How to Live and Rise after a Fall: Two Options

Spiritual advice from Archbishop Jacob (Smakouz).
Pravmir.com team | 27 November 2019

A mental and bodily fall into sin, like a usual, physical fall, can be different. Someone just fell by negligence, like accidentally slipping on ice. Someone had been warned about the danger, and he paid no attention to anyone. Someone fell, deliberately and brazenly breaking all the rules of spiritual life, and his fall is great, like a plane crash or the fall of the apocalyptic “bright star from heaven” (Rev. 8:10)… We can see many examples: from Metropolitan Philaret’s terrible fall into a schism to our everyday personal sins and mistakes in thoughts and deeds. Interestingly, the distinction between “sin” and “mistake” can be found in liturgical texts. For example, in a praying litany: “For pardon and forgiveness of our sins and offences (τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν καὶ τῶν πλημμελημάτων ἡμῶν) let us ask of the Lord.” Offence is “error”, “misconduct”, “mistake”, from Greek literally: “singing out of tune.” Indeed, we quickly repent of some sins, get up easier, and after other sins, healing is a longer and more complex process. Especially if one has no experience of repentance, if due to one’s pride or false shyness one does not wish to turn to the Heavenly Doctor and His earthly assistant, who like a paramedic can provide first aid: to the canonical kind priest.

While pushing us to fall, the Devil often inspires the thought that the sin that he, the enemy, proposes to commit is insignificant and God will quickly forgive us. And after committing it he will impose another thought, the opposite one: this sin is very terrible and it is impossible to beg God, that He will never forgive this fall… It is very important for a Christian not to communicate with the seducer, the constant deceiver, not to listen to him, not to fall into despondency and despair, not to destroy yourself completely.

How to live after the fall? There are two options that are described by the monastic “Ancient Paterikon”. With repentant tears, you can constantly pray to God for forgiveness and remember the fall, so as not to fall into that sin again. Or you can joyously thank the Creator that He forgave the sin and helped to stand up, that He did not punish, but had mercy. Both ways are equally saving, and each penitent should choose his own or combine them.

The Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son is a prime example of our steps after any fall. Repentance consists of realizing the distressfulness of the situation, returning home (to the Church) and confessing one’s sins to the Heavenly Father (“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in Thy sight” (see: Luke 15:21)). We should honestly recognize the distressfulness of our situation as soon as possible, firmly decide that we should get out of the sinful pit, wash ourselves from the “dirt” in the Sacrament of Penance and go (or rather, run away with all our might) back to our royal house, to our Church, to the Heavenly Father. This first step is very important, and you cannot do anything without it. The Divine help is required here. It is necessary, like the Apostle Paul, to diligently “shout” in prayer to God the words of the spiritual SOS: “Lord, save me, for I perish!” (Matt. 14:30).

In the Sacrament of Confession, the penitent has an amazing chance to start his life from scratch, having been born again. When the head of the penitent is covered with the orarion, the sinner dies with all his sins and falls. And when the orarion is removed after reading the prayer, when he rises from his knees, raises his head bent over the Cross and the Gospel, then he is spiritually reborn, healed and becomes spiritually pure like a baby. He has again joined the Church of Christ, from which he had fallen away upon sin, had broken off like a dry branch from a tree trunk. It is no accident that repentance is referred to as the “second baptism” in the Church. In his repentance, the sinner who “was dead is alive again” (Luke 15:24). The main thing after this is to try to no longer repeat the one-time sin, to not become like a washed animal, which rolls with pleasure in the mud again. And for this it is necessary to avoid those places where it is easy to fall, to keep a safe distance from those who can push you into sin. A vivid example is the former fornicatress, who became a great saint and an example of repentance for us: Mary of Egypt. Unfortunately, we do not see that saving repentance, a change of mind and life among those who have left us and our Church for schisms and have “given birth” to their own kind. As they began with the seizure of our churches in the early 1990s, so they continue the same “song” of their own today, only under the sly cover of “canonicity”. But where there is no true repentance, there is no its graceful benefits of peace and joy. Where there is no Gospel love, there is no Christ, and there is no His Divine truth…

Christ the Savior always sets us on our “feet”; the grace of the Holy Spirit heals our weaknesses. Repentant tears become a healing “balm” for the soul. And virtue, the opposite of our sin, is the most powerful cure for a sinful disease. Humility in spiritual life, true obedience to Christ and His Church can be called “preventive” means that increase our spiritual “immunity” and keep us from falling in the future.

 

Translated by Alyona Malafeeva

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