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On suffering


"God does not create crosses for people, that is, cleansing spiritual and physical sufferings. And however heavy that cross may be for that individual, the tree that produces its timber grows from the soil of his heart."

The Starets also said: "If a person walks a straight path, for him there is no cross. However, when he starts to lurch from one side to the other, then different circumstances appear which push him back onto the right track. These elements constitute a cross for a person. Of course they occur differently, according to the individual’s need."

Holy icon of Elder Ambrose of Optina

"Sometimes The cross is a mental one, confusing the individual with sinful thoughts. But the person is not at fault if he doesn’t accede to them. The Starets cited an example: ‘Once a female ascetic was agitated for a long period over having unchaste thoughts. When Christ appeared and drove them away from her, she cried out to Him: ‘Sweet Jesus, where were You up to this time?’ Christ replied: ‘I was in your heart.’ She said: ‘How can that be? But my heart was filled with unchaste thoughts.’ And Christ said to her: ‘Therefore understand that I was in your heart, and that you had no disposition toward those unclean thoughts but more so, endeavoured to liberate yourself from them. Not being able to do so, you suffered over them, thereby preparing a place for me in your heart.’

"Sometimes, suffering is sent to an innocent person, so that he, as with the example of Christ, suffers for others. Christ Himself suffered for people. Likewise, His Apostles were tortured for the Church and people. To have absolute love means to suffer for your close ones."


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