Gerontissa Gavrilia: Indeed, you are. For Christ said, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth,” And again, “that My joy might remain in you,” This joy is like the grace of God. It dwells in us. We do not wait for the other one to give us joy, since Christ gives it first.
Interviewer: This is what I have noticed. Though you see every day people who are sick, poor, helpless…you are joyful.
Gerontissa Gavrilia: Yes. Because I love with all my heart those whom I see. I link their life with my own and, at the same time, I think: If I, a mortal and sinful person, can love them so much, how much more must God love them—God Who created them and Whose children they are. In other words, He is the first to care for them. He knows why they are sick. He knows what effect their sickness will have on their soul. He knows the reason of all things. I can neither judge nor fathom any further. So, this is what I do. I take this sick person in my heart. I make a fervent prayer, with all my love, and I place him at the Feet of Christ. That is, I say, “My Lord, give him Your pardon, give him You mercy, give him light, give him health of body and soul. Make Your will manifest itself in his life.” Because sometimes, if God’s will is not revealed in a person’s life, he may suffer from illness for a long time, so that he may learn his lesson through experience.
When you are confined to bed, you can be alone, you can think, and you may find the answers to a lot of questions. Those who had to spend long days in bed—as I had in my young age—know what a gift this is to the sinful side of ourselves. For sin must be cleansed. Sitting up in bed, we can stay all alone: no social activities, no images from the outside world, nothing…this helps…So I say this prayer and leave the ailing person in the Hands of God. Can I do anything more? No! After I have done that, the joy of God remains unaltered in my heart. I cannot weep over this person’s condition. I can weep over my own sins and beg to be forgiven. This is something different. But, cry for another child of God…no. My heart will be filled with compassion—that, yes. This compassion will lead me to prayer!
Prayer will be as a union with God…To work His miracles, God wants us to have love in this world—truly, He wants a human soul to love in unison with Him. I have noticed that. This is why priests and God-loving people who make a paraklesis (supplication prayer) notice an immediate change in the condition of the person for whom the paraklesis is made, even if he is miles away. For he tells them, “Do you know how I felt? From that moment on I felt stronger, etc.” Obviously so. Because there is no greater energy than that of prayer. Prayer is God’s energy—that’s what it is. Above all, however, we need something else: We need to listen to the voice of God—in silence.
Interviewer: Do you mean, Gerontissa, that joy can become permanent?
Gerontissa Gavrilia: Yes…even if we are doing something very important, such as praying, we should open our door when someone knocks. As the Saint says, pretend that you were not at prayer and do not send him away. Open your door and tell him, Come in brother. When we have reached the point of thinking like that, of thinking only of our brother and not of our own self, our joy becomes permanent. And as we have become the mirror in which the other sees his own reflection, if this mirror is filled with joy, he will surely see that too…This is most essential. You see, I lived many years in India—a very poor country, oppressed, suffering, ignorant of Christ. Well, let us take now a country where Christ is known, such as Switzerland or France. As soon as you alight from the train, you see nothing but sullen, worried faces. They all look anxious! What has happened here? The sense of joy has been lost. This is very serious indeed! In India, they are awaiting Christ and this waiting is joyful. We “have” Him, but do not reflect Him. We are guilty for this. Terribly guilty…still you should know, and I will say it once again, that when you submit yourselves entirely to the power and love of God, you will comprehend that everything—listen well, EVERYTHING, in capital letters—is done either because God wills it or because God permits it. There is no third version! Therefore, since God wills it, I accept it with all my heart; since God permits it, again I accept it with the same joy. For He has His reasons, it is a training. Never dare ask “why.” NEVER! Because he who asks “why” writes “I.” And where there is an “I,” there can be neither progress nor hope.
Interviewer: Gerontissa, you have spoken of joy. Yet the Fathers tell us to have sorrow and tears for our sins. How can these be combined?
Gerontissa Gavrilia: I will tell you. The moment we become aware that we did something wrong, we shall shed tears, we shall feel contrition, we shall repent. Then, the joy of pardon should follow, because we know that God is compassionate and all merciful.