October 7, 2009

On Scandals in the Church (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

By St. Ephraim the Syrian

About the scandals which occur, we know one who said, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; by the judgment with which you judge, you will be judged; and by the measure with which you measure, it will be measured out to you in turn." That you may have help in this thought, consider that the just Lot dwelt in Sodom, but was not led away with their pride and licentiousness; and so he was saved, as it is written, "For that just man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his just soul by their lawless deeds." But he adds something when he says, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly from trials, and to keep the unjust under punishment until the day of judgment" and so forth. So it is not a question of self-mastery and meekness today, and dissoluteness and pride tomorrow. Of stillness, vigil and humility today, and temptations, immoderate sleep and disobedience and suchlike things tomorrow. Of renunciation of the world, renunciation of earthly affairs, renunciation of fatherland and friends and parents according to the flesh today because of hope in the Lord, and tomorrow let us seek country and fatherland and inheritance, to sink ourselves in many evils.

For Lot’s wife turned back and became a pillar of salt. And so the Lord also teaches when he says, "No one who puts his hand to the plough and turns back is fit for the kingdom of heaven." So always keep in mind that day on which, when you had put everything aside, you left the world for the Lord’s sake, and when you were fired by the fear of God, and fervent in spirit for the Lord. And keep the goal until the end, for the one who endures to the end will be saved, that you may receive the reward of your work with eternal life; because you have approached the true God and despised all things that you may gain Christ, to whom be glory to the ages. Amen.

- From the Eighth Discourse of Exhortation to the Monks of Egypt.