The Remembrance of Death and Repentance – Father Pimen Vlad9 September 2022
Three Days of Good15 February 2023
Unfortunately, almost all of us have the experience of the fact that most of the time words are a form of violence. Many of our troubles would have been avoided if we knew how to manage words.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us! Amen!
I have spoken of gossip and judgment, brethren, and from here it follows that very often words are a form of violence. As someone used to say, it is better to fall because of being somewhere high than to fall for opening our mouth, to fall because of the height and not because of the tongue. It is true, however, that, metaphorically speaking, the mouth, talking a lot, can lead us to heights, to vain glory, brethren, from where it is much more dangerous to fall. Do you understand?
That is why it is much better to say a lot in few words than to talk a lot and say almost nothing. Vain talk, brethren, is very bad because it darkens the mind both of those subject to this avalanche, but above all, it darkens the mind of the one speaking, I mean, both of the speaker and the listener. Why? Because the speaker is not only absorbed by everything he says, but, very likely, he also feels the pleasure, the satisfaction of what he says. Yes? Like: “See who I am! See how great I am!” Do you understand?
This is why, brethren, the perfect speech, the perfect text is that from which you can no longer take out things, you cannot take out anything, and not the one to which you have no time to add more, to also say that and that…
Unfortunately, today people no longer have the experience of what it means the enlightenment of the mind and thus we open our mouths very easily. We are great specialists, brethren, we became specialists in any field. And when I say this I do not necessarily mean that we are aware of this great evil that we all suffer from. We are taught like this by the media and all these [communication] channels. We are restructured, brethren, our way of thinking has changed.
People come to me and ask me: Father, how is with that, with the other,… with different professional things, how to choose in life… Even a child asked me the other day “Father, what do cats do at night?” and I answered “I don’t know!”. Brothers, we must have the strength to say “I don’t know.” If I don’t know, I don’t know. Do you understand? This is very important. Not like in the media that we know everything. We are not good at everything. Do you understand? Let’s also keep quiet sometimes, this is very important.
We greatly appreciate people’s trust and piety towards us, towards me, a sinner. But how can I tell you, brothers? What impresses me mostly is that people get a shock when I answer with: “I don’t know!”.
I guess that’s a form of humility too, brethren, right?
It’s true, though, that media teaches us just the opposite: to open our mouth very easily. Thus, paradoxically, we end up isolated. As I said many times, extremes are from the devil, because who wants to seat next to a person who talks all the time?! Regarding talking a lot, Saint Isaac the Syrian says that: “Many times I repented that I spoke, but never that I kept silent”. Do you understand?
Good! Let’s see then why are there so many problems with speaking. First of all, speech is an effect of Adam’s fall, of our imperfection. Speaking of pride – since we speak of it – we take great pride in the fact that we have an articulate language and that we are superior, but in fact the speaking, brothers, is an effect of our fall, as I was saying. Why?
Well, I have explained this many times. But let’s say it again, briefly, because it is important. God created us all as one giant mind, a single human made up of many persons of two genders: male and female, after the image of the Holy Trinity, which is one God in Three Persons. Of course, today we are no longer aware of this reality because we are divided by sin.
So at this time, brethren, we should have been able to know each others thoughts and share our experiences and feelings. As God is one, so we were meant to be one. The sin has cut us off from God, between us and within us. Through sin, the global Adam broke into the constituent individuals. Although the gift of clairvoyance, of knowing the thoughts and, in general, of the inner universe of the other is a natural gift that was lost through the fall. And now we try to express our experiences, feelings, inner universe through language. This is impossible, brethren. Impossible! The greatest experiences are not expressed through language. Do you understand?
You see that in almost all the discoveries about the world beyond, they all say that it is impossible to describe, that there are no words. They all show their inability to express themselves through language. At the same time, however, they have a great desire to communicate to the others and yet a restraint that comes from humility, of course, and from the fact that they cannot communicate further, that they are not understood, or that they are misunderstood. This shows that this form of communication through language is not what the perfect God intended for us. Do you understand?
Now we must know that God has allowed this because if we had the sharing of experiences, the knowledge of thoughts, in the poor state that we are in now, we would not have been able to bear it. We would have judged the others even more, disgusted by what we see in them, seeing the little bad they have and ignoring the much good they have, forgetting also that we are much dirtier than them because, due to self-love, we tend to see only the good in ourselves and do not honestly look at our shortcomings. Do you understand?
In fact this is the state of hell, brethren. Separation from others because we are not ready, we are not able to accept them as they are and show ourselves as we are, in the light, without pressuring the others with something by deeds or words, just simply by our presence, to show our light through our silent presence. If our presence is disturbing – and most often it is disturbing through words – then it is very likely that we are not ready for heaven.
When we’ll get to heaven, that is, in the fullness of love, then we can communicate with the other no matter how the other person is. But you see what St. Apostle Paul says: “After the first and second advice here on earth, leave him”. It is not useful, because God does not want us to communicate at that moment. Understand? The normal state of the mind and thought is the undisturbedness and union with the superluminous cloud of divinity, as Saint Dionysius the Areopagite says.
The visceral hatred of others is sometimes very difficult to counter, and that is not necessarily because we or someone else is wrong, but because of the obstinacy, the stubbornness that this hatred generates. You see someone writing, writing and talking and talking… God forbid!
Let me give you two examples, brethren, somewhat complementary.
First of all, I remember someone very dear to me, to whom I said that heaven is the interpenetration of people, this sharing of experiences. And I told him that: “I will be in you, you will be in me, we will be in God and God in us. And I will be happy and enjoy your beauty and the beauty of everyone else.” And then that brother said: “No, no, I don’t want that! No, no, no…” I was terrified, brothers, because I could see that the man was tormented by his sin. Do you understand? He was not ready for heaven… You understand? Good Lord forbid! So, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this.
Well, maybe there’s a form of humility in this, you know? Do you understand? Here the speech, paradoxically, hides, filters, because we say only what we want. In fact, this is exactly why confession is private.
You see that all church services are public, brethren, including baptism, where the man goes, well, naked. But confession, no. Why? Because the others cannot resist the evil, the distortion in us. Do you understand?
We need speech in our condition, brothers, because we need to communicate, but silence is greater, brothers, because we have this evil in us, each of us has. We shouldn’t say [only] the other one has. We also have. So because of this we must know that silence is higher. Much greater is silence, because by this we protect our loved ones – that is, all people, brothers – from being victims of our inner hell.
Before I give you the second example, I would like to mention a book that shows what can happen the moment our inner hell comes out. The book is called “Solaris” and it is written by Stanislaw Lem, after which one of the greatest directors in the history of mankind, Andrei Tarkovsky, made a phenomenal film with the same name (“Solaris”). Brothers, I recommend that you see the film, if, of course, our hinges can hold. Let’s understand each other, it’s a Soviet film from 1972. I reckon, however, that Tarkovsky’s genius is beyond absolutely anything…
What is it about? Now, because it may be a bit dense and has many interpretations, but mainly it’s about the impossibility of communication between two entities and what it means when you bring hell to the surface.
It’s about a ship, supposedly – science fiction, yes? – that goes near a planet and this planet is a huge ocean, the whole planet is an ocean, and the crew members study what’s going on there. And at some point all kinds of things start to appear, things that were impossible to happen there. Those on Earth think that they have gone crazy, that what they say is not true, and eventually they send someone, a very simple man, a psychologist, who goes there and is greeted very politely by the crew members.
At some point these [strange things] start happening to him too and he sees that the others also have all kinds of visitors and the moment he starts to find out what happens to these visitors he is pushed out of the universe of the other crew members into a very brutal manner which contrasted very strongly with the politeness he had been greeted with. And then, slowly, this psychologist, this very simple man, begins to realize that the planet in front of him is a thinking ocean.
This ocean was trying to communicate, was trying to show people that it was happy, that people were welcome. Or on the other hand, maybe it was hurt by the X-rays that these people were sending to that ocean, since they were trying to communicate themselves. And then, this thinking ocean of boundless powers, a kind of God, actually, said: “Ah, I know how to communicate!” “I see that they have a very intense Noetic universe (very intense thoughts). I know what I’m going to do to them. I will bring their thoughts to reality.”
And people were coming face to face with their embodied consciousness. Brothers, this is hell. Then those people would start… it was phenomenal… And this guy meets a girl who had committed suicide because of him. You understand?
But I should not say how the book and the movie end. You understand? Communication between people is… God forbid! Like that… in our fallen state here on Earth. Yes? The silence, brothers…
The second example is from the opposite direction: when someone talks, talks, talks, talks… and is sure of his position and doesn’t stop. He only uses the others to approve his position and have them as an audience.
What to say, someone from a group of people came here and said: “Father, may I ask you a question?” And I said: “Yes, fine”. And he starts making a very long, convoluted exposition – monopolizing the discussion, of course – and even if it’s obvious what he wants to say, he says it himself, he doesn’t stop and brings arguments upon arguments, brothers… If I want to interrupt him, eventually, out of embarrassment to others, who look to all directions, he still does not stop and continues…. And in the end, brothers, he doesn’t ask any question, or says “That’s how it is father”, where the interrogative intonation is barely audible and continues with other topics. And then I have to step in and say: “Wait, wait, it’s not like that!” Why? Because otherwise he will say forward that I said, that “The Father said”, “The Father has validated me” and we end up with very ugly things. “No, I didn’t say”. You understand?
It is one of the most difficult situations, for me, especially if he is monopolizing the discussion and he asks all the questions. We need measure, brothers. We must listen. True, there are certain characters that enforce themselves, but brothers, let’s think a little about the others too, let’s see our limits!
I especially try to limit myself because, isn’t it, sometimes the position gives me an advantage, but brothers, if we talk a lot, it is possible to darken the mind, we fill ourselves with vain glory, we think we are somebody, I’ve said this already, we judge others and so on. But if God validates us, then He will help us. And know that this validation, this exit from this world comes only through the cross. Because otherwise we remain in vain glory. Have you seen someone who talks or communicates with many people and is appreciated by them and still maintains his balance? Behind [this] is a large cross, brethren, a great pain, analogous [to the level of appreciation].
Let me give you a case: Jean Michel Jarre, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Jarre holds the audience record. So the man had 3.5 million people in front of him… and these people, most of them, also paid for the ticket. 3.5 million. Bucharest does not have 3.5 million people, for comparison. And the reporter asked him: “Mister Jarre, how did you feel when you had 3.5 million people in front of you? What did you feel?” And Jarre said: “Nothing.” “Mister…”, says the reporter, “what did you feel? Perhaps you misunderstood the question.” And Jarre said: “Nothing.” “Why, can you explain?” And Jarre says: “You know, my father didn’t want me all my life.”
His father, Maurice Jarre, a famous film music composer, from whom he actually inherited his talent, did not want him. He was an unwanted child. And all his life he tried to prove that he was capable of something too. And if we look at the history of music, – brothers, you can search on Wikipedia – you will see that the man has indeed changed the history of music. And yet, his father did not want him. And, says Jarre: “I’ve met my father, I think, about 15 times in my life and this pain of mine cannot be… cannot be overcome by anything, even if I had 3 million people in front of me.” So if someone offers a lot to people and does not take pride in this, there is always a big cross behind him. You understand?
So brothers, for us the small ones, it is much better to talk less and concentrated. Then we can keep our balance much easier. You understand?
If we talk a lot, this is actually a sign of ignorance, paradoxically. You should know, because the knowledgeable man knows first of all how limited his capabilities are and – as I said in the beginning – he is also aware of the limitations of this mean of communication.
When I say that we must be aware of the limitations of our capabilities, I do not mean only to knowledge, brothers. Here I also refer to our inability to control ourselves, that is not to fall into inappropriate jokes, gossip, aggression, lies and all that. The tongue, brethren, is like a racing car with a much less experienced driver, who lacks the reflexes to command it. Like a car, brothers.
Because concentration is needed anyway when we speak, whether we want to impress – that is, to make ourselves look important, brothers – or whether we want to be careful not to hurt, or to amuse others. Either way, the mind gets dark because it is preoccupied with driving this car. Do you understand?
Of course the mind gets dark especially if we are aggressive with the other. Eh, and from this the love towards God grows cold, because we no longer talk to God, but to the others. And we separate ourselves from the others and, implicitly, we separate from God. And if the love cools down, there appears the laziness, the impure, carnal thoughts, the sleep, the mood of the big froward walrus, and, of course, the scattering of the mind, brothers.
The mind must be gathered in itself, brethren, and pray. This is how we really help the others. The praying mind will know to speak the [right] word at the right time, since some people keep asking me how to bring others to faith, especially the children of those who ask. He says: “What to do with the child? How do I get him to church?” That means, he wants some magic words, he wants me to give conferences and so on. Brethren, I think here it fits the saying: – I don’t know if you know it – “It’s better to talk to God about the others, about your children, than to talk to the others about God.” Brethren, the service, the prayer is essential because there we talk to God, while outside we talk about God. The same is with the canon. Yes, okay, this is also needed, to talk. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking here. But first of all prayer! Yes?
On the other hand, there is also the other who doesn’t understand the direction of this car and there happen some pretty nasty collisions. You understand? We have to be very careful what we say because we don’t often know how the other person will see it, how he will take it. For example, you write a message on Skype, WhatsApp or God knows what, and you see the other person explodes. God forbid! You understand?
Let’s not think that the other has the same strengths and weaknesses or the same value system [as we do]. Because of this, our word should be seasoned with salt, sweet, soft. And we should be careful not to make jokes out of place. We don’t know where the other is weak.
I remember that once, I was in the courtyard and I stepped back a little to make room for an abbot who was passing in front of me and I accidentally stepped on a brother’s foot. I immediately felt and lifted my foot, so my stepping was very light. He, however, began to howl, he was howling and jumping around the yard, making circles, as if from the mouth of a snake. Why? Because the brother had a wound, a very big nail wound. Eh, and he was screaming. You understand? Eh, brothers… Well, on the one hand we should not judge, on the other hand we should be careful, you never know whose toes you’re stepping on, you never know how the word is received by the other.
Yes, so we mostly need to be silent, brothers, to be careful, careful… You understand? Yes. Well, okay, to be silent…, I think I’ve convinced you already, I hope! but on the other hand, watch out for depression, watch out for depression…! Let’s not isolate ourselves and stay with the pains caused some possibly by others who trend on our corns, but mainly our inner pains. Of course that those who trend on our corns do it unwillingly.
But first of all, these pains are caused by us, by our wounds and our super-sensitivities. Leave it, brothers, that’s water under the bridge! We must however go and talk to those who can heal us. Let us not close ourselves up, brothers! Let’s talk little, enlightened and explicitly when it is needed, because the moment the mouth closes the eyes open.
Know that the one who listens will become the most informed person in the room. We must learn to listen a lot and talk little. Unfortunately today it’s exactly the opposite. Let’s listen to our life partners, listen to our children, listen to our parents. And this, not in order to hunt, like a panther, for a weak point, a mistake the others are going to make – they’re human too, right? – and bring it up to them again and again. “You have done that and that…!” Brethren, leave it! Of course, when we listen to the others it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to be blind, but loving, especially if we listen to children.
We listen to see how the situation can be improved, how love can be increased and not to cause separations, breaks. If by our speaking or by our silence we isolate ourselves, we don’t do the right thing, brothers.
We need to increase the love in the world because there is very little love and that can be achieved through listening which involves more silence than talking. Do you understand? Let’s enjoy the silence, brothers! “Enjoy the silence!”, as someone said. May God forgive him, because he died, one of them… Because, most of the time, words are a form of violence, as I said. In general, it is much better to pray than to talk.
Brothers, if people don’t find use in our deeds, they will not find use in our words either. If people don’t find use in our silence, they won’t find use in our talk either. Let’s not forget that if we are silent we have time to love, brothers, to contemplate the infallible beauty of the other, the beauty of the person, beyond words. Let’s be tall, still and silent like the mountains.
Never to judge, never to be aggressive, but to try to love everyone! Well, I could say a lot… Though, some are very afraid of my memoirs…, that I might write a book with my memoirs. You know how it is: a monk in the Holy Mountain knows a lot. Sometimes a little too much. Brethren, for now it is better if we keep silent. War is not good. Let’s listen to the sound of silence. God knows everyone. May the good Lord help us!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us! Amen!
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