On Why Sin Reigns in the World Today

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

[I]n truth, the entire reason for the perdition of sinners today and the entire reason why sin and the devil have waxed so much in our day, to the point that they reign in the world, is none other than we. For although we see our brothers and sisters sinning openly and committing so many vices, we are not all sedulous to go and correct them, at times with fraternal advice and at times with words of reproof; no, every one of us puts forward a different excuse, and all of us remain silent and leave each person to do those evils that he wishes and desires. This is confirmed by St. John the Golden-Tongued, who says:

“Therefore, let us not say these things, but let us display proper solicitude for our brethren. This I promise with all exactitude, and I guarantee you all, that if all of you who are present here desire to procure the salvation of all who inhabit this city, we will speedily put the entire city right… Let us, then, effect the the salvation of our brothers and sisters. One man, inflamed with zeal, is sufficient to set an entire city aright. Yet when not one, or two, or three, but so great a multitude is capable of taking in hand the correction of the careless, it is from no other source than our own laziness, and not our weakness, that the majority are persishing and falling. For how is it not absurd if, seeing a dispute in the marketplace, we intervene to reconcile the disputants or — not to mention disputes — seeing a donkey that has fallen, we hasten to lend a hand and help raise it up, yet we neglect brothers and sisters who are perishing?” (Homily 1 On the Statues)

Thus, whichever of you Christians, knowing his brother is sinning or is going to sin, and does not either go in person to offer him fraternal counsel so as deter him from sinning or, failing that, disclose it discreetly to his hierarch, priest, or spiritual father, so that he might counsel him and hinder him from sinning, but keeps silent, let such a person know that he likewise has the same sin and is liable to the same penitential disciline. For, though he was able to impede his brother from sin and death, he kept silent and, by his silence, allowed him to die and go to perdition, according to that much-vaunted maxim, which says: “He who is able to prevent it and fails to do so is the one that is doing it.”

Thus, St. Basil the Great, in his Seventy-first Canon penalizes for as many years as he penalizes the fornicator, the adulterer, and the murderer also those who know that they are sinning and do not report it to hierarch or spiritual father, so that they might correct them, but remain silent. (Ralles and Potles, Syntagma, Vol. iv, pp. 230-231) Elsewhere, the same Father says: “To collaborate in concelaing a sin is to contribute to causing the death [of the sinner].” (cf. Long Rules, Resp. 46) And again: “If the sting of death is sin (1 Cor. 15:56)…the heartless person is he who leaves poison in one who has been bitten… is heartless, not he who removes it” (Short Rules, Resp. 4). (Christian Morality: Discourse XI)

 

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