|David "Chim" Seymour/Magnum Images|
Tereska, in a residence for disturbed children, after drawing a picture of “home” on the blackboard, Poland, 1948
Talks and Homilies of the Elder Zosima
from The Brothers Karamazov
- Fyodor Dostoevsky -
Young man, young woman, do not forget to pray.
Each time you pray, if you do so sincerely, there will be a flash of a new feeling in it, and a new thought as well, one you did not know before, which will give you new courage; and you will understand that prayer is an awakening.
Remember also: every day and wherever you can, repeat within yourself: “Lord, have mercy upon all who come before me today.” For every hour and every moment thousands of people leave their life on this earth, and their souls come before the Lord – and so many of them part with the earth in isolation, unknown to to anyone, in sadness and in sorrow that no one will mourn for them, or even know whether they had lived or not.
And so, perhaps from the other end of the earth, your prayer for his or her repose will rise up to the Lord, though you did not know them at all, nor they you.
How moving it is for their soul, coming in fear before the Lord, to feel at that moment that someone is praying for them, too, that there is still a human being on earth who loves them.
And God, too, will look upon you both with more mercy, for if even you so pitied them, how much more will He who is infinitely more merciful and loving than you are.
And He will forgive them for your sake.
Children, do not be afraid of men’s sin, love man also for his sin, for this likeness of God’s love is the height of love on earth.
Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love plants, love each thing.
If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in all things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day.
And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love.
Love the animals: God gave them the rudiments of thought and an untroubled joy. Do not trouble nor torment them, do not take their joy from them, do not go against God’s purpose. Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals: they are sinless.
Love children especially, for they, too, are sinless, like angels, and live to bring us to tenderness and the purification of our hearts and as a sort of example for us.
Always resolve to take men’s sin and your own by humble love. If you do so, you will be able to overcome the whole world.
A loving humility is a terrible power, the most powerful of all, nothing compares with it.
Keep company with yourself and look to yourself every day and hour, every minute, that your image be ever gracious.
My friends, ask gladness from God. Be glad as children, as birds in the sky.