“I Saw Some Kind of Garbage Around Me and Saw It Was My Prayers”
A Russian Protodeacon from the USA contracts coronavirus.
During the recent Great Lent, one of the most senior protodeacons of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the Unites States, Fr Joseph Jarostchuk, who last year celebrated his 50th anniversary of clerical service, contracted the coronavirus and was even preparing for death.
Aware that Fr Joseph doesn’t like talking about himself, I was almost certain that he would refuse to tell the Russian website “Thomas” the story for publication. So I was surprised and gladdened when he said “If you think it will help people, let’s go ahead.”
I certainly consider this story beneficial, and so here is what Fr Joseph said:
When my temperature began to rise, we called the doctor. He said to go to the hospital. There I was immediately “arrested” and told my wife that I was very sick. I don’t remember what happened then, my condition was so difficult.
When I began to regain my health, I was beset by a different tribulation. I lay there and thought: it’s Passion Week now-how I love the beautiful divine services, and then comes Pascha… I remembered the folk wisdom that says that if someone dies on Pascha, he immediately goes to the Kingdom of Heaven.
The thought gave me pause. I suddenly looked at myself and I was overcome by a strange sensation: the Lord does not hear me. Around me was some kind of garbage, some empty cans. I understood that these represented my prayers, my labors in the eyes of God.
These weren’t visions, it was all in my head. Then I thought: “How am I to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” I was distraught and began to recite the Jesus Prayer and other prayers which I knew by heart.
Then everything changed. I felt that the life of any person is the Gospel. The Gospel whose images passed through my mind over several days in the hospital. I saw and sensed everything, from the birth of St John the Forerunner, the Annunciation of the Most-Holy Mother of God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And then I thought: when I leave the hospital, I absolutely must change my way of life and give more to the Church and to the Lord Jesus Christ. I felt that all this was given to me as a tribulation, so that I can look at my life differently.
Maybe I used to have a prideful attitude: I relied on my singing voice, people praised me, and I tried. But where was the prayer?...
I returned home on the eve of Palm Sunday. From that day on I tried especially hard to attentively read the prayers, and the words began to reveal themselves to me differently. Morning and evening I would light the lampada and read the prayer rule, though in the past I had often neglected to out of laziness or read them quickly and by rote. I try now to consciously pronounce every word and see that it is not easy. Sometimes a prayer, even “Our Father,” I read twice. Sometimes I read the prayer and think: “But whom was I addressing? Let me do it again!”
It turns out that I served as a deacon for 50 years and never felt how profound these words were…
Maybe it’s wrong to say this, but during my illness I felt that God hung a heavy sack around my neck, containing my sins from my whole life. After Pascha, I asked a priest to take my confession at home, since I was too weak to come to church. And I confessed all my sins since my youth, everything I remembered. I wanted only one thing-to cast this sack of sins away and being a new life.
That confession was incredibly difficult, but it was necessary.