Sunday, June 29, 2014

Can Lay Persons Be As Holy As Clergy?

In my Journey To Orthodoxy I have heard, more than once, a reference to an idea that "only monks" can achieve certain things or that certain gifts of the Spirit or virtues are only attainable by those cloistered away in some cave, or by only priests or bishops. Brethren, do you not see what a false idea this is? Do you not see that such an unorthodox position is to thwart the power of Holy Spirit to equip His saints to do the work of the church?

"If you do away with tears, you eliminate purification. There is no one saved without catharsis, no one blessed by the Lord, no such one shall see God.

It is possible brothers, for all men and not only for the monks, for the lay persons to repent constantly and to weep and pray to God, and to secure all virtues. That this is true is attested also by John Chrysostom, the great pillar and doctor of the church, in his discourse on the fiftieth psalm of David where he states that it is possible for a person not only to have a wife and children and many servants and to hold much property and have mundane cares, but also to weep daily and to pray and repent, and to attain the perfection of virtue and to receive the Holy Spirit and become God's friend and to enjoy His vision.

O wonder of it all! That man is united to God both spiritually and physically, since the soul cannot be separated from the mind, neither the body from the soul, but man by virtue of this union, becomes essentially trihypostatic by grace, a god by grace, consisting of body and soul and the Holy Spirit of whom he partakes and is filled- a divine offspring out of the divine Spirit.

What can I say to those who love to be renowned and love to become priests and bishops and abbots, yet desire to entertain alien thoughts and assert that they are worthy of the trust of forgiving and binding sins?

When I see that they understand none of the necessary and divine things, neither do they teach them to others nor guide them to the light of knowledge, what else is this but what Christ said to the scribes and the pharisees: Woe unto you, scribes, for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves and you hindered those who were entering?"  [Saint Symeon The New Theologian]

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