Orthodox America

  Bear ye one another's burdens

by New Martyr Priest Sergei Mechev

It may be that our greatest sin lies in the fact that we forget that we do not accomplish our salvation alone, by ourselves; rather, we are all walking along this path together, all joined one to another, as members of one Body-the Church.

In our crude, egocentric life, we are constantly forgetting that the state of "my" soul and "my" salvation depends on the state of those people around me, and, likewise, their state and their salvation depend on how I live, how I influence them. . . . We are so immersed in our own selves, so preoccupied with our egocentric strivings.  We must collectively bear one another's weaknesses and give each other a helping hand.  If we are going to judge the affairs of our neighbor, we shall never fulfill the law of Christ.

We must remember the words of the Apostle, and Batiushka's* testament which he left to us: Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom, in his commentary on this passage from the Epistles, says that a more precise translation would be to say "make up" or "complete" rather than "fulfill."  That is, no one is able to entirely fulfill the law of Christ, but if each of us were to fulfill part of it, each according to the measure of his strength and capabilities, then, by making up for each other, all of us together will fulfill it. Each cannot be all.  If each member of our body wished to do the work of the whole, nothing would come of it.

For many of us, these words are an indictment. We forget that we are first of all to bear with the failings of others, to forget our "selves-our "I," and to remember our sins.

"This man is irascible; thou art dull-tempered; bear, therefore, with his vehemence that he in turn may bear with thy sluggishness."  So counsels St. John Chrysostom.

We ought to rejoice at the spiritual progress of our brother.  And if we see that someone is helping another, bearing his burdens, we should not be envious but be glad, for by helping him, he is also helping us, because we are all inseparably linked to one another.  This is especially true of a spiritual father.  If a spiritual father helps one of his spiritual children, he is thereby helping another, helping them all, for our salvation depends on the salvation of those around us. We too must approach that person who is being helped, who is in need of help, and also try to help him.  In so doing we will benefit not only him but, most especially, ourselves.

Particularly those who knew Batiushka ought certainly to understand my words.  He always said, "Love people; unburden them."

The words of the Apostle, Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ, should not be for us just words that we read upon opening the Epistle to the Galatians, or when we come to Batiushka's grave, only to straightway forget them. No, we must act upon them, for our great Church teachers, whose memory we celebrate in the second half of January, all speak about the fact that each word of the Holy Scripture must be read with deeds.

And so, if we truly desire to fulfill the law of Christ, we should bear in mind that we are all joined together in the Body of Christ-the Church. There is no other way of fulfilling the laws of Christ.  By being attentive to the soul of a stranger, remembering that our salvation lies with our neighbor, we will gradually enter the Kingdom of God.

* Priest Sergei Mechev's father, the well-known Moscow elder, Archpriest Alexey Mechev (+1923).

Translated from Nadezhda #17; The Merciful Samaritan, Basel-Moscow, 1994.