Orthodox America

  A Guide to Confession

 From talks by Archimandrite Ioann Krestiankin

Irritability most often stems from impatience. This is the source of many of our sins.

1. In respect to God who sends or allows various trials we sin through a) hopelessness, b) murmuring, and c) even blasphemy against God for sending us trials that in our opinion are unfair and beyond our endurance. Perhaps you yourself have said or you have agreed with someone else when they said that "if God were good, there would be no wars; children wouldn't suffer; there wouldn't be any illnesses, no sudden deaths in the flower of youth-and similar thoughts.  Possibly some of you, in following such lines of reasoning, have even come to the point of denying the existence of God. Repent!

How foolish it is for us with our limited intellects to judge Thine Economy and draw conclusions from what is beyond our understanding!

2. In respect to other people, impatience prompts us to consider that they are to blame for evil.  Here we have a) countless and irrational suspicions; b) unjust accusations, which in turn generate quarrels and animosity, grievances and mutual offenses.  And we insensibly drown in this "abyss of sin," as though we will escape death or do not believe in life after the grave, in the Dread Judgment, in the existence of hell and paradise.

3. In respect to ourselves, impatience produces 

a) agitation of the spirit
b) a darkening of the mind-leading to a loss of sound judgment and the means to combat evil;
c) a strong, prolonged sense of grief in the heart leading to despair-yet another sin which so weakens our physical and emotional energies as to cripple our ability to do anything positive; everything we do comes to naught.

We fall into despondency; some go so far as to fall into despair, a fatal sin, for it spells the death of the soul.

Rather, we should exercise ourselves in patience, trust ourselves to Thee, to Thy wise, paternal guidance, committing ourselves to Thee, "and by the judgments which Thou knowest, save me."

This virtue is opposed by our wicked, senseless obstinacy, a desire at every turn to insist on our own way, and how often all peace is lost on account of some insignificant trifle.  "I won't give in for anything, not an inch!"  That is the slogan of our obstinacy and hard-heartedness which we live with: I won't yield a foot of earth in the communal garden, not an inch of space in the communal kitchen, not even "my" place (as if there were such a thing) in church; I'll push out anyone who dares stand in "my" place, or I'll show my indignation if I can't make him leave-instead of praying.  I won't yield my place on the cliros, I won't yield to another if I'm reading during the service; I won't yield in an argument even if I know myself to be wrong.

In our obstinacy, our immoderate passion for everything worldly, our litigiousness, we even reach the point of suing one another, forgetting and even ignorant (because we do not know the Gospel) of the Saviour's commandment: And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also (Matt. 5:40).

Lord!  How far we are from this commandment!  Forgive us our injudicious, wicked obstinacy!

Have you considered why it is that we are so quick to take offense?  It happens for lack of meekness and humility in our hearts!  Being thin-skinned stems from high-mindedness, from thinking we are "something," and not just "something" but of some importance, and therefore, when someone does not give us what we think is our "due," we get into a huff and take offense-to the point of tears and quarrels; we plot revenge (Bp. Theophan the Recluse).  This self-worth, this "something" we must destroy and throw out the window, as Bishop Theophan says.  Then a foundation for inner peace will be established in our soul.

And we think that we get offended because we have such uncommonly sensitive and gentle natures, while all around us are unfeeling, malicious brutes. There is yet another characteristic of meekness, quite beyond our comprehension.  This is a sincere, heartfelt goodwill towards our enemies, according to our Lord's commandment, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you . . . pray for them which despitefully use you (Matt. 5:44).  Do you have these feelings in your hearts? No, Lord, this seems well nigh impossible to fulfill.  We can more or less bear with those who like us, who are good to us.  But this is human nature, for "even sinners love those who love them."  Christian virtue, on the other hand, consists not only in not hating your enemy, but even in loving him, in doing good to him, in praying for him, i.e., in seeing in him our neighbor, someone like us, called to salvation but spiritually ailing and therefore in need of our help and even our service.

In our state of irritation and animosity, we wish all kinds of misfortune upon our neighbor; secretly and openly we take pleasure in seeing our offenders and foes experience some disaster; we even dare to think and say that they deserve worse; perhaps someone has in their heart even wished death upon their foes or, what is truly frightful, has rejoiced in the death of his foes and the grief of their relatives.

Here is how we ought to act towards those whom we consider to be our tormentors and adversaries.  Listen to what St. John Chrysostom says: "Should someone rise up against us, we will be humble; should someone begin to act insolently, we will acquiesce; should someone taunt us-railing and sneering at us, let us not pay back in kind lest, by avenging ourselves, we also destroy ourselves" (Works, v. 8).

In the world's estimation, meek people are defenseless, persecuted.  The Lord, however, promises those who acquire meekness that they will inherit the earth!  This has already been proven over the centuries.  In the early history of Christianity, it seemed that they would be annihilated by the wrath of the pagans. Instead, they inherited those lands which had been the possession of their persecutors. And in the abodes of the righteous the meek receive grace from the Lord "in the land of the living."

Grant us also, O Lord, to repent before the end, to bring to Thee, as a worthy fruit of repentance, a meek and humble heart, and to receive a spiritual inheritance in the abodes of the righteous.