Advertisement
Because of Saint Ambrose's spiritual gifts, he was visited by hundreds of people who came to see him for counseling or confession. Thus, he could read into people's minds and souls, knowing one's past and future, discovered to him by God's grace. Among these people, we could mention writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Leontiev and Soloviev. Dostoevsky was in fact so impressed by his pilgrimage to the monastery of Optina, that he based one of his most famous characters from one of his most known and well written novels, "The Brothers Karamazov", on the person of Saint Ambrose of Optina.
With an open heart, this father used to love anyone who would come to him, without any limits, even to the point of self-oblivion. It is the fact that he loved others to the point of forgetting about himself that actually characterized his lifestyle. Before judging people, he would love them and feel sorry for them. There was no sin that could ever represent an obstacle to St. Ambrose's love for people. Thus, the sick would approach him without any hesitation or fear, but with faith and trust. Father Ambrose tried to ease people's souls before giving them guidance on the path of faith. Towards the end of his life, Father Ambrose would say that at the beginning of his confessor's years he was rather severe, but he realized that people had so many pains to carry with them.
Although he was kind with everybody, Father Ambrose manifested more love towards unpleasant people, hard to tolerate or be around, towards the most evil-rooted sinners and those despised by most people. He would never lose heart in front of the multitude of people's sins, he would never say: "I cannot do anything for you". His parental love used to embrace the entire interior and exterior life of the one he used to talk with, and because of that he could easily guide people's will, putting it in accord with God's will. The destinies of people seemed to be revealed to him; like he would take part in God's counsel for each person in particular that was coming to him. Those who knew the father well knew from their own experience that his advice should be taken into seriousness, and without contradicting him. Father Ambrose would often say to people not to insist, because he may be weak and he might give in to them. And this would not be for people's benefit, but also to their wrong.
Here are a few words of Saint Ambrose's: "To live means not to be sad, not to judge anyone, not to upset anyone and to be respectful. For lay people (Christians living in the world), the root of all evil is the love for money, and to monks-self love." St. Ambrose would also claim that "Sadness comes out of vanity and from the devil. It comes from vanity when our will is not done, when others do not speak about ourselves like we would like them to and also, it may come out of the frenzy to make efforts beyond our powers. "
He also says that: "Spiritual anxiety is the symptom of hidden pride and it proves man's lack of experience and knowledge. Spiritual wisdom is won by humbleness, by the fear of the Lord, by keeping our conscience clean and our patience in troubles. The home of the soul is patience; the food for the soul is humbleness. When there is no food in one's home, then the soul comes out of it, meaning out of patience. The evil one would tempt Christians in the old times by physical pains, whereas he tempts the present-day Christians by diseases and thoughts."
"The word is not like the sparrow: it flies, but you cannot catch it. Very often, because of the scornful and reckless words, there can be more troubles than because of real facts. That is why man speaks words, in order to utter only well-thought words."
These are but a few facts on Saint Ambrose of Optina, which are likely to explain why the great Russian writer Dostoevsky chose to immortalize him through the character of Father Zosima in "The Brothers Karamazov."