"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Knowledge and Practice

In a monastery close to Alexandria, there lived an elder who was very cross... A young monk, hearing about him, made a vow before God, saying: "Lord, for the expiation of all the sins which I have committed, I will go to this elder and live with him, serve him as a slave, and will endure everything patiently." And so he did. He went to the elder and settled down to live there with him. The elder treated him like a dog and sneered at him every day. After six years of living together, a dreadful angel appeared to the young monk in a dream, holding a long scroll in his hands. The angel told him that half of the sins recorded on the scroll had been erased by God and that he should take care of the rest.

Not far away from this cross elder lived another, more righteous ascetic. He could hear how the other elder mistreated the brother and how the latter asked for forgiveness, but the elder did not give it to him. When he happened to meet the young monk, the righteous elder always asked him: "How are you, child? How did the day go? Did we win something? Did we blot something out from the list?" The brother, knowing that the elder was a godly man, did not hide his secrets from him, but answered: "Yes, Father, today, we struggled a little." When he spent the day in peace, when he was not scolded, nor beaten, nor driven away, then in the evening he went crying to the godly elder and said to him through tears: "Alas, Father, today's day was fruitless: we did not gain anything; we spent the whole day in peace...."

When another six years passed, the brother passed away. Then the godly elder said that he had seen this brother standing before God among the martyrs and praying to God for his cross elder: "Lord, as you pardoned me through him, so pardon him through Your goodness' sake and for the sake of me, Your slave." When forty days passed, the brother took to himself in the place of rest his repentant elder...

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Beloved readers... we are moved to tears when we read in our warm and cozy rooms about the feats of the great and righteous ones of God. We cry tenderly when we see their patience. Our souls melt when we listen to nice sermons about them; but when in our life we meet our personal enemy or the one with whom we quarreled yesterday, we turn our back on him and cannot forgive him. Of what use is our knowledge of how we should act or of how the saints have acted in such cases if we do not do as they have done?


Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev, The Meaning of Suffering and Strife and Reconciliation (St. Herman Press, 1994) PP. 90, 91.

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