"...Christ Jesus Came Into the World to Save Sinners, of Whom I am Chief" 1 Timothy 1:15

 St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia

St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia

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.

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"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief" 1 Timothy 1:15.

[Please note: This verse is used in Orthodox liturgical prayer and is said by all approaching the chalice for Holy Communion.]

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According to Father John Romanides, of blessed memory, "Modern man hates the idea of sin more than all other ideas. He will do anything to avoid admitting that he is sinful in more than a superficial sense. Sin must be excused, or denied, or refined as something different from sin."

WHAT IS SIN?

"...Both the Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers understand personal sin as a transgression of the Commandments of God." According to Father Romanides what is passed down from Adam to his descendants is not sin, but death. Nor is death to be considered a punishment for sin, but God's mercy. "God did not impose death on man as a punishment for any inherited guilt. Rather, God allowed death by reason of His Goodness and His love, so that in this way sin and evil in man should not become immortal."

This is half true. What is true is that God did not create death, and that man (with the devil), rather than God, is the cause of the entrance of death into the world. Moreover, death is a mercy insofar as it stops the continuation of sin, and allows sinful human nature to be dissolved into its elements and resurrected in a sinless form at the General Resurrection from the dead. But none of this entails that death is not also a punishment..."

"...So what we inherit from Adam and Eve, according to Father John Romanides, is not sin in any shape or form, but only death, including the process of corruption and ageing that leads to death. It follows that for him every human being is born in complete innocence and only becomes sinful later. "The Holy Fathers emphasize that every man is born as was Adam and Eve. And every man goes through the same fall. The darkening of the mind happens to everyone..."

"...Again he writes: "All human unrest is rooted in inherited psychological and bodily infirmities, that I, in the soul's separation from grace and in the body's corruptibility, from which springs all selfishness. Any perceived threat automatically triggers fear and uneasiness. Fear does not allow a man to be perfected in love...The fountain of man's personal sins is the power of death that is in the hands of the devil and in man's own willing submission to him."

"When we take into account the fact that man was created to become perfect in freedom and love as God is perfect, that is, to love God and his neighbor in the same unselfish way that God loves the world, it becomes apparent that the death of the soul, that is, the loss of Divine grace, and the corruption of the body have rendered such a life of perfection impossible. In the first place, the deprivation of Divine grace impairs the mental powers of the newborn infant, thus, the mind of man has a tendency toward evil from the beginning..."

Again, Saint John Chrysostom writes: "Adam is a type of Christ in that just as those who descended from him inherited death, even though they had no eaten of the fruit of the tree. So also those who are descended from Christ inherit the righteousness, even though they did not produce it themselves...What Saint Paul is saying here seems to be something like this. If sin, and the sin of a single man moreover, had such a big effect, how it is that grace, and that the face of God--not of the Father only but also of the Son--would not have an even greater effect? That one man should be punished on account of another does not seem reasonable, but that one man should be saved on account of another is both more suitable and more reasonable. So if it is true that the former happened, much more should the latter have happened as well."

Furthermore, Saint Gregory Palamas writes: "Just as through one man, Adam, liability to death passed down by heredity to those born afterwards, so the grace of eternal and heavenly life passed down from the One Divine and human Logos/Word to all those born again of Him." (Source: Romanides and Original Sin by Vladimir Moss)

"The last part of Saint Paul's words is familiar to us Orthodox Christians, since it forms part of our pre-communion approach to the Chalice, when we pray, "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am first".

"When we look in the New Testament and in the liturgical language of the Church, we see two different kinds of vocabulary. We see a vocabulary of sanctity, stressing the holiness of the Christian. The Christian were "saints" (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). Once they were no people at all, but now through baptism they were the people of God (1 Peter 2:10); they were now a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). They were called to be "blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). They would walk with Christ in white, for they were worthy (Revelation 3:4). This language is preserved in the Divine Liturgy, for Saint Basil's anaphora describes the faithful as "His own chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", having been "cleansed in water and sanctified with the Holy Spirit". At every Divine Liturgy the priest invites the communicants to the Chalice with the words, "the holy things for the holy!"--i.e., the Holy Gifts of Christ's Body and Blood for His holy people, cleansed by baptism and living their faith. This is the language of sanctity, which expresses our sacramental status as the baptized people of God. It describes the tremendous change which Christ has worked in us, and looks at this transformation not with self-satisfaction, but with wonder. The language is the result of looking back over our shoulder to see how far Christ has brought us, and how different He has made us from the world around us.

But there is another kind of language also, the language of unworthiness and humility. This vocabulary looks not to our outer sacramental status, but to the inner state of the heart with its struggle for sanctification and its constant war against temptation and darkness. This interiority looks not back at the world from which we have been rescued, but ahead to the Lord and the finish line which awaits us. It sees not how far we have come, but how far we have yet to go, and recognizes the magnitude of the struggle before we reach our final goal. The flesh and the Spirit constantly strive against one another in the heart of every man, as the fleshly lusts war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). In the midst of this war we recognize only too well our own sins, our brokenness, our fallen and vulnerable state, and with Saint Paul cry out that nothing good dwells within us, our flesh (Romans 7:18). We confess ourselves unprofitable servants, the first among sinners. Such confessions are not false modesty, but only clarity of mind, precision of discernment, and the willingness to receive the verdict of our conscience when it smites us for our sins.

We need both vocabularies to achieve spiritual balance, recognizing the greatness of our sacramental status and our calling and also the weakness of our mortal flesh in striving to live up to our exalted status. Naturally the language of unworthiness prevails in our liturgical life, for it is the language of humility, and without humility no progress can be made in our spiritual journey. We are indeed saints, the holy people of God, His royal priesthood, saved and cleansed and washed and sanctified. We are also unprofitable servants, debtors to His mercy, liable at any time to fall headlong, ever dependent upon His Spirit to hold us up." (Source: Orthodox Church in America).

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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

+Father George