Fyodor Doestoyevski (1821 – 1881)
Love Reveals the Mysteries of Creation
Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals. love the plants, love everything.
If you love everything, you will soon perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
~ The Brothers Karamazov. Quoted in The Gospel in Doestoyevsky, “Conversations with Father Zosima.” Plough Publishing House, 1988, p. 246.
Love the Whole Earth
You are working for the whole; you are acting for the future. Seek no reward, for your reward on this earth is already great: The spiritual joy which is only vouchsafed to the righteous man. Fear not the great nor the mighty, but be wise and serene. Know the measure, know the times, study them. When you are left alone, pray. Love to throw yourself upon the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love. Love all men, love everything. Seek that rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy, and love those tears. Don’t be ashamed of that ecstasy; prize it, for it is a gift of God and a great one.
~ The Brothers Karamazov.Quoted in The Gospel in Doestoyevsky, “Conversations with Father Zosima.” Plough Publishing House, 1988, p. 246-247.
All Parts of Creation Bear Witness to the Mystery of God
It was a bright, warm, still July night; a cool mist rose from the broad river and we could hear the splash of fish, the birds were still, all was hushed and beautiful, everything praying to God…. Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so marvelously know their path; though they have not intelligence, they bear witness to the mystery of God and continually accomplish it themselves.
I saw the dear lad’s heart was moved. He told me that he loved the forest and the forest birds. He was a bird catcher, knew the note of each of them, could call each bird. “I know nothing better than to be in the forest,” said he, “though all things are good.”
“Truly,” I answered him, “all things are good and fair, because all is truth. Look,” said I, “at the horse, that great beast which is so near to man; or the lowly, pensive ox, which feeds him and works for him; look at their faces, what meekness, what devotion to man, who often beats them mercilessly. What gentleness, what confidence and what beauty! It’s touching to know that there’s no sin in them; for all, all except man, are sinless, and Christ has been with them before us.”
“Why,” asked the boy, “is Christ with the animals too?”
“It cannot but be so,” said I, “since the Word of God is for all. All creation and all creatures, every leaf is striving toward the Word, singing glory to God, weeping to Christ, unconsciously accomplishing this by the mystery of their sinless life….”
~ The Brothers Karamazov, quoted in “The Life of the Elder Zosima,” in The Gospel in Doestoyevsky, by Hutterian Brethren, Plough Books, Farmington, PA, 1988, pg. 179-180.
Much on Earth is Hidden
Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that, we have been given a precious mystic sense of our living bond with the natural world, and with the higher heavenly world.
~ The Brothers Karamazov. Quoted in The World Treasury of Religious Quotations by Ralph E. Woods. Garland Books, 1966, pg. 667.
Prayer as an Education
Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.
~ The Brothers Karamazov. “The Russian Monk,” Section G. Translated by Constance Barnett. Macmillian, 1992. Digitalized by The University of Virginia, 2009, p. 339.
The Way to Salvation
There is only one way to salvation, and that is to make yourself responsible for all men’s sins. As soon as you make yourself responsible in all sincerity for everything and for everyone, you will see at once that this is really so, and that you are in fact to blame for everyone and for all things.
~ The Brothers Karamazov. “The Russian Monk,” Section G. Translated by Constance Barnett. Macmillian, 1992. Digitalized by The University of Virginia, 2009, p. 340.
This great Russian novelist was born to an impoverished nobleman in Moscow. Because of youthful radical involvement, he spent nine years in forced labor at a Siberian prison camp. During his labor camp years he underwent a religious conversion. On his return to European Russia, he spent long periods at monasteries which reshaped his world view. His writings reflect faith in the ultimate triumph of spiritual values and the victory of God’s goodness through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; they position characters in crisis situations, and reveal the depths of human nature. His plots describe a continuing search to reconcile the human and the divine, and for this he is hailed as the precursor and founder of the modern psychology of the unconscious. He was always a staunch defender of the Russian Orthodox Church and he teaches readers to see beyond human failings to the mystery of Christ in all people and all things. His writings are important because they depict the traditional Russian Christian attitude toward the land and the loving respect which is required of each person toward the earth and its creatures.
Love as a Teacher
Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but forever. Everyone can love occasionally, even the wicked can.
My brother asked the birds to forgive him: that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side — a little happier, anyway — and children and all animals, if you yourself were nobler than you are now. It’s all like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds too, consumed by an all-embracing love in a sort of transport, and pray that they too will forgive you your sin.
~ The Brothers Karamazov, as quoted in “Conversations with Father Zosima,” in The Gospel in Doestoyevsky, Plough Books, Farmington, PA, 1988, pg. 247-248.
Love the Animals
Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble their joy, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their happiness do not work against God’s intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you — alas, it is true of almost everyone of us!
~ The Brothers Karamazov, Quoted in The Gospel in Doestoyevsky, “Conversations with Father Zosima.” Plough Publishing House, 1988, p. 246-247.
Everything in Creation is a Source of Wonder
A tone of jubilation and spiritual expectancy crowns the philosophy which Doestoyevski conveys through his primary character, the aged village priest, Fr. Zosima.
“Truly all is beautiful and a source of wonder, for all is truth, and Christ is with His creatures. How can it be otherwise, for the Word is truly for all things, the whole creation and every creature, every leaflet yearns toward the Word, praises God, mourns before Christ, and achieves this unconsciously through the mystery of its blameless life…. We alone are the godless and the stupid,” cries Fr. Zosima, “and do not understand that life is a Paradise, for we need only try to understand, and immediately it is revealed to us in its full beauty.”
~ The Brothers Karamazov, as quoted in Nicholas Arseniev, Mysticism and the Eastern Church, Student Christian Movement, Marburg, Germany, 1926, reprinted by SVS Press, New York, 1979, pp. 118-119.