“One evening, I was at the all-night vigil in the Zosimas and Sabbatius church,” Archimandrite Kronid once shared, “when suddenly, an awful spark of disbelief, doubt and blasphemy flashed, like lightning, in my head. It was instant and happened very suddenly, burning me with hellfire. After that incident, thoughts of this kind started flowing like an endless river in my mind. I was numb with terror. Something terrible, incomprehensible and also frightening was happening in my soul. When I returned from church to my cell, I found that these thoughts had not left me. Truly, these sufferings were too infernal to be called earthly. I lost sleep and stopped eating.
Days, weeks, months and years passed, but by hellish thoughts were continuing to haunt me. I was restless and defeated by melancholy and sorrow. Once I came to despair and unwittingly asked the Lord to send me death. This mental struggle was indescribably hard. Imagine the state of a struggling mind, split within itself into two worlds — the world of light, where there is faith, hope in God and a burning desire for salvation; and the world of darkness, arousing harmful thoughts and disbelief.
My only consolation and joy was spending my free moments reading The Lives of Saints. I especially enjoyed reading about St Niphont, a Cypriote miracle worker, who suffered from similar thoughts for four years. I also continuously read the work of St Demetrius of Rostov, where he describes St Catherine of Sinai, who also suffered from blasphemous thoughts. That saint reached the mournful state where she fell on the ground, beating her head against it and crying out, “Save me, o Lord, for I am perishing!” At this very moment, she saw a lightning-fast vision of Christ the Savior who appeared to her in the light, saying, “Catherine, I am with you!” Then Catherine asked, “Where were you, o Lord when my soul was full of blasphemy and unbelief?” The Savior answered, “I was in your heart.” “But there was nothing but filth inside me!” St Catherine exclaimed. The Lord answered, “But you did not consent to this filth.”
Now I often remember the words of certain ascetics, “When looking for spiritual guidance, try to find an elder with experience in spiritual life rather that holiness.” At one point I was able to test this advice on myself. Once, in my great suffering, I turned to a certain spiritual scholar and told him about my mental sorrow. He listened to me and said, “The Lord be with you! How can you allow such thoughts?” That conversation left me with a feeling of hopeless and unapprehended grief. Waking up in the morning after a sleepless night and barely moving my legs, I went to the painting class to fulfil my daily duties. On the way there I went to see the head of the painting workshop, Hieromonk Father Micah. When he saw me, he exclaimed in surprise, “Father Kronid! What happened? It is impossible to recognize you! You are pale as a ghost, and your eyes are filled with sorrow. Your look shows your mental anguish. Tell me, what is the matter with you?” Then I told him about all my inner sorrows and thoughts. He listened to me with tears in his eyes and with a particular sense of compassion and Christian love, as if he himself was experiencing my torment with me. Then he said to me, “Calm down, Father Kronid. This great struggle is inflicted by the enemy on many. You and I are not the first or the last. Many, many people suffer from it. I myself suffered this abuse for seven years and reached such a state that once, having come to the Dormition Cathedral for Vespers, I was unable to stay there because my thoughts were full of unbelief and blasphemy. I ran out of the church and went to the cell of my spiritual father, Hieromonk Abraham. I was trembling and could not say anything. The elder asked me several times, “What is the matter with you? What happened? Tell me!” After abundant tears, I could only utter, “Father, I’m dying!” Then the elder said to me, “You don’t enjoy these thoughts and don’t consent to them, do you? Why are you so unbearably troubled then? Calm down! The Lord sees your mental anguish, and He will help you in everything.” Then he read a prayer of absolution over me, blessed me and let me go in peace. From that day, with God’s help, these thoughts completely disappeared. When they reappear from time to time, I do not attach any importance to them, and they go away without upsetting me much.”
Like precious balm, poured into my soul, Father Micah’s words healed it, and since that time my mental struggle subsided significantly.”
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds