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Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov on True Zeal

October 25, 2010

This is a post from Orthodox Christian on Blogspot. I thought it was so good, I’d share it.

If you want to be a true, zealous son of the Orthodox Church, you can do so by the fulfilment of the commandments of the Gospel in regard to your neighbour. Do not dare to convict him. Do not dare to teach him. Do not dare to condemn or reproach him. To correct your neighbour in this way is not an act of faith, but of foolish zeal, self-opinion and pride. Saint Poemen the Great was asked, ‘What is faith?’ The great man replied that faith consists in remaining in humility and showing mercy; that is to say, in humbling oneself before one’s neighbours and forgiving them all discourtesies and offences, all their sins. As foolish zealots make out that faith is the prime cause of their zeal, let them know that true faith, and consequently also true zeal, must express themselves in humility regarding our neighbours and in mercy towards them. Let us
leave the work of judging and convicting people to those persons on whose shoulders is laid the duty of judging and ruling their brethren. ‘He who is moved by false zeal,’ says Saint Isaac the Syrian, ‘is suffering from a severe illness. O man, you who think to use your zeal against the infirmities of others, you have renounced the health of your own soul! You had better bestow your care on the healing of yourself, and if you want to heal the sick, know that the sick need nursing, rather than reprimand. But you, instead of helping others, cast yourself into the same painful illness. This zeal is not counted among men as a form of wisdom, but is one of the diseases of the soul, and as a sign of narrow-mindedness and extreme arrogance. The beginning of divine wisdom is quietness and meekness, which is the basic state of mind proper to great and strong souls and which bears human weaknesses. Ye that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom. 15:1), says Scripture. And again: Restore a sinner in the spirit of meekness and gentleness (see Gal.6:1). The Apostle counts peace and patience (Gal. 5:22) among the fruits of the Holy Spirit.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Darlene permalink
    October 29, 2010 7:04 am

    Thank you for this reminder. Humility is a virtue that must be desired continually. In my former faith tradition, such a virtue was not emphasized. Now, as an Orthodox Christian, I must examine myself regularly to make sure that it is not my ego, pride, arrogance, sense of self-importance that are motivating me. The Beattitudes show no rewards or accolades for those who take pride in their successes. Rather, we must direct our hearts heavenward, toward the Kingdom that is not of this world keeping our gaze upon Christ our Savior, Whose humility in taking upon flesh consummated our salvation.

    • October 29, 2010 10:44 am

      Great to hear from you again Darlene. I know exactly what you mean about applying the Orthodox prayers, canons, etc to our lives in a spirit of humility. I like your reference to the Beatitudes. They really are the heart of our faith.
      I think that the prayer of St Ephram is the most succinct prayer on this point. I have to admit that sometimes I get caught up in remembering to make prostrations, bow and cross 12 times, etc. If I focus on the deep meaning of that prayer, then the grace of God would brings those words to fruition. I can’t remember which saint said it, but in regards to the postures and such of hesychastic prayer, the saint says that the heart of prayer is more important than any postures, breathing, etc. Such things are for the “advanced” so to speak.
      Thanks again for your comments. I enjoy hearing from you.

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