St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
Charity, Mercy and Compassion Are the Reflection of Our Love for God and People - from an interview with Abbess Athanasia (Silkina)

Until very recently our society with one voice has encouraged the restoration of destroyed holy monasteries and convents. But now there is a debate: some argue that today there are perhaps too many monasteries and convents and doubt if we really need all of them in our times.

Nowadays monasteries and convents are as relevant as they were in ancient times, if not more. These places are filled with the Divine grace. They are essential for people, so that driven and tossed by all kinds of winds in the turbulent sea of life, they might have such islands where they will find Divine grace and support.

For example, many people who come to our convent admit, “How strange! Even the air at your convent is somehow different!” It would seem that this phenomenon contradicts the laws of physics. The gases that make up the air we breathe mix, and there is the same town life with its vanity beyond the walls of our convent. But however restless a soul may be, it always finds consolation and healing at a monastery or convent. You will never hear swearing or foul language here. The aim of virtually every word here is the salvation of the soul. The life of a monastic community is focused on one thing—communion with God in prayer. Every word of praise, every act of thanksgiving or supplication makes the Lord pour out His mercies on us, and this blessing covers all who enter a monastery or convent.

Mother Athanasia, we are very glad to hear that you are receiving support, given the modest earnings of most of Russians. What would be wise for those who live in reduced circumstances?

“I won’t donate because I am poor myself”—these words are usually caused by envy. Absolutely anyone can do his bit. Yes, your mite may be tiny from a worldly perspective, but it is many times greater than that offered out of abundance. Take note of how Christ valued the widow’s mite! He said that the poor widow put more into the offering box than all the others! Therefore, those who are unable to contribute large sums shouldn’t be sad. Let everyone contribute as much as he can, and the Lord will assess his charity at its true value. The worth of a contribution depends not on a specific sum of money, but on the purity of a donor’s intentions: whether it is given as disinterested aid, or a noble impulse or is mixed with arrogance. God alone knows the true intent of the heart and it is He Who sees any donation in its right perspective.

True, it often comes to pass that a person is limited by circumstances and he worries because he wants to donate more than he can. But I know by experience that the Savior covers these people with His grace, their lives return to normal, and their families avoid all difficulties and miseries. People in hopeless, straitened circumstances miraculously find solutions to their problems. So, one can withstand the storms of life even on a small boat, while huge vessels can shipwreck.

There are examples how old women in remote dying villages miraculously restored churches with their very modest pensions and these villages were brought back to life. It was the way they expressed their love for God and rejoiced at being able to openly confess their Orthodox faith.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mk. 12:30). If somebody contributes to the restoration and flourishing of a place where the Eucharist is performed and God is especially glorified, then he fulfils the commandment of love for God.