Absolute sympathy

BE ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

1 Peter 3:8-12

**

Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

GOD’S will and good-pleasure is that each man should not simply be saved, but that he should enter into the perfection of knowledge, that is, divinization, which is the absolute will of God, for which God the Word visited [us]. “That every man be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

If this is the will of God, then, think how great our effort in terms of sympathy should be, and our persistence in achieving this goal, by the grace of God, both for ourselves, and also in spreading it to our fellow men too, in whatever circumstances and situations may arise.

This is the absolute sympathy that ought to be found in our souls, even though we may be exasperated by the attitude of our fellow men towards us.

At the least, in such cases, if this happens, it ought to be transient, momentary, expressed only with the lips, because our fellow man, who has this attitude, has momentarily fallen into an error. What do you expect from a man labouring in error?

The goal is for this man who is labouring in error to return to base and become once again one of Christ’s flock.

This will happen if the man* establishes, as his base, sympathy and self-sacrifice for his brother’s sake. Then God, seeing this purpose, co-operates even in the impossible.

Elder Joseph Vatopaidinos, Ἡ συμπάθεια πρὸς τὸν πλησίον (Μνήμη Ἁγίου Ἀβραμίου) in Διδαχές από τον Άθωνα. This is my inexpert translation.

* The first man, presumably; the one who is feeling the frustration.

**

NOR is love for God
found among us now. Christ’s compassion
is not found among us now. Nor is sympathy for his members
found among us. But we are all
savage, untamed and quite unable
to endure one another. Hour by hour our tongues
are fiery darts directed against one another. […]

May we not be separated from him, the sweet Master,
who loved us and gave himself
for us on the Cross. I, unworthy
and a sinner, beg you all
and implore you all, in your prayer
and pure supplication, pour out tears
also for me, the slacker, that I may feel compunction
and weep with you; that my blind heart
may be a little enlightened
and that I may seek God, the holy Saviour,
so that he grant me perfect zeal
to repent with speed, until there is time
for my tears to be accepted, and with you, my brethren,
I too, though unworthy of life, shall be saved.

St Ephrem the Syrian, “Sermon on the Fathers who have Completed their Course”. Translation by Fr Ephrem Lash, at Anastasis.

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