Monday, June 10, 2013

Letters from a Russian Monk: Humility and Penitence

St. John of the Ladder wonders at our strange condition: why is it that although we have the all powerful God and the angels and holy people to help us do good, and only the crafty evil spirit to help us to sin, still we are more readily and easily moved to passions and vices than to virtue?  The question was left open.  The saint did not want to explain it to us.  However, one can guess that our nature, corrupted by disobedience, and the world with its various stupefying temptations are helping the devil, and the Lord does not infringe upon our sovereign will.  We should strive for virtue to the limit of our strength, but to stand firm in virtue is not in our power but in the Lord's  The Lord preserves us in virtue in response not to our labors but to our humility.  Where there has been a fall, it has been preceded by pride, says John of the Ladder.  But the Lord in his mercy has given penitence to us feeble ones, since our corrupted nature is so very prone to sin.  The Holy Fathers from their own experience have studied minutely the subtleties of our nature and they console us, offering detailed writings on ways to combat sin.

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