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  • Fr. Athanasius Oweis

A Beautiful Story by St. John Climacus - Sunday of All Saints - June 19th 2022

MATTHEW 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30

The Lord said to his disciples, "Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first."

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.

A Story by St. John Climacus

I would like to share with your love a short story that St. John Climacus experienced in one of the monasteries in the Sinai desert.

There was a man by the name of Isidore, a magistrate, from Alexandria, who had of late given up the world at a monastery where a holy pastor was the Abbott. That all-holy pastor, after taking him in, discovered he was replete with wickedness, cruelty and a cunning, savage and proud disposition. However with human skillfulness, that very wise man, came up with a way to trick the wiles of the demons. And he said to Isidore, "If you desire to put on the yoke of Christ, then I desire first that you learn obedience." Isidore answered, "As iron is to the blacksmith, so I yield my will to you, holy father." The excellent father, using this comparison, immediately gave an iron labor to Isidore, saying, "I would like you, fleshly brother, to stand by the monastery gate, and to bow before each person entering and exiting, and to say, "Pray on my behalf, father; I am paralyzed." And as an angel is obedient to the Lord so he obeyed. After spending seven years at this task, he acquired profound humbleness and remorse. After a hard seven years and great patience, the most excellent father considered him honorable enough to be one of the brothers and he desired to affirm him by having him ordained. However Isidore through others, and at my own humble intersession, pleaded with the pastor numerous times to permit him to complete his mode of life, implying that his end and summoning were near. And this was indeed the case. For ten days after his spiritual director allowed him to continue in his low estate, he went honorably to the Lord.

While he was alive, I questioned the great Isidore about what he had meditated on when he was at the gate. The well-known ascetic did not keep it secret from me, desiring to aid me. "At the start", he said, "I reckoned that I had been sold as a slave for my sins, so it was with resentment and great toil, and as one might say with blood, that I made each prostration. But when a year had gone by, I stopped feeling grief in my heart and I waited for a wage for my servitude to God. However when a further year had finished, I started to be very much aware of my unworthiness, even to be in the monastery, and to be in contact with the fathers, and to participate in the Divine Mysteries. And so I did not even attempt to look upon anyone's face, but I stooped low with my eyes, and even lower with my thoughts. With sincerity I begged for the prayers of those that entered and exited.

Moral of the Story

We can learn three lessons from this story:


Whenever we think of Saints we think very highly of them as if they have never sinned, or never been angry, or never had any type of temptations. We don’t think of them as humans. And this is a trick from the devil who wants to tell us that you are too far from them and you will never become so you might as well stop. This is a big lie from the evil one. In fact, Saints were people who were under the same temptations if not more, the book of the Philokalia is filled with the temptations that the saints went through, and many times succumbed to, but they continued struggling and became experienced because of their continuous struggle, they never listened to the evil one and never gave up.

Lesson Number one: Never give up.

2.Spiritual life is Not a Straight line

Many of us when they think of the saints they think that they were always living very peacefully on cloud no. 9 above all the earth. The reality is totally different: spiritual life is a journey, there are highs, lows, seasons, changes, growth, maturity, tiredness. This is what all the saints went through. If you are struggling right now of frustration in your spiritual life, please don’t, the story did not end yet. Frustration is another lie from the evil who wants to tell you: This is the end. There are no more fruits. Don’t ever believe him. Christ is the Pantocrator, the holder of everything in his mighty hands. Your story is still being written by the grace of God working in your life.

Lesson no 2: Look to Christ

3. Every saint is different

The Metropolitan of Kozana once wisely said: “Everything that is to the saints is amazing and is worthy of praise: But it is not to be copied”. This is a saying that is from the holy fathers of the Church that has much wisdom. When we read the synxarion, we can see that every saint is different, each has their own personality. As saint Paul said in 1st Corinthians 41: 40 “There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.” There are martyrs, and ascetics, pastors in the world, stylites in the deserts, those in fellowship monasteries, those in the caves, those married, those unmarried, those sanctified from the motherly womb, and those who repented in the last hour. God the all benevolent accepts us all, embraces us, he sanctifies our own personal traits and elements that make our special and unique personality.

What is lesson No. 3?

Lesson no. 3:

The Church put this feast today on this very first Sunday after Pentecost to tell us that this is the reason God became incarnate, lived on earth, suffered Crucifixion, and resurrected and ascended into heavens in His Divine and Human person, and gave His own spirit to the disciples and the Church for you to become Christian. And what true Christian means: not to become a good person, an ethical person, or a good citizen. The Church put today all the saints in front of your eyes and mine to tell us this: “You are not called to be saint, you are created to be one, to be united with God and become one with God, so we become partakers of divine nature.” As Saint Athanasius said: God has become man, so man can become God. There is nothing on earth that is worth from deviating from this very purpose: You becoming a Saint.

Hence, when Christ tells us in today’s Gospel: if you love anybody else or anything else more than me then You don’t deserve me. It is not out of harshness that he says that: “You don’t deserve me”. He is actually being very humble, because he is reciprocating our decision, when we love someone or something else more than Christ, be it money, reputation, career, family, etc… We are the ones who tell Christ who created us for glory: “You don’t deserve to have my heart. Earthly pleasures are more important than you. You don’t deserve my love, my time, my thoughts, my dedication…” so Christ is responding: “I respect that, and I reciprocate”. However, those of us who love Christ immensely, and above everything, the rewards of his love are beyond our imagination. As St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

May the Theotokos through her prayers and all the saints help us and guide us, Amen.

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