Archimandrite Ambrose (Yurasov). Is there God?

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Archimandrite Ambrose (Yurasov). Is there God?

— Yes, there are some people who say there is no God. I ask: “How do you know there is no God? He has existed for thousands years and suddenly disappeared.” A thirteen-year-old boy came to me and said: “I doubt whether God exists or not. Maybe, there is no God?” and I answered him “When I was little, about 7-8 years old, I climbed the choir loft on Christmas holiday and was sitting on the stairs because there were many people. And God gave me such a grace that I had never known before. And then I decided: “Whatever happens to me in my life, I must always trust in God, go to church and pray.” And I have been going to church and praying for 77 years already. I had to get it across to this boy. I told him there are no unbelievers on the Earth: some people believe that God exists; others believe that He does not. And I asked the boy: “Tell me, what is easier to believe: that billions of people, animals, birds and fish, almost all plant kingdom and the whole Universe have appeared on their own or that someone has created them?”

— He said: “It’s easier to believe that someone has created them.”

— “Take the following example: there is a master in a family – a father, in any state there is tsar or president, at any factory or plant there is a boss, even chorus sings and there must be a precentor, at school there is a headmaster. It is necessary that there should be someone senior. I say once again: remember, there are no unbelievers on the Earth. Everything is based on faith.

— Look how many people there are in the world, now seven billion, how many have been before us and how many will be after – there is no one who is similar to other. Everyone has different face, various character, different fingerprints. Isn’t it God’s wisdom? The tenderest part of human body is eyes. And how wise they are made! A person is in the north where the temperature is 70 degrees below zero, he is warmly clad, and everything is covered; only eyes are opened. If you go into sauna, the temperature there is 130-140, the body doesn’t weather it but eyes do. The eyes are wisely created, aren’t they? That, Who sees everyone, gave us eyes. They couldn’t have appeared on their own. And what are eyebrows for? When sweat goes down, they are a barrier and nothing can get into eyes, eyelashes are from dust, they also protect eyes from black flies. And how wise the teeth are organized and the tongue! Someone has created all this. And everything, whatever you take that a human or an animal has, is arranged wisely. And the rational is built by sense. And this sense is God.

— We can’t think about God that He is an old man with a beard flying somewhere and ruling the world. God is the purest Spirit. God is Love. I asked the boy: “Have you ever seen love?” He replied: “No.” – “But it exists, doesn’t it?” – “It does.” – “We also don’t see radio waves and music, it’s good if we have healthy hearing and we can hear it but if we have diseased hearing, we won’t be able to do this. So if a person has faith, he feels God and appeals to him.

— I told this boy the following story. Once I was invited to school to the 4th form, teachers and children gathered – about 40 people. I asked: “How much time do you give me?” – “40 minutes, a lesson.” I thought: I must say something briefly and concisely. And I asked the children: “What is nature?” A girl sitting at the first desk raised a hand and answered: “Nature is everything surrounding us.” I said: “Right. And what surrounds us?” “The sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, the land and everything on it, water and everything in it. This is nature.” I said: “Keep in mind: are the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars animate?” “No.” “Do they have sense?” “No.” And I said: “This nature also includes animate objects – a man, animals, birds. Tell me, who from the nature around us has sense?” All of them answered: “A man.” “Right,” I agreed. – And when birds and planes fly, are they alike in the flight?” – “Yes, they are. Because academician Zhukovskiy took the model of the plane from birds.” “We can kill a bird, put it under a microscope. The same about a plane. And what is easier to put together a plane or a bird to make it possible to fly again?” And the children understand that it is possible to do only with a plane. And I asked them: “Who is the constructor of a plane?” Everyone said: “A man.” – “And what about the constructor of a bird?” – “Nature.” – “And who from the environment has creative thinking?” – “A man.” And I told them: “And how could irrational, animate nature create a bird so wisely? A bird flies and knows where exactly to go without a compass or a map.” Everyone kept silence. And I continued: “Imagine: we set ten dead people in morgue at the table, what can they create? They cannot think, they are stinking, they are dead. The same with nature – it is animate, irrational, but created sensibly. It means He, who has sense, created it.  Somebody said: “But we were told at school that nature appeared on its own…”

— “Nature appeared on its own,” – this is faith too. What is easier to believe that nature was created by God or that it appeared on its own and organized everything so wisely? It’s more natural to admit that God has created it. Look: how many beautiful things can be found in nature: amazing animals, beautiful fish, birds! Someone has decorated them!

— Imagine a man went to the forest to pick mushrooms and got lost in taiga. He went here and there, strayed and strayed and that was all, he did not know where to go and he was sized with fear because the afternoon was well along. And suddenly a miracle happened– there appeared two men. He told them: “Guys, I got lost. Can you tell me how to get out of here?” One of them looked down on him and said: “This is taiga and there’s no way out. Make a hut and eat what you can find. You will find only death here.” The mushroom hunter got scared. But the second man comforted him: “Don’t worry. There’s a way out. If you go straight, you’ll see a lake, go rightward, there’ll be a sheared birch, go straight along this birch and you’ll get to the road.”

— The strayed man doesn’t know whether these people are honest guys or swindlers, but from psychological point who will he trust more: the first man or the second one? Of course, the second man, who is showing the way towards life. Atheism says: “There is no God, no other world, no angels, no demons, no heaven, no hell, there is no soul too, a man is a product of material. He dies, crumbles to dust and that’s all, only death is waiting for him.” And the Church says: “Nothing of the kind, there is no death. A man starts living not when he was born but when his soul leaves the body, this is the beginning of life.” Here we are learning how to live, work on self-improvement, extirpate vices, passions, cleanse the soul from dirt to enter Heaven.

— The Church urges us to follow the commandments that God has given us. And why has He given them to us? So that we will be fine. He has given us ordinances, not punishment but ordinances: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t preen, don’t steal, don’t lose your temper, don’t get offended, don’t be jealous. What did He say this for? He did it for us to be free from all this. And living here, on the Earth, we could rejoice in the Lord. Because we can get joy here too. It’s given to us by Christ. Especially when the soul recovers.

— The scientists are said to have proved there is no God. What scientists? Raise on two kilometers and look at this scientist from above – he is going along the road, so itsy-bitsy, a black fly. What can he prove? Absolutely nothing. Even if scientists are studying the Universe, their knowledge is the size of a teaspoon. Imagine, a man comes to the ocean and dips a spoonful of water and has declared in front of everyone: “Ha-ha! They say the whales can be found here but there are no whales!” And people tell him: “Such an egghead, you’ve proved it! How can you speak by one spoon about the content of the whole ocean?” The same way scientists have gleaned some knowledge but what can they say about the whole Universe and its Maker?

— I ask: “How did the world appear?” – “There was a bang in the Universe and the world came from it.” I say: “Let’s think about it. Before something can explode, this thing must be created. Then it’s necessary that someone blasts this Universe and sets a new order. Look, what order is there in the Universe? There are faithful scientists, those who have a sincere faith but there are also some who don’t have faith because their life is impure, impenitent.

— — Father, I have a question. It is evident that there is God, so why is it so difficult for some people to believe that He exists?

— — If a person is brought up in Orthodox manner and foundation of faith is laid in him, even if there are some chops and changes in his life, he still keeps to his faith; he repents and tries to change. But some people lose faith.

One day a woman came to me, she was about 60 years old and she said: “Father, I’ve lost faith. When I was thirteen, I asked God for a bicycle. He didn’t give it to me and I stopped going to church.” Such a ridiculousness.

— And if He had given you two bicycles? Would you have become a nun?

— Yes (smiling).

— Let’s say a child is asking parents for a razor or scissors to play with. Parents know that it is harmful for him, he can hurt himself. And when the age comes, he will get as many knives as he wants.

— Faith strengthens when a person confesses, repents, especially sins that are shameful to speak about. And we must confess so as if today is the last time when we do it. And to speak about the most disgraceful sin above all. Some people list all the sins quickly: pride, vanity, bla-bla-bla…, and then speak about fornicatory passions as quickly as about the others. And it’s necessary to reprove yourself, look at your arrogance. Those people who go to church but don’t work over themselves, over their character, lose faith. But when a person has truly confessed, he feels immediately his soul has freed, his conscience is unclouded. And he feels: yes, God exists. It happens in the lives of hermits. At the beginning they have strong faith, then fluctuations, demon attacks and faith vanishes at all. It happened so on Mount Athos in Greece. Demon of infidelity attacked one hermit. The hermit knows God exists but he does not have faith inside. Only before death, a few days before it, God opened himself and such great faith has appeared!

— How to wean a husband from ribaldry correctly, not to make him get into a huff? And must I do it at all?

— When did ribaldry appear? When Russia was under Mongol yoke, the most precious thing that we had was our faith in God, faith in Holy Mother, faith in our mother, worship of motherland – Terra Matter. And they created insulting words, pronouncing which we offense Holy Mother, our mother and motherland – our land. And Terra Matter doesn’t bear fruit. Tongue was given to us not to swear and foul but to praise God. All that we say, do, think, nothing disappears, everything will be captured for time and all eternity. And when the soul leaves the body, we will go through ordeals. The first ordeal is idle talk, it will be opened how many bad, rude and dirty words we used.

— -And how can this woman help her husband?

— — She should tell him that he mustn’t swear.

— If she says “you mustn’t”, he won’t listen to her. Maybe, there are some other ways?

— — You know, sometimes a child is said thousands times “you mustn’t” and then at some point he understands and stops using bad words. And it’s necessary to say. Let’s say a person has a passion for smoking. Once a guy came to me, he was about 28 years old, wearing a tracksuit. He said: “I can’t give up smoking.” And I answered: “Are you such a crip? Can’t you cope with a cigarette?” – “No, I can’t.” And I continued: “Tell me, what is easier – to cut the finger off with a hack-saw or an axe?” He answered: “It’s easier to do with an axe. You cut it off at once and that is all. And I do it every day with one cigarette…” And I said: “You mustn’t do this. Righteous John of Kronstadt said: “Those, who smoke and eat constantly, are like a travelling kitchen – smoke comes from their mouths and boils in their stomachs.” How to help the husband? To pray for him. Everything is possible by the grace of God.

— — OK, Father, a person has come to faith in God. Faith is a gift. How not to lose this gift? Why can it be lost and how not just to save it but also to strengthen?

— If we give freedom to our feelings, passions, then faith is getting lost. Aberration happens and a person falls. Let’s say a woman, an Orthodox Christian, goes to church, prays, keeps fasts, reads all the rules and spiritual books. And suddenly the devil tempted her – she fell into lechery. Then for the second time and the third and she went haywire. Faith has been lost. And only tribulation can stop her. She understands, knows but can do nothing till she goes and shrives and gives God a promise not to commit sins anymore. At this moment God forbids. If she used to be a fornicatress, she becomes chaste because God forgave her all sins. And there is no sin that God doesn’t forgive. And there is no disease that God can’t cure. And if a man gives freedom to all passions, then misfortune comes – demons wraps hand and foot and it is possible that you won’t be able to escape. Demons organize everything so keenly, gradually, beginning from the thoughts, then further and further and then they lead you to deadly sin of lust. Everyone must know about it too.

— — Can God wash from sin by illness or is it necessary to come to the mystery of confession?

— When a person is ill and he thanks God, he gets purified, if a person doesn’t confess, he is in the state of a living dead, of a corpse. And God sometimes calls a man through disease. It is not God, who does not give us illnesses, we acquire them ourselves owing to our passions. And we must always shrive. Every week a man washes his body, we wash our face every day, and why don’t we wash our soul? Our body is not the main but the soul. Body is just clothes for the soul. The soul is Christ’s bride, it must be clean all the time.

— — How to get rid of too many words? Sometimes you say something and you feel so awful from your words and you worry about it very much.

— — Reverend John Climacus said: “Beat your enemies with the name of Christ.” If a person woke up in the morning, prayed, read the Jesus Prayer 200-300-400 times – he has a charge for the whole day, this prayer will constantly be in mind. There are some people who hear some good music or good chants and the words from these songs get stuck in their heads and they don’t have any other thoughts. Sophisticated Fathers say: “We will grind all day what we have sown in the mill in the morning.” And then there will be no other thoughts. We must teach ourselves to walk with God all the time. God knows all our thoughts and Lord is so close to us, closer than undershirt. God penetrates all, knows all our ideas and the secrets of the heart, nothing can be hidden from Him.

— — Is it allowed to perform a planned surgery during the Lent?

— — If there is an acute need, it must be performed.

— — Kseniya is in despair – she faces nursing home. It was not a question that she asked, it was a cry from the heart. What can console her?

— — She must be consoled by the fact that God has not left her. Our Lord has shown special mercy towards her: it is better to suffer here temporarily for the sins and get eternal glorious life and joy. A person just doesn’t fully understand why he is here. We have already said that even people who were saint, lying in bed and being ill, cured people. Many Saints said the following: “Lord, give me the opportunity to suffer before death, to become bone-dry and to reconcile with all people.” We must give all lumber that we have in the house away, so that nothing will pull us back to this world and demons won’t be able to stop us. And it happens so that many people have saved up money and knocked it down, then died and who was it left for? The same about things, house, flat. A person hasn’t been buried yet but there has already started enmity between his relatives. They don’t speak to each other. There is an insult. All these things must be given away by ourselves during our life and there mustn’t be any grumble. Even if you go to nursing house. Thank God! There are people there too and there is God in this place. He won’t leave anyone. Now it’s a great time when you can call a priest, shrive, receive extreme unction, take communion – i.e. join with God. There is nothing higher than that.

— — The Publican has come to the church, cried about his sins and went to commit sins again and the Pharisee, of course, does wrong that he praises himself but nevertheless, he is of some use to the church. Clear it up for me, why?

— — It is not said in the Gospel that he went to commit sins again.

— — But, Father, even if to imagine that he really went to sin. But! He sees his sin and shrives. And the Pharisee doesn’t see, he is proud and puts himself over the others. — The Publican left the church being exonerate and the Pharisee was not.

— — Then, under the image of the Publican are implied all sinners. It isn’t concrete. This is a parable, a metaphor. It means that it has another idea not a direct one. What meaning does it have?

— — All of us are sinners in front of God. Just some Publicans consider themselves as Pharisees when don’t see sins, feel proud and praise themselves. And other Publicans come into penitence. And God forgives us. That’s why Apostle Peter said: “…for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law.” What Law?

— — The law of sin.

— — That is why all our life is struggle, struggle with sin. And in this very struggle a person gets saint in front of God. If a person gets into hospital or to retirement home and will be grateful to God – everything will be salutary for this man, all will be for his joy. And if a man starts grumbling, it is disagreeable for God because no hair will fall to the ground without God’s will. If you are sent there, it means that there is His will. It is a firing pad, exit to the other world.

— — According to the rules, for deadly sins, for example, for lechery there must be seven years of excommunication, for adultery – fifteen years. Our priests do not set such penances but nobody has abolished the rules… And you go, confess, receive the Sacraments, won’t it happen that you commune in condemnation?

— — No one has abolished the rules. It was set on Ecumenical Councils by the Holy Spirit. A person has fallen into lechery, let he receive no Sacraments during seven years. There is also the following rule: if this person doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t eat anything on Wednesday and Friday and drinks no water, this penance reduces. A man has committed this sin, he loses God’s grace for seven years, it means that during seven years he can’t get to the state that he had before that. He was in God’s grace, then he got into lechery and during seven years he doesn’t have a right to take communion. But if he does some good deeds, donates alms, brings grants to the church – flour, oil, candles, everything that is necessary for the fulfillment of the liturgy, then at the discretion of a confessor this period can get shorter, at the same time a person who has stumbled gives a promise not to commit this sin anymore.

— — How to fast correctly on the first week of the Lent?

— — In the Typicon it is written the following for the monks and nuns: “Those, who can, don’t eat anything and drink nothing on Monday and the second day. On Wednesday something can be cooked without oil. On Thursday there is also no food and drinks. Friday is like Wednesday. On Saturday and Sunday boiled food with oil is allowed.” And so a person gets into the Lent. This rule is for those who can bear it, for healthy people. And a sick person is already bearing penance. If a sick person starts fasting, he won’t be able to go to the church to the service, to the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read.

— — I am blind, read the Jesus Prayer by beads. How to pray for children?

— — Thank God, mother. Read in the following way – you have read the Jesus Prayer 100 times, then say: “God, save and have mercy for my children” and call them by name. Then read 100 more, pray for them again. And you can also use the following way: read 500 prayers – pray for them. Blind people can read in the morning 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 prayers by beads without rush. But nobody must see it and know about it. God says: “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Never boast, we can’t do this work on our own without God, it is above our strength. As we read in prayers: “O God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in…” It means that I haven’t done anything good. And the apostle Paul said: “For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles, yet it wasn’t I but God who was working through me by his grace.”

— We must pray for our president Vladimir. Because the people’s prayer is very strong. One drop of water means nothing but if there is a thousand of drops, even a drowner can bob up. Inasmuch as he needs prayer so that God will save him from enemies, both visible and invisible. Because there are a lot of idle talks from the side of Europe, slander and rumours! Pray!

— The scientist Pascal said: “Those people who believe in God lose nothing in this life. And entering the other world, they gain everything.” A person who believes there is no God doesn’t get anything in this life but loses everything in a spiritual one. We must ask God for faith: “God, give us faith!” When the apostles asked: “Why can’t we exorcize demons?”, Master told them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (and this is the smallest seed of all, from which then grows a plant that can shelter the birds), you would be able to move mountains. Of course, there were such people, anchorites, who had such faith that could move mountains. And we, Orthodox Christians, don’t need to move mountains; learn to stand any grief, any mischief coming into your house with joy. This value is higher than moving mountains. If sorrows, mischief came, you must say: “God has given – God has taken, thank God for everything.” As Job the Long-suffering did. If misfortune, illnesses, troubles came, if there must be an operation, we must say at this time: “God! Thank you for the mercy You have shown to me.” You can read the Jesus Prayer at this moment and it is compact Gospel. And if you thank God, it is much better than reading the Jesus Prayer, as Holy Fathers say.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…”