Saint Tikhon’s of Zadonsk
Journey to Heaven
On our renewal at holy Baptism. Self examination. Inward search. Sin. Pride. Sins of the tongue. Flee luxury. Against drunkenness. Hate. Love. God’s help. Remembrance of the Divine Passion. Imitation of Christ. Remember Your Baptismal Vows.
The Struggle Between
Flesh and Spirit
Every Christian has two births, the old and fleshly, and the spiritual and new, and each is opposed to the other. The fleshly birth is flesh and the spiritual birth is spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (Jn. 3:6).
Because each of these births is opposed to the other then from this arises a conflict and a struggle between a Christian's flesh and spirit. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). The flesh desires to kill the spirit, and the spirit the flesh. The flesh desires to bring the spirit into submission, and the spirit the flesh. The flesh desires to rule the spirit, and the spirit the flesh. The flesh desires to be proud, to be magnified and to be conceited, but the spirit does not wish this, but it desires to be humble-minded. The flesh desires to be wrathful, to be malicious, to quarrel and to be avenged in deed or in word, but the spirit does not desire this, but desires to forgive everything in meekness.
The flesh desires to fornicate and to commit adultery, but the spirit is repelled by it and desires to be chaste. The flesh desires to seize that which is another's, to steal and to plunder in every manner, but the spirit is repelled by this and desires to give of its own. The flesh desires to be malicious, to flatter, to lie, to be crafty, to deceive, and to be hypocritical, but the spirit hates this and desires to be truthful and to be straightforward in all dealings. The flesh desires to hate a man, but the spirit desires to love him. The flesh desires to live in idleness, to be slothful, but the spirit turns away from it and desires to be exercised in blessed labors. The flesh desires to wander, to be drunk, and to arrange banquets and feasts, but the spirit turns away from this and desires to live either moderately or to fast.
The flesh desires to seek glory, honor and riches in this world, but the spirit scorns all this, and strives only for eternal blessings, and so on. Thus the "flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh." As one renewed, a Christian should live not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit, and should subjugate the flesh to the spirit, according to the Apostolic injunction, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). And this is to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14). "Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). "Walk in the newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Let us not allow sin to reign in us, but let us live for Christ "Who died for us, and arose again" (2 Cor. 5:15).
Beloved Christians, let us see whether we have this warfare, whether we take part in this saving struggle, whether we walk in the newness of life, whether we oppose the inclinations and desires of the flesh, and whether we do not allow sin to reign over us and to rule us. For only those who have "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" are Christians. What use is it to be called Christians, yet not truly be Christians? It is not the name of Christian that shows the true Christian, but the struggle against the flesh and against every sin. We must not permit the flesh everything it demands. It demands food, it demands drink, it demands clothing, it demands rest, and more: let us give what is needful, but when it desires what is contrary to the will of God and to His Law let us not permit it, that we may be Christians not only in name but also in fact.
On our renewal
at holy Baptism
In holy Baptism, O Christians, we are renewed for the holy Christian new life, and taking off the old man we put on the new spiritual man. Setting aside the evil character of the old Adam we receive the good character of the new, Jesus Christ, and so we are made a new creature, according to the teaching of the Apostle, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17).
Hence holy Baptism is called the "washing of regeneration" (Tit. 3:5), for before Baptism we were dead, killed by sin, and not capable of any good deed (for what can a dead man do?) and so before God it was as if we had no being, for only he who is dead to sin lives to God. But in holy Baptism we are made alive, and having renounced sin, we are renewed to a holy and pious life. Every Christian has two births, the old which is fleshly, and the new which is spiritual. He has the old birth from his parents, "For I was conceived in iniquities, and in sin did my mother bear me" (LXX-Ps. 50:7 [KJV-Ps. 51:5]). The second birth he has is spiritual, and thereby he is born anew to the spiritual, holy, and heavenly life, and he receives it from Christ. For this reason a Christian is named after Christ, for one is called by the name of him from whom he is born.
To the fleshly birth belong pride, high-mindedness, haughtiness, conceit, self-importance, and disdain for neighbor. To the spiritual birth belong humility, deprecation and negation of one's own self. To the fleshly birth belongs unbelief, to the spiritual faith.
To the fleshly birth belongs recklessness, to the spiritual — fear of God. To the fleshly birth belong recalcitrance, insubordination, disobedience and opposition to God, to the spiritual — submission, subordination, and obedience. To the fleshly belongs ingratitude, to the spiritual — thankfulness to God.
To the fleshly belongs indifference to the honor and glory of God, to the spiritual — the desire and care for the glory of God. To the fleshly belongs hope in one's own self, in one's honor, riches, in one's own strength, in man and in every creature, to the spiritual belongs hope in God alone. To the fleshly belong anger, wrath, malice and the desire to be avenged in word and deed, to the spiritual — meekness, innocence and long-suffering. To the fleshly belongs immoderate self-love, to the spiritual — love of God and man.
To the fleshly belong miserliness, avarice, mercilessness and care only for one's own self, to the spiritual — mercy, love of generosity and compassion, and helping one's neighbor. To the fleshly belong envy and all its consequent evil, to the spiritual — love and compassion for a neighbor's misfortunes and joy over his happiness.
To the fleshly belong guile, slyness, falsehood, cunning and hypocrisy, to the spiritual — simple-heartedness and truth. To the fleshly belong theft, robbery and every injustice, to the spiritual — justice. To the fleshly belong impurity, drunkenness, incontinence or lustful desire, to the spiritual — purity, chastity, sobriety and continence.
To the fleshly belong the love of this world, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life, and worldly wisdom, to the spiritual — disdain of the world and all its vanity, and the wisdom of heavenly and eternal good things. In a word, to the fleshly birth belongs evil habit, and to the spiritual — virtue.
So we see what are the fruits of the fleshly birth, and those of the spiritual. Holy Scripture, when it commands us to keep away from sin, commands us to keep away from the fruits of the old and fleshly birth. But when it teaches us to do good, it teaches us to show the fruits of the new birth: "Turn away from evil, and do good" (LXX-Ps. 33:15 [KJV-Ps. 34:14]). "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19).
Beloved Christians! Glory be to God. We are born again and renewed in holy Baptism as we said above. Let us consider whether we show the fruits of the new birth, and whether we live as the new birth requires. For birth is not something dead, but living; it must therefore show fruits in conformity with itself. Let us also therefore show the fruits of our new birth, lest we appear barren before our Lord and hear His terrible words, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not" (Mt. 25:12).
Glory be to God, we are all called Christians. We all confess the one Tri-hypostatic God, the living and immortal God. We were all baptized in the name of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We all believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead, and showing His sign, we sign ourselves with the cross. We all go to the holy church and we pray, beseech, hymn, and glorify the holy name of God. We listen to the holy word of God. We all partake of the holy and life-creating Mysteries of Christ. We are all called to eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven, and we say in the holy Symbol of Faith, "I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come" (Nicene Creed, articles 11 and 12).
Glory to God for all that and more! Truly most glorious and magnificent are the mysteries of Christianity, O listeners! It is a great and glorious thing to be a Christian!
But let us examine ourselves and test whether we are truly Christians. According to the apostolic injunction, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5), for without faith it is not possible to be a Christian. We show the outward signs of Christianity, as we said above, but do we have true Christianity within us? For everything outward is nothing without the inward, and outward signs apart from very truth are a lie and hypocrisy.
We pride ourselves in our faith, but do we do works in conformity with this faith? As the Apostle says to all, "Shew me thy faith without thy works" (Jas. 2:18). We are called Christians after Christ, but do we crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts as befits Christians that believe in Christ crucified? As the Apostle says, "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24).
And do we feel within us the anointing of gladness of the oil of the Spirit? We believe in the Gospel, but do we live worthily of the Gospel? We confess and call upon the true God, but do we please Him with the faith and the clean conscience that He demands of us? We hear the holy word of God, but do we heed it and correct ourselves according to its rule? We partake of the holy and life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, but are we renewed by Holy Communion and do we progress in the new, spiritual man?
Let us consider these and other things, and examine ourselves as to how we live, how we behave, how we think, how we speak, how we act, with what heart we address others before God, Who sees all things, and how we treat each other. And having so considered, let us correct ourselves that we may be Christians not only in name but also in truth.
We became Christians by the grace of God; let us take care to have true Christianity within ourselves. We were baptized in the one Tri-hypostatic God and have received the gift of holiness and justification; let us take care to guard this heavenly treasure to the end. We believe in Jesus Christ crucified; let us take care to follow Him with faith, and having each one taken up his cross let us go after Him. We confess and call upon the heavenly God; let us take care to please Him with a heavenly character. We hear the word of God; let us take care and live just as it teaches us. "We await the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come;" let us take care to conduct ourselves in this world worthily of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come; and having turned away from the vanities of this world, let us strive only for everlasting blessedness. We approach the holy and heavenly table of the Mysteries of Christ; let us take care that this heavenly and life-creating Bread brings life, sanctification, illumination, renewal, joy and spiritual consolation.
Thus shall we show our faith from our works. Thus shall we be Christians not only in name but in very fact. "God be gracious unto us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us and have mercy on us, that we may know upon the earth Thy way, among all the nations Thy salvation" (LXX-Ps. 66:2-3 [KJV-Ps. 67:1-2]).
Take no greater care than to correct your will and inward disposition. In this consists all the power of Christian piety.
All outwardness without inwardness is nothing. Whatever is not inside the heart does not exist in actual fact. Virtue is not true virtue when it is not within the heart. Therefore correct your heart and your will, and you shall be good and your outward deeds will be good, for the inward is the beginning of the outward. When evil is not in the heart, then it will not appear outwardly. The hands will not do evil, the feet will not walk toward evil, the tongue and lips will not speak evil, the eyes will not look upon evil and so on, when the will and the heart do not desire it.
And thus pure streams flow from a spring when the source itself is pure. Likewise good works come forth from the heart when the heart is good, but there cannot be good works without a good heart, just as from a putrid and noisome spring nothing else can flow but putrid and noisome water.
Therefore correct your heart and will and you shall be good, you shall be a true Christian, you shall be a new creature. For all good or evil is from the will and from the heart. When the heart and the will are good, then the whole man is good.
A heart which is obedient and in conformity with the will of God is good. A heart which opposes and is contrary to the will of God is evil. Faith makes a well-intentioned heart. "Faith is the mother of a good will," says St. Ambrose, therefore where there is no well-intentioned heart, there is also no faith.
Take care, Christian, to correct yourself within and to be good, and you shall be truly good, otherwise whatever you may do, you will be, as always, evil. Hence, you see that faith renews a man and is the root of good works.
It is not possible to correct yourself rightly if you do not recognize the evil hidden in your heart and the calamities that proceed from it. An unrecognized disease remains untreated. The beginning of health is to know your disease, and the beginning of blessedness is to know your misfortune and wretchedness. For who having recognized his illness does not seek healing, and who knowing his misfortune does not seek deliverance from it?
Therefore, recognize the evil that hides itself within you as a deadly poison, and you will hasten to be delivered from it. And the more you recognize it, the more zealously you will seek deliverance. The evil hidden in the human heart is conceit, self-will, envy, wrath, avarice, impurity, and every abominable thing. From these things proceed all iniquity as a foul stream flows from a noisome spring. Look often into your heart and little by little you will come to understand this.
An untreated disease threatens death, likewise this evil, when it remains uncorrected, threatens eternal death. From the recognition of this evil proceeds the recognition of your misfortune and wretchedness. From the recognition of misfortune and wretchedness proceed the fear of eternity, humility, sighing, and the desire and zeal for deliverance from misfortune. God "giveth grace unto the humble" (Jas. 4:6), which corrects and renews a man. So the man who knows himself begins to correct himself and gets progressively better. Know yourself, then, and you shall correct yourself.
Temptations and trials show what hides in the heart of a man. Temptation is similar to the medicine called an emetic. An emetic reveals what is hidden in the stomach. So temptations and trials make manifest what is inside a man. The holy word of God and other Christian books point out the corruption of our nature, but we recognize it by actual experience or deed in temptations and trials.
Thus vainglory becomes apparent through the deprivation of glory, avarice through the deprivation of riches, envy through the success of one's neighbor, and anger through disappointment. If, then, you fall into various temptations, O Christian, this all happens by God's permission for your great benefit, that you may thereby know what is hidden in your heart, and so knowing it you may correct yourself. Many flatter themselves and consider themselves to be good, humble, and meek, but they will discover the contrary under temptation. Do not become despondent in temptations, then, but give all the more thanks to God that He thus brings you to knowledge of yourself and wishes you to be corrected and be saved.
It is impossible to weep enough at the corruption and wretchedness in human nature that followed after the fall. There is nothing more harmful to man than sin, but man is not so inclined to anything else as much as to sin — man, I say, God's rational creation by God's special counsel. "Let us make man," (Gen. 1:26) created in the image of God and made in His likeness.
O how mightily, O men, has our adversary stricken us! How has that ancient serpent damaged our pure and undefiled nature by his deadly poison! Man strives unrestrainedly toward every sin. The Prophet weeps over this calamity and wretchedness, "And man being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them" (LXX-Ps. 48:13 [KJV-Ps. 49:12]). Man is genuinely compared to the dumb beasts, and is become like them. Those same passions which are in beasts are seen in man.
A beast is proud and haughty; we see the same in man. A beast becomes angry; man too becomes angry and embittered. A beast envies; man also envies. Beast fights with beast; man also fights with man. A beast steals; man steals too. A beast is ravenous; man is also ravenous. A beast is ruled by passions; man too is ruled by passions. And what is all the more bitter than this is that all these passions found individually in every beast, are found together in the individual man. He is proud and conceited. He is wrathful and malicious. He is envious. He is passionate and capricious. He is ravenous. He is desirous of others' goods, and so on.
O beloved creature of God! Where is your beautiful goodness, the image and likeness of God? Where is your holiness and innocence and truth? And man being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like them.
The holy Apostle frightfully describes the man not renewed by divine grace, and presents him before our inward eyes,
"There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:10-18).
But let us see how great an evil sin is, although man loves it, so that we may turn away from sin.
1. The great and incomprehensible God is offended and angered by sin, He Who created us from nothing and made us in His own image and likeness, He Who for our sake who are fallen, sent into the world His Only-Begotten Son; He that every day and hour does us good, He that feeds us, waters us, clothes us, gives us rest, and abounds in other innumerable blessings for us, He that will finally judge the sinner for sin before the whole world.
O how truly incomprehensible an evil is sin, for thereby the incomprehensible majesty of God is offended!
2. No one is able to take sin away from man but the Son of God. He came into the world for the sake of taking away sin, and He suffered and died so as to wipe out sin. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8). "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). Glory to His love for man!
3. Sin works death, "for the wages of sin are death" (Rom. 6:23). Thus our ancestors sinned in paradise and died the death, and would be dead forever had not Christ the Son of God revived them with His Blood. "For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). For His holy Blood, poured out for the entire world, is as effective now as it was since the beginning of the world to revive every sinner that believes in Him.
4. Conscience so heavily and cruelly torments a man for the sin that he committed, that a man often kills himself, not being able to bear the pangs of conscience.
5. There are temporal punishments for sin such as famine, fires, battles, plagues, diseases, earthquakes, and others. "Death, and bloodshed, strife, and the sword, calamities, famine, tribulation, and the scourge; these things are created for the wicked" (Sirach 40:9-10). "Sins are the cause of all evils" says St. Chrysostom. You see how great an evil sin is, an evil more evil than any other evil. O it is truly better to go about naked than to sin. It is better to be captive and imprisoned than to sin. It is better to be wounded and have every disease than to sin. It is better never to see the light and to sit in darkness than to sin. It is better to endure curses, mockery, reproach, abuse, beatings and wounds than to sin. Finally, it is better to endure every evil that can possibly be in this world than to sin, because all this evil afflicts the body only, and afflicts temporarily, for death puts an end to all suffering. Here every misfortune comes to an end, but sin afflicts both the body and soul, and it will torment them forever without end.
For sin is the cause of each and every misfortune that occurs in this world. If it were not for sin there would be no misfortune. Sin came into being in the world and upon it followed every calamity. Sin is sweet to men, but its fruits are bitter to them. A bitter seed also bears bitter fruit. Beloved Christians! Let us know sin, that we may turn away from it, for everyone avoids a known evil. People know that poison harms, and they avoid it. They know that a serpent kills with its sting, and they keep away from it. They know that thieves strip and kill, and they avoid them.
Let us also know sin, O beloved, and the evil that proceeds from sin, and we will unfailingly avoid it. For sin harms more than any poison. Sin is more venomous than any serpent. Sin strips us bare more than any robber, and deprives us of temporal and eternal blessings, and kills the body and the soul. These are the fruits of the bitter seed of sin!
Sin is anger, wrath, and malice. Sin is pride, highmindedness, haughtiness, conceit, and scorn of neighbor. Sin is slander and judgement. Sin is shameful speech, impure talk, rough speech, blasphemy, and every corrupt word. Sin is falsehood, flattery, cunning and hypocrisy. Sin is drunkenness, gluttony, and all intemperance. Sin is theft, stealing, robbery, violence, and all unrighteous acquisition of anothers' goods. Sin is adultery, fornication, and all impurity. In a word, every transgression of the Law is sin and is more harmful an evil than any other evil that harms our body in any way. For these only harm our body, but sin harms and kills both the body and the soul. Sin is more evil than the very devil since sin made the devil, who was once a good and luminous angel, but he was poisoned and darkened by sin. Whoever does not know sin as a great evil and does not avoid it shall know and understand how cruel an evil sin is in very experience and by its effects, in the age to come, but it will be too late and useless. For this reason we must recognize this evil in the present age and guard ourselves from it.
Christ the True Light, that enlightens the blind, enlighten also the eyes of our heart that we should know sin and avoid sin! It is the beginning of salvation to know one's own misfortune.
Shun every sin as a mortal poison, because every sin offends and angers God, Who is great. It both separates the one who sinned from God and sets an obstacle to eternal salvation. Therefore shun sin, lest it put you to death eternally.
The struggle against every sin is an unfailing necessity for all Christians who wish to be true Christians and to receive eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, lest they allow it to take hold of them. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12), says the Apostle of Christ. Their faith requires this of Christians, according to the words of the Apostle, "Shew me thy faith by thy works" (Jas. 2:18).
They must listen to God in Whom they believe, and not sin; they must live unto God, and not unto sin. This is demanded by that holy Baptism through which they were renewed to the holy Christian life. This is demanded by the vows made at Baptism, in which they vowed to labor for the Lord in faith and in truth. This is required by the work of salvation, since holy Baptism avails nothing to those who transgress and do not keep their vows made at Baptism, as they are false and have lied to God. Consider these things, O Christian! A Christian is not known by saying, "Lord, Lord" (Mt. 7:21), but by struggling against all sin. That soldier is a true soldier who stands and struggles against visible foes. Likewise, a true Christian is he who wages incessant war against sin. But let us see for what cause a man sins, that we may more easily stand against sin. We note five causes of sin:
1. The corruption of human nature. Man is conceived in iniquity and born in sins, as the Psalmist says, "For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me" (LXX-Ps. 50:7 [KJV-Ps. 51:5]). The sinful passions with which he is born incline and draw him to sin. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Corruption and accursedness have entered into man from the fall of Adam. This inclines a man to every sin. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (Jn. 3:6). But Christians must stand against inclinations and passions and struggle according to the power of holy Baptism and the vows made then, and not allow them to progress into deed.
2. The devil leads man to sin. Of this the Apostle says, exhorting Christians to be on guard against him, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Oppose him firm with faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The Apostle says the same in another place, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:10-12).
These unseen enemies are always eager for our destruction, O Christian! Be vigilant and make haste to guard against every sin. We must not, therefore, slumber.
3. The seductions of the world also lead toward sin. We see that evil grows; one does such and such a thing. Another either sees it or hears of it, and recklessly imitates it. Temptation is like a pestilence that begins in one man and infects many living near him. "Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Mt. 18:7).
4. A cause of sin is often the bad upbringing of children. Such children, when they come of age hasten toward every manner of evil. This comes about from the carelessness of parents. Give heed to this, fathers and mothers!
5. Habit strongly attracts a man toward sin. We see this evil; we see that drunkards are always drawn toward drunkenness, thieves toward theft, fornicators and adulterers toward impurity, slanderers toward slander, and so on. For their habit draws them like a leash toward sin, and they are drawn toward the sin to which they have become accustomed just as a hungry man is drawn toward bread and a thirsty man toward water.
Incited by these things, men sin. A Christian man wishing to be saved and to show his faith from deeds must unfailingly struggle against these things. All these adversaries to our salvation are cruel to us. Cruel is the flesh with its passions and lusts, which lusts against the spirit. Cruel is our adversary the devil, who unceasingly deceives us and wars against us. Cruel to us also are the temptations by which the lusts of the flesh are fanned and kindled as a fire by the wind. But cruelest of all is the very habit to him who has become accustomed to evil. For that man it becomes his second nature.
The struggle against the aforementioned adversary is difficult for all, I admit, but it is necessary and most glorious. Many wage war and are victorious over people, but are captives of their own passions and become slaves. There is no victory more glorious than to be victorious over one's self and sin. There is no crown or triumph without victory, and no victory without struggle against enemies.
Beloved Christians! Let us go into this struggle, that with the help of Christ we may attain victory and receive from Him the crown of goodness, and we shall be eternally triumphant in His Kingdom. As help in the struggle against sin we note the following:
1. Listen and heed the word of God. It portrays sin and virtue, and leads us from sin and encourages us toward virtue. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God is "a sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17) by which the enemy of souls is cut down.
2. God is present in every place, and He is with us wherever we may be. And we, anything we may do, we do before Him and before His holy eyes. How, then, shall we transgress before God and violate His holy Law before His eyes? We are ashamed and stand in fear before an earthly king; how much more ought we to be ashamed and fear to give offense before God, for every sin is an offense before God.
3. Remember the last things: death, the Judgement of Christ, hell, and the Kingdom of Heaven. These things deter sin. "Remember the end," says Sirach, "and thou shalt never do amiss" (Sirach 7:36).
4. Avoid occasions that lead to sin, such as banquets and feasting, and evil and useless conversations. "For evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33).
5. Keep in mind and remembrance that a man could die and perish in the very act of sin. Thus Pharaoh, king of Egypt, pursued after Israel and wished to oppress him again, but he perished in the very act of iniquity (cf. Ex. ch. 14). Thus Abessalom [Absalom] the son of David sought to kill his holy father, and perished in that pursuit (cf. LXX-2 Kings [KJV-2 Sam.] ch. 18). We see the same thing even now, we see that fornicators and adulterers are stricken in the very act of impurity, blasphemers in blasphemy, thieves and robbers in theft, and other transgressors receive according to their deeds. Thus the righteous judgement of God strikes transgressors, that we should fear to sin and transgress.
5. Consider that Christ the Son of God suffered and died for sins. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities" (Is. 53:5). Should you, a Christian, do that for which Christ the Son of God drank the bitter cup of suffering, and thus "crucify" in yourself "the Son of God afresh" (Heb. 6:6)?
7. Do not look at what other people are doing, but heed what the word of God teaches. Thus we shall avoid the temptations of the world. "Much peace have they that love Thy law, O Lord, and for them there is no stumbling-block" (LXX-Ps. 118:165 [KJV-Ps. 119:165]). O Christian, love the Law of God and the temptations of the world shall not harm you.
8. Our effort and struggle against sin is powerless without the help of God. For this reason we must make an effort and pray, that the Lord help us in this so important an endeavor. The Lord helps those that take care and labor. He strengthens those that struggle and crowns the victorious.
Beloved Christians, we see the enemies of our soul that wish to destroy us not temporally, but eternally. We also see help in the struggle against them. Let us stand, then, let us stand aright and be strengthened with the power of Jesus our almighty Saviour, and let us not allow them to overpower us, that we may be crowned with the wreath of victory by the Master of the contest.
O Lord Jesus, the Victor over death and hell, help us! We can do nothing without Thee. With Thee we can do all things.
Pride is a most abominable sin, but hardly anyone recognizes it since it is hidden deep in the heart. Not knowing one's self is the beginning of pride. This ignorance blinds a man, and thus he becomes full of pride. O that man would know himself! He would know his own misfortune, poverty, and wretchedness; he would never become full of pride. But man is so wretched that he does not see and know his misfortune and wretchedness.
Pride is known by its deeds as a tree is known by its fruits. But let us see what are the fruits of the bitter seed of pride:
1. A proud man seeks honor, glory, and praise by every means. He always desires to appear as something, and to direct, command, and rule others. But he is powerfully angered and embittered at whoever may prevent his desire.
2. He complains, he is displeased, and he curses when deprived of honor and leadership. "What have I done wrong? Why am I at fault? Is this what my labors and service merit?" It often drives a man to kill himself.
3. He begins labors that are beyond his strength which he is not able to manage. O man! Why do you take up burdens which you cannot bear?
4. Out of his self-will he interferes in the affairs of others. He desires to direct everyone and everywhere, though he himself does not know what he is doing, so greatly is he blinded by pride.
5. He boasts of himself shamelessly and exalts himself. "I did thus and so. I rendered such and such service to society." O man! You enumerate your services, but why do you not mention your shortcomings? While it is shameful for you to proclaim those, you should also be ashamed to praise yourself.
6. He looks down on and humiliates other people. "He is a base man, he is useless," and so on. O man! He is a man just as you are, for we are all men. He is a sinner, yes, but I think that you cannot deny that name either. He transgressed in something, or is a sinner, but you, too, in another way, or perhaps in the same way. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
7. He does not submit, he does not obey his authorities and his parents. The proud have a stiff and unbending neck. They always wish to establish and execute the will of their desires.
8. The goods that they have they ascribe to themselves, to their own efforts and labors, and not to God. O man! What can you have of your own self, who came naked out of your mother's womb? What can you have should God, the source of all good, not give it to you? What can our effort and labor accomplish without His help, Who alone is able do all things, and without Whom everyone is as nothing, as a shadow without a body?
9. He greatly dislikes reproach and admonition. He thinks himself pure, though he be all sullied.
10. He is impatient, is displeased, complains, and often even curses when in destruction, in contempt, in misfortunes and calamities.
11. He displays haughtiness and is somewhat pompous, etc. in word and deed. These are the fruits of pride, hateful to God and man. The fruits which it engenders are bitter. "For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Lk. 16:15). Wherefore it is also written, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (Lk. 14:11).
The virtue opposed to pride is humility. But as far as pride is loathsome and abominable, so welcome and lovely is humility to God and men. God Who is great and exalted looks on nothing so lovely as on a humble and compunctionate heart. Whence even the Most Holy Theotokos says of herself, "For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden" (Lk. 1:48).
When pride retreats from a man, humility begins to dwell in him, and the more pride is diminished, so much more does humility grow. The one gives way to the other as to its opposite. Darkness departs and light appears. Pride is darkness, but humility is light.
As we consider our own selves and come to know our misfortune and wretchedness, we shall have reason enough to be humble. We are born naked and with a cry. We live in calamity, misfortune, and sins. We die with fear, disease, and sighing. We are buried in the earth and return to the earth. There it is not evident where the rich man lies, where the poor, where the noble and where the lowly, where the master and where the servant, where the wise and where the foolish. There they are all made equal, for they all return to the earth. Why, then, should earth and corruption be conceited?
Beloved Christians! Let us know our misfortune and wretchedness, and "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Pet. 5:6). Let us know, beloved, that we Christians are Christ's, Who is meek and humble of heart. It is a shameful thing, and very unbecoming of Christians, to be full of pride when Christ, God great and exalted, humbled Himself. It is a shameful thing for servants to be proud when their Master is humble. There is nothing as unbecoming and indecent of Christians as pride, and nothing shows a Christian as much as humility.
From humility it is known that a man is a true disciple of Jesus, meek and humble of heart. If we wish to show evidence that we are true Christians, let us learn from Christ to be humble as He Himself enjoins us, "Learn of Me; for I am meek, and lowly in heart" (Mt. 11:29). Let us engrave and deepen in our memory the saying of the Apostle now explained, "For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:6).
Sins of the tongue
Treat every man not with flattery, but simply, just as you do yourself. As you appear to him outwardly, be so inwardly as well; and what you say to him and what you have on your lips must be in your heart also. For flattery and treachery are the works of pestilent people, and the devil lives in their heart teaching them flattery and treachery so as to deceive us.
Keep, then, from treating your neighbor craftily and treacherously, lest you give place to the devil in your heart, and lest he overcome you and take you captive.
Be extremely careful not to offend anyone in word or deed, for it is a grave sin. When someone is offended, God, Who loves the man, is also offended, for there can be no offending man without offending God. Whoever sins against man, also sins against God. This is a serious matter, as you can see for yourself. And when you offend your neighbor, straightway humble yourself before him and beg forgiveness of him with humility, lest you fall under God's just condemnation.
Keep from prying into other people's affairs, for such prying gives occasion for slander, judgment and other grievous sins. Why do you need to be concerned about others? Know and examine your own self.
Recall your own past sins and purge them with repentance and contrition of heart, and you will not look at what other people do. Look often into your own heart and examine that most ruinous evil hidden there, and you will have sufficient material for investigation. For we can never examine our heart without knowing precisely that every evil is contained in it.
This investigation is profitable to you, for it gives birth to humility and to fear and watching over one's own self, and to sighing and prayer to God. But examination of the sins of others is the beginning of every iniquity and it is a curiosity hateful to God and man. Then guard yourself against it.
If you see or hear someone sin, keep from slandering him and judging him. You tell someone else about him, he tells it to another, the other to the third, the third to the fourth, and so everyone will come to know it and be tempted. And they will judge the one who sinned, which is a very serious thing. And you will be the cause of all this, by publishing your brother's sin. Slanderers are like lepers that harm others by their foul odor, or like those stricken by the plague who carry their disease from place to place and destroy others. Keep yourself, then, from slandering your neighbor, lest you sin gravely and give someone else cause for sin.
Likewise keep from judging him, because he stands or falls before his Lord (cf. Rom. 14:4), and because you yourself are a sinner. A righteous man has no need to judge and condemn another, how much less should a sinner judge a sinner.
And to judge people is a matter for Christ alone. To Him judgement is given by His Heavenly Father, and He shall judge the living and the dead, before Whose judgement you yourself will stand.
Keep, then, from usurping to yourself the authority of Christ, which is a very serious thing, and from judging people like unto yourself, lest you appear at that Judgement with this most abominable sin, and lest you be rightly condemned to everlasting punishment. Turn your eyes and mind, then, on your own self and examine yourself, and reproach and accuse yourself before God for your sins, which requires the labor of repentance. Reproach and accuse yourself before God and beg mercy of Him, as the publican did, so that you may be justified by Him.
Listen to what Christ the Lord says to the condemned, "And why dost thou behold the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and shalt then thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of brother's eye" (Mt. 7:3-5).
You see that those that judge and condemn others are hypocrites or false Christians. These do not know themselves and their own sins, although outwardly they may appear as saints.
Guard yourself against luxury as against a plague. It greatly weakens a Christian's soul. It teaches you to steal what is another's; to offend people, and to hold your hand back from giving alms as is required of a Christian.
Luxury is like a belly that knows no satiety, and like an abyss that devours what is good. It needs everything and wishes to change everything. "My house is not good enough, I must build a new one." "My skirt is no good, I must sew a new one." "It is a disgrace for me to go out in a simple carriage, I must buy an English coach." "I can't stand this food, I must cook better." "I just cannot drink simple wine, I must buy champagne." "My servants should not wait on me in such clothes, I must deck them out in better." And so on.
Thus luxury devours everything and weakens the mind. Guard yourself, then, against luxury. Nature is satisfied with little things, but caprice and luxury demand much.
Do not adorn your body with stylish clothes, as some are accustomed to do, but let your clothing be appropriate to your station. A Christian's clothing is clothing of the spirit. It should adorn the soul and not the body. The beauty of the soul is the image of God in which we were created. Seek this beauty and it shall suffice you.
Do not live in idleness, but exercise yourself in blessed labors. Since idleness is the cause of every evil, whoever lives in idleness inevitably also sins. Infirm and aged people that are unable to labor are excused from this.
If you have riches, avoid applying your heart to them, lest you thus depart in your heart from God. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon" (Mt. 6:24). Likewise avoid squandering God's blessings on whims and luxury; they are given you from God not for your sake alone, but also for the sake of other poor people. Remember that you are the steward, and not the master of these goods. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (LXX-Ps. 23:1 [KJV-Ps. 24:1]). Be a faithful steward of your Lord, then, and not a squanderer of the Lord's property; and contenting yourself with moderation, thank the Creator of all good things and provide for poor people. Both those that guard their property like watchmen and those that squander it on whims and luxuries will be without excuse and shall be put to shame at the Judgement of Christ. Avoid this lest you be condemned with the wicked servants (Mt. 25:41).
If you have gathered property through injustice, bestow it on the poor, lest it reprove you at the second coming of Christ. In this matter imitate Zacchaeus the publican, whom Christ set as an example for all (Lk. 19:8). It is better to live in poverty than in unrighteous wealth. Choose, then, what is better and distribute what was ill gotten. If you do this, believe the Lord, that He will not forsake you, and that He Who does not forsake even birds and feeds them and provides for all creatures will give you what is needful for your life.
When you wish to eat or drink, call on the name of the Lord, and ask a blessing of Him for your food and drink, saying, "Lord, bless." And think here that you will taste and enjoy the good things of your Lord. For everything that is God's is good, as was said above, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (LXX-Ps. 23:1 [KJV-Ps. 24:1]). Whoever has possessions for himself from theft and injustice has a curse, and not the blessing of God. For this reason he should not call upon the name of God here. Likewise, also, they that wish to become drunk ought not call on the name of God, for drunkenness is forbidden by God.
Avoid attending feasts and banquets. It is very difficult to attend them without wounding your conscience. You will no longer return home the same person that left your home. Guard yourself, then; there is nothing better and more peaceful than to remain at your own home. What the eye does not see and the ear does not hear will not strike in your heart. Thoughts that are good and pleasing to God come nowhere else but in solitude and silence. Whatever good thing you may gather at home and in solitude you lose in the midst of people.
If you have need to leave your house and to go out to people, attend to yourself and guard your heart with all caution. Set the Lord your God before you everywhere and let the holy fear of Him go before you as a candle. Wherever you may go and wherever you may be, God is with you and knows and sees all your doings, and hears your words. Then watch yourself everywhere.
Drunkenness is sin in and of itself… "nor drunkards... shall not inherit the Kingdom of God," according to the teaching of the Apostle (1 Cor. 6:10). And Christ says, And "take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness" (Lk. 21:34). This is the cause of so many and serious sins. It brings about the quarrels, fights, and bloodshed, and murders that follow upon it. It is rough talk, blasphemy, and cursing. It causes disappointment and offence to neighbor. It teaches lying, flattery, seizure of the things of others so as to somehow satisfy the passion. It ignites anger and wrath. It makes people cast themselves into impurity as swine into the mire.
In a word, it makes a man a beast, and the rational irrational, so that not only the inward condition but also the outward appearance of a man often changes. Wherefore St. John Chrysostom says, "The devil loves nothing like luxury and drunkenness" (Homily 58 on St. Matthew), because nothing fulfils his evil will as does a drunkard.
Drunkenness is the cause not only of ills of the soul but also of bodily and temporal ills:
1. It weakens the body and brings it to infirmity, whence it written, "Shew not thy valiantness in wine; for wine hath destroyed many" (Sirach 31:25).
2. It leads to wretchedness and poverty. "A labouring man that is given to drunkenness shall not be rich" (Sirach 19:1).
3. It takes away one's glory and good name. On the contrary it leads to ignominy, contempt and loathing. For people loathe nothing so much as they do a drunkard.
4. It brings grief and sorrow to the household, relatives, and friends, and merriment to enemies.
5. It makes its devotees useless for any calling, and in whatever calling a drunkard may be, it brings about calamity and misfortune rather than benefit to society. St. John Chrysostom, describing the misfortune and destruction of drunkenness, says, "Drunkenness is self-imposed possession, the emptying of thought, a calamity of derision, a disease worthy of ridicule, a voluntary demon" (Homily on the Resurrection), and much more. In order to guard oneself against drunkenness it is useful to apply the following:
1. Do not allow young people to drink alcoholic beverages since young people easily become accustomed to it, and whatever they learn in youth they hold to throughout their entire life.
2. Do not allow them to keep company with drunkards and the depraved.
3. Adults and those who have come to manhood should not drink wine without need.
4. Keep away from evil company and festivities.
5. Remind them that it is extremely difficult to hold back from this passion, and many perish in soul and body in and through that very passion.
6. Those that have become accustomed to this passion should powerfully arm themselves against its torments; stand, and not give in, and pray and call upon the all-powerful help of God.
7. Remember the misfortunes caused by drunkenness, and compare the condition of a sober life with the condition of a drunken life. These people should think about the fact that many drunkards die in their sleep and go from this life to the next without any consciousness, and therefore without repentance.
Hate is obdurate and long-standing anger. Anger, when it is not soon assuaged, becomes malice, wherefore the Apostle exhorts and teaches us to set aside anger at the very beginning and quickly: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil" (Eph. 4:26-27). And hence we see that whoever nurses anger and malice for his neighbor gives place to the devil. The devil already possesses him like a spirit of malice and leads him about as a captive. Hate arises either from envy, as with Cain who nursed a hatred for his brother, Abel, whose happiness he envied, and he killed him (Gen. 4); or from an offense done to someone. Thus, people become angered and embittered at those who have offended them, and they desire to render them evil for evil, and so avenge their offense. Hatred is a most abominable sin and worthy of derision. Every other sin brings either some gain or some pleasure to the sinner. The thief steals to satisfy his soul. A fornicator fornicates to please his flesh. A bitter man is embittered without any of that. He sins and he suffers; he transgresses and he is eaten, he avenges and he endures vengeance. Thus, hatred is itself the punishment and scourge of the malicious.
If it were possible to look into the heart of a malicious man, nothing else would appear but only the torment of hell. So it is that malicious people are darkened and withered, for malice eats up their flesh like a poison. O cruel passion, cruel and destructive both to the malicious and to those against whom it arises and takes up arms! When it is not cut off in the beginning it works great calamities, much the same as a fire having gained strength eats up many houses.
Malice is the sort of thing that if it is not cut off at the very beginning multiplies without limit, in the same way as a flame blazes up on finding dry materials, says Chrysostom. Malice is perpetrated in various ways:
1. By deprivation of health, as those people who harbor malice against their neighbor give him poison, and so damage his health. Hence that man lives and dies enduring almost constant torment. This is the action of malice and its destructive fruit.
2. By taking of life, as did Cain who killed Abel his brother.
3. By evil talk and slander. A malicious man who wishes to get revenge on his neighbor and has nothing with which to harm him, fabricates some vice in him and so carries about a false and evil rumor of him, or makes something big out of something small, and knowing a twig calls it a log. So it is that many people endure false slander and abuse. The cause of all this is malice.
4. The hateful often boast about having perpetrated malice: "I gave him to know," or, "let him remember me!" To such people the saying from the Psalms applies, "Why dost thou boast in evil, O mighty man?" (Ps. 51:3 [KJV-Ps. 52:1]). This rejoicing and boasting in the harm and destruction of others is the loathsome and abominable stench of malice. O the cruel and destructive action of malice! A man that sinned against God and his neighbor ought to be sorry and repent, but the hateful man boasts of it and is proud, he sins and boasts of his sin, he commits iniquity and is proud of his lawlessness. In him operates abominable and pestilent malice. O man! You boast and rejoice now in your iniquitous deed, but if you do not correct yourself you will someday sigh, shed tears, and weep when all your lawless acts are set before you and they become manifest to all the world, as will the rest of your iniquities too. Then will you see your destruction.
5. Hate operates and multiplies so powerfully in some people that they are not afraid to say, "Let me perish, yet I will get even with him!" Poor creature! Perhaps you do not know what destruction is? Put your hand to the fire and you will taste its bitterness in part. You cannot stand it. Will you be able to stand the bitterness of the fire of Gehenna in which your entire person will be immersed and submerged and will burn forever and not be consumed? But if you look at yourself you will see for yourself that the devil, the spirit of malice, works and speaks such words in you.
You see, beloved Christian, how cruel and serious an evil malice is? The fruits of malice are evil and bitter, and evil and bitter is malice itself which gives birth to such fruit.
Woe to the world for malice! It harms everything and in every way, as we have said above. No one can hide from it anywhere. When it cannot harm a man any other way, then it injects its poison into a man through his tongue. However many misfortunes, calamities, and evils there may be in the world, malice is the cause of all. Woe, then, to the world for malice, but rather greater woe to those that are malicious! They harm the bodies of others, but also their own souls. They put the bodies of others to death, but also their own souls.
They take the temporary life of others, and also their own eternal life. They destroy others temporarily, and themselves also eternally. Malice leads to this terrible evil.
If they do not wish to perish eternally the hateful ought to correct themselves and change their own hateful heart. The following considerations should help in this:
1. It is a fearful thing for Christians to be hateful, who are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to love not only friends, but also their enemies.
It is a fearful thing for Christians to do evil who are commanded to do good to those that hate them. It is a fearful thing for Christians to get revenge, who are commanded to forgive the transgressions of others. The avenger will fall into the hands of the avenging God. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31). Let the malicious soul heed this, and let them put the poison of their malice to death by repentance and contrition of heart, otherwise they shall appear at the fearful Judgement of Christ with their sins and receive a reward according to their deeds.
2. It often happens that though they harm others, the malicious first harm themselves. The same poison which they prepare for others they eat themselves. The same sword by which they strip others bare they kill themselves with, and their sword goes into their own heart. And the same pit which they dig for others they fall into themselves. This is what the Psalmist sings, "He opened a pit and dug it, and he shall fall into the hole which he made. His toil shall return upon his own head, and upon his own pate shall his unrighteousness come down" (LXX-Ps. 7:16-17 [KJV-Ps. 7:15-16]). And the Lord says, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Mt. 7:5).
Beloved Christians, let us hear the exhortation of the Apostle, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Eph. 4:26), and let us assuage and calm our wrath at the very beginning, and while this infant of iniquity is still small let us kill it, lest it grow and overcome us. "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:1-2) unto salvation. "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God" (3 Jn. 1:11).
We have spoken about hate; now let us speak of love. Love is the virtue opposite to hate. As bitter as hate is, so sweet is love, and as harmful and pestilent as hate is, so useful is love. And as evil and bitter the fruits of hate are, so good and sweet are the fruits of love.
Hate is bitter both to the hateful and to others. Love is sweet to both the lover and the beloved. Hate devours and binds the heart. Love looses and broadens the heart. Hate kills; love gives life. He that lives in hate is dead, he that abides in love is alive. Hate makes sorrowful. Love consoles, makes glad and joyful. Hate is hard and cruel. Love is soft and tender. Hate is proud and haughty. Love is humble. Hate is merciless. Love is merciful. Hate is impatient. Love is long-suffering.
Hate works evil. Love does not do evil but does good. Hate is hateful and loathsome. Love is welcome and beloved by all. Hate is condemned by all. Love is praised and extolled by all.
He that lives in hate is poor and wretched. He that lives in love is blessed and happy. He that lives in hate is loathed by God and man. God and man rejoice in him that lives in love. Hate is the seed of the devil. Love is the seed of God. Wretched, then, and exceedingly poor is the condition of hateful people, though they may be regarded as gods in the world. Most blessed and comforting is the condition of hearts filled with love, though they may be trampled down as dirt and scum. The former are outwardly beautiful, but inwardly contemptible. The latter are outwardly contemptible but inwardly sweet. The former glitter outwardly, but are dark and black within. The latter are not outwardly comely, but inwardly they have everything. The former are outwardly healthy, but rotten within. The latter are outwardly unpleasing, they do not know how to speak prettily and smoothly, but inwardly they are healthy, beautiful and pleasant. The former are like apples that are outwardly beautiful, but within are bitter and wormy. The latter are like apples that are not outwardly pleasing, but within are sweet and pleasant.
The former are an evil tree; the latter are a good tree. A tree is known of its fruits (Mt. 12:33), the fruits are of the same sort as the tree. But let us examine the fruits of love, that we may know love by its works, as we know a tree by its fruits. For love is known by its works and not by words.
Beloved Christians! If we had true love, then it would take every unhappiness away from us, and it would bring us happiness. Our cities, towns, villages, and homes would be a place of paradise, full of joy and sweetness, for there is no love without this. If there were love among people, we would not fear robbery, murder, violence and plunder, for love does not do evil to its neighbor.
If there were love, there would be no theft, robbery or other evils: love does not do evil to its neighbor. If there were love, people would not touch the bed of their neighbor [commit adultery]: love does not do evil to its neighbor. If there were love, people would not be subject to slander, reproach, abuse, railing, dishonor, and other evils: love does not do evil to its neighbor.
If there were love, people would not deceive us, they would not entice, they would not lie to us: love does not do evil to its neighbor. If there were love, we would have no need for places of judgement, for there would be nothing for which to judge and to condemn, inasmuch as there would be no evildoers or transgressors of the law. Trials were established for the sake of transgression. The man who truly loves is free of judgement as well as of sin.
If there were love we would not have any use for guards, locks and safes for the purpose of safeguarding our possessions, for they would not be in danger of robbers and thieves.
If there were love, people would not languish in prison for debts, foreclosure, and default, love would not allow them to come to this, "for love is… kind" (1 Cor. 13:4). If there were love, people would not go about in rags and half-naked, love would clothe them, for love is kind. If there were love, people would not wander about without homes, for love would not let them come to this, but would have given them a place of repose, "for love is kind." If there were love there would be no poor or wretched. The love of the rich would have supplied their wants.
If there were love, authorities would have no complaint against their subjects or the subjects against their authorities because authorities would have built up society and their subjects would be obedient to them. For this reason pastors would have no complaint against the people or the people against their pastors, masters against servants and peasants or servants and peasants against their masters, parents against children or children against parents, and so on.
If there were love among us, then it would stand for us instead of a strong wall, against Turks and the rest of our adversaries, and against all of our visible and invisible enemies. For where love is, there is God Himself, the helper and defender of love.
O love, lovely and sweet love! Without love everything is poor and miserable. With love everything is good and prosperous.
Now Christians love to live in rich homes, sit at a rich table, dress in rich clothing, ride in rich carriages and horses, though they may see the want and poverty of their neighbors. Hence it is evident that they only love themselves, and not God or their neighbors. From this comes every unhappiness, misfortune, and misery among people. Self-love is the cause of all this. For this reason, God, Who loves man, provided for our happiness and gave us this commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mt. 22:39). That was at a time when Christians "were of one heart and of one soul" (Acts 4:32). Now we see the opposite. Now among Christians it is heart against heart and soul against soul; now all have their lips full of love, or rather flattery, but very rarely is love in anyone's heart. For already "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Mt. 24:12).
Christians, woe unto us without love! Where there is no love there is no faith, for faith does not exist without love. Where there is no faith, there is neither Christ nor salvation. Christians, we confess God, Who is love. "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (deacon’s exclamation during the Liturgy).
Our every endeavor is powerless without the grace and help of God. A man can easily become debauched and so destroy himself, but he cannot correct himself and be saved without God. He can easily live according to the flesh as a boat floats down a river, but of himself he cannot stand against the flesh and live spiritually, as a vessel cannot of itself sail against the rush of the current. It must move either with rowers or with sails in the wind.
So a man must be helped in the spiritual life and in the work of salvation by a supernatural and all-powerful force. He must be victorious over his own self; but how can this be without the power of God present, which is able to do all things? So great is the corruption of our nature.
Up to now, the devil incessantly fights against man, and endeavors to lead him into sin, and to trap him in his snares. The temptations of the world surround him and entice him, and evil custom or habit draws him likewise. Hence we see that many begin to repent and live well, but are drawn off the good path and corrupted again.
And we cannot begin a good and Christian life, then, and live as Christians even to the end, without the almighty help of God. Those who test themselves know all this. For this reason the Lord says, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). At every hour and minute, then, we need the help of God. For this reason, O Christian, when you wish to live piously and be a true
Christian and so be saved, pray to God incessantly and beg help of Him with fervor. Just as according to His love for man God commanded us to pray and ask of Him every good thing, He also promised to give us what we ask for, and most of all what is needful for our salvation.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Mt. 7:7-8). Know, beloved, that a Christian without prayer is as a bird without wings and as a warrior without weapons.
Pray fervently, then, to Christ the Lord and give yourself to Him for direction, and He will correct and guide you to eternal life and blessedness according to His love for man. Only be careful and watch yourself, and seeing your care He will help you in everything. Read the Beatitudes, and the rest, often and with fervor.
The grace of God is the life of our souls. Our soul cannot be alive without the grace of God. For as our body lives by the soul, so our soul lives by the grace of God. Pray, then, always and sigh unto God that He give you His grace, and that He preserve you in it. We need the grace of God every minute. For this reason, sigh often from the depths of your heart, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thine Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me" (LXX-Ps. 50:12-14 [KJV-Ps. 51:10-12).
Whatever task you may begin, consider whether it is in agreement with conscience and with the Law of God, and whether it is truly profitable to you. When it is in accordance with the Law of God, begin and labor. When it is opposed to it, turn away from it lest you fall into the snare of the enemy who always seeks to catch a man in his snare. Not everything that seems useful to you is useful, but only that which is in agreement with healthy reason and the word of God.
At the beginning of every task call on the name of the Lord your God, and begin it with prayer, that the Lord may prosper you to begin it and complete it. And from this it is evident that a Christian ought not to begin anything that is contrary to the Law of God, but only that which is in agreement with it.
of the Divine Passion
Areal and powerful encouragement in the struggle against sin, and in the holy and Christian life, is the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ. Of this the Apostle says, "and if ye call on the Father, Who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's works, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet. 1:17-19).
Look, O Christian, at that by which you were delivered from sin, the devil, hell, and eternal death. Not by any perishable substance, but by what? By the most precious and priceless Blood of Christ, the Son of God. Then, of your own will, do you will not wish to sin and to offend Christ your great Benefactor with sin, and so cast yourself again into that very misfortune from which Christ delivered you by His most bitter suffering? This is as though someone who loved and pitied you delivered you from fire, or drowning, or captivity, or death, or prison, or some other such misfortune, and of your own will you gave yourself up again to that same misfortune.
That is what you do when you sin, and through sin you give yourself over to the devil again and cast yourself into eternal destruction. Sin is sweet to man, but its fruits are bitter and heavy — eternal death, "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
In the same way the treasure of eternal salvation was bought for us by nothing else but by the very Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is far more precious than the whole world, more than heaven and earth and the fullness thereof, because it is eternal and full of every good thing, eternal and incomprehensible, and it was purchased at an immeasurable price: Christ, the Lord of Glory and God, obtained it for us by His own Blood. Then do you wish to lose so great and incomprehensible a treasure by your own will? Christ snatched you out of destruction as He is almighty and gave you eternal blessedness as a precious pearl. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11).
Keep the faith, then, and guard it against your enemy the devil, who desires and attempts to seize it away from you and make you his captive. Struggle against this enemy; consider, then, the suffering of Christ and it will teach you every virtue.
Imitation of Christ
In order to correct yourself and become a true Christian, that is Christ's, set the holy life of Christ before your eyes and imitate its example. And even though your heart, corrupt as it is, does not wish it, force and convince yourself to imitate the beautiful virtues of Christ.
You look into a mirror so that you may know what is in your face, whether there are any blemishes in it, and having seen blemishes, you cleanse them. Let the immaculate life of Christ be a mirror to your soul, look into it often and know what is in your soul. Does it desire the same things that Christ desires? And does it do what Christ did when He lived on earth? And in it you will see what is contrary to the life of Christ, and you will cleanse it all like blemishes with repentance and contrition of heart. Christ the Lord despised honor, glory, and riches in this world, though He was able to have everything as the Master of all. Do you not seek honor, riches, and glory in this world?
Christ lived on earth in humility. Do you not live in pride and pomp? Christ was loving and compassionate. Do you not hate and harbor malice against men like yourselves? Christ being reproached no one. Do you not reproach anyone that in any way reproaches you; and worse than that, do you not reproach him, who in no way reproaches you? "You are a so and so," "You are a swindler," "You are a spendthrift," "You are a thief," and so on.
Christ was meek to all His revilers. Do you not revile those that revile you? Christ got revenge against no one, though He was able to destroy all His enemies in the wink of an eye. Do you not get revenge for any offense against you? Christ endured all things. Do you not complain and curse in any misfortune and suffering that comes your way?
So compare your soul with the life of Christ; and as you set your face before a mirror, set your soul before the mirror of the immaculate life of Christ, and take every care to correct and go after whatever you may see that is opposed to it. If you do so, then I assure you, that day by day you will become better, for it is impossible for him who looks often into that immaculate mirror not to correct himself.
Whoever truly wishes to be with Christ must follow after Him. Whoever wishes to be like Christ in glory must be like Christ in the present life. Not in vain did Christ say, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (Jn. 13:15). "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Mt. 10:38).
Consider these words carefully, and you will know and acknowledge to yourself that whoever wishes to be saved and enter into Christ's Heavenly Kingdom must follow Him. Whoever wishes to follow Christ into eternal life must follow Him with faith and love, in this life, and whoever wishes to come into Christ's eternal Kingdom must go by way of Christ — there is no other way there. Note what Christ says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life" (Jn. 10:27-28).
The sheep here signify true Christians that obey His holy teaching and live as He taught and that follow Him with faith, humility, love and patience, and so He shall lead them that follow Him into eternal life.
Consequently, they that do not hear His voice or His holy teaching and do not follow Him are not the sheep of Christ. And consequently, they shall not follow after Him into eternal life. This is a fearful thing, O Christian, but true. Consider these words of Christ for yourself and you will admit that it is so.
Beloved Christian! You must go by the safe way if you wish to enter surely into eternal life. What is the safe way? Live in this world according the example of the life of Christ. Then live thus, and you shall be saved.
Remember Your Baptismal Vows
Holy Baptism is like a door by which those that are baptized enter into the holy Church and become fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). And not just so, but before Baptism there are renunciations and vows:
1. We then renounced Satan and all his evil works. Satan is a wicked and evil spirit. He was created good by God, but he and those of like mind with him apostasized from Him, and so from light they became dark, and from good they became evil and wicked. His works are idolatry, pride, adultery, prodigality, all uncleanliness, slander, blasphemy and every sin; for he is the inventor of sin, and he beguiled our ancestors in paradise and led them into sin and apostasy from God. We renounce this wicked spirit and all his evil works before Baptism.
2. We renounce every vanity, pride and pomp of this world, as ones called to and renewed for everlasting life.
3. We promise to serve Christ the Son of God in faith and in truth together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to follow in His footsteps.
4. Thus we establish a covenant between God and us. We, who have renounced Satan, promise to serve God and be faithful to him. God accepts us in His supreme mercy and promises us an inheritance in everlasting life and the Kingdom, and washes us who are defiled by sin in the laver of Baptism. He sanctifies and justifies us, as the priest says over everyone who is baptized, Thou art washed, thou art sanctified, thou art justified (cf. I Cor. 6:11).
Beloved Christians, let us remember these renunciations and vows, and consider whether we keep them, for it is a grave thing to lie to God, and it is very dangerous to be found false before Him. Let us consider, then, whether any of us have not gone back to Satan, whether we have not renounced Christ and abandoned Him? Let us consider on whose side we find ourselves, on Satan's or on Christ's. One serves and belongs to him whose will he performs. He renounces Christ not only he who renounces His holy name and does not confess Him to be the Son of God and his Saviour, but also he who sins against conscience and recklessly breaks His holy commandments. This is the teaching of the Apostles. For the Apostle says, They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, and the rest (Tit. 1:16).
Do you see that people reject God in works too, and not just with their lips? Is anyone a prodigal, and does he commit adultery? He rejects Christ. Does anyone hate his neighbor and seek him out to harm him? He has apostasized from Christ. Does anyone steal; does he rob and take away his neighbor's goods? He has departed from Christ. Does anyone deceive and flatter his neighbor? He is no longer with Christ, but in all these things he submits to the enemy of salvation, and so he does not stand in the promises which he made to God, and so he has lied to God. Let us examine then, beloved, our conscience and our life. To which side do we belong, to Christ's or to His enemy's? To the good, or to the evil? To the lot of the saved or to that of the lost? He that is not with Christ is the enemy of Christ. For Christ Himself said, He that is not with Me is against Me (Matt. 12:30).
Beloved, let us watch ourselves and let us be with Christ here in this world, as we have vowed at Baptism: let us be with Christ here that we may be with Christ in the age to come, according to His promise that cannot lie, Where I am, there shall also My servant be (John 12:26). Let us serve Him here as our King and God, that on the Day of Judgment He will acknowledge us as His laborers and number us with His faithful servants and open unto us the doors of everlasting joy. Remember the vows made at Baptism.
So that you may act on the aforementioned points, you must remember the vows you made at holy Baptism. For though not you yourself but your sponsor made those vows before God on your behalf, you promised then, spitting on Satan, and on his pride, and on his service, and on his evil works-you promised, I say-and vowed to serve Jesus Christ your Lord and Redeemer in faith and in truth, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Consider, Christian, what vows you made and to Whom. It is a grievous thing to lie to a man; how incomparably more grievous it is to lie to God. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). When a Christian does not stand on his promises and does not keep them, what mercy, then, should he expect from God, to Whom he lied? He that keeps his promises shall find himself in God's mercy and in His Kingdom. He remains faithful to God, and God will hold him in mercy and in His protection as His own. And this is what the prophet sings to God, With the holy man wilt Thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt Thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse (Ps. 17:26-27).
Christians! All they that commit iniquity and act against their conscience do not keep their vows. These include fornicators, adulterers, and all defilers, robbers, thieves, brigands, the sly, and crafty, deceivers and the guileful, revilers and men of evil speech, drunkards, fault finders, the hateful, and the malicious; they that live in the pride and pomp of this world, and all that do not fear God. They have all lied to God and have not kept their vows, and are outside of the holy Church, though they may even go to churches and pray and receive the Mysteries and build churches and adorn them and display other signs of a Christian. Since they shall be powerfully put to the test at the Judgment of Christ and tormented more there than Turks and idolaters, avoid these deeds, Christian and do not imitate the aforementioned doers of iniquity, lest you be condemned with them to eternal fire by the just judgment of God, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44-8), but by all means endeavor so to live and act as the word of God teaches, as was said above.
Keep in mind those vows of yours, and this will guide you toward the Christian life and restrain you from every evil and do you good. If you notice that you do not keep those vows, then repent and begin the Christian life anew, lest you appear before God in a lie, and perish with liars. The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Apoc. 21:8).
(A chapter from The Journey to Heaven, translated by Fr. George Lardas)
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Missionary Leaflet # EA28b
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran