June 27, 2014

Saint Porphyrios: "They Have Committed Every Sin Of The Flesh, But I Love Them"

The Elder told me one day:

"Boys and girls come to me sometimes. Those poor children, and what haven't they done. They have committed every sin of the flesh, but I love them."

The Elder did not justify the actions of the youth, which he characterized as carnal sins, but at the same time he loved them as precious souls "for whom Christ died". By his love he attracted them like a magnet and gradually they were healed of their worship of the flesh.

This patristic attitude of the Elder was misunderstood by conservative puritans, who mourned, and some irresponsible progressives, who rejoiced, for the same reason: that supposedly the Elder "tolerated" carnal sins. They did not understand that sin cannot be combated against with an intolerant condemnation of the sinner, nor through guilty legalism of the fall. The Elder effectively fought sin by loving the sinner and helping them become aware of their responsibility for their fall, and the possibility in Christ of them being freed from it and guilt through repentance and forgiveness and the life in Christ. He wanted to guide them to a new life, and not trouble their soul with the past.

Source: From the book Hieromonk Elder Porphyrios: An Anthology of Advice. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.