February 26, 2010

Sermon for the Friday of the Second Week of Great Lent


On Harmony and Love and on Nobly Enduring the Toils of 
Virtue for Gaining the Kingdom of Heaven

By St. Theodore the Studite

Friday of the Second Week

Brethren and fathers, in my lowliness I rejoice over you, because you are walking in harmony, conducting yourselves peaceably and continuing the season of the fast with endurance. And this is for your salvation and for our hope; for peace and harmony are a considerable good in a community, already evils are kept far away: disorder and instability, contradiction and slander, disobedience and pride and any other wickedness that may exist! Such people in the first place find good for themselves, secondly they are set forth as an example of virtue to others, and thence they gain the greatest benefits. For as those who are causes of scandals inherit the "Woe", so those who incite to virtue inherit blessing. And never, brethren, let us fall away from the good state and the praiseworthy way of life, nor let us leave off loving God; for it is written, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul and your whole strength and your whole mind". One then who loves thus is not satiated, does not fall, is not overtaken by despondency;* rather he adds fire to fire, and sets enthusiasm alight with enthusiasm, disposing ascents of virtues in his heart and going from power to spiritual power; and this unremittingly. Do you not see how much those who toil according to the flesh toil for vain and perishable things? Do you not see how those who build ships here under your very eyes** pass the whole day in toil , not allowing themselves any relaxation whatsoever? For what? So that they may acquire a little gold, so that they may take home what they need for their families; while we, to become rich with the things of God, to reach the kingdom of heaven, to enjoy the everlasting good things, to escape the everlasting punishments, shall we not endure all things with all enthusiasm and energy, if it were necessary to shed our blood, to be entirely ready to do so for the Lord? Yes, my brothers, I ask you, let us stand nobly, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, persevering in prayer, attentive to our manual work, to psalmody, recitation, readings, that by such occupation we may keep a hold on the mind, dragging it away from being occupied with vanities; since idleness is the mother of wickedness, while work is the guardian of the mind. Not however through these being turned from our state, but placing even greater emphasis on obedience, good order, the repose of our neighbour, all the other things which bring about the salvation of our soul; besides all these praying also for our brothers who have been scattered here and there; for concerning them too, whom I cannot see before my eyes, it is an anguish for me how each one is coming through safely; but at any rate praying earnestly for my humble person, that a word may be given me when I open my mouth, and a life free from deformation; so that from either side both we and you may be saved, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.

* The translators of the Philokalia use ‘listlessness’ for this well known monastic scourge, akedia. See Volume 1 pp. 88-91 for St John Cassian’s account, or Step 13 of The Ladder.

**  St Theodore and his monks were in exile at this time at the Monastery of Crescens on the narrow gulf of Nikomedia (the modern Izmit K├Ârfezi) at the NE end of the Sea of Marmara.