Dear M. and K.!
Peace to you and the Lord’s salvation!
I received your letter. The Lord has visited you with an illness because, of course, it is necessary for your salvation. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” [Acts 14:22] is a spiritual law. The Apostles, martyrs, monastics and all other saints entered into glory through much great suffering. “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” [Proverbs 3:12] [Literal translation from Church Slavonic: “Whom the Lord loves He punishes and beats every son whom He receives.”] It’s obvious that there is no other way to the Kingdom of God as the narrow way of the cross and therefore you need to not be despondent during illness and feebleness but all the more be joyful in spirit, and comfort yourself with the thought that the Lord has now come closer to you and in the future will make you completely His children if you remain faithful and bear without murmuring all suffering that He will find necessary to send you. “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” [Matt 24:13]
You need to call upon the name of God more often and stand before His face and ask for patience when life becomes too difficult. You need to be on your guard against murmuring as of a poisonous snake. The imprudent thief by murmuring and abuse not only increased his suffering but also eternally perished while the wise thief by the consciousness that he was receiving the reward of his actions lessened his suffering and inherited the Kingdom of God.
A morning prayer of St. Macarius the Great says, “O God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight.” If the great God-pleaser felt this way then how must we feel, on what can we hope? Only on the mercy of God. Forgetting all our good deeds we must, as the publican, call out with all our heart, “God be mercy on us, sinners!” And if the publican was forgiven of all his sins only due to that prayer then it is clear that we have to believe that the Lord will also have mercy on us if we will pray from all our heart and hope on the mercy of God. No sickness can interfere if a few times a day you turn to the Lord with repentance with all your heart.
There has never been a time that the Lord refused to forgive a penitant. The only time that God does not forgive us is when we ourselves don’t forgive others. Therefore, let us be reconciled with all so that the Lord will be reconciled with us. Let us forgive all so that the Lord will forgive us.
Right now the weather is so bad that it is probably especially difficult for you. We also groan and in the evenings await morning and in the morning await for when we can peacefully lay down in bed. May the Lord keep you, give you patience and prayer and through them spiritual joy, and the conquering of all bodily sickness and suffering of this transitory world.
The end is near; take no thought of anything. [Matt 10:19] Take courage and may your heart be strengthened.
Ier.[omanakh (Priest-monk)] N.[ikon]