It is worth noticing that, after acquiring spiritual understanding, the defects and faults of one’s neighbor begin to seem very slight and insignificant, as redeemed by the Savior and easily cured by repentance—those very faults and defects which seemed to the carnal understanding so big and serious. Evidently the carnal mind, being itself a plank, gives them this huge significance. The carnal mind sees in others sins that are not there at all.
“Recollect the fall of the strong, that thou mayest remain humble under thy virtues. And think of the heavy sins of those who fell and repented; and of the praise and honour they received afterwards, so that thou mayest acquire courage during repentance.”
“Whoever does not voluntarily withdraw himself from the causes of the passions is involuntarily drawn away by sin. These are the causes of sin: wine, women, riches, and robust health of body. Not that by their nature these things are sins, but that nature readily inclines towards the sinful passions on their account., and for this reason man must guard himself against them with great care.”
“The fact that a man slips into accidental sins demonstrates the weakness of his nature; for to our profit God has permitted our nature to be susceptible to sinful occurrences. For He has not thought it good to make the soul superior to these occurrences before the second regeneration. It is profitable for the soul to be susceptible to accidental sins because this pricks the conscience. To persist in them is, however, audacious and shameful.”
Only the foolish think that suffering is evil. A sensible man knows that suffering is not evil but only the manifestation of evil and healing from evil. Only sin in a man is a real evil, and there is no evil outside sin. Everything else that men generally call evil is not, but is a bitter medicine to heal from evil. The sicker the man, the more bitter the medicine that the doctor prescribes for him. At times, even, it seems to a sick man that the medicine is worse and more bitter than the sickness itself! And so it seems at times to the sinner: the suffering is harder and more bitter than the sin committed. But this is only an illusion – a very strong self-delusion. There is no suffering in the world that could be anywhere near as hard and destructive as sin is. All the suffering borne by men and nations is none other than the abundant healing that eternal Mercy offers to men and nations to save them from eternal death. Every sin, however small, would inevitably bring death if Mercy were not to allow suffering in order to sober men up from the inebriation of sin; for the healing that comes through suffering is brought about by the gracefilled power of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit.
“In the words of the psalmist, ‘As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart’ (Ps. 4:4 LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf. Col. 3:16) – in other words, teaching yourself to persist in prayer and psalmody through attentive meditation on what you read. For the practice of the moral virtues is effectuated by meditating on what has happened during the day, so that during the stillness of the night we can become aware of the sins we have committed and can grieve over them.”
“All our attention must be centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all see ourselves in it as in a mirror. In a few words the Lord, the knower of hearts, has shown in the person of one man how the deceptive sweetness of sin separates us from the truly sweet life according to God. He knows how the burden of sin on the soul and body, experienced by us, impels us by the action of divine grace to return, and how it actually does turn many again to God, to a virtuous life.”
+ St. John of Kronstadt, “Sermon on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son,” originally printed in Orthodox Life Vol. 39 No. 1, January-February 1989