This Sunday is the day of all saints of Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine.
The way on which the saints reached holiness is the way of the Gospel commandments. This is why today’s Gospel reading contains Christ’s commandments of blessedness: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, etc.” (Math.5). The commandments of blessedness were for all saints like steps on which they ascended to heaven. Gospel commandments lead to Christian perfection, which has nothing to do with the righteousness of a Pharisee.
The way of the Gospel commandments is open for all, and the first steps are accessible for everyone. The Lord says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn”. These commandments speak of humility and repentance; this is the beginning of the way of a Christian life. However, repentance accompanies a Christian all along this way, as we can see from the example of the saints.
St John of Kronstadt from the beginning of his ministry kept a spiritual diary. Later he published some selections of it under the name “My Life in Christ”. The most personal entries were not published, of course, but some of them have been preserved. From these notes, we can see that St John led constant warfare with sin in his heart. It is remarkable that these entries date from the last years of his life when he was already known in the whole of Russia as a man of God and a miracle-worker.
Here are some excerpts:
“I give thanks to the Lord that He accepted my warm prayer of repentance and healed the severe wound of my heart, which was caused by it because of my dislike to the handmaid of God NN, because of her habit to stand in church in front of others… The Lord had mercy on me and healed the wound of my heart, having changed it to love, peace and respecting her as much as the others. And I finished the liturgy in peace.”
“The invisible enemy is seeking to make repulsive for me the young doctor given me by the professor, because of the considerable sum he asked for 2 months of his service. O, Lord, destroy the devil’s craftiness.”
“Beggar-boys were running behind my carriage. I gave one 20 kopecks twice, but he left them behind on the road and kept on chasing me, wishing to receive a rouble. I got angry, and yelled at him: ‘go away!’ And my heart lost peace and grace; my soul became sad and painful. Then I started to repent fervently and ask God to forgive me the sins of anger, greed for money and cruelty to beggars. And the Lord forgave me at last and restored in me peace and confidence. My heart is selfish, greedy, jealous, lazy for prayer.”
From these notes of St John, we can see, that if in his soul there appeared even the slightest dislike of someone, because of one’s pride, disobedience, greed, etc. God’s grace immediately left him, and the evil spirit filled his heart with confusion. Then St John repented deeply and sincerely, and the Lord sent him His help.
Apparently, his soul was not completely free from such passions as: envy, anger, greed, but he detected even the most subtle movements of these passions and immediately uprooted them. Such was his daily, persistent struggle with sin in his heart.
As we can see from his notes, the main weapon in this struggle is accusing oneself and not others.
What does this mean? – Does it mean that if we are falsely accused of something, we have to admit it? – Of course, not, – to the contrary we have to explain the truth.
What is self-accusation then? – Self- accusation is based on faith in God’s Providence: that all, which happens to us without our own will, happens according to the righteous judgment of God. It is a consequence of our own thoughts, words, and deeds; and therefore it is senseless to be at enmity with our neighbors for the wrongs they caused us. Our neighbors are only instruments of God’s Providence.
The habit of accusing oneself and not others teaches a Christian to see God’s wisdom and justice in every occurrence of life, teaches him to repent. Our sins do not prevent us from being Christians if we repent. However, self-justification in all forms is totally incompatible with Christian life.