Words and consolation from our sweetest Lord Jesus come in various ways. This past week I encountered a rather tumultuous situation, in the midst of which two dear priests (I believe unbeknownst to each other) shared this letter by St. Justin Popovich with me. Although I fall short, it brought words of consolation to me. I’m grateful to St. Justin for bringing his words to me when I needed to hear them, such is our Lord’s compassion! I found them both encouraging and challenging and desired to share them with my readers. To that end, I received permission from the translator to post this letter, which was recently translated from a collection of letters, on my blog. Although the letter is addressed to a priest, the general spiritual call and teaching apply to all Christians.
May the sweet but firm words of St. Justin bring encouragement to your heart as they did to mine!
The title of this blog post is mine for the purposes of my blog, the original title proceeds the letter below in bold.
The Image of a True Priest.
Dear Father. Joy to you from the Lord! Joy in every sorrow, in every misfortune, in every death for His sake. For in this sad world there is no true joy outside of Him. How many times, without any doubt, has He, the All-merciful One, descended into my very hell and expelled me from my most terrible death, from my dying. He has probably done this for you many times. And He has poured wonderful joy over my soul and yours. So always and everywhere in the human world, He manages to help us and comes to us with His Divine truth, Divine righteousness, Divine joy. And then who is richer than we! Truly, with the most holy apostle, we always “have nothing but we possess everything.” Undoubtedly, we possess everything if we have the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, in this small and narrow world we always have good will: with it we are in torments, in adversities, in persecutions, in sufferings, and in all deaths, for above all this and in all this the wonderful and good Lord walks from my heart to your heart and comes into the heart of every sufferer. Whoever has eyes to see, always sees; whoever has ears to hear, always hears. There is no such sorrow of mine, no such illness, no such death that the loving Lord would not mercifully take upon Himself. It’s the same with you. You should have felt that.
There is some kind of sadness in your letter, which, as if in thin streams, is filled with despair. And despair? This is the greatest enemy of man on earth. For it is the strongest: it is quite easy for it to overthrow the human soul into death. And when the soul in a person dies, then why does he need the whole world, the whole universe? Then the whole universe turns into a stinking pus and a man in torment becomes a twin to the devil and his angels. No! There is no place for despair for a Christian on earth, because when the Lord descended into this world and then by the Church remained in fully in it, how then can you give way to despair in your soul? After all, the whole Lord is here, next to us, in the midst of us! Just cry out to Him and, look – you are already all in His arms. And then who can take you out of His hand – what enemy, what man, what devil, what hell? Yes, no force, no force of evil can separate us from His love. To them we are always stronger than any evil, any sin, any hell, any demon and all of them combined. The whole wisdom of a Christian consists in the following: to hold on unceasingly to the Lord Jesus Christ, to hold on by prayer, to hold on by fasting, to hold on by alms, to hold on by love, to hold on by meekness, to hold on by humility, to hold on by patience, to hold on by repentance, to hold on by Holy Communion, to hold on by holy confession – by all this to hold on to Him, God and the Lord unchangeable, irreplaceable by nothing and by no one – by every Holy Sacrament and every holy act pleasing to God. And then what? – Then over all deaths, over all torments, you will always triumph with joy: the joy of faith, the joy of salvation…
Neither bad priests nor bad bishops can seduce a true priest. He always looks above them, always looks at the holy priests and holy bishops: he looks at holy Chrysostom, holy Sava, holy Deacon Avvakum and a myriad of other saints. And he reaches out to them with all his soul, is inspired by them, guided by them. And they? All of them still live in the Church, as they did yesterday, as they did a thousand years ago. All the holy apostles are alive, all the holy martyrs are alive, all the holy fathers and holy confessors are alive, and they will daily concelebrate at the holy liturgy to us, unworthy priests of God. Are we not then stronger than every death, every evil, every sin? And can we have an excuse for despair if we are in the priestly rank? After all, the angelic ministry is not higher than the priestly ministry! The priest is endowed with divine authority over heaven and hell, over death and life, over immortality and eternity. And you, my dear, as if suddenly doubted it and drooped in spirit. Oh, my grief! After all, no one in the human race has what the priest of Christ has. The main thing is, by faith, prayer and love, fall down to the Wonderful Lord, the Sweetest Lord, and all deaths will flee from you, and even more so despair and his offspring.
Collection of the Works of the Venerable Justin
Letter 6 in the chapter “From the Letters” in Volume 1, pp.153-155.
Palomnik Publishers, Moscow, 2004
Russian translation of the Serbian
4 thoughts on “There is no place for despair for a Christian on earth”
Awesome and timely for me! Thank you Father! Grateful to St Justin , you and the one who gave you permission. Glory to God.
With tears in my eyes, I echo your sentiments Nicole! Every. Single. One. Thank you for posting this, Father Zechariah!
Thank you Father….very timely. I am a recent widow and was beginning to feel out of sorts today. This is just what I needed.
Your blessing, Fr +
A beautiful, loving, and strong encouragement from St. Justin! Thank you for sharing this!
“Neither bad priests nor bad bishops can seduce a true priest. He always looks above them, always looks at the holy priests and holy bishops: he looks at holy Chrysostom, holy Sava, holy Deacon Avvakum and a myriad of other saints. And he reaches out to them with all his soul, is inspired by them, guided by them. And they? All of them still live in the Church, as they did yesterday, as they did a thousand years ago.”
Glory to God who is the God of the living! Glory to God who descends into my hell and lifts me out! Glory to God who offers Himself for me and to me that I might become Holy and dwell with Him forever!
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