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(January 2013)

On the New Year

By St. Barsanuphius of Optina, on Jan. 1st, 1913 (after the Liturgy—on the year of his repose).

St. Barsanuphius is one of our lesser known Orthodox saints who possessed the gifts of clairvoyance and of healing people afflicted with physical and spiritual ailments. A small story best demonstrates the divine gifts the saint possessed.

One of his spiritual sons, Fr. Innocent Pavlov, recalled his first Confession with the elder. He became fearful because the saint seemed to know his innermost thoughts, reminding him of people and events which he had forgotten. St. Barsanuphius spoke gently and told him that it was God who had revealed to him these things about Fr. Innocent. "During my lifetime, do not tell anyone about what you are experiencing now," he said, "but you may speak of it after my death."

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I greet all of you gathered here with the New Year. I congratulate you with the joys that I hope the Lord might send you in the coming year. I congratulate you also with the sorrows that will inevitably visit you this year: perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, or in the near future.

Incidentally, do not be confused by sorrows or fear them. Sorrows and joys are closely bound up with each other. This may seem strange to you, but remember the words of the Savior: A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (Jn 16:21). Day turns to night, and night turns to day, bad weather turns to good; so also does sorrow turn into joy, and joy into sorrow.

The Apostle Paul pronounced threatening words against those who do not endure any punishment that comes from God: If you are left without punishment, you are illegitimate children. Do not be depressed; let those be depressed who do not believe in God. For them, of course, sorrow is onerous, because they know only earthly pleasures. But people who believe in God should not despond, because through sorrows they receive the rights of sons, without which one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Scorning the impious decree, the Children brought up together in godliness feared not the threat of fire, but standing in the midst of the flames, they sang: ‘O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou. (Irmos of the Nativity of Christ, tone 1, canticle 7).

Sorrows are that very threat of fire, or trial, but we must not fear them; rather we must be like the godly children and sing unto God in our sorrows, believing that they are sent to us by God for our salvation. May the Lord save you all, and lead you to the Kingdom of Unwaning Light!