Clerical Articles

Nobody should ever despair even if he had sinned a lot but should penitently hope in his salvation ( I )

  • September 26, 2017
  1. Of Saint Palladius

Our pious father John from Lycos – about whom is related more in another chapter, We must avoid speaking with women [1]) related to us the following story. Once there was a young man who sinned a lot in all ways but with the mercy of God he was filled by remorse for his numerous sins.

Going to the place where were the tombs he locked himself in one of these and he cried for his previous life fallen on the ground and sighing from the bottom of his heart. After a week spent like this the demons who had harmed his life before that came to him roaring and saying:`Where is that lecherous man who after he spent his time in debaucheries now all of a sudden proves to be good and sober? And now when it is not possible anymore he wants to live a Christian life in good order? What good does he expect for himself being full of our wickedness? Don’t you get up from there? Don’t you come with us to what you used to do? The harlots and the publicans are waiting for you. Aren’t you coming to find delights in your desires? Every hope is lost for you and if you kill yourself in this way the Judgment will come without delay for you. Why are you hurrying towards your damnation, you wrecked soul? You’ve done all sins, you are indebted to us and now you dare to run away? Don’t you answer? Don’t you join us? Don’t you come with us ?` And since that man continued to sigh and didn’t give them any answer and didn’t pay any attention to them, the demons failing in that grabbed him and tortured him terribly. After they smashed his body with tortures they left him half dead and went away. And he sighed again and with unwavering repentance stood firm.

In the meantime his relatives looked for him and finding him and hearing the reason of his trouble insisted to take him home. But he refused. Then on the next night the demons came back and tortured him even worse than before. And after his relatives came to him again and couldn’t make him move from that place – because he said that he preferred to die instead of falling into the former debauchery again – on the third night he escaped painstakingly from the devils who swooped over him with tortures. When the demons saw that he didn’t give up they cried: You won, you won! And from that moment he dind’t face any danger and strived for virtues living a pure life till the end in that tomb and being honored by God with powers and miracles.

  1. From the life of saint Singlitichia

Blessed said that we should praise the souls that are reckless and idle in cultivating virtues who fall quickly into despair and if they show a good thing, even if it is a small one, we should marvel and praise that. And we should call their great and terrible mistakes small and insignificant. Because the devil who wants to twist everything for our damnation tries to hide the sins  of those who are diligent and sedulous making them forget them to instill in their soul pride and to those who are novices and unarmed he reminds their sins insistently, bringing them despair.

Thus we should comfort these wavering souls in the following way: we should remind them God’s peerless mercy and kindness, since most merciful and long suffering is our Lord and He feels sorry for the wickedness of men. [3]. Then we should bring them proofs from the divine Scriptures that show His impenetrable mercy for those who sin and repent. We should tell them that Rahav was a harlot but she was saved by her faith. Saint Paul was a persecutor but he became an exquisite vessel. The robber had killed and robbed but with a single word he was the first to open the door of heaven. We should also speak about Matthews, the publican, the prodigal son and many others like that and by this to save souls from despair.

But the souls that are dominated by pride we must heal with higher examples. Because the skillful gardeners when they see a small and fragile seedling they water it abundantly and take great care of it to make it grow and strengthen. And when they notice that it buds prematurely they cut around it what it is useless to protect it from withering. In the same way the doctors feed some sick men plentifully and urge them to move and they compel some others to fast and stay in the house.

  1. Of Saint Palladius

We learnt about Moses the Ethiopian who was famous among the elders from the hermitage[4] that before he became a monk he was a servant at a dignitary. And because of his bad habits and wild cruel nature, his master cast him out. And he left and became a robber and because of his great strength he became the chief of the other robbers.

Among his robberies there is one related below: He planned something wicked against a shepherd because one night when he had gone to his affairs the shepherd opposed him with the dog of his flock. Wanting to kill him he tried to find out where he went with his sheep. When he found out that the shepherd was on the other shore of the Nile and because the river overflowed over the banks and its riverbed was extended with over a mile Moses took off his robe and putting it on his head and taking the knife in his teeth jumped in the water and crossed the river swimming. The shepherd seeing him from afar as he was swimming ran way and hid. And Moses because he couldn’t catch the shepherd turned his fury towards the flock; he stabbed four sturdy rams, tied them together and crossed the river back. Reaching a wide place he made a fire, skinned the rams and ate their meat. He changed their skins on  wine and drank about about 18 cups  [5] of Saida wine [6]. Then went away till where he had his shelter, at a distance of about 50 miles.

After a long time this man feeling great remorse because of a certain incident and despising his former life became a monk. And taking a cell at the Skete proved a great ascetic struggle.

Moreover it is said that at the beginning of his quitting the world after he had taken his cell four robbers attacked him not knowing who he was. Moses caught them, tied them up, lifted them up on his shoulders as if they were some sacks full of straw and took them to the church before the other monks saying: I found these men swooping on me. Because I am not allowed to harm anyone what do you say that should be done to them? The brothers untied them and set them free. But the robbers recognizing Moses and seeing his repentance followed his example, left the world and became skillful monks.

Such an ascetic struggle was proven by Moses – and this was mentioned somewhere else as well. And he fought against the devils so fiercely following the tradition of the severe living that he was counted among the greatest and the most important fathers and became a priest. And thus shining with great gifts of the Holy Spirit he reposed leaving behind 70 disciples.

  1. from Patericon

Abba Mios was asked by a soldier if God accepts the repentance. And after teaching him using many words he said: `tell me, my dear, if your cloak is tornm do you throw it away?` Then the soldier answered: `No, I sew it and wear it again.` Then the elder told him: If you take care of your cloak, God won’t take care of his creatures?

*

A brother asked abba Pimen: I committed a great sin and I want to repent [7] for three years. The elder told him: That’s too much. Then those who were present said: `Forty days?` And the elder repeated: `It is too much.` I say that if the man repents from the bottom of his heart and he stops doing that sin God receives him in three days.

*

Another one asked him: If someone falls into a mistake and repents, God forgives him?

And the elder answered: If God commanded men to do this, won’t He do it Himself even better? Because He commanded Peter to forgive 77 times those who do wrong and repent .[8]

*

Another one asked him : What is repentance for a sin ? And the elder answered: To stop doing it from now. That is why the righteous were called pure because they had left their sins and became righteous.`

*

A brother asked abba Sisoe : What am I going to do, abba, because I have fallen. And the elder told him: Stand up again. The brother then said: I stood up and then fell back. And the elder answered: Stand up again.  And the brother said: `Until when?` And the elder said: Until death finds you doing good or falling. Because the man reposes in what he is found.

*

A brother lived very humbly in a cell in Egypt. He had a sister in the city who lived in debauchery and caused the damnation of many souls. The elders asked him insistently to go to her and maybe by giving her advice she could stop doing the sin she used to do.

When the elder arrived in that place an acquaintance saw him and ran to tell his sister about it: Your brother is at the gate.` Feeling remorse she left her lovers and ran outside with her head uncovered to welcome her brother. Trying to embrace him her brother said: My good sister, have mercy on your soul, since many are lost because of you. How will you endure the eternal and bitter damnation?

And she was startled and said: `Do you think that there may still be any salvation for me?` Her brother answered: `If you want, there is salvation.` Ans she knelt at his feet and begged him to take her with him to the desert. And he said: `Cover your head and come after me.` And she said: Let’s go now because it is more appropriate to walk in an indecent way with my head uncovered than go back to the place where is debauchery.

As they were walking her brother taght her about repentance. But seeing some travelers coming towards them he said: Because not everyone knows that you are my sister go behind me until they leave. And she walked farther. Then he said: Let’s continue our way, sister. But she didn’t answer. Turning after her found her dead. And saw that the soles of her feet were bleeding because she was barefoot. When the elder related what happened to the other monks they didn’t know whether she had been saved or not. But God revealed to one f the elders about her: `Since she didn’t care of any earthly thing and even despised her own body without complaining about her wounds, God received her repentance.

  1. Of Saint Amphilohius about not falling into despair

A brother who was dominated by debauchery committed that sin daily but he also prayed daily tearfully to be forgiven by the Lord. Doing so, cheated by his bad habit committed the sin. Then he came to the church. And looking at the most worthy of worshipping face of our Lord Jesus Christ he knelt down before Him saying bitterly : God have mercy on me and save me of this sly temptation because it tortures me terribly and harms me with the bitterness of lust. I do not dare my Lord to look at your holy face shining brighter than the sun. Save me so that my heart may rejoice.

Saying these he went out of the church and fell again in the swamp. But he never despaired about his salvation and he went back to the church and said to the Lord: My Lord, I ask You be my guarantor from now on that I won’t do this sin anymore. Only please forgive me, Kind Lord, everything I have done wrong until now.

But everytime he made such promises he fell again into his awful sin. But God’s great love for men and His kindness can be seen in this because He tolerated and endured every day the terrible violation of the commandment of that monk and his wretched ungratefulness and He sought his repentance and complete return. Because he did not do this for two or three years but for more than ten years.

You see, brothers, the Lord’s endless leniency and love for men? How He endures for long and behaves kindly bearing all our terrible sins and wrongdoings? It is right to tremble and marvel at God’s great mercy. The monk after he promised not to sin anymore didn’t keep his promise at all.

On one of those days after the monk had committed the sin again he ran to the church crying bitterly and beseeching the Good Lord to have mercy on him and escape him from the swamp of sin.

And while he was praying to God the devil, the cause of all evil and the corrupter of our souls, seeing that he couldn’t succeed in anything – because what he tangled by means of the sin the monk was unbinding by his repentance – showed up and looking at him cried to the most honored face of our Lord Jesus Christ: What am I to do with You, Jesus Christ? Your boundless mercy defeats me and destroys me. Because you receive this debauched man who lies You daily ignoring Your power. Why don’t You burn him and endure and tolerate him instead? Since You’re the One who will judge the unchaste and You shall destroy all sinners.

You are not a righteous judge because where You want You judge unfairly and overlook. You threw me from heaven for a small mistake of my pride and to this wretched man who is a liar and an unrestrained You give Your kindness so easily because he kneels down before You. Why do the men call You a righteous Judge? Cause as I see you are mostly lenient with the man and neglect justice. The devil was saying these, being burnt by his great fury.

Then he remained quiet. Then a voice was heard from the altar saying: You cunning devil, aren’t you tired that with your wicked will you swallowed the whole world? You are even trying to grab and swallow even the man who comes to ask for my mercy? Do you have enough of his sins to weigh more than My Holy Blood that I shed on the Cross for him? My crucifixion and death forgave his sins. The when he falls into sin you don’t chase him away but welcome him gladly. You are not disgusted by him, you don’t stop him, hoping that you can grab him. And if  being so merciful and loving men I commanded Peter to forgive 77 times daily wouldn’t I forgive him? Wouldn’t I have mercy on him? I tell you true: because he comes to me I will not turn my face from him until I make him my inheritor. Because I crucified Myself for the sinners and I stretched my holy hands on the cross for them so that anyone who wants to find salvation may find it. I am not disgusted of anyone and I don’t reject anyone. Even if sinned for a thousand times and would come to Me for a thousand times he wouldn’t go out of here saddened.

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance

When the devil heard this voice he stood in the place shivering and being unable to run away. And then the voice was heard again:

Listen you, deluder who say that I am not just. I am just with all and I judge someone in what I find him. And I found this one returned and repenting, knelt down at My feet and defeating you. I will take him and save his soul for he lost his hope of being saved. And you can look at his honor and die of spite and be ashamed! Thus the monk while he was with his face down to the earth and cried gave his soul. And a great fire fell on the devil and burnt him to the ashes.

Let’s learn from this brothers that God’s mercy and love are boundless and  see how Good is our Lord. We should never despair nor be without care for our salvation.

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[1] see Everghetinos, Book 2, Theme 29

[2] it refers at the prickling remorse, which accompanies the man who feels the helplessness and wretchedness of his fallen nature, understands that he hurt Christ and repents for his sins. Saint John Climacus speaks about Πενθος in the 7th word of the Ladder.

[3] Man. 7, Ioil 2,13.

[4] The Skete was one of the three hermitages from Egypt (beside the Cells and Nitria) where dwelled Christian ascetics. Translated in other places `sketis` the word meant a geographical space from where it took its name and the form of monastic organization, the skete (even nowadays in the Holy Mountain the skete is a communion of small communities gathered around an Elder, where it is usually found a central church, Kyriakon, îwhere the brothers gather on Sundays and holy celebrations). So when the elders speak about the skete they mean the community with the same name from the desert.

[5] measure unit for volume, being of about 0,53 litri.

[6] wine from the Egyptian city with this name.

[7]  it is understood a practical way of repentance: with complete seclusion, severe fast, prayer, tears, deep remorse etc.

[8] Mt. 18,22.

 

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS – first edition 2007  Saint Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 1 – Metropolis Press, Athens, Greece, 2007.