We’re All In This Together


Some further thoughts on our connectedness, particularly in the Spiritual Life:

The ontological unity of humanity is such that every separate individual overcoming evil in himself inflicts such a defeat on cosmic evil that its consequences have a beneficial effect on the destinies of the whole world. On the other hand, the nature of cosmic evil is such that, vanquished in certain human hypostases [persons] it suffers a defeat the significance and extent of which are quite disproportionate to the number of individuals concerned.

A single saint is an extraordinarily precious phenomenon for all mankind. By the mere fact of their existence – unknown, maybe, to the world but known to God – the saints draw down on the the world, on all humanity, a great benediction from God. The Staretz writes:

Because of these people, I believe the Lord preserves the world, for they are precious in His sight, and God always listens to His humble servants and we are all of us all right because of their prayers.

Quote taken from Archimandrite Sophrony’s Saint Silouan the Athonite.

 My own thoughts: In your prayers, remember, the life you are saving (or asking to be saved) may be far more than your own! The Righteous Abraham prayed even for Sodom and Gomorrah. Had just ten souls been found they would still be on the map. Even so, God in His mercy heard him and spared the eight righteous souls that were there. By the mercies of God, the prayers of the saints sustain the world.


  1. This is a small shot my son took this summer in England. They have so many wonderful public footpaths. But I thought, this journey we are all taking, is both private, but is also a very public footpath. Take as many with you as possible.

  2. “By the mercies of God, the prayers of the saints sustain the world.”

    One does wonder how we have managed not to completely do away with ourselves thus far, and I believe that holy prayer is the answer.

    I wonder how things will be on that great day of resurrection, when all will be made clear, and the very weak and despised among us suddenly are seen as – because of Christ’s power in them – our saviors.

  3. When the hidden things are revealed – I often think on these things. Saints are indeed largely hidden. Almost knew of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos (including the monks in the monastery) until after his life. This is a very common story.

    By the same token, sadly, my sins will be revealed. I can only trust in the mercies of God.

  4. Father,

    On an unrelated note, I heard rumor that you may be speaking in Minneapolis on the Sunday of Orthodoxy – at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Be this rumor or be this fact? Or be this a thing concealed?

  5. Since your itinerary has been brought up, are you going to be attending the clergy conference at St. Justin Martyr in Jacksonville, FL?

  6. The opposite can also be true.

    IM Andreyev has a great essay entitled Weep! which suggests that this connectedness can be affected by our sins as well. Our sins even the hidden ones impact the entire cosmos. When tragic sins appear in society we have to ask ourselves if it may have been our sin which tipped the evil to manifest itself.

    Lord have mercy!

  7. Steve,

    I will indeed, God willing, be in Jacksonville for the conference.


    Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov says that “each many is guilty for the sins of the whole world…” His statement is certainly in line with Orthodox thought. What I see in the world, its corruption, is also my sin made manifest. It’s truly all connected. Which is why “All Creation groans,” waiting for the Sons of God to be made manifest (Romans 8). The rocks and trees are probably a lot more eager for us than we ever think.

  8. Also true I will be at St. Mary’s in Minneapolis for the Sunday of Orthodoxy. I don’t travel much – indeed these are the only things on my itinerary. But if you’re in the area, I would welcome meeting you.

  9. Father,

    I attend a parish in St. Paul, and the celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy is a Twin Cities Pan-Orthodox type thing. Thus many of our congregation will be there, and God-willing, I as well. Father John Behr spoke last year at the cathedral – he also spent the Saturday vespers the night before at our parish, teaching and eating with us. His presence was a blessing. Thanks for your posts, Father.

  10. Theron,

    It’s sort of fun reading these replies in order, backwards. At first I read your comment on the “chief of sinners” and linked it with my speaking in Minneaspolis, after last year’s speaker, Fr. John Behr. And I immediately thought, yep, their only inviting sinner chiefs to speak. 🙂

    Then I saw the connected by to Zossima. I suspect my first conclusion was correct as well. Though I am certain to be a chiefer sinner than Fr. John Behr 🙂

  11. Yeah…it is strange to run multiple conversations. It could be dangerous 🙂

    You blog entry could also help make a lot of sense of the Marriage passage by Paul about the believing wife sanctifying her unbelieving husband.

  12. I really do appreciate this idea that we are all in this together. It gives a good, needed reason for needing to live in community and to love one another. Before I ran into Orthodoxy, there were times I got to wondering, “If all I need to do to be saved is accept Christ as my Lord and Savior, then what is the point of living after having accepted Christ?” Not terribly healthy thoughts, I know, but it is something I struggled with and didn’t really find clear answers until I met Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy gives meaning to life, all of it. Not just the “Christian” parts of it. I am thankful for that.

  13. ‘I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers…’ Thus said our St. Paul to Philemon 1:4. One of the best parts of my week is baking for Church. The little commemoratives loaves. The prayers for the living and the dead that are offered every Divine Liturgy are so powerful. The collective memory and the love of all lifted up to God, the Bread of Life.
    We are accountable to each other and to God for how we act in this life. We just cannot get through alone, we flounder if we try…
    Christ is in our midst!
    the handmaid,

  14. Martyrs of the true faith, pray to God for us.

    Your faith has brought you near to the radiant throne of glory, adorned with the shining seraphim and the overpowering cherubim. You are nearer to immortality than we, and your prayer is more pure and audible.

    Remember us in your prayer also, so that you may be ever more acclaimed throughout heaven. Bring us with you also, and you will more swiftly and easily fly to the throne of glory. Whoever brings himself alone, walks more slowly and stumbles more often. The greater the load of your brothers you haul, the faster you fly.

    I have said to people: You are all martyrs, but not all of one martyrdom. Martyrs for the true faith are not the same as martyrs for a false faith. Truly, their bones are similar but not the soul. For the soul transfers power and weakness even to the bones.

    You who suffer for the true faith, are suffering for what your spiritual vision sees. You who suffer for a false faith, are suffering for what your physical eyes see. You former suffer for faith in reality and truth; you latter suffer for a dream and a fantasy.

    Spiritual vision calls its knowledge by a humble name–faith. Physical eyes call their faith by a boastful name–knowledge. Both the one and the other are seeing: the first is a seeing of the peaceful and sparkling essence of creation; the second is a seeing of flickers of that essence through the darkness.

    Your martyrdom is the most inevitable of all things, O sons of heaven and sons of earth. Your being martyred lies in your fleeing from light toward darkness. If you are fleeing from darkness toward light, you will stir up the world against yourself. If you are fleeing from light toward darkness, Heaven will remove itself from your convulsions and destruction.

    Taken from Prayers by the Lake, XXXV, written by St. Nicholai Velimirovich

    I see now that one sentence here is not correctly translated into English.

    Truly, their bones are similar but not the soul. For the soul transfers power and weakness even to the bones.

    Actually, he said: Zaista, i kosti im se razlikuju a ne samo duša. Jer duša prenosi svoju moć i nemoć i na kosti.

    And I will try to translate it now from Serbian.

    Truly, even their bones differ and not only the soul. For the soul transfers its power and weakness even on the bones.

    (And also there should be cherubims and seraphims instead of cherubim and seraphim, because he mentioned them in plural)

    There are always difficulties with translations to other languages, part of the meaning is always lost in translation, but I hope you liked this quotation about saints.


  15. Oh yes, I forgot to say.

    In Serbia we have special word for bones of the saints, mošti (read as moshtee)
    Ordinary human bones we call kosti. (kostee)

    English word for kosti is bones, but I do not know English word for mošti. Perhaps holy bones?

    So that was the meaning of bones being “different”, because it is reported that near mošti sometimes miracles happen, otherwise they are anatomically similar (the same), so perhaps that confused the translator, and he oversaw it.

    Serbian verb “razlikovati se” (in text – se razlikuju) means to be different, to differ.

  16. Would an English word for mosti be ‘relics’? We don’t usually use the word ‘relics’ unless we mean the holy physical remains of a saint, which still convey the holiness and spiritual power that they acquired during the lifetime of the saint.

  17. Thanks Roland and Beth. I am still in process of learning English, and learning that there are no informations but only information 🙂

  18. “Ontological unity” comes to mind upon the loss of my 15 y/o cat, Cloudy, approximately 1:30 am today. I mourn him as a soul who loves God loves another soul, animal or human. While my sighs of grief are already beginning to mingle with tentative relief and thanksgiving that Cloudy is no longer suffering from the cancer that invaded his lungs and stole his breath–death in God’s hand is a tool of mercy–I am cut to the quick by the groan of his passing life that my fallenness bequeathed.

  19. I forgot to add the boldness of hope in the effect of Christ’s ontological unity, through his death and resurrection, that would redeem the world, even the life of of my cat.

  20. Dolly, Fr. Serge Verhovskoy, of blessed memory, who taught for years at St. Vladimir’s, was of the opinion that our pets do go to heaven – this reassurance I received from Vladyka Dmitri when my dog Nellie died. I do not understand all of the mystery of these things, but I trust in the redemption of creation.

  21. This entry makes me think of possibly my favourite ending of a book, ever:

    (about Dorothea, in “Middlemarch”)

    “Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

  22. Great, great quote. Remember that Leonard Cohen line: “There are heroes in the seaweed?”

    George Eliot is one of my favorite authors.

  23. Durk,

    Mine too (George Eliot). She is so wise and compassionate. Even the bad guys aren’t merely bad guys, y’know?

    By the way I think it’s funny that you replied exactly 12 hours after me.

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