"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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Strife and Reconciliation: The Man Who Forgives Will Be Forgiven

St. John Chrysostom says: "Someone has deprived you of money! If you endure its loss bravely, you will receive the same reward as if you had given it to the poor. Actually, the man who gives money to the poor and the man who for God's sake forgives the man who robbed him and does not even say a bad word to him are doing the same thing" A wonderful confirmation of this thought is found in the life of the Reverend Areta of the Kiev Caves. This is what is told about him:
Fr. Areta was living in the monastery of Kiev Caves. He had one great weakness: he was a miser. He secretly accumulated a lot of money in his cell, and he neither gave of it to others nor spent it for his own needs. One night thieves stole all of his riches. He was so grieved that he almost destroyed himself. His heart was filled with malice, and he began to attack and torment the innocent people around him. The brothers advised him to calm down, but he would not listen and became more and more hateful of everyone.
After some time, he fell seriously ill and was close to death. All the while, though, he did not stop grumbling and reviling. However, God brought him to his senses in a miraculous way. Once, Fr. Areta was lying in a deadly stupor when suddenly he began crying before all: "Lord, have mercy! Lord, forgive me! Lord, I have sinned! It is Yours, I do nor grieve for it!" He immediately got up from his bed and explained to the gathered monks the cause of his cry: "l saw," he said, "that angels and a crowd of demons came to me and began arguing about my soul. The demons were saying: 'He did not give thanks to God for the theft but reviled Him. That is why he is ours and will be delivered into our hands!' But the angels said to me: "Wretched man, if you had thanked God for the theft of your treasure, it would have been counted as alms, as was Job's. The giving of alms is a great deed before God because through it a man reveals his good will. If a man has been robbed and endures with thanksgiving, that resistance to the devil's temptation is counted for good will; for the devil does those things to make the man blaspheme, but a grateful person turns everything over to God, and that is equal to the giving of alms. When the angels said that, I cried: 'Lord, forgive me! Lord, I have sinned! It is yours, I do not grieve for it!' The demons disappeared immediately, and the angels rejoiced, and after accepting the lost treasure instead of alms, they left."
When the brothers heard this, they praised God Who seeks to turn even the worst to the benefit of man. After this occurrence, Fr. Areta changed and corrected his life so much that he became one of the great Kiev Caves Saints.
The Holy Fathers always endured with thanksgiving all misfortunes in their lives. They knew that the man who endures patiently every suffering, unjust insult, or intentional harm to their personal interests is saving his soul with his patience. By losing the temporal, he gains the eternal. This is why they never got angry with other people nor quarreled with their enemies. Patience and long-suffering toward their personal enemies were important virtues in the development of their holy personal life. How right the Holy Fathers were! Do you realize this, dear reader? If you do, it is good for your soul, but if, remembering about your enemies and debtors, you shake your head with disapproval because you cannot imagine how you could forgive the villain who has stolen and used your money, nor how you could be reconciled with the hag who has insulted you so viciously, then you are not on the right road – for it is exactly those personal and hateful enemies that we are commanded to forgive. If you are still tormented by malevolent moods, you have not yet tasted the sweetness of forgiving; your fleshly interests still stand higher than your spiritual ones. You, entangled in the nets of earthly things, cannot fly up to the horizons of the spirit where Jesus Christ is preparing great bliss for His followers. If, however you feel that the Holy Fathers advise us correctly, even though they neglect our material and temporal interests somewhat by teaching us to forgive our enemies, if you are moved and gladdened at the reading of these lines, however foolish they may seem to the world, happy are you – for you have found the path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.
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Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev, The Meaning of Suffering and Strife and Reconciliation, Volumes II & III (St. Xenia Skete, Wildwood:1994) pp. 98-100.

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