“Forgive and you will be forgiven … here is a short cut to salvation”

Therefore, I pray you, let us flee this wicked and unpardonable sin (of remembrance of wrong). And if you want to learn that the darkening from the remembrance of wrong is worse than any other, then listen. Every other sin takes a brief while to commit and is soon over, as when someone commits fornication, and afterwards remembers the enormity of this sin and comes to consciousness of it; but remembrance of wrong has a passion that never ceases to burn. … Where remembrance of wrong has taken root, nothing is of any avail; not fasting, or prayer, or tears, or confession, or supplication, or virginity, or alms, or any other good thing. For remembrance of wrong towards our brother destroys everything.

I often hear people saying, ‘Alas, how shall I be saved? I haven’t the strength to fast, I don’t know how to keep vigil, I can’t live in virginity, I couldn’t bear to leave the world—so how can I be saved?’ How? I will tell you how. Forgive and you will be forgiven … here is a short cut to salvation. And I will show you another, what is that? Judge not, it says, and you will not be judged. So here is another path without fasting 0r vigil or labor. … He who judges before Christ’s coming is Antichrist, because he abrogates the position that belongs to Christ.

St Anastasios of Sinai

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22 Responses to “Forgive and you will be forgiven … here is a short cut to salvation”

  1. Grant says:

    I love this, and think it is something that is the heart of salvation (and I do sympathize with the fasting despair, as someone new moving towards Orthodoxy the fasting guides look daunting, and I’m assuming the saint is referring to monastic rules which are even more so 😉)

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  2. Bilbo says:

    Ouch! Judging someone means I’m being an anti-Christ. Yikes!

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  3. brian says:

    Julian of Norwich writes about the “higher” and “lower” doom. The former is reserved to Christ, whose eschatological naming will heal, reverse much, surprise. The latter is the necessary kinds of judgment the Church — and anyone trying to negotiate social life, really — simply has to make.

    The important thing to remember is the blindness in which we make our pragmatic judgements and that the ultimate reality is rooted in a Mysterious Love, stronger than sin and death. My rule of thumb is to keep mercy and humor near at hand. Strident moralism is not the Gospel.

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  4. John says:

    …heartbreakingly true ….

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  5. Thank you for sharing Fr. Kimel! Truly enjoyed this quote by St. Anastasios of Sinai! I also learned a little bit about his life as well. Thank you again!

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  6. I’ve long wanted to write a book on this absolute misreading of the scriptures.

    We were all Orthodox until the council at Florence 1272.. (Nothing happened in 1055, which is why Emperor Alexis could be buddy-buddy with the Crusaders in 1096–to which no eastern clergyman objected.)

    God can forgive a person when and only when she repents and makes restitution.

    From early on until Vatican II, this is why priests gave out “penances” after absolution. Because if one cannot make restitution for some reason, then one must make some EQUIVALENT sacrifice as a substituted. In the middle ages, penances thus could be very severe, and they were not merely pro-forma as they were in the USA in the 1950s.

    Thousands and thousands of “penitentials”– books for priests suggesting proper penances–were published. Some have been republished by historians. A few have even been translated. Everyone should read one or two before speaking in total ignorance about Christian tradition.

    Similarly, we also should not forget that a person committed a sin. We must always remember that until that person repents and makes restitution. Until then, we have no assurance she will not do it again. Christianity is not a suicide pact.

    What Jesus was talking about in sicut et nos demittimus debitoribus nostris by the word “debts” was a failure to forgive AFTER we have proof a person has repented and won’t do it again.

    Modern Non-Christians (say 85% of Americans) believe one must not be “judgmental” because there is no right and no wrong. Folk claiming to teach Christian principles should not encourage them in that belief, which will lead to their damnation. God is love AND God is Justice. See Matthew on the Last Judgement.

    If we wish to be saved we also must be first be Just because Justice IS love. Justice means giving everyone what he has a right (jus in Latin). Because we love, everyone that sins has a right to be treated justly (through, in serious cases, a just trial in court.). Only after she repents and makes restitution, does she have a right to be forgiven. Never, never, before
    repentance. Because we love the sinner, we do not wish to see him damned for all eternity, and we encourage him to repent and make restitution.,.

    Preachers constantly use the word “forgive” without defining it and putting it into context. Assume that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews. Assume that they did so one by one rather than in batches. Those preachers would of course “forgive” them after each death. The would say “I forgive you; kill another” six million times.

    Jan Rogozinski
    rogozinski.us

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    • jrj1701 says:

      Jan Rogozinski where is the justice in the prodigal son or those who came to work at the eleventh hour? I am sorry yet I cannot accept your view, for it diminishes what God did on the cross. Repentance and to what degree ain’t for us to decide or discern, that is the sole providence of God, we are called to forgive, and those that have been through the horrors of life know that to not forgive condemns us to a form of hell here. God will make all things right, God will heal all brokenness, yet we must participate by forgiving those as we wish to be forgiven, we must shun judgement of others and consider our own sins, for we will not be judged by Christ for what others did to us, yet what we did to them. Did we turn the other cheek, did we repay evil for evil, did we deny help and comfort to others because they were bad in our sinful eyes. Lord have mercy on this worthless sinner.

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      • Those that came to work at the 11th hour. The standard interpretation of that (the glossa ordinaria) has always been that it refers to those that become convinced Christians later in life. Or to those that REPENT AND MAKE RESTITUION later in life. It most definitely does not imply that their sins are forgiven without repentance and restitution.

        Regarding the Prodigal Son. Again the orthodox interpretation is that that there is can be no forgiveness without repentance and restitution. The PS most definitely does repent, bows down before his father, and offers to make restitution by working without pay with his fathers servants .

        The Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church always have taught that private interpretations of the “Bible” are dangerous. Thus they also teach that one ought to read edifying books. Or hear them read, as monks do at lunch. Indeed, some have argued that reading the Holy Fathers is a form of repentance. Certainly reading them will lead to repentance.

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        • jrj1701 says:

          Jan Rogozinski you twist my comment to suit your agenda, I have not denied the need for repentance, yet I question your interpretation and motives, especially when it is contrary to what a respected saint taught. We are commanded to forgive as we wish to be forgiven, we are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we are commanded to not judge lest we be judged. Put plainly, we are to worry about the plank in our eye before helping remove the mote in others eyes. I cannot worry about your level of repentance, for I can not repent for you, yet your words gives my sinful soul excuse not to forgive others as I was commanded to do by Christ for the healing of my sick soul. I am not privately interpreting scripture, I am saying that YOUR words are not as I have been taught.

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  7. Additional thoughts on the theologically empty and even blasphemous concept of “forgiveness.” Those that go on about “fogginess” pretend that all sin are trivial and do no harm. But human sins cause LIFE LONG physical and psychological pain, starvation, homelessness, and death. Indeed, the orthodox teaching has always been that God does no evil. All evil is caused by the sins of human beings.

    Pope Francis and the synod fathers on marriage got it right in the statement of the synod on the family: “The truth is incarnated in human fragility, not to condemn it, but to cure it.” That has been the orthodox view for 2,000 hears. But one does not cure sinfulness by pretending it does not exist.

    A few examples:

    (1) Many mothers and sometimes also fathers as well physically and mentally abuse their children. The psychological damage lasts throughout the children’s LIFETIMES. (The synod on the Family rightly spent many more words on the sins of parents than it devoted to homosexuality and divorce. But American are obsessed with the latter.)

    (2) Bush and his advisors lied about “weapons of mass destruction” to gain support for unneeded, illegal, and unjust aggression against Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destroyed that country. The cruelty and arrogance of American smolders and Shiite government caused some Sunni to join Fundamentalist sects, such as ISIS. The latter has finished driving Christianity from the Middle East.

    Bush’s lies and unjust war invasion are the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths, the LIFE-LONG suffering of orphans, the destruction of livelihoods, and the extinction of Christianity. (There were two million Christians in Iraq before the Bush invasion.)

    Bush has never said he is sorry for his crimes against humanity and against God. (Lying is sin. Launching unjust wars is a sin.) Obama has never apologized to the Iraqi people either. Let alone made restitiution.

    How does one make restation for killing hundreds of thousands? Hundreds of billions of dollars would not be enough. Every American should fast on bread and water for the rest of her life. But even that would not be sufficient for forgiveness.

    (3) Thirty years, the laziness and sloppiness of Union Carbide managers caused an explosion at Bhopal, India. As many as 30,000 did, leaving behind orphaned babies and children, who face LIFE-LONG suffering. UCC executives (and those of the successor company) have never even apologized. Indeed, because of their fanatical greed, they have fought in court for 30 years to avoid paying compensation. (Up to now, for example, children and teens blinded for their entire LIFETIME have received $1,000.)

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jan, one could multiply the evils and horrors of this world a billionfold and still only touch the surface. My question is, why do you believe that forgiveness has anything to do with ignoring sin or pretending that it is not sin. It’s unclear to me whom you are arguing against.

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      • jan Rogozinski says:

        I am surprised that you don’t understand the problem. It is certain that when one says everyone on earth should instantly “forgive” all and every unrepentant sinner, who are determined to keep repeating their sins, one clearly is saying that no one sins.)

        The question is: how is it that in 2014 notional Christians insist that no one ever sins. (This is a radical change. Before Vatican II, most Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox–all taught that human persons are sinners. (With the exception of the saints, who are called “saints” precisely because they are sinless.) Until well in the century before this one, even the Episcopalian denomination taught that human being are capable of sinning .

        I am sure there are many reasons. (1) One is that the “no one ever sins” crowd has the following fear: “If I admit that someone who murders is a sinner, then I will have to admit that all men are capable of sin–including me.” Jesus gave us an absolute command to judge everyone we encounter. And he commanded us to judge everyone, including ourselves, by a consistent standard. The “no sin” crowd fears
        precisely that–that Christ and Christians will judge them by a consistent standard.

        In his parables of the slaves entrusted with money, Jesus tells us the Master tortures and kills the bad slave, who thereafter burns in Hell, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The meaning of the parable is that the Master is God, who savagely tortures sinners, judged by a consistent standard.

        (2) Perhaps others no-sinners may believe that the opposite of “forgiveness” ALWAYS is anger or hatred. Which is ridiculous. Some folk (see section 5 below) never forgive because they are haters. But this is not true of all. For some of us, the opposite of “forgiveness” is love. As Saint Augustine said, we hate her sin because we love the sinner.

        (3) Whoever wrote the gospel attributed to Saint Jan the Divine was a Stoic, and his Jesus thus is emotionless, as a Stoic Wise Man should be. Certainly, he never expresses anger or hatred.

        But he does not remain emotionless at the end of his life. Jesus loves Lazarus. When he hears of his death, he is very, very sad. When Judas betrays him, Jesus is sad. And when he prays at Gethsamane, Jesus again is sad. (After that, he ceases being sad and becomes triumphant.) When a teacher’s students fail to understand the teacher’s message, it is appropriate for the teacher to be sad.

        (4) So also am I intensely sad that most Americans glory in Bush’s slaughter of hundred of thousands of totally innocent Iraqi men, women, and children. And when they also praise Obama for murdering innocent Afghani, Iraqi, and Syrian civilians by dropping bombs which cannot be precisely targeted. (Christians have always taught that wars may be just. But they also always have taught that no war is just when civilian non-combatants are murdered. Similarly because they bombed residential areas in cities, World War II also was an unjust and sinful war on the part of the US and its allies. One must pray that Americans who fought in WW II repented of doing so and did penance before they died.)

        No one should forgive Bush until he repents. No one should forgive Obama until he stops bombing ISIL. Everyone should be sad at these crimes against humanity. And everyone also should be sad that Christians still have not understood the teachings of their Master.

        (5) At the same time, one notices that the “no-sin” crowd are hypocrites and liars. They never tell the relatives of the so-called “9-11″ incident–13 years ago–to forgive and stop hating the guys on the planes.

        Even worse, they never tell the Jews to forgive the Nazis and to forget about the crimes they committed 70 years ago. They never tell American Negroes to forgive and shut up about the folk that brought their ancestors from Africa more than 200 years ago.!! (An especially obligatory act of forgiveness because Christians never have been opposed to slavery per se. Russian Orthodox monks owned Polish slaves until 1863!)

        And they never tell Negroes to stop hating, shut up, and stop harassing someone because she used the word “Nigger” in a private conversation thirty years ago.

        Right now, as I write, Negroes in Ferguson, Missouri, are preparing to commit violent acts of hatred if a policeman is found innocent by a legally-constituted jury of his peers. (Despite the US Constitution saying that every one is innocent until convicted by a jury.)

        The Ferguson Negroes are ready to riot because of their NEVER-FORGIVING hatred of Whites. And Obama and other Democrats that pretend to be Christians–some of whom even claim they are clerics–stir up their hatred and praise and stoke their failure to forgive. Instead of telling them to love their White neighbors as they love themselves.

        But, as Saint Paul said, the wages of sin is death. In the recent election, fewer than 20% of White voters in many states voted for Democrats. Given any other choice, who will vote for persons that will NEVER forgive what one’s ancestors did two centuries ago?

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        • brian says:

          Sir,

          You appear to be very confused on a number of issues. It would be a quagmire to engage you on your particular interpretations of historical events. If you are claiming that John’s Gospel is Stoic, you are not on credible theological ground.

          On the fundamental issue: I think you are mistaken. No one is arguing for cheap grace or instant forgiveness. Do you understand the difference between an eschatological hope and present circumstances?

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        • jrj1701 says:

          jan Rogozinski, I have problems with what you say, and I question by whose authority you speak.
          You say:

          I am surprised that you don’t understand the problem. It is certain that when one says everyone on earth should instantly “forgive” all and every unrepentant sinner, who are determined to keep repeating their sins, one clearly is saying that no one sins.

          That to me is an excuse to continue in the wisdom of this world and deny the wisdom and actions of Jesus Christ and the martyrs. Christ did not say from the cross, “Forgive them if they repent.” Jesus Christ said:

          “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

          Saint Stephen did not go to his death cursing those who stoned him, he said:

          “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

          Forgiveness does not erase the sin, it makes it possible for there to be healing from the sin.

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      • jan814 says:

        You ask why I care that everyone insists there is no sin, no need for anyone to repent, and no need for restitution. In part because someone has to tell the truth about the Gospels. and the Christian tradition. In part, because I have made great efforts and made even greater sacrifices in order not to sin.

        America is the most competitive society that has ever existed. Anyone playing fair instead of viciously will starve to death. Which is, no doubt, one reason why Europeans welfare systems are so generous. Although few are Christians today, they were Catholic for 1000 years or more. So they still instinctually realize that some poor folk are poor because they are not cut-throat competitors and thus, far more so than monks and nuns, belong to the deserving poor worthy of charity.

        Thus, it would be happiness-making if there were in this world others trying, like myself, to eschew sin. Those that say there never is a need to repent obviously do not think there is any need to avoid sin. The best way to put it is that I am lonely (as well as saddened by the no-sin folk). You and others that say there is no sin are a great crowd. Those trying to avoid sin are so very few.

        In the One-Great-Church lectionary, yesterday was Matthew 25:14-30. Which immediately precedes the more famous “sheep and goats” Last Judgement parable, where Jesus Christ tells us that we each and every one of us will be judged on our works.

        Matthew 25:14-30 says exactly the same thing as the Last Judgement story. Which is as follows. Those that do evil will, of course, go to Hell. (Unless they repent and do penance.) But not doing evil is not enough to go to Heaven. To go to Heaven, one must take affirmative action, one must do Good. One must not bury his God-given talents and skills in the sand. Sanctitas vero in operibus justitiae contast: We are saved by works alone and not by faith.

        So you do not do either yourself or anyone else a favor by insisting that, because there is no god and no evil, we must never judge our selves or others. By doing so, you are damning yourself and others. Moreover, this is 2014 and not 1014. Thus I concede it may be that there is no God. But the world still would be a better place if there were others, besides myself, who beleive that one should try to do Good, instead of merely seeing how much she can consume. And one cannot do Good without first judging which actions are good and which are evil. (And, unlike the Jews and Muslims (who are Reformed Jews), one cannot simply go down a list. Christians MUST JUDGE which actions are appropriate and which are not appropriate.

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        • jrj1701 says:

          jan814 I have not seen Father Kimel proclaim that there is no sin, nor have I seen him proclaim that there is no need for repentance, yet he has faithfully conveyed the commandments of Jesus Christ and has honestly presented his questions about universal salvation. I have in comments to another/same person expressed my problems with your/their statements. By declaring that we must judge other sinners is wrong, by saying that forgiveness erases the sin is wrong. Forgiveness is necessary for the healing of our broken nature, if we refuse to forgive we only hurt ourselves and deny ourselves the necessary healing. Your statement places an unnecessary burden upon the backs of us sinners that are not capable of knowing the extent and motivation of another’s sin, that is the providence of Jesus Christ. You sir are not Jesus Christ.

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          • brian says:

            jrj1701:

            Yan changed his user name, but I don’t think there’s any intent to present himself as a different person. There is such a melange involved in the various assertions he makes, it is really impossible to answer properly. His reading comprehension is not great and his own articulation is confused and somewhat confusing. Just pray for him and let it go.

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    • brian says:

      Mr. Rogozinski,

      Political diatribes aside, you seem to see into men’s hearts pretty easily.
      Why not let God heal and act in His own name?

      Ever read the Brothers Karamazov? You should look it over. In particular, notice the difference between Father Ferrapont and Father Zosima and the story of the old women in hell whose only good deed was to once give an onion to a beggar.

      An angel comes and tries to pull the old woman out of hell with the onion, her one act of charity. Others in hell try to catch on to her and get pulled out of the inferno as well. She stubbornly refuses them. “It’s mine, it’s mine,” she says, as she tumbles back into hell.

      The person understood by the light of the Gospel is not the same as the modern individual. Notions of guilt and recompense are difficult, because we are all implicated in culture, language, history. Further, the past is not closed, but open eschatologically.

      I submit the Holy Spirit is more inventive and charitable than you imagine.
      The scandal of the Gospel is that it will provoke our own “rational” standards, even if those standards are derived from a particular reading of Scripture. The elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example of someone whose model of justice was deeply inadequate.

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  8. jan Rogozinski says:

    Dear Brian,

    Read your comment. Then tell me it isn’t–objectively speaking–infuriatingly smug and smarmy.

    However, I am not infuriated, and I forgive you. However, you might consider why you are so sure you know more than the Gospels and Epistles, the Fathers and Mothers of the church, and the moral pastoral theology of all major Christian denominations before Vatican II. Why also you instead rely on 19th century novelists–in this case a novelist considered of dubious orthodoxy by the Russian Orthodox bishops of his own time.

    Not that the Russian Orthodox bishops in 2014 are themselves orthodox, which is why one should become familiar with the entire 2000 year old Christian tradition. As Saint Vincent of Lerins said, what is orthodox and catholic is what has been taught semper, ubique, et ab initio. That one is obliged to tolerate all sins and instead do nothing to help those suffering from sin is a very recent invention by 19th century novelists .

    Why should I need to defend the fact that I am saddened by cruelty, savagery, starvation, and brutality. An old Polish saying: All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to stay silent.

    Of course, men, women, children, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, workers, owners, physicians, teachers, priests, monks. ministers, physicians, stock brokers, and especially lawyers, etc. all sin throughout their everyday lives.as well as by their acquiescence in the sins of their rulers. However, I didn’t want to get personal, so I pointed to monstrous crimes that everyone knows about but sinfully does nothing to stop or prevent.

    I must say, by the way, that my Polish cousins are undoubtedly the most forgiving folk on earth. As everyone knows, the western third of the Ukraine was part of Poland until Stalin stole it in 1939. (since, as everyone also knows, the Russians and the Nazi Germans were allies during World War II.) Yet the Polish governments since they were freed from Russian tyranny in 1986 have made no move to get it back. Compare their holy forgiveness to, for example, the Serbian lust for territory in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

    Nevertheless, despite their reputation for forgiveness, they did not suppinely surrender to the Nazi/Russian aggessor in 1939 as the French did. The distinction explains what forgiveness means. It means one does not go to war to recreate past glories. But one does fight when threatened by evil. Or when one’s neighbors are threatened by evil. I do not see why you do not see this distinction.

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    • brian says:

      Well, I have no control over your subjective perceptions.

      Again, I think you are basically confused. No one here, so far as I can tell, is arguing for craven behavior before evil. Go look at my original post that cites Julian of Norwich and her talk of a higher and lower doom. The lower doom means in this world one must legitimately fight evil and exclude in ways that are penultimate.

      I’m half Polish myself. I could quote you some Czeslaw Milosz, but you appear to dislike literary allusions.

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