- On PRIDE Excerpt from letters to spiritual children (1960)
Evil has not been created by God. Evil has no essence. It is a perversion
of the natural world order (and in relation to men and angels ? the moral
order) by the free will of men and angels. If there were no freedom, there
would be no possibility to pervert the moral order, which is all-wise and
perfect. Angels and men would have been subordinate to the laws of the
physical and moral world like robots, and there would have been no evil.
But without free will there would not have been in men and angels the image
and the likeness of God. A perfect creature is unthinkable without free
will. By the way, all atheistic teachings are forced to reject free will;
they do reject it in theory, but in practice they allow its existence,
because otherwise they would have had to admit in horror that man is an
insignificant part of a huge soulless machine, which does not know and does
not want to know anything about man, but pitilessly cripples and destroys
him when the laws of this machine demand it.
A desire to be "like gods, knowing good and evil," led to the fall of
angels and men. From this point begins the history of mankind. To nurture a
man in piety and love for God, in love for other men, without suppressing
his free will, to elevate him to the dignity of a son of God ? that is a
most complex task, absolutely insoluble for men, and one which demanded
even from God a supreme sacrifice ? the incarnation, death on the cross and
the resurrection of God Himself.
Man cannot be saved with pride. In the presence of pride he can again fall
away from God, even in paradise, but fall this time with the finality of
the demons. For this reason the Lord allows man to learn in the course of
his entire life that without God he is nothing, that he is a slave of his
passions and a slave of the devil. For this reason the Lord does not allow
the chaff to be winnowed before death comes, in order not to damage the
wheat. A man without flaws, with only positive character traits, would
definitely become vain. If we are able to feel great pride from being in
possession of even small virtues, what would happen if the glory of the
soul's divinity were revealed to us while still here on earth? Even Apostle
Paul needed the negative help of an angel of Satan, buffeting him, in order
not to esteem himself too highly. What, then, can be said of ourselves!.
Just as the Lord is trying to save man, so the devil is trying to destroy
him. The devil allows man to think he has gained victory over him, and thus
leads him into the sins of self-satisfaction and pride; allows him to
succeed in conquering the forces of nature and thus instills in him the
thought: "Through science you shall conquer nature, you shall be immortal
and will become godlike. Even now you can feel pride in your achievements?"
The antithesis between these two trends is obvious. We can clearly see
God's concern for the salvation of man, and the devil's attempts to destroy
even those who use all their efforts to search for "the one thing needful,"
i.e. the Kingdom of God. From the realm of theory this passes on to life
itself, and man finds himself in a constant struggle with evil, with the
devil, with his insinuations, first falling, then rising. In this struggle
man comes to realize his frailty, the adversary's cunning, God's help and
God's love for man. He learns the price of good and evil, and in all
consciousness chooses good, becomes steadfast in his preference for good
and its source ? the Lord God, and rejects evil and the devil.
Although he may still fall, although he may do evil, man realizes it as
evil, as sin, condemns himself, repents, asks God for forgiveness, and thus
even further affirms his preference for God and good, albeit in a negative
Abbot Nikon (Vorobyev