My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is Likened unto a Certain King, Which Would Take an Account Of His Servants…"
When God formed man with free will, He deigned to make careful provision for him so that, by using his freedom rightly, he would incline not towards evil, but towards the good. From the very beginning He made him in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), that looking towards his good archetype, man might not fall away from goodness, and God might thereafter justly show him, as His own image, the riches of His kindness to a greater extent than He would to the rest of His creatures. Thus would He draw man more and more towards goodness commensurate and compatible with His own. It is possible for man, by imitating His Creator, to be good in His image, though no one can equal God in goodness.
Observe how many great gifts God has bestowed on us, and that He presents Himself to us as an example of active kindness. I shall pass over for the present those natural benefits which He has given us from birth. Looking just at these, David the King and Prophet said to God, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain to it" (Psalm 139:6). I shall, however, briefly mention those gifts which surround us from without. Nor was it just the heavens, the earth, water, air, fire, and everything they contain, and all the species of animals and plants, which we cannot enumerate in detail, that He made for man, but also the multitude of different kinds of Angels (cf. Col. 1:16), some of whom He appointed to guide the world and lead the nations, as God's prophets, who learnt these things from Him, tell us (Dan. 10:13), and others, to be ministers for the sake of those who are to inherit eternal salvation, as the great St. Paul, who also was taught by God, revealed to us (Heb. 1:14). But why speak only of His creatures? For our sake He made Himself man. What speech can express the words He Himself uttered for us, His way of life, the virtues He taught us, the greatness of the miracles which He did for us? By far the greatest miracle of all was that He gave Himself over to death for our sake, rose again and ascended for us, He Who, as God, lives and has His Being eternally in heaven, and is everywhere and above all, who was before all ages and continues throughout all ages and beyond.
Mercy was the source of all He did for us. What else but love for mankind, charity and mercy moved Him to bestow such great benefits upon us? There are two aspects of this mercy. Before we sinned against Him, He mercifully made up for what was deficient in our nature with His many bounties. Then after we transgressed, He was not only constantly forbearing, but in His abundant compassion He continually gave us more and better gifts and led us onwards. He did not require evil for evil, nor did He just give good for evil, but the most excellent of good things, greater and nobler than all else. Afterwards, He gave Himself for our sake, which of all goods is the first, and greatest, and most excellent, or rather that which is uniquely good and beyond compare.
Mercy is therefore a twofold virtue. On the one hand, it means giving shelter, protection, food, and necessary aid to those in want. On the other, it is patience, forgiveness of wrongs, and compassion towards those who offend. When the Son of God became man for our sake and deigned to be our Teacher, He led us towards the first kind of mercy, which consists of sharing our possessions, by saying, "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (St. Matthew 5:42), and, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (St. Matthew 6:20), and again elsewhere, "Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you" (St. Luke 11:41).
Urging us to give to others, not just by these words but also with a parable, He brings before our eyes that terrible future advent, and shows us Himself as King sitting upon His throne of glory (St. Matthew 25:31-46). He sets those who have been generous on His right hand, as they have acted rightly. The rest He sets on His left, reproaches them for not giving, calls them cursed, as though by failing to help the needy they had shown unkindness to Him Himself, and dispatches them into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. As for those who have been generous, He praises them openly, and accepts their benevolence to the poor as if it had been offered to Himself. He bears witness that they have His Father's blessing, and makes them heirs of the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. By making such statements in the Gospels the Lord urges towards one type of mercy, giving alms to those in need.
But what does He say about mercy's other aspect, forbearance and compassion towards those who have wronged us? "Recompense no man evil for evil" (Romans 12:17), but "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). "Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned" (St. Luke 6:37). And, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (cf. St. Matthew 6:14-15). As in the case of the first type of mercy, He used words of exhortation and also spurred us on by means of what would happen when He sat before us as Shepherd and King, so in the case of forgiveness of wrongs and compassion He not only spoke the words to which we have referred, but also went on to give us a parable saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents" (St. Matthew 18:23-24).
He is here referring to His Father as a man who is a king, just as He refers to Himself as such when He speaks of the end of the world (St. Matthew 13:40-41); and 16:28). Although the Father is likened to a human being, this is only by way of a parable. Christ Himself, however, was not just likened to a man in a parable, but was actually made man like us. Of course, the Son and the Father have the same throne and the same Kingdom, but since, in His words about doing good to our neighbor, the Lord said, "I was an hungered", "I was thirsty", and so on, and called the destitute His brethren (cf. St. Matthew 25:35-40), in addition to making other allusions to His Incarnation, that is why he speaks of Himself there as the King sitting before us. And by referring to sheep and goats in that parable, He set Himself before us as King and Shepherd. Here, by contrast, as He makes mention of servants, accounts, and money from the royal treasury, He is speaking of His Father sitting before us, balancing accounts and calling in debts...
"...Seeing that you owe so many weighty talents to God, and as soon as you asked Him to be patient, your debt was written off, if you are then asked by a fellow-servant to be forbearing over a small debts of silver coins (which is what "pence" means), will you not eagerly comply? Otherwise the whole amount will be rightly demanded from you...By showing compassion in our words and deeds, let us, as the same Apostle teaches, "be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another", if we have a complaint against anyone, "even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32). In this way, the grace of Christ will surely be with us, and will, moreover, be an earnest of the unspeakable promise to come...
"...May we all attain to this through the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belong all glory, power, honor and worship, together with His Father without beginning and All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas, The Homilies)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-- St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God