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Answers of priests by topic:

Question

What should someone do if they have lied to a Priest? For example, in my case, I was talking to a Priest after the service (It was my first visit to this Church, as I am not an Orthodox Christian officially, but come from a different background and hope to undertake catechism) and because I was new and came alone, I was overwhelmed by the experience and couldn't control my tears and nervousness and the Priest, noticing my watery eyes, asked if I was feeling unwell or had hay-fever, like he did. Unfortunately, I lied and told him I had hay-fever, although I do not. I am very sorry for having lied and do not know what I should do. Thank you. (From the UK- London)

Answer
You should not consider this a lie. You came to church, you felt overwhelmed, excited and anxious. The priest noticed that. He may have made a joke to make you feel more relaxed, but it did not work as he had expected. You answered with an instinctive ‘yes’. You did not mean this as a lie. There is no need to disparage yourself over this incident. You came to Church, God’s grace descended on you, and you were excited and overwhelmed. There is nothing unusual about it. You are at the beginning of your journey. You are preparing to get baptised. Be sure to follow through on it. In your place, I would not lose too much sleep over what happened. I have seen many people come to church with no emotion at all; nothing worried them or made them nervous. They were self-confident, and they thought they were fine. Many were curious and took great interest in what was going on, but nothing seemed to reach their hearts; they were completely numb to God’s touch. I believe that you are in a much better situation. Hay fever or not, the tears in your eyes were a good sign.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

How would you interpret the words of the apostle Paul “Fathers do not embitter your children”?

Answer
I cannot be certain here, but if we do not go deep into different translations and interpretations - and apostle Paul may have also meant something of his own - I really think it’s all on the surface. We often hurt one another, we annoy each other all the time. Everyone annoys everybody else close to them and around them. There is a good video with Dmitriy Smirnov on the subject. You can find it on the internet easily. The son says to his father, “Look at your face! Everyone annoys you – Putin, Obama, Grandfather, Grandmother... Good good weather, bad weather, complete silence and a loud noise. Even your bed is never good enough. One moment it is too hard, and the other too soft. You are angry at slow driving or fast driving at being alone and a being around others.» People are always annoyed – by their fathers, sons, grandchildren, whoever.... It is only when God touches someone with His Grace that one begins to appreciate the good side of things. We’ve stopped - What a good thing! Someone shouted - how nice! He had a loud voice! Here is my criterion. I suggest that we all look inside us. Our hearts are like barometers that tell us the weather. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask how you feel about what is happening around you. If you are happy, and nothing annoys you, then you can be sure you have been touched with God Grace. You have His blessing. This may be a fleeting state, it may only last a moment, but it’s real. There are people who can keep this state of mind throughout their whole lives. People who have God's blessing, and it never leaves them. They have his spirit, their hearts are full of peace and sweetness. They are people who can see God's in all the things that happen, who can empathize with others, who are can reach out to them, who share their joys and ease their sorrows. They are truly blessed. Life is quite different for most of us. In it, most things go off track as soon as our day begins. Someone opens the window and makes us uncomfortable – it is too cold. The sounds around us are too loud, or it is too quiet. It is the same thing for children. Most of us have to learn how not to annoy them. It’s much harder harder for them not to become upset, simply because they are not as experienced as we are. So we need to wait for the right moment to sit down with our child and talk. It’s hard. But we must learn understanding. We need to know how to be sympathetic. We should remember that people can have their hard times, that they may find it difficult to control their moods. But life is hard by itself. It is always full of difficulties.

Priest Sergius Nezhbort

Question

Your blessing, Father. I’d like to confess but I don’t know anything about it and I don’t know what to say. Do I need to find a priest in the church and ask him to hear my confession or should I simply come to a church when there is a confession according to the timetable? Do I need to say a prayer or simply say, “I have sinned...” and list my sins? I’m young but I have already sinned a lot. I’m afraid that the priest will oust or refuse to hear my confession. Please advise me on what I should do.

Answer
Come to the church when there is a confession in the timetable. You shouldn’t overthink it too much. You don’t come to a priest: you come to God, and it is God who you entrust your heart and your life to. You should recall every bad action in your life and confess it. A priest won’t drive you away: in fact, he will be glad that you have so much courage to openly speak about your sins. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Cf. Romans 5: 20). Be sure to tell the priest that it is your first confession: that’s important. The Lord came to save sinners. An individual receives graceful help during a confession, which empowers him or her to struggle with sins and try abstaining from them. That’s why you shouldn’t doubt and worry: go and confess as soon as you can. After the confession, if God lets you and the priest blesses you, you should partake of the Holy Mysteries.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

Dear Father Andrey, your blessing. I am a mother of two. My younger son is 7 and he is autistic. I have a husband but we are not married in church. I go to church with the kids often and have them partake of the Holy Eucharist, although it’s difficult for the younger son. Father, how does the Church view autism? Why are these kids even born? Man is made in the image and likeness of God, isn’t he? Essentially, what a human being must do here on earth is to get to know God and get closer to him. My child does not say anything and does not understand anything. Please tell us what to do.

Answer
You have to carry your cross. Your child has an immortal soul. In spite of the fact that he cannot interact with you right now, his soul is alive, and it’s all part of God’s plan. We cannot intervene into God’s plan. We can only accept it or not. Praise be to God that you didn’t deny your child, that you look after him, and he lives with you. I think that this child will someday become the spiritual centre of your life. Of course, it’s not easy. It is painful and difficult. However, life is like that—it isn’t easy because it is poisoned by sin. Why is this child born this way? Why God let this illness happen? It was due to our sins or to teach us a lesson of humility and repentance. It’s all in God’s hands. It is great that you go to church and that your children partake of the Sacraments. I believe that after a while you will be able to notice that your son loves and understands you. Every Easter, we give communion to bedridden children who stay in the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs. They are old enough but their bodies remain short. When I give the Blood of Christ to those children (because they cannot digest the Body of Christ), I feel that I’m in Heaven already. They are quiet and holy sufferers… Just keep carrying your cross. God will comfort you, trust me!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

I’ve been to a confession recently. I was certain that I’d receive a penance because I had committed a lot of mortal sins and I hadn’t confessed for 7 or 8 years and hadn’t been to church. However, the priest allowed me to take communion. Is it right?

Answer
I’d do the same because you hadn’t taken communion for seven years so you practically got yourself excommunicated. You became too weak to resist mortal sins, that was why you committed them. Now you have to regain what you’ve lost. When you become stronger, you’ll get a penance. Obey the priest who told you that you are to take communion. For some reason, we think we are smarter than we really are. We are sceptical and wonder whether the priest was right or not. The Lord has shown you his mercy and lets you receive his Body and Blood but you don’t seem to appreciate it. We, humans, are hard to please, aren’t we? In fact, when one comes back to the Church after a long absence, we ought to help that person and support him or her because it’s quite challenging to cross the threshold of the church, to confess and take communion again. Praise God that you’ve managed to do it. Please make sure that you don’t stay away from the Church for so long. Go to church regularly. Confess and take Communion, participate in worship – that’s necessary. You’ve noticed how much your soul lost during that period, haven’t you? May the Lord help you.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

There are popular videos on YouTube propagating "special mindfulness methods", which you need to listen to for several days in a row, twice a day. If you do so, they promise that you can get something you want, or be lucky and enjoy various benefits in life. I tried listening to the mantras several times, and then I wondered if I was allowed to listen to them at all. I tried to find out if meditation and Orthodox prayer could coexist, but I found different answers. Could you please clarify this question?

Answer
I don't think you should ever watch that video channel again. It's all a devilish mix of temptations, such as promises of wealth, good luck, and fulfilment of desires: just engage with the devil, and you are going to have everything. It resembles the temptation of Christ in the wilderness: All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me (Matthew 4:9; cf. Matthew 4:8). Of course, this is quackery and deception. Meditation is when a person attempts to climb into Heaven using his own power and pride. Where is he going to climb, who will meet him there? Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) once wrote that going to the astral plane without repentance is fatal for a proud soul. Meanwhile, prayer is all about trust in God. The Lord does not promise us any blessings on this earth. By contrast, He says, "Great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:12). We are here on earth to fight for prayer, among other things. Above all, prayer must be humble and contrite. We are conscious that we do not deserve charity, but we ask God for mercy and love – and God hears us. We do not pray for prosperity, for worldly blessings. We pray for the Lord to have mercy on our souls, to heal them, and not to leave us without love in eternity.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

What role does a priest play during a confession? In one church they simply absolved me of my sins without even hearing my confession (maybe because there were a lot of people); in my parish where I usually go, after having confessed my sins, I heard nothing but the absolution of my sins from the priest. Could this be the right way? They say on TV that after a person lists his sins in confession, the priest should talk to the person and see if he understands his sins, why they happened, etc. There are so many questions and a spiritual father is vital to guide and keep you from falling into despair. Can you tell me how to find him?

Answer
A spiritual father is not a needle to be looked for, it is up to God to reveal him. You have to feel confidence in that priest. I believe that all of those people who are seeking and asking God to give them such an opportunity get it. There are different priests and different backgrounds. Probably, when there were a holiday and crowds of people, the priest did not read the prayers that are meant to be read at the beginning of the confession. That's his obligation and he is accountable for it. If you repent (and regret) of your sins earnestly and with all your heart, then God accepts your confession and the Sacrament is valid – as long as the priest said the absolution prayer. So do not get confused. We should follow Christ, we should live, work, and look for a genuine connection with God. We do not talk with the priest when we confess, and neither does the priest tell us anything from himself. We talk to God with the priest as a witness of our repentance. Of course, it would be desirable if you had a priest whom you knew, trusted, and who would know your life. This would make your conversation very different. However, you risk switching to human communication in this case. Of course, we all need human communication, but we should not forget that it is not the priest who forgives sins, but Christ, and we should turn to Him in the first place.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

Father, how do I cope with resentment and remembering past offences for too long?

Answer
Resentment is like a thorn in one’s soul. If you don’t pull it out, it’ll fester, and your soul will suffer. Why do we choose to let it stay inside our souls? You’ve got to pull it out. When we pull a thorn out, it may be painful. We have to use a needle to extract it. It is an unpleasant procedure, isn’t it? The same is true for resentment. I think you just have to understand that you’ve got to keep on living and that the thorn will hinder you. You should go to the Heavenly Doctor and ask him to forgive you and to empower you in the struggle with that sin. You should meet that person who offended you and tell him some kind and pleasant words if you can. That’s up to you. The effort is yours. If you don’t feel like looking at that person and prefer to run away, you should force yourself to say a kind word to him or her or even give them candy. It’s an extremely efficient way of coping with resentment. You’ll feel relieved, for sure. Satan does everything he can to make an individual live with that thorn in his soul. You may forget it over time but if you don’t pull that thorn out of your soul, you’ll bear the burden all the time. That is why you should get rid of the resentment that resides in your heart as soon as possible and eradicate that sin with God’s help. God bless you.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

Your blessing, Father. What should I do: my husband has become a priest but I’m not the right kind of a person to be a matushka (a priest’s wife — translator’s note), unfortunately. I’m really bothered about that because I’m not a quiet, meek, and God-fearing girl. I’m a regular kind of woman who has led a fairly secular life. I didn’t have much of a religious upbringing. I have a burden of grave sins in the past: I had had affairs before I met my husband, and I’m not an example to follow even today: I often shout, quarrel, and get annoyed. I get upset easily, I can’t tolerate anything at all. I feel that my soul is seriously ill. I didn’t marry for love: I was just feeling lonely. Why did God send me a seminarian and a son of a priest who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps?

Answer
Dear Matushka Anna, although you refuse to accept this title, you’ve become a matushka for real. It is God’s saving grace and God’s mercy toward you. Perhaps, you don’t understand a lot of what is going on yet. You have a habit of sinful living. This is your new duty, and if you are patient, if you at least make some effort, I believe that you will become a very good matushka. The matushka’s role is to help the priest. It is an inner struggle to make sure that there is peace in your family, that you really love your husband. Who can we love when we are in such a sinful condition? In order to learn to love, you’ve got to change your life, you should correct all those errors that you’ve committed in your life. To do so, you’ll require quite a lot of hard work and time. That is why you shouldn’t complain or whine that you’re so miserable, that you didn’t want it, that you didn’t know it or didn’t understand anything at all. You became a seminarian’s wife so you might have assumed in advance that he would become a priest in the end. Isn’t that the reason young men go to seminary? Right now, it’s vital that the devil doesn’t break up your family, in which case the new priest will remain single forever. Do you see what could happen? The devil will do what it takes to destroy your family. He will whisper into your ear, “Ditch your priest and live freely as you please.” Haven’t you had enough of that freedom already? That’s why you currently need to brace yourself and start changing. To do so, you’ll need to open a prayerbook and the Gospel and go to the church where your husband serves. You should feel that you’re a wife and begin to build up your family and your inner self, which is so pathetic right now. Work hard! You’ll never regret the fruit of your labour. May the Lord save you, Matushka!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

Question

Why are there so few female saints in the Orthodox calendar?

Answer
There may be many more holy women who haven’t been canonised — women who carried out their obediences in families, hospitals, or convents but who did not demonstrate exceptional feats of faith due to lack of physical strength. Each person has their own place and their own level of ascetic effort and ministry. It just happened when males who were more physically robust and mentally adroit turned to God, they could do something that impressed other people and taught them a lesson. With that said, the majority of those who remained in the Church during persecutions were elderly women. The Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women were the first to come to the Lord’s Tomb, and they weren’t afraid. Anyway, Adam, not Eve, was the first human. That is why women can’t be priests or deacons, and they cannot enter the sanctuary. Nevertheless, the Mother of God is titled more honourable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. A woman’s heart is more responsive and faithful. However, all are one in Christ, women and men.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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