February 27, 2010

The Paralytic Borne by Four

Second Sunday of Lent - Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas
Mark 2:1-12
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Mark
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

1-5. And again He entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was heard that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them. And they come unto Him, bringing a paralytic who was borne by four. And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the paralytic, Child, thy sins be forgiven thee.

What does this mean—after some days? [Theophylact is here interpreting for his contemporary Greek reader of 1100 AD the somewhat difficult New Testament Greek phrase di’emeron. Tr.] It means, "when several days had gone by." When Jesus had entered the house, the people heard that He was inside and all came running, hoping that it would be easy to meet Him there. The faith of those men was so great that they even made an opening in the roof through which they lowered the paralytic. Thereupon the Lord healed him, seeing the faith of those who carried him, or of the paralytic himself. For the paralytic would not have agreed to be carried if he himself had not believed that he would be healed. Many times the Lord healed the unbelieving sick on account of the faith of those who brought them. Similarly, He often healed the one brought to Him because of that mans faith, despite the unbelief of those who brought him. First He forgives the sins of the sick man and then He cures the disease, since the most severe illnesses occur for the most part as a result of sins. So it is that the Lord said of the paralytic in Johns Gospel that it was as a result of sins that the man had been paralyzed. (John 5:5-15) But the paralytic in Johns Gospel is not the same one mentioned here. For the man in Johns account had no one to help him, while this man had four. And that man was by the Sheeps Pool; this man was in the house. And this one was in Capernaum, while the other was in Jerusalem, to name but a few differences. But know that the paralytic mentioned by Matthew (9:2-8) and the one mentioned here by Mark are one and the same.

6-12. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only? And Jesus, immediately knowing in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralytic, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath authority on earth to forgive sins—He saith to the paralytic—I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

When the Lord said that He could forgive sins, the Pharisees falsely accused Him of blasphemy, since God alone can forgive sins. But the Lord gives yet more evidence that He is God, by knowing what was in their hearts. God alone knows what is in the heart of each, for, as the prophet says, "Thou alone knowest the hearts of the sons of men." (II Chron. 6:30, III Kings 8:39) Although the Lord had revealed their innermost thoughts, the Pharisees remained senseless, not conceding that He Who knew their hearts could heal their sins as well. By healing the body, the Lord makes credible and certain the healing of the soul as well, confirming the invisible by means of the visible, and the more difficult by what was easier, though it did not appear so to the Pharisees. For the Pharisees thought it was more difficult to heal the body, because it was something visible. And they thought that it was easy to say that the soul had been healed because this healing was invisible. Perhaps they were thinking thoughts like these: "Look at this deceiver. He declined to heal the body which is visible, and instead claims to heal the soul which is invisible, saying, ’Thy sins be forgiven thee.’ Certainly, were He able, He would heal the body rather than pretend to do something that cannot be seen." Therefore the Saviour shows them that He is able to do both, saying, "Which is easier? To heal the body or the soul? Certainly it is easier to heal the body, but you think just the opposite. So I will heal the body, which in fact is easy, although it seems difficult to you. By so doing I will confirm the healing of the soul as well, which is difficult although it seems easy because it is invisible and cannot be verified." Then He says to the paralytic, Arise, and take up thy bed, to confirm even more that the miracle was not a phantasy, and also to show that He had not only healed him but had filled him with strength. The Lord does the same with our spiritual sicknesses. He not only delivers us from our sins, but fills us with strength to do His commandments. Therefore I too who am a paralytic can be healed. For Christ at this very moment is in Capernaum, which, interpreted, is the house of comfort and consolation, which is the Church. For the house of the Comforter is the Church. I too am a paralytic, for the powers of my soul are inert and will not move to do good. But if I am carried by the four Evangelists and brought to the Lord, then I will hear Him call me, Child, (for by doing His commandments I become a son of God) and my sins will be forgiven me. But how can I be brought to Jesus? If they make an opening in the roof. And what is the roof? It is my mind, which over-arches all that is within me. It is a roof made of many earthen and clay tiles, signifying earthly affairs. But if all these things are pulled away, and the strength of the mind within us is opened up and freed of the weight of earthly things, then I will be lowered, that is, I will be humbled. For I ought not to rise up in pridefulness that I have been unburdened of earthly things; but instead, after I have been unburdened of earthly things, I ought to be lowered, that is, humbled. Then I will be healed and I will take up my bed, which is my body, and employ it to do the commandments. For I should not only be raised up from sin and understand that I sin; I should also take up my bed, that is, get my body up and set it to do good. Then we shall also be able to see with spiritual eyes, so that all our thoughts within us can say, We never saw it on this fashion, which means, "We never understood until now that we were paralytics and have now been healed." Only he who has been cleansed of sins sees things as they truly are.

February 25, 2010

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, my God! Direct my steps throughout this day, that solely I may, by truth and according to Thy will, walk with a clean conscience and an immaculate will; turn me away, throughout this day, O Lord, my God, from the path of the impious; safeguard me from my enemies who seek my soul; and save me from evil and irreligious company, in order that I may, walking boldly all day long according to Thy will, and fulfilling all work unto thy glory and completing my duties, praise Thee unceasingly, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is one of my favorites taken from the Rusyn Orthodox Prayer book called Chlib Dusi.

This hard to find Orthodox Prayer book is currently being print and sold at Holoviak's Church Supply.

February 19, 2010

What is Orthodoxy?

Please read this very enlighting sermon by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov


On the first Sunday of Great Lent we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a feast that was established in the year 842 to mark the final defeat of the Iconoclast heresy. In issuing a decree to celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Synod of Constantinople wished to specifically commit the restoration of holy icons and the triumph of Orthodox Christology to the collective memory of the Church. During the eleven centuries that have followed since that day, the feast has come to be celebrated as the triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies that have troubled the Church. Within the solemn proclamation of the Anathema which is heard on this day in every Orthodox cathedral, the Church in its fullness confirms the faith of the Fathers and rejects all heresies of the past and present. Yet the meaning of this feast is not in the rejection of false teaching from our midst, but in the true triumph of Orthodoxy in our hearts and lives.

What is Orthodoxy? All too often we are more familiar with the heresies of old—Iconoclasm, Arianism, Monophisitism—or of the modern day—Ecumenism, Modernism, Sergianism—than we are with our own faith. We can eloquently argue the fallacies of Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, but can we tell what makes us Orthodox? What is Orthodoxy, and how can we strive for its triumph in our lives?

As we begin our search for the meaning of Orthodoxy, we must first look at the definitions given by the Fathers in the profession of faith or the Creed. Why the Creed and not, for example, the Gospels? Because the Scripture does not exist in a vacuum, it is not a book on a shelf, though we often make it so in our lives. Rather, it is God’s living revelation to His Church, and its true meaning can be understood only in the context of a life in the Church. Christ did not leave us the Bible or any other book. Instead, He left us in His Body—the Church, in which there is salvation, and commanded the Apostles to teach the nations all things whatsoever He commanded (Matt. 28:20). Those who are outside Christ’s Body lack the anchor of the Apostolic tradition, and can and do come up with a variety of contradictive interpretations of the Scripture. Thus, if we want to learn the true faith, it must be that of the Apostles.

From its very beginning, the Christian faith had to be defined, set apart, called out, and elected. Several redactions of the Creed—from that of the Apostles to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed—stand witness to this laborious task of defining Orthodoxy. The word “Orthodox” is not in the Creed; the Fathers of the Nicene Council (A.D. 325) called it simply “the Symbol of Faith” (Σύμβολον τῆς Πίστεως). But it is this profession of faith that continues to serve as the foundation of our belief today, and that is why we rightfully call it “the Symbol of the Orthodox Faith.”

The Holy Church uses the Creed to instruct us in our faith throughout our entire earthly life. We recite the Creed before we are baptized into the Church, we hear it during services, we solemnly proclaim it together during every Divine Liturgy, we recite it every day as part of our daily prayer rule, and when partaking of our last Communion on the bed of illness and infirmity, we once again proclaim the Symbol of Orthodox Faith. This profession of faith which we make ours is an unbroken link that ties us to the faith of the Apostles and the martyrs, the Fathers and the holy hierarchs—it is the profession of every Orthodox saint for almost two millennia. Those who so often “speed-chant” right over the Creed, and especially those who do not know the Creed, should remember that this profession of faith is made by the whole choir of the saints of the Church, and we should try to join in this choir—“with one mouth and one heart.”[1]

Is knowing the basic truths contained in the profession of our faith enough to be Orthodox? The holy apostle James says: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19) Knowing the truth is not the same as making it your own. Each one of the ancient and modern heretics knew the Creed very well, and most of them did not even try to change it, take anything away or add anything to it.[2] Instead, they corrupted the understanding of the faith, and spread their corrupt teachings among people. This is why it is so important to be familiar with the works of the Fathers of the Church. Through life in the Church that our Lord established through His Apostles, the Fathers acquired the mind of Christ, and the Holy Spirit guided their understanding of divine truths. To them, the words of the Symbol of Faith were not abstract concepts, but the very foundation of their lives.

We no longer publically read the works of Saint John Chrysostom or other Fathers in most parish churches. Even our divine services, full of the wisdom and the spirit of patristic theology, have become abbreviated and less attended. As piety among us declines, we are not willing to sacrifice much time from our busy lives to be in church and to hear the beautiful and profoundly meaningful words of the services. Yet, in spite of this, the services do not become less beautiful and meaningful, nor do they become less important for us. Even though our piety is declining, our literacy is not. Most of us can read, and the texts which were once hand-copied and kept in monastery libraries are now widely available both in print and in electronic format. In order to acquire the Orthodox mindset and the worldview of the Fathers, we must become familiar with their thought and with their heritage. Both the theological and the liturgical heritage of the Fathers are indispensible to our formation as Orthodox Christians.

Some may complain that the language of the services is archaic and that the writings of the Fathers are too complicated and difficult to understand. This is true. Those who do not put forth effort to become familiar with the spiritual texts will indeed find them difficult. This is true, however, of any area of knowledge. People who do not practice reading have difficulty getting through a page, those who do not cook cannot easily follow a recipe, one who is not familiar with economics does not know the difference between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Dow Jones Composite Average or what their significance is, and if you do not watch many films you can hardly understand the talk about movie stars. Similarly, if we do not spend time and effort becoming familiar with the heritage of the Church, we will continue to feel like strangers who do not understand Orthodoxy, cannot relate to it, and can barely comprehend the language of divine services. Everything worth pursuing takes time and effort. We have the time. It is our choice what we do with it and toward which things we apply our efforts.

Finally, even this is not enough. If Christ wanted us to be saved through knowledge and understanding, He would have published a book and opened a school. Instead, He founded the Church. Knowing the texts and languages makes a good academician, but it does not protect a man from the river of fire, unless he is inside the Arc of Salvation—the Church. And to be in the Church, we must live the life of the Church—with its fasts and feasts, its services and sacraments—all has been established for our benefit. Every time we disobey the Church, every time we choose not to attend a service, every time we give up the fast to please the demands of our bellies—we continue to cut the very fabric that connects us to the Church. To be God’s children, we must become part of God’s family.

Our salvation is in the Body of Christ, and being in this Body and in communion with this Body is what truly makes us Orthodox. Orthodoxy is not merely a teaching, a philosophy, or even a worldview; it is the sacrament of salvation. Therefore, it is not enough to know or to have; it is necessary to be. Orthodoxy is not primarily a body of knowledge; first and foremost it is life—life in the Church and the life of the Church. And just as human life consists of very small and seemingly insignificant steps that together make up our journey from the cradle to the grave, life in the Church also consists of small steps that lead from the grave to resurrection. Each one of these steps, no matter how small, is very important, and we must strive on our spiritual path as the merchant, who having found a pearl of great price, gave up everything else to own it (Matt. 13:45-46).

You cannot find ten minutes in a day to pray to God?—Seek diligently and find five! You cannot find time to read the works of the Fathers?—Continue reading the Gospel, do not forsake it, and pray that God may enlighten your understanding! You cannot be in church for every service?—Begin by making a real effort to come at least for every festal service! You cannot give a lot of money to those in need?—Give what you can, even if it is only two mites (Mk. 12:42), or call your elderly neighbor and ask if you can be of any help. Do something about your spiritual life! The kingdom of heaven is not reached by “couch potatoes,” but by those who force themselves out of their comfort (cf. Matt. 11:12); Christ is not calling the lazy who refuse to walk to Himself, but those who labor (Matt. 11:28) and who “strive to enter through the narrow gate” (Lk. 13:24). Not every one of us will walk in the footsteps of Saint Seraphim of Sarov and fast as he did, but every one of us knows when it is a Wednesday or a Friday. Not everyone will pray for two hours as did the Holy Martyr Polycarp, but everyone knows the simple words that have been repeated by multitudes of saints: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

And so it is in the life of the Church, in the life exemplified by our saints, that we find the true meaning of what it is to be Orthodox. And this life is not a biography or a memoir. It is not found in ancient scrolls or on the pages of history books. It must be found in the mirror. You, who were so wondrously fashioned in the divine image of the Creator (Gen. 1:27), take courage to become His likeness, and your faith will make you well (cf. Matt. 9:22)!

As we celebrate this Sunday of Orthodoxy, let us remember that the triumph of Orthodoxy cannot be marked on the calendar—it is marked in our lives and in our hearts. Let us rejoice today with the whole Church, and let us sing the restoration of holy icons in the temples of God. But this restoration did not end in the ninth century; it is to be completed by us, as we co-labor with God to restore His holy image in the temples of our own souls.
[1] From the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

[2] The only notable exceptions are the addition of the filioque clause and the phrase “Deum de Deo” by the Roman Church, as well as some later changes adopted by the Armenian Church.

February 16, 2010

Ladder of Divine Ascent - Step 1

“The Christian is one who imitates Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as is possible for human beings, believing rightly and blamelessly in the Holy Trinity.” (Step 1, Section 4)

“Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man's domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven."(Step 1, Section 21)

“Those who have really determined to serve Christ, with the help of spiritual fathers and their own self-knowledge, will strive before all else to choose a place, and a way of life, and a habitation, and exercises suitable for them. For community life is not for all, on account of covetousness; and places of solitude are not for all, on account of anger. But each will consider what is most suited to his needs.” (Step 1, Section 25)

From: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, 2001. n, 2001.

February 13, 2010

Forgiveness Sunday - Great Lent Begins

Sermon for Forgiveness Sunday by Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko, 1893-1978) from the book - "The One Thing Needful"

This is the very beginning of Great Lent. For whatever we begin in life, we always compose some kind of plan of action, a program of what we have to accomplish and in what order. But here we don’t have to do this; today’s Gospel gives us this program. Earlier, the Holy Church was more often teaching us, but now she is requiring actions from us. Just let us examine the present Gospel attentively, and we will see how simple, how accessible for each of us, and at the same time, how comprehensive these rules are.

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:14-15). Therefore, what is the real purpose of Great Lent? Here it is: so that our Heavenly Father will forgive us our sins. And how do we achieve this? Forgive people their sins. Let us start here with this. This is the very first thing.

Secondly, "moreover, when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast.... But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret" (Mt. 6:16-18). And so let us fast, but not for the sake of people, but before God, and not despondently, but in spiritual happiness.

And thirdly, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.. .but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Mt. 6:19-20). This determines all our activities, gives direction to our whole life.

And finally, the last thing: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt. 6:21). Here is the purpose of our life! That our heart be in God, filled with God, so that God will become our treasure. But to learn this is possible only in the Church. And this is so important for us that it is worth the labor, and the fasting, and standing longer in church, and praying more at home. For only then will we be able to cry out with joy: "Christ is Risen!" and to answer those greeting us: "In Truth He is Risen!"

February 09, 2010

St. Ephraim the Syrian

Today we on the Orthodox Calendar we commemorate our Holy Father St. Ephraim the Syrian. Perhaps the most renown hymnographer in Church history. Here is one of the prayer that that touches my soul;

Inside I Am Not What I Appear To Be

Woe is me, to what judgement will I be subject, and of what disgrace am I worthy? My inner self is not like my outward appearance: I talk about how to free oneself from the passions, but day and night I myself think about disgraceful passions. I conduct discussions about purity, but myself, I indulge in indecent behavior.

Alas! what trails await me? The truth is that I bear the image of righteousness, but lack its capacity. What face shall I who am guilty of such indecency wear when I approach the Lord God Who knows the secrets of my heart? When I stand in prayer, I am afraid that fire will descend from heaven and burn me up, as it happened in the desert that there came out a fire from the Lord that consumed the men who offered strange incense.

What can I expect, I who am weighed down with such a heavy burden of sins? My heart is consumed with fire, my mind is clouded, righteous thoughts have failed in me like a dog do I ever return to my own vomit.

I have no boldness before Him Who will try my heart an inner workings. I have no clean thoughts, no tears while praying. Although I sigh and fall prostrate on my shame-filled face and beat my chest — this is a dwelling place of passions, a sweatshop of evil thoughts.

Though knowest, O Lord, my passions hidden in darkness, the sores of my souls are known to Thee. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. If Thou wilt not build the house of my soul, I labor in vain trying to build it myself.

It is true that sometimes I prepare myself to do battle with the passions when they war against me, but the evil wiles of the serpent paralyze the efforts of my soul with sensuality and I yield to them. Tough no one visibly ties my hands, the invisible passions drag me away like a captive.

O Lord, enlighten the eyes of my heart, that I might rightly recognize the deceit and the malice of the passions. May Thy grace shield me, that I might be able to stand firm and resist, having girded my loins with courage.

Once Thou, O Lord, didst provide safe passage through the impassable sea for They people. Thou gavest Thy people who thirsted water out of a hard rock. Thou alone, according to Thy grace, didst save the one who fell in with thieves. Have mercy upon me as well, for I have also fallen into the hands of thieves and, like a captive, I am bound by wicked thoughts.

No one is strong enough to heal the passionate temperament of my soul except Thou, O Lord, Who knowest the depths of my soul. Condescend and save me by The kindness.

From: Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God from the Works of our Holy Father St. Ephraim the Syrian, Arranged in the Manner of the Psalms of David, Together with the Life of St. Ephrem

February 07, 2010

The Last Judgment

Meatfare Sunday
Matthew 25:31-46
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Matthew
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

31-33. When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Since the first coming of the Lord was not with glory but with dishonor and indignity, He says, When He shall come in His glory. For at the second coming He will come with glory, escorted by angels. First He will divide the saints from the sinners, delivering them from tribulations, and set them on His right, and then speak to them. He calls the saints sheep on account of their gentleness, and because they yield fruit and useful things for us, as do sheep, providing wool, which is divine and spiritual protection, and milk, which is the sustenance that is needed. The goats are the sinners, for they walk along the precipices and are unruly and fruitless.

34-40. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye fed Me: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
He does not give honor or punishment until He has first judged. For He loves mankind and teaches us to do the same as well, not to punish until we have made a careful examination. In this way those blessed as they have been accepted by the Father. He considers them to be inheritors of the kingdom to show that God makes them participants in His own glory as His sons. For He did not say, "receive", but rather inherit, as a man would say of his father’s estate. By the least brethren He means either His own disciples or, simply, all the poor. For every poor man is Christ’s brother for the very reason that Christ, too, spent His life in poverty. See also God’s righteousness, how He acclaims the saints; and see the good disposition of their mind, how they deny, with befitting modesty, that they have cared for Him. But the Lord accepts as for Himself the things that were done for the poor.

41-46. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye gave Me nothing to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, or in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
He sends those on the left into the fire which had been prepared for the devil. For as the demons are without compassion and are cruelly and maliciously disposed towards us, it is fitting that those who are of like mind with them, and who have been cursed by their own deeds, should merit the same punishment. See that God did not prepare the fire for men, nor did He make hell for us, but for the devil—I make myself liable to hell. Tremble, then, O man, and understand from this that these men were not punished as fornicators, or robbers, or perpetrators of any other vice, but for not having done good. For indeed, if you consider things well, the robber is he who has much and does not give alms, even if he does no obvious injury. For whatever he has in excess of his needs, he has stolen from those who are in need and who have not received anything from him. For if he had shared these things with them, they would not be in need. Now that he has locked these things up and kept them for himself, for this very reason they are in need. So he who does not give alms is a robber, doing injustice to all those whom he could have helped but did not, and for this reason he and those like him shall go away into eternal punishment which never ends; but the righteous shall enter into eternal life. Just as the saints have unceasing joy, so too the unjust have unceasing punishment, despite the gibberish of Origen who says that there is an end to hell and that sinners will not be punished for ever, but that there will be a time when they enter the place of the righteous because they have been purified by suffering in hell. (1) Origen is clearly refuted here, both when the Lord speaks of everlasting punishment, that is, never ending, and when He likens the righteous to sheep and the sinners to goats. For just as a goat can never become a sheep, neither can a sinner ever be cleansed and become righteous after the Judgement. Outer darkness [mentioned in the preceding parable of the talents] is that which is furthest from the light of God and for that reason renders the punishment more harsh. There is another reason that could be mentioned, and that is that the sinner is in darkness even in this life, as he has fallen away from the Sun of Righteousness, but as there is still hope of conversion, this is not yet the outer darkness. But when he has died and an examination has been made of the things he has done, then the outer darkness in its turn receives him. For there is no longer any hope of conversion, but he undergoes a complete deprivation of the good things of God. While he is here in this life he enjoys to some degree the good things of God, I mean, the tangible things of creation, and he believes that he is in some manner a servant of God, living out his life in God’s house, which is this creation, being fed by Him and provided with the necessities of life. But then he will be altogether cut off from God, having no share at all in the good things of God. This is that darkness which is called outer by comparison to the darkness here, which is not outer because the sinner is not yet completely cut off from this time onward. You, then, O reader, flee from this absence of compassion, and practice almsgiving, both tangible and spiritual. Feed Christ Who hungers for our salvation. If you give food and drink to him who hungers and thirsts for teaching, you have given food and drink to Christ. For within the Christian there is Christ, and faith is nourished and increased by teaching. If you should see someone who has become a stranger to his heavenly fatherland, take him in with you. While you yourself are entering into the heavens, lead him in as well, lest while you preach to others, you yourself be rejected. If a man should cast off the garment of incorruption which he had at his baptism, so that he is naked, clothe him; and if one should be infirm in faith, as Paul says, help him; and visit him who is shut up in the dark prison of this body and give him counsel which is as a light to him. Perform, then, all of these six types of love, both bodily and also spiritually, for we consist of both soul and body, and these acts of love are to be accomplished by both.
1. Origen’s false teaching of apokatastasis, the restoration of all things, was condemned as a heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople in 553 A.D.