Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Receiving the Grace of God One Insult at a Time

Dixie has received insults and abuses from outsiders from early on, usually from those of Yankeedom who disapprove of anyone whose life doesn’t conform to their restless, materialistic pattern of overworking, money-getting, and buying the latest fads, not to mention their beliefs of racial superiority.

But this is only to our good, if we Souþrons will accept them without anger but wið meekness (St Matthew 5:5, 11-12), confessing that we are unworthy servants deserving of no good thing (St Luke 17:10; 18:13), worms and not men (Ps. 22:6).  Then these insults will bring forth purification and humility within us, which in turn allows God’s Grace to shine in our hearts, helping us to attain unto salvation:  union with the Most Holy Trinity.

Here is how St John of the Ladder illustrated this truth in his wonderful book of spiritual guidance, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Step 4, chs. 110-1, pgs. 25-6, Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, trans., Harper & Bros., 1959, http://www.carmelitepriory.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/TheLadderofDivineAscent.pdf).

About Saint Acacius

110. I will not be silent about something which it is not right to leave in silence lest I should inhumanly keep to myself what ought to be made known. The famous John the Sabbaite told me things worth hearing. And that he was detached and above all falsehood, and free from words and deeds of evil, you know from your own experience, holy father. This man told me: ‘In my monastery in Asia (for that is where the good man came from) there was a certain elder who was extremely careless and undisciplined. I say this without passing judgment on him, but simply to state the truth. He obtained, I do not know how, a disciple, a youth called Acacius, simple-hearted but prudent in thought. And he endured so much from this elder that to many people it will perhaps seem incredible. For the elder tormented him daily not only with insults and indignities, but even with blows. But his patience was not mere senseless endurance. And so, seeing him daily in wretched plight like the lowest slave, I would ask him when I met him: “What is the matter, Brother Acacius, how are you today?" And he would at once show me a black eye, or a scarred neck or head. But knowing that he was a worker, I would say to him: “Well done, well done; endure and it will be for your good.” Having done nine years with this pitiless elder, he departed to the Lord. Five days after his burial in the cemetery of the fathers, Acacius’s master went to a certain elder living there and said to him: “Father, Brother Acacius is dead.” As soon as the elder heard this he said: “Believe me, elder, I do not believe it.” The other replied: “Come and see.” The elder at once rose and went to the cemetery with the master of the blessed ascetic. And he called as to a living person to him who was truly alive in his falling asleep, and said: “Are you dead, Brother Acacius?" And the good doer of obedience, showing his obedience even after his death, replied to the great elder: “How is it possible, Father, for a man who is a doer of obedience to die ?" Then the elder who had been Acacius’s master became terrified and fell on his face in tears. Afterwards he asked the abbot of the Laura for a cell near the tomb, and lived in it devoutly, always saying to the fathers: “I have committed murder.” And it seemed to me, Father John, that the one who spoke to the dead man was the great John himself. For that blessed soul told me another story as if it were about someone else, when it was really about himself, as I was afterwards able to learn for certain.’

About John the Sabbaite, or Antiochus

111. ‘There was another,’ said John, ‘in the same monastery in Asia who became a disciple of a certain meek, gentle and quiet monk. And seeing that the elder honoured and cared for him, he rightly judged that this would be fatal for many men, and he begged the elder to send him away. (As the elder had another disciple, this would not cause him much inconvenience.) And so he went away, and with a letter from his master he settled in a cenobitic monastery in Pontus. On the first night that he entered this monastery he saw in a dream his account being made out by someone, and after settling that awful account he was left a debtor to the sum of a hundred pounds of gold. When he woke up he began to reflect on what he had seen in his dream and said: “Poor Antiochus” (for this was his name), “you certainly fall far short of your debt!”’ ‘And when,’ he continued, ‘I had lived in this monastery for three years in unquestioning obedience, and was regarded by all with contempt and was insulted as the stranger (for there was no other strange monk there), then again I saw in a dream someone giving me a credit-note for the payment of ten pounds of my debt. And so when I woke up and had thought about my dream, I said: “Still only ten! But when shall I pay the rest?" After that I said to myself: “Poor Antiochus! Still more toil and dishonour for you.” From that time forward I began to pretend to be a blockhead, yet without in any way neglecting the service of all. But when the merciless fathers saw that I willingly served in that same condition, they gave me all the heavy work of the monastery. In such a way of life I spent thirteen years, when in a dream I saw those who had appeared to me before, and they gave me a receipt in complete settlement of my debt. So when the members of the monastery imposed upon me in any way, I remembered my debt and endured it courageously.’ So you see, Father John, that wise John told me this as if it were about another person. And that was why he changed his name to Antiochus. But in actual fact it was he himself who so courageously destroyed the handwriting by his patience and obedience.

May we ever praise God for allowing us to be offended and hated and reviled, for as the Fathers of the Church teach us, this is to our salvation.

Holy St John of the Ladder, pray to God for us sinners at the South!

(For more on St John and on his veneration during Great and Holy Lent, please visit this site:  http://lent.goarch.org/saint_john_climacus/learn/ .)

No comments:

Post a Comment