How We Envision Martyrdom for Christ

By Fr. Andrew Lemeshonok

The Church records the life stories of the saints to encourage us and set an example for us. The stories about martyrs whose arms were cut off one by one read as though it was easy and painless. It wasn't. I read acts of Roman martyrs and how they were thrown to the lions. It wasn't as optimistic as it might seem. The martyrs were frightened. They cried and they did not want to die but the Lord covered up their weaknesses and they went on to die for Christ's sake.

Living in a monastery means voluntary martyrdom. A person who comes to a monastery gives up his freedom. If he doesn't, his life continues to be built on his personal will. This isn't monastic life, and one isn't saved by it.

You can get used to any situation. People managed to survive even in concentration camps, in spite of harsh conditions, hard work and hunger... One has to have a purpose that gives him meaning. One can sleep on nails and walk on burning coal – so what? On the contrary, an individual who subdues himself, his pride, for Christ's sake, becomes a Christian and is able to defeat the flesh and the blood.

Humility and obedience are fundamental. If one does not obey anyone and thinks, "Oh, this assignment is so great! No one orders me around; I am my own boss. This place is truly awesome!" he loses something valuable.

Remember how Father Sophrony asked St Silouan, "Elder, do you have plans for your death?" The elder replied, "I'm not humble enough yet." Despite decades of relentless battle against the flesh and the blood, his pride and self-confidence still hadn’t succumbed to his efforts, which was why demons still attacked him. When he finally became a humble person, they were afraid of him. The Lord revealed to Saint Silouan how to humble himself down.

People build their lives as they want. No one can compel them: neither the abbess nor the spiritual father... I can simply posit whether that person lives with God or not, whether she has the Spirit or not. If she does, it's great. If she doesn't, we can only hope that she changes one day.

A fragment of a Monastic Meeting

February 4, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent