Daily Message: Conscience

Nine Martyred Children of Kola

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
The First Prayer of the Faithful
O God, great and praised, through the life-giving death of Your Christ, You have borne us from corruption to immortality. Liberate all our senses from killing passion, setting over them as a benevolent sovereign our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from evil sight, and the ear be deaf to idle talk. May the tongue be purged of unseemly speech. Purify these lips that praise You, Lord. Make our hands abstain from wicked deeds, doing only such things as we are pleasing to You, thus sealing with Your grace all our members, and our mind. Amen.

On February 22nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Finding of the sacred relics of the Holy Martyrs in the Quarter of Evgenius; which took place in the days of the Emperor Arcadios; Righteous Father Athanasios of Paulopetrion, the Confessor; Saint Anthusa and her 12 servants; holy Martyr Synetus; Righteous Fathers Thalassius and Limnaius of Syria; holy Hieromartyr Telesphoros, Bishop of Rome; St. Baradatus of Antioch; holy Nine Martyred Children of Kola in Georgia: Guram, Adarnase, Bakar, Vache, Bardzim, Dachi, Juanshar, Ramaz, and Parsman; holy New Hieromartyr Michael Lisitsyn of Ust-Labinskaya, who was slain by the atheists in the year 1918; holy New Confessor Theoctiste of Voronezh, the Fool for Christ.

THE HOLY MARTYRS OF EVGENIUS, near Constantinople: In the time of the Emperor Arcadius, the holy relics of many Christian Holy Martyrs were excavated, among which were those of the Apostle Andronicus and his helper, Junia (Romans 16:7). These holy relics were discovered by a revelation from God to a certain cleric, Nicolas Calligraphos. 'God alone knows their names, and He has written them in the Book of Life in Heaven.' The Emperor Andronicus the First built a fine church over the holy relics of his namesake in the 12th century.

+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Confessors, and Hieromartyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Holy Vespers Old Testament 1: Joel 3:12-21
Holy Vespers Old Testament 2: Joel 2:12-26

"One should have a conscience which is clean and candid, as the Apostle says: "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense before God and men" (Acts 24:16); "for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly" (Hebrews 13:18). For just as it is impossible for rain to fall without clouds, so too without a good conscience it is impossible to be well pleasing to the Lord". ( Abbot Nazarius)


How does one differentiate between morally good and morally bad? The differentiation between morally good and morally bad according to the moral law, that is according to the conscience. The conscience is the moral law given to us by our Lord God. Everyone has it. The conscience is the voice of God in a man's soul. The conscience is the foundation of morality in all humanity.

Can we look at animal actions from the moral view and why? The actions of animals cannot be looked upon from the moral point of view, because they have no understanding of morality. They are without reason or unreasonable (άλογα). Animals behave according to their nature or the way they were taught. Only man has knowledge or reason (λογικός).

Which people can be called "people without conscience" and what does the Gospel says about them? People without conscience are those people who do not listen to their conscience. They put it to sleep and suppress it with lies, deception and sin. The Holy Gospel says that the conscience of these people has been burned. This happens when people do not listen to their conscience and continue to sin despite it. In such cases man slowly gets used to sin, until finally it does not bother him (there is no guilt) any more. Conscience, it may be said, has become insensitive, corrupt, without any feeling, dead.

How does the conscience act in the human soul? Human conscience has three functions:

  1. Judge (approves, condemns)
  2. Lawgiver (teaches how to behave)
  3. Executor (rewards, punishes)

The conscience acts in our soul as a judge; sometimes morally approving, sometimes disapproving or condemning. The conscience also acts as a lawgiver. It requires morally right actions: do good, be truthful, do not steal, etc. And lastly, the conscience rewards and punishes us. It is acting as an executor. When our action is good, we feel peace and satisfaction. When we sin, our conscience bothers us and we feel uneasy and suffer.

In the contemporary Non-Orthodox Christian world, an attempt is made to extinguish the conscience all together, because it prevents people from sinful practices and life. If a person feels the pangs of his conscience, a psychiatrist usually says that he is not guilty, that he is only a person, that others also do that and similar things and therefore every vice and every immoral act is condoned and encouraged. In psychotherapy the actions of a person are being conformed with society, and in Christianity the actions of man are being conformed with the Will of God, that is with God's Law.

"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of the fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars..." (1 Timothy 1:5-10). St. Augustine writes: "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith," that we may belong to that people and that we may able to attain to contemplation of God and to eternal life with God."

In the fear of God let us keep our attention fixed within ourselves, until our conscience achieves its freedom. Then there will be a union between it and us, and thereafter it will be our guardian, showing us each thing that we must uproot. But if we do not obey our conscience, it will abandon us and we shall fall into the hands of our enemies (demons), who will never let us go. This is what our Lord taught us when He said: "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison" (St. Matthew 5:25). According to the Holy Fathers the conscience is called an "adversary" because it opposes us when we wish to carry out the desires of our flesh; and if we do not listen to our conscience, it delivers us into the hands of our enemies. If your heart comes to feel hatred for sins, it has defeated the causes of sin and freed itself from them.

According to Geronda [Elder] Ephraim the Philotheiti, "Conscience is the voice of your guardian Angel because I don't dare say that it is the voice of the Holy Spirit within me." Furthermore he writes, "The conscience will be enlightened when it is cultivated and it will grow only with the struggle (αγώνα) which leads to freedom from the passions. The more the conscience is enlightened the more perfect the discernment will be and greater the results in the spiritual warfare against the passions. There can be no inner peace unless one is obedient to the voice of his conscience. Occupy yourself with the acquisition of the virtues. The flesh will soon be corrupted. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7-8).

The evil conscience is that voice which teaches the contrary, mostly fallacious and perverse things. While the good conscience is a starting point and as a principle and as a foundation of humility and obedience. The evil conscience is the principle of pride and of disobedience.

How often should we examine our conscience? The more a man watches his conscience, with great care, the finer the result. "...praying always wiith all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18). And in the Gospel of St. Luke we are advised, "Blessed are those servants whom the Master, when He comes, will find watching...And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants" (St. Luke 12:37-38). And in the book of Revelation, "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15).

The conscience is very much like the canary in a mine that warns us of danger and death. If the conscience dies then the soul will soon follow. There can be no personal relationship with our Lord, no communion with God our Creator, no reconciliation with our Savior, no repentance and no path to salvation unless our conscience is alive and well. Abba Zosimas writes: "It is like I always say: Inasmuch as He is good, God has given us to profit from everything. However, we become attached and misuse God's gifts; and so we turn these very same good gifts to destruction through our evil choices, and are therefore harmed".

"A brother said to Abba [father] Theodore: 'Speak a word to me, for I am perishing.' Sorrowfully, the old man (Geronda) said to him: 'I am myself in danger. So what can I say to you?'

"The danger is that we often tend to romanticize matters of spiritual direction. We may idealize the process, expecting it to solve our problems. Or else, we may idolize a certain elder, seeking final--even absolute--answers in their words or their actions. In the Egyptian desert, there was no room for such cult-figures. What preserves the authenticity of spiritual direction in the desert is the unrelenting sense of accountability and responsibility. No one set himself or herself up as an authority. Abandonment to another in obedience was the only avenue toward grace; but it was expected of everyone, elders and novices alike! Obedience was a circle that involved and included everyone; to be excluded from this circle of obedience was to create a vicious cycle of domination. Abba Mios of Belos said: "Obedience responds to obedience!" {Spiritual Guidance along the Way by John Chryssavgis).

Abba John the Dwarf gave this advice: "Watching means to sit in the cell and always be mindful of God. This is what is meant by the words: 'I was on the watch, and God came to me' (St. Matthew 25:36).

What exactly does it mean for God to come to us? What advice do the Desert Fathers and Mothers have to offer about encountering God? If they do not talk about their personal visions of God, then what insights do they reveal about continually seeking and ultimately seeing God?

First, the desert elders state categorically that God is not to be sought after or discovered at the end of a certain long, arduous and methodical struggle (agon, αγών, which implies a sense of agony or anguish).

Abba Sisoes said: "Seek God, but do not seek where God dwells."

"We are to look for God not at the end, but in the very middle of the struggle." Saint Anthony the Great struggling fiercely against his demons, to the point of exhaustion and death. In fact, that is not the conclusion of this striking account by St. Athanasius.

"The Lord was not forgetful of Antony's struggle. God was at hand to assist him. So, looking up, Antony saw the roof, as it were, opened, and a ray of light descended upon him. The demons suddenly vanished, the pain of his body immediately ceased, and the building was calm again. Conscious of this grace, Antony regained his breath and felt free from pain. He spoke to the vision that appeared to him, saying: 'Lord, where were you? Why did you not appear at the beginning in order for me to endure such pain?' And a voice came to Anthony, saying: 'Antony, I was here all the time; I simply waited to witness your fight. Now, since you have endured and not yielded, I shall be your assistance forever, and I shall make your name known everywhere.' Having heard this, Antony rose up and prayed, receiving such strength that he perceived he had never had more power in his body previously." [Encountering God]

Take care of your conscience and above all listen to it and obey it!

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George