On Sinful Habits

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

Truly, it is frightening, but also just. It is just for him who abandons God to be abandoned by Him. It is just for him who pushes away the inviting grace of God to be pushed away. It is just for God to turn His face away from them who desert Him and who do not approach Him. St. Gregory of Nyssa notes: “In this manner God’s righteous judgment resembles our dispositions; whatever we have within us, such things justice remits to us from our own things.”

Our haste to return and repent quickly is also dictated by the danger of inability to return to God; an evil habit is capable of rendering us incapable of repentance — which should frighten us immensely. The habit resulting from the continual repitition of sin of a sin becomes a natural state within man and renders itself so powerful that man is no longer able to resist it: its power overcomes even the natural law. Consequently, when habit reigns over us, we submit to it and become its slave. Free will has lost its independance permanently. Man expels his free volition, his will power is proven weak and unable to fight against the habit, and every attempt to regain the lost freedom is in vain. The battle makes this weakness more apparent. The person who has been conquered by habit carries out, acys and executes as a servant, as a subordinate. Self-will has ceased; he carries out orders as instructed. The voice of the inner man is drowned within his sternum. The habit becomes very tortuous, because even though the strength of the passions has dissipated, the habit insists on being remedied by them. Such is habit, such is its power, such is its tyranny. When it rules over us once, then it controls our desires, it regulates our actions, and the reins with which it controls our disposition never part from its hands. Then, everything has been lost; every hope of salvation has vanished; not even one ray of light has remained. Has someone lived in sin? He will also die in sin. Therefore, it is necessary for us to hasten to repentance before sin becomes a habit for us; because then, it is impossible to be saved. (Repentance and Confession trans. by the Fathers of the Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios, NY pp. 11-14)