The light yoke

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Matthew 

In today’s Gospel, the Lord invites us to cast off the heavy burden of sin and take up the light yoke of His commandments: 

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:27-30

St. Theophan the Recluse describes how this change comes about in the heart of a repentant sinner: 

“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” O divine, O dear, O sweetest voice of Thine! Let us all follow the Lord Who calls us! But first we must feel something difficult and burdensome for us. We must feel that we have many sins, and that these sins are grave. From this feeling is born the need to seek relief. Faith will then show us that our only refuge is in the Lord and Saviour, and our steps will direct themselves toward Him. A soul desiring to be saved from sins knows what to say to the Lord: “Take my heavy, sinful burden from me; and I will take on Thy easy yoke.” And it happens like this: the Lord forgives the sins, and the soul begins to walk in His commandments. The commandments are the yoke, and sins are the burden. But comparing the two, the soul finds that the yoke of the commandments is light as a feather, while the burden of sins is heavy as a mountain. Let us not fear readily accepting the Lord’s easy yoke and His light burden. In no other way can we find rest unto our souls. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 135 

Here the saint has given us a step by step explanation of how the good change from walking on the path of perdition to walking on the path of salvation takes place in the soul:  

1. We must feel the burden of our sins, that they are many and are grave. 

2. From this feeling is born the need to seek relief. 

3.    Faith shows us that our only refuge is in the Lord and Savior. 

4. Our steps will direct themselves toward Him, and the soul knows what to say: Take my sins from me, and I will take on the yoke of Thy commandments!  

5. The Lord forgives the sins, and the soul begins to walk in His commandments.  

St. Theophan, of course, was writing for a readership of Orthodox Christians baptized in infancy, who were struggling with the sins that they committed after Baptism.  But the process of repentance is the same, whether one is still in need of the Mystery of Holy Baptism or one is a baptized Christian who needs the second Baptism of the tears of repentance.  And the process is the same for every human soul, for every soul needs Christ for relief from the burden of sin; every soul needs to take upon itself the light yoke of God’s commandments and to find salvation through Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only refuge of salvation. 

Not every human soul, however, responds to God’s call to Faith in the same way.  There is the worldly mind, the mind of unbelief, and there is the otherworldly mind, the mind of Faith.   Let us see how these two different minds work at each step of this five step process that St. Theophan has described:  

1.  Every human being feels the pain of bearing the burden of sin, but the worldly mind feels it only unconsciously or, when aware of it, ascribes it to something other than sin; it does not want to talk about sin.    The mind of Faith, on the other hand, says, “Yes, I have sinned; I see that my pain comes from my own choice, and that the only real evil for me is my own sin.  Nothing need separate me from God, if only I can repent!”  

2.  Every human being seeks relief from this pain of sin. But how the worldly mind seeks relief and how the mind of Faith seeks relief are two different things, and between them is a great chasm.  One can only go one way or the other. 

3.  The worldly mind seeks relief in worldly remedies, some that are noble or some that are ignoble:  Being a do-gooder or being an evildoer;  being a good citizen or being a criminal; taking up some non-Christian ascetic ideology like vegetarianism or teetotalism, or being a glutton or a drunkard; being a philanthropist or being a miser – either way the result is the same, which is that the worldly relief does not heal the soul but rather only anesthetizes the soul from the pain of the consciousness of sin and the need for humility and repentance.   The mind of Faith, on the other hand, understands that all of these remedies are useless; the soul understands that it can find relief only in Christ, for all human efforts are worthless apart from faith in Christ.  So the mind, in concert with the will, says, “Yes, I assent to the truths of the Faith,” and God gives the grace of Faith.  

4.  The worldly soul directs its steps on the path of pride, whether according to the higher or lower passions – the result is the same.  If the worldly person delights in the acts of goodness, he says, “I will follow the moral law my own way; one need not believe in this or that religion, but only be a good person.”  If the worldly person delights in the acts of evil, he simply indulges his passions.  But both are following the demonic mind, the mind of pride and self-chosen damnation, and the result is the same.  The former person may find an even greater punishment than the latter, for his pride may have been increased more by his good behavior than the other’s by his bad behavior.   The soul that lives according to Faith in Christ, on the other hand, directs its steps on the path of humility.  He knows that only the Lord Jesus Christ can take away his sins; his own behavior, unaided by Faith and Grace, cannot do this, no matter how hard he tries.  He takes up the yoke not of some universal moral law or humanistic false virtue,  but rather he takes up – consciously,  specifically, and explicitly – the yoke of Christ’s commandments in the Gospel, and the experience of his constant inability to rise to the perfection of the Gospel inspires in him humility and complete dependence on grace.   This is why the yoke is light:  because at some point we realize we cannot carry it, and the Lord Who laid this yoke on us also carries it for us!  

5. The person who has the mind of the world finds a pseudo-salvation through temporary worldly happiness, whether of the higher or lower kind.   But his sins are not forgiven, because he has not come to Faith and repentance; he still carries the heavy burden of his sins, because he has not surrendered it to Christ in return for the light yoke of repentance.   The person with the mind of Faith finds forgiveness and salvation.   His soul is as light as a feather, for its burden – the burden of sin, the devil, death, and hell –  has been taken away and replaced by the light yoke of Christ, Who has already borne for us His Cross, which takes away all our sins.  

Dear Orthodox Christians, may we, every day, cast aside our passions and sins, and the dark thoughts that torment us, seeking not to numb our souls with the distractions and false promises of this world but rather choosing to face the pain of our sins consciously and seek the remedy where it is to be found, in tears of repentance to the Lord, Who takes from us the heavy yoke of sin and grants our souls feeling and light, as we rest in the unassailable refuge, in the shadow of His wings. 

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Save your soul with fear of God

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Matthew 

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The reading from the Holy Gospel today is Matthew 11: 16 – 20. 

The Lord said: But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. 

St. Theophan the Recluse likened the unrepentant sinners to whom Christ addressed these words to his contemporary, 19th century Orthodox Russians who were living mindlessly for this world, insensible to death and God’s judgment:  

The Lord says that we, not heeding the Gospels, are like those to whom merry songs are sung, but they do not dance; sad songs are sung, and they do not cry. You cannot do anything with them. We are promised the heavenly Kingdom, most bright and joyous, but we are unmoved, as if they were not speaking to us. We are threatened with impartial judgment and unending torments, but we are not alarmed; it is as if we do not hear. Downtrodden, we have lost all feeling of true self-preservation. We move as ones being led directly to destruction, and have not a care for our destiny. We have lost heart, given ourselves over to carelessness—what will be, will be! Look at our state! Is not this why suicides are so frequent? It is the fruit of modern teachings and views on man and his [in]significance! There is progress for you! There is enlightenment! It would be better to be totally ignorant, but save your soul with fear of God, than, having attained the title of an enlightened person, to perish unto the ages, never thinking your entire life about what will happen after death. Not a single jot shall pass from the word of God, which describes both the heavenly kingdom and hell—all will be as it is written. Take this to heart, everyone, as something which touches you personally; and take care for yourself, with all your strength, and as long as time remains. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 133-134 

Our Lord in His time was rebuking not outsiders, not the Gentiles, but the Chosen People, the members of the Old Testament Church.  St. Theophan likewise applied the words of Christ to members of the New Testament Church, the Orthodox Christians of his own time.  Today, to profit from the Lord’s admonition, we must direct His accusation at ourselves.

St. Theophan accuses the false education of his time for creating this indifference of baptized Orthodox Christians to the hour of death and God’s judgment.  The science, falsely so-called, of the apostate West had by the late 19th century destroyed the minds of a critical mass of the Russian aristocracy, intelligentsia, and clergy, and therefore when a certain foreign element engineered the Revolution, the weakened and effete souls of the Russian leadership class could not resist it, did not even want to resist it; many of them even danced with suicidal joy as the Revolution rose up and devoured them.    Liberal clergy and academics who escaped the wreck of their nation fled to Paris and other Babylons of apostate worldliness like New York, and, they went right on, not missing a beat, setting up academic comfort zones where they could continue to propagate the lies of liberalism and modernism that had enabled the triumph of Marxism, utterly shameless, oblivious to their guilt for the catastrophe which they and their mentors had done so much to create.   Their intellectual heirs today are the superstar academic theologians – so-called – of World Orthodoxy who teach ecumenism, universalism, and the re-interpretation of Holy Scripture in the light of evolutionism. 

What do the teachings of all of these pied pipers of apostasy, who claim to be Orthodox theologians, have in common?  It is the spirit of Antichrist, for they do not claim to attack Christ but rather the opposite:  they claim that they are teaching the truth about Christ !  But behold the fruit of their teaching in their disciples: indifference to the literal reality of the coming judgment, supercilious self-satisfaction posing as virtuous moderation, and an Epicurean enjoyment of the physical and psychic beauties of Orthodoxy without  bearing the cross of confessing the hard truths of Orthodoxy to the apostate world.  Their assignment from the demons, who are their masters, was the task of destroying that single-minded and pure-hearted zeal for the salvation of souls which alone will enable us to escape the wrath that is to come. Judging from the typical sermon one hears from the amvon on any given Sunday, they have performed their task quite well.

The false teachings of these men include a denial of the literal reality of the Six Day Creation and of the universal Flood of Noah; they claim that one can reconcile the fairy tales of Darwinism with the truth of Holy Scripture.    For them and their disciples, the history of the world stretches back endlessly into a time so great as to be unreal, and stretches forward into the future in the same manner:  both the Creation and the Second Coming as taught in Holy Scripture are really just images, metaphors for, well, something or other quite abstract and far away, that can only be described accurately by experts like them, in long, boring pages of mystifying rigamarole.   Those who believe in such things will live according to this belief, which means that they will live for this world and not the next. They will not escape the wrath that is to come.

Another one of their fond imaginings is that heaven and hell are not places but “states of mind.” This is so vague and so incomprehensible to the ordinary mind that it must be highly intelligent, even spiritual…right?    But here is how a real Orthodox teacher, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov teaches us to think about hell:  

Frequently enumerate the eternal woes that await sinners.  By frequently docketing these miseries make them stand vividly before your eyes.  Acquire a foretaste of the torments of hell so that at the graphic remembrance of them your soul may shudder, may tear itself away from sin, and may have recourse to God with humble prayer for mercy, putting all hope in His infinite goodness and despairing of yourself.  Recall and represent to yourself the terrible subterranean gulf and prison that constitute hell.  The gulf or pit is called bottomless.  Precisely!  That is just what it is in relation to men.  The vast prison of hell has many sections and many different kinds of torment and torture by which every man is repaid according to the deeds he has done in the course of his earthly life.  In all sections imprisonment is eternal, the torments eternal.  There, insufferable, impenetrable darkness reigns, and at the same time the unquenchable fire burns there with an ever equal strength.  There is no day there.  There is always eternal night.  The stench there is insupportable, and it cannot be compared with the foulest earthly fetor.  The terrible worm of hell never slumbers or sleeps.  It gnaws and gnaws, and devours the prisoners of hell without impairing their wholeness or destroying their existence, and without ever being glutted itself.  Such is the nature of all the torments of hell; they are worse than any death, but they do not produce death.  Death is desired in hell as much as life is desired on earth.   Death would be a comfort for all the prisoners of hell.  It is not for them.  Their fate is unending life for unending suffering.  Lost souls in hell are tormented by the insufferable executions with which the eternal prison of those rejected by God abounds; they are tormented there by the unendurable grief; they are tormented there by that most ghastly disease of the soul – despair. – The Arena, chapter 28, “On the Remembrance of Death” 

The worldly man recoils at such words, not only, or even primarily, at the simplicity and the horror of this description of the torments awaiting him, but primarily because he cannot accept the way of escape that the saint offers to him:  “Acquire a foretaste of the torments of hell so that your soul may shudder, may tear itself away from sin, and may have recourse to God with humble prayer for mercy, putting all hope in His infinite goodness and despairing of yourself.”   The pride of the fallen mind cannot abide such words; it runs instead to fabricate its own imaginary escape from the torments to come in the form of a delusory intellectual construct.    Such a man may say that he believes in God, but in fact he believes in the powers of his own mind.   He will write “I did it my way” on his tombstone and go to burn in hell.  

We, however, most certainly need not go this way of pride, despair, and damnation.  We can choose the narrow but joyful path of simplicity of heart, accepting the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition of the Church as they are taught to us clearly by the saints.  Let us acquire the mind of the saints, which is the mind of Christ, and with non-reliance on our fallen minds and wills, with all-daring hope in God’s mercy towards sinners, obtain that firm hope of salvation that He desires to grant those who believe in His Word with purity of heart. 

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All shall be made known

Thursday of the Third Week of Matthew

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In today’s reading from the Holy Gospel, the Lord assures His faithful ones that their struggles will not be in vain:

The Lord said to His disciples: When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10: 23 – 31).

It is a curious feature of our fallen nature that no matter how often we hear Christ telling us that suffering, rejection, exile, etc. mark the life of a true disciple, when we actually do suffer, we conclude that we must be doing something wrong. If we were “good people,” would not everyone like us and praise us? Would we not be, in fact, the toast of the town? Would we not – at least! – have peace and plenty? So we conclude that we must be missing something, that we did not get the memo.

In today’s reading, however, Our Lord assures us once again that exile and persecution mark true discipleship, and therefore we should not get rattled when trying to follow Him creates problems for us, even problems that are so great as to seem impossible. No, we do not have perfect discernment, and yes, we make mistakes – too much zeal or too little, speaking out of turn or not speaking at all, making promises to God we cannot keep or being too afraid to promise anything, offending people without need…or not offending them enough (and, believe me, there are people who need to be offended). We are not perfect – well, join the human race. But it is still far better to be like Peter and step out on the waves, though we mostly have no idea what we are doing; all we know is that the Master has said, “Come.” This is enough. With enough hard knocks, discernment will follow, if we humble ourselves and just keep going.

We know that our Orthodox beliefs concerning just about everything run contrary to the way most people think today, and this makes us lonely. But we should rejoice, because the Lord promises today that our witness will some day be vindicated before all mankind at the Dread Judgment. Of course, the corollary to this is that our failure to witness will also be exposed in the light of God. This should motivate us greatly to stay the course.

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Enduring skillfully

Wednesday of the Third Week of Matthew

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In today’s Gospel, the Lord promises His disciples that they who endure to the end shall be saved:

The Lord said to His disciples, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved – Matthew 10: 16-22

St. Theophan the Recluse gives us a to-do list of concrete measures to take in order to endure wisely unto salvation:

…Do we have anything to endure? In this no one is lacking. Everyone’s arena of endurance is vast, and therefore our salvation is at hand. Endure everything to the end and you will be saved. However, you must endure skillfully – otherwise you may not gain anything by your endurance.

First of all, keep the Holy Faith and lead an irreproachable life according to the Faith. Immediately cleanse with repentance every sin that occurs.

Second, accept everything that you must endure from the hands of God, remembering firmly that nothing happens without God’s will.

Third, give sincere thanks to God for everything, believing that everything which proceeds from the Lord is sent by Him for the good of our souls. Thank Him for sorrows and consolations.

Fourth, love sorrow for the sake of its great salvific power, and cultivate within yourself a thirst for it as for a drink which, although bitter, is healing.

Fifth, keep in your thoughts that when misfortune comes, you cannot throw it off like a tight-fitting garment; you must bear it. Whether in a Christian way or in a non-Christian way, you cannot avoid bearing it; so it is better to bear it in a Christian way. Complaining will not deliver you from misfortune, but only make it heavier; whereas humble submission to God’s Providence and a good attitude relieve the burden of misfortunes.

Sixth, realize that you deserve even greater misfortune. Recognize that if the Lord wanted to deal with you as you rightly deserve, would He have sent you such a small misfortune?

Seventh, above all, pray, and the merciful Lord will give you strength of spirit. With such strength, when others marvel at your misfortunes, they will seem like nothing to you.

 – from Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 129-130

Now there we have a handy to-do list to print out and put on the refrigerator!

St. Theophan makes several points here, but I should like to expand on three: That we all have something to endure and therefore our salvation is at hand, that we actually deserve greater misfortunes than those which we receive, and that above all we must pray.

First: “…therefore our salvation is at hand.”   The spiritual struggler will lose hope if he sees this life as a dark tunnel with no end in sight. The devil would certainly like for us to see it this way. But this is an illusion.   When one thinks of the thousands of years since the Creation, and all the human generations before us, and the illimitable expanse of the aeons of the invisible universe inhabited by the angels, and the endless joy of the saints in heaven…one realizes that one is a very little person after all, that this life is short, and that all that matters is whether we please God in our short trial or not. This life is a sprint, not a marathon. Soon all will be over here, and our real life – or real sufferings – will start there. Is it not worth our while to endure for this short time?

Second: “…realize that you deserve even greater misfortune.” St. Ignaty Brianchaninov, in The Arena, is more explicit: One should realize that one deserves every temporal and eternal punishment.   Why is this? It is because the infinitely holy and good God has lavished His love on us, but we sin against Him. What misfortune would be sufficient to punish such ingratitude?   But the Lord does not visit such misfortune upon us – nothing we suffer is commensurate with what we deserve.   The proud human mind says that this teaching is a false image of a cruel god. The humble mind realizes that this is very Good News indeed, for it signifies that God desires our salvation, and that the misfortunes He sends us are not retribution but cleansing, because He wants us to be with Him once more in Paradise.

Third: “…above all, pray…”   The time of misfortune is actually the most opportune time for prayer, because it is a crisis, a moment of judgment, when we either go more deeply into prayer or we run away from God into illusory solutions to our predicament. When we do turn to God in great pain of heart, in the midst of suffering, our prayer deepens, we feel His presence, and we understand that we are made not for this life but for another world, that our home is not here but there, and this thought becomes the source of inexhaustible consolation. Prayer changes from being an interruption to our supposedly real life to the content of our really real life. We start praying more frequently, even constantly, and with greater fervor and attention.  This in turn gives us greater strength to endure the present misfortune and those yet to come.

Living in this way, we come to know in our experience the meaning of St. Paul’s words, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose… For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:28, 38-29).”

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The only way out of our delusions

Saturday of the Second Week of Matthew

In today’s reading from the Apostolos, St. Paul tells us flat out that no human being is naturally pleasing to God or can become so by earthly means.

Brethren: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. – Romans 3:19-26

Today everyone is yelling and screaming to prove that he is better than that other person out there, who is evil and needs to be silenced and, perhaps, even destroyed. St. Paul has the answer to this: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Today everyone is casting about for materialistic solutions to what are essentially spiritual problems. St. Paul has the answer to this: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Today those of the educated class believe that they can discover the roots of evil through psychology or sociology or political science or historical analysis. St. Paul has the answer for this: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

We need to remind ourselves constantly that apart from the grace of God and the forgiveness through Jesus Christ, apart from enlightenment and protection from above, we are naturally in continuous communion with malicious demons who are invading our minds every minute, giving us false opinions, aggravating our sinful passions, and impelling us to bad decisions, sinful behavior, and the destruction of community, family, and self. This is just the way it is. And this is true of everyone, not just the obviously wicked.

Though we are baptized Orthodox Christians, we easily forget this truth, rely on our own righteousness, forget to abide in constant mourning over sin, forget death and God’s judgment, and live in delusion. Every single man and woman born on earth functions constantly under the influence of delusions to a greater or lesser degree, except that those who sincerely believe themselves worthy of every temporal and eternal punishment, who cast their care entirely on the Lord, and abide in constant repentance, are on the way out of delusion.

Grant us, O Lord, in this holy fasting season, the grace of repentance!

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How not to get fooled

Tuesday of the Second Week of Matthew

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Today’s reading from the Holy Gospel is Matthew 7: 15-21 

 The Lord said:  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

St. Theophan the Recluse reminds us that there are false prophets in every generation, and he cites the example of the false prophets of his time, the scientistic ideologues and liberal churchmen of the late 19th century, who were promising a utopia on earth based on “progress” and “freedom” apart from Christ and the Church:  

Beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15). From the beginning of Christianity and to this day there has not been a time when this warning was not applicable. The Lord did not indicate exactly which false prophets to beware of,  for how could they be pinpointed? They change like fashions and are continually generating more like them. They always appear in sheep’s clothing, with a likeness of good will in their deeds and a mirage of truth in their speech. In our time their clothing is sewn of progress, civilization, education, freedom of thought and deed, a personal conviction which does not allow for faith, and such like. All of this is a deceptive cloak. Therefore, if you come across this show of clothing, do not be hasty to open your ears to the words of “prophets” dressed in such clothes. Examine closely whether there is a wolf concealed under this sheep’s clothing. Know that the Lord is the only motivator toward true perfection, the sole softener of hearts and customs, the sole educator, the sole giver of freedom and filler of the heart with a feeling of the truth which forms a conviction so strong that nothing in the world has the power to shake it. Therefore, as soon as you perceive in these new “ prophets’ ” talk some shadow of contradiction to the teaching of the Lord, know that they are predatory wolves, and turn away from them. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 123-124

This dream of “civilization,” “freedom,” and “progress” has utterly failed by now, of course, as we all know, though some blind souls still believe in it – witness the absurdly fatuous  faith placed in the “science” establishment during the Covid psy-op of recent years.    Sensible folk, however, have come to realize that “progress” towards a “better world” based on “science” is a long-discredited 19th century myth, not a reality.  It is simply another false religion that needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history, another example of false prophets’ leading the masses astray. 

Our own time, however, has produced its own false prophets, and there are so many, whose teachings are so varied, fragmentary, and outrageous, that public life has degenerated into a vast psychiatric hospital where the lunatics are in charge.   Amid the chaos, the only reliable and sane voice is that of the Church, for alone now of all societal structures and sources of meaning, the Church remains what She has always been:  the one Body of Christ, the one society based on the Truth with a capital T, the Rock Who is Christ.  

Knowing, however, that even the vast majority of the historical Church leadership has now joined the Gadarene rush into the swirling waters of postmodern relativism via the globalist ecumenism project, one is faced with the challenge of discerning who are the wolves in sheep’s clothing at the head of what appears to be the Church.   This is not an entirely new situation; we all know of several times in Church history when the state-approved power structure became heretical and the real churchmen were disorganized, outwardly disunited, few, and banished to the margins, like now.    There are, however, notable attributes of our situation which distinguish it from similar situations in the past. Here are three of them:   

1. The techniques and technology of deception have been perfected to the extent that very few people can separate the virtual from the real.  Most people now base their perception of reality on visual images and short verbal messages seen and heard on the Internet.  

2.  In Orthodox circles, a bewildering multiplicity of visions, signs, wonders, dreams, myrrh-streaming icons, miracles of “elders,” and so forth – all heavily marketed on the Internet –  have become the decisive criteria for discerning the boundaries of the Church, replacing the traditional criteria of the Scriptures, the canons, the teachings of the Fathers, and the historical examples of the saints who combatted heresy in their time.  

3.  Life today is so chaotic that even a watered down and chimerical “Orthodoxy,” Orthodoxy-Lite, so to speak, a charming facade of beauty and comfort, the appearance of religion without the power thereof, presents itself persuasively as a safe haven in the storm.   The bar is so low that something, anything, is better than nothing.  When the bombs are falling all around you, any bomb shelter will do – or so it seems. 

In such a situation, we, like the Apostles, are tempted to cry out, “Who then can be saved?”  And the Lord assures us now, as He did the Apostles, that though to man such is impossible, with God all things are possible.   He assures us now, as He did the Prophet Elias, that He has reserved unto himself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  Our duty is not to change the world or even to rescue the historical Church institutions; it is to remain among the 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  

Thus to discern where the true shepherds are, where the Church really is, is required of us.  I have written extensively about how to do this, in my Orthodox Survival Course series, classes 41 through 52, and I pray that those who have already read or listened to these talks have benefited from them and will benefit by reviewing them, and that these talks will benefit more souls in the future.

 ( To start with Class 41, here are the links for text and for audio:–18900778 )

For such material to benefit you, however  – for it to help you decide what you should actually do – you must simultaneously be engaged in cleansing the mind and the heart, so that your own passions and delusions do not lead you astray.   To help with this, I encourage everyone to listen to our metropolitan’s sermons at the Orthodox Tradition website: 

Finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record:  We must engage in replacing our logismoi – the never silent fragmentary thoughts that eat up most of our mental life – with spiritual attentiveness through assiduously working at the Jesus Prayer.   Here is what the late Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, of blessed memory, wrote in his Last Will and Testament to his spiritual children:  

Our Lord destines us to a great blessing: to belong to the Holy Orthodox Church, for only here can we obtain Salvation, if we do not waste the time of preparing ourselves for eternity.

To avoid wasting this time, let us turn to the awesome admonitions of the Word of God, Gospel parables, prayers and church hymns which teach us that our mind is filled with unnecessary triviality and troubles, THAT THE ENEMIES OF OUR SALVATION GIVE TO US. And we, in our carefree manner, like to think that they are our own harmless and pleasant thoughts. Having distracted our mind from God, the enemy begins bringing sinful thoughts and wishes, which are extremely hard to resist. TO FIGHT AGAINST SIN SUCCESSFULLY, ONE MUST REPLACE HIS THOUGHTS WITH CONTINUAL PRAYER TO JESUS.

All the Saints had to do this to reach their sanctity. There is no other way. The great Saints of ancient times, as well as the Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov, St. John of Kronstadt, Holy Father Paissy Velichkovksy and the great Startsy of Optina all testify to this.

This prayer saves and is successful only if done patiently and humbly, not with the goal of pleasure, but rather release from sins, and it demands a lot of time.

Our Merciful Lord Jesus Christ, grant us eternal salvation by the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, and of all the Saints! Amen.


Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles

24 November / 7 December 1995

Holy Martyr Katherine

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Don’t fret

Monday of the Second Week of Matthew

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Today’s reading from the Holy Gospel is Matthew 6: 31-34, 7: 9-11

 The Lord said: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

St. Theophan the Recluse deals effectively with the natural question that arises after one hears these words of Christ:   How can I follow this Gospel command and still take care of my material needs and the the needs of those for whom I am responsible?

Here’s what he says: 

Take no thought (Matt. 6:31). Then how is one to live? We have to eat, drink, and wear clothes. But the Saviour does not say, “do nothing,” but rather, take no thought. Do not weary yourself with care that consumes you both day and night, and gives you not a moment of peace. Such care is a sinful disease. It shows that a man is relying upon himself and has forgotten God; that he has lost hope in the Providence of God, wants to arrange everything for himself solely by his own efforts, to procure all that is necessary, and to preserve what he has procured by his own means. He has become chained in his heart to his property, and thinks to rest on it as if it were a solid foundation. Love of possessions has bound him and he only thinks of how to get more into his hands. This mammon has replaced God for him. Work by all means, but do not weary yourself with evil cares. Hope for every success from God and commit your lot into His hands. Accept all that you obtain as a gift from the Lord’s hand, and wait with a firm hope that He continue His generous giving. Know that if God so desires, a rich man can lose all he has in one minute. All is decay and dust. Is it worth it to weary yourself for that? So, take no thought! –  Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 123 

In these few short words of Our Lord, and in the short words of the saint commenting on the Lord’s words, we find a wealth of theology:  The dogma of God as the Creator Who brought all things from nothing into being, the dogma that we are creatures of dust and ashes, brought into being by God’s sovereign will, the dogma of God’s Providence, which sustains and guides all things – including us – to their appointed ends according to His will, the dogma of God’s infinite goodness and benevolence that desires to give man everything he needs in this life and the age to come, the dogma of the transitoriness of earthly life and the concomitant priority of spiritual concerns, the dogma of the heavenly Kingdom and the rewards that await those saved according to His will.  

Here we find also a wealth of practical spiritual counsel:  Remember God, remember that He is your Creator and you are only a creature; you cannot control everything as if you were God, and therefore be at peace.  He wants to give you good things, and above all spiritual good things, that is, graces and virtues; therefore you should ask Him for the cardinal virtue of courage and the theological virtue of hope, which virtues will totally replace your fearfulness, despondency,  and anxiety.   Practice gratitude for what you have and remember that God has provided and will provide all that you need.  Remember the hour of death and thereby put your current concerns into the only realistic perspective.  

The punchline of St. Theophan’s commentary consists of Our Lord’s own words:  “Take no thought!”  (The Greek original can be translated well by our old fashioned English word:  “Don’t fret!” )   It is our own thoughts, after all, usually distorted and exaggerated by demonic influence, that torture us.   In a recent sermon, our metropolitan has said that 5% of our problems are our outward circumstances and 95% of our problems are in our own heads.  But to deal with these problems, our real problems, we must become attentive to the interior life of the soul.   The Lord commands us in today’s Gospel to seek first the Kingdom of God.  In another place (Luke 17:21), He pinpoints the location of the Kingdom of God:  It is within us.   

When you are, therefore, beset by a multitude of concerns, the most practical thing you can do is to detach and to pray.  It is instructive that the Holy Fathers teach that the science and art of attaining sobriety, that is, making the transition from prayer as an occasional thing that interrupts our day to prayer as the state of continual spiritual attentiveness, is not a contemplative or theoretical subject for the few but a practical subject for everybody.  That is, it concerns us, who are in the stage of praxis, the prosaic warfare against the passions that comprises the first stage of spiritual life and is incumbent upon all Christians. For example, St. Theophan the Recluse, in his Russian translation of the Philokalia, quotes St. Photios saying this about the instructions of St. Hesychios on practicing the art of spiritual sobriety: 

…more than any other writings it is suitable for those who lead a life of striving for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  His exposition is clear and it is in every way suitable for men who do not go in for abstract researches but direct all their zeal and labour to the practical works of active life.    – Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, Kadloubovsky and Palmer trans., p. 278

My point here is not to say that everyone should immediately run to read St. Hesychios – what Photios the Great regards as “clear” may not, indeed, be entirely clear to us!   My point is that setting aside ten minutes a day for the uninterrupted practice of the Jesus Prayer, and saying the Prayer throughout the day as often as you can remember to do so, is an extremely practical way of dealing with your problems. And the Prayer is not our only weapon in the fight:  When you are beset by worries, stop and read the Psalter aloud till you calm down.   Read the Gospel aloud, and the Lord’s own words will free you and empower you.   Go to confession and reveal your thoughts to your spiritual father.   Prepare for several days in advance, with conscious attention, for a truly beneficial reception of Holy Communion.  We have an enormous armory here, a huge toolbox.   We have only to open it up and use what’s there.   

God is with us, and He is within us.  What are we worried about? 

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Virtue above nature

Pentecost Week – Friday of the First Week of Matthew

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In today’s Gospel, Our Lord continues His Sermon on the Mount, the charter of Gospel perfection.

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. – Matthew  5: 33-41

What does it mean to turn the other cheek? The Church does not teach absolute pacifism, for there are times when we must resist evil on behalf of others: for example, a Christian man who does not resist someone invading his home to kill his family is not only not virtuous but rather the opposite. An Orthodox warrior who fights for his nation to resist alien conquest fulfills Christ’s words that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And we must always struggle fiercely, with unwavering intransigence, against the enemies of the Church who devour men’s souls. It is to one’s own enemies that one must turn the other cheek; no one has given us the right to practice non-resistance to the enemies of God, the Church, the family, and the nation. We must practice meekness towards the person right in front of us whom we see every day, the one we live with, work with, worship with. It is he who is constantly offending our self-love; it is he whom God has sent into our lives to help us find our salvation.

Furthermore, meekness gives birth to courage: the man who – not from some defect of his incensive faculty but out of a conscious choice to practice evangelical meekness with the help of grace – does not repay with slander the colleague who slanders him at work, or who does not voice resentment against his brother-in-law for not repaying a loan, or who practices absolute silence in regard to his wife’s defects of character, is more, not less, likely to lead the charge when the battle trumpet sounds. Self-sacrifice has become his fundamental orientation, and virtue to virtue gives birth.

To acquire both the discernment and the power to start practicing lofty evangelical virtues like meekness, however, we must have a conscious inner life. There is no external calculus one can apply infallibly to every single moral situation – you have to construct an inner compass. In the introduction to his Russian translation of the Philokalia, St. Theophan the Recluse states that cultivating the inner life of attentiveness is required of every Christian, not only consecrated ascetics:

Secret life in our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the truly Christian life, begins, develops, and rises to perfection (for each in his own measure), through the good will of God the Father, by the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit present in all Christians, and under the guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who promised to abide with us for all time…God’s grace calls all men to such a life; and for all men it is not only possible but obligatory… – Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the HeartKadloubovsky and Palmer trans., Faber and Faber 1951, p. 13

The Sermon on the Mount, with its demand for perfection above nature (“Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”), is comprehensible only to those leading the grace-filled life of the Church in the manner intended by God, that is, with the struggle for unceasing attention and prayer, under the guidance of the Church and in conjunction with the life of the Holy Mysteries. Teachings created by minds functioning outside of this life, whether on moral philosophy, social reform, or proposed political utopias, all contain fatal flaws. The only way back for us, the only return to sanity – for ourselves, our families, our nations, our civilization – is through the strait gate of the heart.

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Strong medicine

VI Pascha Wednesday, the Leavetaking of Pascha – John 12: 36-47

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The Lord said to the Jews that came to Him:  While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

What does it mean, that God blinded the eyes of those who rejected Him, that they should not be healed?  (Verse 40).  We know that God is not the author of evil; He wills and does only what is good.   What, then, can this expression mean?    St. John Chrysostom uses the image of the sun blinding the eyes of men to explain this:  

For as the sun dazzles the eyes of the weak, not by reason of its proper nature, so it is with those who give not heed to the words of God.   Thus, in the case of Pharaoh, He is said to have hardened his heart, and so it is with those who are at all contentious against the words of God.  This is a peculiar mode of speech in Scripture, as also [when it is written that] “He gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1: 28)…that is, allowed, permitted them to go.  For, when we are abandoned by God, we are given up to the devil, and when so given up, we suffer ten thousand dreadful things.  – Homily 68 on John 

By saying “…not by reason of its proper nature,” St. Chrysostom means that the sun’s proper nature is to give light and warmth to man, but because of the weakness of our fallen bodies, sometimes the sun harms us, though through no fault of its innate properties.  God is entirely love, but we experience His love as wrath and condemnation when we choose to harden our hearts against Him.   He is entirely goodness, but we experience His goodness as physical and psychological evils, the “ten thousand dreadful things” that St. Chrysostom mentions, when we experience His abandonment caused by our sins.  

Yet God always yearns after us, as loving parents always yearn after disobedient children who have gone far from them, and He never ceases to do what is for our salvation.   His very abandonment of the sinner to the devil is a method of teaching him and bringing him to his senses, and all the while that the reprobate is experiencing those ten thousand dreadful things, the loving Lord is speaking to his heart, if only he will listen.  St. Chrysostom goes on to quote passages of Scripture that emphasize that God never ceases to desire our salvation:  

“…How often would I have gathered your children – and ye would not.” (Luke 13: 34).  Esaias also again, “I came, and there was no man; I called, and there was none to hearken.” (Esaias 50: 2). These things He saith, showing that we begin the desertion and become the causes of our perdition; for God not only desireth not to leave or to punish us, but even when He punisheth, doeth it unwillingly; “I will not, ” He saith, “the death of a sinner, so much as that he should turn and live.” (Ezekiel 18: 32).   Christ also mourneth over the destruction of Jerusalem, as we also do over our friends.”   

Having asserted the Lord’s steadfast lovingkindness and care for us, even when we go astray, the holy commentator now exhorts us to be likewise patient with our brethren when they go astray:  

Knowing this, let us do all so as not to remove from God, but let us hold fast to the care of our souls, and to the love towards each other; let us not tear our own members (for this is the act of men insane and beside themselves,) but the more we see any ill-disposed, the more let us be kind to them.  Since we often see many persons suffering in their bodies from difficult or incurable maladies, and cease not to apply remedies…Not at all, but we use every means that the sufferer may enjoy some comfort, since we cannot get rid of the disease.   This also let us do in the case of our brethren, and, even though they be diseased incurably, let us continue to tend them, and let us bear one another’s burdens.   

At the beginning of Homily 69, St. Chrysostom comments on verse 42, “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The saint points out that though these men indeed had feared to confess Christ before His Resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, many came to believe the Apostolic preaching after the day of Pentecost and were baptized, becoming members of the New Testament Church, as St. Luke testifies in the Acts of the Apostles. The saint writes,  

It is necessary for us to avoid alike all the passions which corrupt the soul, but most especially those which from themselves generate numerous sins…Such…is vainglory.  See, for instance, how these men were broken off from faith thought their love of honor…So then, they were not rulers, but slaves in the utmost slavery.  However, this fear was done away, for nowhere during the time of the Apostles do we find them possessed by this feeling, since in their time both rulers and priests believed.  The grace of the Spirit having come, made them all firmer than adamant.  

The Lord Jesus, then, Who forgave these men from the height of the Cross as He suffered unspeakably from their injustice, did not cease to do all things for their salvation.  Having risen and ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to enlighten all men, including those who had condemned and murdered Him, and many of them had a change of heart, cast off their love of human respect, and united themselves to the Lord Jesus.  Without the divine grace, even the Apostles themselves did not understand Who Jesus really was and could not be converted, and so it is with with all men, including ourselves. Let us therefore heed the exhortation of St. John Chrysostom to be patient with our brothers who, having like passions with ourselves, may have cut themselves off from this grace somewhat by any sins little or great, and let us imitate the lovingkindness of our Good Shepherd, Who has never ceased and will never cease to do all things for our salvation. 

To Him be the glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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The only Just One

Pascha V Friday – John 10: 17-38

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The Lord said to the Jews that came to Him:  Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

St. John Chrysostom remarks upon the Lord’s long-suffering, as manifested by the calmness and gentleness of His replies to these men who wished to murder Him. 

Let us now imitate Him. For not only did He now hold His peace, but even came among them again, and being questioned answered and showed the things relating to His foreknowledge; and though called “demoniac” and “madman,” by men who had received from him ten thousand benefits, and that not once or twice but many times, not only did He refrain from avenging Himself, but even ceased not to benefit them.  To benefit, do I say?  He laid down His life for them, and while being crucified spake in their behalf to the Father.  This then let us also imitate, for to be a disciple of Christ is to be gentle and kind.  But whence can this gentleness come to us?  If we continually reckon up our sins, if we mourn, if we weep; for neither doth a soul that dwelleth in the company of so much grief allow itself to be provoked or angered.  Since wherever there is mourning, it is impossible that there should be anger; where grief is, all anger is out of the way; where there is brokenness of spirit, there is no provocation.  – Homily LX on John 

A priest who hears confessions cannot help but to remark that the sins of anger, condemnation, and the inability to truly forgive plague not only lax and casual Christians, but even the most sincere and pious.   These well-meaning souls do not justify their sin;  they are, on the contrary, deeply troubled.  But they simply cannot let go.  There are several reasons for this.   

One reason is that our sense of justice has been damaged by sin.  The demand of the conscience for justice is, indeed, planted in the soul by God; it is one of the several signs of our being made in the image of God, Who is All-Just.  Because of man’s brokenness, however, there has never been and never will be perfect justice in this world, except for the justification that comes to all men through the Cross.   We are commanded to be just, and, if we are in positions of authority over men, to require that they be just as well.   In our day to day dealings with others, we naturally expect justice from our neighbor. But inevitably both he and we shall fail.    Only the oil of mercy tempering the strong wine of justice makes life livable on earth.   We are all sinners before God.  Let us ask the Lord for the grace of true forgiveness, springing from a profound realization that He is the only Just One. 

Another reason we are not long-suffering in the face of offenses is our vanity.   Vanity is at the root of sinful anger.  We imagine that we are something, and that something not unimportant!  If only we could deeply sense and appreciate how truly unimportant, truly nothing we really are, and rejoice in the realization thereof!   It would be a great deliverance from a terrible burden.   Let us ask the Lord for the grace of realizing that He Alone truly is and that compared to Him we are nothing.   Someone who is nothing is not surprised, or even concerned, that someone else who is also nothing offends him.  What difference does it make?    If the Lord is everything to us, we have nothing that some other finite creature can take away, including our sense of self-worth, which derives completely from Him and from no one else.    

Another reason, that remarked upon by St. Chrysostom, is that we do not mourn continually for our sins.   As the saying goes, “Those who have the dead in their own house do not trouble themselves about other people’s funerals.”    Let us ask the Lord for the grace of growing ever more aware of our sinfulness while acquiring genuine compunction, rejoicing in His mercy and forgiveness to us.   In such a state of soul, it becomes constitutionally impossible to hold anything against anyone. 

O long-suffering Lord, Who forgave those who hated Thee and killed Thee, and, having risen from the dead,  hast to this day never ceased in working ten thousand benefactions for them, grant us the grace of true forgiveness, consistent long-suffering, and pure good will to our neighbors, who are indeed poor sinners like ourselves.  Amen. 

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