In the book, Fr John recounted how he was betrayed and tortured by the communists, where every single finger of his was broken. And yet, he prayed for the salvation of those who betrayed and tortured him. Fr Tikhon reminded himself in the book, as is a reminder to us, that we are not to bear grudges against our enemies, but to forgive and pray for them so that they too can be blessed by the salvation of our Lord. That is our calling as Christians (St Matthew 6:14-15).
In fact, according to Fr Tikhon, one of the ancient Holy Fathers of the Church said that through the abundance of love he held in his heart, he had forgotten what evil was. That is a truly blessing to fill one’s heart with overflowing love of God and others, that the temptations of the evil one will have not a single drop of space to seep in.
And loving another is not a legality or a contract. We do not love someone and expect someone to love us back. That was also the admonition of Fr John. God did not set a condition of His love for us with an expectation from us. And Christ our God gave us the pristine example to learn, and many holy saints and elders have walked those paths with their blood and toil to be illuminating footpaths for us as well.
Fr John even told us through the book, that he never felt closer to God when he was suffering in torture and captivity. He even remembered how the heavens opened with the hymns of the angels. His heart, mind and body were pristine in prayer that all he experienced was the joy of being with God. How we would wish we can experience this blessing in our lifetime!
In today’s world, all too often, we see displays of might and worldly power, oppressing people with meek and gentle voices. While most of us would acknowledge that peace is preferred over war and turmoil, the reality is that the world seems to show us that those who exert greed and might over others are winners.
But is true strength that of overpowering others? Is winning simply about disadvantaging others for one’s own ambitious and selfish desires?
As Christians, Christ our Lord is the arbiter and the rudder to which we center on, with the multitude of holy fathers, saints and martyrs from the time of Christ till even day, as our role models.
And the truth is that our Lord and Christ did not preach a gospel of lording over others with greed and might. In the Beatitudes we pray all the time, is it not an admonition that “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God?” (St Matthew 5:9). And in the Johannine Gospels, we find Apostle John encouraging us that we are to trust in our Lord and Christ, for in Him we will find peace, wherein in the world we will only find tribulation (St John 16:33).
Just as Fr John has shown us in his prayerful strength, forgiveness and love for others even as he was tortured and betrayed, he has also shown us what everyday people can do to experience the power of true strength, that of finding reconciliation with God and becoming blessed in being close to God, above all other worldly things and matters.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.