Pavel Kivovich is a priest at Our Lady’s Resurrection orthodox parish in the Minsk district; he tells us his views on modern life:
Today we face serious temptations, made even worse by our godless environment and modern values which can be destructive of our morality.
— Aren’t all temptations eternal?
— This is true — as our nature never changes.
— Is there a distinction between spiritual temptations and minor — material — temptations?
— No. Temptation is temptation; whether you are a believer or not, temptation destroys your integrity and your soul.
— What temptations prevail today?
— Temptation can be different for followers of God as our attitude is different. The devil tempts people at all times but believers struggle to avoid these pitfalls; we try to avoid sin but, when we fail, we confess and receive absolution through the sacrament.
— You try to take preventive measures, in other words?
— Perhaps — whether we succeed or not is another question. A secular person may see temptation as a physical incarnation of his own shortcomings; of course, carnal sins exist forever.
— Do confessors admit such sins?
— I try not to ask directly about such things but we must remember that, if we fail to disclose our spiritual state during confession, we cannot be redeemed. Some are afraid to talk their sins but we are here to listen and help. This isn’t easy as everyone needs different advice.
— Was Tolstoy right advocating that we should cut a finger to show that we are sinners?
— We could do this but our sinful thoughts wouldn’t disappear.
— What place does money have in present-day temptation?
— My parishioners are not rich people but, nevertheless, the love of money is a universal temptation.
— You are a village priest and at the same time work in Minsk. Is there any difference between believers in the city and in villages?
— No — the devil craves every soul. The difference only exists in our mentality and attitude to the church. In my village, the church was burnt during the war and generations have grown up without any church education. In the city, at least one or two churches survived. Moreover, many village believers moved to the city. As a result, today, the city has more pious citizens than the countryside does — regardless of what people may think.
— Minsk district is considered a prestigious place to live among the capital’s citizens. You could easily become a VIP-priest.
— This title could give rise to temptation; all priests have a duty to serve people — to follow their mission with the Lord’s blessing. Often, however, we wait for people to come to us rather than make it our mission to approach them.
— Aren’t we all doomed to sin?
— None of us can live without sin; many have studied this idea. The only sinless man is our Lord — Jesus Christ. However, we can live in such a way that we justify our sins. Our priority should be the salvation of our immortal souls.
— The church encourages us to deny our desires, doesn’t it?
— But not everyone can do this. It’s impossible.
— With strength and dignity, it is possible.
— But we can’t all become saints or recluses, can we?
— Of course not but we can try.
— What about those who shun relationships with their fellow man?
— They would just have their memory of their past life.
— Who is the greater sinner — those who tempt or those who are tempted?
— Of course, the one who tempts. He has committed a double sin. The Lord says ‘It’s better to put a millstone around your neck and drown in the sea’ than tempt another.
— Does this mean that we should give money to drunkards?
— The Lord says ‘Do not judge or you will be judged’. His judgment is based on love.
— Can weakness be an excuse?
— Not to God. Recently, I heard the confession of a woman who sold drugs some time ago. Today, her daughter is seriously ill. She has become aware of her sin. We should change otherwise the Lord shall mete out justice.
— Isn’t this difficult?
— Yes, it is. When the Lord was asked what man should do, he answered that only God knows the truth.