St Isaac of Constantinople – God’s infinite mercy
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember Saint Isaac of Dalmatian Monastery in Constantinople, may the holy saint pray for us!
The price of sin is death (Romans 1:28-2:9 and Ezekiel 18:20-23).
Sin weighs on us daily, and the burden is heavy, and it gets heavier the more we fall. And yet, we should not fall into desolation, for desolation is one of the weapons the evil one will use against us (the other being pride).
God is patient, and His love is infinite. He does not want us to fall into sin, nor does He delight in our falls or our deaths. There is a story told to us by St Germanos of Constantinople (found in the book “Return: Repentance and Confession, Return to God and to His Church” by Archimandrite Nektarios Antonopoulos):
There was once a Christian who was overcome by the demon of fornication, and sinned this way every day. And yet, every day he would confessed his sin with tears in church, “Lord have mercy on me and take this temptation from me, because I am overcome by sensual pleasure and there is no person in whose face I am capable of seeing Your pure image and of taking joy in Your most sweet countenance.” He would leave church and then fell into sin again. However, he did not despair, but would confess his sins with repentance in church again, and again, for around 10 years. God, in His infinite love and patience, did not give up on this Christian. God waited.
One day, this Christian sinned yet again, and ran back to church, fell on his knees, and sighing from his heart, cried out loud, asked God to take pity on him and help him from sinning again. The evil one saw that the man’s repentance was defeating him, appeared in form to this Christian, and shouted, “Why do You pursue me, Jesus, Son of God? Your infinite compassion defeats me. Why do you accept this impure fornicator who lies to You and spurns You every day? Why don’t You just reduce him to ashes with a flash instead of showering him with forgiveness? You are not just, because You overlook man’s faults. As for me, You cast me down from Heaven and did not pity me at all.”
A voice boomed from the altar, “You evil and destructive one, your pride that consumes you to want to swallow up the whole world, and yet you cannot leave this man who asked for my forgiveness. Can you show me his sins that would equal to the blood I shed for the salvation of sinners? My sacrifice and death atoned for his sins. When he came to you with his sins why were you gleeful? And I, who am merciful and good, and commanded my Apostle Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven a day, or four hundred and ninety times, that is without measure, why should I not forgive this man? In my kindness I do not turn anyone away, even if that person comes to me countless times a day and then leaves me again; for I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
The evil one stood trembling and rooted to the spot. Then the voice again said, “You deceiver and enemy of Truth, of what you accused me of, I am indeed just, as I find man so I shall judge him. And since he humbled himself before me in repentance, confessing his sins asking of my mercy, I will take his soul now and I will give him a crown of a saint, for he endured for so many years trusting in my goodness and did not despair of his salvation.”
The Christian prostrated on the floor of the church before the icon of Christ crying with repentance, and died. A cloud of holy angels appeared and received the soul of the man with glory and joy, and brought him to the place of rest. Then the wrath of God fell upon the devil like flames.
The price of sin is death, and yet, God does not punish us with death. He intends life for us, eternal life. When we pray the Psalms (Psalm 6:1-5 and other penitential Psalms), we are returning to God every time we fall into sin. We know and have faith in that God does not forsake us. We call His Holy Name, as we rely on His infinite mercy and love, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Matthew 5:27-32