A Different Pascha – 1928

This year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Churches will be unable to gather in the usual manner for Pascha. This has happened before in a variety of places and circumstances. In the 1920’s, the Bolshevik’s were unleashing their persecutions. This wonderful account, from Butyrka Prison on Pascha of 1928, is a sober reminder that our “light momentary affliction” is a small thing. It also serves to remind us that the joy of Pascha cannot be quarantined or silenced. God give us patient endurace.

Serge Schmemann, son of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in his wonderful little book, Echoes of a Native Land, records a letter written from one of his family members of an earlier generation, who spent several years in the prisons of the Soviets and died there. The letter, written on the night of Pascha in 1928 is to a family member, “Uncle Grishanchik” (This was Grigory Trubetskoi who had managed to emigrate to Paris). This letter should become a classic of Orthodox writing and witness to the faith that sustained so many and is today being resurrected in so many placesThe triumph of the Resurrection so transcends his prison cell it’s a wonder that the walls remained. The entire book is a wonderful read. I recommend it without reservation.

30 March/ 12 April 1928

Dear Uncle Grishanchik,

I greet you and Aunt Masha with the impending Holy Day, and I wish you all the very best. For a long, long time I have wanted to write to you, dear Uncle Grishanchik; you always showed such concern for me, you helped me so generously in a difficult moment of my life, and, mainly, your entire image is so inseparably linked for each of us, your nephews, with such wonderful memories; you always are, were, and will be our dearest, most beloved uncle.

I am approaching the fourth Easter that I will spend behind these walls, separated from my family, but the feelings for these holy days which were infused in me from earliest childhood do not fail me now; from the beginning of Holy Week I have felt the approach of the Feast, I follow the life of the Church, I repeat to myself the hymns of the Holy Week services, and in my soul there arise those feelings of tender reverence that I used to feel as a child going to confession or communion. At 35 those feelings are as strong and as deep as in those childhood years.

My dear Uncle Grishanchik, going over past Easters in my memory, I remember our last Easter at Sergiyevskoye, which we spent with you and Aunt Masha, and I felt the immediate need to write you. If you have not forgotten, Easter in 1918 was rather late, and spring was early and very warm, so when in the last weeks of Lent I had to take Aunt Masha to Ferzikovo, the roads were impassable. I remember that trip as now; it was a warm, heavy, and humid day, which consumed the last snow in the forests and gullies faster than the hottest sun; wherever you looked, water, water, and more water, and all the sounds seemed to rise from it, from the burbling and rushing of the streams on all sides to the ceaseless ring of countless larks. We had to go by sleigh – not on the road, which wound through the half-naked fields in a single muddy ridge, but alongside, carefully choosing the route. Each hoofprint, each track left by the runners, immediately turned into a small muddy stream, busily rushing off somewhere. We drove forever, exhausting the poor horse, and, finally, after successfully eluding the Polivanovo field, one of the most difficult places, I became too bold and got Aunt Masha so mired that I nearly drowned the horse and the sleigh; we had to unharness to pull it out and got wet to the eyebrows; in a word, total “local color.”

I remember the feeling I had that spring of growing strength, but that entire happy springtime din, for all the beauty and joy of awakening nature, could not muffle the sense of alarm that squeezed the heart in each of us. Either some hand rose in senseless fury to profane our Sergiyevskoye, or there was the troubling sense that our loving and closely welded family was being broken up: Sonia far off somewhere with a pile of kids, alone, separated from her husband; Seryozha, just married, we don’t know where or how, and you, my dear Uncle Grisha and Auht Masha, separated from your young ones, in constant worry over them. It was a hard and difficult time. But I believe that beyond these specific problems, this spiritual fog had a deeper common source: we all, old and young, stood then at a critical turning point: unaware of it, we were bidding farewell to a past filled with beloved memories, while ahead there loomed some hostile utterly unknown future.

And in the midst of all this came Holy Week. the spring was in that stage when nature, after a big shove to cast off winter’s shackles, suddenly grows quiet, as if resting from the first victory. But below this apparent calm there is always the sense of a complex, hidden process taking place somewhere deep in the earth, which is preparing to open up in all its force, in all the beauty  of growth and flowering. Plowing and seeding the earth rasied rich scents, and, following the plow on the sweaty, softly turning furrow, you were enveloped in the marvelous smell of moist earth. I always became intoxicated by that smell, because in it one senses the limitless creative power of nature.

I don’t know how you all felt at the time, because I lived a totally separate life and worked from morning to night in the fields, not seeing, and, yes, not wanting to see, anything else. It was too painful to think, and only total physical exhaustion gave one a chance, if not to forget, then at least to forget oneself. But with Holy Week began the services in church and at home, I had to lead the choir in rehearsal and in church; on Holy Wednesday I finished the sowing of oats and, putting away the plow and harrow, gave myself entirely over to the tuning fork. And here began that which I will never forget!

Dear Uncle Grishanchik! Do you remember the service of the Twelve Gospels in our Sergiyevskoye church? Do you remember that marvelous, inimitable manner of our little parson? This spring will be nine years that he passed away during the midnight Easter service, but even now, when I hear certain litanies or certain Gospel readings, I can hear the exhilarated voice of our kind parson, his intonations piercing to the very soul. I remember that you were taken by this service, that it had a large impact on you. I see now the huge crucifix rising in the midst of the church, with figures of the Mother of God on one side and the Apostle John on the other, framed by multicolored votive lights, the waving flame of many candles, and, among the thoroughly familiar throng of Sergiyevskoye peasants, your figure by the right wall in front of the candle counter, with a contemplative expression on your face. If you only knew what was happening in my soul at that time! It was an entire turnover, some huge, healing revelation!

Don’t be surprised that I’m writing this way; I don’t think I’m exaggerating anything, it’s just that I feel great emotion remembering all these things, because I am continuously breaking off to go to the window and listen. A quiet, starry night hangs over Moscow, and I can hear first one, then another church mark the successive Gospels with slow, measured strikes of the bell. I think of my Lina and our Marinochka, of Papa, Mama, my sisters, brothers, of all of you, feeling the sadness of expatriation in these days, all so dear and close. However painful, especially at this time, the awareness of our separation, I firmly, unshakably believe all the same that the hour will come when we will all gather together, just as you are all gathered now in my thoughts.

1/14 April – They’ve allowed me to finish writing letters, and I deliberately sat down to finish it this night. Any minute now the Easter matins will start; in our cell everything is clean, and on our large common table stand kulichi and paskha, a huge “X.B.” [Christos Voskrese “Christ is risen”] from fresh watercress is beautifully arranged on a white table cloth with brightly colored eggs all around. It’s unusually quiet in the cell; in order not to arouse the guards, we all lay down on lowered cots (there are 24 of us) in anticipation of the bells, and I sat down to write to you again.

I remember I walked out of the Sergiyevskoye church at that time overwhelmed by a mass of feelings and sensations, and my earlier spiritual fog seemed a trifle, deserving of no attention. In the great images of the Holy Week services, the horror of man’s sin and the suffering of the Creator leading to the great triumph of the resurrection, I suddenly discovered that eternal, indestructible beginning, which was also in that temporarily quiet spring, hiding in itself the seed of a total renewal of all that lives. The services continued in their stern, rich order; images replaced images, and when, on Holy Saturday, after the singing of “Arise, O Lord,” the deacon, having changed into a white robe, walked into the center of the church to the burial cloth to read the gospel about the resurrection, it seemed to me that we are all equally shaken, that we all feel and pray as one.

In the meantime, spring went on the offensive. When we walked to the Easter matins, the night was humid, heavy clouds covered the sky, and walking through the dark alleys of the linden park, I imagined a motion in the ground, as if innumerable invisible plants were pushing through the earth toward air and light.

I don’t know if our midnight Easter matins made any impression on you then. For me there never was, and never will be, anything better than Easter at Seriyevskoye. We are all too organically tied to Sergiyevskoye for anything to transcend it, to evoke so much good. This is not blind patriotism, because for all of us Seriyevskoye was that spiritual cradle in which everything by which each of us lives and breathes was born and raised.

My dear Uncle Grishanchik, as I’ve been writing to you the scattered ringing around Moscow has become a mighty festive peal. Processions have begun, the sounds of firecrackers reach us, one church after another joins the growing din of bells. The wave of sound swells. There! Somewhere entirely nearby, a small church breaks brightly through the common chord with such a joyous, exultant little voice. Sometimes it seems that the tumult has begun to wane, and suddenly a new wave rushes in with unexpected strength, a grand hymn between heaven and earth.

I cannot write any more! That which I now hear is too overwhelming, too good, to try to convey in words. The incontrovertible sermon of the Resurrection seems to rise from this mighty peal of praise. My dear uncle Grishanchik, it is so good in my soul that the only way I can express my spirit is to say to you once again, Christ is Risen!


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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36 responses to “A Different Pascha – 1928”

  1. Ilya Avatar

    Thank you for this, Father. May God bless you and help us all as we go through these troubled times.

  2. Margaret Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen! God bless you and all your beautiful family in all ways! Glory to God for ALL Things!

  3. Lenora Bearer Avatar
    Lenora Bearer

    Thank you, Father Stephen, for the beautiful post above and also for your facebook “facetime” posts. They are truly encouraging!

  4. Lawrence Hall Avatar
    Lawrence Hall


  5. GretchenJoanna Avatar

    I read the book, and I have read this letter a few times now. It always makes my own heart glad, but this time it seems to swell to bursting. You are right, the prison walls must have been straining to hold against the joy. Thank you, Father!

  6. Danica Avatar

    I started sobbing at your intro… Thank you for this really hopeful message of unconquerable faith and joy in the midst of such sorrow.

  7. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    As a participant in the bell ringing in my parish, this picture and these words come straight to my heart. I, along with a group of young girls love to ring the bells, and we do so very vigorously on the breaking in of the day of Pascha.

    On the breaking in of the day of Pascha: Today we see it approaching just as we see the day approaching when the fullness of the Kingdom of God arrives:
    I’m reflecting on the verses in Matthew: 11:12

    And the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”..

    Blessed Theophylact comments that what Christ is saying in these words is to urge us to have a strong faith, to hold fast; that many are by force acquiring the kingdom of heaven, that is faith in Him, by overcoming within themselves whatever obstacles that block Christ’s entry into the heart.

    Last Father, a few words dedicated to you and your ministry, for which I’m so grateful:

    Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)

    Thank you so much for sharing ‘your treasure’ with us.

  8. Elizabeth Avatar

    Through this letter the walls of time come crumbling down, allowing the Paschal bells to be readied to ring out in our hearts!!

  9. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    “Seriyevskoye was that spiritual cradle in which everything by which each of us lives and breathes was born and raised.”
    This is more than patriotism, he says…as a sense of pride in their very own village. No,
    it is Life; their genesis, life, death, and resurrection, inseparable from even the air they breathe.
    What resolve these people have! What devotion and love of God! How humble! It is no wonder the Soviets could not keep them down.
    They could kill the body, sure…but their spirit Lives.

    Thank you for posting this again Father. Very encouraging. A beautiful, and poignant story.

  10. Yvette Cathers Avatar
    Yvette Cathers

    Absolutely amazing.

  11. George Avatar

    Thank you Father for sharing this. This was timely and truly humbling to read. What joy and wonder in the author’s words and what gratitude he shows for being a part of God’s creation.

  12. Ken Seigneurie Avatar
    Ken Seigneurie

    The changing of seasons, the personal transformation, the planting season, the journey both physical and spiritual, the foreboding future and the strength to face it, all culminating in the death and resurrection of Christ at Pascha. It is indeed, “a grand hymn between heaven and earth.” Many thanks, Father Stephen, for this vivid vision of Orthodoxy in action.

  13. Lisa Kraemer Avatar
    Lisa Kraemer

    I look forward to reading your posts—Thank you!

  14. Lisa Kraemer Avatar
    Lisa Kraemer

    This is will be quite the different pascal experience. My daughter died a few months ago and I find myself in a loneliness and grief I did not expect. God bless you for your posts.

  15. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    May her memory be eternal – God comfort you! I found myself toay in a bit of a funk – sad, angry, unable to pray. Strangely, it is the thought of others who also suffer that eases that burden and makes it bearable. Christians in our modern world know very little about the practice of lamentation – though it’s right there for us in Holy Week.

    I think the fact that all of this is so protracted makes it especially hard. Grief, for example, moves at a snail’s pace and cannot be hurried. The first year of grieving is especially hard with every day being different. We move at such a fast pace in our culture that is is hard to slow down to what is actually natural. May God lift you up.

  16. Byron Avatar

    May her memory be eternal, Lisa.

    I just found out an old, old friend of the family has been sent home for hospice care. He is not expected to last more than a few days…maybe a week. These are difficult times.

    Father, I too have had a difficult day, yet I am aware of the incredible depth of the blessing God has given me as well. May God hold us close to Him during these times.

  17. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Lisa, my late wife reposed 15 years ago about this time. May our Lord bless you with His presence and mercy and life.

  18. Margaret Avatar

    Dear Lisa Kraemer,
    Thank you for posting here in these comments. May your Daughter’s Memory be eternal and God bless you with His Peace and draw you near to Himself.
    With love in Christ,

  19. Dino Avatar

    Dear Lisa (and all grief-stricken brethren),
    Please know God is right there with you.
    Your cherished, departed one, in the security of His bosom, as He delicately envelopes your own being, while hidden behind you.
    May we also be alert to His All-Holy Mother’s readily available boundless consolation.
    She once buried the mangled Body of Her Son with grief beyond ours
    (who miss the countenance of our departed ones),
    and yearns our deliverance from these transitory states, for the sake of communion with the eternal joy of Resurrection in the ‘city that is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14).
    ‘and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20)
    ‘your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you’. (John 16:22)

  20. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dino, it is even more than that. Three weeks after my wife reposed, I experienced the Ressurection, Pascha, in a real way. Such joy and absolute certainty. Yet, somehow my grief did not go away. I knew death and Ressurection both but not mixed. But my grief too was changed. It was no longer isolating or at least not entirely. For my wife, I knew that her pain and the sting of death was swallowed up in victory.

    Lisa, know that you are not alone. Each of us who has lost someone shares your grief as well as Mary, the angels and Jesus.

  21. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Off-topic: I recently got a chance to watch one of your Facebook live sessions. In this one you addressed the question of whether or not the pandemic was brought on due to our sins. At one point you said that you have made some extremely terrible decisions – and yet they’ve turned out well. Then you said that you’ve made some wonderful decisions – and they flopped. But the point was that God uses His hidden hand to work everything together for good.

    My heart understands this…this relationship we have with God such that most of our efforts come to naught and really the best we can do is turn to Him. My heart understands but one day my daughter asked why things must be this way. It makes her feel like not trying at all. If nothing we do matters and all comes to naught, what’s the point? Are we not in some way synergizing with the God of the universe? Is it not a partnership of sorts, lop-sided though it may be? So goes the frustration from her and others – and even some days from myself.

    I don’t know how to put my heart knowledge into words. I don’t know what kind of encouragement to give those who sees the whole thing as an extremely discouraging point of view and perhaps even a pointless and sadistic god. I hope one day to have a word picture or something to offer them (and myself) so that we’ll be able to grasp this concept and better cooperate with the Lord.

    Do you have any wisdom concerning this matter?

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    We have a good word from St. Paul in this matter – and he’s writing from prison:

    …for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be acontent. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and bhunger, abundance and cneed. I can do all things dthrough him who strengthens me. Phil 4:11-13

    What I think is the case is that we frame the question in the wrong way. We want to act in a manner that produces success – the success that we want. And, if that’s not how things work, we wonder, “Why bother?” If success in anything is the reason we do it, then, why bother is an excellent thought.

    However, we have to have a change of mind (metanoia) – a change in the nous. In that change, we act, we do things, because they a right or good things to do. Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Meaning – it’s actually worth doing – even though we don’t control the result.

    This is hard for a young heart – particularly because our culture is utterly results oriented. Why play the piano if you’re never going to play a concert? When I was young, I played music professionally for a couple of years. We had dreams of success. Then, my life changed. And, honestly, I did not play near as much music. And, I even ignored some of my instruments. Now, oddly, I’m playing a bit more. But I play for the sake of playing. Because music is good – not that anyone will or should hear me.

    When I was in college, I often studied in order to get an “A.” It would have been better to simply study for the sake of learning, regardless of the grade. That was a hard lesson to learn.

    It is always a discipline for me now to write for the sake of writing, without much thought for the “audience.” I care about those who read – but, when I stop just writing what I know and for the joy of writing it, I have a tendency to lose my way. When it becomes a chore, it suffers. And the worst thing, is if I start wanting to write in a manner that makes for a bigger audience…that way lies destruction!

    Coming to grips with why we actually do things is a deep discipline of the heart. Why do I want success? Is it because it will bring praise? Or something else?

    Ultimately, the Christian life is not one of utilitarianism. We do things because they are the right thing to do – “Do all things as unto the Lord,” St. Paul says.

    I hope that’s helpful.

  23. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Yes Fr. Stephen,

    It helps. I think this issue goes straight to the core in a way. I want to have some part to play in something so that I can easily see I have a right to be here. For me to be guided in my words and actions simply because they are the right things to say and do, well…where’s the affirmation in that?

    This thought process is still a struggle because I well understand the desire for each person to find their place in the universe, a “me” sized hole that needs me as much as I need it. I want to know someone cares about me and that I would be missed and that the world would not be quite fulfilled unless I was in it. I want to matter – and not just the free gift of love that’s handed out like candy at a parade. I want to be loved because of being me.

    I know God does love me like that. I don’t understand it and I don’t know how to respond. Thus my inability to answer those who question this instinctive position.

    I get what you mean about playing music or writing just for the sake of the thing itself, because it is in you and you somehow know that this is one of the things you were made to do. I think the piece that’s still missing for a lot of people is that they feel the need for some kind of confirmation from the world around them that this thing (playing or writing for example) is what they were made to do and in fact these gifts are recognized by the world around them.

    This seeking confirmation is understandable because we were made to be in communion, but it does also seem like it is one of the desires we have to let die in this life. The world has gone mad and expecting a sane response to our needs is an exercise in futility.

    Thanks for helping me think this through – and for all you do.

  24. Dino Avatar

    This made me think how the ‘doing’ (even if you’re doing stillness) , the ‘giving’ (even if you’re giving ineffectually) is far more profound for the soul than any ‘taking.’
    Hapiness from receiving is nothing compared to the joy of giving.
    The voice of God, even if little more than the approval of your conscience, is far superior to hapiness.
    It is why the meagrest ‘giving’, (of just our thanks and our attention to God,) actualizes the mystery of sacrament, and the lack of this, including any form of our seeking how to receive things, tends to take us out of sacrament.

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    My wife has a distant relative who claims to be an atheist. On her Facebook he asked essentially “Why pray when it doesn’t change anything. If God does not give us what we want, what is the use?”. Jesus seems to make the promise that such a thing can happen with His statement on moving mountains with a mustard seed faith.
    So, is my faith so lacking, is the faith of great saints so lacking? It can seem quite capricious in our linear dialectic world.
    But life is neither linear nor dialectic. It is not a zero sum game either. Communion is not just a one on one relationship but a multi-dimensional dynamic that includes an ongoing interrelatuonship with the Holy Trinity and all things–which are being made new.
    That is why the proper prayer, it seems to me, is always Our Lord’s prayer in the Garden UNLESS it isn’t and the battle must be engaged.
    Humility, obedience and meekness are hard. I tend to think “My will, not thine be done”

  26. Drewster2000 Avatar


    I agree. There is something in us that not only needs to give – just breathing requires the exhale as an essential component – but we seem to thrive on the giving part of it. But (still thinking aloud here) my wrestle is with the fact that I as a person want not only to give but to know that it fulfills a purpose beyond simply the joy that this action brings to myself.

    Perhaps this is more of a cry for a person to be loved rather than to know the effect of their presence. However, I will add another thought: If I’m consigned to a nursing home in my old age, what will kill me won’t be the level of care, but rather the fact that I no longer serve any purpose. In fact I now have become a burden. Give me a mop or broom or garden trowel, but don’t put me in a bed or wheelchair and expect me to live out my days happy because I don’t have to do any more than play cards and watch TV all day.

    I want to know that I was fashioned for a reason. I need that motivation in order to get out of bed in the morning. I am learning much about obedience right now and there is much to be said for it, but knowing that in my sane moments I can stop and remember why I’m here goes along way to bolstering my defenses when fear and doubt begin to gnaw at the edges of my life.

  27. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    In January this year, I buried a woman who had been in a nursing home for about 8 years. She had a good mind (you could never beat her at Scrabble!). She was a devout Orthodox Christian. In the early years of her confinement, she led a fellow patient, a Jewish gentleman from NY, to faith in Christ and Orthodoxy. I baptized him at the nursing home!

    I met with her, bringing communion, every week. It was my “Thursdays with Charlene.” What I observed in her was a patience and a quiet joy through those years. She never complained, and she seemed to find interest in small things: knitting, for one. She enjoyed playing video bowling with another woman. What I found astonishing was her lack of depression and despair. It was a very slow decline over the years – most of them saw her confined to wheel chair along with arthritis (which brings pain).

    I pondered her a lot over those years. In such a setting, many people, including both patients and staff, easily fall into a quiet despair. Many sit around glued to the TV. What differed about Charlene, was that she did not add to anyone’s despair. If anything, she added to the joy of others. To be a patient presence, with interest in small things, is itself a relief and a succor in the context of shared, boring suffering. To a large extent, she did this by not focusing too much on herself.

    I have seen the same thing in others, but never over such a long, protracted period.

    It’s sort of silly, but some people find “meaning” in their jobs, even though the job involves a product that itself is not meaningful. Life is meaningful. The tricky part is learning how to live.

  28. William Avatar


    You write in your very encouraging reply to Drewster that “some people find ‘meaning’ in their jobs, even though the job involves a product that itself is not meaningful.”

    Would you encourage people who find themselves in meaningless jobs to search for a more meaningful one? Or would you simply discourage “workaholism” in favor of meaningful things: family life, hobbies, etc? I wonder if more people are thinking these things as they find that their work has been officially deemed “nonessential”. What would you say to non-essential wage workers whose work often pulls them away from the things that matter?

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    To a large extent, workers are not in charge of the economy. We work. There are many “non-essential” things in a consumer economy and we do not always have a lot of choice about the work we find. Regardless of the job, we should try to do good work, or to work well, and take some satisfaction in that. But our “meaning” might well come from other things.

  30. William Avatar

    Thanks, Father.

  31. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Very interesting conversation.

    Father…this struck me…”Many sit around glued to the TV. What differed about Charlene, was that she did not add to anyone’s despair. If anything, she added to the joy of others.”
    This is a rare thing nowadays.

    Drew…thank you for initiating this conversation. When I read your initial comment, I thought “that’s deep”. I can relate, but as usual, find it hard to put in words.
    My thoughts went back to when I bought my burial plot. I did not, and still do not, expect those I knew in the past to know when I die. Only those who I know now will know. I thought “just bury me”. The most important thing was that I be prayed for…and my concern is that there is no one to offer prayers on the ‘anniversary day’ of my death…like those who’ve passed and their family members bring the boiled wheat, so that we can pray at the end of the Liturgy. I pay attention to that part of the service, and make sure I read and know their names, as they are listed in the handout. It is important to me. And I know it is for the departed souls.
    I don’t know if I will leave any ‘mark’ that is lasting. I live each day as best I could. And I am very aware of the presence of God and His ‘great cloud of witnesses’, including the angels. It is that which is most important to me in my daily life.

    I try to show kindness to others, as I would like to be treated myself. I find this quite the challenge.
    Father said the woman in the nursing home did not focus too much on herself. That woman was blessed with a very simple but profound truth.

    Drew, you said “Perhaps this is more of a cry for a person to be loved rather than to know the effect of their presence.” Yes, I think this is the bottom line. I have found such love in Christ. And the triumphant with Him.

    Anyway, I appreciate the integrity of your candidness. No false pretexts here….

  32. Byron Avatar

    I want to know that I was fashioned for a reason.

    I always find this comment interesting. I suppose Father’s encouragement to “learn how to live” is the real reason we are all fashioned. Isn’t that what drawing close to God is? I think I too often confuse a desire to be desired by the world with actual Life.

    The comment of Michael’s atheist friend is telling: Why pray when it doesn’t change anything. If God doesn’t give us what we want, what is the use? The “me sized hole” you speak of strikes me not as a place where we can “fit in” but as something that we should fill with God. Isn’t this the real work of prayer? Emptying ourselves so we can be filled with God? Prayer does indeed change things: it changes our heart, which is the root of all true change. Just thinking out loud on the conversation, which is a good one, and very difficult.

  33. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Christ is risen! That’s the most important thing I can say about this or any other conversation.

    I appreciate all the responses. I myself have made peace with the fact that the world doesn’t need me, that I am God’s servant and draw my meaning from Him rather than a specific vocation, but over and over I find people who, as Fr. Stephen says, draw meaning from their jobs or occupations. They wrestle with this question of finding their place.

    I venture the idea that this isn’t everyone’s struggle. Some are content to have a loving family or great place to live, but others seemed to be programmed with a need to fill a need. There is definitely a God-sized hole in all of us, but there are also different kinds of people in the human race. And for one set of them it is important to figure where they belong in terms of their gifting and skills.

    I suggest that Charlene found a purpose, that her peace did not come from being loved and cared for but from finding a role in which she could be a blessing to those around her. That way she was able to breathe in (receiving good care, having visitors, allowing others to do things for her) and breath out (knitting, video bowling with a friend, bringing someone to Jesus, being a Christ-like presence to those around her). Because her life breathed, she was able to maintain it for a long time. That’s what I’m referring to.

    Thanks to everyone for helping me think this through.

  34. Ferial Baz Avatar
    Ferial Baz

    Dear Father Stephen
    This letter brought such joy to my heart that I worked on translating it into Arabic, along with your introduction. I will post it on my FB page, since I have no blog address myself. I hope you do not mind. I know I should have asked for permission prior to doing it, but I trust it will not be a big sin. Here I am confessing. Am I forgiven? You can delete my comment if you so like. Thanks anyway…

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    May it be blessed!

  36. Ziton Avatar

    Sorry this one is so late, but I only just came across this story https://pemptousia.com/2016/05/the-unique-divine-liturgy-at-easter-in-dachau-in-1945 and I found it so powerful and so resonant that I thought it was worth posting. I only came across it when doing a search for the truly remarkable icon in it which I am tempted to call “The Christ of Dachau”, although it also functions as a harrowing of Hades. Worth looking at closely – I find it incredibly moving. It visually resonates with Fr Stephen’s recent comment somewhere that Pascha is like a mass jail break as we think about forgiveness.

    So 1945 at Dachau, that too was a different Pascha. Sort of puts our concerns about our current liturgical constraints into perspective …

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