before you deal with your laziness. While you are still living in the world, you must first part with it, crucifying your flesh with passions and lusts. Serve God with all your heart and with all your zeal; and then, God willing, perhaps it will be possible for you to join a monastery. One way or another, after you have served God in the world, making up for your laziness with good deeds, remember St Niphont’s words as often as you can. “The Lord equally accepts a righteous soul into His arms whether from a throne, a plow, an altar or a battlefield”. Even after you have pleased God with your deeds, continue living where you have lived, and seek happiness and salvation within yourself rather than elsewhere. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
Source: Viktor Guriev. Synaxarium in Sermons for Each Day of the Year. Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, 2007