On the 10-th anniversary of Martyric Death of Protopriest Alexander Zharkov (+ Sep 14, 1997)The Teachings of Father Alexander Zharkov
From the Unpublished book by Nun Kassia (Senina),
The Passion-Bearer of the Last Times .
Batiushka did not like to speak in many words. He answered questions very simply, almost always briefly, but to the essence of the matter. I have preserved several of his teachings that I recorded while I was under his spiritual direction. One can judge the man himself by these teachings, for he never taught what he himself did not practice.
When the soul feels well, one wants to pray a great deal, yes; but when one is depressed, one needs to pray more than ever.
Every prayer must be above all with humility.
The Jesus Prayer is not for dreaming about attaining some "height"; it is our holy obligation. One can say it whenever one has free time – while walking, while taking public transport, etc.
The main rule of the spiritual life is that everything must be done secretly. Don't do or say anything for display. Otherwise you're already playing for an audience.
During church services one needn't say the Jesus Prayer, but only listen to the service. One can say the Jesus Prayer only when the commemoration sheets are being read.
It seems that you want the Heavenly Kingdom be brought to you on a platter. But don't think that this happens. The Heavenly Kingdom is not given like a present. Have you read The Apocalypse? "You are neither cold nor hot…" Either be an unbeliever, or be a believer – in which case you need to be hot, not warm. Either one or the other, but by no means "in between."
It's hard? What did you think? For the more one prays, the more temptations one has. Endure. In no case stop praying. Our enemy uses all his power to try to lead us away from prayer and from the Church. Struggle and falls will last to the end of one's life. But there is no other path.
As long as a person doesn't pray, go to Church, or wear a cross, the enemy doesn't approach him: he's already "his," so why tempt him? But as soon as a person begins to pray, to fast – then the enemy right away goes after him to drag from prayer and from the Church.
One must ascend on high gradually, step by step. It's difficult to break with one's old life. One should first break with one thing, then with another, and so on. That's surer than suddenly jumping upwards, but each time falling back to where one began.
Everything must be gradual in the spiritual life; but to ascend the stairs doesn't at all mean to weaken, it means to take oneself by the hand and not give up. All is allowed me, but not all is beneficial – that's it! One must only do that which is beneficial.
Don't attempt to imitate the podvigs [ascetic feats] of the Saints. They had a special calling from God for this. You should first of all fulfill what's said in the Gospel: Blessed are the poor in spirit! But podvigs – that's a gift from God. How can you compare yourself with John of Kronstadt? Yes, he could pray for something and immediately receive it; but you're not him, and you'll need to pray ten times, one hundred times.
So you read various books, but don't fulfill what's written there. But you try to imitate the Saints! Of course you accomplish nothing, and therefore you're ashamed. That's because you are trying to imitate, but what one needs is to fulfill! Read the Gospel! So when you read spiritual books and the lives of Saints, you should try to imitate someone, but to fulfill God's commandments.
All these deliberations about whether you Commune "unworthily" or "too often" are useless! No one is worthy! For it's said: Give us this day our daily bread. The main thing is to repent of one's sins.
A love for all these little chocolates is simply dissipation. It's better not to buy them at all, except on feast days.
That fasting would be "dull" – that's impossible!
One should fast, but show this to others as little as possible, and don't fight with your parents about it.
Of course it's difficult to live with unbelievers, and there are many temptations. But you should think that they, as it were, temper you, so you should be condescending to them, because one can understand that they can't suddenly become fervent believers. Bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ.
If you've managed to cut off your will to others, then be careful that you don't later analyze it, don't complain or grumble about it – or it will be judgment, not obedience.
All depression, negative thoughts, and irritation usually come from idleness, when one isn't doing anything and has lots of free time – so one sits and devises all sorts of things.
It's better not to tell anything about yourself.
One should never yell at anyone. It's useless, anyway.
A large part of the evil in the world in every age comes from gossiping. So be careful! It's better not to tell anything to anybody, and if you're questioned, use your head when answering, and don't go into details.
Never get curious about anything.
Everyone must work in his own place.
Q: "There are certain people I can never get myself to love – only from afar."
A: "God is love. And by the measure by which we judge, we too will be judged. If we can love them only from afar, then the Heavenly Kingdom, too, will be shown to us only from afar.
Don't slump around or walk around with a long face. Don't show your bad mood to people, and don't go around looking gloomy. Remember that you don't live alone, but among people. But you look like you're about to drop dead. You're only going to scare people.
One needs to get up at the same time every day, and early – as we sing "Glory to Thee, Who hath shown forth the light!"
One needs to sleep as much as is good for one's health. But, in general, one should sleep as little as possible. It's better not to sleep during the day, unless you're too tired or can't go on.
Look in the mirror as seldom as possible.
On life in nature: The birds in the forest sing and glorify the Lord. And we must pray, or else nothing good will happen.
Why fear evil people? "Evil people" – they are in our soul. One needs to have a pure heart – and then there's nothing to be afraid of.