St. Theophan the Recluse: Feeling Pity for Ourselves

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Sunday, December 10 (November 27), 2023
27th Sunday after Pentecost
Eph. 6:10-17; Lk. 13:10-17                                       

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” [Lk. 17:33] This should be understood as follows: saving your life means pity for yourself, while losing life means self-sacrifice in Lord’s service or in obedience to His commandments.  Thus, whosoever works for the Lord and heeds to His word with no pity for himself, he will be saved, while those who pity themselves will perish.

As soon as you agree with your pity for yourself, you are inevitably moved to break His commandments and become an unprofitable servant.  And what kind of a sentence you should expect then?  “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” [Mt. 25:30].  Take an effort to carefully examine yourself during at just one day, and you will see that self-pity muddles any good work we might undertake and takes away any resolve we might have to complete it.  No good can be done without labor and strain; but we pity ourselves and accomplish nothing.

There are certain cases, of course, where things have to be done willy-nilly.  These things we get done for sure, no matter how difficult it might be, but only because our self-pity is trumped by another kind of self-pity:  for instance, if we do not earn income, we might soon starve to death.  But Lord’s commandments are of different nature: under the pressure of self-pity our resolve to follow them invariably crumbles.

Likewise, self-pity provides us with ample excuses to do wrong.  Out of self-pity we would not deny ourselves a pleasure of fulfilling a desire, mo matter how sinful or provocative it could be.  Thus, driven by self-pity, we indulge in doing wrong and fail to do right: should we look forward to salvation then?

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