Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of St. Elisabeth Convent, answers various questions of the parishioners.
Question: Is it viable to struggle with the sin “little by little” or I should take a more radical approach?
Answer: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (James 1: 17). It seems to me that you’re on the right track. If you have to fill a bucket with a spoon, do it tirelessly. Praise the Lord that you can see your limitations. More often than not, an individual draws a full bucket and then it turns out that he cannot carry it. Naturally, there will be a point in time when you have to act bravely. It will not be a question of your personal choice or calculating your resources. It will be the question of whether you trust God or not.
Currently, you are in the process of becoming a Christian, and first you need to spend some time in the elementary school. You can’t simply jump from the first grade into the twelfth grade. People make many mistakes when they try to act like Holy Fathers and love the haters and the offenders. Of course, it is the right thing to do in principle; this is what Jesus Christ has taught us, but this is not what you can do. If you don’t respond to evil with evil, if you are able to curb your feelings, it will already be a great triumph. He who treads softly goes far. May God help you to continue your journey and to grow spiritually, becoming more mature. God will always be near.
Question: How do I deal with hypocrites, and what do I do if I use swear-words, even though I’m a Christian?
Answer: The whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19). We cannot escape sorrows in this world. Swearing is unacceptable, of course. Of the abundance of the heart your mouth speaketh (cf. Luke 6:45). That’s why you ought to be attentive and exert self-control. If you swear unintentionally, punish yourself by making several dozen prostrations, for example. It helps.
As far as dealing with insincere people is concerned… Yes, there are insincere people around, and you can spot them. First of all, we shouldn’t judge them. Our own perception may fail us. If your heart tells you that they are hypocritical (and your heart may be right sometimes), you should limit pointless interactions with such people, especially since your soul is discomfited by their dishonesty. Certainly, we should charge ourselves with doing what we can to accept such people as they are. Until we have not yet reached the measure of the love of Christ… with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward (cf. Ps. 18: 26, 27).
We are very volatile by nature. Someone may be praising you today and looking at you favorably. On the spur of the moment, something happens, and that person changes his opinion, turns against you and starts criticising you. You shouldn’t rely on their unfaltering truth and honesty. You should be aware of the fact that all men are liars (Ps. 116:11), including me. That’s why you have to pay more attention to your own personality, to your own innermost. Only those who are trained not to be too enthusiastic and emotional about anything; only those who know that each person has his positive and negative traits; only those who do their best to understand and accept others, will enjoy stable relationships and be able to bear each other’s burdens, to forgive, and to serve our neighbor.
Question: There is a prayer to Hieromartyr Cyprian asking for his help in the battle against the evil spirits. How should I treat it?
Answer: Hieromartyr Cyprian is a great saint. The example of his conversion to God, his ministry, and his martyrdom reveal his noble spirit. The prayer you are referring to is a good prayer, it is blessed by the Church, but it is not suitable for everyone. When there is a war going on inside one’s heart, and a weak-spirited person attempts to fight and drive away the devil using this prayer; when the said person is exposed to the evil powers, that impressionable person may go astray, led by his feelings. It may appear to that person that he fights and drives the enemy away but sometimes it is merely an illusion. I’d rather ask God for help using Jesus Prayer, Hail Mary, Akathists to the Mother of God, St Nicholas the Wonderworker, and St Spyridon of Trimythous. We needn’t fight the enemy. He is already defeated by the power of the Cross. He does not have any power or strength. And yet he wants us to be thinking about him all the time. He wants us to be scared and to be looking for him everywhere. We should rather be looking for God, our Guardian Angels, and the saints whose lives inspire us to lead a new God-fearing life. This life is beautiful. That is why I’d rather think of the good and pure things and subjects and pay less attention to the dark side.