SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT’S SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES

In “My Life in Christ” definite spiritual principles can be discerned thought the book. They could be summarised like this.

Oneness and simplicity are an important aspect of the nature of God. Therefore, for human beings, simplicity equals strength and nearness to God. What is material is by nature complex and weak. What is spiritual is by nature simple and strong.

When they actually express the inner spirit, words have great power and do not differ from action. This characterises human as well as purely spiritual beings. The human spirit breathes only in the Holy Spirit, who is its atmosphere. Without the Holy Spirit, the human spirit becomes morally corrupt and disintegrates. A materialistic attitude to life is incompatible with the presence of the Spirit of truth.

Words can convey the reality they express, and the scriptural Word of God can therefore convey the Lord himself. Because of its divine power, the Word of God must be believed and obeyed  And. Faith is the way to receive the Word of God and is also what gives strength to the human word. Teaching is essentially conveying the Word of God with its power. Spiritual fatherhood resides in teaching the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of God and liturgical texts are breathed by the Holy Spirit. But it is important also to pray in one’s own words with the power of faith. Just as we are destined to share the life of God, so our words are meant to be spoken from our spirit united to the Holy Spirit.

The human spirit knows God and the devil through experiencing peace, expansion, bliss on the one hand; and turmoil, oppression and torture on the other. Freedom from evil spirits and communion with God come through faith in the Cross and Blood of Christ. When approached with faith, the sign of the Cross and Communion have limitless power and give the peace of God.

By strengthening the faith of people, they can be brought to holy communion for the genuine healing of soul and body. If the human spirit truly receives the Lord’s words. “This is my Body; this is my Blood, shed for the remission of sins,” in communion God is truly imparted to man and man unites himself to God.

Sin has been nailed to the Cross by the Saviour and every sin can be nailed to the Cross through repentance and faith.

By faith God must be personally known as loving Father, as crucified and risen Lord, as the Spirit who accomplishes the Word.

Person live by the gift of themselves through love. God gives himself, his own divine life to us Christians. Therefore we must respond by giving all we have to each other. Especially to the poor so that there is no human injustice. But giving must not be done carelessly, without consideration for the person’s real needs.

The Church, the Body of Christ, is one and experiences her unity within the Holy Spirit. All Christians in heaven and on earth share the same life in the Holy Spirit and therefore communicate spiritually through the Holy Spirit. The Mother of God, the Saints and all the angels are close to us and we can talk to them through the Holy Spirit.

THE PSALTER

Even if the Psalter receives considerable attention in our lives through the daily reading of kathismata and the hours, there remains the danger that it influences only very little our daily practical life and the deep attitudes of our hearts.

In his spiritual diary entitled “My Life in Christ”, Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) frequently refers to verses from the psalms and uses them as spiritual weapons in two ways. Weapons against the devil’s attempt to separate each one of us from the felt presence of God, and weapons against disregarding the commandments of God.

Saint John of Kronstadt immediately widens our horizons. With some amazement, as we read his reflections we become aware of so many aspects of life where the presence of the Lord is a matter of life and death. And yet until then we had never thought of it. Similarly we become aware of so many moral demands which God makes on us and which had remained a matter of complete indifference to us.

Like the reading of the psalter, an acquaintance with these texts by Saint John of Kronstadt are unlikely to lead to any substantial changes in our lives, unless we take time to consider simple concrete situations of everyday life where both the psalm verses and their commentary apply for us.

Some of this can only be done privately by each individual Christian, prayed about and eventually brought out in confession and discussed with one’s spiritual father.

Side by side with this personal approach, Bible study groups and the parish as a community would be greatly enriched if they also took those texts to heart. No community can change if its individual members are not concerned to change personally. Bu  ıt for any individual to make spiritual headway can be dependent on the direction of the community around them.

In particular, the community provides the mutual backing needed to keep a vivid sense of the Lord’s presence. To create a social awareness of the demands that the Lord makes on Christians and of which society is totally unconscious. To encourage faith in the Lord’s desire to answer the prayers of both individuals and communities.

Saint John of Kronstadt’s thoughts on the psalter illustrate the general principles of his spiritual teaching. To benefit fully from the reading of his thoughts on the psalms, it is useful to start by reminding oneself of the basic principles of the Christian life as Saint John of Kronstadt sees them.

THE PSALMS

PSALM 2: 11 “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

Lord, do not allow for one moment that I should do the will of your and my enemy, the devil. But, grant that I may continually do your will, and do only the will of my God and  ˚ my King, by whom all kings reign. Grant that I may always obey you, revere you truly and firmly.

PSALM 7: 9 “O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts.”

With what are our hearts occupied? God, “who searches minds and hearts,” sees what each one of us has in his heart, to what it is attached during the greater part of life. And if the Lord had given us the ability to see all the depths of the human heart, then our eyes would have turned away with horror from the mass of impurities inside it. Adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, pride and others. What abomination we would have seen. The abomination of ingratitude to God, of forgetfulness of God, of unbelief, of little faith, of manifold attachment to earthly things often the most absurd ones, of carelessness for heavenly things, of our own lot after death, of inattention and neglect of the Church, of her services, rites and institutions, of contempt for the clergy who represent religion and the Church, and every other.  ? abomination.

If you wish to correct anyone of his faults, do not think of correcting him solely by your own means. You would only do harm by your own passions. For instance by pride and the irritability arising from it. But, “cast your cares on the Lord” (Psalm 55:22) and pray to God “who searches minds and hearts,” with all your heart, that he himself will enlighten the mind and heart of that man. If he sees that your prayer breathes love, and it really comes from the depth of your heart, he will infallibly fulfil the desire of your heart, and you yourself will soon tell, seeing the change that has taken place in him for whom you have prayed, that it is the work of “the right hand of the Most High”(Psalm 77:10)

When you pray, either aloud or within yourself for others - for instance, for the members of your household or for strangers, even though they may not have asked you to do so - pray for them with the same ardour and zeal as you would pray for yourself. Remember the commandment of the Law  @. “love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 Matthew 19:19 and 22:39). Observe this rule on all occasions, that is, love your neighbour as yourself. Do not try to deal cunningly with the Lord, “who searches minds and hearts” (Jeremiah 11:20 Revelation 2:23  Psalm 7:9), lest he should despise your prayer as vain and lying.


Psalm 12: 6,8 “The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honoured among men.”

We must not doubt in the truth of the Gospel a  and of the liturgical texts. Everything that is in the Gospel and in the Church is the breathing of the Spirit of truth, the ‘silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times,’ life, peace and spiritual sweetness. Woe to him who doubts. The lying spirit will darken, oppress and plunge him into despondency and affliction. This is from experience.

Sometimes during prayer the intellect becomes puffed up and the words of the prayer do not find a place in it on account of its carnality and falsehood. But, still the words of the prayer are spirit and truth, the molten silver, proceeding from the soul, burning with faith and love, ‘refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.’ “the Ungodly walk around them” (Septuagint version) not going into the depth of their meaning.


THE TEACHING OF ST JOHN OF KRONSTADT

ON THE CROSS

The crosses we have in church, at home and on ourselves, and the sign of the Cross which we make on ourselves, are tokens of the salvation we have received through the death of our Saviour on Golgotha two thousand years ago. Saint John of Kronstadt teaches us that the Cross is an eye-opener, a way of life, a spiritual weapon and the very image of the Cross is and has been historically used by God to teach us.

THE CROSS IS AN EYE-OPENER

Experience show that the external sign of the Cross only has meaning through faith

Jesus is united with the sign of the Cross. And in order that the unbelieving heart should not think that both the sign of the Cross and the name of Christ act miraculously by themselves, apart from and independently of Christ himself, this same Cross and name of Christ do not perform any miracles until I believe with my whole heart all that he has accomplished for our salvation.

A Cross is the token of our salvation

Looking upon the Saviour’s Cross, contemplate Love crucified upon it for our salvation; and think for what blessedness he has saved us, and from what torments he has redeemed us! He has snatched us from the claws of the beast and has brought us to the father! O Love!  O redemption! O terrors of everlasting torments! O indescribable, endless blessedness!

Through the Cross we have the certainty that our prayers are answered

“He who did not spare his own Son ... how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31)) The essential, the greatest is given. Everything else that we ask for or pray for is infinitely less than the Son of God. We may therefore ask God for everything trustfully in the name of Jesus Christ, every blessing of gift that we can think of, for ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.’ (John 14: 3) Do you pray for the forgiveness of the sins or for the repose of the departed? “He is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2) “The Blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7) He can forgive even the departed every sin committed by them in word, deed or thought. “He is the resurrection, the life and the repose of his departed servants.” .... Would you ask him anything for the living or for yourself? “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7)

Golgotha should be constantly before our eyes

Say to yourself more frequently: I wish so to live that my life may gladden my Beloved, crucified for my sake on the Cross. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)

THE CROSS IS A WAY OF LIFE

Because of the Cross, love is our way of life

In your home you see love in those around, for they are sealed in baptism and chrism with the cross of love and war the cross. The also partake with you in church of the ‘supper of love’. In church there are everywhere symbols of love: crosses, the sign of the Cross, the saints who were pleasing to God by their love for him and for their neighbours, and Incarnate Love itself. In heaven and upon earth everywhere there is love. It rests and rejoices the heart, like God, while enmity kills the soul and the body. And you must show love, always and everywhere. How can you not love when everywhere you hear love preached, when only the destroyer of mankind, the devil, is eternal enmity!

Because of the Cross, there can be no hatred in our lives

Dislike, enmity or hatred should be unknown among Christians even by name. How can dislike exist among Christians? Everywhere you can see love, everywhere you breathe the fragrance of love. Our God is the God of love. His kingdom is the kingdom of love. Out of love for us he did not spare his Only-Begotten Son but delivered him up to die for our sakes “to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10)

A prayer based on the Cross as an instrument of love

Grant, Lord, that I may ever love each of my neighbours as myself and not be angry with them for any cause, and not serve the devil in this way. Grant that I may crucify my self-love, pride, covetousness, incredulity and other passions. Let mutual love be our name; grant that we may believe and trust that the Lord is everything to us all; that we may not be careful nor anxious about anything; that you, O God, may truly be the only God of our heart and nothing beside you. Let t the be union of love between us as there ought to be and let everything that divides us from each other and prevents us from loving one another be despised by us like the dust trampled under foot. So be it! So be it! If God has given us himself, if he abides in us and we in him according to his own true words, then what will he not give me, what will he keep away from me, of what will he deprive me, how can he forsake me? “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing” (Psalm 32:1) “Will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32) And therefore, my soul, be perfectly at rest and know nothing but love. “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15: 17)

Since the Lord gave us his son, we must give generously ourselves

God did not spare for our sakes even his Only-Begotten Son. How, then, after this can we grudge anything to our neighbour: either food, drink, clothing or money for his various needs? ... If we use these gifts selfishly, avariciously and greedily for ourselves only and grudge them to them, then they become injurious to our soul and body. 

The sign of the Cross reminds us that every human being is an image of God

In signing ourselves with the sign of the Cross, with the three fingers w delay the upper end of the /cross upon the forehead as an emblem of God the Father, who is the uncreated Wisdom. The lower end of the Cross on the bosom as an emblem of the Son who was begotten of the Father before all worlds and who is in the bosom of the Father. And the transverse part on the shoulders as an emblem of the Holy Spirit who is the arm or the power of God, or the hand of the Lord, as has been said: “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38 and Isaiah 53:1) - or “The hand of the Lord was upon me there.” (Ezekiel 3:22) that is, the Holy Spirit..... How great therefore is man It has not been said in vain: “I said, ‘You are gods, you are all sons of the Most High’ (Psalm 82:6). Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken (that is, if it has been said, then it must be true, immutable) - what about the one whom the Father set apart as his own very won and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:35 -36). O, the dignity! O, the greatness of man! Do not look upon any man, especially upon a Christian, otherwise than upon the son of God, and receive him as the son of God, converse with him, behave with him as with the son of God, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Cross reminds Christians that they may not live as pagans

Christian! Remember that Christ, the founder of your faith, was crucified on the Cross and left you the cross. Why then do you live in luxury, in spaciousness, in indulgence, in idleness? He suffered dishonour and commanded you not to shun dishonour for his name; but you seek honour. Gaze more often on the crucified and learn your duties. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24)

THE CROSS IS A SPIRITUAL WEAPON

The Cross and the sign of the Cross have had great power from Old Testament times

The Lord was crucified for us on the Cross. This is the reason why it, as well as the sign of the Cross, have such power. This is why it is life-giving. This is why even in the Old Testament its symbol had such great power. The pole upon which the serpent was set cured those who were bitten by serpents. The cross, traced by Moses’ rod separated the waters; Moses’ hands uplifted in prayer and forming the Cross, conquered Amalek and so on.

By the Cross as well as by the sign of the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ is ever with us, living and life-giving, and ever acts by means of various powers for our salvation, through our faith in him, our God and Saviour. Glory for this to our Lord who is ever present with us! “I am with you always, to the close of the age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20)

The sign of the Cross as a reminder to nail our sins to the Saviour’s Cross

In making the sign of the Cross, believe and constantly remember that your sins are nailed to the Cross. When you fall into sin, immediately judge yourself sincerely and make the sign of the Cross over yourself saying: “Lord, you nail our sins to the Cross, nail also my present sin to your Cross and have mercy on me according to your unfailing love” (Psalm 51:1) and you will be cleansed from your sin. Amen.

The effect of the Cross on demons and on the elements

The Cross is in Christ and Christ is on the Cross. The Cross is the image of the crucified Christ, the son of God, and therefore the sign of the Cross and even its shadow are terrible to the demons as the sign of Christ himself, as the shadow of him crucified. Therefore, it is very important to sanctify water by immersing the Cross in it. Through this it becomes healing and drives away demons.

Glory to the never failing power of your Cross, O Lord! When the enemy oppresses me by sinful thoughts and feelings and I, having no freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, then my sin suddenly passes away from me, the straightness vanishes and I obtain freedom. Glory to you, O Lord! Lord, let nothing, nothing carnal, material turn me away from you! Let me always be with you!

Do not pay attention to the darkness of satan. Drive it away from your heart by making the sign of the life-giving Cross!

THE IMAGE OF THE CROSS IS AND HAS BEEN USED BY GOD TO TEACH US

In blessings the Church refers to the image of the Cross with great reverence

Why do we honour the cross with such reverence that we make mention of its power in our prayers after asking for the intercession of the Mother of God and the heavenly powers, and sometimes even before asking for that of the heavenly powers? Because, after the Saviour’s sufferings, the cross became the sign of the Son of Man, that is, the cross signifies the Lord himself incarnate and suffering for our salvation. On the Cross, Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to God the Father for our sins and by it he has saved us from the works of the enemy; and this is why we honour it with such great reverence. And therefore, it will always be a great power for believers, delivering them from every evil, especially from the evil actions of invisible enemies.

The meaning of historical miracles concerning the Cross

Why did the Holy Cross appear in the heavens to the Emperor Constantine? In order to show that our Lord himself, also all the apostles and all the army of martyrs entered into glory through the Cross. That the Cross is invincible victory. That as the devil was vanquished by means of the Cross, so also all the enemies of the Cross of Christ or of Christians will be vanquished by the Cross. Also that the devil acts through the persecutors of the Christians and must be conquered by means of the Cross. And that the persecuted Christians are members of Christ, soldiers of Christ who are always under the protection of Christ the Lord and of his Cross.

There is an immediate link between the power of the Cross and that of the Mysteries

If God communicates an invincible, incomprehensible divine power to the life-giving Cross, then why should it be wonderful that he communicates a similar incomprehensible power, in order to regenerate our nature, to the most pure, terrible and life-giving Mystery of his Body and Blood.