Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sinlessness

I'm often struck by the fact that devout Orthodox people qualify every statement they make with some reinforcement of their own sinfulness. You ask if it's ok to murder five people as long as you eat the meat and you're libel to get some answer like "Well...of course I'm just a worthless sinner myself. After all, you killed five people and I spilled the coffee on my brother without the proper amount of remorse and so we've both fallen short of Christ, but I think maybe you should think about..." etc.

It strikes me that as late as the time of Constantine there was still a very open and undecided debate within the Christian community as to whether or not one could sin after Baptism. Now obviously the side of the sinful people won out, and rightfully so. I certainly don't find sinless people in my life. However, I think it shows that people didn't think on their horrible, sinful nature in terms of every passing thought. If I had to guess, I'd say it's got to do with the good old fashioned monastic influence again, but I'm not positive.

On the other hand, I think there's a right and a wrong way to affirm it. The wrong way is to walk around slouched over with a huge beard and your face to the ground to avert thine eyes from the light while prayerfully contemplating your own sinfullness. The right way is more like the Apostle Paul when he writes one letter saying "do as I do" and another claiming that he has a thorn which is always with him. It's fine to have weaknesses, and we should own up to them, but we need not dismiss the diea of the heroic quest and the virtuous life. Life can be lived with more and less virtue, even if we shouldn't be so prideful as to name who is and isn't virtuous per say. Otherwise we're going to stick ourselves in conundrums like 'if you're happy that you did the Lord's Will then you're a prideful sinner", or some similar catch-22. Too annoying.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Fr John Bostwick said...

Yeah, I've found the constant reference on one's own sins to be - ah, distracting at best. It is "true", of course, but it seems to draw attention to the self.Used sparingly, that acknowledgement can be honest and even endearing, but constant reference to one's sinfulness seems artificial and just a formula. BTW Orthodox don't have a corner on this; Catholics can be rather sin-obsessed too - and not in the healthy way.
John

11:40 AM  

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