Just in the middle of the week dedicated to Christian unity, Divine Providence made me meet with a very interesting book coming from the Orthodox Tradition. It is entitled Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica.
Behind every book there is always a very intriguing story. Such is the case with this book which narrates the life story and teachings of the Orthodox monk, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. This highly recommended book delves into the life of one of the most famous spiritual guides of Serbia who lived in the twentieth century. Elder Thaddeus, as a novice, lived under the obedience to Elder Ambrose of Miljkovo Monastery, the latter being himself a disciple of the Optina Elders. It was from Elder Ambrose that Fr. Thaddeus managed to learn and interiorise in himself the Prayer of the Heart together with that selfless love that shaped his entire ministry to the suffering Serbian people. Elder Thaddeus was born in 1914. He translated Jesus commandment of loving others by living himself through all the suffering the country of Serbia had to endure during the last century.
Amid the suffering of two World Wars, the Communist regime and, most of all, in the nato bombings of 1999, Elder Thaddeus shared the fate of the Serbian people by accompanying them in their plight. Out of his intimate relationship with the Lord, formed as it was at the school of suffering, Elder Thaddeus taught, counselled and prayed for all those who came to him for a consoling word and a blessing. In the midst of pain and sorrow that encircled the Serbian life Elder Thaddeus was the incarnation of Christ’s words at the synagogue of Capernahum: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19). His life-giving words provided love, hope and spiritual balm for every person who lived in the Serbian society. Elder Thaddeus went to the Father’s House for his much-merited eternal reward in 2002. He left behind him not only an exemplary holy life but also lots of teachings and spiritual conversations, which, thanks to God, the majority of them are recorded in this volume.
Let us now have a taste of some of his spiritual pearls that surely say a lot to you and me who live today.
“If we turn toward the Fountain of Life – God – then He will give us the strength to become rooted in good thoughts – quiet, peaceful, and kind thoughts, full of love. Our sincere repentance will shine through, for good thoughts, good wishes, and feelings of love radiate peace and give comfort to every being…. Repentance is a complete turning of one’s heart toward Absolute Goodness, and not only of the heart but also of the mind, the feelings, the body, and one’s whole being. Repentance is the unbreakable union of love with our Father and Creator.” “Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.” “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquillity.”
This fascinating book, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica is replete with first hand spiritual wisdom. Thus, it is a book that everyone has to have. It can also be an excellent gift of appreciation to a friend or given to someone who is getting discouraged by life’s difficulties. This book can serve as a good guide to priests and consecrated persons and to people who spend their lives with the suffering and the sick.
Its underlying message is the following: “Everything is defeated before love.”