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Other Carnal Problems; Christian Death

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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