Yes, that’s the word. That’s it. Savva, dear, I am not afraid of bodily suffering either. Burn me on a slow fire. Cut me to pieces. I won’t cry. I’ll laugh. I know I will. But there is another thing I am afraid of. I am afraid of people’s suffering, of the misery from which they cannot escape. When in the stillness of the night, broken only by the striking of the hours, I think of how much suffering there is all around us—aimless, needless suffering; suffering one doesn’t even know of—when I think of that, I am chilled with terror. I go down on my knees and pray. I pray to God, saying to Him: “Oh, Lord, if there has to be a victim, take me, but give the people joy, give them peace, give them forgetfulness. Oh, Lord, all powerful as Thou art—”
I have read about a man who was eaten by an eagle, and his flesh grew again overnight. If my body could turn into bread and joy for the people, I would consent to live in eternal torture in order to feed the unfortunate. There’ll soon be a holiday here in the monastery—
There is an ikon of the Saviour there with the touching inscription: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden—
And I will give you rest.” I know.
It is regarded as a wonder-working ikon. Go there on the feast-day. It’s like a torrent pouring into the monastery, an ocean rolling toward its walls; and this whole ocean is made up entirely of human tears, of human sorrow and misery. Such monstrosities, such cripples. After witnessing one of those scenes, I walk about as in a dream. There are faces with such a depth of misery in them that one can never forget them as long as one lives. Why, Savva, I was a gay young thing before I saw all that. There is one man who comes here every year—they have nicknamed him King Herod—
He is here already. I’ve seen him.
Yes, he has got a tragic face.
Long ago, when still a young man, he killed his son by accident, and from that day he keeps coming here. He has an awful face. And all of them are waiting for a miracle.
Yes. There is something worse than inescapable human suffering, however.