Archive for September 30th, 2009

That We Should Be Merciful

September 30, 2009

RussianSchemamonkA brother who had committed a serious sin decided to confess it to another monk. Instead of openly stating what he had done, the brother asked, “If a thought like this came into someone’s mind, would he be saved?” The monk told him, “There is no hope for you.” Hearing this, the brother thought, “If I am going to perish, I might as well do it in the world.”

As he was abandoning the solitary life, the brother thought of Abba Silvanus and turned aside to visit him. Again, without reporting the nature of his sin, he asked the same oblique question. Silvanus quoted Scripture and said, “That judgment falls on everyone, whether or not they have sinned.” This moved the brother to confess his sin. Like a skilled physician, Silvanus applied an ointment of Scripture texts to the wounded one, observing that repentance is available for everyone who turns to God.

Years later, Silvanus encountered the monk who had discouraged the brother. “That brother, who was crushed by your response and was returning to the world, is now a bright star among us.”

Ignorance and God

September 30, 2009

Picture 023Many readers will be familiar with the following post. It appears from time to time. It appears first – so that I may remember it. It appears second that others may not forget it. Some days it weighs more heavily on me than others. I should learn to wear it more easily since it is the suit of clothes I wear without fail (even when I think otherwise). May God have mercy on us all.

I am an ignorant man, despite posting writings on all kinds of things. But make no mistake – I am an ignorant man. Thus, I would always counsel any reader to remember, these are the writings of an ignorant man.

Why would I say this? Because it is true. How am I ignorant? I am as most of us are – I do not see the world clearly for what it is. I do not see other people clearly for what they are. I do not see myself clearly for what I am. And most importantly, I do not see God for Who He Is.

Ignorance cannot be an excuse. It should be an impetus to seek, to ask, to knock. If we do not know God we will perish – this is absolutely true. And ignorance in other matters brings its own perishing as well.

I don’t think I have always thought I was ignorant – indeed, I know I did not always think this. But as years have gone on, either I’ve become more ignorant, or I’ve become more aware of how ignorant I truly am. What do any of us actually know of another human being? The Scriptures tell us that our true life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians), thus the truth of any person is a mystery. And I know almost nothing of this mystery – not only towards myself but also and especially towards those around me. How do I know what another man needs? I do not know. God knows.

What do any of us actually know of God? I believe we only know of God what has been revealed to us in Christ. And just reading the revelation is a world away from actually knowing and “having” the revelation. That comes very slowly indeed.

The Elder Sophrony wrote that such revelations come in something like a “flash of lightning, when the heart is burning with love.” These relatively rare experiences accumulate over a lifetime:

The accumulation in the experience of the Church of such ‘moments’ of enlightenment has led organically to their reduction into one whole. This is how the first attempt at the systemization of a live theology came about, the work of St. John of Damascus, a man rich, too, in personal experience. The disruption of this wondrous ascent to God in the unfathomable wealth of higher intellection is brought about, where there is a decline of personal experience, by a tendency to submit the gifts of Revelation to the critical faculty of our reason – by a leaning towards ‘philosophy of religion.’ The consequences are scholastic accounts of theology in which, again, there is more philosophy than Spirit of life. (From his work On Prayer).

I ask those of you who read this blog to remember that I am an ignorant man and to pray for me, if you remember to. I pray for you all.

A Romanian version of this article can be found here.

A French translation can be found here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.