by Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky
Trans. Seth Davidenko
This translation was made possible with the generous support of an anonymous student of the Metropolitan Anthony’s legacy as hieromonk, patrologist and ROCOR’s first primate. The original work was first published in the Церковный вестник (1889), № 29 & 30. It was later republished in Митрополит Антоний. Учение о пастыре, пастырстве и об исповеди.(Жизнеописание блаженнейшего Антония, митрополита Киевского и Галицкого. Томъ XIII). Нью-Йорк 1966. С. 229–239.
This publication and its preceding introduction are dedicated to the blessed memory of Archbishop Alypy of Chicago & Mid-America (+2019).
It was explained in the first chapter that although the precise fulfillment of all outward prescriptions of cenoebitic typica is incompatible with the pastoral-pedagogical work of learned monasticism, one cannot from this conclude that such work is incompatible with the calling or order of monasticism, which finds its key above all in a principle, namely resolving to order one’s life so as to live only for the creation in oneself of the new man.1 The history of the Holy Fathers shows that this resolve remains achievable in deed, if a fitting seeker of salvation takes on pastoral work.
Pastorship is not a work foreign to our soul, or a work that tears a man away from spiritual nepsis.
We now must offer a convincing religious-psychological explication of such a path of moral self-perfection, from which contemporary reality sometimes diverges so far, that in the minds of many, even of sincere Christians, the pastoral calling is excluded from being possible in the monastic struggle.
In the 14th issue of our publication, [i.e., the Церковный вестник in which this work was originally published[/footnote] we brought forth those expressions from the Holy Scriptures on the essence of pastoral service and pastoral duty, which all the Holy Fathers of the Church used, from St. Irenaeus to St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in their writings on the responsibilities of Christian clergy. From all these writings it is clear that pastorship is not a work foreign to our soul, or a work that tears a man away from spiritual nepsis (watchfulness) over his internal life; but rather it is a work of asceticism, not in the sense of mortifying the flesh, but in a different sense: of the spiritual mortification of the old man.
There is no such thing as pastoral work (that is, as estranged from the inner life); what exists is a pastoral conscience. As a desert dweller has forgotten the whole world and looks only upon God and upon the construction of his inner man, so does one life goal exist for a pastor: the creation of the inner man, except not only in himself but also in his flock. He holds his whole flock in his conscience and spiritually identifies with all the souls that have been placed by God into his care. A good Christian mother experiences something similar: in every moment, she feels the state of each of her children. She trembles and her spirit is pained over each one of them, that they not fall into sin or forget God. Thus did the Righteous Job also pray for his children. A pastor does not live for himself, he giveth his life for the sheep2 and he cleanses the souls of his spiritual children with the same zeal as he would have for his own soul.
True, he fulfills this goal using outward methods, e.g. preaching, congregational services, private discussions. But all these methods will become pastoral action, and not simply Jesuitical hand-waving, only under the condition that they serve as the unmediated revelation of the process of conscience. If I preach a homily against drunkenness, then it is only complete when I, in my homiletic discourses, feel myself a sinner, condemning myself for my own sins, as a loving mother begging her son to leave some vice which is more tortuous for her than her own shortcomings.
A pastor is required to speak much, to go and do, but even more so to pray, to weep, to kill egoism and pride in the sanctum of his heart.
From such a definition of pastoral duty it becomes clear that the activity or mode of life of a pastor should also be ascetic and internal. A pastor is required to speak much, to go and do, but even more so to pray, to weep, to kill egoism and pride in the sanctum of his heart. He must remember and forcefully bring to bear not only the Sermon on the Mount but also the prayer and the struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. This is the positive and sacrificial side of pastoral conscience; the negative is deduced from here with complete precision.
The bad pastor is not he who does not know Greek, or have a musical ear, or a pleasing appearance, but he who has not killed within himself the love of self as the goal of his life, he who does not know how to pray, how to love, to co-suffer and forgive.
The old man, and not the outer imperfections — this is the greatest obstacle to pastoral work. If this is so, then answer with a sincere conscience, whether it is beneficial for the flock or not, if such a Christian takes their spiritual care upon himself, who has set even this mortification of the old man in himself as his only goal in life, who for this reason forsook all earthly bonds, from family, relatives, wealth, associations, and finally from his own will?
What serves for us as an obstacle—let us turn to real life—to the success of every good beginning in any social sphere—Ecclesial, governmental, earthly, or literary? The meeting of human egos, the unwillingness of people to offer their personal privileges and self-interest, the workings of the old man in us. Would the bloody dramas of history have been possible if the Alcibiadeses and the Napoleons had heard something of the monastic vows and accepted them within their souls? It seems that enough has been said for one to clearly understand that monasticism, as a formal life and religious principle (and not merely as the outward daily forms separate from it) not only does not detract from pastoral work, but wholly serves it to the good, even nearly entirely necessitates it. If reality sometimes gives contrary examples in those cases when men do not find in their pastoral duties anything other than an office-clerical job, they will for such a view receive recompense, if not on this earth then at the judgement of God.
But to what extent is it possible for human strength to keep such spiritual watchfulness over oneself in the midst of the distractions one comes across in pastoral work? With what will a pastor replace long periods of solitary contemplation, vigils, the Jesus prayer, fasting, physical labor, and other monastic struggles which are incompatible with the priest’s position? First of all, it is not fitting to over-exaggerate the degree of this incompatibility and to understand the pastoral position in its current status. The most frequent expressions of this idea are superfluous, for it is evident to each individual conscience. We refer those who are unfamiliar with the situation to the articles of the V. Rev. Protopriest Ivantsov-Platonov, in Aksakov’s Rus from 1881 or the following year.
If the thought of abusing his privileges with regard to outward asceticism remains foreign to the monk-pastor, then how will he adorn the time and energy spent on pastoral work — on exhortations, on preaching, on writing or publishing, on discussions, on lectures and so forth? Sure, this is all necessary for the salvation of others, maybe the monk can even do all this better than a worldly pastor; but what will this high-energy activity bring for his own spiritual growth? We will answer with the words of the ascetic and preacher St. John Chrysostom: “He who gives his neighbor money reduces his own wealth. But here (in the matter of preaching) it is the opposite; in such a case we increase this spiritual wealth when we generously pour out teaching for those who wish to drink of it.”3 The Holy Father staunchly repeats this thought up to ten times in these 67 homilies.
A typical recluse fights the passions for the salvation of his own soul, but a monk-pastor—for the salvation of many souls.
The Lord also explains it to St Tikhon4 in a vision. When this man of God—almost perfect to us—living already in retirement in the desert, who did not cease to teach, do good deeds, and ail in his heart for all, once saw in his sleep that he was ascending a great ladder to heaven with difficulty, and was in danger of falling. But from every side, various people approach him, old and young, men and women, and they begin to raise him and place him higher and higher, so that without any trouble and even as if with no connection to his own efforts he comes closer to heaven. Just so, pastoral work, as an ascetic labor, if one understands it not in an bureaucratic-clerical but rather a fatherly way, can never harm the spiritual growth of a monk. Do it as an obedience, but under the term obedience do not understand only a list of formal prescriptions, but that inclination of soul and life, which, according to the teaching of the Fathers, is connected to the very vocation of the priest and spiritual father. A typical recluse fights the passions for the salvation of his own soul, but a monk-pastor—for the salvation of many souls. The former opposes sinful pleasures with the sweetness of divine love, but the latter understands this love with doubled strength, seeing the spiritual growth of many Christian souls. The former sees Christ in prayer and in the grace-filled enlightenment of his conscience, the latter can see Christ in the life of people—he can see the gradual reenactment in their lives of Golgotha, Pascha, and Pentecost. The former is given fewer temptations to evil, but the latter receives even greater inspiration to good deeds. The former mortifies himself for Christ, but the latter — for Christ and his neighbors, for Christ in his neighbors.
But —they say— man is weak, so even the most perfunctory contact with worldly life may subject him to secularization, to emotionalism, to love of honor, to idle-talking. We answer—yes, a monk-pastor must guard against all of this. Yet, a man will not be free from temptation even in a desert monastery; emotionalism pulls his sympathies toward the decoration of his cell, petty diversions, and so forth. Meanwhile, love of honor finds nourishment in daydreams of the monastery hierarchy. It is easy [for the desert-dweller] to avoid idle-talking, which is hard for an educated person. But then the former has difficulty keeping himself from dryness, apathy, and (let no one be upset with us) spiritual pride. On the contrary, love of the flock cleanses the latter from many sins.5cf. James 5:20
Who among the desert fathers is most blessed? ...spiritual teachers, who teach not only the virtues of monks, but also of lay people.
Anyway, why compare sins? It is better for us to boast of great strugglers. The desert dwellers have great fasters, men of prayer famous to the whole Orthodox world. Among the educated monastics, such evangelical souls as the Holy Hierarchs Dimitri [of Rostov], Innocent [of Moscow], and Tikhon [of Zadonsk] have been trained not in the deserts, but within the walls of seminaries. Finally, who from among the desert fathers is most blessed? Once again [I say] elders, i.e. spiritual teachers, who teach not only the virtues of monks, but also of lay people. And so, even anchorite monasticism is allowed in pastorship by the word of the prophet: I believed, so I spake.6 It is not pastorship that is incompatible with monasticism, but equally destructive for the Church are the rigidly juridical understanding of one or the other struggle.
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