Passions, Peace and Anger

“If therefore we are to follow the divine laws, we must struggle with all our strength against the demon of anger and against the sickness which lies hidden within us. When we are angry with others we should not seek solitude on the grounds that there, at least, no one will provoke us to anger, and that in the solitude the virtue of long-suffering can easily be acquired.

Our desire to leave our brethren is because of our pride, and because we do not wish to blame ourselves and ascribe to our own laxity the cause of our unruliness. So long as we assign the causes for our weaknesses to others, we cannot attain perfection in long-suffering. Self-reform and peace are not achieved through the patience which others show us, but through our own long-suffering towards our neighbor.

When we try to escape the struggle for long-suffering by retreating into solitude, those unhealed passions we take there with us are merely hidden, not erased; for unless our passions are first purged, solitude and withdrawal from the world not only foster them but also keep them concealed, no longer allowing us to perceive what passion it is that enslaves us. On the contrary, they impose on us an illusion of virtue and persuade us to believe that we have achieved long-suffering and humility, because there is no one present to provoke and test us.

But as soon as something happens which does arouse and challenge us, our hidden and previously unnoticed passions immediately break out like uncontrolled horses that have long been kept and idle, dragging their driver all the more violently and wildly to destruction. Our passions grow fiercer when left idle through lack of contact with other people. Even that shadow of patience and long-suffering which we thought we possessed while we mixed with our brethren is lost in our isolation through not being exercised.

Poisonous creatures that live quietly in their lairs in the desert display their fury only when they detect someone approaching; and likewise passion-filled men, who live quietly not because of their virtuous disposition but because of their solitude, spit forth their venom whenever someone approaches and provokes them. This is why those seeking perfect gentleness must make every effort to avoid not only anger towards men, but also towards animals and even inanimate objects.” (St. John Cassian in The Philokalia: Vol 1, p 85)

The Chosen Few

The Gospel Lesson of Matthew 22:1-14

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ’Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.

 St. Nikolai Velimirovic (d. 1956AD) comments:

“The Lord finished this whole majestic, prophetic parable with the words:For many are called, but few are chosen.’ These words apply to both Jews and Christians. There were few chosen among the Jews, and there are few among the Christians. All we who are baptized are called to the King’s table, but God alone knows whom He has chosen. Woe to those of us to whom the Most High, the King, shall say before all the angels and saints: ‘Friend, how can you come not having a wedding garment?’ What shame, what unavailing shame! What ruin, what irretrievable ruin! God in the very truth speaks these words to us now, every time we approach the holy altar to receive Communion, to unite ourselves in spirit with Christ the Bridegroom: Friend, how can you come not having a wedding garment?’

Let us hearken with heart and conscious when we approach the holy chalice, and we shall hear this questions and this reprimand. Oh, that these words of God’s may not bring with them weeping and gnashing of teeth in the final darkness that will descend when God says this to us for the last time! Who of us can guarantee that God will not speak these words to us today for the last time in this earthly life? Who can guarantee that his soul will not be found this very night in the resplendent heavenly assembly around the King’s table, wearing the filthy garment of sin? What mortal man can know that today is not a day fateful to him for all of eternity?

A few moments were decisive in the destinies of the two robbers on the cross. One of them was incapable of making use of these few moments, and went off into ultimate darkness, while the other used these few moments wisely: he repented, acknowledges the Son of God and asked Him for salvation: Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). At that moment the old garment of sin fell from his soul, and it was clothed in a resplendent wedding garment. The repentant thief, with the dignity of one of the chosen, appeared in Paradise at the King’s table.” (Homilies, pp 296-297)