Notes on Salvation from an Athonite Elder

This Saturday I was blessed to meet and hear a talk by Fr Nikon of New Skete (Athos), during a lovely event organised by ‘The Life-Giving Spring Bookstore’ in Glendale, California.

Out of all the wonderful things Fr Nikon talked about, my heart rejoiced especially at his idea that salvation comes from within – salvation of all those around you, salvation of the whole world is founded on my own fight for my own salvation. Those of you who have met me during my fundraising travels will know that this is also one of the central and recurrent thoughts I have myself, but it meant so much for me to have it confirmed by a real ascetic.

Elder Nikon of the New Skete, Athos

I’ve seen this connection many times in confession – my own and of other people, as well. For most of us, the easiest ‘solution’ to one’s sins is to focus on the weakness of someone else. Rather than fight with my own self, rather than put myself through the spiritual pain of healing my own soul, it is so much easier to turn to someone else and judge them for not doing precisely the things I myself am refusing to do.

Fr Nikon had something else to say which is connected with this. While addressing a question asked by a parent, the Elder said: ‘if you want your children to be saints, be holy yourselves.’ Most parents suffer from a sort of spiritual laziness; they expect their children to do all the things they themselves find too difficult to do. In fact, it’s more that laziness – it’s also hypocrisy and even a touch of lack of love. The same principle applies here too: you can contribute to the salvation of your children by fighting your own sins. The salvation of your children begins with your own salvation.

Look at Christ – to grant US salvation, He didn’t come to crucify us; instead, He Himself got up on the Cross on our behalf. And His Sacrifice opened the doors of the Kingdom for all of us.

Forgive me and pray for me.

6 responses

  • Absolutely Father
    And we should remember also to treat as those children, the ‘children’ of Orthodoxy: converts and seekers, who are just embarking upon that great journey to whom we are so generous in our advice and criticism, but let down with our poor example.
    Inspiring and wise as always Father.

    • Thank you, dear Martin.
      It’s painful to see how willing we are to sacrifice other people, including those who are dearest to us, rather than get up and do something ourselves. It’s painful and scary, because, two thousand years ago, Christ was reproaching His contemporaries precisely the same thing. We’ve learnt very little during this time.
      Please, do keep me and the monastery in your prayer. And tell all your friends to put aside a small gift for the monastery this Christmas. It’s amazing what we can do together – us, the ‘small people’…

  • Let Me/us, Father, address by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the evil within my/our own heart(s) so I/we can behold the fair beauty of Your Son in others and enjoy the fulfillment of authentic faith, hope, and love for them. Thereby, may we save not only our own souls but theirs as well. Amen.

  • Beautiful words of truth from a holy Elder, Thank you for sharing Fr Serafim,
    asking for your prayers, Miriam

    • Dear Miriam,

      Thank you for writing. It is lovely to hear from you! I’ll call you some time next week, when I return to England. I want to see how we can move forward with our musical project to support the monastery. I have some new ideas!

      Please, keep me and the monastery in your prayer – you are always in mine.

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