Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Wisdom of John of Sinai: The Two Paths

How fortunate that we should get a double dose of John of Sinai this week. On the Sunday of St. John of Sinai, the post focused on struggle, working out our salvation, pursuing God in love, and entering through the narrow door. It is with special regard for this last image that I select the passages below.

John begins his great spiritual work by dividing Christianity into two kinds of servants:

His true servants are all those who have done and are doing His will without hesitation or pause. His useless servants are those who think of themselves as having been worthy of the gift of baptism, but have not at all guarded their covenant with Him.

This indictment of nominal Christians (to borrow a modern term) becomes even more acute when we consider precisely what true service to God looks like in John's reckoning. Certainly, the image will seem like the extreme of acesis to us, but at the same time it would be dishonest if we tried to deny that this describes not only the life of Christ but also of the overwhelming majority of Christians saints from whom we draw inspiration.

We should be careful in case it should happen to us that while talking of journeying along the narrow and hard road we may actually wander onto the broad and wide highway.

Mortification of the appetite, nightlong toil, a ration of water, a short measure of bread, the bitter cup of dishonor--these will show you the narrow way. Derided, mocked, jeered, you must accept the denial of your will. You must patiently endure opposition, suffer neglect without complaint, put up with violent arrogance. You must be ready for injustice, and not grieve when you are slandered; you must not be angered by contempt and you must show humility when you have been condemned. Happy are those who follow this road and avoid other highways. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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