Are we perhaps fasting without it?
Lent is the par excellence period for repentance, and since
repentance is the only thing we have to show - and through
which we can aspire to earning God's loving Grace - we
consider it to be a very basic item.
First of all, we would like to begin with an introduction to
an aspect of repentance which is an ancillary one, and then
continue with a text on repentance by Saint john the
obstacle - or one of the greatest obstacles - for repentance
is the idea that we have of ourselves.
It is the ideal self, the imaginary self and the illusion
that we have of our self. The illusion that we have of our
self - that ideal self, the facade that we organized and
came to believe that it relates to our person - is precisely
what obstructs repentance; the obstacle when we seek to have
a truly spiritual life.
In our attempt to cover up our feelings of guilt, a
mechanism of reaction and repulsion is set in motion.
Instead of expressing or displaying our self and having a
proper contact with the reality of our self by noticing the
corruption of the divine image and seeking to restore the
beauty of that divine image, we resort to other devices. We
don't have the proper dialectic relationship with our guilt
to attain repentance. We repel our guilt. We react to
every single event - be it internal, in our conscience, or
an external one, with the intervention of people and
circumstances that God provides. We react to these, in
order to defend the ideal image we have of our self. This
symptom can manifest itself, not only in us and our family,
but in the Church also.
To get an idea of what this means: Events
are important in our day and age; there is the word
"catharsis" (cleansing) - the expression "catharsis in the
Church" is found in repentance. What does that mean?
In order to save our self and expel God's Grace from our
life, we choose to protect the image that we have of our
self as well as the one that others have of us. Thus, we may
admit our errors, however we still find an alibi for them -
and a way out; instead of our fall resulting in repentance,
we can restore our image in our own eyes or the others'.
That is why we speak of catharsis - at every level. We see
this in ecclesiastic events, but we function that way at
every level. During confession. What do we do? Here's an
example, to help you understand. We commit a sin, and we
wait for some time to pass before mentioning it to our
confessor, saying: "Oh, I didn't do it now; it was a month
ago." What else do we say - as an example? "I did commit
that sin, but I also made two hundred prostrations."
The penances of our Church - which
definitely have an educative value - are often also an
obstacle to repentance. For what
reason? Well, for example for penances such as: "if you
committed this sin, you will have this penance". Inside us
is created a struggle to "succeed". We don't understand that
penances have an educative value that aspires to restoring
our relationship with God, and they are not a limit which,
if we manage to overcome now, we are "alright". We make
an agonizing attempt to establish our compliance through the
penances and feel "OK" etc.. This however breeds guilt.
Morbid guilt. Not the kind that leads to repentance. So
man lives this kind of constraint and an attempt whose core
is the law which he has to comply with, and not an attempt
to free his heart and feel contrition before the Person that
he offended, that is, Christ, for having upset that
relationship with Him. Thus, in this context, for example,
we tend to say: "Yes, maybe we did go astray for a person of
the church, but we also attend to our catharsis (spiritual
cleansing) and our self-catharsis"; in other words, "Yes,
we erred, but we also have the strength to stay on our feet".
But that isn't what God wants. He wants our admission of
failure; He wants our contrition, not the reassurance of the
world, the recognition by the world, so we need to balance
out our image in His eyes, but only through contrition.
That is the problem with each individual, personally... It
is my problem, and perhaps your problem too - the attempt
whereby we can't escape from our idealized self. The
biggest problem is our idealized self - the image we have
formed of ourselves. The bigger problem is our own will,
which springs from that idealized self and conflicts with
God's will. In other words, we absolutize our own - our own
personal will - before the will of God. And what happens
Religiosity is a sick religiosity which exists so that we
might feel spiritual self-sufficiency in order to safeguard
our personal worth, but it has nothing to do with God and
nothing to do with repentance.
Repentance is merely a sadness that we feel, for having
become alienated from the idea that we had formed of
ourselves and are now striving to either suppress our
feelings of guilt or react dynamically towards those who
point out our errors and check us.
So, it is very important that we understand this - for
example, with the trembling that overcomes us when we think
about how we are supposed to confess: this is merely the
fear of exposing ourselves, and not a fear of God. It is
the fear of exposure - of being exposed, and as a matter of
fact, we react with an agony that needs to learn the other's
opinion of us. This psychological myth however is a brake,
for our direct communion with God. It is a brake that
hinders us from simplifying our lives and our relationship
That is how, in our attempts to save our image through the
illusion we have of our self, we observe the reaction of
repelling guilt, because we can't admit that repentance is a
form of healing, because repentance is an admission of
failure - the tearing down of the idol that we formed of our
self... the tearing down of our self-idolization.
The anxiety, the fear, the insecurity, the attempt to
protect our self - are because we don't believe in God, but
rather in our self, and, worried that this idol - this
illusion of our idealized self - might be torn down, we defend
ourselves against attacks by others, who check us for our
errors. Man thus loses his balance and thereafter has
another potential: in order to protect his idealized self,
he constantly projects his positive aspects. This is why he
resorts to good deeds - not as the fruit if a loving
relationship with God, but as a cloaking of his ugly self.
Quite often, our good deeds, our
struggles, do not have an underlying passion for God, so we
would like these to express it; unfortunately, they only
conceal our attempts to hide our faults - to hide our
handicaps in an attempt to display a good self.
To tell others that we are not the way it appears, but that
we have done this, that, and the other good deeds, thus
exerting an agonized (we could even say a forced) attempt to
uphold the good. If we don't succeed this way, there is
always another assistant for overcoming this dilemma:
repentance, or an inward turn towards the self. But, we
don't prefer repentance, because repentance signifies
complete failure - an admission of complete failure - and so
we choose to alter our conscience, by telling ourselves
"Look, this (repentance) does not belong in this day and age
- why should we observe things like that?"
Therefore our conscience is altered, by giving the truth an
illusion of virtue, by changing the ethos, by lowering the
standard of our life's ethos as suggested, so that we can
satisfy our conscience and feel OK with ourselves. An
alteration, therefore, of conscience, a relativizing of
the true ethos, a repulsion of guilt, and an attempt at an
artificial goodness which is our mask, our facade. So
gradually, a huge trauma is created - a serious illness -
and we no longer are in touch with the reality of our self.
If we delve into our acts, if we delve into social phenomena
or even ecclesiastic ones - the current ones as well as
those of other eras - and are afraid to admit "we failed",
then woe to us. We prefer to talk about the power of our
self, about keeping our self intact. But that isn't just a
fall; it is a demonic fall. In my attempt to not admit my
sin, I begin with prostrations. Then I go to my confessor to
tell him that I sinned... Yes, but then have you any idea of
the prostrations and the fasting that followed? So, what
are you implying? How were you healed? Was it the
Crucified Christ and His blood, or was it your ability to
find antidotes for your sin? Your self-catharsis?
We really are in need of repentance; it is most important.
However, we are blocked. How are we blocked? Well, for one
thing, by the idea we have of our self; in a sickness where
we have trust only in our self. A sickness of that
idealized self that we mentioned, as well as a group of laws
and penances that exist in the Church - not intended to free
us (supposedly), but to enslave us. Because you hear
comments like: "when you're told to do this, that and the
other before you can receive Communion, or this, that and
the other things you're doing are wrong, wrong, wrong, then
man (instead of seeing Christ more immediately and
genuinely) will strive, amid all those rights and wrongs
that should or shouldn't be done, wondering if he is now
"alright" or not, and what his confessor might now say - if
he will accept me or reject me...etc...etc..." Well, all
this will inevitably make us lose sight of what should be
done, and instead of us turning towards Christ, we resort to
our spiritual father. Instead of turning towards Christ, we
turn towards people's opinions.
Thus, the penances that were supposed to be understood as a
blessing inasmuch as they could help me educatively, in the
end (and in my immaturity and my false self whom I worship),
I choose to subject myself to the judgment of certain laws
whose essence and content I am ignorant of, for the sake of
continuing to worship that self. It is therefore extremely
important to realize that things are far simpler than what
we imagine, as long as we are aware that our salvation is
not our self - it is Christ. It is sufficient or us to know
that there is no need for prerequisites in
repentance....that is, I mean to say, that there are no
prerequisites for repentance that are dependent on us; that
the prerequisite for repentance already existed and still
exists: it is the Cross of Christ. It is up to us to accept
it. The only prerequisite that is
demanded of us is repentance. A prerequisite-free
repentance. A clean repentance.
So many people are tormented by the misery of their guilt,
because they are "afraid" of their confessor - afraid of his
evaluation, afraid of his rejection. How many of
us leave the greatest of God's gifts -
love - because we don't trust His mercy. And we don't trust
it, not because we are too strict with our selves, but
because we worship our self; because we have shaped an image
of our self that we tremble at the thought of losing it. It
is for the sake of that image that we live; it is for the
sake of that image that we claim Paradise. And we claim
Paradise mostly for the sake of our image, and not for the
sake of Christ's crucifixional sacrifice. This gives birth
to a suspicion around God Himself.
is no freedom like the one that the children - the sons - of
God have. We live this phobia we have of Him; we live this
suspicion we have of Him; we don't exactly trust Him. And
what does that do? Well, you know, when man lives his
spiritual facade, which has been built in an attempt to
satisfy ecclesiastic laws and makes him feel saved, instead
of feeling saved thanks to God's love, he has no inner
freedom. He struggles to do this and that, to achieve the
other, and within that morbid practice he is not set free,
he is not at ease, and that tightness brings him to the lust
of decadence, of sin of every form, and of every kind of
To give an example so
that we might understand all this: Let's say that a
certain brother causes us grief, or infuriates us. Claiming
that we are Christians, we try to respond the way God wants
us to. What do we do? We try to control ourselves. So
we struggle and we suppress ourselves - we try to push this
thing away. We try to suppress this event that became a
negative element inside us and we resort to oblivion as a
means of support. We simply try to forget. Then, when a new
cause appears, my passion rears its head again. For what
reason? Wasn't my stance the appropriate one? Even if it
wasn't, what else should have I done? Well, instead of
suppressing it, instead of trying to forget the incident and
turn to oblivion - essentially suppressing it inside me and
creating repressed situations,
I should pray. I should ask for God's Grace, to
provide me with love for my brother who sorrowed me. To pray
for that brother. Pray for God to give me discernment,
what does that stance - that move - declare? That my own
powers are not sufficient for overcoming the intrusion. It
also declares that I'm not interested in overcoming it in
order to create an image of a virtuous man; that I am more
concerned that whatever happens around me will connect me to
God and my brother.
2. Worshipping our own “virtues”
Then there's the
attempt at "virtue-ology".
We tend to remark that "ever since I was young, weren't we
told to do this and that in order to be "proper", and to try
to attain this and that virtue, and strive to do all sorts
of other things in order to become virtuous?" The thing is,
we just haven't realized that virtue springs from Christ.
And that no-one is holy, no-one is virtuous, except Christ.
And also that we should strive to be joined to Him, Who is
par excellence virtue and holiness. So we disconnect virtue
from the Person of Christ and try to exercise virtue on our
But what happens with that kind of attempt at virtue? It is
a demonic attempt at walling-off and vindicating our self.
That is why for years we -of the Church- find ourselves
saying "I tried, but can't find any joy". It's because your
attempt, your worship, was a worship of virtue; in other
words, a worship and a struggle to build up a virtuous image
of your self.
that has nothing to do with your relationship to God. The
Church proposes nothing of the kind. If She did propose
something like that, it would have been a moralistic system,
a system of morals, a legalism. And what is the definition
of moralism, of legalism? It is that very struggle to
objectify spiritual life - a sort of virtue-centered
attempt, and not a Christ-centered one. An attempt at
"virtue-ology" and not Christology.
is "virtue"? What hides behind virtue? My self. That is,
I struggle and I strive daily in church to try and build up
a virtuous person - my self - and not build an in-Christ
person. This attempt to build up a
virtuous person eventually shapes those supposedly Christian
nerds, who can't enjoy anything,
because they were never able to say "My God, I am a terrible
mess of a person; I am a wretch"... if they don't
decide at some stage to acknowledge from the depth of their
heart that "I am a wretch"...
to fall, to sin, so that we might come to realize that we
alone have nothing good to show on earth in His presence.
There is only one thing
we want: His love. If
that doesn't happen, we struggle, we turn into little
neurotics and we try doing one thing and the other, and - so
what? Our life is plain misery, a wretchedness. Within
that absence of inner peace, man becomes stressed
psychologically, then with more persistence he is led to
sins - especially the carnal ones.
When man does not find his identity in the body of Christ
and when he doesn't reach that complete sense of failure, he
cannot be saved. You can understand just how perverted it
is, when in the church we strive to show a positive face. It
is extremely annoying indeed, to say that priests are bad
people - after all, good ones do exist also. It is a mistake
to say things like that, as most of us are a mess; what
saves us is not the virtue of certain priests or bishops -
it is the Grace of Christ.
Thus the church's
attempt for example to say: "ok, so how many are
the good guys and how many are the bad guys? Let's see..."
leads to a battle between journalists and bishops. This is
a common sickness - the rejection of repentance... the
rejection of God's love. Look here - the world will not be
saved if there are five virtuous people. The world will be
saved, because there is a Christ Who was crucified. That is
where the delusion lies: in the attempt by our idealized
self to be transported to an idealized Church - an imagined
Church. The Church is warped and topsy-turvy, but She is
saved because there is a Christ Who was crucified. And that
is where our hope lies.
while we strive to preserve the image of our self in the
eyes of the world by creating an idolization of our self and
an illusion of our self, we are making a huge mistake in
thus trying to preserve the Church in the eyes of mankind.
We abolish Her, because She is no longer a repentant Church
but a Church undergoing cleansing.
Whatever we see in others and remark "Oh, that Bishop or
that Archbishop did such and such a thing...", it is we who
do it. It is our Fall. It is the common Fall of all of us,
and our hope is repentance. Our joy is in there. Repentance
So, now you understand that we have not actually learnt to
confess properly. And that with confession, we have demoted
ourselves to a psychological game of attempting to attain a
psychological balance and de-implication in order to
preserve the idea we have of our self; in order to haggle
over the satisfaction of our personal will with God... That
is not repentance, and it is not confession, albeit things
are far simpler. God asks nothing of you - all He wants is
to hear you say "I have sinned". But how do you utter an
admission like that? You first need to demolish your self -
the idea that you have of your self, your imagined self.
That's where the difficulty lies.
the Lord said that the load is light, that's what He meant.
Spiritual life seems like a heavy load to us, because we
don't look to Christ. We look to building a good self,
which requires a lot of labour and does not give us any
result. It does not bear any fruits. It does not pacify
man. Man cannot find repose. What are all those phobias
that befall us? They are phobias that we may not succeed.
And what is the phobia of not succeeding? It means I am
ignorant of Grace. The Grace of God that we speak of is
only in words and on papers, and God merely exists to award
me for my achievement.
Would you like to ask anything on this
matter? It was an introduction, so that we can move on, to
the words of Saint Chrysostom.
3. Questions / The banana peel painter
I am pursuing a spiritual struggle and I have been tormented
by a temptation for a period of time. But, if at one
point that temptation passes, I feel myself rejoicing...
that I somehow succeeded, so to speak. So, from what
I've heard, it must mean that....
Stratos tells us that he is pursuing a spiritual struggle
during a period of temptations and that when the temptation
departs, he feels happy, and is asking whether that is good
I beat the temptation. That I beat the temptation, yes.
say "I beat it myself"? You could of course say that I
beat it, with the grace of God. But is the true reason the
fact that I'm happy because I'm no longer pressured by
temptations? Am I happy now because I have gone to a higher
spiritual level? Or am I happy the way that a person
in love is happy, and gives a gift to his lover? In other
words, is the practice of virtue and the distancing from
temptation ascribed to the fact that I feel I'm a better
person? That my being a better person makes me feel
satisfied? Or, have I honoured Christ's love and
honoured His Person? And that way, I can thereafter
regard His Person unhindered? If temptation has
departed and has made me enjoy looking upon His countenance
even more, then I should rejoice even more, and say "Glory
to God" for having made it successfully. But, if the
overcoming of temptation is only so that I can see myself
clearer and admire myself and worship myself, well, that is
where the problem lies.
A group of friends who had visited the Elder Porphyrios had
a strange experience, when the Elder decided to show them
certain things. The Elder described an actual
incident: There was this political engineer who went
to the Daphne mental facility. As he walked towards the
technical department office to obtain some documents for the
upcoming project, some fifty yards inside the facility he
noticed one of the inmates. The lunatic was
whitewashing a wall...
I believe you've told us this incident a couple of years
ago? Continue, because there are some in the audience who
weren't here two years ago.
that person was
banana peel into a bucket of water. So the political
engineer approaches him and says: "Hey my friend, are you
whitewashing with plain water?" To which he replied:
"You are looking at one who was going to be robbed of his
fortune by his family - his houses etc... - something like
today's turn of events..."
turn of events?.....
continued - just before they got me committed to the asylum
I told them I had converted all my fortune into cans full of
gold coins... See that tree over there? The political
engineer - somewhat absentmindedly replied 'yes...yes...'.
Anyway, that's where I buried all the gold coins - under
that tree... Sooner or later, I will be released from
the asylum, I will go and dig up all my gold and leave the
others quarrelling among themselves... The
political engineer then asked him 'Could you show me which
tree you were referring to? I wasn't paying attention...'.
So the inmate showed him the tree 'There - that's the one..'
'Very well... good day to you...' said the political
engineer and went off to pick up the documents that he
required. However, around six or seven o'clock in the
evening, he began to be nagged by a sensation... He began to
think to himself 'this is a golden opportunity here - a real
fortune to be made! Are we going to leave it?' So,
around nine or ten o'clock at night he couldn't resist the
thought any longer; he grabbed a pickaxe and a shovel and
headed straight for that tree... He dug everywhere around it
- almost uprooting it - but no gold coins were to be found.
'Damn it!' he grumbled. But, when he got home - and
despite being exhausted from the treasure hunt - he still
couldn't fall asleep.
The next day he went to the asylum again, and there was the
inmate, busy "whitewashing" as usual.
Good morning, he said - how are you? Are you feeling well?
just fine, he replied - see: I'll be finished shortly.....
I ask you something?
you show me that tree again?
- it's that one, over there.
are you sure?
Me not sure? I buried the coins with my own hands!
I went there last night, I dug all around the tree, but
didn't find a single gold coin.
inmate turned and looked at him this way, then that way,
then he gave him a punch, threw down the banana peel and
grabbed him by the shoulder, shaking him in the hope of
bringing him to his senses, saying:
why I tell you my friend - grab a banana peel and start
is the difference between the evaluation we make of
ourselves to help us overcome difficult situations and the
tendency to present a false image of ourselves?
is one thing to evaluate ourselves, and presenting my false
self is another. A true evaluation of my self must be
based on the truth, on reality. And the realities are
two: the spiritual person, the charismas that a person
has - and every person has charismas. To begin with,
the first charisma is that we are images of God.
Regardless how blackened our image may be, we are still in
the image of God. Man must acknowledge this; he must
show respect to himself. That is the first evaluation.
The second evaluation is that God also gave certain
charismas to each person. Each person must find those
charismas and his aptitude. That too is an evaluation.
However, that doesn't mean that man has no weaknesses, or
that he doesn't make mistakes. The evaluation of our self is
not cast aside because of our mistakes. Quite the
contrary: it is through our mistakes (provided we don't see
our mistakes falsely and cover them up and turn them into
virtues to a degree, but instead, allow them to be the basis
for repentance) that we will actually discover the true
evaluation of our self. Because that way, we can see
that those mistakes which are a part of us - of our self
which is not rejected by God but can be forgiven by Him.
That is how we the least of all, the invalid, the dead, are
all revived within His love. And that is how we have a
more profound evaluation of our self, at an existential
God's love is a given,
both for those who repent as well as for those who have done
evil things in their life - God forgives them. But
isn't forgiveness one thing and what Christ had said is
another: "...live by the sword, die by the sword" ? In
other words, that whatever you did in your lifetime you will
eventually find before you?....
is somewhat of a spiritual law, Dimitri, which functions not
with a disposition for punishment, but with a
disposition for therapy.
mean, whatever you have done, will catch up with you
eventually; if you have done something evil, you won't get
away with it...
are two problems
that God won't forgive you. One may well become a saint,
like Saint Moses the Ethiopian... he was overcome by disgust
for his person, but he finally waited. Because he had
killed and robbed so many people, he just waited. He said to
himself that the barbarians will come and they will kill me.
That's how his life ended: he meted out death, but he
received death... he became a saint afterwards, but he was
meted out death. God forgave him, but he paid for all
the evil he had done. There's a difference between the
are two problems in people's repentance. One is
indolence and the other is despair.
Indolence appears, when, instead of administrating God's
love properly and staying within it and incrementing himself
within it, a person instead uses it as a justification of
his sin and a relaxing of his conscience. So, instead
of respecting God's love, instead of administering it
properly and making it the cause for an essential
development of our self, we manipulate it in order to
legitimize our sin. And that leads to indolence. That
is the one danger: when a person says "God is merciful" in
order to sin and justify himself. That is disastrous... it
is the temptation from the "right-hand"... There is the
other temptation too: the one that presents God as
vindictive, which will lead a person to despair....
4. You can keep sinning – I don't
I remember a spiritual
elder on the Holy Mountain, who was visited by a young man
that revealed his carnal sins to him. He discerned that the
young man - whether he sinned or not - was in the same
fallen state: in the worship of himself. And because
of that self-worship and narcissism, he didn't see any sin
involved. By making him see that not sinning didn't
make him more virtuous (because virtue is one's turning
towards God; it is repentance per se), he showed the
young man something that impressed me greatly when I heard
it (but I discussed this with him later on)... The
elder said to the young man "Oh, you can keep sinning - I
don't mind". This was intended to jolt the young man out of
the idea he had of himself - to help him hit rock bottom and
then say to himself "Hmmm... I have done nothing worthwhile
in my lifetime... I am a wretch...." When a
person admits he is a wretch, that is when he gets over
himself and his virtue as the measure of things, and
realizes that we are saved because of Christ's sacrifice -
not because there is something good about ourselves.
Also, that our entire struggle to become good is for the
purpose of remaining within those gifts of His sacrifice,
His gifts, and the fruits of that sacrifice. Thus, by
having observed that person's self-justification, his mania
to succeed in acquiring virtue, and in his desire to help
that person to be freed of that measure of himself, the
discerning elder showed disregard for both his virtue and
is an example that shows how repentance is another matter.
But being imprisoned within our tiny self, we don't partake
of God's gifts. We aren't liberated internally; we
haven't found inner repose. Our lives are without
surprises. Our relationship with God is without
surprises and we likewise have no surprises in the
relationships between us. There is no enthusiasm. There is
nothing unforeseen. Instead, we function with
emulative measures. We emulate the worldly way of
life. For example, what do we do in the church... We
say that we must gather people into the church, right? So,
what is the worldly method? How are children gathered? Well,
the world does it in such and such a way: so, let's transfer
that method into the church also.... Emulation.... There is
emulation, because man has lost his inner freedom.
Because he has no repentance. We however function with
emulative measures. We emulate the worldly way of
life. For example, notice what we do in the Church. We
say that we should gather people to come into the Church,
right? So, what do the people of the world do? How do
they gather the children? People do this, that and
that... so, let us too emulate it in the Church.
Emulation. It is about miming, because man has lost his
inner freedom; because he doesn't have repentance. Man
is not inspired. He has no surprises. He has no enthusiasm.
He doesn't do anything original - where his originality is a
revelation from God. In fact, we emulate the worldly way of
life in a bad way - in order to bring people to the
Church... a large number of people.
What we are in need of is for
a change in spirit; to become the carriers of Christ's kind
of spiritual freedom. But that requires repentance.
When parents don't know how to raise
their children they want recipes to do it. They ask,
they do, they observe; and they accordingly raise their
children as well as their relationship with their own
spouse. Because they are unable to function like that on
their own, as they have not become free internally in order
to recognize the essence behind relationships.
5. Saint John Chrysostom about
let's now see what Saint John Chrysostom has to say about
Sunday did you witness a war and a victory - a war by the
devil, and Christ's victory? Did you see how repentance was
praised, and how the devil couldn't bear the blow, but was
intimidated and terrified? What are you afraid of, devil?
Is it when repentance is being praised? Why do you wail,
why do you shudder? I do, he says. I am justified in
wailing and shuddering, because that repentance snatched
such important things away from me. What things? The whore,
the tax-collector, the robber, the blasphemer... Repentance
truly took many things away from him - it demolished his very
what repentance snatched from the devil and restored to
Christ? The whore, the tax-collector, the robber, the
blasphemer.... The blasphemer Paul, the robber on the cross,
the tax-collector through his humble prayer, the whore who
repented... So, what measure of morality is this? Is it
possible for a robber to enter Paradise first? It is
scandalous! Now can you see the Church's measure of
spiritual freedom? The austerity of the Church is such that
She does not water down Her wine, but the extent of Her
philanthropy is such that it turns a whore into someone who
can teach us something.
So, are you righteous? Then don't get too bold. Come to
Church, and stay righteous. Are you a whoremonger, an
adulterer, a criminal? Don't be afraid. Come, and say "I
have sinned". God is for you. You will see that your sin
can become the cause for a celebration. How can my
sin become the cause for rejoicing and a true celebration?
When you feel so indebted to the truth; that is, so bankrupt
on account of your sin, you are afraid to become exposed
even in your own eyes. You may be a thorough failure, but
you go to church and confess and repent and will obtain
absolution, forgiveness and be vindicated. What happened?
Not only weren't you rejected, not only were you tolerated,
but you also became a son in His Kingdom. Isn't that cause
enough for celebration? God
doesn't merely forgive you - He heals you. He doesn't just
heal you - He restores you. He doesn't just restore you -
He sanctifies you. With people, you utter a feeble apology
and they forgive you rather hesitantly. But here, He
doesn't only forgive you; He even renders you a son in His
Kingdom! So, isn't it a huge responsibility of ours, when
we persist in the misery of our own laws - in the misery of
our respectability - and don't repent or receive such a
great gift by God? But isn't that why He came into the
world? To give us that gift? Why then do we turn our backs
to God's love?
as Chrysostom the saint says - even if you are a sinner,
come to the church to deposit your sins; or even if you are
righteous, come too, so that you don't lose your
righteousness. Because the Church is a harbor for both.
know how beautiful and easy our life can become? Instead,
we are inclined to say... how shall I put it? I will
garnish the one sin; I will talk about the other sin
indirectly; I will want to justify the third sin so that I
don't spoil the image of my self and my idealized self... I
talk about my problems... I find excuses... I begin to
embark on thoughts, I then pass on to irrationalities...
And yet, all that's needed is something simple: to say a
sincere "I have sinned"...
Someone had approached
me once; I was deeply moved by the incident - a man came to
me during a funeral service that I was attending, and he
told me the following: "I want a friend of mine to come,
but I suspect he has a problem. He is probably a homosexual."
Well, I tried to see the matter this way, then that way... I
was somewhat hesitant. Then I began to apply logic,
intellectual analyses, pastoral aspects, foolishness... So
I responded by saying things like: "Yes, it's not so much
the sin, but these things are difficult to heal"
etc...etc... My wise guy attitude began to rattle off
philosophical things... In the end, the other person
asked me, in tears: "So, repentance isn't easy after all?
Does that mean we can place boundaries on God's love? Can't
repentance heal that person?" So I replied "You are
absolutely right. I was not thinking straight."
Finally, things are really simple. They become complicated,
because instead of declaring a huge, clear-cut "I have
sinned" to God, we tend to garnish our sins - either to
justify our situation, or to resort to various pretenses, or
to deny that something is a sin and just have hope with
various theories and philosophies.
And that's how we forfeit the gift. If we only resorted to
God unquestioningly and without doubts, with a profound "I
have sinned", we would open the gate that leads to
Paradise. That is the method for man to partake of God's
love. We need to dispose of our virtue. We need to remove
from our brain our virtue, our sin, our ideas, our
philosophies, our inventions... When all these are
discarded, and thus stripped stand before God, there is hope
Chrysostom continues: "Are you a sinner? Do not despair.
Instead, come to the Church and show repentance. Did you
sin? Say to God 'I have sinned'. How toilsome can that be?
How much time does it take? How much sorrow? How worrisome
is it, to say 'I have sinned'? Even if you didn't say that
you have sinned, do you think the devil won't be your
accuser? Make haste and snatch that office of his, because
being an accuser is his office. So, why don't you get there
before him and confess the sin in order to eliminate it,
knowing that you have an accuser such as him - who cannot
remain silent? Did you sin? Come to the Church. Tell God
you sinned. I ask nothing else from you - only that.
Because the Holy Bible says: Be the first to admit your sins
and you will be vindicated. Confess the sin, and be
acquitted of the sin. There is no labour involved, nor many
words or money to be spent, or anything like that. Just say
those words, acknowledge your sin, just say "I have
6. Cain and Abel
(you may ask) "How do I know that if I confess my sin first,
that the sin will be forgiven? Well, there's that incident
in the Holy Bible where a person was in fact absolved after
confessing it, and another incident with the one who didn't
confess it and was condemned for the envy that he bore.
Cain murdered his brother Abel, influenced by the envy he
bore against him. That envy had murder as its outcome - he
took his brother to the field and murdered him. What did
God then say to him? "Where is your brother Abel?" What -
do you imagine that God was asking because He didn't know?
God was merely inducing him to confess his sin and admit
that he had killed his brother. In other words, God had
acted educatively. He didn't want to say: "Look, I know that
you killed him". God tried to extract repentance from him,
so He said (with such discretion, right?): "Where is your
brother Abel?" He, the omniscient One, asks - not out of
ignorance - but only in an attempt to lure Cain the murderer
into repentance. He proved that He was not asking Cain out
of ignorance of the act, precisely by
where his brother was. Cain however responded by saying "I
don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" See what Cain was
striving to do ? He wanted to cover up his evil mistake, to
not expose himself. He tried to give an excuse, to find a
pretext. God was reaching out His hand for him, indicating
His desire to lead him to repentance so that He can say "you
are forgiven", but Cain instead found an excuse...
that how we are? We don't believe in God's love. We
believe in ourself only, and when we are checked by our
conscience or by others, we don't go and say "I have sinned"
and deposit our sin. We find excuses and pretexts. That is
why we don't have any inner repose. Why we have no joy. We
have no peace inside us. Alright, so you may not be a
keeper... but why are you a murderer?
did God say to him afterwards? "The blood of your brother
cries out to me from the earth." Then He immediately
continued, saying: "You have killed your brother." (seeing
that Cain didn't get the first message). Once again, God
seeks to bring him to a clearer stance: He checked Cain
immediately, then He added his punishment. But not so much
because of the murder. You know, Cain's punishment from God
was not on account of the murder per se. Then what was the
punishment for? Well, pay attention and you will understand
what the essence of our sin is.. Our sin is not that we
commit fornication or adultery or murder... our sin is
Observe what it is: God checked Cain immediately, and then
added his punishment - not so much on account of the murder
he had committed, but on account of his impudence. It is one
thing to sin, and another to be impudent and
disrespectful... His impudence also... because God doesn't
abhor the sinner as much as He does the shameless one, who
didn't have the courage to confess his sin... one who tried
to fool us... who tried to cover up his passions...
Consequently THAT was the issue, and not that God was
essentially "annoyed and meted out punishment". That is a
human notion, used in order for us to understand the
situation, expressed in a psychological manner; that it is
NOT about being punished by God for committing a sin... on
the contrary, it is sin itself that punishes us. Thus, for
example, the essence of sin did not fall upon mankind
because Eve tried the forbidden fruit and also gave it to
Adam. What brought on their fall? It was when God called
out to them and they went and hid themselves.
was the essence of their sin. They did not believe that God
is a father and that He would have forgiven them. They
reacted along the mentality of: "Oh, it was You that didn't
arrange things properly; You placed strict conditions,
strict laws. You are strict, and You intend to punish us.
We don't trust You, so we are hiding from You...." If they
had only gone and said to Him: "You know, that thing You
told us not to do, well, please forgive us for doing it - we
betrayed You, it was our mistake", mankind would not have
undergone the Fall... The Fall came after the act - it was
when they disbelieved in God's love and mercy. Our sin is
when we give excuses for our sin, and not for committing
it. It is our impudence and our disrespect.
course God did not accept the repented Cain -
because Cain didn't hasten to confess his sin first. So,
what did he say? "My sin is too great to be forgiven".
That was what Cain had in mind.... "my sin is too big to be
forgiven".... In other words, "My God, I am placing
boundaries on Your philanthropy - my sin is so huge that it
cannot be outflanked or covered by Your philanthropy.
Therefore You are to blame, for not actually being
philanthropical..." Now isn't that impudence? Isn't that
self-vindication? He should have said "I have committed a
huge sin; I am not worthy to live" - thus transferring the
responsibility elsewhere, not to God (for supposedly being
too strict, per his logic). He should have placed the guilt
on himself for sinning and thus being unworthy of living.
If he had said that, he would have thereafter become worthy
7. David and Nathan
However, in order to become aware that this is how things
are, learn how someone else was acquitted of his sin, after
confessing it himself in time. Let's go to David - the
prophet and king. Or, better yet, I prefer to call him
prophet because his kingdom was only in Palestine, whereas
his prophecy went to the farthest reaches of the world (and
of course because his reign came to an end after a short
period of time). His prophecy however contained immortal
Anyway, this prophet and king fell into adultery and
murder. Because apparently he saw this beautiful woman
bathing and fell in love with her. Who? A prophet! He then
went on to realize the things he had his mind set on: you
all know the story... Being a king, he sent that woman's
husband (who was an officer) to the first battle where he
would surely be killed, so that he could have the woman
to himself afterwards. That way, the prophet became guilty
of adultery - a pearl fallen into the mire.
However, he had not yet felt he had sinned; that's how
absorbed he was by that passion. Because when a charioteer
is drunk, his chariot will also move erratically, and that
which the charioteer and that chariot are, are likewise the
soul and the body, when the person's soul is sunken so deep
into a passion that it can no longer control the body....
If the soul is conquered by darkness the body will also be
wallowing in the mire, because as long as the charioteer is
in control, his chariot will be guided properly. If he
loses his powers however and can no longer pull in the
reins, then the vehicle will obviously head for the
worst... The same occurs with man. As long as the soul is
careful and alert, the body itself remains pure. But when
the soul is governed by darkness, the body will wallow in
the mud and carnal pleasures. So, what happened with
committed adultery, but couldn't perceive it, nor was he
checked by anyone - and this took place during his old age.
This should be a lesson, that if you are lax, old age will
not benefit you; nor again will a young age harm you, if you
are careful. Because a proper life is not dependent on one's
age; rather, the achievement belongs to one's
predisposition. After all, Daniel was twelve years old and
yet he judged a situation properly, whereas elderly men -
very old in years - committed the act of adultery and their
advanced age was of no use to them - just as Daniel wasn't
harmed by being so young. And - so that you know prudence
is not dependent on age but on predisposition - David
committed adultery and murder while he was in his very late
years, and was in such a state that he could not sense he
had sinned. This was because his charioteer-mind was drunk
what does God do? See what God did - what sort of educative
measure He used, through His prophet, Nathan: He sends the
king the prophet Nathan. A prophet is sent to a prophet.
The same applies with doctors: when a doctor falls ill, he
is in need of another doctor. The same happened here: The
sinner was a prophet, and a prophet was the one who brought
the medicine. So, Nathan comes to the king, but does not
immediately reprimand him, as soon as he walked through the
door, by saying: "You unlawful and detestable adulterer and
murderer - how many honors has God bestowed on you, and yet
you trampled on His commandments?" No, he doesn't do
anything like that. Why doesn't he? Because he knows full
well that when you go to someone who is drunk with
intemperance - when he is steeped in his passion and is at
the height of his sin - if you do reprimand him with such an
abrupt manner he - in his attempt to defend himself - will
become even more aggressive and will not heed the words that
you tell him. A special handling is therefore necessary;
when someone sins (we know) there are certain people who go
contrary to the Church and like fools, retort "what
atheists, what scoundrels, what insidious characters, what
that sinner is at the height of his passion, his fury, and
you aggravate his fury? God Himself in this example sent a
prophet to the prophet who was a murderer and adulterer, but
without aggravating his passion, in order to evoke a
reaction, but not to upset him; just to educate him for
repentance. We however are inclined to immediately pounce
on him and stress the other things. Do we offer that person
a treat and at the same time expose the passions he has, and
his sins? Subtlety is needed. Discernment is needed, if we
truly want to address the person who is outside the Church.
If we don't show him love, then we are the ones who are
outside the Church. Furthermore, there are no such things
as "powers of light" and "powers of darkness"... What do
they mean by "the Church is under attack by the forces of
darkness" ? Does that imply that we are luminous? Only
Christ is luminous. We are not self-luminous; we draw from
His luminosity - His Light - and in order to draw from His
luminosity and His Light, we need to extinguish our own
lights which are fake... when we pretend to be illuminated.
All of us are darkened... we are all in the dark....
- Nathan approaches David, but doesn't reproach him straight
away, as soon as he went through the doorway. What does he
say then? He begins to narrate a hypothetical story, in
order to eventually get him to check his own actions - to
educate him by means of an educative method, so that David
will admit his sin on his own. Nathan did not say anything
obvious, which would have incited impudence (because when
sins are uncovered, they lead the sinner to impudence - he
will say to himself "well, since they know about my sins,
then I might as well continue committing them and keep
enjoying myself"). So, Nathan approaches him and unfolds a
drama about a trial. And what does he say? Do you know?
(There are some who ask me "Father, should I tell him that
he has sinned?" I say "No, don't tell him. Because he will
think to himself 'since I have done what I've done and have
disgraced myself, I may as well keep doing it and enjoy it'.
Otherwise, he will be more reserved - knowing he hasn't been
exposed - and there is a chance he will control himself a
little. Quite often, when we bring a sin to the light and
continually project it, we render it legitimate and we
change the measure of our life's morality...)
Nathan unfolds a hypothetical drama involving a court case
and asks the king for his judgment: "There was a rich man
and a poor man. The rich man had oxen and large herds of
animals, whereas the poor man had only one ewe, who used to
drink from his cup and eat from his table and sleep in his
arms. (This was his way of indicating the pure relations
between a man and a woman). Then along came a stranger and
the rich man wanted to spare his own animals, so he took the
poor man's ewe and slaughtered it. (Do you see how he
unfolds the dramatic story, by concealing the knife inside a
sponge? He was stabbing the king with kid gloves.) How did
the king respond? Well, by believing that he was expressing
his opinion on someone else, he pronounced a very stern
decision. (Because that's how people are: they reach
decisions that pertain to others with great pleasure and
harshness, but when it concerns us personally, they switch
to an entirely different mentality.) So David says: "In the
name of the Lord, that man is worthy of death and he should
make restitution for the ewe, fourfold!"
now is the right moment; having brought David where he
wanted, Nathan began the surgical procedure, without further
ado (because quite often, too much leniency or too much
severity can be damaging; we need to sense the measure that
applies to each person and to our self). The surgical
"strike" is implemented at the suitable moment. What did
Nathan say? He didn't soften his stance after the surgical
strike, but instead, he voiced his own opinion - cutting
deeper into the surgical section - so that he doesn't
deprive the king of the sensation of pain. He brought the
king to an awareness; he presented him with the measure of
morality, and then he "stabbed" him so that the pain might
function therapeutically (without pain there can be no
therapy or repentance).
this is what he said: "That was you, my king. You were the
rich man of the story." Nathan didn't begin to attack him
personally; he merely brought him to the point of awareness
and admit "I have sinned before the Lord". He didn't say
"Who are you to check me? Who sent you to address me so
outspokenly? Me? The king and prophet? How dare you attempt
something like that?" David said nothing of the sort.
Instead, he was alerted to his sin, and remarked "I have
sinned before the Lord".
What did Nathan say to
him after that? "And the Lord has forgiven your sins.
You condemned yourself, and I will overlook your
conviction. You confessed your sin gratefully and have
erased it. You condemned yourself and I have rid you of the
Can you see
how the following wise saying is confirmed : "Admit
your sin first, and be vindicated."
Source of images: Orthodox
blog "Pithless Thoughts"