‘Similarly, we know from our own experience that one who is wise does burden himself with late hours and hard work, reading books, taxing his mental powers and discernment, to understand. But this is no injustice and not wrong in the least on his part. As the prophet said, “Out of the toil of his soul shall he see and be sated.’”
Saadiah, The Book of Theodicy
‘I know that very often I understand many things in the sacred writings when I am with my brethren, which, when alone, I could not understand… Clearly, as this understanding is given me in their presence, it must be given to me for their sakes. Hence God grants that understand increases and pride decreases, while I learn, on your behalf, that which I teach you. For, really, very often I hear what I am saying for the first time, just as you do.’
St. Gregory the Great, Homily on Ezechiel
A Christ-loving layperson asked the same Old Man if one should reflect a great deal about the sacred mysteries, and whether a sinful person approaching these would be condemned as being unworthy.
Response by John:
When you enter the holies, pay attention and have no doubt that you are about to receive the Body and Blood of Christ; indeed, this is the truth. As for how this is the case, do not reflect on it too much. According to him who said: “Take, eat; for this is my body and blood,” these were given to us for the forgiveness of our sins. One who believes this, we hope, will not be condemned.
Therefore, do not prevent yourself from approaching by judging yourself as being a sinner. Believe, rather, that a sinner who approaches the Savior is rendered worthy of the forgiveness of sins, in the manner that we encounter in Scripture those who approach him and hear the divine voice: “Your many sins are forgiven.” Had that person been worthy of approaching him, he would not have had any sins. Yet, because he was a sinful man and a debtor, he received the forgiveness of his debts.
Again, listen to the words of the Lord: “I did not come to save the righteous, but sinners.” And again: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but only those who are sick.” So regard yourself as being sinful and unwell, and approach him who can alone save the lost.
Letter 463, from Letters from the Desert: Barsanuphius and John, trans. John Chryssavgis (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003).
A beautiful live performance by Brooklyn Rider- a New York City based string quartet- and the great Iranian-Kurdish master of the kamancheh, Kayhan Kalhor:
The album this composition appears on, Silent City, is easily one of the best “fusion” pieces I have heard. Well worth a listen, even if Persian classical isn’t normally your cup of tea.