April 19, 2023

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent: Homily on Repentance (Bishop Elias Meniates) - Part 5 of 5

Section Two

I think today's discourse will seem very harsh to you. It's a sharp blade that wounds the heart, but what can we do? When the wound is festering it does not need light emollients. It needs fire and iron. And for our case there is no need for flattering and sweet words, but bitter and terrible. This is a great truth.

We do not repent because we hope that we will always have time. But we are wrong. To repent properly, we lack the will, which cannot leave the habit. We still lack the grace of God, which can no longer endure, tolerate sin.

The devil invented this art. That is, to lead people to perdition, with the hope of later repentance. Hades will be full of people who hoped to reach Paradise! Ah! The false hope of our salvation, is the true cause of our hell!

Do you, Christian, want to repent and be truly saved? Behold the time, behold the way. Now is the time when we "go up to Jerusalem", now that the holy days have arrived, now that the holy Passion has approached, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." The way is the one that God showed to Lot: "Save your soul! Do not look behind you, make haste to be saved."

These divine words lead to three conclusions:

First, "save your soul" that is, take care to redeem your soul from the flame of sin through repentance. Your soul, if you lose it, you've lost everything. If you gain it, you've gained it all. And if you either lose it or gain it once, you either lost it or gained it forever.

Second, "do not look behind you." That is, don't turn to see your first sin anymore, after you have decided to leave it.

Third, and the most important, "make haste to be saved." Hurry, go quickly, not waiting for tomorrow because you don't know what tomorrow will bring: "We do not know what the next day will bring." Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, from day to day your ropes become thicker and your bonds tighter!

Among the fetters of sins, which bind the conscience, three are the most important. They are the bond of remembrance of wrongs, the bond of avarice, and the bond of the flesh. Do you want me to show you how it is possible to cut them off? Listen!

When Alexander the Great campaigned to conquer Asia, he arrived at Gordium in Phrygia. He entered the temple of Zeus and saw that famous Gordian Knot. It was so called from the ancient Gordias who wove it with skillful art. He listened to the priest of the temple who told him: "There is an old oracle that whoever manages to solve it, he will conquer all of Asia." What a small effort, to untie a knot, a bond! What a great gain to reign over all Asia! The ambitious king was inflamed with a desire to solve it. He seized it, looked at it carefully from all sides, but found neither a beginning nor an end. Its ends were hidden, tightly bound, entangled one within the other, so that they would remain untied. He turned it, turned it again, tried with his hands, struggled, but could not solve it. And when he saw that there was no other way, then he drew his sword and said: "It is the same thing whether I untie it or cut it." So he cut it, and as a Latin historian says, "oraculi sortem vel elusit vel implevit," that is to say, "he either fulfilled or made a mockery of the oracle."

Knots that become more entangled, are these very sins, Christian! It is a sure oracle of God, that whoever solves them inherits the Kingdom of Heaven. How little effort and how much is gained!

When you cannot solve them with reasoning, cut them with the sword of a firm decision and thus you fulfill the divine law. The bond of remembrance of wrongs grips you and you find it too tight. What a great distress! To forgive, you say, that enemy, who envied my happiness, who ensnared my life, who offended my honor, the most precious thing that man has? And what would people say? But I must repent. On one side is the Kingdom of Heaven, on the other is remembrance of wrongs. Here passion fights with repentance, the world with the gospel, the law of men with the law of God. And you, fighting from both sides, don't know what to do and wonder: "Ah, Christian! If you are constantly thinking these and other similar things you are never going to break the bond."

A sword is needed, a sword! A firm decision is needed here. You must say that I want to forgive my enemy, because this is what God commands me with His commandments. He says "love your enemies." He shows me this with His example! Nailed to the Cross, He forgave those who crucified Him: "Father, forgive them." I want to, because if I do not forgive, there will be no forgiveness for me either. Thus the first bond is severed.

Let us now come to the other, avarice. There are many complications here. The blood of the poor is very sweet, the foreign thing is very tasty. You ate it, you grabbed it, and now you say: "How can I return it? To impoverish my home and my children? Should I reduce my income? To be deprived of my riches? Yes, but I must repent sometime." This is about the Kingdom of Heaven. Here avarice has a great grip on you. You want to reach out and she holds your hand. You want to make amends where you wronged and she makes you think about what will be left of you. Ah, Christian! As long as you make such considerations, you are never going to break the bond.

Sword, sword! A firm decision is needed here. You must say that I must return the foreign thing, or there is no salvation for me. What is unjust is not blessed. I'd rather be poor than go to hell. I love my children, but I also love my soul. Sacred Chrysostom says: "If you want to leave your children much wealth, leave them God's providence." This is how this bond is cut.

Let us now come to the third bond, which is the carnal. Oh, and what a tight bond this is! Here you really see neither beginning nor end. That is, to leave either the harlot or that foreign woman you are holding. The long habit of living with her is not a simple bond, it has become an iron chain. What to say? Either her beauty or her art or I don't know what, bewitched you, enslaved you, took away your senses and your mind and your freedom.

But, glory to God, you want to sincerely repent. This is the Kingdom of Heaven! But her tears, her words, her passionate loves don't leave you, some promises keep you. I see you and feel sorry for you! You go out with one foot and stay in her house with the other. You leave and come back, you avoid her and yet you love her. Your heart is torn in two. She has one part, your spiritual father has the other. In the confusion of your conflicting thoughts, you don't know what to do. Don't know what to do? I will tell you! But I want to know who I'm talking to first.

A sick man who is in danger of dying, when he is pinched or stung and shows that he feels something, he still has hope of life, so the doctor does everything possible to save him. But if he does not feel anything, the patient is in a hopeless situation, so the doctor is in vain, the medicine is in vain.

So is the sinner. If he is not stirred by conscience, if he is not gripped by the fear of God and the shame of men, so that he feels nothing, he is in a hopeless situation. God has abandoned him and I don't talk to him because words are wasted. I am talking to you, you listen to your conscience and you fear God and you are ashamed of people and therefore you want to repent. But you do not know how to loosen the bond of the flesh that holds you. Listen to me, then, and I hope we will cut it with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

By God's grace and for our sins, the Hagarites occupied Constantinople, the queen of cities and the royal throne of the Romans. The bloodshed, capture and plunder lasted three days. Among the other women who fell into the hands of the Hagarenes, there was also one who was unfortunate, but noble and beautiful, named Irene. The soldiers saw fit to offer her as a worthy gift to their king, Mehmed the Conqueror. He, as soon as he saw her, fell in love with her so fervently that for her sake he gave up his cruelty, his weapons, and all the affairs of his new kingdom. He became captivated by the captive Irene, he was lost in her beauty and he was interested in nothing more than being pleased with his love and satisfying his appetites.

But even the most secret acts of kings become known to the people and as they judge everyone, so they themselves are judged by everyone. The army began to grumble in secret and speak against the king openly. It is displeasing to all to see their king, and such a brave king, victorious and invincible, living buried in the arms of a woman. He learned what everyone criticized him for, he stood, pondered and his reasoning becomes a terrible war of his heart. Love is at war with glory. How? He thinks from one side: "Should I become a slave to a woman! And am I worthy to be called a king?" But from the other side: "The beauty of Irene deserves a kingdom. The common condemnation of the people hurts me, but the passionate loves of Irene makes me bleed. If I keep it, I shall lose all the gain of my conquests, which is my glory. If I leave her, I will lose the good of my desires, my love. What should I do? But as long as I make such reasonings, I never break the bond."

Sword, sword! So he says, he immediately gets up, runs, finds Irene and slaughters her, she who never expected such evil! With terrible pain and anger he says to himself: "If I had not done so I would never have been freed. Let the world now know how with this valor of mine I conquer my countries and my passions; how I am king of Constantinople and of myself."

Who is this, Christian? He is a Hagarene king whose faith and power allows him to have as many wives as he wants. And with all this, he not only left, divorced, banished, but also slaughtered a beloved maiden, in order to avoid the condemnation of the world and to preserve the reputation of his name.

And who are you? A Christian whose faith allows only one woman, the one offered to you by the Church and God. A Christian who must avoid not only the condemnation of the world, but also eternal hell; who must guard not only the name but also the soul. A Christian who hopes for the Kingdom of Heaven.

But now, because of the harlot or foreign woman with whom you live, your parents are sad, your wife cries, your relatives reproach you, the spiritual ones secretly and the teachers openly rebuke you, the whole world criticizes you. You have become the legend of the city... Everyone cries for your downfall or laughs at your stupidity. But that's the least of it. The Church turns away from you for this and does not provide you with the Immaculate Mysteries! You have been abandoned by your guardian angel, who is a pure spirit and abhors your impurities! God is fed up with you and can no longer bear you! The devil is on the lookout to steal your soul! Hades is waiting for you with its mouth open to swallow you into hell! Are you still waiting? Are you in wonder and don't know what to do to break up with her? Ah, Christian! As long as you make these reasonings and consider this and that, you never break the bond... Today one obstacle is created, tomorrow another and the devil makes the bond even tighter...

Sword, sword! Brother, a firm decision is required here, and you must say that I want to repent; to put away the harlot and save my soul. "I want to, because as long as I remain a whoremaster, I cease to be a Christian! Far from confession, far from the Immaculate Mysteries, far from my Mother the Church and from my Father God, a son disenfranchised and living in hell! I want it, I want it like nothing else, without wasting time!" This is how the bond is cut and may God enlighten you to cut it as soon as possible. If possible today, not counting tomorrow, the last hour! Because you already heard that whoever is able now and does not want to repent, perhaps the time will come when he will want to and cannot.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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