Thursday, December 18, 2014

A meditation on sinning

A person devoid of spiritual feeling is an idiot philosopher, a commentator whose words condemn him, a self-refuting scholar, a blind man who lectures others on the art of seeing. He tells you how to heal a wound, and does not stop injuring it. He complains about feeling queasy, and carries on eating what is harmful. He prays against his sin, and keeps on doing it, and then he gets angry with himself. The miserable fellow is not ashamed of his own words. They burst forth: “I am sinning!” And most eagerly he continues to do so. His tongue prays against his sin, and his body rushes after it. He speaks with high-flown words about death, and lives as if he were going to be on earth forever. He weeps over the separation of soul and body, but staggers along like a sleepwalker as if he had immortality. His words gush about temperance and self-control, but he lives for stuffing his belly. He reads about God’s judgment and gives a smile. He reads about self-conceit, and his ego swells as he reads it. He tells you what he has learned about keeping watch, and falls asleep while speaking. He commends prayer, but avoids praying as if it were leprosy. He extols obedience, and instantly disobeys. He sings of detachment from earthly things, but works himself into a bilious state, scrapping over a mere rag. When he sins by anger, bitterness fills him, and then anger about his bitterness; he does not recognise the endless defeats he is suffering! He crams his belly, repents, and then goes and crams it again. In an eternal ocean of frothing words, he praises the beauty of silence. He lectures on meekness, and manages to lose his temper while lecturing. He wakes up from a lustful dream, sighs, mourns the lust, and hands himself over to it again. He reprimands laughter and commends sorrow of soul, grinning all the time. He confesses his sin of self-conceit to others, but wants us to admire him for it. He lectures us about chastity, entranced by feminine beauty. He lives in the world and commends persons who dwell in silent contemplation, heaping rebuke on his head without realising it. He sings of those who give charitable gifts, and curses beggars, In all this, the man is his own judge and jury; he does not want to wake up (I will not say he cannot).—John Climacus (ca. 579-649), The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 18, paragraph 3 as quoted in 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part 1

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