“How do you feel now?” Father Seraphim asked me.
“Extraordinarily well,” I said.
“But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?”
I answered: “I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.””This, your Godliness,” said Father Seraphim, “is that peace of which the Lord said to His disciples: “My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you” (John 14:21). “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And to those people whom this world hates but who are chosen by the Lord, the Lord gives that peace which you now feel within you, the peace which, in the words of the Apostle, “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The Apostle describes it in this way, because it is impossible to express in words the spiritual well-being which it produces in those into whose hearts the Lord God has infused it. Christ the Saviour calls it a peace which comes from His own generosity and is not of this world, for no temporary earthly prosperity can give it to the human heart; it is granted from on high by the Lord God Himself, and that is why it is called the peace of God. What else do you feel?” Father Seraphim asked me.
“An extraordinary sweetness,” I replied.
And he continued: “This is that sweetness of which it is said in Holy Scripture: “They will be inebriated with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy delight” (Psalm 35:8). And now this sweetness is flooding our hearts and coursing through our veins with unutterable delight. From this sweetness our hearts melt as it were, and both of us are filled with such happiness as tongue cannot tell. What else do you feel?”
“An extraordinary joy in all my heart.”
And Father Seraphim continued: “When the Spirit of God comes down to man and overshadows him with the fullness of His inspiration, then the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy, for the Spirit of God fills with joy whatever He touches. This is that joy of which the Lord speaks in His Gospel: “A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. In the world you will be sorrowful; but when I see you again, your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:21-22). Yet however comforting may be this joy which you now feel in your heart, it is nothing in comparison with that of which the Lord Himself by the mouth of His Apostle said “that joy eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for them that love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). Foretastes of that joy are given to us now, and if they fill our souls with such sweetness, well-being and happiness, what shall we say of that joy which has been prepared in heaven for those who weep here on earth? And you, my son, have wept enough in your life on earth; yet see with what joy the Lord consoles you even in this life! Now it is up to us, my son, to add labours to labours in order to “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 83:7), and to come “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), so that the words of the Lord may be fulfilled in us: “but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall grow wings like eagles; and they shall run and not be weary” (Isaiah 40:31); “they will go from strength to strength, and the God of gods will appear to them in the Sion” (Psalm 83:8) of realization and heavenly visions. Only then will our present joy (which now visits us little and briefly) appear in all its fullness, and no one will take it from us, for we shall be filled to overflowing with inexplicable heavenly delights. What else do you feel, your Godliness?”
I answered: “An extraordinary warmth.”
“How can you feel warmth, my son? Look, we are sitting in the forest. It is winter out-of-doors, and snow is underfoot. There is more than an inch of snow on us, and the snowflakes are still falling. What warmth can there be?”
I answered: “Such as there is in a bath-house when the water is poured on the stone and the steam rises in clouds.”
“And the smell?” he asked me. “Is it the same as in the bathhouse?”
“No,” I replied. “There is nothing on earth like this fragrance. When in my dear mother’s lifetime I was fond of dancing and used to go to balls and parties, my mother would sprinkle me with scent which she bought at the best shops in Kazan. But those scents did not exhale such fragrance.”