A word to the reader
I first visited Valaam 50 years ago, when my parents took me on a pilgrimage to the Old Valaam, and I must say that Valaam left a very strong impression on me, a nine-year old boy.
Valaam impressed me by its grandeur and its spiritual life. It was a spiritual archipelago, every inch of its land was hallowed by deeds, prayers, and labour.
The magnificent Transfiguration Cathedral was shining with gold, ornaments, bright colours, for the restoration of the upper church had been just completed, and the cathedral impressed everyone who entered it.
Everything on Valaam was filled with wonder: its numerous sketes, its chapels with the objects of worship, they all attracted pilgrims and kept the spirit of prayer. Everything had a unique character.
I was deeply impressed by the elders, who treated every pilgrim, irrespective of age and status, with special Christian love. I keep in my memory the blessed images of schema-Abbot loann and hiero-schemamonk Jephrem, the confessors of the cloister, ofAbbot Chariton, schemamonk Nikolai, and schemamonk Pamva, of monk luvian who sent me touching instructive letters.
The fate of Valaam was very hard. Not once was it devastated, ravaged and razed to the ground, but again and again it rose from the ruins in all its beauty.
Usually visiting sacred places profaned and devastated by war, time and the ill will of people, leaves a hard and depressing feeling. In 1988, fifty years after my first pilgrimage to Valaam, I visited the Valaam monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour once again, and there was already some hope that the Christian candle would be lit again at this site hallowed by the devotion of many generations of Russian people, monks, our predecessors. This hope of reviving the monastery smoothed over all the devastation, all the wounds inflicted on the cloister within the last fifty years.
Thank God, the monastic life in Valaam was resumed six years ago. Again prayer is heard in the cathedrals and sketes, again pilgrims come to the cloister to get the strength to carry their cross and live in virtue. Again brethren, led by Abbot Pankraty, in selfless devotion revive the northern sanctum of our land.
Monasticism is a vocation. A monk can not think only about his own salvation while praying, he must help to save people's souls, save the world.
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Aleksy II.