Life after Death | Orthodox | 25

About a mortal sin and who is righteous

Do you remember when Christ raised the four-days dead Lazarus and it became clear to everyone, that Jesus Christ was that same Messiah, promised by God, what judgment was made by the supreme Jewish court - Sanhedrin? Kill Lazar too!

Here is the historic example of bitterness against the Truth, a word against the Holy Spirit.

However a man comes to this position not simply, not of a sudden.

We may think, what villains are the Jewish Pharisees, scholars, clergymen, hierarchs and chief priests, who crucified Christ – we, Christians, wouldn’t do such a thing.

But think, how did those become like that? This is the most serious issue, and the answer to it is very important for each believer, in order not to turn to be among them inadvertently.

The patristic teaching opens us the spiritual law about the “mechanism”, by means of which a man comes to committing a mortal sin.

The man commits this sin not all of sudden.

He is marching to it gradually, as if unnoticeably, committing it arbitrary, without forcible compulsion by a passion, so-called minor sins.

It is through them that a man shows himself, what he chooses, what he is driving at.

Multiple repetition of minor sins gradually suppresses the conscience, corrupts the soul, weakens it and as you remember unites it with demons-torturers, who kindle passions even more.

So, that if a man does not regain his senses in time, does not start fighting with such minor things as sinful thoughts, feelings, wishes, - misfortune is inevitable.

He is gradually enslaved more and more, is weakened spiritually, becomes capable of committing sins more grave, even mortal and may go as far as becoming reckless – the direct opposition to the obvious truth, undisputable truth, a word against the Holy Spirit.

The roots of this impious blasphemy – are in dreamy development in yourself the feeling of your own righteousness, or, as Saint Fathers say, opinions about yourself, high opinion of yourself, which results in petrified non-feeling of God’s sanctity and your own spiritual impiousness.

Let’s recall a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee – how the Pharisee boasted before God, how much good and righteous things he did.

The similar condition when a person seems to live righteously externally, keeps the Church rules, is present at Divine service (or administers them), but does not see his sinfulness, his spiritual dirt, is very close to satanism.

Such a person even with his obvious sins, is “never guilty”.
The other person is guilty, the others – all in the world, but not he.

This dazzled condition was well described by St. Theophan (Govorov): “He himself is the horrible rotter, but he keeps repeating, I am not like the other people”.

I am good!” – here is where that evil root lies, from which an awful sin of blasphemy comes out.

For such a ‘righteous” Christ-Saviour – is the direct pangs pricks, that is why he hates Him. He crucified Christ two thousand years ago and continues to crucify in his soul during the whole history.

What does this “righteous” expect from God?
Naturally – earthy and celestial awards, as there is nothing to save him from.

That is why he is waiting for the awarder – anti-Christ.

So, the so-called Christian, externally lawful, can turn to be an impious creature.

This pride of false piousness venerable Macarius the Great compares with a copper wall, erected between a man and God.

The opinion about his own righteousness is, in the final count, the source of all human misfortunes. Mark zealot was right in saying that “all the evil and sorrowful things fall upon us due to our self-elevation”.

What is the sober state of the soul?

Whom did Christ display His benevolence for, whom did He justify, whom did He make an example? –Evident sinners! But what? Those, who really saw that they were sinners and they repented from the bottom of their heart.

This cognition of your sinfulness, realizing your powerlessness to win passions, tearing your soul into pieces, and from here the sincere humility and repentance –

are the only reliable remedy against acquisition of that pride, which has led Orthodox, according to the yardsticks of the Old Law, the Jewish hierarchy, to the reckless uprising against God.

Isn’t it a lesson and an edification of all of us, who do not doubt in our righteousness?

Why did Christ descend into the hell on that Holy Saturday, which we recall each year before Resurrection of Christ?

– The Church answers: in order to deliver from there all the Old Testament righteous.

Who are they, these righteous?
Sometimes an answer is heard, which leads more into the delusion than explains.

They say: the righteous are those, who believed in the coming of the Messiah-Saviour and expected Him.

Sorry, but if that is only external belief of mind, as St. Theophan put it, and in this case it does not differ in anything from the Protestant one, and can give nothing to a man.

It is not about that kind of righteousness the Church tells you.

The righteous is that man, who, living as per the conscience and keeping the commandments, is sure of the weakness of his spiritual condition, incapability to eradicate by his own efforts the passions which torture the soul, and that is why he is in the need of God’s help.

The Righteous is, above all, the man, who sees his spiritual illnesses and in humbleness and repentance appeal to God - to his last hope.

As in usual life the perishing person (who is in danger) cries: “Save me!”,

the same is in the spiritual life – only he who cognized himself as incurably ill and powerless calls upon from the bottom of his heart: “God, be mercy!

So the righteous is that man, who is eager to appeal to Saviour to get rid of his own spiritual ailments (envy, anger, strive for power, self-elevation, avarice…), but not of the external misfortunes and sorrows.

Such is the Christian in spirit, irrespective at what time he lived, lives or will live.

That is why St. Justin the Philosopher, like the other early Christian apologists, calls the Old Testament righteous of all the nations “Christians before Christ”.

Here is what kind of expectation and what belief in Saviour is the testimony of the true unfallen righteousness, opening the gates of the Kingdom of God to a man.

He who has cognized the poverty of his spirit and the power of saving Christ’s love will not depart from Him in the ages to come, will not repeat Adam’s sin.

It is this state of soul that is the true righteousness – the most significant truth of the Orthodox understanding of the spiritual life.

There is no need to speak here about the elevated steps of sanctity – this is a separate and a big subject.

The main thing is that the righteous (of both the Old Testament and the New Testament) are only those people, who have arrived at this cognition, to such a feeling of need in God-Saviour,

but not those who simply believed (or believe) in His coming as in some historic event and are waiting for the earthy and celestial benefits from Him (by the way, not knowing what it is).

Those who crucified Christ also believed in the coming of Messiah, but they believed as in some earthy event, which would bring them shalom, that is all the goods of the earth – by that they deeply distorted the image of Messiah and the very essence of their religion.

Even the demons believe and shudder” (James, 2, 19),
but remain demons, and this can happen with a man too.

From here it becomes clear, why those who repented: a criminal, a tax collector, a whore - are the righteous in Christianity.

That is why let’s not judge about the eternal lot of any single person: Orthodox, non-Orthodox, non-Christian and etc. – because we do not know either their spiritual state, or all objective circumstances of his life.

We must know and judge about the truth and falsity, that means about the salvation or downfall of this or that belief, the way of moral and spiritual life offered by it, but we cannot and have no right to say about a single man (or a nation) that he has perished.

Only the Church can proclaim such a judgment.

And each Christian is destined to pray for the neighbour (Luke, 10, 29-37), live or departed, irrespective of his convictions.

Thus the Spiritual council of St. Trinity Sergiev Lavra, expressing their censure in respect of the Catholic expansion on the territory of the modern Russia, and at the same time concluded:

We cannot undertake upon us the right to judge, whether Roman-Catholics be saved or not, or in what measure the grace is present in the Catholic Church.

The judgment of this kind and knowledge belongs to God alone”.

The Christian belief gives the possibility for a man to get ready for the posthumous life:

his fight against a sin, compulsion for the keeping up the Gospel commandments, repentance to clear oneself the way to God and to escape the after death sufferings.

As was written by Abba Isaiah, hermit:

What a joy will be for a soul of that person, who, having started working for the sake of God, successfully will end up his deed?

Upon his leaving this world, this matter will do for him such a thing that the Angels will share the joy with him, having seen that he had freed from the power of darkness.

Because when the soul leaves the body, it is accompanied by Angels;

then all powers of darkness come out in the opposite direction, wishing to grasp it, searching for anything of theirs.

Then not the Angels fight with them, but the deeds, which had been made by the soul, bar it, as if by a wall and protect it from them, in order they wouldn’t touch it.

When the deeds win the victory, then the Angels, marching in front of it, sing, until it appears before God in joy.

At that hour it forgets about any deed of this world and about its labour”.

- God, grant that everyone will be honoured with such a joy!