Of the other "conditions of the flesh,"
i.e., sins which have taken deep root in the very nature of man, perhaps the
most dangerous is drunkenness and drug addiction. This sin is very wide-spread
now. Let everyone remember that one must not wait until this ruinous passion
has already developed, but one must guard oneself against it before it
develops, when it is significantly easier. For, no one was born into God's
world already addicted to alcohol or other drugs. We already know how much
easier it is for a person to struggle with the temptation of sin when it has
not yet become, through repetition, a lasting habit. It is better not to drink
at all, from youth on. Youth has much vivacity and sufficient energy without it, and to "warm oneself with vodka" is so unnecessary.
A proverb says, "Give the demon a finger and it will take the whole
hand." Young will is not yet strong but the temptations of drink or
drugs are numerous.
Many are ruined in early years by a special type
of "courage," a type of sportive passion wherein a person wants to
"prove" his strength and steadiness in the use of alcoholic drinks.
Of course, one would show far greater steadiness and strength - real, moral
strength - if he could really control himself and not yield to this evil temptation.
An Orthodox person must, by all measures, draw away from sinful seductions and
remove them from himself, remembering how the apostle warns that bad
associations deprave good morals.
There is another carnal sin which, at first
glance, does not seem as ruinous as drunkenness and depravity, but which is,
nevertheless, extremely dangerous. This is the sin of love of money. The
apostle says literally that "the root of all evils is the love of
money." The first danger for a person who has egoistically acquired
wealth is that this very wealth opens the access to all other seductions of the
world. Moreover, the wealth itself becomes that idol (exactly as the golden
idol) to which man adheres with all his soul and heart, becoming unable to tear
himself away from service to it. We see an example of
this in the Gospel story about the rich young man who could not follow the
Savior because his life was bound to his wealth. In this regard, Christ said, "It
is difficult for a rich man to enter God's kingdom." Thus does wealth
blind a man and make him its slave? This danger threatens everyone who becomes
addicted to "acquiring," to seeking gain and aiming for it.
In order to prevent this vice of loving money from
developing in a person, it is necessary to teach him Orthodox disinterestedness
in his early years. All the works of an Orthodox Christian must be done
disinterestedly or, as the Gospel says it, "for Christ's sake."
As we mentioned earlier, according to Divine truth, the Gospel truth, it is not
the person that saves possessions for himself who acquires, but rather it is
the one who gives to others in the struggle of mercy and concern for neighbors
who makes gains. The one who serves others in the struggle of good not only
shows them Orthodox Christian help, but also benefits his own soul, acquiring
for himself a true treasure - in heaven.
A person who is seeking to lead an Orthodox life
should not be negligent about his health. Health is a valuable gift from God
and should be guarded. It is foolish to assume that a Christian should not seek
to be cured by doctors. Doctors and medicines exist by God's will. We read in
the Scripture that the Lord created certain things for curative use. Orthodoxy,
however, sees in illness the direct consequences of our sinfulness. For this
reason, a believing person begins his treatment first of all with prayer, with
the purification and strengthening of the soul, with the Holy Mysteries. Then
he follows the treatment of the body prescribed by a doctor. We can see this
pattern in the Gospel, where before healing a person from his physical illness,
Christ healed his soul with the forgiveness of sins. To one, the Savior said, "You
have been made well - see that you sin no more so that nothing worse will
happen to you."
While giving attention to his health, an Orthodox
person must not fear death. We are not speaking of the martyr's death for
Christ's sake - which every believer desires with joy, but simply of the end of
our earthly life. True Orthodox Christians in general do not fear death, but
even await it hopefully. Apostle Paul, for example, says directly, "I
desire to die and be with Christ, because it is incomparably better"
(than remaining on earth). In another place he says, "Our home is in
heaven," teaching us that our true native land is there, while on earth,
we are only temporary exiles.
That longed for "Christian end of our
life" is not always without illness, but in any case is "blameless
and peaceful." One prepares for such an end by prayer, contemplation and
partaking of the Holy Mysteries.
A shameful, non-Christian death, on the other
hand, is a terrible thing, e.g., a criminal dying in the middle of a crime,
etc. At this point, we must mention suicide. It is well-known that the Holy Church by its canons, withholds a Christian burial to those who
consciously (without mental impairment) take their own lives. Suicide is a
complete betrayal of the very spirit of Christianity, a refusal to bear one's
cross, a rejection of God and hope on Him. Suicide is a sordid death of the
complete egoist ... One who commits suicide ceases to be a faithful son of the Holy Church, and thus deprives himself of his burial. And how could
the Church bury a suicide according to Her service?
The main thought of this burial service is "Give rest, O Lord, to the soul
of Your servant, for he placed his hope on
You..." But these words will ring with untruth in the case of a suicide.
How could the Holy Church affirm the untruth?
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