In the Gospel the Lord speaks of the insensitive Jews that The queen of the south shall stand up within the judgment with this era, and shall condemn it: for she got here from the uttermost components of the earth to listen to the knowledge of Solomon (Mt. 12:42). The “queen of the south” is a soul that doesn’t know the true religion and custom however on the identical time hopes and needs to the touch the reality. Sometimes I believe that some adherents of different faiths will “rise up in the judgment with” us, negligent Christians, as they’ve confirmed extra sensitivity to and reverence for the sweetness and holiness of the Orthodox religion than we’ve.
On Thursday of the primary week of Lent I heard confessions of and gave Communion to 4 previous girls at a hospital. They had ready for the sacraments and skim their prayers the earlier night, so within the morning earlier than breakfast all of us gathered within the identical ward. We talked about Christian life and prayed a little after which I started to carry out the sacraments. The medical workers have been understanding, and the hospital nurses, who infrequently popped in with medicines, mattress linen and plates, oohed and made away, although I used to be their “guest” and never vice versa. I even nervous a little. So our previous girls confessed, acquired Communion and have been shining with pleasure. I stated goodbye to them and was going to depart, when Volodya [a diminutive form of the Russian name Vladimir], my longstanding hospital assistant and a neighborhood workers electrician, got here as much as me and requested me to go to our chapel to unravel one present downside.
That chapel (or prayer-room), that the administration kindly gave us a few years in the past, was on the identical ground. Volodya positioned a sofa, a desk there, I introduced icons and a candlestick, we hung a shelf on the wall and put many Orthodox books on it. Now we collect there sometimes to carry out a supplicatory prayer service for the sick or a litya for the departed. Both the hospital sufferers (who can stroll or transfer in wheelchairs) and medical workers come to wish at these providers. Since the primary prayer service that we celebrated on the hospital of Pochtovoye [a large village of the Bakhchysarai district of the Crimea] was on the feast-day of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, we determined to have our chapel consecrated in honor of this nice saint of God.
Thus, Volodya led me as much as the door of our chapel to indicate me the crucifix that he had put in on the door and to ask me a query: whether or not we must always write “the chapel” or “the prayer-room” on the plate and whether or not the dedication to St. Sergius must be talked about. When we have been going alongside the hall, we noticed an aged stooped man with a stick, wearing easy house garments, who appeared like a affected person. I greeted him with a nod as a result of he had checked out me so kindly that I couldn’t assist however greet him. And he greeted me in return with a slight reverent bow, although we had by no means met earlier than.
While Volodya and I have been talking in regards to the plate inscription, the previous gentleman drew nearer and stopped to one aspect, clearly wishing to ask for one thing. And as quickly as we stopped speaking with Volodya, he addressed me:
“Batiushka, I am a Muslim… But I had friends… Good, true friends. And all of them were Christians. But they sadly died… So I wanted to ask your permission to pray for them… May I light a candle for their repose at the church?… You see, I hardly ever leave my house now. And whenever I ask my neighbors, nominal Christians, to pray for them and remember them at church, they refuse and say that they are not church-goers… So there is nobody else to pray for my friends properly at church.”
And I believed: these folks have been baptized and, subsequently, one may pray for his or her repose at church; and if there was no person to wish for them apart from one Muslim to whom it was so vital, then why not? And I answered him that he would possibly come into the church and lightweight candles for the repose of his departed mates.
“Really? I am so happy to hear that!” the previous man exclaimed. It was clear that my reply was very vital to him. He cherished this chance to bear in mind his deceased mates at church—that’s, “properly”, “in a correct way”.
At that second an thought occurred to me and I supplied:
“Let me write down your friends’ names in a list. And I will pray for them too. Are you sure that they are Orthodox?”
“Absolutely, father! They were Orthodox!”
We got here as much as a small desk within the foyer, and I wrote down the names of the departed individuals to wish for: Anatoly, Vasily, Michael and Vladimir.
The previous man was so touched and couldn’t cease thanking me. Though I needed to speak to him, I needed to hurry and do different issues. And generally solely a immodest and vainglorious individual would assume that he could make somebody change his thoughts and worldview so quickly; typically it’s wiser and extra helpful to be silent for a whereas… I urged assembly once more, however the gentleman replied:
“No, batiushka. Thank you for everything. I will be discharged from hospital today. May the Almighty bless you!”
“And what is your name?” I requested him earlier than we parted.
“Uzer,” he answered.
Thus we parted, inexplicably having develop into nearer collectively inside a couple of minutes, united by the shared reminiscence of our departed brothers in Christ…
I used to be strolling and praying for that Tatar, imploring God to convey him to the true religion. And, amazed by his non secular generosity and sensitivity, I used to be upset and distressed about lots of my fellow-Russians’ indifference in direction of their very own religion.
And at that second I recalled one other story, just like the above, that occurred a 12 months in the past. I had even written it down, however left in my “rough draft notebook” till it turned extra related.
Last winter some folks referred to as me and, as typical, requested me to return and carry out a funeral service over the servant of God Victor, a baptized aged man who had died after a protracted sickness. So we agreed upon assembly by the village church. But I reside in Simferopol and it’s a lengthy approach from there to the village. And we had a extreme, snowy winter that 12 months, which was uncommon for the Crimea. So I couldn’t even drive out of my yard: the automotive went right into a skid and I wasted lots of time. In the tip I used to be late for the bus, and referred to as the folks to apologize and agree on a special time. In brief, I acquired to the station on foot, took a bus to the village in query the place I used to be being waited for.
As I used to be entering into the automotive, I spotted that it was a younger Tatar that had come to choose me up. His identify was Ahmet.
“We never hurry as a matter of principle. So, please, don’t worry. But, is it true that according to your tradition you need to bury a dead person before sunset?” he requested.
The Tatar alerted me along with his query and I stated, “No, we don’t have such rules.”
And I added with warning simply to ensure:
“Victor was Orthodox, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was. He was a very good and kind-hearted man. He was a father figure to me. Why do you think I am arranging all this? Why have I called you and asked you to perform a funeral service over Victor? Because on his deathbed he himself asked me to arrange this… And I want to organize everything properly so that his soul might find rest and peace there.”
“Didn’t he have any relatives?”
“Of course, he had relatives! A wife and a daughter. He also had a son, but the latter died about six years ago.”
“Are his wife and daughter Russian?”
“Yes, they are.”
“But why are they not concerned with arranging for a funeral service to be performed for him?”
“I don’t know. Frankly, I didn’t ask them. Victor asked me personally before his death. That is why I want to take all the arrangements on myself. I was the only man in his immediate surroundings,” Ahmet answered, shrugging his shoulders.
Wondrous are Thy works, O Lord! (Ps. 103:2),” I believed.
We lastly arrived at our vacation spot. And what I noticed there was a well-recognized sight: a village road, a large opened gate with a number of automobiles standing by it, and a bunch of males have been standing outdoor, smoking and speaking… By the by, this “format” has all the time shocked me by its lack of excellent sense and fidelity. If your relative or good acquaintance has died, why not come into the home, pray just a little, cry out to God out of your coronary heart, make an indication of the cross a minimum of?… Instead, the village males desire crowding within the yard, speaking and staying exterior. They will yield to no persuasion and received’t come inside. That’s the way it goes, and also you can do nothing in opposition to this foolish customized. Truly the Russian soul is mysterious…
I entered the home. There was a coffin with the deceased’s physique in it in the course of the room with a number of previous girls round it… And one man stood out in opposition to that background, particularly a religious and good-humored previous Tatar! It was his native Tatar accent, coupled with his informal “spiritual” exclamations in his native tongue, that distinguished him. From time to time he started to talk to these current with open coronary heart and in a really form and easy method. It was clear that he was a good and warm-hearted individual. And he talked precisely as a lot as was correct. So he positively was not a neighborhood joker or twaddler, however, quite, a honest and pleasant man.
As I used to be getting ready for the funeral service, the previous Tatar was not going to depart. On the opposite, he needed to critically and attentively take part within the service. And it was this seriousness and focus that made him stand out in opposition to the final ambiance of absent-mindedness and despondency. This distinction certainly immediately caught my eye…
I completed the mandatory preparations and delivered a brief tackle. I stated that each one of us Christians belief in the mercy of God, that after dying we don’t stop to exist however enter the non secular world the place we’re to satisfy with God and provides Him our private account of our bodily lives. The previous Tatar was listening very attentively. At the tip of my sermon he uttered “Amen!” and added:
“Thank you! You are a good man… Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your words were so fine!”
I used to be shocked to listen to that as a result of I had been talking about issues acquainted to all Christians. It seems that these easy phrases clearly touched the previous Tatar’s coronary heart greater than anybody else’s in the home.
Next I requested all people to wish for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the newly-departed Victor. I stated: “I will be praying in the words of Church prayers, and you, please, pray in your own words, putting your hearts into it.” And I began the funeral service.
And this previous man (who likely didn’t perceive the Orthodox funeral ceremony, the Church ethics, the code of conduct within the presence of a priest, however with all his coronary heart wished to partake in “the work of God”) was standing all through the service and at some factors repeated loudly, “Amen!” and even gave exclamations in Tatar. And, most significantly, he was doing it consciously, listening and responding to the message of all that was stated or sung by me… So I personally needed to pay attention extra attentively to the hymns and prayers I used to be studying.
And after I had learn the prayer of Absolution, in the course of the final litany this previous man was moved so deeply that, repeating “Amen!” and mumbling one thing else in Tatar, he all of the sudden burst into tears. It was clear that he was weeping out of his love for the deceased, out of the tender feeling, and possibly out of one thing else that he didn’t totally perceive. Yet his tears weren’t these of sentimental folks; he was weeping in a selected approach, restrainedly and with all his coronary heart… More than that, I used to be touched by his tears and so they actually made me really feel respect, sympathy, and affection for his buddy who I had by no means met.
This is the tip of the story. We can hardly add something to it. But what we are able to do is marvel that typically adherents of different religions can present sensitivity to and reverence for our religion, in contrast to lots of our baptized Slavic brothers and sisters. It appears that by these folks the Lord desires to “open our eyes” and calls on us to repent and reform. He reminds us that till we develop into extra human, till we develop into extra delicate and dedicated to our religion and non secular life our “talking about faith” will stay mere “empty words”…
Lord, convey us all to the data of the Truth! Both those that haven’t been born in spirit by Holy Baptism, and those that have been born in spirit however are alienating themselves from life everlasting by indifference and carelessness. Thou Who alone knowest what is greatest for us, save us! O Lord! I a lot need everybody to know the enjoyment of communion with Thee in eternity.