When the heart is embraced and filled by mercy

An icon of the Good samaritan (detail)

An icon of the Good Samaritan (detail)

BLESSED are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Matthew 5:7.


St Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867) said that at the Last Judgment,

a justification for mercy will be demanded as an active expression of love, and only mercy will deserve mercy, as a manifest proof of love.

He spoke of Mercy presenting her children before the Lord. As we might expect, St Ignatius praised those

who fed their hungry brothers, received strangers into their homes, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned.

Helpfully, he also mentioned those “who had mercy upon their neighbor by refraining from judging him when he stumbled”, and the pastors of the Church, feeding their hungry brothers with God’s word, clothing them in garments of virtue.

But one thing struck me in particular – the idea of gently tending one’s own stubborn heart with mercy.

MERCY will present to Christ also those who were only able to show mercy to themselves,

who visited themselves with self-criticism and freed themselves from the poverty, sickness, and prison of sin through repentance.

Repentance is impossible for the hardened heart: the heart must be softened, filled with sympathy and mercy toward its catastrophic state of sinfulness.

Only when the heart is embraced and filled by mercy can it become capable of repentance.

St Ignatius Brianchaninov. A much fuller text is at Pravoslavie.


GUIDE of wisdom, giver of prudence,
Teacher of the foolish and defender of the poor,
Establish, give understanding to my heart, Master;
Give me a word, Word of the Father;
For see, my lips I shall not restrain from crying to you:
O Merciful, have mercy on the fallen.

Adam’s Lament. Translation from Anastasis.


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