Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shedding Some Light on the Judgement

The Arabic original can be found here.

Shedding Some Light on the Judgement

A wise man keeps his attention on the day his death before the days of his life. Before you make plans for tomorrow, remember the hour of your death! The day of death inevitably comes and can come at any moment, but another day of life might not come at all. Then, if you keep your attention on the day of your death, at all times and in all situations, you will no longer be concerned with your life on this earth, imagining that you will be there forever. Instead, you will take account of the fact that you will inevitably die today or tomorrow. This makes you, first of all, more realistic in your dealings with the matters of this world. Second, your consciousness of your reality gives you a profound sense that the things you deal with here, whatever they may be, are transitory. You are on a train taking you there and everything you see, here and there, are sights that pass each other by. Today you see them, and tomorrow they don't hesitate to pass behind you, as though they never were. Third, the things that you face in your day, at this moment, become well-ordered, because you accept them with greater ease, whether they're bitter or sweet, because your eye looks to the hereafter. Fourth and finally, if you become aware of the hour your death, that is, in practical terms, to the hour of judgment, then you will find yourself automatically pressed towards acting in an upright way, with mercy in your interactions with other people, because the hour is coming when you will find yourself having to respond to every detail of what has happened to you. For this reason, the remembrance of the of death and the hour of judgment is is an excellent and realistic way to order the affairs of life on this earth and an aid in freeing yourself from false imaginings and fantasies and a help for making your life, even in its simplest and most specific details, successful, peaceful, and joyous.

By no means think that if you keep your attention on the hour of your death that you will drown in sorrow and despair, that you will have no desire to continue any work here on this earth with all your heart. This is not true. The hour of death is only sorrowful and full of despair for those who do not believe in God and in Jesus Christ, glory to him. But for those who believe, the hour of death is the hour of meeting the One who has loved us, the hour of completion of man's preparation for eternal life. For this reason, this hour is the hour of joy par excellence. Indeed, in death we are not approaching nothingness, but rather fullness. It is not a loss, but a gain (Philippians 1:21). What awaits us is beyond imagining! "The eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

So you should have no fear because you have sinned. All flesh and blood sins! We do not arrive at the hour of death without sin, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and no one is good except God (Matthew 19:17). What is important is that sin not become a natural thing in our life, that it not become us, that we not accept it as something desirable, that we not enjoy it without the slightest rejection on the level of the soul or the sense of prodding the heart against it. Did the Master not say, "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19)?. You will not be cast into hell and you will not be banished from the face of the Lord as long as sin does not become natural for you on the count of the depth of your heart's intimacy with it, as long as sin does not become a foreign body that has been assimilated within you, that is, an entity that has come to be united to you so that it has become you. The divine word warns you into the end and calls you to be violent with regard to your self: "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8). No matter how much your sins have multiplied, have no fear. Your sins will not cast you into Hell, but rather your existential relationship to them. The Lord God is an ocean of mercy! All human sins are like a grain of sand before Him! They are like nothing before Him, since He wills that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). It is enough for you to weep! It is enough for you to repent from the depths! It is enough for you to feel pain in your heart! For you to say even just a word as a sigh: "Remember me O Lord, when You come into your kingdom!" "Make me as one of your hired servants!" And how will He reply? "Today you will be with me in paradise." "Bring out the best robe... bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this your brother was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found." The Lord does not ask for much. He asks for just a simple, painful, humble movement of the heart. How not, when "a heart this is broken and humbled God will not revile." The Lord God looks for the smallest reason to save man. God is all love! However smoky the candle may be, He does not extinguish it and however crushed the cane may be, He will not shatter it. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Heaven is in mourning until the sinner repents, because "likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

Does this mean that we can consciously sin without accountability and then repent at the last moment? Of course not! Some saints sinned and repented at the last moment, this is true. But they were sins of ignorance and weakness. Can one surrender himself to the enemy and then expect to escape as though he were on a walk? One who says that it will be easy to be saved, what does he mean? The goal of your enemy the Devil is to crush you forever with sin. Will you surrender yourself to that!? So, the danger of sin is that when one submits himself to it consciously, his heart hardens to dealing with it and becomes the object of a deadening of sensitivity to it. Then if a man thinks that he is able to sin today, knowing that in truth, and that he can repent tomorrow, then he has dreadfully fallen and he has added to his sins the greatest sin, because he has surrendered himself to sin willingly and out of obstinacy and out of self-love! That is unbelief itself!!! How can he repent when he has denied the Holy Spirit!? For he had knowledge of truth, but despite that he chose falsehood, and he acted as though the truth were false. He was capable of struggle, but despite that he chose to plunge himself into sin as though sin were more useful! This is precisely blasphemy against the Holy Spirit! The Jews knew that the Spirit active in the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, but despite that they said of Him, out of jealousy and pride and obstinacy, that it was the chief of demons. They were able to be humble and submit to the truth, they knew, but they denigrated the Holy Spirit and made light of the truth and chose sin! This is what the Lord God said about it: " all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" (Mark 3:28-29).

For this reason I strive to resist sin today, tomorrow, and to the end. As for the ignorant, it is our duty to teach them. "Make disciples of all nations." As for the weak, we help them through our prayers and the Lord will help them for the sake of His goodness, with us or without us!

And so we ask-- Are those who shall be saved few in number? We do not know, though we feel deep within ourselves that the One who is able to do all things and who desires that all be saved is able to save most, except those who, like Satan, do not want salvation because of stubbornness, who do not love the Truth, and who are not zealous for it. Whatever the case may be, judgement will begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). The Lord will judge us Christians first, because we have known Him, in a small way or a great way. After having known Him, we have ignored Him and made light of Him and we, who are called by his name, have become a cause for others to blaspheme! Had we preserved the faith and born witness in Spirit and in Truth, then we would have shared in the salvation of others. Most human suffering today is the result of Christians having departed from the truth of their Christ! For this reason, judgement will start with us, because from those to whom much has been given, even more will be asked. These words were not just for the Jews, rather they were especially for us Christians, if we do not repent, "tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you."

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of St. Silouan the Athonite- Douma
October 25, 2009

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