July 1, 2015

St. Photios the Great on Exposing the Sins of Others

Commentary of St. Photios the Great on Ephesians 5:8-17

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, and everything that is revealed becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Awake, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Eph. 5:8-17)

He said, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness," and by this he generally names every sin. And why, you will ask, did he not name each of these acts by name? Because even merely mentioning them fills the one who lists them with uncleanness.

Rather he says how to "expose" them: by contrasting them with your own life. For by exposing their deeds by listing them and shaming them we say nothing - because I know that the great and virtuous consider it shameful to even recount them - and, therefore, I know that they will be much more exposed when our virtues shine through our deeds, instead of someone exposing them through words.

But all their acts are exposed much more with the light of our life and thus they are disclosed and revealed, and when they are made manifest they are illuminated, changed and transformed for the better, because the manifestation of hidden (sins) through a virtuous state pushes towards awareness, and awareness in turn is the beginning of a return, and this again leads to works of virtue, which is "light", and the cause of light. And again (it is) light, because having blinded our passions, it completely illumines us to see the shame, obscenity and ugliness of sin.

And the phrase, "everything that is revealed becomes a light," is interpreted as has already been said, as the preparation of the possibility for the perfect to expose through their life the state of evil. For they are revealed, he says, by the life of the great ones, and when they are revealed they are light, and when the light shines the darkness is exposed, namely the life of evil.

"Rather expose them" means you are to expose them with your bright and virtuous life, and do not expect them to announce themselves, to ridicule what they themselves do and display themselves, and thus improve this way. Because even if they act in violation of the law, but knowing through innate knowledge their uncleanness, they are shamed, although it may still be necessary for them to discover their shame.

"Everything that is revealed" means what is disclosed and revealed becomes light, and even its use is revealed: for he says "Awake, O sleeper," in other words, arise from slumber and attend to the passions, and "rise from the dead," leaving off that which is dead and vile to be exposed, and when this is done then you will be illuminated and full of light for "Christ will shine on you," so that which is revealed becomes light and is illumined.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.