“…The wellspring of prayer is in everyone—it is tapped either by gradually delving deeper into oneself in accordance with the teachings of the Fathers, or instantaneously, thunderstruck by God’s piercing to the core of the soul.”
Possessing penetrating spiritual discernment, Elder Leonid (1768–1841) was at the same time loving and fatherly. He could mystically see into the hearts of his spiritual children, knowing when to rebuke, when to exhort, and when to console. He especially cared for those whom no one else seemed to have time for, and thousands came away from him healed both in soul and body.
“When we find that we are deprived of the virtues and therefore have no high opinion of ourselves, then this by itself can attract God’s favorable gaze, which will strengthen us with hope against the deadly spirit of despair. When we have had no success in the virtues, there is no closer means for salvation than humbleness of mind.”
No one ever saw Elder Leonid disturbed by passionate anger or irritation. During the most difficult times of his life no one ever heard a sound of impatience or grumbling from him—no one saw him downcast. It was hard not to marvel at his joyfulness and inward peace. Preserving a holy simplicity, free of hypocrisy, he spoke with everyone in a direct and straightforward way.
“A person cannot overcome the passions on his own. This is the work of the right hand of the Most High, the action of the power of God. On our part we have only to preserve intact the holy disposition given us by God, and, in keeping with it, offer our efforts to attain the land of passionlessness.”
Elder Leonid was very significant for Optina Monastery and for all of Russia. He introduced and firmly established in Optina the ancient tradition of eldership transmitted through St. Paisius Velichkovsky—a tradition founded on the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Holy Fathers.
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