Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on the Sins of Those in Authority

Arabic original here.

Sin is the Lack of Feeling

Sin, according to Saint Isaac the Syrian's definition, is "the lack of feeling". Holiness, according to the Christian tradition, is a person's admitting his sin and sincere effort to repent of it. In any case, all people without exception are sinners in need of God's grace. However, the way in which a person deals with is sin is what defines his path toward holiness or toward greater indulgence in sin.

The beginning of sin is when one makes another person into a mere thing, there for pleasure, consumption, subjugation, or killing... Without a doubt, the apex of sin is the absence of any feeling that the other person is a human possessing a spirit, a heart and a mind and that he has feelings. It is treating him as a thing or mere body made only of flesh. The apex of sin is killing the "person" in a person and making him into a thing that we use as a means for fulfilling our lusts and desires.

One who kills the "person" in another person also kills himself. He loses his freedom through his freedom. He eliminates his will through his will. He ignores his heart and his mind. He follows his impulse and is led by his lust... But one who kills the "person" in another person also kills God, God who willed that man be human and not animal or vegetable, not inanimate or an instrument for sin.

For a person to lack the feeling or the realization that he has sinned is an even greater evil than the sin itself. The problem is compounded when the sinner does not feel the pain and suffering that his sin has caused. It is true that the sinner is sometimes himself a victim , but in most cases he is the aggressor and others the victims.

No one is immune from sin. Temptation besets humankind as long as they strive upon this earth. The lives of the saints inform us that temptations are more severe for those who have forged ahead in the spiritual struggle to stop sin than for those who immediately fall into sin. We have the best example of this in the life of Saint Anthony the Great, since he was able to overcome the temptations of the devil and was delivered from his yoke through persistence and reliance on God's grace.

Moreover, Saint John Climacus of Sinai wrote a book about spiritual struggle called "the Ladder to God" or "the Ladder of Virtues" in which he talks about a ladder made up of thirty steps, each representing one of the virtues. Those striving after perfection must climb them one by one in order to reach God.

Climacus affirms the possibility of falling, even when one has reached the highest level. As long as one is alive, there remains the possibility of falling.

Temptations are present in daily life for each one of us. Every person is subject to falling into them. However, those in authority, whether religious, political, financial or spiritual-- and we have deliberately distinguished spiritual authority from religious authority-- bear greater responsibility because they improperly exploit their positions and their authority and because their sins and errors have more victims and harm the stations that they represent or direct and oversee. Their sin is greater because it collapses the edifice on those within it. It is all the worse when the victim is asked to keep silent for some interest or to save the authority figure who is at fault. That we may have feeling... this is what is hoped.

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