Hiding in Plain Sight


In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. (Wisdom 3:7 RSV)


The story is told of St. Macarius that he was falsely accused of fathering a child by a young woman in the village. After being beaten and humiliated by the people there, he returned to his cell and gathered all of the mats and baskets he had made and gave instructions that they were to be sold, and the money given “to my wife.” In time, he was vindicated of the crime for which he had been falsely accused.

St. Francis’ disciple, Brother Juniper, was falsely accused of theft, murder and a number of such crimes. He immediately confessed that he was guilty of everything. He was rescued at the last minute from hanging through the intercession of the friars.

All of us stand falsely accused.

That might sound surprising, since most of us carry some constant level of moderate guilt. And though we wouldn’t dare go as far as Brother Juniper and submit to hanging, or agree to support a child for whom we have no responsibility, nonetheless, we generally agree to some level of guilt and quietly task ourselves with improving.

“I can’t believe I did that! What must I have been thinking?”

Our lives are a strange mix of virtue and vice. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that the line between good and evil did not run between nations, nor even between groups or individuals, but within every human heart. Some portion of our heart accuses the other, and with just cause. But we also stand falsely accused.

Our passions cloud our judgment (and guilt can indeed act like a passion). We cannot accurately judge ourselves because we do not see the truth (not even of ourselves). By the same token, we do not and cannot judge others rightly. We are simply incompetent as judges.

Solzhenitsyn is right, however. The dividing line does not run between us, but within us. Sergius Bulgakov once suggested that the parable of the sheep and the goats is incorrectly applied to individual versus individual, and should be applied instead within the heart of each individual. This coincides with St. Gregory of Nyssa’s thoughts on salvation in which the judgment exists to destroy our sins and faults and restore us to our true nature. I will leave that argument to others (for there are so many who rise to great eloquence on the topic).

I have wandered within the heart for a very long time, both my own as well as others. If you suspend judgment, you find a vast reality, both good and bad, dark and light. I have never encountered a heart that is entirely dark, though I have been in some where the light was indeed quite dim and isolated. I always try to remind myself that Christ is the Light and that darkness does not overcome Him. Christ is the Shepherd of the light. An early Christian title for believers was “children of the light.”

Christ knows His sheep and calls us each by name. Most of us don’t know our names yet. Helping someone learn their name (and learning it myself) is the pastoral art. It is the work of Jesus.

Those whom we cannot love are strangers to us. When we are not able to recognize another, it is simply a symptom that we are seeing them through the darkness of our own heart. Christ knows His sheep and sees the truth of our being.

The hiddenness of the human life is often obscured by our modern understanding. In many contemporary Christian treatments, we are viewed as an intellect with a will. We think. We choose. And many are quick to pronounce judgments on others on account of their choices or their thoughts. Indeed, for some, the last choice in life supersedes all earlier choices: “as a tree falls, so it lies.” It is a deeply reductionistic approach to human beings, rendering us flat, with no depth beyond the most cursory surface of our decisions.

The Scriptures suggest something quite different. We are told that our life is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). We are told that what we shall be “does not yet appear” (1 John 3:2). We are told that we will receive “a new name written on a stone which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). This hiddenness is similar to other themes in the New Testament. The gospel itself is a mystery, hidden from the ages, etc. Christianity is “apocalyptic” in character, that is, it is revelatory, making known that which is hidden.

Of course, it’s difficult to live in a world in which the truth of its reality is hidden.

There is a theme, not restricted to Christianity alone, that sees spiritual awareness as “waking up.”

Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Eph 5:14)

To wake up is both to see what is there, but to discern what might be hidden. A true watchman has to engage in more than a cursory glance.

Life in a world whose truth is hidden is often quiet. It is marked far more by listening than speaking. It presumes its own ignorance and waits in wonder for what it does not know. It is frequently surprised.

Consider the soul of St. Macarius. Confronted with a false accuser, he responds with extreme humility and agrees to bear the unjust consequences. What kind of a soul can do such a thing? It means not only enduring a financial burden (tough on a desert monk), but silently bearing the condemnation of the entire community. (This scenario becomes part of the final trial of the protagonist in the recent Russian novel, Laurus). In truth, had Macarius acted out of noble intentions, he would easily have done damage to his soul (and that of his accuser). Rather, within himself, he recognizes, or becomes the sinner whom he is accused to be. This is true, even within Christ, when rightly understood.

Christ does not simply die on our behalf, or instead of us, He becomes sin in order to destroy sin (2 Cor. 5:22). Christ is without sin, and yet He becomes sin. There is nothing “noble” in such an action; nobility would be a deeply unjust accusation. It is self-emptying love.

St. Macarius emptied himself of all claims to righteousness in embracing the false accusation, and in doing so, destroyed that which was false. He embraces the unrighteousness that is hidden within himself, that God might vindicate him with His own righteousness. That is the nature of the true, hidden life.

That which is most obvious is never the full story, either about ourselves or others. Christ invites us into the fullness of His life, to live in union with the full story, no matter how deeply it might be hidden. At the very depth of the soul is a song of unbounded thanksgiving.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


42 responses to “Hiding in Plain Sight”

  1. Adam Avatar

    It sounds like St. Macarius “became sin” for the other in that experience with the false accusation. It sounds like he is emulating Christ’s self-emptying love in that instance. However, just for clarification, would St. Macarius ever go to confession for that “sin that he became”?

    It sounds like, through that accepting the false accusation that St. Macarius believed that he was “the sinner” in his extreme humility. However, how does truth and lying come into this experience since he truthfully didn’t do what he was accused of?

  2. Dean Avatar

    Thank you Father for this light-giving year end meditation.
    Even small children know the power of light, seen through their innocent eyes. I have asked each of our grandchildren at a tender age…”If you are in a closet with a small lit candle that empties into a giant room, will the light go into the dark room or will the greatness of the dark penetrate into the closet?” They all answer that the candle light will penetrate the darkness. I’m reminded of the Christophers’ motto: “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
    Yes, that accusatory false self always follows us (me) around. It only dissipates when I am consciously with Christ letting His light burn away the dross. Christ’s work within our life is most often hidden, as you note. Yet strangely, it is many times revealed to us in others. I saw it just yesterday as we were with a dear sister in Christ who is suffering with stage 4 cancer. She is fearful as she begins treatment, yet she exuded to me and my wife Jesus’ peace and hope.
    May 2019 be a wonderful year, Father, for you and family. Praying for that new book too.

  3. Bethlehem Avatar

    Fr. Freeman,
    What an amazing post! I am going to be meditating on this post for some time, God willing.
    I have been reading your posts for about two years. As an Ethiopian Orthodox reader, your writings have expanded the Orthodox community and teachings for me.
    I wish you all the blessings that our Compassionate Lord may give thee in 2019. Thank you for your posts that have been great beams of light in my spiritual erudition. May the Light of Christ shine upon you even more.

  4. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think it would be hard to fathom St. Macarius’ confession. What I think would be true, however, is that his confession would not focus on the legalities of the matter – “strictly speaking, I suppose I agreed to support a lie.” It is not necessary to confess to the whole world – they do not need to know the innermost truth of my being. The world judges only what it thinks it sees. He would, doubtless, be profoundly aware of his own sin – the “adultery of the heart,” and willingly accept the burden of the child support as something of a penance. He no where says, “Yes, I did it.” In that sense, there is no support of the lie. He merely accepted the burden caused by the lie – and took a share in the Cross.

  5. Adam Avatar

    Thanks for explaining this Fr. Stephen. It sounds like he would be accepting God’s Providence as giving him this cross that would ultimately be healing by walking through the suffering and co-suffering with Christ. It sounds like he also acts in a self-acusational way and doesn’t blame anything on anyone externally, but takes full responsibility. He seems to trust in God’s Providence so much that even the bad that was sent to him was seen as “working together for good for God’s ultimate purpose”; sanctification and salvation. (Romans 8:28)

    It also sounds like this is a healthy bearing of shame since it is voluntary on his part. At first it sounded like a unhealthy bearing of shame since it sounded like he was taking a lie upon himself. However, he seems to be taking it as a penance for healing his “adultery of the heart” that he was so mindful of. He never seemed to lose faith through the suffering, always trusting God’s and desiring to come closer to Him in communion no matter how much suffering (alongside Christ) he was to walk through to get there.

  6. GretchenJoanna Avatar

    Because our dealings with other people fill our days, this perspective on individuals could be very helpful — I wanted to say “monumental” or “life-changing,” but I think it is probably “just” one of those pearls of wisdom and truth that God will give to the person who has overcome the passions to the degree that he can truly suspend judgment as you say, truly pay attention, and see the “vast reality” that is another soul.

    Your image of the candle hidden in each human person, so hidden in some that it is extremely hard to discern, but the light of God nonetheless, I hope to keep in the forefront of my heart, because I want to love. Lord, have mercy!

  7. Dino Avatar

    I think we could (and should) describe the profound awareness of one’s own sin ( the “adultery of the heart,”) and sharing in the Cross, as both: the shunning of all secular ‘nobility’, as well as one of the highest forms of spiritual nobility.

  8. Paul Avatar

    What you presented is incomprehensible to me. How could he take such blame (in the fashion you detail)?

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think the answer is rather straightforward: because He found Christ to be in the midst of that blame. He willingly embraced the unjust accusation because, within it, he was uniting Himself to Christ.

    There is some sense in which we will never know Christ (in His fullness) unless we bear some manner of an unjust accusation (however small). I say this because Christ Himself obviously did just that. If we cannot or will not do the same, that vast reality within Christ will remain opaque to us – a veil that hides the mystery of His love from us.

    On the other hand, every time we willingly bear a bit of injustice, without pride or boasting, or self-justification – that veil is drawn back, if only for a moment or two, and the glory of the love of God is revealed – who for our sake bore the injustice of our accusations that we might find the justice of His own righteousness.

  10. Allen Avatar

    I have thought often of the injustice when those with reduced mental capacity admit under police interrogation to a crime that they did not commit. In a different sense, however, those with reduced mental capacity are often closer to the kingdom than anyone else, coming to Christ with a childlike faith. In that sense, they are telling the truth in the way that St. Macarius did.

    That doesn’t reduce the injustice from a criminal system point of view, but it makes sense from the kingdom viewpoint of St. Macarius and others.

  11. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    There is so much to ponder in this essay Father. The heart is indeed deep.

    You said,

    “The hiddenness of the human life is often obscured by our modern understanding. In many contemporary Christian treatments, we are viewed as an intellect with a will. We think. We choose. And many are quick to pronounce judgments on others on account of their choices or their thoughts.”

    I really struggle with this. Thank you.

  12. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Obviously, guilt is not contrition. It has been my observation that guilt(in myself and others) serves to maintain sinfulness because it tends to treat sin as an external force. Not intrinsic to my own heart, flesh and will. It also tends to assume that the escape from sin lies in greater and more focused use of my own will, an already diseased and compromised will.

    Am I seeing correctly?

  13. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think we would have the break the word and the concept down in order to categorize it in a general way – which is to say, we use the word “guilt” to mean a number of things.

    There can be guilt – a version of legitimate shame – shame that I have incurred as a proper response to something wrong I have done. If this kind of guilt did not exist, I daresay none of us would ever repent. This kind of guilt is of use to us.

    There can be guilt that is a mere legality – somebody’s external judgment.

    There is, of course, the neurotic guilt, which is what I think you’re describing. It presumes that what I feel is my fault and that I thus have the power to change it. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Often, I think, such guilt is actually just a subset of shame (a number of treatments see it this way). It’s the unwillingness to bear shame in a proper and healthy way – in the presence of God – that energizes the desire to do it all by myself.

    I remember the years I spent trying to quit smoking. I smoked for 20 years (starting at 15) and quit at age 35. The last 15 of those years were marked by efforts and failure. When I finally quit – it happened as a gift of grace. Actually, a couple who had heard me speak at a retreat came to me and said that they thought my ministry would be greater if I were to quit smoking. They then, without shaming me or laying a guilt-trip on me, told me that they were going to begin a fast on my behalf, asking God to give me the grace to do what I had been unable to do.

    The next time I quit (about 9 months later) – it succeeded. It was torture, and yet I managed. I could only attribute it to grace and the kindness of strangers fasting for me. It made a huge difference in my life – certainly physically. I remember all the guilt and shame and anger and frustration of those 20 years – off and on. It was a huge waste. In the end, God intervened – and I can take no particular credit in the effort – except saying, “Take it away.” Perhaps there was a bit of a healthy will in that – but it was a very weak thing, completely insufficient to the task.

  14. Debbie A. Avatar
    Debbie A.

    Thank you for this beautiful series of illuminations Father Stephen – SO much to ponder…

    ‘Life in a world whose truth is hidden is often quiet. It is marked far more by listening than speaking. It presumes its own ignorance and waits in wonder for what it does not know. It is frequently surprised’

    ‘Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Eph 5:14)
    To wake up is both to see what is there, but to discern what might be hidden. A true watchman has to engage in more than a cursory glance.’

    Father Stephen, for those of us who struggle with the voices of childhood emotional abuse, how might we engage in voluntary suffering…since the original abuse was involuntary? Can we somehow carry the burden of the abuser? I realize this is not a simple question – but would appreciate some of your thoughts…

  15. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think that those who bear the burdens created by abuse already carry the burden of the abuser. I do not think that they (we) should turn and say that the abuse was justified, ok, etc. But it is possible to bear the burden as a prayer on their behalf (and our own). There are things under which I labor every day that have such roots. There are times that I want to curse them (thought patterns, etc.). Slowly, I’ve also learned a sort of mercy towards myself – not excusing things – or pretending that I’m not broken – but acknowledging the nature of the wound and offering it as a prayer to Christ.

    Dear Jesus. You know the wounds of my heart and mind and the weariness of my soul. Do not lay this to the charge of those who wounded me, but forgive them in your mercy. Save and protect those whom I injure myself, both knowingly and unknowingly and remember us all in your Kingdom. For You bear the sins of all. I am not alone in my wounds or in my weariness, for You are there. Help me!

    I have written this short prayer and hope it might be of use.

  16. Theodosia Avatar

    “Christ knows His sheep and calls us each by name. Most of us don’t know our names yet. Helping someone learn their name (and learning it myself) is the pastoral art. It is the work of Jesus.”
    Father, how can we help others learn their name, or even know ours? What does it take to experience this kind of pastoring?

  17. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    As you once said, Father, Christ did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men live.

  18. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Hi Fr. Stephen,
    While not disputing the holiness of St. Macarius, certainly there are times when an unjust accusation should be disputed, no?

    Unjust accusations can destroy lives. I think of those who have been given lengthy prison sentences for crimes they did not commit. Not only is that person’s life greatly disrupted, but their family’s is as well. In addition, it seems to permit the accuser (assuming it was intentional) to remain in their sin with no attempt at correction. And society is excused (whether it was intentional or not) from permitting wrong-doing that may have been based on racism or other equally evil values. Meek acceptance of injustice does not always lead to greater holiness or repentance.

    How might one distinguish between those times when we should accept vs. those times when it would be better to dispute?

  19. Margaret Maines Avatar
    Margaret Maines

    It seems to me that St Macarius took on the sins of others as Christ took on the sins of mankind. Once he did this, a cleansing could take place – healing and redemption. There is a St Teresa of Avila who always taught that we should not try to defend ourselves because God will send someone to do it for us. This would be difficult when we are in a society that speaks right up, has so many rights, and free speech to boot. I don’t believe people should become doormats, but I suppose there is a humble way of defending one’s self either in word or quiet deed. I admire St Macarius in how he handled this terrible accusation; a lesson for us!

    As for Jesus saying His sheep know His voice and He knows them by name – reminds me too of our Baptism when God said, “I have called you by name.” For several years, my friends called me a nickname and suddenly one day when I was listening to the Scriptures being read and God said this, it came to me so strong that God doesn’t know me!! I really was very disturbed and told all my friends and family, you must call me by my baptismal name only – because God does not know me by this other nickname! You are probably laughing, but it really did disturb me and I have never gone back to the nickname since. 🙂

  20. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience regarding your struggle to quit smoking. I have a dear Orthodox friend who is currently battling with this addiction and desire, yet finds herself completely helpless and hopeless in her efforts. She feels a lot of shame and guilt about it. I have shared your words with her in hopes that they may provide her with some measure of comfort.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mary, I do not think that there is any general application to be drawn from his example. Such acts of self offering are entirely voluntary and not the stuff of moral requirements.

  22. Margaret Avatar

    Thank you so much for the prayer that you outline above in response to Debbie! God bless you in all ways, Fr. Stephen! May 2019 show ALL God’s blessings to you and yours!

  23. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    Mary Benton – I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the new translated “The Sunflower: Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God” by Saint John of Tobolsk. It was originally written in the 1600s by a former Lutheran who converted to Catholicism. I think it speaks to your question and concerns, which I too have struggled with in my own life experiences and relationships.

  24. juliania Avatar

    Father, excuse me for making this point, but this post reminds me of one of the exceptional qualities of Orthodoxy that impressed me when I first came to it – that is, at confession in our church, we each knelt before the icon stand while our priest sat on a chair beside us, listening; and that always has felt to me as though, as he heard our confession, he took on himself what we were confessing to. It became his confession also.

    I always felt, in searching the recesses of my soul at that time, that there was a joining taking place, much like the saying of “where two or three are gathered together” that was much more than I myself alone confessing as much as I could. So I think your expression of “I have wandered within the heart for a very long time, both my own as well as others ” is really lovely, and a path we should ourselves try to practise, when we are tempted to judge one another. As you say, it can be an intangible help to the one towards whom such a joining commitment is given. We ourselves know that is true from our confessional experience.

  25. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I find invariably that hearing confessions shines a searching light within my own heart as well – that the sins of others echo in me – and that I silently join my confession to theirs. It is as you say.

  26. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    ” We are instructed by Christ to take actions for change – why would He command us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. if it had no impact?”
    Why? Well, not because Christ expected the world to change. He came to give Life to the living and the dead. That is every human being that ever lived. Change? What has changed? The world is on a trajectory, and it is not toward ‘improvement’. Two days ago I saw a headline…now ‘they’ have determined it is a good thing to use dead human bodies as compost. This is the horror we endure during the Nativity season. I do not! know how to not have this effect me. I can not! ignore these things. Change? The Lord Jesus told us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, raise the dead as a means to be one, in communion, with fellow human beings. It is a way to tell us that we were created for union in Him and ‘our neighbor’, and our sickness, nakedness (shame), and death is what He came to heal, and in that healing is the re-uniting with God and our neighbor…as does the Trinity co-exist. And it is demonstrated in charity…not separation. It is about union and communion…not ‘change’.

    Forgive me…the holiday season is difficult for me this year (I will spare you the reasons). I am thankful for God to grant us to worship Him during this wonderful feast. But it has been a difficult time. Father please, pray for me.

    There was a gift this morning outside my front door….I awoke to see our desert blanketed with a couple of inches of snow! You have to imagine living in the desert and the rarity of seeing snow…it is beautiful and of coarse brings tears to my eyes. God is beautiful, so awesome in His majesty.

    Father and all, have a blessed 2019.

  27. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Hi Paula,

    Sorry you’ve had a painful holiday season. Peace be with you.

    Just to clarify my comment. When we feed the hungry, they are filled. When we clothe the naked, they are covered. When we visit the sick, they are comforted. Our actions are not without impact. However, as I noted, each “improvement” in this world can only bring about a temporary change at best. Abolishing slavery was in improvement, but the evil in and around us finds new ways of enslaving people. The hungry get hungry again. Hence, apart from God, our efforts to improve upon this world will always be thwarted. Earth will not become heaven. Yet our efforts to bring justice and mercy are still of value when done for the love of God and neighbor.

    Agreed, some of the stuff out there about “composting” one’s body is inappropriate as it does not recognize the body as sacred. But in another sense, this body of mine is meant to be “composted”, i.e. it is not intended to be preserved in a sealed vault nor is intended to be burned and scattered. The elements of my body are meant to return to the earth from which we were made. My personal arrangement is to be placed in the ground in a shroud (which I have made) in a “green cemetery”. There will be no tombstone, just wildflowers giving testimony to the beautiful cycle of life. Of course, all of the prayers will be said as with any Catholic burial. My body will be a sort of compost as it returns to the earth and nourishes the soil with its elements. Yet it is my faith that, at the resurrection of the dead, I will know the glorified body that our Savior has promised through His own resurrection.

  28. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Thank you Mary for your thoughts and clarification…and your words of peace.

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Forgive me, but I’ve deleted most of our conversation. It is simply a direction I do not want to pursue. Perhaps another time, on another post.

  30. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    It is I who should apologize. Forgive me. May you be ever blessed in the teaching you do here.

  31. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, as 2019 begins I want to thank you for who you are and what you do. May our Lord God and Savior continue to bless, protect and fructify your life and ministry.

  32. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    On how to respond to injustices per Saint Paisios…

    Question: Geronda, how should we treat someone who treats us unfairly?

    Answer: We must treat him like a great benefactor who makes deposits on our behalf in God’s savings bank. He is making us wealthy for life eternal… When someone is wronged in this life… the soul benefits as a result…

    This is not a matter of minor importance… We must love and feel grateful to the person who has treated us unjustly because he benefits us forever. The unjust will receive eternal “injustice,” whereas those who accept injustice with joy will be eternally justified.

    A pious family man had suffered many injustices during his employment. Nevertheless, he was full of kindness and endured it all without complaint. He came to my Kalyvi once, told me all about it, and then asked, “What do you advise me to do?”

    “What you should do,” I said, “is wait for divine justice and divine ‘returns,’ and be patient. Nothing is lost. In this way, you are depositing ‘money’ in God’s savings bank. You will surely receive ‘interest’ in the next life for all the trials you are going through now.”

    But you should know that the Good Lord rewards, even in this life, those who have been wronged… You see, the Righteous Joseph did not say a thing when his brothers sold him into slavery. He… said nothing until God spoke and made him second to the king (Genesis 37:20)… And if this does not happen to the wronged person, then He will surely reward their children.

    God knows all. He looks after His creatures. Where there is patience, things always fall into place… But when one does not have patience, he will suffer… God provides. We need patience, not logic. God is watching. He is observing us, and we must surrender unconditionally to Him.

    +Saint Paisios, Spiritual Counsels, Volume I: With Pain and Love, p. 97-98.

  33. Debbie A. Avatar
    Debbie A.

    Father Stephen, thank you for your thoughts and the beautiful prayer on bearing the burden of childhood abuse…please pray that I learn to live, bit by bit, more mercifully towards myself and my abusers. I thank God for you and this blog…and teaching us how to carry each others burdens. And, thank you for your vulnerability, it is like a soothing oil to me.

  34. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Esmee, seems like a good explanation of turn the other check.

  35. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    I’m finding parts of St Paisios’ quote inserted into these comments at this time not that helpful in these respects:

    The selection suggests that the motivation to undertake a non-reactive response to ‘unjust’ behavior is ‘our reward in heaven’ and it suggests that we can amass wealth in heaven as we amass wealth in the world, that is, ‘in a bank’.

    I’m not treating this analogy literally when I say this suggests to me that the value of our response, lies in the ‘brownie points’ that such good acts accrue, as it performs the ‘will of God’. The tone arising from the insertion of the quote in this stream at this point (in other words the context of meaning given to the quote is in the stream in which it appears) seems to me to be a suggestion of motivation that is different from what I think is Fr Stephen’s point.

    Interpreting the quote I read: ‘Accepting an ‘injustice’ wielded against oneself without some sort of retribution, provides us with a reward’, similar to an ‘accounting’ approach that motivates ‘christian-secularists’, that is for ‘for the greater good of man’, or minimally for “my” reward, for “my crown”, which actually sounds (in the context of a society driven to “self-fulfillment”) to be a not so mutually beneficial oriented, but fitting in this society nevertheless.

    So in response to this quote (not to St Paisios’ words in the greater context of his counsel to his flock) I ask this: Who is the unjust and who is the just? Surely I’m not the only person who says in the pre-communion prayer, “I am the chiefest of sinners”, with some some hope of sincerity, God willing?

    Recently someone in my ‘sphere’ reported a lie about me. And then I was asked to make an accounting for my ‘behavior’, the subject of the lie itself. In the moment I was baffled. Then, given the source of the lie, I became aggravated, as the person has a history of consistent self-vaunting conversation, self-ascribing their “inherent” ‘nobility’ (good word in this stream). I had long considered them to be completely “inauthentic” and their self ascriptions (lies actually) almost pathological.

    But I kept these thoughts to myself–so I had believed. But also, I had considered addressing this person’s lies directly with them, so as to ‘straighten them out’ or at least to end the lies. Instead, after I heard about the lie concerning myself, I talked about my thoughts and reactions with my confessor, and he asked me this (paraphrasing): ‘was there anything that you have done or said that might have provoked this behavior?’ Rather than talk about my rewards in heaven, he asked me, instead, to search my own heart for light.

    The result of that search brought to light a better understanding what elder Sophrony meant when he wrote regarding St Silouan . “The struggle against pride, is the final stage in the battle against the passions….This last combat is undoubtedly the most painful of all…” (St Silouan the Athonite, pg 210)

    I’ll add that this is an internal battle, that people or situations can trigger, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The ‘accuser’ always stands by to thwart the growth of light in our hearts. Humility, receptivity, the very processes and circumstances that brings these qualities out in our hearts simultaneously places the only ‘real treasure’ in our hearts, that is Christ Himself.

    We need not wait for our reward.

    He is here.

    Glory to God for All Things.

  36. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Thanks for the thoughts and the story. I think St. Paisios was taking a sort of “homey” approach, couched in certain images for his audience. This stuff (injustice, accusations, etc.) are very difficult to deal with and create a lot of energy within the heart. For one, they inherently evoke shame in us, whether we are guilty or not. And the shame can range everywhere from slight embarrassment, momentary anger, all the way up to a triggering of toxic paralysis.

    It’s for this reason that I said earlier to Mary that how we deal with this stuff is always voluntary (and will vary as well). We are not commanded to bear shame – we can only do it voluntarily. That is also the nature of the Cross – Christ’s bears the Cross voluntarily – and we can only do it the same way. That’s why the notion of a moral requirement is so misplaced. We cannot say “should” in such a setting without simply doing harm.

    I appreciate your point.

  37. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Yes, indeed Father, it is and must be a voluntary process. Thank you for adding these important words.

  38. Brandon Avatar

    Hi Father—certainly didn’t want to post something that could lead anyone down the wrong path re: my comment yesterday about Jim Carey/Andy Kauffman documentary. If you haven’t seem it and therefore don’t have any commentary that’s ok. But I was just curious to see if that was it or if my comment didn’t post. Thank you.

  39. Margaret Maines Avatar
    Margaret Maines

    Jesus was accused of blasphemy in saying He was the Son of God. When asked directly, “Are you the Son of God?” – He did respond to this accusation if we remember that He said, “It is YOU, who says I am.” So He did throw it off onto the shoulders and conscience of the Pharisees.

  40. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Sorry, I saw it, but didn’t post it, primarily because it sort of went down a path that I didn’t want to go. The Kauffman stuff is just strange.

  41. Brandon Avatar

    Thanks Margaret. So are you saying it’s simply always going to come down to what we truly believe about such person? Today it would be much easier perhaps to discern an imposter. However I read somewhere -maybe on this blog- that it would be just as difficult for any believer today to recognize and accept Jesus as God if we either lived in that time or he first entered history in our time instead. Jim Carey’s point was -what if he “turned into another person”, (say Jesus) like he did with Andy Kaufman to the extent that – he was never out of character. Could Jesus have been that imposter? I don’t believe so but I just want to know if I’m missing a valid/obvious point against that line of thought here. Because I hate to see the influence of someone like Jim broadcast that dangerous thought—that could hurt the faith of a believer. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

Latest Comments

Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast