Pavel, Elena and Mischa started their journey back after Liturgy the next day.

When Pavel went ahead to explore, Elena started, “What if…”

“Don’t,” Pavel said. “You can’t possibly know what Fr. Raphael will find out, nor what he will do about it.”

“Aren’t you worried he’ll make me go back?”

“I can’t think about that,” Pavel said gravely. “Why don’t you look for berries with Mischa.”

A few weeks later the three went back to the Church before it was time for Vigil. Fr. Raphael was busy inside, but came out to talk to them. After they made their greetings he said, “Well. I received word back from Fr. Alexander. He remembers you, Elena, and has been worried about you. He said that Ivan got a divorce shortly after he said you abandoned him. He remarried and moved away. Fr. Alexander did not know where.”

Elena stared at him trying to comprehend the meaning of his words.

“You are no longer bound to him.”

“Even though I knew he would not look for me, I always thought he would keep his power over me.”

“He has these last 14 years,” Pavel said.

“And by accusing me of abandonment he has marred my future.”

“You have been accusing yourself of abandonment as well,” Pavel said.

“I accuse myself of reacting to him badly.”

“And you may have, Elena. You can be cleansed of your part by confessing it,” said Fr. Raphael.

“I have gone over in my mind what I wanted you to understand about my life back there, and how I came to be in that situation, but I don’t like how I feel when blaming, even though I feel mistreated. It is confusing.”

“You don’t have to understand all the why’s and wherefore’s. If your conscience bothers you about something, confess it.”

“What if she works too hard to blame herself and take full responsibility?” Pavel said.

“You can’t control the actions of others. It is true that if you were less controlled by passions yourself at the time things may have been different, but all you can do is commend yourself and them to God and ask for his mercy. We don’t always know what healing looks like.”

“I’m afraid healing means reconciliation,” said Elena.

“If someone has hurt another person, then sometimes it is good to go to them and apologize. I don’t believe that is always the case, because approaching someone who is not ready can make things worse. But you should pray for forgiveness all the same. Much more is done through simple prayer than we realize.”

Later Fr. Raphael took Pavel  aside and said, “You should give Elena time to adjust before approaching the topic of marriage between yourselves. She has to first discover what this change in status means for herself and Mischa. I did not tell her that Fr. Alexander told me more about her situation. I’ll just say that we believe it is good that she is making a different life for herself.”

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