June 14, 2013

When Saints Said They Were Sinners, They Believed It

By Protopresbyter Dionysios Tatsis

How many Christians in our time are inspired by the Saints of the Church? How many clergy and how many bishops follow their example? The answer is not difficult. The facts lead to the conclusion that they are minimal.

That which particularly distinguished the Saints was the awareness of their sinfulness. As they progressed spiritually, the more they felt they were sinners.Unfortunately, Christians cannot understand this, which is why they have such great regard for themselves. Because they are undignified they want to be honored by others. If someone dared to publicly call them sinners, without thinking they would drive them to court to be vindicated and compensated. They carefully cultivate their image to the world. They want to be different and superior and struggle to convince the multitude of people that they are not common and ordinary people. They "are not like other men". That is, they follow the example of the Pharisee in the parable, forgetting that he was not justified by God, because he was a hypocrite and proud.

We observe the same among clergy, who readily identify themselves with the Saints.They are familiar with the holy and the sacred and consider them their own, although they do not struggle spiritually. Of course, they know the Lives of the Saints and teach them to their flock, and they see their own person as that person forgetting to enter within their heart, to see that they lag behind in much, and sensuality leads them to their sinful passions, which is the opposite of the Saints, who combated their passions, and lived with asceticism and deprivation and through humility acquired the virtues.

More challenged are some bishops, who are in great delusion, because they believe that, despite their weaknesses, they are "in the type and place of Christ", which means that they are very near to Christ. From the high throne of their office they see nonexistent things and feed on illusions. But the Saints always spoke of their sinfulness. They were bothered by the fame they acquired and contested the praises, which were expressed by secular people for their own person.

Elder Paisios would say: "When the Saints said they were sinners, they believed it. Their spiritual eyes became microscopes and they saw even their slightest mistakes as great." That which was claimed and selected by secular people, were denied by the Saints. They are the extreme contrast. Two different paths which begin from two different points and result in different places. The Saints walked humbly, conscious of their sinfulness and they viewed as hypocrisy their non-existent virtues. The Saints have good intentions and avoid being displayed, but the others have evil intentions and seek publicity and ephemeral applause.

Source: From Orthodoxos Typos, No. 1972, 19 April 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos