Today, on the Greek Orthodox calendar is the feast of St.John Chrysostom so happy feast to all my Greek Orthodox friends. I know of no other Christian tradition that holds him in higher regard than the Orthodox for a myriad of reasons. The same can not be said for the west. The ignorance of not only his writings but the man himself and how to pronounce his name is ever prevalent in Roman Catholicism. I once attended morning daily Mass at the Church of Saint Patrick in my town. I had stumbled in only to light a candle but as I entered the door the bell rang and mass began. I felt compelled somewhat to join in and feast on the Divine meal that is the Lord himself. There is breakfast. . . and then there is breakfast, know what I mean?
The priest who married me and my wife (or rather, the priest in whose presence we married each other as the theology in the west is different on marriage) said Mass. He said, “Today is the feast of John chr….” There had been a slight pause as he tried to figure it out. He made the best of it, “Chrinonneeem” and again, “Chree…non…nom”. He had been a young priest and perhaps 10 years older than myself or more. To add insult to injury I for some reason went back again the next morning. This time around it was the feast of St.Ambrose. He went on to tell us that Ambrose’s Mother Monica prayed for his conversion. Those reading this will know that Monica is Augustine’s Mother not that of Ambrose. I had a major facepalm moment there.
To be fair, he’s a very active priest who does a lot of good work in the locale. This will be more to his credit in the presence of the Lord than simply being capable of pronouncing someone’s name. However, it is evident of the sickness in Irish education. I could rant about the usual state of Irish Catholic education in Irish seminaries where this priest came from, but I won’t because that’s not the purpose of this blog post. In fact, I’ve already spoken too much and would like to write about what I wanted to in the first instance.
For he who is sober and awake, although he be captured by sin, quickly beats it off; while he who sleeps and is beside himself, perceives not how he is held prisoner of it.John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John (353-407A.D)
I highlighted this in my recent studies on Johns homilies and now dare to expound its mystery. My head is rarely out of his books apart from when I’m coming up for air and have to work or walk the dog. I’m beginning to think I need to see a psychologist or something about this obsession with John. It’s truly an addiction that has gotten out of hand. In this post I will discuss the importance of spiritual discernment and the last times. I end with an important few bible quotes.
Many of us are ignorant of our sins. We are not able to see how we are held prisoner by sin because we perceive it to be happiness. For example, a woman whose secular lifestyle involves enjoying drunken parties, casual sex with multiple partners or cohabitating with her boyfriend, does not perceive the sinfulness of it. To her life is fantastic and the pleasure derived from such activities are of no consequence. After the vote on abortion and incorrupt laws on gay marriage you hear them say, “Look, the sky has not fallen in, and life goes on.” They’re blind to the fact that following such a referendum Covid19 came along but they don’t recognize that as demonic activity as punishment for their sins.
The man who is awake to the spiritual realities yet falls short of the perfection required of him, incurs punishment although he is in a much better position. How so? Because he’s able to do battle with it. In the eyes of the ungodly world and yes, his fellow Christians also, such a one is nothing more than a hypocrite, but in the eyes of God and his army of angels is perceived to be a warrior. How so? Because although he is beaten down by sexual lust and the occasional lapse into casual sex with a woman, he dusts it off by attending confession. He makes resolutions to reduce his behaviour and even though he fails at that, yet his constant confessions of even the reddest most scarlet of sins demonstrate extreme loyalty to the King. Although we are in danger of abusing Gods mercy and making confession relative, yet still I’d rather be that than ignorant altogether. Even though many may point the finger at me and call me a classless hyporcite unable to wrestle with my demons, I’d rather be judged by the multitude of sinners than the supreme Judge of all.
The same can’t be said for those of us who aren’t only ignorant of who we are, but that we dare to call and perceive such evil lifestyles as virtuous. Can there be anything more frightening than to wander through the darkness of this world groping at this and that evil not knowing whether it be good or bad?
If I put the cooker on full heat you immediately feel the warmth. What would you reply if I asked you to put your hand on the red hot hob of the cooker? Being aware of the consequences of your actions you’d recoil from the very suggestion. Do you recognize how the awareness of such a simple action is to your advantage? How much more so is your spiritual sobriety an advantage in the face of sin?
When a person is asleep and consumed by deadly vices, he places not one, but two feet in the flames of Hell. Although he does not perceive it to be so that is the reality of it. The Hell he experiences in this life can act as a foreshadowing of the true torment that is to come. For example, a man who is steeped in sin does not know where his troubled life takes its root. The same goes for those who commit national sins that make abortion lawful. They do not understand why Covid19 came upon them or why the whole planet is in trouble from their pollution, not only by trash, but the garbage of their sins.
To the unspiritual person, there’s nothing to it at all. They comfort themselves with the thought that it’s only natural and of no human or supernatural origin. In truth, the origin is all our sins, but they’re ignorant to that. Yes, snoring away in our sleepy state while the world falls apart around us is a perfect image of our sinful generation. To be honest, it’s no different than any other generation only to add that humanity has never been more irreligious than it is today. Evil has increased in these last days of mankind
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.2 Timothy:3:1-5
When I quote this people say, “But, isn’t the world always like this in every generation? How can this be a future event? If that’s the case it’s the end of times in every generation.” True, every generation can be a good description of the above quote. In fact, one could perfectly argue that the apostles didn’t know if they were already in the last days or if this was some future event but they’re inspired to say it anyway. However, we know it to be a future event because although mankind has swung from conservative to liberal over the thousands of years, every historian worth his salt would agree this is the most irreligious generation on a global scale ever seen. This is in large part thanks to the advances in global communication and interaction.
It is this lack of discernment that is to our discredit. As St.John says we who are held prisoner by sin don’t perceive it. The man who sleeps with one eye open (referring to those who are spirtually intermediate) do much better than the former. If only we were aware of the consequences of sin we’d recoil from the idea. If the Lord gave us but a mere slither of the heat of Hell in real time because of one sin, how we’d turn around our lives in a fraction of a second. Monasteries would be full, the queue for confessions would be endless, and the commitment to a virtuous life never more concrete.
Let us arise, become sober and be attentive to the wisdom of St.Paul who says,
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”Saint Paul to the Ephesians:5:11