On Forgiveness

Abba Sisoes the Great ca. 4th-5th cent.

A brother whom another brother had wronged came to see Abba Sisoes and said to him, ‘My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself.’ The old man pleaded with him saying, ‘No, my child, leave vengeance to God.’ He said to him, ‘I shall not rest until I have avenged myself.’ The old man said, ‘Brother, let us pray.’ Then the old man stood up and said, ‘God, we no longer need you to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves.’ Hearing these words, the brothers fell at the old man’s feet, saying, ‘I will no longer seek justice from my brother; forgive me abba.’ (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. Abba Sisoes 1)

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

Once when I was in the Holy City a prson who loved Christ came to me and said: ‘There had been a small altercation between my brother and me and he will not be reconciled with me. You go speak to him and reason with him.’ I received this commission joyfully. I called the brother and spoke to him of those things which tend to love and peace, and it seemed as though he was coming round to my point of view. At last, he said to me: ‘I cannot be reconciled with him because I swore on the Cross.’ I said to him with a smile: ‘Your oath was equivalent to saying: “Oh Christ, by the honorable Cross, I will not keep your commandments, but I will do the will of your enemy the devil.” We ought not only to put a halt to what we have set in motion, but also (and even more so) to repent and lament for what we have wrongly instigated to our own hurt. As the divinely inspired Basil says: ‘If Herod had repented and not kept his oath, he would not have committed that heinous sin of beheading John the Forerunner of Christ.’ Finally I brought out the opinion of Saint Basil which he took from the Gospel: that when Christ wanted to wash the feet of Saint Peter, although [the Apostle] obstinately refused at first, he afterwards changed his mind. When he heard this, he was reconciled with his brother. (The Spiritual Meadow, 216)