A Single Monk

I earlier shared the story of my conversation with a monk at Mar Saba Monastery in the Judean desert. For me, it was both an oasis of rest (it really is in a desert) and an oasis of truth. We had spent the morning traveling, with our guide also giving us a political commentary – which though appreciated, easily becomes a rant in which you want to say, “OK. I get your point already.”

America has had its share (maybe more than) of political seasons. Nothing here rivals the pain and difficulty of the people living in the Holy Land. Their struggles have been around longer, at great human cost, and are daily present. Were it not for the 24 hour news cycle in America – our political season would be far less bothersome.

But I know the pain that many have during political seasons. Some conversations simply become impossible. The animosity I found towards our president among many of the residents of the Holy Land made conversation difficult (unless I simply joined the rant). Of course, you could join the rant. But when you have come to make a pilgrimage to Christ ranting is simply not on the agenda. Christ had little to say about the injustice of Roman rule. It is not that Roman rule was just – but that He represented a kingdom that trumped anything Rome ever dreamed of. It’s for the same reason that a single monk could say, “I have no enemies.”

Such a statement can only be made because you have seen the fullness of the Kingdom and nothing offers any rivalry. God is God and that is that.

I do not mean to suggest that justice in this world is to be ignored by Christians. We must speak the truth, regardless of consequence. But we must also speak the truth to ourselves – that regardless of consequence – the Kingdom of God has come in Christ and there is nothing the world can do to make it not so.

The very difficult task of forgiving our enemies – by the resurrection of Christ as the Church’s hymns sing – is also the very difficult task in believing the resurrection in a manner that is not removed from the world in which we live. Every breath we take, every grain of sand upon which we walk, all that exists – exists solely because of Pascha (Christ’s resurrection). His resurrection is not a footnote in history but the very reason there is any history. I can forgive by the resurrection because it is my very being and the being of everyone around me – even though they may not realize it or act accordingly.

I can say far more on the preceding paragraph, and undoubtedly will. The question I will place is: What part of the resurrection of Christ do you not understand? I will offer answers in the coming days.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





17 responses to “A Single Monk”

  1. shevaberakhot Avatar

    From Mar Saba to the islands and beyond, all is Pascha!

  2. Damaris Avatar

    This post ties in with what I was thinking about the monk with no enemies. Yes, he himself has no hate for others, so he has no enemies. But I imagine he also has such a strong faith that he would see God’s hand of blessing even in a man pointing a gun at his head. Perhaps, like Joseph, he can say to those who hate him, “You meant it to me for evil, but God meant it for good.” Such a man would truly have no enemies but in everything would give thanks.

    Forgive me if I am dragging this subject out more than it should be. I found your account very compelling and have continued to think about it.

  3. Patrick Avatar


    I think this subject bears much more “dragging out” because it was such a powerful witness. As a frequent problem I have is judging others even when I do not know them (in people watching mode, if you’re familiar with the activity), I realize that often I’m making enemies of those people, even though I will likely never meet them. What a contrast that is to one, who, though surrounded by those who likely hate him, feels no animosity but instead love.

    Its very humbling.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    St. Silouan taught that we only know God to the extent we love our enemies. I suspect that truly loving my enemy does not mean being aware of his hate for me, except in the sense that I pity him, weep for him and pray for his salvation – but never that I fear him.

    I might add, that this is the only true measure of theosis, for those who think about such topics.

    Luke 6:35 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for
    nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the
    children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the

  5. Ziad Avatar

    Thank you Fr Stephen for this post. I’m a long time reader and listener. I remember one time being upset over being let down by some friends. My dad placed his hands on my shoulders and said: “you are right to feel upset. But don’t act as if Christ had not risen!”

  6. elizabeth Avatar

    I am realizing how hard it is to do; to really love; I am glad to remember a being telling us that each Pasca is a sacrament and can deepen in us more each year. When I was younger I thought being deep was ‘cool’ now I realize that it takes time and is really hard! Please tell us more about Pasca and how we can live in it in our daily lives…

  7. Lucias Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    The words of that monk have been resonating with me since I read them. “I have no enemies”.

    To your closing question. One of the things I find most attractive about the Orthodox view, as I understand it, of the death and resurrection is that it removes many of the open question the western view (protestant or catholic) leaves hanging. Like why was the death necessary why couldn’t God just forgive us.

    He had to become flesh, so that he could enter death and hell, he had to enter death and hell so he could conquer them and while there he preached to those captives there. ( I base my understanding of Orthodox teaching on the descent from a sermon of Bishop Hilarion Alfeyeve on the Descent of Christ into Hades given on Nov 5, 2002 on this website ).

    What I would like to understand better is this entire mystery of the descent, and what happened there and to what extent this ‘preaching to captives’ may or may not still happen there.

    I understand Orthodox do not teach the concept of Purgatory or a second chance. Yet per the document I reference above there seems to be a possibility left open for post resurrection dead to have the possibility of understanding more fully. Though not clearly defined as it remains one of the mysteries.

    So that is one thing, what did his death and resurrection accomplish and how is it still there outside of our salvation in the present life.

    Beyond that is the whole question of us partaking of his body and blood in the sacrament. The ‘as you in me and I in them’ wherein by communion with God and by the power of the Holy spirit we are moved by a healing heart into more and more communion. Eventually becoming, as I understand it “gods” ( lower case ). As I understand it as a result of this we will become one with Divinity, yet being always Human in the same way that Divinity became one with humanity yet was always Divine. ( Don’t parse my words to precisely I think that may not be stating this right ). But how does his resurrection and partaking of him sanctify us and what is meant by becoming one with him and becoming “gods”.

    To my mind all of these are bundled up in the resurrection as they are what was accomplished by it both then, now and in the future. But these are also very broad and not trivial questions. Perhaps in many ways the answers are not ever clear as they are part of the mystery.

    Forgive me if I have stated things incorrectly in my questions. I am still quite new to the Orthodox teachings.

    But that is what I ponder as I think of the resurrection and its impact.


  8. Benjamin Avatar

    That monk is a living icon. Praise be to God for the work He has done in this saint’s life and in the monk who so willingly and ruthlessly loves God to the point that he has no enemies. May we all aspire to love our enemies to the point that we may truly and most assuredly say “I have no enemies.”

    I once met a man (albeit from a distance) who reminds me of this monk. I don’t know if you have ever read any of Brennan Manning’s books, but I had the privilege of hearing him speak to our college chapel and was moved by the humility and unceasing love and passion for humanity that he has. Oh if we could all simply desire to be like that, the Lord would foster it in us tenfold.

  9. Alan Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I would like to know, how the Incarnation, Holy Life, Crucifiction, Resurrection and Ascention help me to forgive.

    Particularly, how they help me to forgive people who have deeply wronged me and are unrepentant.

  10. blackincense Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    Fr. bless!

    Your words a timely reminder. I was astounded at how many political rants are filed under the “Christianity” tag here at wordpress. What has all these personal opinions (and that is all they are) about American political candidiots (sorry, I’m a sinner and don’t pretend otherwise), have to do with the Gospel? Nothing!!!! So much for my own political rant.

    But I have often noted that the Saints rarely spoke of politics, if ever, except to pray for healing of political hearts. I hope all the politically inclined will forgive me but: first and foremost I am a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom and I couldn’t care less about who is winning the American election. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about injustice. There are many ways to serve God in the world and being a politicker isn’t the only way.

    I want to grow the kind of spirituality that monk has, in my own heart.
    Only the Gospel can help me do that, by God’s grace.

    Love and peace to all in Christ,

  11. Benjamin Avatar

    The message of Jesus was highly political. He claimed himself as the messiah, which would mean to the Jews that he was the new King. However, Jesus was also above politics. He rarely got involved in politics, and when he did it was in a very “whatever” mindset. We need to set our sights not on earthly kingdoms or, as St. Augustine put it, the City of Man, but in the heavenly kingdom, the City of God.

  12. Shevaberakhot Avatar

    “I have no enemies” sends a powerful political message, without being divisive or partisan. Like the monk of Mar Saba, we are called to be the salt of the earth.

  13. Visibilium Avatar

    The Lord’s Prayer reminds me that God has many children, and He loves all of them. The monk without enemies is an inspiration.

  14. […] All Things”, just recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; his most recent post, here, is a timely reminder of the limits and perils of politics, and the only thing that, ultimately, […]

  15. keith Avatar

    father bless, all i would like to say about the political rant or lack of, is that to my understanding silence is a sin and to hate sin, is not sinful. if one sits’s quietly while murder is being committed, he is guilty of the same sin. love the one that repents but hate the sin, so if Christ came with action (which he did)and we striving for His image, shouldn’t we give action?

  16. ryan Avatar

    did you meet father lazarus as the monastery? His story was so amazing.

  17. […] I feel we all need to learn from and who can show us Jesus. On a recent trip to the Holy Land, Father Stephen Freeman where he says he met a monk at Mar Saba monastery which has existed since the time of the Apostles. […]

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