THE TESTAMENT OF THE HOLY ELDER SABBAS OF THE PSKOV CAVES (1898-1980)
'My dear, beloved spiritual children! My path is coming to an end. Death will soon part me from you. I leave you as an inheritance my testament, do not forget my words.
Always remember the main aim of life - to acquire the Holy Spirit. Have the fear of God, keep purity of body and soul, adore the greatness of God in trembling and humility. Turn aside from impiety and strive for piety.
Always endeavor to be working, fasting, keeping vigil, praying unceasingly. Fear idleness, endeavour to fulfil all God's commandments.
My spirit will rejoice in your piety, For me there is no greater joy than to know that my spiritual children abide in truth and piety.
Seek salvation, my beloved children! Be good and merciful, do not do to anyone that which you would not have done unto you. Remember: we shall only organize our own salvation when we do not disorganize the salvation of others. The most precious thing in man is the soul, and in man we must respect the soul (the image of God). To glorify God means not condemning our neighbour. If you ask God for help, then yourself help your neighbour; if you ask for forgiveness of sins - then yourself forgive your neighbour.
Have peace and love amongst you, so that Christ might dwell in your hearts, but the love must be true, which seeks the salvation of your neighbour, and not a flattering love. In the spirit of meekness and love, help one another to become free of sins, and guard against condemning and coarsely convicting one another. Yourselves do not be coarse and flattering, but joyfully accept strictness, coarseness and insults from others, casting aside flattery and obsequiousness. Endure without end, forgive without count. Each of you patiently bear your cross and the weaknesses of others, do not be despondent, do not complain and thank God for all things. To bear sorrow and illness with mildness of soul and to care for others with tenderness are higher than fasting and prayer, and for all this we receive a reward from God.
Do not love vain honour and glory, but love humility and meekness. Humility and love destroy all the sinful passions in the soul and body and attract the grace of God. This is what salvation is about.
Above all fear and remember the hour of death and the second coming of Christ!
When you sorrow and are in temptation, read the Canon and Akathist to the Sweetest Jesus and the Canon of Intercession to the Mother of God, Preserved from many temptations. In order to bless your soul, so that your inner eyes might be opened, read the seventeenth kathisma (1) attentively.
Do not omit for a single day the rule of the Mother of God - Mother of God and Virgin rejoice, said 150 times. Do not forget to kiss your neck cross morning and evening, that your soul might be blessed by rays of grace.
Love the Gospel, read it more often, in it everything is written with sweetness for the heart and salvation for the soul. Especially often read the Saviour's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 1-12), chapter 15 of St John's Gospel about love, and the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans (chapter 13), where it tells Christians how they should live. Whenever possible read the prayers that I gave out to you. Study the books which I wrote for you. They will decide all your unresolved questions.
Love simplicity, do not seek vain sophistication. Inner joy comes from simplicity, but arrogance of mind leads to lack of faith and unbelief and leads astray from the path of salvation. Avoid cunning...If they ask you: 'Are you a believer?', simply say: 'Yes, I believe'. Do not reject the Lord, do not fall into crafty ruses.
And again I remind you, my dear children: there is no salvation in this life for him who has not repented, and true repentance consists of cleansing the heart of passions and vices, in correcting a depraved life. Mechanically listing sins at confession does not save the soul, it an abomination in the sight of God and sacrilege of the sacrament of the Holy Orthodox Church. Receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ more often.
Remember that your efforts to acquire the Holy Spirit, your love for the Saviour, for the Mother of God and the saints who dwell in heaven, and also for your neighbours and your enemies, your humility and your humble acceptance of the will of God will bring unspeakable joy to my soul.
My last word to you is a request for prayer. Remember me and pray that the Lord will give rest to my soul in His dwelling-places, but the prayer must breathe hope, for without hope prayer is sinful.
I ask you and beseech you, my beloved children, do not forget your time to read the Unceasing Psalter and pray harder for one another, for your relatives, for all those whom you know and for the whole world, for all the departed, who thirst for our prayers: this is a great help for their souls.
Give alms. Remember to pray for the rest of the ever-memorable Archpriest John Sergiev (2), Blessed Xenia (2) and my departed spiritual fathers: Bishop Benjamin, Schema-Archimandrite Hilarion, Schema-Abbot Alexis, the priest John (who baptised me), my parents Michael and Catherine, and my relatives: Vera, Eudocie, Juliana, Lucy, Tatiana, Gregory, the soldier Basil, the officer Peter and his soldiers, Michael, Anna, Joseph, Agatha, John, Anna, the maiden Paraskeve, the child Rodion, the child Barbara, the child Theodora, the child Natalie.
Remember 'The everyday rules of Christian life' and 'For what it is fitting to thank God'. May all this be kept in your memory and in your hearts, for all of this is food and life for the soul.
Live peacefully, joyfully endure the sorrows and illnesses which befall you and keep everything that you have heard from me. My dear, beloved spiritual children, I entrust you to Her, Who from all the ages was destined to become the Mother of the Desired Redeemer of people from the captivity of hades - the Most Holy Sovereign Lady Virgin Mother of God. She will be your Abbess and Defendress from all the darts of the enemy, from enemies seen and unseen'.
1. Psalm 118 in the Orthodox Septuagint: 'Blessed are the blameless in the way...
2. Now universally canonized in the Russian Orthodox Church