April 6, 2011

The Impasse (Archim. Touma Bitar)

By Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of St. Silouan the Athonite -- Douma

Man’s avarice has corrupted the balance of the earth, the sea, and the air to a significant degree. Now the spirit of avarice remains, even if it is like a sleeping beast in the souls of many, and the earth and the heavens are seemingly reacting almost spontaneously. What next?

Man’s egoism and self-love preceded his love of money. Love of money gradually progressed into a system of consumption, and the system of consumption made man a prisoner of the logic of profit. The logic of profit transformed the earth’s resources into financial calculations and financial calculations loosened the reins of the passions of soul and body. The passions of soul and body became an uncontrollable harlot and in the absence of internal restraints within people’s souls, the ladder of values and traditional moral restraints collapsed and value and morals came to be centered on purported individual freedom and man’s worship of himself. Then individual freedom and self-worship caused people’s aspirations to become greater than his environment’s capacity to pump vital capital into them and so heaven and earth could no longer match people’s wild cravings. Their storehouses started to be depleted and their balance was thrown off. The environment became ill on account of the illness of man’s heart and the unleashing of his passions beyond any limit.

And now what remains? Souls have become addicted to consumption. Man has become an instrument of consumption! Today man’s worldly identity is in what he consumes! Wills have become feeble and souls have become weak! Man has tasted this number of varieties of selfish freedom and self-worship. He no longer desires or is capable of repentance – that is, of a change of mentality and behavior. For him repentance is identical to death. For this reason he starts to live off of his fantasies, his dreams, his self-esteem, his accomplishments, and his cravings until death. He sees that he is approaching an unstable precipice and he is unable to stop before it, and he doesn’t care! He has become addicted to himself and death has become less painful than resisting his addiction. In letting loose his passions, his will to live starts to die. Death becomes life for him, and he has no other life!

I know a friend who became addicted to drink and his liver was afflicted. His wife kneeled in front of him, weeping, “Stop for my sake and for the sake of your children! You will die.” The doctors said, “Do you not care?!” “Let me die,” he said, “I don’t want to live anymore. Life for me is drinking.” And he died! Addiction to passions is a spider’s web. One is cut off from love. Love becomes for him a consumer good that abets and deepens his addiction. His loved ones die in his eyes unless he humbles himself, gets sober, weeps, and repents. At that point he escapes, naturally not by his own power, but by the power of the Most High! However, the danger is that caught up in his addiction and the weakness of his soul, he will give himself over to despair. Sin always whispers to him, within his being, that he has no salvation in his God! If the Lord God desires salvation for him, then there would be nothing that helps him that he would not fear, like Peter who cries out as he is sinking, “Lord save me!” (Matthew 14:30). The Lord gives himself freely to the one who asks, not to the one who does not ask!

If mankind does not repent with the repentance of Nineveh, they are susceptible to disasters that they caused and wars that they brought upon themselves. Can they continue in their transgression to the point of complete delusion and despair, or will they repent? We do not know how the great days of tribulation will be. One who has drank deeply of the pleasure of the passions generally mocks a chaste life enjoying ordered passions. His conscious is inversed. For him, life becomes death and death life!

This is what sin does to man! The danger of sin to one who persists in it over and over is to provoke in his soul despair over life. For him life without sin becomes death, flavorless.

This persistence in self-worship changed heaven and earth, God and His servants, into consumer goods that man annihilates in satisfying his vanity and fulfilling his desires. The final thing that man consumes is himself and his desire, as though he longs for nothingness! You are of dust, O man, and to dust you return. Sin is a movement toward nothingness within existence. Thus through his persistence in sin from nothingness in existence, man is transported to black existential emptiness. This is the second death that the Book of Revelation speaks about. This is hell. Hell is not created by God. It is man’s creation. The end result of human choices is not a divine punishment!

The earth is limited, but sin does not stop at any limit. There must come a time when it cracks, today or tomorrow!

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1)!