June 7, 2010

On Murder

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

It is a horrible thing to kill a man. There are no words to describe the horror which lays hold on the murderer. While a man is preparing to kill another man, he thinks that to kill a man is the same as killing an ox. When he carries out his preconceived crime then, all at once, he realizes that he has declared war on heaven and earth and that he has become an exile and cut off from both heaven and earth. The victim does not give him peace neither day nor night.

A known criminal came to Zosimus on Sinai and begged him to tonsure him a monk. Zosimus clothed him in the monastic habit and sent him to the monastery of Venerable Dorotheus near Gaza to lead a life of asceticism in the Cenobia. After nine years the tonsured criminal returned to St. Zosimus, returned his monastic habit and sought his secular clothes. To the question why are you doing this, the criminal replied that for nine years he has fervently prayed to God, fasted, kept vigil and fulfilled all acts of obedience and that he feels that many of his sins were forgiven but that one of his sins torments him continually. At one time, he killed an innocent child and that child appears to him day and night and asks him: "Why did you kill me?" Because of that he decided to leave and to turn himself in to the authorities that they may execute him and thus to repay blood for blood. Dressing in his former clothes, he went to the town of Diospolis where he acknowledged his crime and was beheaded. Thus, by his blood, he washed away his bloody sin.

Among the saints exists a very sharp [acute] conscience. That which average people consider a minor sin, the saints consider to be a great transgression. It is said of the Abba Daniel that on three occasions robbers captured him and took him into the forest. Fortunately, on two occasions he saved himself from slavery but the third time when he wanted to escape, he struck one of them with a stone, killed him and fled. This murder preyed on his conscience as heavy as lead. Perplexed as to what he should do, he went to the Alexandrian Patriarch Timothy, confessed to him and sought advice. The patriarch consoled him and absolved him from any epitimia [penance]. But his conscience still worried him and he went to the pope in Rome. The pope told him the same thing as did Patriarch Timothy. Still dissatisfied, Daniel visited in succession the other patriarchs in Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem confessing to all of them and seeking advice. But, he remained unsatisfied. Then he returned to Alexandria and declared himself to the authorities as a murderer. The authorities arrested him. When the trial was held before the prince, Daniel related everything that had happened and begged to be killed in order to save his soul from eternal fire. The prince was amazed at all of this and said to him: "Go, Father, and pray to God for me even though you kill seven more!" Dissatisfied with this, Daniel then decided to take a leperous man into his cell and to serve him until his death and when this one dies to take another. Thus he did and so, in this manner, quieted his conscience.