The lectures on moral theology presented here were composed by (then) Hegumen Philaret in 1936 after he graduated from the Saint Vladimir Pastoral Courses in Harbin. Apart from the lively language in which it is conveyed, this survey is valuable in that it helps us to understand the worldview of the future ROCOR First Hierarch. The Russian original has been published on several occasions in former Soviet countries and is reproduced here according to the digital version from the site Azbyka.ru. The English text of Chapters 1–27 is taken from Protopresbyter George Grabbe’s May 1975 typescript from the Department of Foreign Relations at the Synod of Bishops. Chapters 28–30, inclusive, were translated by ROCOR Studies, with support from the ROCOR Fund for Assistance. The English translation was digitized by ROCOR Studies, which should be cited as a source when using the text. The photo of 1935.
Deacon Andrei Psarev, August 31, 2021
Moral and immoral acts. Moral law. Three functions of the Conscience. Conditions of moral responsibility. Innate moral law.
In the entire world, among all the creatures inhabiting it, only man has a concept of morality. Everyone knows that the actions of a person can be either good or base, kind or evil, morally positive or morally negative (immoral). With these concepts about morality, man differs from all animals beyond compare. Animals act on instinct as is peculiar to their natures, as they are taught or trained, for example.
But they have no understanding of what is moral or immoral and therefore one cannot Judge their actions from the point of view of morality.
How can you differentiate the morally good from the morally bad?
This differentiation Is made according to a particular moral law given to us by God. This moral law, this divine voice in man’s soul, can be felt in the depths of our conscious and we call It the Conscience. This Conscience is the foundation of mankind’s morality. A person who has never- listened to his Conscience, has stifled it, drowned out its voice by the lies and murkiness of obstinate sin, is often called conscienceless. The Word of God calls such stubborn sinners people, whose Conscience is seared with a red hot iron. (I Tim. IV, 2). Their spiritual conditions is extremely dangerous and could become destructive for their souls.
When a person listens attentively to the voice of his Conscience, he sees that the Conscience speaks in him, first of all as a judge, strict and unbribable, evaluating all his conduct and experiences. It often happens that a particular action is profitable to someone or elicits approval by others, but In the depth of his soul, this person hears the voice of his Conscience, “this is bad, this is a sin…”
Closely related to this function, the Conscience also acts as a legislator in a person’s soul. All those moral demands which stand before a person’s soul during every conscious action (i.e, do good, be truthful, don’t steal, etc.) are precisely those norms and those demands prescribed by the Conscience, its voice teaches us how we should and how we should not behave. Finally, the Conscience also acts within a person as a remunerator. This occurs when we, having done good, feel peace and tranquility in our souls, and on the other hand, after having sinned, feel the reproaches of our Conscience. These reproaches sometime change into horrible spiritual torments and sufferings, driving a person to despair or spiritual disbalance, if he does not re-establish harmony and calmness in his Conscience through deep and sincere repentance. (See Pushkin’s monologue of the Avaricious Knight and Boris Godunoff, also, Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment)
It Is evident that a person is responsible only for those actions which he commits, first, consciously, and secondly, being free at the time of acting. Only at such a time is moral responsibility taken for an action and only then are they, as is said, imputed to a person as a fault, either in praise or condemnation. On the contrary, people not aware of the nature of their actions (infants, people deprived of reason etc.) or those forced against their wills are not held in account for them and do not bear any responsibility. During the epoch when Christians were persecuted, the pagan-torturers placed incense on the martyr’s palm, holding it over the fire of their flaming sacrificial altar. The torturers thought that the martyrs could not withstand the fire, would move their fingers (or pull their hand away) and that the incense would fall into the fire. True, most often the confessors of the faith were so spiritually firm, that they preferred burning their fingers to dropping the incense. But even if they did drop it, who would say that they brought a sacrifice to the idol? It is obvious that drunkards cannot hold irresponsible as they began their drinking in a normal and sober condition, fully aware of the results of drunkenness. That is why in several countries of Northern Europe, a person is punished twice for committing a crime while drunk: 1) for being drunk, and 2) for the crime.
Undoubtedly, moral law must be recognized as innate to humanity, that is, placed within human nature itself. This is supported by the general concepts in mankind about morality* Of course, only the need for morality can be recognized as innate, as a kind of* moral instinct and not the disclosures and clear comprehension and ideas of morality This kind of lucid moral comprehension develops, in a person partially through his upbringing and influence of previous generations, but is mostly founded upon religious feeling, That is why crude pagans have lower moral norms, are uglier, rougher than we Christians, who know ai believe in the True God, in Him, Who placed the moral law within the human soul and through this law, guides our entire life and activity.
The sinfulness of humanity. Its reflection in the human soul. In the sphere of the mind, emotions, and will. Successive levels of sin. The three sources of sin.
We, Christians, know from the Holy Bible, believe that God created Man in His own image and likeness. Thus, upon creation, man received sinless nature. But even the first man, Adam, did not remain sinless, losing his initially created purity in the first sinful fall in Paradise. The poison of this sinfulness infected all of mankind, originating in sinful progenitors, resembling a poisoned spring oozing fetid water, person adds his personal sin to the predisposition towards sin, inherited from our progenitors. There is nothing surprising in what the Holy Bible says about each one of us, “there is no man who lives one day and do not sin. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely pure from any sin. Even the virtuous, God’s saints, had sin within themselves and although they struggled with it, with God’s help, they nonetheless humbly recognized themselves as sinners. All people, without exception, are sinfully infected by sin.
Sin is spiritual leprosy, illness, an ulcer having struck all of human nature, both its soul and body. Sin has damaged all three basic capabilities or powers of the soul: the mind, the emotions (heart) and the will. The human Mind has darkened and become disposed towards error (the Romans had a saying, “errare humanum est” – it is natural for man to err), and man continuously errs, in the sciences, in philosophy, and in his daily life. The human Heart, the center of his sufferings feelings of goodness and evil, sadness and happiness, is damaged even more by sin. We see “that our heart has been covered with the slime and mold of sin has spent its capabilities of pure, spiritual, and ennobling Christian feeling. Instead of this, it has become inclined towards sensual pleasure and earthly ties, infected also with vanity, amazing in its complete lack love and well-wishing for its neighbor.
Of course, our Will is damaged the most in our capability to act and realize our human intentions. Man. s will seem especially powerless when he needs to accomplish genuine Christian good the most, even when he wants this goodness. Apostle Paul said about this sad, powerless of the will, “For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans VII, 19). And therefore, Christ the Savior says about man, the sinner, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you. Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” (John VIII., 34). It, however, often seems to the sinner himself that serving sin is freedom and struggling with the snares of sin, slavery…
How does sin develop in a person’s soul? The Holy Fathers of podvig, Christian asceticism and devotion, better than all the learned psychiatrists, who claim to know the sinful human soul, differentiate the following levels of sin: the first moment of sin is its introduction when temptation has only become outlined in a person. s consciousness., as a sinful impression, an impure thought, and so on. If during this first moment a person decisively and immediately rejects sin, he will not sin, but will defeat it, and will have a plus, not a minus, for his soul. It Is easiest to overcome sin in the beginning. If the beginning is not rejected, it transforms gradually into an unclear striving and then into a conscious, clear desire to sin. Here a person already begins to be drawn towards a particular kind of sin. He can at this moment, without an especially difficult struggle resist succumbing to it and not sin, in which he will be helped by the clear voice of his Conscience, and God’s help, If he seeks it.
Man has fallen into sin. The reproaches of the Conscience sound loud and clear, eliciting in an as yet unspoiled person simply extreme disgust toward this sin. As previous self-assurance disappears, the person becomes humbled. Look at Apostle Peter before and after his recantation. But even here, the triumph over sin is not so difficult, as is indicated by numerous examples of the same Apostle Peter, holy King and Prophet David and other repentant sinners.
It is most difficult to struggle against sin when it becomes a habit, because it recurs frequently. Generally, when any habitis acquired the habitual actions are performed almost automatically, unnoticeably by a person. The struggle with a sin that has become habitual is very difficult because it is hard not only to overcome oneself but also to watch and notice sin approaching.
An even more dangerous stage of sin is a vice. In this case sin controls a person so much that it shackles his will as if by chains. A person is almost powerless to struggle against himself in this and becomes a slave of sin. although he recognizes its harmfulness and in moments of clarity … perhaps even hates it with all his heart. That is, for example, the vice of drinking, drug addiction and the- like. In that case, without special mercy and help from God, a person is already unable to control himself and stands in need of prayer and spiritual support from others. One must remember that- even any petty sin, like babbling, love or clothing, empty, entertainment, etc. can become a vice if it completely overpowers and fills one’s soul.
The highest stage of sin, completely enslaving someone is the passion towards one or another. type of sin. In this condition, a person does not hate his sin, as in a vice (this Is the difference between them), but submits all his experiences, actions, and moods to the sin. Compare Pushkin in Dead Souls or Feodor Karamazov from Brothers Karamazov to the money-lover Judas of Iscariot. In this case, a person clearly and literally admits Satan into his heart; as is said about Judas in the Holy Gospel. In this condition, except for grace-giving church prayer and influence, nothing can help.
There is one more special, horrible, and perishing type of sin. This is a deadly sin. Even church prayer, will not help a person in the condition of such a sin. Apostle John the Divine, calling us to pray for our sinning brother, clearly; indicates the uselessness of praying for an unforgiven sinner, (“if any man sees his brother sin a sin which is not unto death he shall ask and he shall give him life for them that sin hot unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it”. I John V, 16.)
Our Lord Jesus Christ says that this sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and is not forgiven people in this world nor in the future.
He spoke these terrible words against the pharisees, who clearly saw that He did everything according to God’s will and by God’s power. However, they obdurately perverted the truth slanderously insisting that He acted with the power of an evil, unclean spirit. They perished, in their blasphemy and this example is instructive and terrible for all those who sin with the deadly sin, stubbornly and consciously opposing indubitable Truth, blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. It is necessary to note that even blasphemy of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself can be forgiven a person (according to His own words), because it may occur from complete ignorance or temporary blindness. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can, according to the teaching of Saint Athanasius the Great, be forgiven only when a person has ceased and repented, but this usually does not occur, because the very type, the very character of this sin makes it almost impossible to return to the truth. The blinded may see again and love the Truth revealed to him; soiled by vices and passions, he can wash himself clean with repentance and become a confessor of Truth, but who and what can change the blasphemer, seeing and knowing the Truth and stubbornly rejecting it and hating it? This terrible condition resembles Satanfs state, who believes in God and trembles, but hates Him slanders Him and opposes Him.
When temptation appears before a persoa. the temptation of sin/ It usually comes from three sources: from the body of a person, from the world, and from the devil.
Assuredly, the body of a person is, in many instances, the nest, the source of immoral predispositions, strivings, and tendencies. Ancestral sin is our sad, general inclination towards sin, inherited from the sins of our ancestors and our own-personal sinful fall, which accumulate and mutually strengthen each other, creating a source of temptation* sinful tendencies, and actions in our bodies.
Even more frequently, the surrounding, world is a source of temptation for us, which, according to the word of Apostle John the Divine, “lies in sin” (I John V. 19). “And we know we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Friendship with the world is, according to the word of another Apostle, animosity towards God. ‘Ye adulterers, and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of Gods ” (James 17, h). The surrounding milieu and people tempt us. There are many intentional, conscious tempters and perverters of youth about whom Our Lord said, “that if someone tempts one of these small ones, it is better for him if they hung a millstone around his neck, and drowned him in the sea depths…”. External plenty; wealth, comfort, immoral dances, dirty literature, brazen clothes are temptations. All these are the fetid source of sin and temptation.
The most important and rooted source of sin is. of course, the devil, about whom Apostle John, the Divine, said, “He that committeth sin is of the Devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” (I John 3.8). Struggling with God and His truth, the devil fights also with people, striving to destroy every one of us. Evil is especially obvious when it is struggling with the saints (even daring to tempt the very Lord Jesus Christ) as can be seen in the Holy Gospel and in the Lives of the Saints The Lord protects us, the feeble and weak, with His strength from those cruel temptations to which God’s saints, strong in spirit, were exposed. However, the devil doesn’t leave us without his attention, acting through the temptations of the world and body, making them stronger and more seductive, also tempting by various kinds of sinful thoughts.
In the last years, his evil influence, besides all the others is evident especially in the epidemics of different kinds of suicide. That is why Apostle Peter compares the devil with a growling lion, stalking us, “seeking whom he may devour”. (“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil; as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter V, 8).
Christian virtues. The moral character. The life of a Christian a struggle and podvig. The necessity of spiritual vigilance.
The complete opposite of sin is virtue. The beginnings of virtue are found in every person, as the remnants of that natural good, which was placed into human nature by its Creator. Purity and perfection of the form of virtue can only be possible in Christianity. Christ, the Saviour, said ‘bh&’t, Without Me, ye can do nothing”, without Me you can do nothing truly good.
Christianity teaches us that life on earth is a time of trial (podvig), a time of preparation for a future, eternal life. Consequently,” the problem of our life on earth is to properly prepare ourselves for the coming eternity.
Earthly life is short and does not repeat itself, for man lives only once oh earth. He must/: thus, work hard in this earthly life, doing good, if he does not wish to destroy his soul. It is precisely these kind deeds which shall be demanded from him by God’s Truth on the threshold of eternity Every Christian, with God’s help, is the creator of his own earthly life* in the sense of directing it towards virtue. But to become good, he must do good unto others and work with himself, struggling with his deficiencies and vices> developing good Christian values within himself;
This struggle and work with- himself; this test (podvig) during his, earthly life is a necessity for every Christian; Our Lord Himself said that, “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence (that is, is reached through effort) and the violent (i.e., those who exert effort) take it be force” (Math. 11, 12).
In this kind of self-testing, every man develops his moral character and creates his moral image. Of course, a Christian must be a Christian first of all, a person with an established, firm moral character, who should strive to improve this character. In other words, he should strive towards improving himself, he should strive towards moral perfection.
Life therefore, from a Christian point of view is a test (podvig), a path of continuous seeking of goodness and perfection. There can be no stopping, on this path according to the law of spiritual life. A person, having ceased to; struggle with himself, will not remain as he was, but inevitably become worse, resembling a stone which is thrown up and having stopped ascending, does not remain hanging in the air, but certainly falls down.
We already know that our sins commonly arise from three sources j from the devil, from the world, lying in evil, and from our own sinful body.
Since sin is the main enemy of and an obstacle to virtue, it is clear that a Christian, striving towards good must, with God’s help and grace, struggle against sin in all its forms. Partially, it is necessary to remember at this point, the words of our Savior to the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”. (Mark 14, 38). With these words, Our Lord points out to all of us, not only to the Apostles, that a battle with sinful temptation is possible only for a person who is vigilant and prays, standing guard over his experiences.
The insufficiency of only an inner law. External God-revealed law. The meaning of Moses’ Law and the New Testament Law for us.
The aim in life for every person is to prepare himself for eternal salvation and beatitude. A person must live saintlily and blamelessly, in other words, according to God’s will.
How can a person recognize God’s will? First of all, in his conscience, which is therefore called the voice of God in man’s soul. If the fall into sin had not darkened man’s soul, he would be able to infallibly and firmly direct his life’s path by the dictates of his conscience, through which the internal moral law is imparted. It is well known that a sinful man, not only has a damaged mind, heart, and will, but also a darkened conscience; its Judgment and voice have lost their unconditional clarity and strength. Some people are, therefore, said to be conscienceless.
The Conscience alone, its inner voice, has become insufficient- for man to live and act by, in accordance with God’s will. The necessity for an external authority has arisen, for an external, divinely revealed law. This kind of law was given to people by God in two forms: first, a preparatory law, the Old Testament Law of Mosess secondly, the complete and perfect law of the New Testament.
Two aspects have to be distinguished: 1) religious morality and 2) religious ritual, which are closely tied to the history and culture of the Jewish nation. The second aspect, of course, has faded for us Christians. These national, customary practices and laws have fallen away. But the religious, moral law of Moses has preserved its strength within Christianity. That is why all ten commandments of Moses are obligatory for Christians and why Christianity has not abolished them. On the contrary, Christianity has taught people to understand these commandments not externally and literally, in the tradition of blind, slavish obedience and only external adherence, but has disclosed their deep meaning and has taught perfect and complete understanding and fulfillment of this law. But of course, for us, Christians, Moses’ Law has meaning only because its main commandments (the ten commandments and the commandment of love for God and one’s neighbor) are accepted and disclosed by Christianity. We are guided not by these preparatory and temporary laws of Moses, but by the perfect and eternal law of Christ.
St. Basil the Great said that, “If he is funny, who burns a light before himself in the sunlight, he Is so much funnier to remain in the legalistic shade (of the Old Testament) while hearing the sermons of the New Testament. ” The most important difference between Old and New Testament Law is that the Old Testament considered the external actions of man, while the New Testament considers man’s heart, his inner motivations. In the Old Testament, man submitted himself to God, as a slave to his Lord; In the New Testament, he strives to submit himself, as a son to his beloved father.
At the present time, many view the Old Testament incorrectly; they see nothing good in it, searching only for rude and cruel traits. This is a false view. It is necessary to remember the low level of spiritual development in people of that time, thousands of years ago. Under those conditions of rough and cruel customs, the rules and norms of Moses*
Law, which seems cruel to us today, (i.e., “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, etc.) was actually not so at all. These laws did not destroy human cruelty and revenge, of course, (this could be done only by the New Testament) but controlled them and established firm and strict boundaries. Besides this, we should not forget that the commandment of love for God and one’s neighbor, which Our Lord considered: the most important, was taken by Him from Moses’ Law. (Mark XII, 29-31). St.: Apostle Paul writes that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and righteous and kind” (Romans VII, 12).
The question of free will. An analysis of Determinism. A false and true understanding of Indeterminism. The influence upon us of motives; and freedom of choice. Self-consciousness of freedom, and the fact of repentance.
We already know that a person is responsible for his actions only while he is free when performing them. Does he have such a spiritual freedom, the freedom of will which is assumed here? Lately, a theory called Determinism has spread widely. The followers of this teaching, Determinists, do not acknowledge that man has a free will. They assert that in: each separate action, a person is motivated to act only by external causes. According to their teaching; a person’s actions are always influenced by motivations and impulses not dependent upon him and ordinarily submits to the strongest of these motivations. These scholars say that, “it only seems to us that we are acting freely, but this is self-delusion.” The famous XVI century philosopher, Spinoza, defended this view. Illustrating his position, he spoke about a stone, which, having been thrown, would, if it could think and speak, say that it was flying and falling down where it chose. In reality, it flew only because someone had thrown it and fell because of the force of gravity.
We shall return to this illustration later. At present, let us note the following. Teaching opposed to Determinism is Indeterminism. This concept is accepted by Christianity. But we should keep in mind that extreme indeterminists exist, whose teaching is one-sided and false.
They say that a person’s freedom is his absolute power to act as he wishes. In this way, according to their ideas, individual freedom is practiced at a person’s arbitrary discretion, acting completely by his own desires or whims. With this false decoy of “freedom”, socialists and communists enticed and seized the unhappy and deceived Russian people (holy Apostle Peter speaks of such “freedom” in I Peter II, 15-16; II Peter II, 19.). Of course, this is hot freedom. This is the abuse of freedom, its perversion. A person does not have absolute, unconditional freedom. Only Almighty God possesses such high, creative freedom.
In contrast to this false indeterminism, genuine indeterminism’s ideas are different. It teaches that a person is undoubtedly influenced by external motivations and impulses of the most varied sort. In such a manner, for example, he is influenced by the surrounding milieu, conditions of life, the political setting, his educational level, his cultural development, etc. all this is reflected in the traits of his moral character. Indeterminists agree with determinists that various external motivations and influences act, often very strongly upon, an individual. But further there is a radical difference between the two concepts. While Determinists say that a person behaves in a particular manner only through the influence of the strongest motivation, not having any freedom, the Indeterminists assert that he is free to choose any of these motivations (towards good or evil). This motive may not be the strongest, besides, a person may even prefer an action which to other people seems to be clearly disadvantageous. An illustration of this is the podvig of martyrs, who seemed to be consciously, mindlessly destroying themselves to the pagan torturers. In such a manner, from the point of view of Indeterminists, individual freedom is not an unconditional-creative freedom, but a freedom of choice, the freedom of our will to decide whether to act in a particular way or not.
Christianity accepts precisely this kind of concept of human freedom, in accord with indeterminism. Applying this concept to morality, to the question of the struggle between good and evil, between virtue and sin, Christianity says that individual freedom is the freedom to choose between good and evil. According to scholarly theological definition, “freedom of will is our ability, independent, of anyone and anything ‘ towards self-determination in good and evil”.
Now, we can appraise Spinoza’s illustration of the falling stone. We have been convinced that a person has free will in the sense of choosing to act in a specific, way. Spinoza considers the flight of the stone to be analogous to human behavior. But this can be possible only if the stone has the freedom to choose whether to fly or not to fly, to fall or not to fall. But a stone obviously does not possess such freedom of choice and so this illustration is not at all convincing.
The bankruptcy of Determinism, rejecting free will, is also evident in the following. First of all, not one Determinist actualizes his own teachings in his practical life. It is clear why this is so. If one looks upon life from the Determinist point of view, then no one should be punished, neither a lazy student for his laziness, nor a thief for his theft, nor a murderer, and so forth, since they did not act freely, but are only slaves, mindlessly will-lessly fulfilling the dictates of their motivations, influenced by them externally. An absurd, but completely logical conclusion which may be drawn from Determinism. Secondly, the proof of free will is the spiritual experience called repentance. a fact known to everyone through their own personal experience. What is this feeling of repentance based upon? Apparently, the repenting person returns in his mind to the moment of his wrong action and weeps over his sin, clearly realizing that he could have behaved differently, could have not done this evil, but good instead. Apparently, this repentance could not be possible, if a person did not possess free will, if he were a slave of external influences, deprived of a will. In such a ease, he would not be held responsible for his actions.
We, Christians, recognize an individual as morally free, governing his own will, and behavior. This kind of freedom is the greatest gift to Man from God, Who does hot seek mechanical obedience from man, but a free, filial obedience of love. Our Lord Himself confirmed this freedom, “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and fellow me. ” (Math. XVI, 24). “See, I have set. before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy XXX, 15, 19).
The three kinds of responsibilities of Man. The responsibility to one’s self; the development of a spiritual personality (differentiated from egoism). The gradualness of this development.
A Christian living in this world is found in a continuous, live interrelationship with God and his neighbors, the surrounding people.
In addition, a Christian cares about himself for the duration of his life, about his physical well-being and spiritual salvation. Thus, his moral responsibilities may be divided into three groups; 1) the responsibility to himself, 2) the responsibility to his neighbors,
3) the highest responsibilities to God.
The first, most important responsibility of an individual is to himself the improvement of his spiritual personality within himself through work, of his truly Christian “I”. The spiritual personality of a Christian is not something given to him from the beginning, this is something sought after, acquired and worked for by his personal effort arid exertion. Neither the body of a Christian, with its abilities, strengths, and strivings, nor the very soul, as the congenital center of his conscious experiences, as life’s beginnings. Id his–spiritual personality, the spiritual “I”. This spiritual personality within every Christian is that which sharply differentiates him from every non-Christian, and the Holy Scriptures call this not the soul, but the spirit. This spirit is precisely the center, the concentration of the spiritual life, the striving towards God and eternal, blessed, infinite life. In this particular case, it may be rephrased. Namely, the problem of the earthly life of every individual is exactly that he be able, during this life to create and work our his spiritual personality, his genuine, live and eternal “I”.
One can care about his “I” in various ways. There are people who are: called egotists and who care very much for their “I” and lull it.
But an egotist thinks only about himself and no one else. In his egoism, he strives towards getting his own happiness in any way, even at the cost of bringing suffering and unhappiness to his closest neighbor. In his blindness, he does not notice that from the point of view of Christianity ‘s true understanding of life, he only harms himself, his eternal “I”. ‘
Here, Christianity, summoning a person towards the construction of his spiritual personality, commands him as a way of this building to differentiate between good and evil, and the truly beneficial from the seemingly beneficial arid harmful, Christianity teaches usthat we must consider everything given to us by God, our health, abilities, congenital virtues and qualities as not our own “I”, but as given as a gift from God. This we must use (like the materials for constructing a building) for the construction of our Spirit. We have to use all these “talents ” given by God, not only for ourselves, egotistically, but for others. The laws of Heavenly Truth are contrary to the law of earthly profit. According to earthly considerations, one acquires wealth (for eternity), if he gives it away and does good in his earthly life. In the famous parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke XVI), the main thought and key for its correct understanding is the principle of the differences between the concepts of earthly egotism and Divine Truth. In this parable. Our Lord straightforwardly called earthly riches, gathered egotistically, for oneself, as “the mammon of unrighteousness ” and commanded to have them used not for oneself, but for others in order to be accepted into the eternal cloister.
The ideal of Christian perfection is unreachably high. “Be ye therefore as perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mathew V, 48). The work of a person with himself, with his spiritual personality cannot have an end. The entire earthly life of a Christian is a dispassionate podvig of moral self-perfection. And of course, Christian perfection is given not immediately but gradually. Righteous Seraphim of Sarov told one Christian who wanted to suddenly achieve ‘ saintliness (perfection) because of his inexperience to “do everything little by little and not suddenly, virtue is not a pear, you cannot eat it suddenly… “. Apostle Paul, with all his spiritual height and might, did not consider himself as having achieved perfect ion, but said, that he only strives towards such a perfection, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. IV, 12-14).
The virtues of humility, spiritual, weeping and love of Truth. (The first, second, and fourth Commandments of Beatitude, according to the Holy Gospel by Mathew, and their interrelation.)
According to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, ascetics and luminaries of Christian virtue, the first among all the Christian virtues is Humility. This is the virtue without which no other virtue may be acquired and without which Christian spiritual perfection is unthinkable. Christ the Savior begins His Commandments of Beatitudes with the commandment of humility, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew V, 3).
We call those people poor, in the usual sense of the word, who do not; possess anything and ordinarily ask others for help. (These poor are not always “blessed”, for among them are thieves, drunkards, and swindlers, etc.) But every Christian (poor and rich) must see himself as poor in spirit, that is, see that he does not have anything good of his own within himself. Any good within us is from God. Whereas, from ourselves, we add only evil, love of self, sensual pleasures and sinful pride. Each, one of us must remember this. The Holy Gospel does not pointlessly say that, “God resisteth the proud but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4, 6). As we have already stated, no other virtue is possible without humility, for any virtue not completed in the spirit of humility is done with pride, against God, and the person falls away from God*s blessings.
Next to a sincere and deep humility, a Christian must have spiritual weeping, which is spoken of in the second Commandment of Beatitude. Who does not know that humility is often shallow and deceiving in a person. Besides this, it is not without reason that a proverb says, “humility is better than pride”. A person often appears to humble himself. But it turns out to be a superficial, shallow feeling, hot a deep, continuous frame of mind and spiritual experience. Our holy fathers-ascetics pointed to one way whereby the sincerity and depth of humility may be found out. Start to reproach and abuse a person for the very sins, for which he “humbly” condemns himself, using the same expressions he would use. If his humility is sincere, he will listen to the censure without anger, and sometimes even be grateful for the humbling explanation. But if he does not have true humility, he will not endure the censure but will become angry because his pride will stand on end.
Our Lord says that, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Mathew V, 4). in other words, blessed are those who are not only sorry for their imperfections but also weep over them.
In this way, the weeping here is understood in the sense of spiritual weeping, a cry over sins and in connection with this, over the separation from the Kingdom of Heaven. Besides this, among the Christian ascetics were many who, while filled with love and commiseration, wept for other people over their sins, failings, and sufferings. It is also, in general, not against the spirit of the Holy Gospel to consider blessed also all those suffering and unfortunate people who accept their suffering in a Christian spirit, humbly and submissively. They are truly blessed for they will be comforted by God’s love. And on the other hand, those who in this earthly life only seek after and endeavor to simply obtain comfort and pleasure are not blessed. Although they consider themselves lucky, and others do so also, according: to the spirit of the Holy Gospel’s teachings, they are the unhappiest of people. They are the ones about whom Our Lord warned, “Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that, are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” (Luke VI, 24-25).
When a person is filled with humility and suffering over his sins he already cannot reconcile himself to the evil of the sin which so begrimes him and other people. He strives to leave his sinful corruption and the falseness of his surrounding life for God’s truth, for saintliness and purity. He seeks and desires God’s truth, its triumph over human deceit more than the hungry want to eat or the thirsty – to drink. The fourth Commandment of Beatitude speaks about this, in relation to the two first ones: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Mathew V, 6). When shall they become satiated? Partially in our earthly life when these genuine followers of God’s truth sometimes see the triumph and victory of Truth in God’s Providence and the appearance of God’s Justice and might. Their spiritual hunger and thirst will become satiated only in blessed eternity, in a new heaven and a new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness”. (II Peter III, 13).
An analysis of the Parable of the prodigal son. The three stages of falling into sin and the repentance of the sinner.
After having discussed the question of free will, and the first and most important virtues – humility, spiritual Weeping, and the striving towards God’s Truth – we need to clarify for ourselves the entire process of a sinner returning to the path of virtue. The best example of this is the parable of the prodigal son, which is found in the Gospel by Luke (XV, 11-24). The parable speaks of a young son who felt burdened by the caring protection of his Father and in his folly decided to betray him. He begged his Father for his share of the inheritance and left for a “far away land. ” It is obvious to everyone that this foolish son is the epitome of every sinner. At the present time, man’s betrayal of God usually expresses itself in his ceasing to believe in God after having received “his share” – everything given to him by God in this life. Then man usually stops thinking about Him and fearing Him, and at last forgets about His law. Is this not the normal “social” life of many contemporary “intellectuals”, who do not notice that in essence they live in apostasy from God?
In the far away land which is so enticing from a distance, the foolish son wasted his spiritual and physical strength in a race after sensual pleasures and in living a “fast life”. He departs with his heart and soul further and further away from his Heavenly Father.
Having finally wasted his entire fortune, the prodigal son started to go hungry and became a swineherd (that is, a shepherd of animals considered unclean by Moses’ Law). He would have been glad to satiate himself with the swine husks, but no one gave him any… Is this not the way in which a sinner, entwine# in a net of sins, spiritually hungers, suffers, and languishes? He tries to fill his spiritual emptiness with a whirlpool of empty pastimes, reveling, and wantonness. But all this is only “swine husks’, unable to quench the torment of hunger, plaguing his eternal spirit.
This unfortunate sinner would perish without help from God, Who Himself said that he does not want the death of any sinner but y “that he turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33, 11). The prodigal son heard the saving beckoning of God’s mercy and became conscious of himself, as a sick person regains consciousness after a tormenting nightmare. A saving thought came to him, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”
Immediately he decides, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him. Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: Make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke XVI, 17-19). A firm resolve, a final decision; he rose and “came to his father”.
He went entirely imbued with repentance, a burning awareness of his guilt and worthlessness, placing his hopes upon his father’s kindness.
His road was not easy. “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, (that means that he waited, perhaps every day looking for his son to see whether he was returning or not) and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him (Luke XVI, 20). The son wanted to start his confession, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke XVI, 21). But his Father did not allow him to complete, having already forgiven and forgotten everything, and accepting the immoral and hungry swineherd as his beloved son. “I say unto you,” said the Lord, “that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke XV, 7).
That is the process of how a person gradually falls away and returns to God. It seems that he descends and ascends steps. At first, the betrayal of God, leaving Him for “a far away land”. In this alienation from God, he entirely serves sin and passion. Finally, a complete spiritual bankruptcy, spiritual hunger and darkness when a person has reached the depths of his fall. But here, according to the word of Apostle Paul, where sin has multiplied, there grace appears abundantly, enabling the person to understand. The sinner accepts the saving, grateful summons, but he may reject this summons and perish, which does occur, unfortunately. He accepts the call and regains his senses. He regains his senses and firmly decides to severe himself from all sin and go in repentance towards the Heavenly Father. He walks on the path of repentance – and his Father comes out to greet him and accepts him with the former all forgiving love…
How Man’s salvation occurs within the Church. The meaning pf the Sacrament of Baptism. The question of the relationship between human free will and the action of God’s grace (Pelagy and Augustine). Synergism.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, said that every genuinely kind deed “cannot be done without Me”. While, thus, discussing roan’s salvation, a Christian should remember that the beginning of a truly, saving, Christian life comes only from Christ, the Savior, given to us through the Sacrament of Baptism.
Our Savior, in a discussion with Nikodim, a member of the Sanhedrin, answered a question asked in Nikodim’s soul of how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, “If one is not born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven”. Further, He said even more clearly, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”(John III, 3). Thus, Baptism is like a door through which man can enter the Church of salvation. For only he, who has faith and accepts Baptism, will be saved” (Mark XVI, 16).
We should remember that Baptism cleanses us of the corruption of progenital sin and the guilt of sins committed before Baptism. The embryo of sin, sinful habits, and tendencies toward sin remain within us and are surmounted only through personal effort, throughout a life of podvig. As we already know, the Kingdom of Heaven is acquired by effort and only those exerting themselves achieve it. Other Church sacraments, Repentance, Communion, Unction, and various prayers and divine services, are the moments and means of a Christian’s sanctification. A Christian, according to the measure of his faith and need, receives divine grace in them for his own salvation. Without this grace, according to Apostolic teaching, we cannot do any good, nor even wish it (Phil. II, 13).
If in our work towards salvation, God’s grace carries such an enormous import, what does our personal effort mean in this case? Perhaps, the entire process of our salvation is accomplished for us by God, and we need but “sit with folded hands” and wait for God’s kindness. Throughout the history of the Church, this question was sharply and already decisively drawn in the V century. A learned and ascetic monk, Pelagy, began to teach that man can save himself by his own strength, without God’s grace. Developing this train of thought, he finally reached the point where he actually began to deny the very necessity of redemption and salvation in Christ. Against this position, came forth a famous teacher of the Church, blessed Augustine, who with special force proved the necessity of our Lord’s grace in salvation. However, in his answer to Pelagy, Augustine fell into the opposite extreme. According to his teaching, everything in salvation is done for us by God’s grace, and we need but accept this salvation with gratitude.
The truth, as always, is found somewhere between these two extremes. Another ascetic of the V century. Saint John Cassian, expressed this in his teaching called Synergism (that is, interaction). According to this teaching, we are saved only in. Christ and God’s grace is the main force in salvation. However, salvation requires the individual efforts of man himself, not only God’s grace. Individual effort alone is insufficient for our salvation. It is necessary since not even God’s grace will save us without our own effort. In this way, our salvation occurs simultaneously through God’s saving grace and through our individual effort. According to the bold expression of several Church Fathers, God created man without his participation, but He cannot save man without his agreement and desire. He Himself created man with absolute power over himself. Man is free to choose good or evil, salvation or destruction, and God does not limit this freedom, even though He continuously summons man towards salvation.
A Christian’s care for his soul. The development of the Mind. The meaning of secular scientific education. The necessity of spiritual education.
Psychology acknowledges three main forces or abilities in a person’s soul: the Mind, the Emotions, (the Heart, and the Will. Man perceives the surrounding world, his life, and all the conscious experiences of his own soul with his Mind. Man reacts to the influence and impressions from the external world on his own experiences with his Emotions, the Heart.
Some of these experiences are pleasant, he likes them; others are unpleasant and he dislikes them. The “pleasantness ” and “unpleasantness” of people’s likes and dislikes does not coincide. What one person likes, another does not always like, and vice versa. (A proverb: “one does not argue about taste”.) Thirdly, a person’s Will is that force within his soul: through which he enters and acts in the world. The moral character of man is largely dependent upon the character and direction of his Will.
Returning to the question of the development-of a spiritual personality, we need to note that in our work with ourselves, with our “I”, a person has to develop in a proper, Christian fashion the Mind, Heart, and Will, all faculties of his soul.
The Mind develops first of all and mainly through studying the sciences, through education. One should not think that Christianity considers “secular” studies or education unnecessary or even harmful.
The entire history of the ancient Church speaks against this mistaken view. It is sufficient to look at three great, universal teachers and saints, Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Divine, and St. John Chrysostom. They were the most educated people of their times, having made an excellent study of contemporary purely secular science. Although this science wore a definite pagan taint, they were able to assimilate the necessary and useful elements and discard the unneeded, and unhealthy.
So much more must we treasure secular scientific education now that past pagan admixtures have disappeared and science strives towards the demonstration of pure truth. It is true that even today, scholars mistakenly assume that science contradicts religion and add their anti-religious views to scientific truths. But pure science is not guilty of this. Christianity has always welcomed and blessed serious secular education where mental acuity and ability is formed and strengthened.
A Christian, receiving a secular education, gives greater meaning to religious education and upbringing. We need to remember that Christianity is not the exclusive sphere of religious experiences and feelings. No, Christianity is an absolutely, complete cycle, a system of congruous knowledge, the most varied given facts, related not only to religion but also to the sciences. How can we Christians not know the life of our Savior and His miracles and teachings? How, further, can we not know the history of our holy Church, the divine services which we should know and understand and therefore study?
Christianity, as a manifold, complete scientific; system, appears as such in high school courses of Christian morality and in teachings of our faith. Christianity arises before us as the richest philosophical system, encompassing and explaining the entire world and man to himself, indicating the true meaning and goal of his earthly life.
We must also remember that when, a person receives full knowledge of God’s truth through the study of religion, he should, perceiving this truth, serve it and listen to its voice. Christ Himself said that, “who is not with Me – is against Me…” And in relation to Him and His Holy Will and Law, indifference, coldness, and unfulfillment of this law are destructive for the soul, making man an enemy of Christ and His Truth. That is why we should never forget His words, “Why do you call Me: Lord, Lord – and do not do what I say?” Similarly, His Apostle said, “For not the hearers of the law are Just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be Justified” (Romans II, 13).
The development of a Christian Heart. Aesthetical feeling. The relationship between Christianity and aesthetics. The relationship between beauty and morality.
Let us continue now to the question of the development of man’s heart.
As we have already stated, a Heart is the faculty of feeling pleasantness and unpleasantness. These feelings are of various kinds, ranging from the lowest, organic (i.e., sweetness, bitterness, roughness, etc.) to the highest feelings (aesthetical, ethical, religious, etc.). These highest feelings are also called Emotions. The cultivation of man’s heart is based precisely upon the development of these emotions. Let us examine one of them, the feeling for aesthetics.
The aesthetical feeling is a feeling for beauty, man’s faculty to see and understand, to admire and be enraptured by any beauty, by everything beautiful, where and in whatever form it presents, itself. This admiration, of beauty may become a stormy, fiery ecstasy (i.e., the ode in poetry, “You, Our God, we praise” in liturgical music); it may be transformed into a quiet, calm, deep feeling (i.e., the elegy or the idyll in poetry, “Quiet Light” in the divine service). The aesthetical feeling is thus indissolubly tied to the idea of the wonderful, to the idea of the beautiful.
Thus the question raised is -What is beauty?
This question may be answered in various ways. The best answer is acknowledged to be the following: beauty is the full correspondence between the content and form of a given idea. The more sublime the content of the idea, the purer, more salient, and perfect is the form in which that idea is transmitted, the more beautiful and wonderful will it be. Christianity, of course, sees the highest beauty in God, as the fulfillment of every kind of beauty and perfection.
The aesthetieal feeling is present in every person to a certain degree, but is far from always being properly developed to the fullest extent. Its proper development and direction occur through the discovery of our capabilities in correctly appraising that or another manifestation or piece of art. An aesthetically educated person will be able to find the characteristics of perfection and beauty in a good painting, musical composition or literary work. He will be able to understand and appraise and explain it to another, what exactly is beautiful in a given work of art, what is its content and in what form it is transmitted.
Christianity can appreciate and love beauty. We see beauty everywhere in Christianity: in its churches, in its divine services, in its music of Church singing, ana in its painting, iconography. It is remarkable that the beauty of nature was loved and appreciated by some of our strictest ascetics, who had fully rejected the world. That is the way it was in ancient times (St. Basil the Great and other holy Fathers), that is the way it is in our Russian Orthodox Church. All the best Russian monasteries were founded in areas famed for their beauty, attracting the saintly founders and ascetics of monasteries to these areas, enrapturing all the pious and pilgrims without exception.
That is the way the radiant soul of Christianity, manifests itself in relationship to everything truly wonderful. In the Hew Testament we see how Christ the Savior behaves towards the field lily and towards the heavenly birds and towards the fig tree, the grapevine. Even in ancient pre-Christian times., the holy King and prophet David, reflecting upon the beauty and greatness of God’s creations, exclaimed,
“You created everything with wisdom – Glory to Thee, Our Lord, Creator of all…”. In other psalms, he, addressing nature as if alive and possessing consciousness, said, “Everything breathing praises the Lord… praise His sun and moon, praise His stars and light…”
Christianity recognizes only the truly wonderful, that which not only flatters our feeling for beauty with exquisiteness of form, but also the morally worthy and of good quality. True beauty is always exalting, it ennobles and enlightens the human soul, it puts an ideal of truth and goodness before her, A Christian never recognizes as wonderful an image or work of art which does not purify or enlighten the soul, even in its fullest perfection, but vulgarizes and soils the soul…
Other emotions. The development of altruistic feelings in childhood. Christian hope. Resting your heart upon God. The expectation of future happiness.
The aesthetieal feeling, discussed in the preceding chapter, is one of the emotions of the human heart. Other emotions have even a greater- significance for- a Christian, the feeling of sympathy and antipathy, family, friendly, and’ national attachments, the feeling of compassion and pity and so forth. Of course, all these exalted feelings must be developed in the heart of a Christian, if possible, from the youngest years.
Alas! This is exactly what does not ordinarily occur! Unfortunately, in many very, very good Christian families, life is structured so that the parents consciously avert pictures of human suffering, sadness, serious calamities and trials from their children. This over protectiveness towards children from severe reality brings only negative results of course. Children brought up in a sheltered, greenhouse atmosphere, removed from life, grow up effeminate, spoiled, unprepared for life, and often, thick skinned egotists, used to being only demanding and having, wishes gratified, not being able to yield, to serve, to be useful to others. But life cruelly breaks and often unbearably, painfully punishes such people, and sometimes from the youngest years, from school age.
That is why, if you love children, you must kindle these qualities in them from childhood. But most important, there must be one, definite, Christian goal before the eyes of the parents and before the. eyes of their children, that children, growing up and developing physically, also develop spiritually by becoming better, kinder, more pious, more sensitive… For this, one must place pictures of human needs and grief before children, giving them the opportunity to. help. Children will themselves strive towards kindness and truth, for everything pure, kind, and light is especially dear and kindred to a child’s unspoiled soul.
Those emotions, about which we have spoken of so far, including the noblest among them, pity and sympathy, are found in everyone. Going now to feelings of a purely Christian type, let us examine the feeling of Christian hope. Christian hope may be defined as a heartfelt, lifelong remembrance of God by a Christian, indissolubly connected to an assurance in His Fatherly love and help. Man, having such a hope in his heart, always and everywhere feels himself to be under His Father’s protection, just as everywhere in the physical world, he sees the immense vault of the heavens. A Christian, hoping in God, will never reach despair, will never- feel himself hopelessly alone. A position can only seem to be hopeless to an unbeliever; a person, believing and hoping in God, knows His closeness to the grieving human heart, and will find comfort and courage and help in Him.
Of course, the crown and height of Christian hope is in the future. We, Christian, know that our Symbol of Faith, in which all the main truths of Christianity are gathered, ends with the words, “hoping and expecting the resurrection of the dead and the life of the future age. Amen”. (The word chaiu means to expect but not only to expect, also to hope and desire with the whole heart that it should come sooner.)
The full actualization of radiant Christian hope will occur only when life will finally triumph over death and God’s Truth over worldly falsehood. Then, “everything will pass and only truth will remain”, says a Russian proverb. Then all the grief of every sufferer will be assuaged for “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away”. (Revelation XXI, 4). “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah XXV, 10). This is the height and crown of the fullest actualization of Christian hope and the triumph of those, who were banished and stifled and driven out in their earthly life for Christ’s Truth…
The development of the Will. I) Practice. Self-discipline. Good habits. II) The significance of principles in improving the Will. Religion as the source of these principles.
It remains for us to examine the question of the education and development of man’s Will. The moral character and moral value of an individual depends mostly upon the direction and force of the Will, and, of course, it is understandable to everyone that it is important for a Christian to have first of all, a strong and decisive Will, and secondly, a Will directed towards the benefit of his neighbor, on the side of good,- not evil.
How can we develop a strong Will? The answer is simple: be exercising it. Analogous to physical exercise, we need to start little by little, but having begun to exercise the Will in something (i.e., in a continuous struggle with a sinful habit or caprice), it is essential not to cease this work with oneself. From the very beginning, a Christian desiring to strengthen his Will, his character, must avoid all dissipation, disorder, and inconsistency in his conduct. Otherwise, he will be a characterless person, not presenting himself as anything definite.
Neither other people nor he can rely upon him. The Holy Gospel, calls such a man a reed, wavering in the wind.
Each one of us needs discipline. It has such an important significance, that without it a normal order and success in school or military work, is impossible. Discipline is even more important in the life every individual person the place of external school or military discipline is here occupied by internal self-discipline. Man must place himself within a certain framework, creating definite conditions and order of life and not deviating from this order once it has- been established.
In the work of strengthening the Will, of large importance are man’s habits. We have already seen that foolish, sinful habits are a great obstacle to a moral, Christian life. However, good habits are a precious acquisition for the soul, that is why man must teach himself much good for the good to become habitual. This is especially important in the early years when the second half of man’s earthly life is build up from habits saved jap during the first half of this life (compare this to the proverb: “a habit is second nature”).
No one will argue against the necessity of a strong Will. We meet- people in life with various degrees of Will power. It often happens that a person, very gifted, talented, with a strong mind and a deep, kind heart is weak willed, and cannot actualize his plans in life, no matter how good and valuable they were, and conversely, it happens that a person, less talented ana gifted, but with a more willful, strong character, is successful in life and as is said, draws his idea to a close.
But an even more important quality of man’s Will is the direction towards good, not evil. If a good but weak-willed person may seem to be a member of little worth to society, then a person with a strong, but evil, destructive Will is dangerous! he is the more dangerous, the stronger his evil Will. It is clear from this that good principles are extremely important, those basic beginnings and rules which govern man’s Will, a principleless person is an ethical nonentity, not having any kind of moral foundation and Is dangerous for those surrounding him.
From where can man’s Will take those principles for itself, to act upon them? For an unbeliever, the answer is extremely difficult, even essentially unsolvable. Gan they be taken from science? But science, first of all, is interested predominantly in Questions of knowledge and not morals, and secondly, it does not represent within itself anything firm and consistent in principles, for it widens continuously, deepens- and changes in much. Prom philosophy? But philosophy itself repeats to us about the relativity and conditional authenticity of its truths. From practical life? Even less. This life itself needs positive principles which could order it and divert from it unruly principleless conditions.
But if the answer is so difficult for unbelievers, it is simple and clear for a believer, especially for a faithful Christian. The source of good principles is God’s Will. It is revealed to us in the teachings of the Savior in His Holy Gospel. Only God’s Will has an unconditional, unshakeable authority in this field! and only God’s Will has taught us self-sacrifice and Christian love for everyone, even for our enemies.
Only God’s Will gave people a noble understanding of Christian freedom, Christian equality and brotherhood (concepts stolen from us by socialists and communists and other enemies of the faith). Our Lord Himself said about true Christians that, “not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Mathew VII, 21-23).
Work and its necessity for a Christian. Relaxation and a self-possessed Spirit. Prayer, Vows and Oaths as the means of surmounting bad habits.
A necessary condition for any kind of human activity which strengthens, the Will is work. God commanded sinful man still in Eden to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. Thus, everyone must work.
In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, it is written, “…that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” (I Thessalonians IV, 10-11). And in the Second Epistle, He severely chastises those who act indecently and “vainly” and presents his call towards work, “who does not want to work, does not eat” (These-words were also stolen by the Communists, who give them away as a product of their own creation). On top of this, it is essential to see that Christianity never separatee work into “white” and “black”. Until recently, this separation was often promulgated in contemporary society, scornfully referring to largely dirty physical labor as “black work”. But Christianity demands only that man’s work be honest and correspondingly beneficial. From this Christian point of view, a man occupying a high and responsible post, carelessly fulfilling his duties, is much lower than the most insignificant of his subordinates, if the latter fulfills his responsibilities in a Christian, conscientious manner. Everyone knows from his personal experience the consoling satisfaction one feels after working honestly and diligently and the nasty sediment which remains in. the soul after spending time, emptily and senselessly.
Presently, a very false and sinful view on work and relaxation has spread among the youth. Work is looked upon as unpleasant to the highest extent, as a heavy, subjecting yoke and care is given only to get rid of it as fast as possible, “to take the load off your back”. All strivings and effort is directed towards “relaxation” (from what?!) and amusement. There is a proverb that “work has its time, fun its hour”. Many would like to have the contrary… But, first of all, this is sinful and not at all Christian, and secondly, relaxation and amusement are only then pleasant and enjoyable when they are deserved by preceding work. In order not to have emptiness and distraction within the soul, so common in our nervous, uneasy, agitated time, a Christian should teach himself self-possession. Man should watch himself in all respects, clearly accounting to himself his moods and strivings, understanding exactly what must be done at any given moment and towards which goal he roust direct all his effort.
Speaking about strengthening the Will, it is absolutely necessary to notice those incidents when man feels his Will to be powerless in withstanding temptation or a sinfully rooted habit. Here he must remember that the first and basic remedy in such incidents is prayer, a humble prayer of faith and hope. Prayer will be discussed later. Fox now, let us only remember that even such a great spiritual man as. Apostle Paul spoke about his powerlessness in struggling against sin and in creating good (good, which I want, I do not, but evil, which I don’t want, I do). That is what constantly happens to us, the powerless and weak. And prayer can help us because it attracts God’s almighty strength to help our weakness.
Besides Prayer, Vows and Oaths carry an important significance for the strengthening of our will in the struggle against sin. A vow is a man’s promise to do some kind, agreeable deed: for example, to help a poor person, to build – a church or almshouse, to support an. orphan (or, as our ancestors often did, to make a pilgrimage to a holy place for prayer) and so forth. Applying them to our conditions, such vows can occur in the following way: if a man notices some negligence in himself such as not helping others very much, being lazy at work, hot caring enough for his family, and so forth, he must choose a definite, constant good deed for himself in the respective area of negligence and fulfill it infallibly as his responsibility. Oaths are similar to vows, except that they are negative in character. In an oath, man gives a promise not to do a particular sin, to Struggle, in the most decisive manner with that or another sinful habit (for example, drinking, smoking, cursing, and so forth). Often these oaths are given solemnly before the Holy Cross and Gospel.
Of course, the best type of oath is given for an entire lifetime. However, it is often permitted to give an oath for one, two, or three years. It is self-evident that a vow or promise must be given only after having weighed the personal strength and decisiveness with which the vow must be fulfilled, come what may, with God’s help. Our Savior warns us away from careless, thoughtless Vows beyond our strength in the proverb of the unwise tower builder, who was laughed at by onlookers, “this man began to build acid couldn’t finish”(Luke XIV, 30). Correspondingly, a Russian proverb says to “chop a tree according to your strength”, and another adds to “look before you leap”. However, if a vow is already given, then fulfill it unfailingly, summoning God’s help, “not having given your word – be firm, but having given it – keep it.”
The responsibilities of man with respect to his body. The inadmissible sin of licentiousness. The reflection of this Sin upon the body and soul of man. The struggle with carnal desire. Temptation.
Han consists of a soul and a body. Many ancient religions and philosophical teachings spoke about man’s soul as created by Sod, while the body originated from an evil source, the devil. Christianity teaches otherwise. The soul and the body are created by God. Han’s body, after the sacrament of Baptism, according to apostolic teaching, is a temple for the Holy Spirit and the members of the body, through unity with Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion, are Christ’s members. Han is transported into eternal future bliss (or torment) with his entire being, with his eternal soul and a body which will resurrect, uniting again with the soul at Christ’s Terrible Last Judgment. A Christian should therefore never leave his body without attention, while caring for his soul. He must take care of it, care for it foremost in a Christian manner, keeping it not only from illness but also from sin which begrimes, defiles, and weakens it. Among such sins, the first among the toast dangerous and harmful is the sin of licentiousness, the sin of man’s losing his chastity and bodily purity.
It is not pleasant to write these lines, raising a question which is “shameful to even mention” for a Christian, according to the sharp expression, of the Apostles. But it is impossible to remain silent because not one sin is so absolutely dangerous and fearful for youth as is this vile sin, worse than disease, worse than the plague.
We are speaking about the sin of fornication, la other words, about the sin of debauchery and sexual dissipation which is undoubtedly the most horrible sore, scourge, and curse of contemporary man. It is difficult to enumerate the destructive effects which follow this sin as an inseparable shadow; the loss of a normal, pure Christian relationship with the other sex; defiling thoughts and imagination; the weakening and draining of man’s physical strength; an extreme weakening of the memory; as unresponsiveness to life and its experiences; loss of will power and the loss of life’s energy; and finally, neurasthenia and a spiritual disorder or. the horrible disease, “progressive paralysis” (softening of the brain); these are the usual accompaniments to the sin of fornication, not to mention specific illnesses, often the result of a disorderly life. The most fearful result, of course, is the formidable judgment of Him, Who commanded a pure and viceless life, at Whose Terrible Judgment “fornicators and adulterers shall be judged by God…” (Heb. XXII, 4), as the Apostle said.
But how to struggle with the temptations of this sin for someone who wants to preserve himself pure and chaste in a Christian manner? The answer is simple: foremost, with purity of thought and imagination. It is often said that sexual needs act in man with such invincible strength that he is not strong enough to withstand them. False! Here we are not speaking about needs, bat rootedness and lewdness when man begrimes himself in thought and desire, without stopping himself. Of course, such a man’s natural sexuality becomes excited beyond a reasonable degree and unfailingly drives, him into this sin. But a Christian, God-fearing and strict with himself, will never allow nor admit bad desires and thoughts to control his mind and heart.
He, summoning God’s help in prayer and with the sign of the Cross, immediately struggles against such thoughts, with their very appearance, transferring his consciousness and thought either towards prayer or some other underfilling subject with his will power. To become excited by as unclean imagination means to pervert oneself and to destroy oneself. Struggling with bad thoughts, a Christian must immediately and sharply turn away, departing from everything which might generate a bad thought.
Hot in vain does Our Savior so strictly warn us in the sermon on the Mount about unclean, desiring looks, even if nothing more occurs than the look. Temptation in thought is that dangerous.
There are so many temptations. A general degeneration of morals and shunning of a pure life of Christian continence, the revoltingly inadmissible view of marriage and conjugal life, is alone sufficient to affect a young soul. And here, besides this are movies and contemporary literature, emulating and lauding and describing this sin in its most enticing, colors, so explicitly and shamelessly that our modest and God-fearing ancestors would have been horrified. There are indecent dances and similar amusements with which our contemporary heathenry “Christian” society is so blinded, that it does not notice their harmfulness or sinfulness. Various types of obscene “anecdotes”, spiritual rot and disease, deathly defiling man’s mind and heart, advance upon the youthful, developing soul in a cloud of temptation. But blessed is he, who from youth and to the end of his days remains oure in body and soul. Blessed is he, who brought the fragrant freshness, firmness and wealth of strength of an untouched body and soul to radiant, married, conjugal unity, blessed by God and Church, or preserved them to the very door of the grave in the radiant purity of virginity and chastity! Yes, there are only two paths which God blesses a man on earth to take: either the holy path of Christian marriage, the indissoluble unity of two hearts for an entire life, or the even higher and holier path, the path of chastity, entirely dedicated inseparably to God sad neighbor to the end, to self-denial of the personal happiness of love for the sake of love towards God and neighbor. And conversely, fatal is that path, which ignores, scams, obstinately infracts the God-given law of Christian purity and truth, defiling the body and killing the soul, for sooner or later, the terrible threat will be fulfilled upon him, “Revenge is Mine – I will render”, says the Lord (Heb. XII, 19).
Drunkenness and the love of money. Christian unselfishness. The attitude of a Christian toward health, his conduct during illness. The attitude toward death. The sin of suicide.
Drunkenness is perhaps the most dangerous of all other “physical actions”, that is, sins deeply imbedded in the very nature of man. It is well known how widespread this sin is now. Let everyone remember that you should protect yourself from drunkenness not when this shameful and destructive passion has already formed, but earlier, when this is significantly easier. Nobody was born into God’s world a readymade drunk. We already know how much easier it is for man to fight with the temptations of sin before it has become, through repetition, a vicious habit so difficult to overcome. It is better not to drink in youth or ever. Youth without this is vivacious enough and boiling over with energy, and it is fruitless to warm up with vodka during these young years. A folk proverb says, “give a devil a finger, and he will pull off your hand.” A young will is hot yet firm, and the temptations of drinking are many…
Many perish hare in their young years from a special type of courage, a kind of sportive rivalry of wanting to prove firmness and stoutness in the use of alcoholic spirits. But oi course, a man should show much greater firmness and strength, genuine moral strength, if he would actually stand against and not give in to this evil temptation from which so of our kind and talented people have perished. A Christian must withdraw from sinful temptations using every means, and remove them from himself, remembering that “evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Corin. 15, 33), according to the word of the Apostle.
Therein one more sin which does not seen to be so destructive at first glance as the sin of drunkenness and dissipation bit is just as dangerous. This is the sin of’ loving money. The Apostle literally says the following, “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6, 10). The danger of this sin for a person coveting wealth lies, first of all, in wealth opening up access to all other temptations of the world. Wealth itself can also become an idol for man, the golden idol to which he cleaves with all his soul and heart and cannot tear himself away from serving. We can see an example of this in tie Holy Gospel’s narrative about the wealthy youth who could not follow the Savior out of love for his wealth. Christ said regarding this incident that it is difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God” (Mathew 19, 24). Wealth can so blind and enslave a man. This danger threatens everyone who enters on the path of “acquisition” the path of seeking a large and easy profit and striving after it.
In order for the passion of loving money not to develop in mail’s soul, one needs to teach himself Christian unselfishness in his younger years. Among all the labors of a Christian, amid all his work, something needs to be done unselfishly, “for Christ’s sake”, according to the Holy Gospel. We saw earlier that heavenly truth, the truth of the Holy Gospel, is not acquired by someone who saves his estate far himself, but by one who gives it to others in a podvig of mercy and kindness to his neighbor. That is why a man, unselfishly serves others in a podvig of kindness, not only offers them Christian help but receives a tremendous benefit for his own soul, acquiring genuine treasures in heaven.
It is self-evident that man should treat himself in a Christian manner and struggle against various sinful temptations. He must also take care of his health, apostle Paul did not say in vain that, “no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishsth and oherisheth it” (Eph. 5, 29). Health is certainly a valuable and divine gift which must be preserved. A weak, sick body often impedes a man in his kind activities and is a hindrance in the podvig of piety and the fulfillment of Church laws. Thus, some mistakenly consider it unnecessary for a Christian to receive medical treatment but think rather that he should give himself and his health up to God’s Will without making use of a doctor’s assistance. Doctors and medicines also exist by God’s Will as is said in the Holy Bible, “the lord from the earth created medicines and a prudent nan will not disdain than”. In addition to this, the Christian point of view considers illness as the result, the direct consequence of our sinfulness. Thus, a faithful Christian begins his dire first of all with a prayer, with the cleansing and strengthening of the soul lay prayer and the Holy Sacraments. After this, medical help and treatment follow. We see lit the Holy Gospel that the lord, before curing the paralytic of his illness, aired his soul through the forgiveness of his sins. He said to another paralytic after curing him, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worst thing come unto thee” (John 5, 14).
While caring for his health, a Christian should not be afraid of death. We are not speaking about a death for Christ’s faith, which threatens a Christian in this epoch of persecution of the faith. Such a martyred death should be joyous and desiered for everyone who believes in the Savior’s words, “whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8, 35).
In general, true Christians, in the highest stages of their faith, were not only unafraid of death, but even wished it. Apostle Paul, for example, said strait- forwardly, “I am having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better… than to remain on earth” (Phil. 1, 23). In another place he says, “our home is in heaven”(Phil. 3, 20) accustoming us to the thought that our true fatherland is there, that we are only temporary guests here on earth
So dear and without fear is “a Christian end to our life” for a Christian and if it is not always “without illness”, then it is at any rate “unshameful and peaceful”. A Christian prepares fear such an end with prayer, contemplation, and receiving the Holy Sacraments. It does not however follow that only those dying need to take Holy Communion before the hour of death. This is a mistake. Every seriously ill person needs to partake of Holy Communion for this Holy Sacrament is received to heal the soul and the body and represents the best strengthening medicine. We continually see examples of this in our daily life.
In contrast to a good Christian end of life is the shameful, unchristian end, fearful and repelling, of a drunk dying by a fence, the death of a robber doing a theft, and so forth. Suicide most be undoubtedly included here. It is known the Church through her canons (i.e., rules) derives a Christian burial to suicides, who take their life with their own hands. The fact that suicide is a full betrayal of the very spirit of Christianity, of not willing to carry one’s Cross in life, the rejection of devotion to God and placing one’s hope upon Him. Suicide is the shameful death of a total egotist, thinking of himself and not thinking of other people, of his responsibilities concerning them. We see in the Holy Gospel that the first suicide was Judas the betrayer, ending his life so terribly and shamefully. A suicide follows after him, ceases to be a faithful son of his Church. And that is why She deprives these unhappy suicides of her funeral service. How can a suicide have a funeral with a Church ceremony? The main thought of the funeral service is to “rest the soul of Your slave in peace. Lord, having placed his trust in You…”, for he placed his trust in You. These words sound false when applied to a suicide and the Church cannot affirm falsehood.
The responsibilities of a Christian to his neighbor. Justice and its ferns. Supremacy of Christian Justice. Christian Sternness and Indulgence. Christian Trust.
Up to now, we spoke about the responsibilities of a Christian to himself. Now let us examine his responsibilities to his neighbor, to other people.
The first step of a proper relationship with other people is the prerequisite of Justice. Without this basic need, even man’s kindness may become unhealthy if truth is not felt within it, if partiality and onesidedness are present. Various forms of justice may be seen in the very establishment of just relations between people.
- Justice of loyalty
(From, the word loi-law) This is this lowest foam of justice, the most widespread in civil and government life. A loyal nan tries to stand-up in his life far the exact fulfillment of government and civil laws, obligatory for himself and others. Besides this, he ordinarily fulfills exactly and opportunely all his personal agreements and duties. But he does not take one step further that these legal norms and boundaries in the sense of conceding and condescending to others and nay become dry, unresponsive, and heartless. Such a nan does not act “unlawfully”, does not break laws, but will take his own and not conceding anything to anyone, even if his neighbor will suffer as a consequence. Of course, in our time even such loyal people are relatively respectable, inasmuch as they honestly fulfill their duties. However, it is clear to everyone that such a relationship is insufficient for a Christian as it is purely pagan, and not Christian.
2. Justice of Correct Manners
This form of justice in moral relationships is considerably higher than the former. We call that man correct, who tries to comport himself as he should in his surrounding relationships, not only in external laws and customs, but in general, according to his conscience. Thus, he is measured, calm, polite, and attentive to everyone; he willingly responds to any requests and tries to do everything he premises, often freeing other people from difficulties. In contrast, to drily loyal people, it is easy and pleasant to live and work with such correct, attentive people. However, all such people are still far away from Christianity, inasmuch as their meekness and responsiveness are far from always being constant and truthful in themselves, but wilt and dry up in short time, (“expire”, as is said). Such a man may perhaps remain correct and courteous externally in his relationships to other people, but ordinarily tries to quickly and politely disengage himself from them, not tying himself up with their requests aid needs.
This is the fullest form, of justice, the justice of a Christian heart.
A fundamental, wise, and simultaneously clear aid understandable principle is expressed in the words of the Holy Gospel, “In everything do unto others as you would have than do unto you”. (Math. VII, 12). The Apostolic Sobor repeat this in a negative form, “do not do unto others what you do not wish for yourself” (Hebrews XV, 29}. Do not bring into life any falseness, nor lies, near hurt, nor evil. All people are your neighbors, do not do anything to them which you do not wish for yourself. It is not enough rot to do evil only, but according to your conscience to do good, fern your heart, receiving inspiration from the Holy Gospel’s law “of love, mercy, and all forgiveness. If you wish for people to relate to you from their hearts, yourself open your heart to your neighbor. Do not be an egotist, do not count your rights as loyal and correct people do, bit place the good and health of your neighbor higher than all your rights, according to the Christian law of love.
Often, it happens that we are too indulgent with ourselves in life but demanding and strict with our neighbors. Christian justice says something different. But lord said, “Why do you look at the grain in your brother’s eye and not feel tie log in your own eye? Hypocrite first remove the log from your eye and then you shall see how to remove the grain from the eye of your brother…”. Thus, Christian ascetics, grieving over their sins, were mercilessly stern and demanding with themselves but all forgiving, condescending towards others, covering the shortcomings of their neighbors with kindness and love. The Christian rule in life generally teaches us to search for the cause of grievous situations such as quarrels, unpleasantness and so forth not in others but within ourselves, in our love of sin, unyieldingness, self- love and egotism. In such a manner, Christian justice demands indulgence towards others from us. But even this is insufficient. Love summons us to see our brother in every person, our brother in Christ, the beloved creation and image of Almighty God. However far a man should fall, however fell he should darken within himself the divine linage with sins and vices, we should always seek Go’s spark in his soil as Dostoevsky was able to do in his Memoirs from the House of the Dead (from a hard labor camp).”Sins remain with sins, but the foundation in man is God’s lmage.”Hate sin but love the sinner”, said St. John of Kronstadt.
Next to respecting the person of your neighbor, you also need to trust him. This is especially needed when a man, guiltily crimes with the word from the Holy Gospel, “I repent”, and promises to become tetter. How often is the kind intention of such a repenting person greeted with mistrust and coldness, so that the good wishes to improve disappear, replaced by resentment and, and the destructive decision. “Oh well, you just wait, I will show myself. I’ll have my revenge.” Who answers for the ruin of this soul? On the contrary, a sincere, loving Christian strives to greet the kind impulse of his brother with love, underlining his full trust and respect towards him, often supporting aid confirming someone who is still shaky and unfirm on this good path. It often havens that a person, having promised to improve takes advantage of his brothers’ trust because of weak will or conscious wish to deceive him. But can this stifle the feelings of trust and well-wishing for one’s brother in a faithful Christian? For he is the son and follower of the law of Christian love, of that love which “covers everything, trusts everything, hopes in everything, patiently bears everything…” (I Cor. XII), as the apostle said.
Lies, slander, and gossip. Hypocrisy. Christian mercy and well-wishing. Physical and spiritual help. Personal and social philanthropy.
One of the main deficiencies of our contemporary society is falsehood. It appears in different forms especially in the common form of lying. In human conversations and as deceit in business life.
It is considered normal to confirm something without knowing whether it 13 true or not; to say “not at home” in order to get rid of guests or petitioners; to call oneself ill when you are healthy and so on (included here are also false “compliments”, flattery, praise, etc..). People forget that falsehood is from the devil, whom Christ the Savior called s liar and the father of lies. Thus every liar is a collaborator and weapon of the devil. It has already been said in the Old Testament that, “lying lips are abominations to the Lord” (Proverb 12, 22).
Gossip and slander are especially dangerous forma of falsehood. It is well understood by everyone what gossip is. The devil concocts nets, of temptation and lies entangling and darkening, kind relations between people. This gossip is the child of lies and idle’ talk, and, has become the beloved property of almost every conversation. Even worse ana more grievous is slander that is consciously lying about a person with the aim of hurting him. This lie is especially diabolic, for the: very word “devi1” means “slanderer “.
When the Lord Jesus Christ exposed the: Sadducees and Pharisees. He usually called them hypocrites, indicating that grievous form of falsehood hypocrisy, which so filled these ‘self-styled leaders of the people. The Pharisees were externally holy and malicious lying haters of truth and goodness in their hearts and in their souls. The Lord, because of this compared them to painted coffins which are beautiful on the outside but filed with dead bones and every kind of impurity inside. In our days individual religious hypocrisy has lessened; however, the vice of hypocrisy has now spread in the form of pretending and wanting, to seem and not to be. A Christian strives of course not to seem, hut to be good. This is not easy and almost often goes unnoticed except for All-seeing God. Many especially among the youth try to seem more intelligent, more beautiful more, talented, more mature even kinder than they actually are. The habit and love for dressing and “make up” so common in our days is based upon this deceitful foundation. This is how deadly deceit and insincerity occur so often destroying people and their happiness, which turns out to be based upon deceit and not truth.
We have already mentioned that a Christian bases his relationship to others on love and therefore tries to be kind to them. Who does not do good is not a Christian. And this kindness. this love for your brother must be unfailingly expressed in deeds of mercy and well-wishing towards all. It is not in vain that the Savior commanded us to love not only those who love us, but also those who hate us. In His sermon about the Terrible Last Judgment, He clearly indicated what would be asked from us first of all. Neither wealth nor glory nor education will have the main and sufficient significance there. The basis of the Last Judgment is that terrible and fateful question for egotists and self-lovers, “how did we serve our brothers?” Christ enumerates six main kinds of physical help. Identifying Himself in his love, indulgence, and mercy with every pauper apd person needing help. He said, -“For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed roe: I was sick, and ye visited roe: I was in prison, and ye came unto me,” (Mathew 25, .35-36). But John Chrysostom did not say in vain that, “the forms of mercy are varied and broad is this commandment.” Yes, the commandment of mercy encompasses all of man’s life, and the Lord continually revealed the comforting truth to His Saints that man’s most grievous sins are covered by mercy and compassion.
Of course, Christian help is not exhausted by physical help. There is also spiritual help, in many instances immeasurably more important and precious. Often, a simple word of sincere sympathy, comfort, and understanding is dearer than any material support for a despairing person; And who will argue against the path of saving a man through a sympathetic heart and an intimate talk against drunkenness or the sin of suicide. This is a service which cannot be appraised by any amount of money. Apostle James wrote about such precious spiritual help, the salvation of a person’s soul, “he which converted the sinner from error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James XV, 20).
Ending this discussion about the debt of charity to our brothers, let us clarify one more question about the difference between personal charity and social philanthropy. Examples of the former are giving alms to the. blind, or to an encountered pauper, accepting an orphan, from a poor family, and so forth. Examples of the latter are the establishment of philanthropic societies by responsive people, of clubs of sobriety, enlightenment, a refuge for children or the sick or the elderly, and so forth. Unquestionably, the basic advantage of philanthropy of the first form is that the Lord spoke about precisely this form everywhere In the Holy Gospel. And of course, this personal help can create a highly Christian relationship of concern, gratitude, and mutual love between people. However, a disadvantage of this kind of personal charity is that here a large possibility for deceit, dishonesty, and- constant begging is opened up. Often, the more tiresome beggars are those who essentially do not deserve any help, but people who really do need it do hot decide to; ask for it. And who knows on what the aim of a nickel or dime will be spent on…
This is far from what occurs in social philanthropy, which is not incidental but planned and organized, bringing many people substantial benefit. True, it has much less live ties of personal love and trust which exist in individual charity but everyone who gives his alms or dues through social philanthropy knows that he takes a genuine Christian concern in something really serious and precious. He is insured to a significant degree against deceit and the dishonesty of undeserved begging which so often accompanies individual charitable works.
The sin of envy and of speaking evil. The virtues of kindness and peacemaking. The responsibility of conquering evil with kindness. The sinfulness of revenge. Anger; The sinfulness of dueling.
When the Lord spoke with the Apostles about the last times. He said that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Mathew 29, 12). This prophecy seems to be fulfilled in our days, the days of mutual estrangement and coldness in relationships. It is especially noticed now that instead of Christian love and well-wishing, the enemies of the Christian faith implant envy and malevolence in the masses of people. An “envious Eye” is numbered by the Savior Himself among the most grievous sins. By its substance, envy is impossible for a man’s Christian frame of mind. In every good family, envy cannot be inside it, and every member of this family is glad (not envious) of the success of any member. This must also be-so in the mutual relations of all Christians as the children of one loving Heavenly Father. And thus, Apostle Paul calls us to not only weep with the grieving, but also to rejoice with the glad in contrast to those who envy the successes of others. In order to free yourself from the feeling of envy, you must remember that our vainglory and egotistical competition lie at the base of this sinful feeling. Usually, people in their egotism are afraid that they will not be “recognized”, will not be given their due others will be placed higher and so forth. A Christian is afraid of the opposite, is afraid of placing himself higher than others add hurting them.
On a par with envy, a strong enemy of kind relations among people is various kinds-of evil-speaking lies, altercations, and quarrels. It is strange that people have become so blunted and blinded that all these sins are dismissed, and they constantly sin’ by speaking evil, not noticing that they do so. This is What Apostle James says about the sins of the tongue, “behold” how great a matter a little fire kindleth; and the tongue is fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell… (3, 5-6) if any man among you, seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth. his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James I, 26), The Lord Himself said straightforwardly that, “For thy words thou Shalt be Justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”, (Mathew XII, 37) So dangerous are the sins of the mouth!
The most disgusting form among all the sins; of speaking evil must unconditionally be acknowledged to be shameful and dirty habit towards unprintable expressions with which many Russian people are inflicted. What shame, what disgrace, what abuse of purity and innocence, which the Lord; commands and expects from us. People think that all this is “trifling”, “nothing”, forgetting those terrible words that “for thy, words thou shalt be Justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”, which have already been cited i ‘tooth a fountain sent forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James III, 11) asks Apostle James. And we either defile our mouths with these disgusting expletives or think that through these same lips fragrant words of pure prayer will flow towards God, and with these same defiled and begrimed lips, we will accept the Holiest of all Holies, the most pure Mysteries of Christ… No, “now put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. III, 8). Having ears to hear, let him hear!
In contrast to all these sources of mutual maliciousness and quarrels, Christianity summons us towards love of peace and the forgiveness of injuries. Thus we again come to the commandments of beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew V, 5-9). A kind person is first: of all a simple, unmalicious person, and an unconditional opponent of any kind of” egotism. He does not have any self-seeking pleasure or self-interest.
On the contrary, he seeks first of all, not what he needs for himself, but for others. While a mass of egotists usually represents themselves as a pack of hungry wolves, throwing themselves on their prey one against the other, taking it away from the other, kind people concede to everyone arid help in everything. But what is. amazing is that according to the Holy Gospel, their path of behavior is straighter and firmer, for no other than they, the met k shall inherit the earth, even though they cross life as sheep amor u wolves, by the clear example of the Savior.
Even higher is the virtue of reconciliation. And the reward for it is the highest, divine, “for they will be called children of God”. A Christian reconciler resembles in his life the first peacemaker, – the Son of God, at Whose birth angels sang, “Peace be on earth”. A kind person creates comfort and peace around himself, not irritating others.
A peacemaker strives to spread this atmosphere of peace and good relations as widely as possible and tries to reconcile others. Such a podvig demands great spiritual effort, patience, and readiness to meet cold misunderstanding, ridicule, antagonism, and opposition. But a Christian peacemaker ii always ready for everything, as he knows very well that any Christian podvig of kindness is that much more precious and valued higher, the more difficulties and opposition he meets.
In an indissoluble tie with meekness and peacemaking, according to the Holy Gospel, is gentleness, which must be a distinguishing trait of every Christian. It expresses itself most often in the forgiveness of personal injuries a ad insults, which our Savior commanded us, saying, ’’whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mathew V, 39). In other words, do not answer force with force, but answer evil with kindness. And Apostle Paul explains “if thine enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink…Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good ” (Mathew XII, 20-21). And conversely, if man answers evil with evil, then he evidently became a prisoner of his evil and is conquered by it (Of course, we are discussing personal injuries here, dealt to a Christian).
We constantly observe in life, that man, insulted by someone becomes angry and takes revenge. But revenge is unquestionably sinful and inadmissible for a Christian. “Beloved avenge not yourselves”, calls Apostle Paul (Romans XII, 19). Revenge is a complete betrayal of the Christian spirit of meekness and forgiveness, showing a lack of Christian love in man. What concerns anger, the situation is slightly different.
The Lord forbade not all anger but “vain” anger. And the Apostle said, “be ye angry and sin not” (Eph. 4, 26), indicating in this fashion that anger can also not be sinful. The Lord Jesus Christ was Himself angered by the deceit and obstinacy of the Pharisees (Mark 3S 5). In this way, anger can be naturally lawful and justified. St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was ablaze with such anger when he slapped the heretic- blasphemer Aria at the Oecumenical Council. This anger stemmed from a pure source, a firry jealousy for God’s glory. Anger is sinful when, first of all, it is unjustified and in vain. This occurs very often, especially when “the truth pricks, the eyes ” of man and hits his egotism and self-love. St. John of Kronstadt advises us not to become angry with those who offend our self-love, but to value them as spiritual doctors, opening up the wounds of our proud and vainglorious soul. Even further, anger, just in its beginning, may become sinful when it purposefully pulls a man, as the expression of an unkind heart. Then, man predisposes his hear-t towards anger and unquestionably sins. The apostle says against this, “let the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4, 26). A consciously blown up and prolonged anger may become spiteful, so alien to the Christian spirit of love.
We already spoke about revenge being inadmissible for a Christian. That much more inadmissible for him is a duel – an absurd vestige of the Middle Ages. It was different in the Middle Ages when people really believed that God’s Truth will not allow the innocent to suffer, and a duel was viewed as a divine trial. Today we do not have this belief left, and the revealed Christian consciousness clearly-tells us that the Lord did not give anyone the right to use His judgment in our sinful lifetime. Usually, the duelists think least about God and are led by an absurd concept of “honor”. As is known, this “honor”, “feeling of one’s own worth”, “noble pride”, and so forth are essentially the same impious pride and self-elevation which Christianity warns us against. The outcome of a duel, according to public opinion, depends upon the adroitness of the opponent and “blind chance”. In today’s concept of a duel, nothing remains of the idea that the Middle Ages had of the duel.
It is not in vain that the duel is viewed as the hellish entanglement of three sins: taking the law into one’s own hands, murder and suicide. A duel carries out the law itself because it is an arbitrary business between the duelists. It is murder because each one of the opponents goes to kill the other, and suicide because both opponents place themselves before the bullet or sword of the enemy…
Unchristian systems of Ethics (morality): Eudaemonism (Epicureanism) and: Utilitarianism, the philosophy of the common good. The bankruptcy of these systems of morality.
It is easy to see, that all the details of the relations between a Christian and his neighbor examined by us – kindness, peacemaking, gentleness and so forth bring us to one virtue, the most basic and important. This virtue, Christian love. is the principle rooted in Christian morality. •
Besides the teaching about Ethics which is offered by Christianity, there exists agreement with the teachings of Christian morality on many of its points, these- systems, however, refuse to admit the principle of Christian love as the fundamental teaching of Ethics. They seem to be afraid of the’ height of love, commanded by the Holy Gospel, arid they search for easier and more admissible principles for themselves.
Eudaemonism and Utilitarianism, the more renowned and at the same time more common in practical life, are from these secular systems of morality.
Eudaemonism or Epicureanism places the natural striving in people towards happiness at the foundation of Ethics. On top of this, happiness is understood here as the sum of pleasure and enjoyment from which human life becomes agreeable and happy. However, Eudaemonism separates on the question of precisely which pleasures Man. must seek if he wishes to “be happy”. Some of them (almost the majority) speak exclusively about gross, sensual pleasures. About such a crude Eudaemonism, the Prophet Isaiah says, “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die” (Isaiah 22, 13). Other Eudaemenists, referring to the fact that the passion for sensual pleasure is destructive to man’s body and soul, recommend not to be enticed by them but to strive for more firm and constant pleasure, and also more spiritual. Such are music, poetry, and generally different kinds of art and science, for example.
But of course, not in this nor the other form is Eudaemonism admissible for a Christian as the basic beginning of morality. The basic question of morality is the differentiation between good and evil, between what is good and bad. Eudaemonism however, speaks about what is pleasant and unpleasant. Who will argue with the fact that this is far from the same thing? Is it not clear that an Eudaemonist in practical life, will always be an egotist who will readily demand and accept what is pleasant and refuse what is unpleasant (even if, this were to be pleasant and healthy for others). What kind of morality can we speak of, in that case, if all people would start to seek only after what they find pleasurable?
Even more bankrupt arid positively absurd is Eudaemonism from the strictly Christian point of view, Christianity always turns man’s thoughts towards the immortality of the soul and man’s account of his earthly life and conduct at the Terrible Last Judgment. What must be awaiting the egotists Eudaemonists at the Judgment of Him,
Who will ask from them deeds of love and help to their suffering brother? The fate of the rich man, in the proverb from the Holy Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus, is their terrible lot in eternity. And it cannot be otherwise, inasmuch as the basic principle of Christianity is known to be, ‘Winter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it” (Mathew VII, 13-14).
A somewhat better system of unreligious morality is Utilitarianism, the philosophy of the common good, in other words. In it, man is prescribed to do not what is pleasant but what is useful for him. But this system of morality cannot be admitted to be satisfactory. First of all, the very understanding of usefulness far from always coincides with the idea of goodness, as something unconditionally good. Medicine is useful for the strengthening of health but a criminal’s weapons are also useful to him; the revolver or the knife are useful for the realization of his evil goals. In such a manner, the principle of usefulness cannot be placed at the foundation of morality. And if we shall express it in a harsh and terse form, “act as is useful for you, that is, profitable”, is it not clear that here the same crude egotism shows through which has been so much spoken about earlier? That is why some Utilitarian, philosophers, try to soften this condition by recommending; that man seek not only his personal profit at the common good, the common usefulness which, they say, includes also the good of every individual. Of course, in this case Utilitarianism appears in a more ennobling and exalting form, however, here it does not appear in any more of a solvent form, if it is not strengthened by the principles of Christianity. First of all, its basic efficiency is the disharmony of the concepts of “usefulness” and “goodness”. Secondly, situations occur in practical life when man can be prevented from committing a crime only by religious fear, the fear of breaking the law of the Highest Truth and by dry, calculated Utilitarianism. A hungry man stands before the temptation to steal a piece of bread or money from his neighbor, for example. What can restrain him from this? Of course, only religious realization of the sinfulness of this act. But Utilitarianism cannot give him moral support in such waverings. Let the Utilitarians teach him not to seek hid own, but the common good precisely because this common good encompasses his personal good. But if he does not in the name of this “common good” steal the money or bread, he can perish from hunger. Where is his personal good here? In a hungry death?
We, Christians can neither admit Eudaemonism nor Utilitarianism to be satisfactory ethical systems. Even though these ethical systems, these Epicurean-Utilitarian views have been widely spread today, it is necessary to note that those adhering to them are often fully respectable, people. Why? Because common morality, opinions, and views on life still bear the mark of Christian influence. Christianity exists for many centuries in man and has placed its firm stamp upon everything. Only because of this, people, considering themselves to be Eudaemonists or utilitarians, are in reality honest, Christian, and kind people with integrity. They have been raised and have matured with purely Christian-inspired moral concepts and thus, in many respects remain Christians in their souls, without realizing it themselves, placing a covering (pokrov) of Christian idealism on – their Utilitarian and Eudaemonistic ideas.
Christian love as the basic beginning of morality. Its characteristic traits. The hymn of Christian love in Apostle Paul, the XIII chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
And so, we saw that those ethical systems which did not accept. as their foundation the Holy Gospel’s teaching of Christian love were shown to be irresponsible. Christian morality is wholly built on the law of love and that love is its basis and apex.
What is this Christian love? Of course, in its fullest development, it appears as the nobles, strongest, and clearest of all human feelings. It represents itself as an experience of special spiritual and moral closeness, the strongest inner attraction of one person towards another. The heart of a loving person is open to his beloved and is ready to accept, to draw him to itself. In its love, it accepts another into itself and gives itself to another. “Oh ye, Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged” (II Cor. 6, 11), wrote Apostle Paul to his beloved spiritual children. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John XIII, 39) said the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to His Apostles and through them to all of us Christians.
Christian love is a special feeling, placing man nearer to God, Who Himself is love, according to the word of His beloved Apostle (I John IV, 8). In the sphere of earthly feeling there is no more exalted feeling than maternal love, ready for self-sacrifice. The whole history of the relation of God to man is, a continuous history of self-sacrificing Heavenly Love. Our Heavenly Father seems to lead the sinner, His enemy and traitor, by the hand to salvation and does not spare His Only Begotten Son for his salvation. The Son of God, descending from heaven, incarnates, suffers, and dies to give sinners through the resurrection that felicitous eternity which was lost through the sinser’s treason. Before His sufferings. He gives His faithful a last Will and, Testament so to speak, the commandment and ideal of love, “Love one another as I have loved you ” (John 15, 12).
Such is the ideal of selfless Christian love. It embraces everyone, not only friends but also enemies. The Lord in the Holy Gospel says directly that, “if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have you? for sinners also do even the same” (Luke VI, 32-33). The Lord warn us with these words against the egotistical, selfish character of unchristian, pagan love. The most important aspect of this egotistical love is our own “Self”, our self-satisfaction from this feeling. But for us, Christians, the Lord commanded something else, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and. persecute you” (Mathew V, 44). In such a manner, a Christian loves other people, not for their kind or pleasing relationship to. himself, but for themselves, so to speak, arid his love searches for their salvation, even if they are hostile to him.
The substance and essence of Christian love is not so revealed in any other place in the Holy Scriptures as in the XIII chapter of the First. Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. It is not in vain that the interpreters of the Holy Scriptures call this chapter the hymn to Christian love. In it, the. Apostle compares Christian’s love with various spiritual gifts and virtues, calling this love the most exalted state (at the end of the previous XII chapter), and with irrefutable conviction clarifies how much nobler it is of all other, gifts and roan’s experiences. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, ” (That is, am similar to inanimate objects, which act only upon the external ear of man and not upon his heart. I Cor. XIII, 1).
All the highest virtues, prophecies, knowledge of all the mysteries, miraculous faith and even podvigs of selflessness and martyrdom are nothing without love and derive their worth only from it.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up”, it makes men patient, kind, humble, and well-wishing towards everyone. Charity “doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoieeth not in iniquity, but rejoieeth in the; truth…”. Here, is the strength, all-conquering, the strength of humble love which destroys the egotism and spitefulness, nesting in man’s heart. This true Love always seeks Truth and verity, not falsehood and ingratiation. And finally, Charity “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never stops…” (I Cor.. XIII, 4,7) precisely never. Nothing will break it, neither trials, nor agony, nor grief, nor denials, nor disappointments. And into another, better world will it go with a Christian, and will uncover itself fully only there, when the gifts of prophecy and language will disappear, but Faith and Hope will cease. Faith will be replaced by witnessing face to face, and Hope will have become realized; Love alone will rule unto ages of ages, forever”. Thus that same apostle says, “Love, is the fulfillment of the (whole) law” (Romans XII, 10).
The influence of Christianity on all aspects of life. The Christian family. The mutual relationship between husband and wife, parents and children. The respect for authority civil and spiritual.
The basic aim of Christianity is to teach man God’s Will, bringing them thus to eternal beatitude. In vain do some want to compare Christianity only to a narrow, isolated sphere of religious experiences.
No, Christianity is life, Christianity puts a new stamp on all of life’s relationships between people. Its influence on life is unarguable and indubitable for every unprejudiced person. It suffices to indicate that even if life and conduct of people, in our: time have departed from Christian ideals, their understanding and views were formed by Christianity. The work and creations of the best, most sincere servants of Science and Art, carry within themselves a clearly Christian mark,
Further, such consoling phenomena as the- disappearance, of slavery, the appearance of many philanthropic and educational institutions, and many others are undoubtedly indebted to Christianity for their existence.
But perhaps the family, as the first structural cell of social life, experienced the most reformative and educational influence of Christianity.
Of course, it is a great responsibility for a Christian man and woman to choose themselves a-friend for their entire life. God’s Word declares that in a Christian marriage “two will be one flesh”; two people in marriage’ seem to compose one organism, one common life. A Christian wife thinks of her- husband before everything else and only then of herself. Exactly in the same way, the husband first cares for his wife and only then for himself. The Lord strengthened such a
Christian unity of spouses with His Divine Word, “what therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder”. It is remarkable that tje love: of husband and wife has that same unselfish, self-sacrificing character with generally distinguishes Christian love. Not in vain, does Apostle Paul compare conjugal unity to the unity of Christ and the Church, saying, “husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for:it” (Eph. V, 25). In Christian marriage, the unity of the two beloved becomes so all-encompassing and complete, the mutual devotion of the spouses is so deep and unconditional that they resemble each other, and at times even begin to look like each other towards old age. Their life flows in utter harmony, in full devotion to the laws of Christ the Savior and His Holy Church.
In our days it is so difficult to bear watching the impetuous, irrational, imprudent and completely Unchristian relationship of youth to this serious question. We continuously observe today how marriages are contracted not from a serious, deep, tested feeling of love but from the emotionality of “being in love”, a feeling which is – not. serious; not deep, and morally not very high. Often, the substance of “being enamoured” is, alas, essentially only animal sensualism, only the “agitation of young blood”, sometimes even not young but dirty, quarrelsome. At the same time, deceit, the self-adornment of body and soul, and the hypocritical desire not to be but to seem better and more beautiful, of which we spoke earlier, is continuously observed in the premarital period of such “marriages”. But life can be built only on truth, it cannot remain upright on falseness. The disappointment of spouses in each other and the indecent practice of divorces stems so often from this. Who has not heard of these “loves” being continuously resolved today into “civil marriages”, that is, illegal toes, systematically, continuously violating tire Seventh Commandment for which the Holy Church denies receiving Holy Communion, All this, ends most tragically, not only in quarrels but in, crimes, murder, and suicide?
Christian marriage is one life with two alive in a single union. With the advent of time, conjugal love in marriage strengthens, becomes deeper, more spiritual. Sensuous love enters into this conjugal love as a known item in Christianity.: Sensuous. love is tied to the natural, sexual instinct peculiar to man and to the purely physical inclination and attraction to the other sex. In a genuinely Christian marriage, such physical love in the attachment of the spouses is only one part and never has such, meaning and power as in non-Christian marriages. In the Lives of the Saints, we see several examples; of how Christian spouses refused a sexual life by reciprocal agreement, either from the very beginning of the marriage or after forty years. It is amazing that in such marriages where spouses-ascetics live “as brother and sister”, their, mutual love is distinguished by a special, power of attachment, all-encompassing faithfulness and mutual respect. Christianity has thus enlightened, elevated, and transformed marital unity.
Children and parents, besides the husband and wife, are included in the Christian family, Christianity again leaves its characteristic stamp on the mutual relationship of those and others.
In every good family, there must be unfailingly an unified family life. The common “our” must always stand higher than the personal “my”.
It’ is not in vain that all the members, of a family have one name in common and they must live a friendly life together.
The head of the family is usually considered to be and must be-the husband. The well-being of the family is based on his labors. The family is his first responsibility. Apostle Paul says tersely but with sufficient intelligibility, concerning those who do not care for their families that, “if any provide not for his own, .and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (Tim. V, 8).
It is common to see in life that parents, directing their children on that or- another path act contrary to the inclinations and heart’s desires of their children. And sometimes are even unfair. The Apostle says straightforwardly in opposition to this, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. Ill, 21) and,
“Ye fathers, provoke not your- children to wrath: but bring them up in tne nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. IV, 4-).
Being, excessively demanding, beyond the children’s strength, actually only plunges them into despondency. Unfairness does that so much more; the father, for the child is the highest authority and woe if that authority will go against the feeling of truth so much stronger in each child than in adults. This creates a desperate situation for the child’s soul. But worse things occur when parents spoil their children overly much, are too indulgent towards them and often leave them without super vision. Prom here stems great moral damage of the child, the more so, as we have seen that God’s Word directly orders parents to raise and guide’ their children in our Lord’s Law.
The raising of children, of course, largely rests upon the mother. And this is natural, as no one is so close to the soul and heart of a child as his mother; not in vain does he run to here with the cry “mama” when he has been hurt. A great problem lies before the mother to raise the son or daughter as a faithful Christian, a kind, sensitive, industrious, good worker for the Church and Government, to raise with words and by example, with fondness and sternness. The husband must appreciate this enormous work of childrearing. This is the altar of her service to her Lord, work which is not less important than his work for the family.
Shame and disgrace on those mothers who feel burdened by having to raise their children and often give them up entirely to the care of hired servants, forgetting how easy it is to hurt or defile the child’s soul.
Can anyone really replace a child’s mother?
Children must remember their responsibilities not less than their parents. Everyone knows the Fifth commandment of God’s Law about honoring their parents. “Children”, wrote Apostle Paul, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. VI, 1). And of course, this demand is evoked precisely by Justice. Children are indebted for everything to their parents who care for them, loving them, working, denying themselves in much, raising them with their love, often helping them even when they have become adults and independent people.
How often is the Fifth Commandment is broken today? Even those children who are convinced that they sincerely and firmly love their parents are often, disobedient and thus do not honor them. Love is always tied to obedience. The older such children become, the more self-willed do they become, being rude to their parents, reproaching them in “backwardness ” and disregarding their authority. Is this the honoring of parents? In the Old Testament, it is said directly that, “who speaks evil of his father or mother must-be put to death”. In the Hew Testament the Savior remembering this law, called it the Lord’s Commandment. How many terrifying instances there are in life when the Lord severely punishes (sometimes fatally) offenders of their fathers or mothers! It is not said in vain that a mother’s prayer saves (a child) from water and fire, and that, “parental blessing confirms their children’s house”; on the other hand, who has not heard of what terrible unhappiness it is to inflict upon yourself a mother’s or father’s curse.
Thus, basically the meaning of the Fifth Commandment speaks about respecting our parents. But of course, for a Christian included here is everyone taking the parent’s place: teachers, governesses, and so forth, and especially the representatives of the. legal authorities which preserve government order. Apostle Paul directly order us to pray “for the Kings and for all that are. in authority” (Tim, II, 2) and in many other places of his Epistles teaches us to submit ourselves to the authorities. Even more important for a Christian is to honor the spiritual authorities – the Church pastors, especially the bishops and also that pastor who is our spiritual father and answers before God for our souls. Apostle Paul said, “Obey them that have rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Hebrews XIII, 17). The Lord Himself said to. His Apostles and through their person to the Church pastors, “He that heareth you heareth Me, and he who despiseth you (does not listen) despiseth Me…”
The family and the government. Cosmopolitanism and its one-sidedness. Patriotism in the Old and New Testaments. The examples of Moses, Apostle Paul and the Saviour Himself. The lawfulness of loving your brother.
A healthy and firm family is the first and main unit of Society and government. The strongest and most organized government is brought to collapse and destroyed if the family unit is corrupted, if there is no stable basis in family life and education. On the contrary, if the family is strong and its education is based on healthy beginnings, then even during a great external destruction of the form of government life, the nation remains capable of living and restoring governmental might and unity,
We must remember that a Christian family must not wholly be locked up within itself, turning into a “chicken house”. Such life is the life of family egotism. Man, living such a life, does not have any interests outside his family, doees not wish to know anything about the joys and griefs of the surrounding world and does not serve it in any way. Of course, such life is not a Christian life and such a family is not a Christian family. As has been mentioned already, the Christian family is precisely the cell of society, a part indissolubly tied to the whole. It partakes energetically in social life serving its neighbors, constantly taking interest in them and giving them as much assistance as it can,
However, that also is not sufficient. According to the clear teaching of the, New Testament, a Christian’s roles in life must be neither locked within the boundaries of his family nor within the national, native, governmental framework. No, in its love, Christianity is international. For a Christian, every person regardless to which nation he belongs is his brother whom he must love according to the Commandment of His Savior. This is clearly stated in the sermon about the merciful Samaritan especially the categorical conclusion. In this sermon, the Savior indicated to the Hebrew Advocate with what mercy and love the kind Samaritan regarded the chosen and robbed Jew, a member of a nation hostile to the Samaritans. Further, He said to the Advocate to “go and do the same”. Such is the law of Christian love! r –
But if we as Christians are called towards such an universal love, is not the Cosmopolitan right. teaching about the brotherhood of all nations where man is a “citizen of the universe” and not of his own government? According to this teaching, mankind must not have any governmental, national distinctions and divisions but it must represent itself as one family
Undoubtedly, in the positive aspects of its teaching, Cosmopolitanism closely resembles Christianity, And again, it is undoubtedly true that its summons towards brotherhood, love, and mutual help were taken precisely from Christianity. These summonses are purely Christian. But only these Christian ideas are valuable in Cosmopolitanism. However, with this truth are mixed many more ugly fallacies and delusions, by Cosmopolitanism, Thanks to this, its teaching turns out to be narrowly one-sided and artificial, and thus not vital. All the conclusions of Cosmopolitanism against the feeling of patriotism are against the v Orthodox teaching of the debt of serving the fatherland for its good and security. How continuously harsh and incapable of loving, sharing relationships in life are the longwinded proponents of Cosmopolitanism. They shout, foaming at the mouth, about their love towards mankind and are unable to love their brothers as they should. To love their means to love every man put in their path by God’s Providence, often someone needing, sympathy and support. Christianity does not have this false one-sidedness of Cosmopolitanism. Christ commanded not an artificial love for Mankind but precisely a love for our brothers. For a Christian such brothers are, as a rule, every person (thus a Christian must love everyone), and partially, every person whom he encounters in daily life. Christian love is expressed most of ail precisely in those personal encounters, in vital reciprocal relationships, mutual support and-sympathy. How far from this is one-sided. Cosmopolitanism with its artificial, severed from life, summons towards love for ”mankind”!
When man is still a child in his childhood years, the closest people for him are his parents, brothers and sisters, and in general his relatives. At this time, it is fully sufficient and beneficial for him if he will be good, loving responsive and devoted member of the family. Apparently, the concepts of love for other people not entering into his family are not accessible to the child. He does not have any real relationships with them and they are “strangers” for him. Gradually growing up, he develops personal, live relationships with many other people in the juvenile and youthful years, they become ‘his own” for him. Here, a good education must teach a child to behave as a Christian to these new for him “brothers”, with friendship, well-wishing, with a sincere readiness to help, to show as much assistance as possible. (Of course, the closest brothers for him remain as before his relatives). But here, the juvenile is hot yet developed in his spiritual horizon to the extent that from him. can be demanded the same loving relationships from the heart to the inhabitants of other nations and countries. Only when a Christian, becomes an adult and fully developed person does his horizon open expansively and “his brother” becomes any man for him, regardless of the nation he belongs to. First and foremost, of course, he loves his family, his relatives among whom he grew up and lived, secondly, the nation to which he belongs. He is tied, to his nation with all his governmental, political, and citizen’s responsibilities. The culture, customs, all the distinguishing traits of his native people, especially all that is sacred, are also for him “his own”, family he has a bond with his people, his nation, he loves them and this love for his nation is that Christian patriotism against which the Cosmopolitans struggle so fiercely in their delusions.
Of course, Christian patriotism is estranged from those extremes end fallacies into which people who call themselves “patriots”, so often fall. A Christian patriot, who loves his people, does not close his eyes to their deficiencies and soberly looks at his national character and inherent traits. Thus, he will never agree with those “patriots” who are inclined to elevate everything native (even national bad habits and deficiencies – drunkenness, quarrelsomeness, so on) and consider them lawful and good. They do not notice that this is already not patriotism but an inflated national pride, that is, that sin against which Christianity so strongly struggles. No genuine patriot does not close his eyes on the sins and maladies of his people – he sees them, grieves over them, struggles with them, and repents before God and other people for himself and his people. Besides this, Christian patriotism is completely estranged from hatred towards other people. If I love my people, why must I not love China, Turkey, or any other country and people (even the Jews)? This would be an Unchristian feeling. No, may God give them also happiness and success, for all of us are people, the children of one Father,
The main facts in favor of patriotism can be found in the Holy Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the entire history of the Jewish people is filled with witnesses of how the Jews loved Sion, their Jerusalem their temple. This was the best example of true patriotism, love, for their nation and its sanctity. It is not in vain that our Christian Church took into its divine services (although in a Somewhat different Christian understanding) this glorification of the Jews of their holy places, singing, “Blessed is the Lord from Sion, Living in Jerusalem. Hallelujah”. An especially amazing example of love to its people is shown in the Old Testament by Prophet Moses. At one time, right after the conclusion of the testament with God, the Israeli nation betrayed its God and paid reverence to the golden calf. The wrath of God’s truth became strongly inflamed. Moses began to pray for the sinning people, without leaving the mountain on which he prayed for forty days and forty nights, The Lord answered, “let Me a alone that My wrath may wax hot against them and I may consume them.” What is amazing ‘in these words of God is the testimony of the power of prayer of one virtuous man, who according to the bold expression of St. John Chrysostom, restrains God. The great prophet prayed even more fervently and finally cried out, “forgive them their sins and If not, blot me, I pray out of Thy book which Thou hast written”; and “the Lord listened to him this time’ and did not wish to destroy them”, says the Holy Bible. Is this not the highest podvig of self-sacrificing patriotism?
A similar example from the New Testament can be seen in the life of the great Apostle Paul. No One hindered his work of preaching so spitefully and stubbornly as his compatriots, who did not believe in Christ. They hated Paul, considering him a traitor to the faith of his fathers. What did the Apostle say about his compatriots? He said, “I could wish that myself were to be removed accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Romans IX, 3). From these words we can see his love for his native people. This love was so great, that he, like Moses, was ready to sacrifice his personal eternal salvation (not only his temporary life) for the salvation of these people.
There is also the example of the Savior Himself. In the New Testament we read how He said that He came first of all to His people. In another instance He, turning to Jerusalem, said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee…” (Luke XIII, 34). When He rode Into Jerusalem with the cries of “Hasannah”, to Him and in several days would shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”. He loved His own people with a touching, deep love.
In such a manner, the feeling of patriotism cannot be rejected or condemned nor the lawfulness of this universal love for one’s family and neighbors contrary to the false views of Cosmopolitanism. We already know the Apostles words that, “if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. V, 8). In another place, speaking about choosing someone to serve the Church, the Apostle establishes conditions that the chosen one “should govern his children and house wall”. And we are emphasizing again that such love and care must not be egotistical, self-centered. No, caring for those who come in contact with him in life, a Christian must forget other people in his Christian love, his neighbors and brothers in Christ… In conclusion, let us cite the words of Apostle. Paul from the Epistle to the Galatians, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. VI, 10).
The Christian duty of serving the fatherland. The Christian view of war (the statement of Righteous Athanasy of Mt. Athos and St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyrill).
It is apparent that the Christian patriotism, which was mentioned earlier, demands from each of us that we serve our country as much as we can. This service by man is accomplished, first of all, when he is occupied with certain government or social work. Of course, the value of this service is augmented if it is done unselfishly, independently of any material calculations or considerations. But man, at any rate, serves his country when he participates in its life, working and writing; in the press or during social elections and so forth. Here he must strive to bring his good to, the entire society, to all the people and no to observe only his personal or party interests. Then his conscience will’ be at peace. Even if he does not achieve great social success, he will at least have honestly, in a Christian manner, fulfilled his duty of patriotism as a faithful son of hie. country.
As proverb, exists “a friend indeed is a friend in need”. In a genuine patriot, the love for his country and his people appears especially strongly during a time of national trials and calamities. Everyone knows how a feels whose loved ones are seriously ill. He has no time for amusements and pleasures. In his grief and sorrow he sometimes cannot even eat or drink or refresh himself with rest and sleep. Something similar must appear during national disasters in man if, he actually loves it, sincerely, really. If our heart is piled up from top to bottom only with our personal experiences and interests, if with our words we moan and sigh and our deeds stand apart from our words as “separate as the East from the West then”, then this is, a poor love for our country!
One of the more luminous and self-defying podvigs in serving our country ls to die for our country, primarily during war. A Christian soldiery defending his country and its sanctity clearly fulfills Christ’s commandment, “greater love hath no n than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
Of course, war in and of itself is an unconditional evil, an extremely and deeply antithetical to- the very basis of Christianity. It is not necessary to mention how comforting it would be if people stopped fighting each other and if peace would become established on earth. But sad reality says something completely different. Only some dreamers far away from reality and narrowly onesided sectarians can reject war, so to speak, not allowing it to exist in real life.
Undoubtedly, those who point to the commandment do not kill justly shy that war is a breach of this commandment. We one argues against this. however, we see from the Holy Bible that at the time that this commandment was given in the Old Testament, the Israelite nation was at war by God’s command and triumphed over its enemies with His help. We have already cited the commandment from the Old Testament that if a man speaks evil about his parents, he must be put to death, it follows that the commandment “do not kill” was not unconditionally applied to every instance of taking man’s life. This commandment only forbids personal retribution of one person with another by hie personal decision and arbitrariness. When the Lord Here is the text:
When the Lord in the New Testament clarified the deep meaning of this commandment, He indicated that it forbids not only murder, but non-Christian, vain anger in general. But He, the Lord, in a conversation with the Apostles about the last days, told them: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for
all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” These words of His about the inevitability of war refute the claims of pacifists that Christianity rejects war outright, not recognizing it at all and refusing to participate in it. Yes, we have already said that war is a negative human phenomenon. However, it has to exist sometimes as the sole means of defending the truth and the holy places and rights of people from capture, invasion and violence. Christian doctrine defends onl wars in the name of justice and restoration of order and truth. No wonder we read in the Apocalypse that there was even a war in heaven (Rev. XII, 7), when St. Archangel Michael and the angels overthrew the
traitor, the Devil, from Heaven along with his like-minded associates,
the fallen angels… The life of Monk Athanasius the Athonite contains the
following account. The Georgian prince Tornike Eristavi took monastic
vows in his monastery, after being an outstanding commander of Greek
troops. In a difficult time for the state, during the war with the
Persians [probably the Arabs —ed.], the Empress Zoe called on Tornike to
command the troops. Tornike flatly refused, referring to the fact that
he was already a monk. But Monk Athanasius said to him: “We are all
children of the same homeland and are obliged to protect it. Our duty is
to protect our homeland from enemies through prayer. But if the Supreme
Authority deems it necessary to use our hands and chest for the common
good, we must obey unquestioningly… If you do not listen to the Empress,
then you will be responsible for the blood of your compatriots whom you
did not want save, and for the destruction of the temples of God…”.
Tornike obeyed, defeated the enemy and saved his fatherland from danger.
And St. Cyril, Equal-to-the-Apostles, in talking with Muslims about war,
told them: “We endure our personal grievances liberally: but in society,
we protect each other by laying down our lives for our neighbor, so that
you do not capture our fellow-subjects and force them to renounce the
faith and to commit ungodly deeds…” Finally, is there any Russian who
does not know the example of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who blessed Prince
Dmitry Donskoy for battle, prayed for the success of the Russian troops,
and commemorated the warriors who died on the battlefield? Of course, by
participating in a war, a person can sin and sin greatly. This happens
when he invests feelings of personal hatred and revenge, or vanity,
pride, and personal aspiration in it. And vice versa: the less he thinks
about himself and the readier he is to lay down his life for others, the
closer to the martyr’s crown a Christian warrior is.
Christianity and Communism. The sharing of property in Christianity and Communism. The. breach of justice in Communism. The ideology of Christianity and Communism.
Let us now examine the question of the relationships of Christianity to Communism, to that Communism which now in the eyes of the whole world appears as a fact, as an attempt to actually realize socialist ideas in life, in Soviet Russia.
It is well known that Communism openly entered History as a mortal and hardened enemy of Christianity. On its part, Christianity also acknowledges itself to he absolutely estranged and hostile to Communism, to its very spirit, to the entire content of its ideology.
The history of the Church during Apostolic times tells us that during those days it had its own Christian Communism when the faithful held everything in common, as the book of the Apostolic Acts says. Even now this Christian communism exists in the form of monasticism, considered the best form of Christian ascetical life. In such a manner, the sharing of property from the Christian point of view is not only acceptable, it is more than that: it is a bright, ideally noble type of Christian interrelationship, examples of which existed and exist now in the life of the Orthodox Church.
What a great difference between such Christian communism and Soviet Communism! One stands as far from the other as heaven from earth. Christian communism is not an independent goal in itself towards which Christianity strives. No, it is the result and birth of a spirit of love which the Church of early history breathed. Besides this, Christian communism was fully voluntary. In it nobody said, “give away yours, it belongs to us”, to the contrary, Christians themselves sacrificed so that “no one called anything from their own property their own”. What concerns Socialist communism, the sharing of property is a goal in itself which needs, to attained at any price, without any other considerations. Communism attains its goal in a purely coercive form, not stopping at any means, not even at beating those in disagreement…The basis of this communism is not freedom as in Christian communism, but coercions not self-sacrificing love, but envy and hatred…
In its struggle with Christianity, communism goes to the extremes of even rejecting the most elementary Justice, recognized by all. In its class ideology, communism essentially scorns every kind of Justice. The object of its concern is not the general good of all the citizens of the government, but the interests of the working class and proletariat only. The rest of the government and social groupings of citizens are openly left “overboard”, outside any kind of care by the communist government. They can go hungry, can have not a penny of earnings, have not even the very opportunity of earning a living, yet it is not the business of the “governing bodies”. What is this if not the trampling of Justice and a mockery of millions of people?
Communism speaking about the new structure of a “free” government, constantly persists in calling this structure the “dictatorship-of-the-proletariat”. It has been clear for a long time that in Soviet Russia such a promised dictatorship of the proletariat does not exist; but a dictatorship over the proletariat does exist. Even more so that the manifestations of ordinary political freedoms do not exist there: the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the inviolability of a home. Only those who lived in Russia know the extent of the burden and the force of this oppression which rules, there. On top of all this, there exists an unprecedented political terror, executions, and murder, exile and incarceration under incredibly difficult circumstances. This is what communism gave to the Russian people instead of the premised freedom…
In its political propaganda, Communism confirms that it attains the realization of freedom, equality (that is justice) and brotherhood.
We have already spoken about the first and the second. What concerns “brotherhood”, there is no doubt that this word was stolen from the Christians, who called themselves “brothers”. Apostle Peter says directly to, “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King.” (I Peter II, 17). But in practical life, communists, as is known, have changed the word “brother” for the word “comrade”. This is very indicative, inasmuch as comrades can also be participators in crimes or the members of some criminal gang. One cannot even speak of “brotherhood” where a class struggle is preached or envy and hatred…
All these differences between Christianity and Communism do not exhaust, however, the very essence of the contradictions between them. The rooted primary, and explanatory difference between Communism and Christianity lies deeper in the religious ideology of the former. It is not in vain that the Communists struggle so maliciously and stubbornly against our faith.
As is known, Communism is atheistic and unconditionally rejects every religion in principle. In reality it seems to be religion in itself – fanatical, impatient, and dark. Christianity is the religion of heaven, Communism is the religion of the earth. Christianity preaches love towards everyone, Communism preaches the class struggle and is based upon egotism. Christianity is the religion of Idealism, based upon the faith that God’s Love and Truth will triumph. Communism is the religion of a dry, rational pragmatism, actualizing the goal of establishing an earthly “heaven” (a heaven of animal surfeit and spiritual savagery). It is not in vain that a cross is placed on a Christian grave and a red star on a Communist grave. How indicative, clear and symbolical this is of both sides! On one side, there is faith in the triumph of life over death and good over evil. On the other, utter darkness, gloom and emptiness, without any consolation, comfort and hope ahead. While the holy relics of the saints of Christ’s faith flower after death with imperishability and fragrance, the rotting corpse of the embalmed “Ilyich” is the best symbol of Communism…
The responsibility of a Christian in relation to God. The mutual relationship between a love for God, for one’s brother and for oneself. The indissoluble bond between love for God and love for one’s brother. The feeling of a child’s devotion as the basic Christian state of mind.
Rising from the lowest responsibility to the highest, we ascended to their pinnacle, to our responsibility in relation to God.
But a clear and exact commandment of the Holy Scriptures, the main’ responsibility of man in relation to God is love for Him. This love was commanded<in the Old Testament where it was said to, ‘’Then love the Lord, thy God with, all thine heart and with all thy soul, and with thy might ” (Deuteronomy. VI, 5).In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said about this commandment that, “This is the first and greatest commandment”.
The Savior united a second commandment to this main commandment of God’s Law to love our. brother as ourselves. He said that this commandment “resembles” the first commandment about loving God. The Holy Church, grounding itself upon these words of the Lord Himself always established the following order in the moral responsibilities of man: the responsibility of man towards himself stands lowest of all. That is why man needs to sacrifice the love towards himself in the name of love towards God and his brother. Love towards one’s brother occupies a middle position. It rules over marl’s love for himself but in its turn submits to the highest love, the love of’ man for God, Whom we must love most of all.
We can often hear remarks that a strong love of man for God harms and disturbs his love for his neighbor. That is why man (so say those who think thus,) must think and care most of all about his responsibilities to his neighbors and thus fulfill his obligations in relation to God. People thinking and speaking from this point of view speak against the podvigs of a hermitcal life especially. From their point of view the life of a hermit is the expression of egotism, and not love towards others. A hermit, in their opinion is a mann occupied exclusively with himself and the salvation of his soul an does not think about others at all.
There is some truth in this reasoning. It seems unlikely that anyone will argue against the fact that while serving their neighbor, a Christian also fulfills his responsibilities to God. More than that. According to the teaching of the Apostle of Love, St. John the Theologian, love towards one’s neighbor is an indicator of love for God… “if a man say, love God and hateth his brother he is a liar; for he that loveth his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, Whom he hath not seen?” Not one Christian doubts that while being charitable towards our brother, we serve God by fulfilling His commandment of love.
However, it is even less doubtful that while loving God, we can ever harm our love for our brothers by our love for Him. God is love, (I John XVIII, 16). Loving God, we transfer ourselves into a higher spiritual atmosphere – an atmosphere of love and a new “breath of life”. The heart of a Christian, filled with such divine love, sends love everywhere, turns its rays of Christian love upon everyone. In this way, contrary to the opinion which we cited above, man’s love for God not only does not hinder his love towards his brother but inversely, confirms and deepens it.
A wonderful explanation of the bond between the love of God and our brother is given by one of the ascetics of our Orthodox Church, Abbott Doropheus. It is given in the following mathematical illustration:
In Circle A, the center is God and people are the surrounding points. The radii connect them with God and the arcs with each other. Here we see that people coming nearer to God through the radii, simultaneously come closer to each other inasmuch as the surrounding points near the center and the arcs connecting them become shorter. However, man can come closer to God and others only through love. It undoubtedly follows from this that loving God, man will certainly also love his neighbor. Circle B shows us that Christian love for others brings man closer to loving God and brings him closer to loving other people.
Man through this nears God. Thus there are these two kinds of Christian love Indissolubly and intimately tied, to each other.
In the history of Christian ascetics, we continuously see how ascetics, blazing with love for God, left the world with its temptations. They did this by the commandment of the Apostle of Love, St. John the Theologian who said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John II, 15). In vain is it thought that they renounced their love for people living in the world. No, they themselves constantly indicated that they did not run away from people but from the sin spilled over the world, from the temptations of a sinful worldly life. They loved their brothers, remaining in the world, immeasurably more than those who lived in. the world and participated in its sins. Let us not forget that the seclusion of these ascetics was always filled with prayer and Christian prayer is not only for oneself but also for others. From the life of Righteous Pachomy the Great, born in the city of Alexandria, the following incident is known. Once, he found out that in Alexandria, his fatherland^ hunger and epidemics were raging. Then, the Saint spent three days in tears and left off eating what meager food he allowed himself. His disciples pleaded with him to reinforce himself with food but St. Pachomy answered, “how can I eat when my brothers do not have bread…”. How far from such love and suffering is the very best of us!
The love of a Christian for God is not only the height of his moral ascension but also the basis of his spiritual being. Without love there cannot be and there is no spiritual life, podvigs, virtue. The highest service of Christian love, the service of priesthood, can only exist in One who loves Christ. Not in vain did the Savior Himself, summoning Apostle Peter to preach, ask him, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me noire than these?” (John 21, 15). Our religion is a religion of love. “By this shall men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one, to another!” said the Lord. (John XIII, 35). Here, the discussion is not only about mutual Christian love of people for each other, but even more, about filial love and a child’s devotion to Him, Whom the Holy ’Gospel constantly calls “Our Heavenly Father”. That is why the basis of a genuinely Christian life in man is a heart not only having faith in God but a child’s devotion to Him, penetrated by a sincere attraction to Him as towards a loving and beloved Father.
A Christian’s responsibility to acquire knowledge about God.
In the previous chapter we have seen that our first and basic obligation to God is our love for Him. It is self-evident that this love is demanded from us and that we should know Whom we must love. Man will not and cannot love those whom he does not know.
We cannot but notice that this responsibility is one of the least observed today. In earlier times, it was different. Then there was interest in theological questions-and religious knowledge deeply seized Christian souls St. Gregory the Theologian testifies that in his time even tradeswomen at the market, instead of selling their wares, preferred to argue about the consubstantiality and “seeming-substantiality” of the Son of God. Now, many intellectuals, sometimes! even those writing and speaking about various purely Christian topics are positively afraid of any kind of theology. They consider all its questions and clarifications as somewhat artificially scholastic and far removed from life.
From here stems the dreadful religious ignorance of not knowing the basic truths of our own faith, surprising us so much in our days.
Take, for example, intelligent, educated Russian people en masse. They will enumerate without making a mistake all the Czars of the House of Romanoff, the main Russian writers, and so forth. It is considered shameful for an educated person not to know this. But ask them to name the most important dogmas of the Christian faith or the names of Christ’s Twelve Apostles (that is, people who did immeasurably more for man than any Czar or writer), in nine out of ten cases, the result will be very sad. Even worse is that the ignorance in this area is not at all considered shameful and people admit this with a light heart.
No, it is certainly undoubtable that for each Christian it is absolutely necessary to have an idea about the content of his faith and its primary truths, about the dogma of the Trinity, Divine Love, Incarnation, the redemptive death and resurrection of the Savior, about the future fate of the world and man, and so forth. These questions are neither alien nor boring for man, but full of life and significant insofar as the very meaning and destiny of his life is decided by them.
All these questions, of course, come together into one: does God exist and Who is He? These quest ions are of exceptional importance even for people of little faith. But for faithful people to know God is to know what He means for us and further, what His Will is in regard to us; this knowledge is the basic most important and most precious in life. Christian life itself is first of all determined precisely by the knowledge of God. The lord Himself while praying to His Father before His suffering said that, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only True God and Jesus Christ, Whom thou hast sent” (John XVII, 3).
From all this we see that knowing God is our immediate Christian obligation. The path towards it, besides the study of theological works, is reflecting upon God. Thinking about God is that spiritual mood where man purposefully brings into his consciousness and supports in it an image of God, His highest characteristics, the work of our salvation, our eternal future, and so on. Such thoughts about God were beloved by our Christian ascetics but for many, many of us, they are unfortunately completely unfamiliar.
Of course, that knowledge about God, which we are speaking of, is by no means, the intellectual receptivity by memory of the positions of our Christian teaching about faith and life. Christianity is an actual life and the experience of the human heart, thus it is received by people in different ways. The more a Christian lives his personal life with the truths and commandments of his faith, manifested in the inner experiences of a spiritual struggle and suffering when trying to live by Christ’s Holy Gospel, the deeper has he assimilated Christianity. And on the contrary, if man relates to his faith drily, only outwardly and formally, and is not controlled in his personal life by the calls from Christ’s Holy Gospel, then he does not accept Christianity into his soul and heart, and the deep content of the truths of the Christian faith will remain alien to him.
Chapter XXVIII. On Prayer
The necessity of prayer — What it means to pray ‘in spirit and in truth’ — Types of prayer according to their substance
In religious life, the knowledge of God about which we spoke above is, evidently, grounded in faith. This faith is the human heart’s initial response to the substance of the given religious truths, agreement with them and acceptance of them. Subsequently, this faith, as it is strengthened and deepened, leads the human heart to be at peace with God, that is, to Christian hope in God. At the same time, all of Christianity teaches us that Christian faith is inextricably linked to love for God. Love always requires a living, personal relationship to its object. With respect to God, this love is manifested first of all and above all in prayer.
Anyone who does not pray to God is not a Christian. Prayer is the first and the most necessary element of our spiritual life. It is breath for the spirit, which without it would die like the human body without air. The entire life of the body depends on breathing and on whether a person is breathing or not. Likewise, in spiritual life, everything depends on prayer, and a person who does not pray to God is dead in a spiritual sense.
Prayer is a conversation between man and God. Whoever remembers, knows, and loves God will always address him, and this act of addressing is nothing other than prayer. But it is deeply erroneous to regard prayer in the way that many (especially young) people do nowadays. People often say: “If I want to pray, then I will; if I do not, then why force yourself: there should not be any violence in prayer.” This is a complete incomprehension of the matter. What would ever become of all of man’s earthly labors if he did not force himself to do anything, but only did what he felt like doing? The same is all the more true of spiritual life. Everything in it that is valuable and steadfast is acquired through effort and the feat of self-improvement. Let us again call to mind the words: “The kingdom of God [and everything pertaining to it] suffereth violence” (cf. Mt. 11:12) (that is, it is attained through effort). No, the Christian must always engrave in his heart that he must pray at any cost, irrespective of whether he feels like it or not. If you feel disposed toward prayer, then thank God, as the Source of all good things, and do not squander the opportunity for heartfelt prayer. If this disposition is lacking but it is nonetheless time for prayer (in the morning or evening, or in church), you must compel yourself, stirring up your despondent and slothful spirit with the thought that the more difficult prayer (like any good deed) may be, the more precious it is in the eyes of God. The Lord does not abhor any prayer if the person praying is doing so sincerely, as he knows best, even if he does not yet have the habit of praying in a fully concentrated manner and with unflagging fervor.
Anyone who has in the slightest lived a spiritual Christian life will always find something about which to pray. For such a person, God is a loving Father, and a powerful Defender, and an inexhaustible Source of succor and strength, and it is to Him that the Christian will hasten in constraint and sorrow, like a babe to its Father. All that one must do is acknowledge his frailty and weakness and “commend [himself] and one another and our whole life unto Christ our God,” since our faith, hope and love are in Him.
Speaking with the Samaritan woman, Our Lord Jesus Christ said that “the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23). This is a fundamental principle of Christian prayer. It must be performed in spirit and in truth, and for this reason a Christian, in praying, must gather together all his emotional strength, focus deeply inside himself, and take in the words of the prayer. It goes without saying that this correct view of prayer does not permit us to speak of “prayer” in cases where a person merely listens to or reads prayers, but is actually somewhere else in his thoughts. About such people, St. John Chrysostom writes: “Your body was in the church, but your thoughts were racing somewhere else entirely. You were reading the words of the prayer with your mouth, while your mind was counting out your income, fields, estates, friends… If you cannot hear your prayer yourself, how do you expect God to hear it?” No, the prayer of a Christian cannot be like this. He must pray “in spirit and in truth”. To pray in spirit, focussed deeply within himself, feeling everything deeply within his heart. And in truth: not hypocritically, but according to his true disposition, sincerely addressing the Incarnate Truth, Christ the Savior.
Of course, despite the misconceptions of sects, this does not invalidate the need for outward prayer – though only when it is combined with inner prayer. A human being is not an angel, and the soul cannot live without the body, just as the body cannot live without the soul. The Apostle Paul says: “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). The most fundamental and fullest form of prayer is thus that in which both the inner and outward sides are manifested. They are closely connected with each other – the inner emotions and address to God, and the outward actions: bows, standing upright, crossing oneself and various other actions.
A distinction is usually made among three types of prayer: petition, doxology, and thanksgiving. In our prayer books and liturgy, all three of these types can be found in practice, one after the other.
The most natural and widespread among us is the first: petition. The Lord not only did not forbid this type of prayer, but even commanded it to us: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Mt. 7:7–8); “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full…” (Jn. 16:23–24)
A person who is praying to God ought to remember that prayer is never and cannot ever go unheard, as long as it is sincere and infused with living faith. The Lord Himself said: “All things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mk. 9:23) The Apostle James elaborates on how perilous doubt is for prayer: “or he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:6–7) We read in many places in the Gospel how the Lord spoke to those whom he healed after healing them: “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mt. 9:22); “According to your faith be it unto you.” (Mt. 9:29) A Christian who believes firmly in the strength, mercy and succor of God ought not forget that he must commend any petition about his needs to the all-good will of the Heavenly Father, who knows what we need. With such faith and submission to the Will of God, he will always thank God regardless of whether or not He grants his prayer. This is only natural, since he had an unconditional belief that the wisdom and love of God will direct everything to the benefit and good of a person. Not for nothing do we read in one of the prayers of the Church that the Lord “with wisdom profound, fully ordere[th] all things in His love for mankind and give[th] unto all that which is useful”.
Chapter XXIX. The Lord’s Prayer
The “Our Father” as an exemplar of Christian prayer — The three main parts of the same — Christian prayer as thanksgiving and doxology (especially in liturgy)
The Lord’s Prayer is, of course, an example of prayer for us Christians. In examining its composition and substance, we can see that it can be split up into three parts: 1) invocation, 2) petition, and 3) doxology. In terms of its inner meaning, it can also be divided into three parts: the first, most important and principal part encompasses invocation and the first three petitions; this is followed by the fourth petition, about “daily bread”; and then, finally, by three petitions about our personal sins.
What should a Christian pray for first of all and above all? About that which he should be seeking above all: “the Kingdom of Heaven and his righteousness” (cf. Mt. 6:33). We see this in the first part of the prayer. In addressing God as the Heavenly Father, a Christian bears witness to the fact that our true fatherland is not on Earth, but in Heaven. “Our citizenship is in Heaven,” the Apostle Paul wrote explicitly (Phil. 3:20). After addressing the Father in this way, the Christian prays for the Name of God to be hallowed — both in each of our private lives, and throughout human history. It is especially hallowed when we, as Christians, make non-believers “glorify the name of our Father who is in Heaven” (cf. Mt. 5:16) by performing good works. Next, the Christian prays for the Kingdom of God to come on Earth. Looking closely at life, one can see in it a constant struggle between two principles: darkness and light, truth and lies, good and evil. In seeing this, one cannot help but pray for the victory of light over darkness to be manifested in our life and for the Kingdom of God — a Kingdom of righteousness and goodness — to triumph. In the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for the will of God to be realized in the life of men, just as it is in the world of Heaven above. The Christian consciousness tells a person firmly and with conviction that trusting in the Will of God is not only our duty, but also genuine wisdom and truth in life. Our Heavenly Father knows what is necessary and beneficial for each of us, and in His infinite love and goodness, desires what is good for us and our salvation more than we do ourselves. This is why the Apostle says: “Cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
The fourth petition in the Lord’s prayer is the only one about our bodily, as opposed to spiritual, needs. We are to ask for our “daily bread”, that is, that which is necessary for our existence, to support our bodily life. As for anything on top of this, “if it is given, then give thanks to God, but if it is not, do not care for it” (excerpt from the Catechesis). Of course, “daily bread” is to be understood here as anything that we require: food, clothing, lodgings, etc. This fourth petition shows us that our earthly life with its “cares and concerns” also comes under the care of our Heavenly Father for us. The Apostle Paul writes: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebres 13:5)
The fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer is about forgiveness of sins. Not only in this petition, but also in other places in His teaching, the Lord states in no uncertain terms that a condition of God’s forgiving our sins is for us to forgive our neighbor theirs. Yet how often this petition is untrue in the eyes of God to Whom we are praying. We read: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” yet in reality, we neither pardon nor forgive, but rather are offended, and nurture a feeling of injury and a desire to get back at the person in our hearts. A Christian thus ought to ask himself each time he reads this petition whether he has forgiven his enemies and injurers. If he has not, he cannot expect himself to be forgiven by God.
The two final petitions, the sixth and the seventh, are about the same thing: the causes of sin. We first ask for its germs — trials and temptations — to be removed far from us, and then to be delivered from the Evil One, that is, that Devil and progenitor of all sins. People are often afraid of outward misfortunes: failures, illnesses, poverty, etc. Christianity, however, teaches us to fear above all for our immortal souls. The Lord says, “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28) Elsewhere, the Lord, after enumerating outward trials and forms of persecution for the Faith, says explicitly: “Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Mt. 5:12)
On the contrary, a Christian ought to be afraid not of outward misfortunes and calamities, but of his own sins and falls. Everyone knows how we grow used to sin and sin literally every step we take and at every moment in our lives. Sin is a form of lawlessness, a violation of the law of God’s righteousness, and the result of it is thus torment and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:12). The “Our Father” thus keeps our hearts repulsed by these spiritual evils, and we, confessing our weakness and predisposition to sin, ask to be kept from falling into the sins that tempt us and to be delivered from the progenitor of sin, the Devil.
As we know, after these seven petitions, there comes a triumphal glorification of the might, power, and glory of God. This glorification of God’s greatness is also a filial expression of unshakeable and clear certainty that everything for which we ask will be given to us through the love of the Heavenly Father – for His is “the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, to the ages. Amen.”
Yet the Lord’s prayer is not the only one to conclude with such a doxology. Doxological prayers in their most pure, isolated form (for example, “Praise ye the name of the Lord…”, “Holy, holy, holy…”) are not used so commonly by us. Yet they usually make up the final words of our prayers (especially liturgical prayers) and are often solemn or sacred in character. This is why they are always pronounced (intoned) by someone in holy orders: a priest or a bishop. The most important and exemplary prayers of glorification are the hymns “Gloria in excelsis Deo…” (the Great Doxology) and the “Te Deum”. It is chiefly these doxological prayers that ought to be called “exalted and Christian”, since it is in them that the Christian’s love for God and veneration of His supreme perfections is most clearly expressed.
The third type of prayer, thanksgiving, is inextricably linked to this type of doxology. It goes without saying that a Christian who loves God and knows His love, mercy, and the good things that he does, cannot but feel gratitude to Him in his heart. Our most important form of prayerful thanksgiving is our most important church service, the Divine Liturgy. The main part of it, the so-called “Canon of the Eucharist,” opens with the words “Let us give thanks unto the Lord…”. The most pure, bloodless sacrifice, the sacrifice of righteousness, the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is offered at the liturgy in the sacrament of Holy Communion, though it may be visibly offered by people, is invisibly performed by Christ the Savior Himself, through His grace and almighty power, while being accepted by us people with the reverence of thankful love. This is why, at the most important moment in the liturgy, the priest solemnly intones: “Offering Thee Thine own of Thine own, on behalf of all and for all…”, and the faithful (or the choir, standing in for them) reply with a hymn of thanksgiving: “We hymn Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God.”
Chapter XXX. Types of Prayer
Domestic prayer — Prayer in church (common prayer) — Christian feasts and fasts
We already know how important prayer is for a Christian and his spiritual life. We are now faced with the question: how are we to pray? In the daily life of Christians, a sharp distinction is made between two types of prayer: private, domestic prayer, and common prayer in church. Both types have their own typical features and peculiarities.
When we read the instructions of the Lord Himself in the Gospels on prayer, we see that He was without doubt speaking about the first type of prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Mt. 6:6) Of course, for us, the principal and original type of prayer is none other than private, domestic prayer. Prayer is an intimate matter, a matter of the heart. Anyone who has sincerely sought prayer of the heart with compunction knows well how easy and natural it is to pray alone, in silence and calm. And on the contrary: how the Lord intentionally keeps us from praying for show, hypocritically, in order to be praised by men. In receiving this praise, the hypocrites “have received their reward” (cf. Mt. 6:2), as the Lord says. Praying where people can see you can sometimes be difficult and tricky, and here there is also a need for concentration and immersion in prayer so that it is sincere and not for show…
In praying to God, a Christian must without fail take in the words of the prayers he is reading and focus on their meaning. Everyone knows how hard it can be to stand against the onslaught of intrusive thoughts and images that persistently assail someone who is praying. This can occur due to our distractibility and the direct influence of evil diabolical forces. The Christian’s duty is to make every effort to cast aside all these intrusive, sometimes unclean and excruciatingly unpleasant thoughts and to pray in a focussed and reverent manner. At the same time, it is important not to forget that this intense onslaught of thoughts and images, especially foul and blasphemous ones, comes directly from the Devil, and that a Christian who resists these thoughts obtains benefits rather than harm for his soul.
We often pray using the prayers of the church, which have been familiar to us from childhood. This is necessary, since it introduces us to the atmosphere of prayer that the Church breathes. But we must fear lest reading one and the same prayers over and over again should turn into automatic, mechanical repetition without attention or immersion in the sense and meaning of the words. For this reason, Christians must have utter reverence and focus in order to be able to pray, to converse with God, and not simply skim over already familiar words.
The testimonies of men of prayer (Theophanes the Recluse, John of Cronstadt and others) are all in agreement about the fact that, apart from reading the prayers of the Church, it is beneficial for Christians to add their own words about their own needs and those of people close to them. A Christian is often unable to express his feelings and emotions in the words of the church prayers (many of which are unknown to him, after all), and here it is entirely appropriate for him to make living, sincere prayer in his own words — while confessing his day-to-day sins and promising and vowing to God to mend his ways and work on himself. Such prayer will not be formal and dry, but it will come out of the depths of his soul.
Only someone who learns to pray sincerely and constantly at home will be able to participate fully in the common prayer of the church. To do so is the duty of every Christian. The Lord Himself said about such prayer: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” John Chrysostom, that great ecumenical hierarch and teacher of prayer, said: “One may, of course, pray at home as well, yet there you do not pray as you do in church, where so many people are gathered together, and where their voices are lifted up to God in unison. You will not be heard as quickly if you pray to God on your own as you will be with your brethren, since here there is something greater: oneness of mind, a union of love, the prayers of priests. During common prayer, it is not only the people who raise their voices, but the angels also fall down before the Master, and the archangels pray…”. The prayer of the church is thus essentially sacred in nature. It is rendered such by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which, as we know, orders our spiritual life by compounding our own personal spiritual efforts. A priest serves in the church; he is not a priest because he has a theological education or has a calling to serve the Church. All of this only prepares him for pastoral ministry. But the only thing that made him a priest his receiving ordination and, through the sacrament of the priesthood, joining the ranks of the pastors of the Church. Similarly, our churches are sacred spaces, with a specially consecrated altar that has a holy object in it: the holy antimension, in which the relics of the holy saints of God have been placed. According to Scripture, it is a house of prayer. The Lord himself gave us an example of reverence for the house of God by cleansing it of all forms of disorder and disgrace. We often hear in the litanies: “For this holy church, and those who enter it with faith, reverence and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.” This is how each of us should enter the church, keeping in mind that he will stand there before the Lord Himself.
One of the most conspicuous deficits in our modern church life is our inability to observe our feast-days in a Christian manner. Our life has taken shape in such a way that it is dominated by interests purely earthly in nature. The church service, then fussing over a piece of bread, tiny impressions from the day, studying for the young — all of this takes up our time, and we do not have any time to think of our soul and its higher needs and demands. Our feasts are a ray of light in our otherwise colorless lives, filled as they are with vanity and “earthly cares”. Our feasts are full of ideal, religious meaning. They reassure us that this world is not so empty and poor as it may sometimes seem, since there is another world spread out above it, which grants our souls joy and unalienable peace. Who does not know with what joy the Christian’s heart is filled during the days of the great feast of Pascha, the Bright Resurrection of Christ?
Yet how often do the days of Christian commemorations and feasts turn for us into days of even greater emptiness and pointless idleness? A feast is God’s day, and ought to be dedicated not only to rest from one’s labors, but first and foremost to prayer and good works, and works of Christian charity. Yet we constantly see that for many people, the whole feast consists of sleeping, going out, entertainment, and that on some occasions people sin ten times as much as on weekdays through revelry and drunkenness. Of course, anyone who devotes a feast-day only to bodily rest and entertainment is no different from a pagan or an infidel, since he “celebrates” exactly as they do. And how often do we note that individuals and entire societies and institutions schedule their “parties” and amusements on the eve of feasts. This is an outrageous, un-Christian practice! In the evening, people “make merry” often to the point of glut and collapse, while sinning in the process, and in the morning, when God-fearing people go to the festal liturgy, they ‘sleep in’ until mid-day. What about prayer and attending the Church of God? How is a person like this any different from an infidel or a heathen?
The attitude of many people nowadays about the church fasts is equally inadmissible. We have a lot of fasts: four multiple-day fasts (Great Lent, and the Peter and Paul, Dormition, and Nativity Fasts), and one-day fasts each Wednesday and Friday, on Christmas and Theophany Eve, the Beheading of John the Baptist, the Exaltation of the Life-giving Cross, and Passion Week (especially Good Friday).
The attitude of all too many of us toward these church fasts is striking and utterly un-Christian. They are broken and not observed by people with such a clear conscience as if it is a trifling matter without any significance. This is not at all the view of the church: according to church rules, those who break the fast without a good excuse are to be excommunicated for several years. Venerable Seraphim of Sarov said explicitly that “anyone who does not observe the fasts is not a Christian, however he might call himself…”. Fasting is absolutely necessary for people: outwardly, it is a feat of unconditional, filial obedience to the Church, Whose rules ought to be sacrosanct and not neglected or infringed. Inwardly, fasting is a feat of abstinence and self-control. This is the great value and sense of fasting: strict fasting steels a person’s will and builds character to be firm in one’s religious convictions and actions. Let us not forget that Christ Himself fasted and foretold that His Apostles would also fast. And concerning the struggle against evil, diabolical forces, he said: “This kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mt. 17:21)
People now often talk about how fasting is bad for one’s health. There are indeed cases when an exhausted body requires increased nourishment rather than abstinence. However, the Church does not require that the sick fast strictly, but only according to their ability. What is most important to remember is that those who speak about the “harm” of fasting often do not fast themselves, whereas those who do observe the fasts would never say such a thing, since their personal experience has taught them that fasting is not harmful, but in fact good for one’s bodily health. Historical reality confirms this. We know how strictly our ancestors fasted, yet they impressed the other Slavs and the Greeks (let alone those of other faiths) with their strength and endurance. Is there anyone who would say that our ancestors were weaker than we were, and that we have greater endurance and strength? This is not even to mention that in a majority of cases, our doctors begin the treatment of illnesses through dieting (that is, fasting)…
“While fasting physically, brethren, let us also fast spiritually…”; “…let us distribute bread to the hungry, and welcome into our homes those who have no place to stay…”; “…A true fast is alienation from evil; the bridling of one’s tongue, the laying aside of all anger, the removal of all sensuality, of accusation, falsehood and oath-breaking.” For the Christian, a fast is thus a period of abstinence and character-building in all respects. It is for this reason that a proper Christian fast gives moral satisfaction to the faithful. A great teacher of radiant Christian asceticism, Bishop Theophanes the Recluse, says the following about fasting: “Fasting comes across as grim until you set foot into the arena of fasting: but just begin, and you will see that it is light after darkness, freedom after bondage, and lightness after the heaviness of life.”