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THE NATURE OF SIN

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    THE NATURE OF SIN ( http://www.saintedwardbrotherhood.org/0904/shepherd3.html in English) By the Blessed and Ever-Memorable METROPOLITAN PHILARET Of New York
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23, 2005
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      THE NATURE OF SIN (
      http://www.saintedwardbrotherhood.org/0904/shepherd3.html in English)

      By the Blessed and Ever-Memorable METROPOLITAN PHILARET
      Of New York & Eastern America (1903 - 1985 A.D.)

      ALL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS know from the Holy Scripture and believe that God
      created man in His own image and likeness. Therefore, in the creation man
      received a sinless nature. But not even the first man, Adam, remained
      sinless. He lost his original purity in the first fall into sin in
      Paradise. The toxin of this sinfulness contaminated the entire human race,
      which descended from its forebears who had sinned - just as poison water
      flows from a poisoned spring. Acting upon the inclination to sin inherited
      from our ancestors, each person commits his own personal sins, as the
      Scriptural indictment says: “There is no one who will live for a single day
      and not sin” (Eccl. 7:20, 2 Chr. 6:36). Only our Lord Jesus Christ is
      absolutely free from sin. Even the righteous, God’s saints, bore sin within
      themselves, and although with God’s help they struggled with it, yet they
      humbly acknowledged themselves to be sinners. So without exception all
      people are sinners, tainted with sin.

      Sin is a spiritual leprosy, an illness and an ulcer which has stricken all
      of mankind, both in his soul and his body. Sin has damaged all three of the
      basic abilities and powers of the soul: the mind, the heart and the will.
      Man’s mind has become darkened and inclined towards error. Thus, man
      constantly errs - in science, in philosophy and in his practical activity.

      What is even more harmed by sin is man’s heart - the centre of his
      experience of good and evil, and feelings of sorrow and joy. We see that
      our heart has been bound in the mire of sin; it has lost the ability to be
      pure, spiritual and Christian, to possess truly elevated feelings. Instead
      of this, it has become inclined toward pleasures of sensuality and earthly
      attachments. It is tainted with vainglory and often startles one with a
      complete absence of love and of the desire to do good towards one’s
      neighbour.

      What is harmed most of all, however, is our will as the capability for
      action and effecting one’s intentions. Man proves to be without strength of
      will particularly when it is necessary to practice true Christian good,
      even though he might desire this good. The holy Apostle Paul speaks of this
      weakness of will, when he says:“For I fail to practice the good deeds I
      desire to do, but the evil deeds which I do not desire to do are what I am
      always doing.”That is why Christ the Saviour said of man the sinner,
      “Whoever practises sin is a slave of sin”(John 8:34), although to the
      sinner, alas, serving sin often seems to be freedom, while struggling to
      escape its nets appears to be slavery.

      How does a sin develop in one’s soul? The holy fathers, strugglers of
      Christian asceticism and piety, knowing the sinful soul, explain it far
      better than all the learned psychiatrists. They distinguish the following
      stages in sin:

      The first moment in sin is the suggestion, when some temptation becomes
      identified in a person’s conscience - a sinful impression, an unclean
      thought or some other temptation. If, in this first moment, a person
      decisively and at once rejects the sin, he does not sin, but defeats sin,
      and his soul will experience progress rather than degeneration. It is in
      the suggestion stage of sin that it is easiest of all to remove it. If the
      suggestion is not rejected, it passes over first into an ill-defined
      striving and then into a clear conscious desire for sin. At this point, one
      already begins to be inclined to sin of a given type. Even at this point,
      however, without an especially difficult struggle, one can avoid giving in
      to sin and refrain from sinning. One will be helped by the clear voice of
      conscience and by God’s aid, if one only turns to it.

      Beyond this point, one has fallen into sin. The reproaches of the
      conscience sound loudly and clearly, eliciting a revulsion to the sin. The
      former self-assurance disappears and the man is humbled (compare the
      Apostle Peter before and after his denial of Christ: Matt. 16:21-22, 26:33
      with Matt. 26:69-75). But even at this point, defeat of sin is not entirely
      difficult. This is shown by numerous examples, as in the lives of Peter,
      the holy Prophet King David, and other repentant sinners.

      It is more difficult to struggle with sin when, through frequent
      repetition, it becomes a habit in one. After acquiring any kind of habit,
      the habitual actions are performed by the person very easily, almost
      unnoticed by himself, spontaneously. Thus, the struggle with sin which has
      become a habit for a person is very difficult since it is not only
      difficult to overcome, but is even difficult to detect in its approach and
      its process.

      An even more dangerous stage of sin is vice. In this condition, sin so
      rules a person that it forges his will in chains. Here one is almost
      powerless to struggle against it. He is a slave to sin even though he may
      acknowledge its danger and, in lucid intervals, perhaps even hates it with
      all his soul (such for example is the vice of alcoholism, drug addiction,
      etc.). In this condition, one cannot deal with oneself without special
      mercy and help from God, and one is in need of prayer and the spiritual
      support of others. One must bear in mind that even a seemingly minor sin,
      such as gossiping, love of attire, empty diversions, etc., can become a
      vice in man if it possesses him entirely and fills his soul.

      The lowest stage of sin, in which sin completely enslaves one to itself, is
      the passion of one or another sinful type. In this condition, man can no
      longer hate his sin as he can with a vice (and this is the difference
      between them). Rather he submits to sin in all his experiences, actions and
      moods, as did Judas Iscariot. At this stage, one literally and directly
      lets Satan into his heart (as it is said of Judas in the Gospels: Jn.
      13:27; Luke 22:3), and in this condition, nothing will help him except
      Grace-filled Church prayers and other such actions.

      There is yet another special, most terrible and destructive type of sin.
      This is mortal sin. Even the prayers of the Church cannot help one who is
      found in this condition. The Apostle John the Theologian speaks of this
      directly when he entreats us to pray for a brother which has sinned, but
      points out the uselessness of prayer for mortal sin (1 John 5:16).

      The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says that this sin - the blasphemy of the
      Holy Spirit - is not forgiven and will not be forgiven either in this age
      or in the future (Matt. 12:31-32). He pronounced these terrible words
      against the Pharisees who, through they clearly saw that He worked
      everything according to the will of God and by God’s power, nevertheless
      distorted the truth. They perished in their own blasphemy and their example
      is instructive and urgent for all those who would sin mortal sin, by an
      obdurate and conscious adversity to the undoubted Truth, thereby
      blaspheming the Spirit of Truth, God’s Holy Spirit.

      We must note that even blasphemy against the Lord Jesus Christ can be
      forgiven men (according to His own words), since it can be committed in
      ignorance or temporary blindness. Blasphemy against the HolySpirit could be
      forgiven, says Saint Athanasius the Great, only if a man ceased from it and
      became repentant. But the very nature of the sin is such that it makes it
      virtually impossible for a man to return to the truth. One who is blind can
      regain his sight and love the one who revealed the truth to him, and one
      who is soiled with vices and passions can be cleansed by repentance and
      become a confessor of the Truth, but who and what can change a blasphemer
      who has seen and known the Truth, and who has stubbornly refused it and
      hated it? This horrible condition is similar to that of the devil himself,
      who believes in God and trembles, but who nevertheless hates Him,
      blasphemes Him and is in adversity to Him.

      When a seduction, a temptation to sin, appears in man, it usually comes
      from three sources: from man’s own flesh, from the world and from Satan.

      Concerning man’s flesh, there is absolutely no doubt that in many respects
      it is a den and source of anti-moral predispositions, strivings and
      inclinations. The ancestral sin - this inclination towards sin, a heritage
      from the sin of our progenitors and our own sinful experiences - all this
      added up and each (experience) strengthening the other, creates in our
      flesh a source of temptations, sinful moods and acts.

      More often, though, the source of seduction for us is the world around us,
      which, according to the Apostle John the Theologian, “is under the power of
      the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19), and friendship with which, according to another
      Apostle, is enmity with God. The milieu around us seduces us, the people
      around us do likewise (especially the wilful, conscious seducers and
      corrupters of youth about whom the Lord said, “Whosoever causes one of
      these little ones to stumble and sin, it were better for that man that a
      millstone were tied around his neck and he be cast into the sea”).

      The enticers are also external goods, riches, comforts, immoral dances,
      dirty literature, shameless attire, etc. - all of this is undoubtedly a
      fœtid source of sin and seduction.

      But the main and root source of sin is, of course, the devil, as the
      Apostle John the Theologian says: “He who practises sin is of the devil;
      for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” In struggling with God and
      His Truth, the devil struggles with people, striving to destroy each of us.
      He struggles most intensely and with the most malice with the Saints. We,
      sick and infirm ones, are specially defended by Christ against those fierce
      temptations to which God’s Saints, strong in spirit, are subjected.
      Nevertheless, Satan does not ignore us, acting through the enticements of
      the world and the flesh, making them stronger and more deceptive, and also
      tempting us by sinful suggestions of all kinds. It is because of this that
      the Apostle Peter compares Satan with a “raging lion which stalks about
      seeking whom he might devour” (1 Ptr 5:8).


      •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

      A PRAYER OF THE ELDER PARFENY
      OF THE KIEVAN CAVES
      O LORD, take from me vain thoughts which hinder Thy presence and distract
      my attention in prayer. And if, when I am praying, my attention is diverted
      from Thee by my thoughts, help me so that this distraction may not be
      voluntary, and that in turning away my mind, I may not turn my heart from
      Thee.
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