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SIN, What is it good for?

June 11, 2023

SIN, What is it good for?
Sin, what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing?
Who sins? We all do. 
What is sin – a common thought is == we miss the mark. 
Sin is a turning away from God, the One who created us. It means the disappointment to be what one should be, and to do what one should do, to fail.
Why do we sin? Good question. In the Bible and in Orthodox theology these elements always go together: sin, evil, the devil, suffering and death. There is never one without the other, and all are the common result of man’s rebellion against God and his loss of communion with Him. Wow, a ‘loss of communion with Him”, with God Almighty.
We Orthodox view sin, primarily as a terminal spiritual sickness, rather than a state of guilt; a self-perpetuating illness which distorts the whole human being and our energies, that corrupts the Image of God inherent in those who bear the human nature, diminishes the divine likeness within them, disorients our understanding of the world as it truly is, and distracts us from fulfilling his natural potential to become deified, in communion with God.
In other words, Orthodoxy understands sin as a disease of the soul, a condition where the soul is lacking in God's grace. Our Union with God, as made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine. Orthodoxy regards the mysteries of the Church, also known as sacraments in the West, as vehicles leading towards union with God.
So, what is our role in sin, our individual sins? As we always say, sin is an individual thingy. We all sin and fall short of His Glory. What sins do we commit? Well there are the Ten Commandments, we abuse them. Are there other sins – well again, in the Gospel readings several other Commandments are mentioned, and yes we sin! We can read about these commandments and oh by the way different sins, mentioned in the Gospels and also in the Epistles, if we would only just read God’s written Word.
St Nikon of Optina, tells us:
AND what has God given us, to assist us on this journey toward Him, toward our salvation? He gave us a Mystery called Confession or Repentance or Reconciliation. Repentance is indeed an act of reconciliation, of reintegra­tion into the Body of Christ, which has been torn apart by sin.
For "if one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Corinthians 12.26). "Therefore, confess your sins to one another ... that you may be healed" (James 5.16). 
Repentance is not to be confused with mere remorse, with a self-regarding feeling of being sorry for a wrong done. It is not a state, but a stage, a beginning. The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, denotes a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transforma­tion of outlook, of man's vision of the world and of himself, and a new way of loving others and God.
In the Gospel of St Luke, we are told that,
Man is weak, and thus sins and falls often, again and again falling into the same pits, driving the soul to utter despair. The urge is to give in to one’s sinful nature and to cease resisting the powerful forces of sin. There is, however, an answer to this.
A disciple came to a certain Elder, one day, and said, Father, I have fallen! The Elder answered, Get up! Again and again he came to the Elder and said, I have fallen! And the Elder consistently answered, Get up! Until when must I continue getting up? The disciple asked, and the Elder answered, until the day when you give up your soul to God! Thus, every time when we feel that we have fallen, the Mystery of Repentance tells us to get up.
Repentance is not a unique, one-time event. Rather, it is the constant renewal of the commitment of baptism, dying to the world, and rising and living, a life in Christ.
St. Isaac the Syrian once said, “This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits”.  
Repentance is a gift from God, one that helps us focus on the world to come, and allows us to develop an authentic, deep desire for Him, a longing for Him and for Him alone.
Ok, we should all understand that. BUT how many of us do? How many of us care?
We come to church every week, or almost every week, and we fulfill our obligation to God, right? We go to confession, we tell the Priest what we have done wrong, or what we think we did, and sometimes what we think he wants to hear. We are sinners, all of us. Here, at Holy Myrrhbearers, what do we do? Yes, Not all, but a lot of us – we begin by reading the ‘top’ prayer, this is good, then we read the list of ‘sins’ listed there on the paper. We read them all, or we read some of them. Then we finish with the final prayer, and the Priest reads the prayer of Absolution. Great we are ‘healed’ and we then wait till the time to receive Communion. 
What is communion? We receive the actual Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Now we are good till next week. Are we hypocrites? Maybe! Do we receive unworthily? Maybe!
We are Absolved, Christ is in us, and then what happens, we look around at our family, here in church, and we think in our minds and maybe in our hearts, ‘well at least I am not like her or him over there’, ‘why are they talking during the service?’, ‘why are they moving around”, ‘oh, they aren’t praying or paying attention’. And the like.
We condemn our brothers and sisters. WHEN we should be inwardly praying and asking God to really forgive our own self. Me not him or her. We all sin and fall short. We as in ME, not him or her. How many of us are sinners? We condemn our church family, without the insight or what they confessed that very day; when we ourselves are living in sin, and did not confess that very sin, we live in. We tell the Priest ‘oh and I’ve concealed sins at confession’, the last item on the list. BUT what sins are they? Do we prepare ourselves for the Holy Mystery of Confession? Or is it just an obligation! A box to check off.
What sins are we forgetting about ourselves? Remember, a sin, is a sin, and we should not be questioning the severity of a sin, such as the west states, there are venal and mortal sin – NO, a sin is a sin no matter what the sin is.
Let’s quickly look at one of the main sins listed in God’s Words, His Holy Bible, because it is not mentioned in the ‘list’, but several of them fall under the heading, I will call it ‘sexual immorality’, yep ya know them. And of course none of us commit them. Are we adulterers? Are we living with another and in an intimate relationship with them, or are we having relations with another outside of an Orthodox Christian marriage? Do we know of others who are, and then we condemn them without the knowledge of what they confessed, if they confessed. Oh, then we see them receive Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, and we condemn then again. OH and then we condemn our Priests for allowing this to happen. All in ALL, though, we have no idea what was confessed and what was absolved, and the particular situation at hand. After all that, what do we do, we talk about it with others, thus spreading rumors, gossiping, and possibly slandering the person and the Priest, we continue to sin.
This is just one example, and I’m sure we can all talk, or gossip about others perceived sins --- never looking at our own self, inwardly, and asking God to forgive us.
St. Nektarios of Aegina tells us, “Addicts struggle with addiction their whole lives, and most of us who are addicted to sin struggle with the same sins forever. We cannot let the tenacity of the sin get us down. The fact that we are struggling is a good thing. We learn greatly by failure, the ups and downs, and it makes us stronger if we let it. God is there in those times, giving us the grace to become stronger through our weaknesses. And so we should never look at our failures as the end, as though we were completely doomed because of them. They are our cross, and they are what make us Christians.”   
Let’s quickly talk about economia, (oikonomia), which seems to be given to all by the confessor, or maybe a deviation from the rule to aid in one’s salvation. Every situation is different and the confessor tries to discern the condition of the heart, as best as he can. Whereas the application of economia is generally regarded as being a more flexible application or interpretation of the canons, strictness is considered more precise and stricter. Pastoral discretion is of key importance in either application.
Let the shepherd open and close the gates!!
You, each one of you individually, will be held accountable to Jesus, for your own personal sins and judgments of others, as you strive toward your own salvation towards deification.
The Priests will also be accountable to Jesus for his own sins, and for the salvation of each and every one of us. What he did or didn’t do for the souls of others, he will be held accountable to God.
So let us pray for each other, pray for ourselves, and pray for the Priests.
“Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, forgive me, a sinner” the chief sinner or all.
My brethren, Forgive me, a sinner, Amen.

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