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Monday, December 13, 2004

A word from St. Herman of Alaska

"A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: not the righteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the Parisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgements a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.

Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostle, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, [against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spirits of wickedness under heaven (Ephesians 6:12)].

The vain desires of this world separate us from our homeland; love of them and habit clothe our soul as if in a hideous garment. This is called by the Apostles the outward man. We, travelling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in a new love of the age to come, and thereby to receive knowledge of how near or how far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing the desired health, do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves. I am not speaking very clearly for I am hurrying, for time does not otherwise permit. But I hope that you, with your sharpness of intellect, and your ardent desrie of striving toward the heavenly homeland, may discover the path to Holy Truth, not only for yourself but for others also."

(From a letter to Simeon Yanovsky, 20 June 1820. Excerpted from: "Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. III: St. Herman.")


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