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If the Penitent Saints Were Our Contemporaries

AntoniousNikolas

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In another thread, a brother named Christos asked:

Christos3 said:
I have been thinking about joining the prison ministry. However, I do have a question. Do you think the Lord was referring to the worst of the worst (murderers, robbers, rapists)  when he said to visit those in prison or those that are in prison due to religious persecution?
This reminded me of something that has been swirling around in my mind for quite some time: a good many of the saints of the Church were at one time among what we might call today "the worst of the worst".  St. Moses the Black quite possibly fell into all three of the categories mentioned above by Christos, St. Mary the Egyptian was a very active prostitute, St. Paul was complicit in the murder of St. Stephen and who knows how many other Christians he persecuted, how many he might've killed or been a party to killing, King David had a man killed just so he could sleep with his wife.  Of course, all of these saints saw the enormity of their own sins and repented, becoming - in many cases - true miracle workers and pious ascetics, sometimes (like St. Paul) even leaders in the Church.  The list of such saints goes on and on, we've all read dozens of such hagiographies.

What I find striking is that many of these saints were recognized as such during their own lifetimes and by their contemporaries, people who knew their crimes and yet accepted their repentance and acknowledged their holiness.  This is not a case of, "They were only recognized as saints after they had died living lives of repentance and being constantly reviled".  Not at all.  The Church in Corinth didn't tear up its letter from St. Paul because of the blood on his hands.  The monks of Sketis asked St. Moses to sit on tribunals judging others.  If these saints lived today, how many of us would be able to do the same?  How many of us would only be able to see their crimes and declare that their self-imposed "repentance" is less than they deserve?  Could someone like St. Paul be a leader in the Church today?  Would we kiss the hands of people like St. Moses and St. Mary and ask their blessing?  I'm wondering if such a thing is possible in our contemporary society which never lets people off the hook.  Are such saints alive today, and we fail to recognize them in our self-righteousness?  Does anyone have any stories of such contemporary saints?
 

eddybear

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I know these aren't Orthodox examples, but here are a couple:

Charles Colson would be a modern day example of a criminal (imprisoned for his part in Watergate) who came to Christ in repentance, and ended up serving Christ through a prison ministry.

Not quite "contemporary", but only a few hundred years ago (so in Orthodox terms I guess that's contemporary ;) ), John Newton who wrote "Amazing Grace" was a slave-trader before his conversion. He later became a priest, and people flocked to hear him.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Thanks for replying, Eddy.  I am interested primarily in Orthodox examples, but those you've given are certainly appreciated.  What I'm after here is determining if we've become so judgmental and self-righteous in the modern world that we wouldn't be capable of acknowledging the obvious holiness of a contemporary St. Moses the Black, St. Paul, or St. Mary of Egypt.

eddybear said:
Charles Colson would be a modern day example of a criminal (imprisoned for his part in Watergate) who came to Christ in repentance, and ended up serving Christ through a prison ministry.
Very interesting.

How does the present society regard Mr. Colson?  Have they accepted his repentance?  He's an Evangelical, right?  Is he welcome in most Evangelical circles outside of his very specific prison ministry, dealing with other penitents?  Do you think he could be regarded by the society as another Billy Graham?

Another question: he was essentially a white collar criminal, yes?  What if he'd been someone who'd robbed a liquor store and shot the clerk in the head?  Or what if he'd abused his position and arranged for someone to be killed by placing them in harm's way like King David?  Think he could be a successful preacher who could hold his head up among the rank-and-file sinners then?

eddybear said:
Not quite "contemporary", but only a few hundred years ago (so in Orthodox terms I guess that's contemporary ;) ), John Newton who wrote "Amazing Grace" was a slave-trader before his conversion. He later became a priest, and people flocked to hear him.
Yes, this is a very apropos story.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Newton.  That said, I wonder how much of Newton's acceptance had to do with the facts that:

1. Black slavery was regarded as normal in Newton's time, so there wasn't necessarily a huge social stigma attached to being involved in it.

2. He was preaching primarily to an abolitionist audience.

What if he'd been pimping white women before his genuine repentance?  Or selling white kids to Arab or Turkish slave traders?  Think they'd be packing the halls to hear him then?

My point is that there are saints in the history of our Church who did things their societies regarded as truly vile, but their repentance was accepted and they became icons of holiness to their contemporaries.  I'm not sure that we're capable of allowing such today and that bothers me.  If anything, the guy who would be willing to accept the penance of a modern St. Paul and kiss his hand would be looked at as the "holy" one by our society, not the St. Paul himself, even if he was truly transformed by Christ to the point of being a miracle worker.
 

Agabus

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Antonious Nikolas said:
King David had a man killed just so he could sleep with his wife. 
Almost. The prophet king slept with Uriah's wife, then he had Uriah killed because the guy was gonna figure it out.

What I find striking is that many of these saints were recognized as such during their own lifetimes and by their contemporaries, people who knew their crimes and yet accepted their repentance and acknowledged their holiness.  This is not a case of, "They were only recognized as saints after they had died living lives of repentance and being constantly reviled".  Not at all.  The Church in Corinth didn't tear up its letter from St. Paul because of the blood on his hands.  The monks of Sketis asked St. Moses to sit on tribunals judging others.  If these saints lived today, how many of us would be able to do the same?  How many of us would only be able to see their crimes and declare that their self-imposed "repentance" is less than they deserve?  Could someone like St. Paul be a leader in the Church today?  Would we kiss the hands of people like St. Moses and St. Mary and ask their blessing?  I'm wondering if such a thing is possible in our contemporary society which never lets people off the hook.  Are such saints alive today, and we fail to recognize them in our self-righteousness? 
People are suckers for a good redemption story. But people also tend to dislike actual living saints because they show us our weaknesses. So...Maybe?
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Agabus said:
Almost. The prophet king slept with Uriah's wife, then he had Uriah killed because the guy was gonna figure it out.
You know what I meant, Agabus.  I was trying to keep it short, but I guess I should've been more specific: King David had a man killed so he could CONTINUE sleeping with the guy's wife.  He was ruled by his lusts and covering the initial infraction was certainly one of his motives, but I think Solomon's conception is evidence enough that he continued to enjoy his ill-gotten gains and didn't swear off of the woman who so entranced him out of guilt.  Anyway, you know what I meant and it amounts to the same thing.  He used his power to kill a man by proxy because of his sexual appetites.  Could we accept such a man as a saint today?

Agabus said:
People are suckers for a good redemption story.
I think it depends on what the crime was and who the criminal is.  Some infractions - that some of our saints were guilty of - seem unforgivable today.

Agabus said:
But people also tend to dislike actual living saints because they show us our weaknesses. So...Maybe?
Good point.  But I think that being shown our own weaknesses is the last thing that would keep many of us away from a modern saint guilty of the same sort of crimes as many of our ancient saints.  Rather, it might be a sense of their somehow being tainted by the fact that they had taken a life or were guilty of some act of sexual immorality.
 

eddybear

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Antonious Nikolas said:
How does the present society regard Mr. Colson?  Have they accepted his repentance?  He's an Evangelical, right?  Is he welcome in most Evangelical circles outside of his very specific prison ministry, dealing with other penitents?  Do you think he could be regarded by the society as another Billy Graham?

Another question: he was essentially a white collar criminal, yes?  What if he'd been someone who'd robbed a liquor store and shot the clerk in the head?  Or what if he'd abused his position and arranged for someone to be killed by placing them in harm's way like King David?  Think he could be a successful preacher who could hold his head up among the rank-and-file sinners then?
In the evangelical circles I used to move in, Mr Colson was always regarded highly, i.e. not just within his own field of ministry. I can't say what wider society thought of him. Here in the UK most folk would never have heard of him anyway.

Would that be the same if he'd committed some heinous crime? Possibly in the church, yes, but current society seems very unforgiving.

Antonious Nikolas said:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Newton.  That said, I wonder how much of Newton's acceptance had to do with the facts that:

1. Black slavery was regarded as normal in Newton's time, so there wasn't necessarily a huge social stigma attached to being involved in it.

2. He was preaching primarily to an abolitionist audience.

What if he'd been pimping white women before his genuine repentance?  Or selling white kids to Arab or Turkish slave traders?  Think they'd be packing the halls to hear him then?
I'd agree with point 1, though I'm not so sure about point 2. It's a long time since I read his biography, but I got the impression that it was wide acceptance, not just within abolitionism.

Antonious Nikolas said:
Thanks for replying, Eddy.  I am interested primarily in Orthodox examples, but those you've given are certainly appreciated.  What I'm after here is determining if we've become so judgmental and self-righteous in the modern world that we wouldn't be capable of acknowledging the obvious holiness of a contemporary St. Moses the Black, St. Paul, or St. Mary of Egypt.
Given my relative newness to Orthodoxy, I'll have to leave those examples to others. But I do think judgmentalism and self-righteousness are very present dangers today. What worries me most is when as Christians we miss examples of holiness in other Christians because they are from a different tradition, and in doing so miss living examples of God's grace. I know I am guilty of that.
 

NanaDeborah

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Antonious Nikolas said:
In another thread, a brother named Christos asked:

Christos3 said:
I have been thinking about joining the prison ministry. However, I do have a question. Do you think the Lord was referring to the worst of the worst (murderers, robbers, rapists)  when he said to visit those in prison or those that are in prison due to religious persecution?
This reminded me of something that has been swirling around in my mind for quite some time: a good many of the saints of the Church were at one time among what we might call today "the worst of the worst".  St. Moses the Black quite possibly fell into all three of the categories mentioned above by Christos, St. Mary the Egyptian was a very active prostitute, St. Paul was complicit in the murder of St. Stephen and who knows how many other Christians he persecuted, how many he might've killed or been a party to killing, King David had a man killed just so he could sleep with his wife.  Of course, all of these saints saw the enormity of their own sins and repented, becoming - in many cases - true miracle workers and pious ascetics, sometimes (like St. Paul) even leaders in the Church.   The list of such saints goes on and on, we've all read dozens of such hagiographies.

What I find striking is that many of these saints were recognized as such during their own lifetimes and by their contemporaries, people who knew their crimes and yet accepted their repentance and acknowledged their holiness.  This is not a case of, "They were only recognized as saints after they had died living lives of repentance and being constantly reviled".  Not at all.  The Church in Corinth didn't tear up its letter from St. Paul because of the blood on his hands.  The monks of Sketis asked St. Moses to sit on tribunals judging others.  If these saints lived today, how many of us would be able to do the same?  How many of us would only be able to see their crimes and declare that their self-imposed "repentance" is less than they deserve?  Could someone like St. Paul be a leader in the Church today?  Would we kiss the hands of people like St. Moses and St. Mary and ask their blessing?  I'm wondering if such a thing is possible in our contemporary society which never lets people off the hook.  Are such saints alive today, and we fail to recognize them in our self-righteousness?  Does anyone have any stories of such contemporary saints?
I have been thinking about this since  I first saw it yesterday. A.N., you have been very compassionate to me with your story of St. Moses, which was a very great comfort to me.

I don't have much to add, and I hope I don't send this in a different direction.  But what about those of us who come into the church with such sins in our past, and fear the judgment of the others lest they find out what horrible sinners we have been?  I guess I am saying, not only might we have trouble venerating them, would we even accept them into our midst? (Oh gosh, I am heading into another one of those explosions of tears over this.) Could we even let them in the front door?  So far the people in my parish have been very friendly and accepting, but they don't know my back story, and it's likely no one but Father ever will.  I am certainly not comparing myself to Sts. Mary and Moses!  God forbid!  But there may be others like me who are true saints, but are not recognized, not accepted. I too hope to hear some stories of such contemporary saints from some others here. Sorry for the rambling. I hope this makes sense.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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It makes perfect sense to me, NanaDeborah.  You make a very valid point.  We all pay lip service to the fact that we consider ourselves to be the greatest of sinners, the "lowest of the low" and the "worst of the worst".  We all pay lip service to the fact that "all things are made new in Christ", that our sins are washed away at Baptism and our slate is cleaned each time we confess.  We all pay lip service to the idea that sin is sin and that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  Simultaneously, however, I think we do sit in judgment of people and tend to never let them off the hook for any perceived infraction - at least those that fall into certain categories which offend us in special ways, whether personally or in the eyes of the society in general - no matter how clear it may be that they have been transformed. 

Living in the modern world as I do, it is remarkable to me that a persecutor of the Church like St. Paul - someone who was at least complicit in the murder of Christians - could become a prominent leader in the Church.  What if one of the commanders of Daesh, who had been guilty of beheading and crucifying Christians, had a legitimate change of heart and became a sincere Christian himself, like one of the Roman governors converted by the very Christians he was tormenting in so many hagiographies?  Would we accept his repentance, or would we seek to have him destroyed in the name of "justice", insisting that if he was truly sorry, he would accept this as less than he deserved?  Sure, that would be true, but if God were going to be just with us, we would deserve the same fate.  Already that which is haughty within us balks at the idea that we deserve to be classed with a Daesh commander, or anyone else we consider to be among the "worst" humanity has to offer.  We claim to regard ourselves as "the worst" and the "chief among sinners", but really we think there are some people who are surely more deserving of the world's opprobrium than we are.  Like you said, would we even stand next to "the chief of sinners" in the pew at church?

Do we modern Christians still have the spirit of St. Dionysius of Zakynthos?



http://www.sprint.net.au/~corners/Dec00/StDionysios.htm
http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Hardcover-English/Hardcover-Illustrated-Lives-of-the-Saints-+-CD-1-Saint-Dionys/flypage-ask.tpl.html

Or is the story of a modern St. Paul, a modern St. Moses, or a modern St. Mary Magdalene - from whom was driven seven demons - impossible because we would never allow such a one to ascend to a place of prominence in our modern society and Church?

I think Eddy's second example - of Newton - was spot on, but I still ask the question:

Black slavery was regarded as normal in Newton's time, so there wasn't necessarily a huge social stigma attached to being involved in it.  What if he'd been pimping white women before his genuine repentance?  Or selling white kids to Arab or Turkish slave traders?  Think they'd be packing the halls to hear him then?
How accepting of genuine repentance are we today when compared to the Early Church?
 

DeniseDenise

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Please note that I am not comparing her to a Saint...but there has to be some element of pentientalness to her story


https://catholicchurchofjerusalemnews.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/former-black-female-basketball-star-now-russian-orthodox-nun/
 

Agabus

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Antonious Nikolas said:
Rather, it might be a sense of their somehow being tainted by the fact that they had taken a life or were guilty of some act of sexual immorality.
Most of the Orthodox clergy I have known have not been especially colorful, but in other Christian circles I have seen robbers, drug-dealers, former hookers and even murderers held up as noteworthy for their changed lives. I have seen all of the aforementioned types given the pulpit in a church to talk repentance.

But I've never seen someone praised for being a repentant child molester, in contemporary or ancient circles (I am sure the example exists, but it is not highly touted).
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Agabus said:
Most of the Orthodox clergy I have known have not been especially colorful, but in other Christian circles I have seen robbers, drug-dealers, former hookers and even murderers held up as noteworthy for their changed lives. I have seen all of the aforementioned types given the pulpit in a church to talk repentance.
That's interesting.  I wonder what that says about contemporary Orthodoxy in the USA vs. these other forms of Christianity when it comes to acknowledging the power of repentance and transformation?  Have any of these folks been actual pastors or simply walking object lessons?

Agabus said:
But I've never seen someone praised for being a repentant child molester, in contemporary or ancient circles (I am sure the example exists, but it is not highly touted).
Part of me feels that is perhaps understandable because of my personal disgust at the thought of such actions, but part of me wonders how this jibes with the idea that sin is sin and that I have no right to look down on anyone or fail to acknowledge their sincere repentance and the transformation of their lives.  It seems it would be hypocritical for me to be unable to set my personal disgust with this sort of sin aside and say, "The murderer I can take, but not you".  Similarly, I've often wondered if I could forgive the perpetrators of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, because I personally found that crime to be abhorrent beyond all measure.  I now believe I have to and that if I'm aware of my own sins, I have no right to think that someone else's sin, whatever its nature, is more repugnant than my own.  If any of the men guilty of that crime had truly and sincerely repented, I'd be obligated to acknowledge that and forgive.
 

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Antonious Nikolas said:
Agabus said:
Most of the Orthodox clergy I have known have not been especially colorful, but in other Christian circles I have seen robbers, drug-dealers, former hookers and even murderers held up as noteworthy for their changed lives. I have seen all of the aforementioned types given the pulpit in a church to talk repentance.
That's interesting.  I wonder what that says about contemporary Orthodoxy in the USA vs. these other forms of Christianity when it comes to acknowledging the power of repentance and transformation?  Have any of these folks been actual pastors or simply walking object lessons?
The robber was the pastor of an almost-megachurch, while the drug-dealer was a traveling evangelist. The murderer (technically a manslaughterer) is a local guy who isn't a full-time minister per se but operates an unincorporated non-profit to try to dissuade young men on their way to taking the same path he did as a gangster. Only the former prostitute wasn't a minister of some sort.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Agabus said:
Antonious Nikolas said:
Agabus said:
Most of the Orthodox clergy I have known have not been especially colorful, but in other Christian circles I have seen robbers, drug-dealers, former hookers and even murderers held up as noteworthy for their changed lives. I have seen all of the aforementioned types given the pulpit in a church to talk repentance.
That's interesting.  I wonder what that says about contemporary Orthodoxy in the USA vs. these other forms of Christianity when it comes to acknowledging the power of repentance and transformation?  Have any of these folks been actual pastors or simply walking object lessons?
The robber was the pastor of an almost-megachurch, while the drug-dealer was a traveling evangelist. The murderer (technically a manslaughterer) is a local guy who isn't a full-time minister per se but operates an unincorporated non-profit to try to dissuade young men on their way to taking the same path he did as a gangster. Only the former prostitute wasn't a minister of some sort.
Thanks again for the info.  I'm truly hoping someone will post something in an Orthodox context to confirm that yes indeed, our Church still holds to the same standards it did concerning forgiveness and the acknowledgment of true transformation in Christ during the time of St. Paul.  I'm wondering if there were any Soviet persecutors of the Church, for example, working in the gulags, transformed by the witness of those they were assigned to torment, who became holy and prominent Orthodox Christians as the Roman governors before them.
 

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AN,
I don't think this has anything to do with contemporary sinners and contemporary audience as it has to do with the power of judging. Judgment, for certain people and groups, is allowed but it can often be wrong. For example, as a parent I have the authority to judge that chocolate on my child's face means he broke my rule to stay away from cookies. But that authority to judge comes with a greater responsibility on the person given the authority (especially when my judgment of my child is found to be wrong). In other words, judgment is granted to people because it can bring about good change. Your examples of St Paul and St Moses illustrate this. Their contemporaries judged their repentance and glorified God.

On the other hand, judgment also brings about bad change. Your example of the "tolerable" atrocities of penitent sinners is also right on the money.  In our Church, we no longer sing the Judas hymn on Maundy Thursday of Passion Week. Our priest has successfully showed us that the gravity of Judas' sin is really no different than my daily sin. Yet no one starts a reverse procession (with all the strange new customs attached to it, like walking backwards and wearing liturgical garments backwards) divulging the details of my sin saying "Remnkemi (six times), who has broken the law". It seems that the Church (or at least the hymnographer) has judged Judas' sins worse and more intolerable than St Paul's or St Moses' or St Mary of Egypt's or mine.

I think we simply have to acknowledge that the power of judgment should be used for good. When it is not, we should stop and recall the mercies of God towards us. This takes spiritual discipline facilitated with routine fasting and prayer. Then maybe God in his mercy will make our contemporary audience see the power of repentance and turn the evil into good.

Sorry this did not really answer your question or give you contemporary examples of such saintly repentance and social acceptance of saintly repentance.

 

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I think the distinction is, if I killed someone back then and repented and moved to a monastery, no one knew my past. I could create a new life and seek out a life of repentance. Someone may hear the story, but they wouldn't know all the gory details. Now, if you so much as punch someone, it gets recorded on the internet and follows you for the rest of your life. From now till the day you die, someone can google the video of you punching some dude in the face. If you would become renowned 30 years from now for your humility and compassion for mankind, you can bet that someone would be doing a video mash of you feeding the poor and punching someone in the face set to a Lady Gaga song.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Thanks, Rem, for this thoughtful post.

Remnkemi said:
I don't think this has anything to do with contemporary sinners and contemporary audience as it has to do with the power of judging. Judgment, for certain people and groups, is allowed but it can often be wrong. For example, as a parent I have the authority to judge that chocolate on my child's face means he broke my rule to stay away from cookies. But that authority to judge comes with a greater responsibility on the person given the authority (especially when my judgment of my child is found to be wrong). In other words, judgment is granted to people because it can bring about good change. Your examples of St Paul and St Moses illustrate this. Their contemporaries judged their repentance and glorified God.
I take your point, Rem, but I'm not so sure that things haven't changed.  The contemporaries of St. Paul and St. Moses judged their repentance and glorified God, but are we capable of doing the same today?  St. Paul persecuted the Church.  He was complicit in the murder of St. Stephen and perhaps other Christians.  Let's take my example of a Daesh commander who has done the same.  Could he become a leader in the modern Church the way St. Paul became such an influential leader in the Church of his time?  What if Mohamaed Morsi has a sincere change of heart in jail, accepts Christ, and becomes a miracle working saint named Boulos Morsi?  Can he be a father in the Church?

Remnkemi said:
On the other hand, judgment also brings about bad change. Your example of the "tolerable" atrocities of penitent sinners is also right on the money.  In our Church, we no longer sing the Judas hymn on Maundy Thursday of Passion Week. Our priest has successfully showed us that the gravity of Judas' sin is really no different than my daily sin. Yet no one starts a reverse procession (with all the strange new customs attached to it, like walking backwards and wearing liturgical garments backwards) divulging the details of my sin saying "Remnkemi (six times), who has broken the law". It seems that the Church (or at least the hymnographer) has judged Judas' sins worse and more intolerable than St Paul's or St Moses' or St Mary of Egypt's or mine.
Is it that the sin of Judas was less tolerable or that he failed to accept true repentance and instead succumbed to feelings of self-pity and despair?  Can we say that Judas really repented?  He was sorry for what he had done, sure, but he took his own life.  If he had chosen to live a life of self-denial and repentance, even after committing the sin of betraying Our Lord, I'm sure that God and those who truly had His Spirit (like the Holy Apostles) would have accepted his repentance and restored him to their number.  After all, we all betray Christ every day when we sin.

Remnkemi said:
I think we simply have to acknowledge that the power of judgment should be used for good. When it is not, we should stop and recall the mercies of God towards us. This takes spiritual discipline facilitated with routine fasting and prayer. Then maybe God in his mercy will make our contemporary audience see the power of repentance and turn the evil into good.
Amen.  Very well said.

Remnkemi said:
Sorry this did not really answer your question or give you contemporary examples of such saintly repentance and social acceptance of saintly repentance.
It was beneficial nonetheless.  Thank you.  :)

TheTrisagion said:
I think the distinction is, if I killed someone back then and repented and moved to a monastery, no one knew my past. I could create a new life and seek out a life of repentance. Someone may hear the story, but they wouldn't know all the gory details. Now, if you so much as punch someone, it gets recorded on the internet and follows you for the rest of your life. From now till the day you die, someone can google the video of you punching some dude in the face. If you would become renowned 30 years from now for your humility and compassion for mankind, you can bet that someone would be doing a video mash of you feeding the poor and punching someone in the face set to a Lady Gaga song.
You may be on to something here, Tris.  "Clever" folk are even now making what I'd consider borderline disrespectful "St. Nicholas punched out Arius" memes.  I also think that we tend to lie to ourselves and downplay our own sins until they blow up in our faces.  I've really been thinking a lot about this sort of thing lately.  Dostoevsky puts the following words in the mouth of his character Fr. Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov:

There is only one way to salvation, and that is to make yourself responsible for all men's sins. As soon as you make yourself responsible in all sincerity for everything and for everyone, you will see at once that this is really so, and that you are in fact to blame for everyone and for all things.
As hard as it is, I think that might be the way to go.
 

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Antonious Nikolas said:
I take your point, Rem, but I'm not so sure that things haven't changed.  The contemporaries of St. Paul and St. Moses judged their repentance and glorified God, but are we capable of doing the same today?  St. Paul persecuted the Church.  He was complicit in the murder of St. Stephen and perhaps other Christians.  Let's take my example of a Daesh commander who has done the same.  Could he become a leader in the modern Church the way St. Paul became such an influential leader in the Church of his time?  What if Mohamaed Morsi has a sincere change of heart in jail, accepts Christ, and becomes a miracle working saint named Boulos Morsi?  Can he be a father in the Church?
If God's will was to make Mohamed Morsi a vessel for his church, it would have been done even if we, as men, objected to it. As Pope Shenouda said once "God opens doors we can't shut and closes doors we can't open." Even if all the world rejected Boulos Morsi, if God chooses, he would still be able to build the church. I think our view of what society has or has not changed is somewhat irrelevant. What is more important is to change what we can and that begins with our inner being.

Is it that the sin of Judas was less tolerable or that he failed to accept true repentance and instead succumbed to feelings of self-pity and despair?  Can we say that Judas really repented?
Can we say that for anyone? Can you really judge if I repented for my sins? Only God knows the thoughts of men. Even if Judas didn't repent and succumbed to despair, it doesn't mean his despair is worse than everyone of us who succumb to denial in some capacity at some point of our Orthodox life. And if we claim suicide was the straw that made Judas worthy of condemnation, have we not made ourselves God the Judge? For all we know Judas' suicide may be more tolerable to God at Judgement day than my own small, hidden, unrepented sin.

TheTrisagion said:
I think the distinction is, if I killed someone back then and repented and moved to a monastery, no one knew my past. I could create a new life and seek out a life of repentance. Someone may hear the story, but they wouldn't know all the gory details.
But St Paul's sins were done in a very public light. St Moses the Strong was famous for his barbaric acts, even in the monastery. Not to mention judging still happens in the monastery without any gory details. Take for example St Bishoy's story. When it was known Christ will appear in the monastery up the mountain, all the monks passed judgment when they passed by a beaten up cripple beggar on the road (who happened to be Christ in disguise). Only St Bishoy did not judge and understood that meeting Christ in his glory is no different than meeting Christ in the beggar on the road.

While the internet may be a thorn in the penitent sinner's progress, the internet will pass away. Only God remains and this is what we sinners should worry about.
 

Jonathan Gress

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Are we talking about how penitent saints would be received by fellow Orthodox or by the wider society? One thing I imagine that would annoy many moderns about the saints, whether penitent or "pure", would be their earnestness and apparent lack of humor. I feel great store is set by one's ability to deploy sarcasm and irony and we mock those who seem to take everything seriously. The saints, on the other hand, always seem to take everything seriously and not see the value in sounding cool and hip.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Remnkemi said:
If God's will was to make Mohamed Morsi a vessel for his church, it would have been done even if we, as men, objected to it. As Pope Shenouda said once "God opens doors we can't shut and closes doors we can't open." Even if all the world rejected Boulos Morsi, if God chooses, he would still be able to build the church. I think our view of what society has or has not changed is somewhat irrelevant. What is more important is to change what we can and that begins with our inner being.
Amen.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I still wish that we could find some modern examples of contemporary penitent saints whom the Church welcomed with open arms and trusted as shepherds of the flock, just as St. Paul and St. Moses were trusted.

Remnkemi said:
Can we say that for anyone? Can you really judge if I repented for my sins? Only God knows the thoughts of men. Even if Judas didn't repent and succumbed to despair, it doesn't mean his despair is worse than everyone of us who succumb to denial in some capacity at some point of our Orthodox life. And if we claim suicide was the straw that made Judas worthy of condemnation, have we not made ourselves God the Judge? For all we know Judas' suicide may be more tolerable to God at Judgement day than my own small, hidden, unrepented sin.
I agree.  I don't wish to sit in judgment of Judas or anyone else.  I like what your priest has taught, and what you've posted here, which contradicts your previously stated notion that:

It seems that the Church (or at least the hymnographer) has judged Judas' sins worse and more intolerable than St Paul's or St Moses' or St Mary of Egypt's or mine.
I don't agree that Judas' sin was any worse than my sin, your sin, or the sins of St. Paul or St. Moses, and I don't think the Church teaches this.  After all, our Lord asked St. Paul "Why do you persecute Me?" because in persecuting anyone he had persecuted Christ.  And if St. Moses (or any of us) murdered or robbed anyone, he (or we) robbed and murdered Christ.  I think the hymn you're citing was authored for a different reason, and I had been taught by a priest I respect that it was because Judas' suicide left no room for repentance.  That said, you're right.  We don't know if he repented and regretted all he did even in his final breathes.  God is his judge, not me.  I'm not confident in stating that any human being is or should be in hell.

Jonathan Gress said:
Are we talking about how penitent saints would be received by fellow Orthodox or by the wider society?
I'm asking chiefly about their fellow Orthodox, but there's no denying that most Orthodox are influenced by the attitudes of the contemporary society as it pertains to this sort of thing.

Jonathan Gress said:
One thing I imagine that would annoy many moderns about the saints, whether penitent or "pure", would be their earnestness and apparent lack of humor. I feel great store is set by one's ability to deploy sarcasm and irony and we mock those who seem to take everything seriously. The saints, on the other hand, always seem to take everything seriously and not see the value in sounding cool and hip.
This is an excellent point.  This is why some people want their Orthodox priests to emulate "hip" Evangelical "youth ministers", et cetera, to the detriment of the entire Church.
 

LenInSebastopol

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Ancient Faith Radio has a podcast of a priest involved in prison ministry who now goes into a max security joint and witnesses to lifers who will never 1.get out of prison and 2. will never get out of max security.  Someone might consider them saints some time!
Also, I find Ananias (Acts 9:10) outrageous.
I mean who here would go out to a known killer and bring him into their home?
Good thread and food for thought, A.N.
 

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Agabus said:
Antonious Nikolas said:
Rather, it might be a sense of their somehow being tainted by the fact that they had taken a life or were guilty of some act of sexual immorality.
Most of the Orthodox clergy I have known have not been especially colorful, but in other Christian circles I have seen robbers, drug-dealers, former hookers and even murderers held up as noteworthy for their changed lives. I have seen all of the aforementioned types given the pulpit in a church to talk repentance.

But I've never seen someone praised for being a repentant child molester, in contemporary or ancient circles (I am sure the example exists, but it is not highly touted).
I've been looking for a fresh angle to milk the evo market with.

Thanks!
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Are we talking about how penitent saints would be received by fellow Orthodox or by the wider society? One thing I imagine that would annoy many moderns about the saints, whether penitent or "pure", would be their earnestness and apparent lack of humor. I feel great store is set by one's ability to deploy sarcasm and irony and we mock those who seem to take everything seriously. The saints, on the other hand, always seem to take everything seriously and not see the value in sounding cool and hip.
I guess we know what the odox would say if Christ or Paul were our contemporaries.
 

AntoniousNikolas

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LenInSebastopol said:
Ancient Faith Radio has a podcast of a priest involved in prison ministry who now goes into a max security joint and witnesses to lifers who will never 1.get out of prison and 2. will never get out of max security.  Someone might consider them saints some time!
Do you happen to have a link, Len?  I'd really like to listen to the podcast as time permits.

LenInSebastopol said:
Also, I find Ananias (Acts 9:10) outrageous.
I mean who here would go out to a known killer and bring him into their home?
Agreed!  He was a holy man indeed, hearing the voice of the Lord so clearly and obeying His command.  "Here I am, Lord!"  Today, we'd probably call him crazy!

LenInSebastopol said:
Good thread and food for thought, A.N.
Thanks, friend.

Porter ODoran said:
I love your idea in this thread, Antonious.
Thank you, Peter.  I appreciate all of the contributions to this thread so far, and I'm kind of hoping someone will come through with a story of a bishop or respected priest who is a modern St. Paul or St. Moses.

orthonorm said:
I've been looking for a fresh angle to milk the evo market with.

Thanks!
LOL!  Let's see how far you get with that!

orthonorm said:
I guess we know what the odox would say if Christ or Paul were our contemporaries.
Let me guess: it would be like the fable of The Grand Inquisitor?
 

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Best I've got is a priest who had addiction issues with alcohol, is in recovery now, and who has been open about his struggles and failings related to this (I think to encourage others to face and deal with problems, etc.)  I'm guessing he isn't a saint, but he seems well liked/respected (I certainly do).
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Justin Kissel said:
Best I've got is a priest who had addiction issues with alcohol, is in recovery now, and who has been open about his struggles and failings related to this (I think to encourage others to face and deal with problems, etc.)  I'm guessing he isn't a saint, but he seems well liked/respected (I certainly do).
Thanks, Justin.
 
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