In the early days of my monastic career at the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, there was a period when I stopped reading the Gospel. I was very busy then, and I did not have enough time to open the Scriptures and focus on the meaning of the words. I did not pay much attention to this, and simply continued to fulfil my duties, working from four in the morning until very late in the evening.
Outwardly, there were no changes, but I gradually began to notice that I was becoming more and more burdened by a feeling of intense spiritual and bodily fatigue, which I could not “relieve” by sleep, food, or rest. Whether falling asleep or waking up, going to services or working, I constantly had the feeling that someone was digging into my neck and sucking all the strength out of me.
Quite soon, I came to a state where my legs began to buckle as I walked, and my shaky hands made it difficult for me to drive. My body and soul were becoming exhausted more and more each day, and I still could not understand the reason why.
In this state, I came to the office of the abbot, Father Agathodor, to discuss some work matters. He, being a discerning man, immediately asked what was the matter with me.
In an exhausted voice, I answered quietly, “I don’t know… I don’t feel well.”
He stopped his gaze on me, as if trying to quickly look into my soul and find the source of my illness. Suddenly he asked, “When was the last time you read the Gospel?” I began to recall and was horrified to realize that I could not remember the last time I picked up a book, let alone reading the Gospel.
‘How is this possible? How long have I been living without my main spiritual food?’
With a great deal of inner turmoil, I ran to my cell, grasped the Gospel, and began to read. I opened it and, like a man dying of thirst, I read and read and read… To my amazement, the more I read, the more I felt I was getting better. The invisible teeth digging into my neck gradually loosened, and I breathed more freely. With each new chapter, (I read about ten at once) I was getting better and better. I turned page after page until I realized that I was completely free of my disease. The feeling of oppression was gone. The enslavement I experienced during that time became a great lesson for me, which I do not need to repeat twice. Since then, I have been reading 365 chapters a year, that is, a chapter every morning.
Man consists of two parts – soul and body. We feed our flesh, but the soul remains hungry. The main food for the soul is the Gospel. We do not forget to charge our cell phones in the evening, but we tend to forget about the soul. When we read the Gospel, we receive grace. One chapter in the morning charges us with grace for the whole day, making it completely different. Thinking about what we have read, we will notice that some of it will come true, although the Gospel is not a fortune-telling book. It is the book of life that every Christian should live by.
Sometimes we forget about what a great power is hidden in this book. If we ever saw how the devil flees when we pick up the Gospel, we would cling to it and never let it go. For my confessor, Father Kirill (Pavlov), the Gospel always came first. He found his Gospel book in the ruins of Stalingrad during World War II and went through the war with it. Much later I, too, had to enter my own battlefield to understand that there is no victory without the Gospel.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds