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Author Topic: Problems with negative words like "sinner" & "unworthy"  (Read 1741 times) Average Rating: 0
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JoyceV925
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« on: March 05, 2012, 05:09:18 PM »

I'm hoping someone can maybe explain this in a way I can understand but I've been a catechumen since this past Oct, prior to that I was pagan for 20 years. I wasn't raised with any Christian knowledge so I'm literally learning from the ground up who Jesus is. I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms. At first it sent me into great despair like, "Why bother seeking God's love if I'm so bad a person/full of sin/UNWORTHY of it anway? What is the point? If I am unworthy of God's love, and undeserving of it, there's nothing I can do to be worthy, why shouldn't I just dig a hole and sit in it?"  I broke down into tears in front of my priest during one of our sessions but I don't think he understands how I can feel despair over being called a sinner so he is not sure what to say to me. I'm getting better at accepting that these words are common but it doesn't make me feel any better about using them - it seems like negative self talk and makes me feel very sad and confused.

I'm especially having a hard time since it's my first Lent and it's all dark, repentant, with prostrations, recalling the sins of man and how horrible we are. I went to Pre-sanctified Liturgy last week and almost ran out I was so uncomfortable and upset. Everyone I talk to who has been raised in the church tries to tell me how "beautiful" it is, and how there's joy in Lent. Really? Because I'm not seeing or feeling any joy in the services from the first week of Lent. And I'm surely not feeling joy in being a wretched sinner.
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2012, 05:13:32 PM »

There's an interesting book called "The Lenten Spring," by Fr. Thomas Hopko. It talks about how Lent is the way we get ready for the triumphant Resurrection. If we keep our minds on this, the food restrictions and such are not depressing.  Smiley

(Welcome to the board.)
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 06:17:35 PM »

We call ourselves sinners and unworthy because we are sinners and unworthy of the blessing of life and everything that we have been given by God.  Every day we sin and further corrupt our own souls and the world around us, all of which were created by God.  The remembrance of our sinfulness humbles us, and when in this humility we turn to God and put our hope and trust in Him, we receive the grace to overcome our passions and begin to experience the joy and freedom of the Resurrection.  The joy of the Resurrection cannot be truly experienced unless we enter into Christ's death in dying to our passions and desires.  The services of Lent shine a spotlight on the dark places of our souls where the chains of sin and death remain hidden, and unless we can see these chains we cannot become truly free from them.  Yet, it is not enough to see the chains that bind us, we must also place our hope constantly in the One who has the power to free us from these chains to experience the true joy for which we were created.

The Fathers say how we must often recall death and our own sinfulness while also trusting in God and remembering His omnipotence (that He is all powerful and nothing is impossible for Him), His omniscience (that He knows our needs, our thoughts, and our struggles even without us telling Him), and His great love for mankind.  While repenting and mourning for our sins, we must at the same time guard against despair, which is the greatest of all sins because it is essentially disbelief in, and rejection of, God.  To say that we are so hopelessly sinful that that there is no point in living - this is the same as turning your back on the God who created you and who desires your salvation. 

To think that we are more sinful than anyone else who has ever lived may also be a sign of pride.  The penitential “Canon of St. Andrew of Crete” reminds us of all of those in the Scriptures who fell into sin, yet it also reminds us of those prostitutes and tax collectors who entered the kingdom of heaven through repentance.  Calling to mind the great sinners who repented and entered the kingdom is a source of hope and encouragement for us as we see how sinful we are. 
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sainthieu
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2012, 06:56:50 PM »

Dear Joyce:

Welcome to the board.

From your question, I suspect you might have become a catechumen a little too soon.

Let me explain: The idea of sin is of the essence to Judeo-Christianity. In fact, the whole point of Judaism---and, by extension, Christianity---is reconciliation with God. How did humanity become estranged from God? By putting its own will ahead of His: the sin of self-idolatry, pride. Instead of conforming ourselves to His will, in gratitude for the beautiful life He gave us, we decided to follow our own desires, to think first and foremost of ourselves. Thus, the allegory of Adam and Eve.

In other words, the largest problem we have to tackle when we become committed Christians, is to become obedient to His will, to subsume our wills to His. What do we get in return? Relationship with Him, His presence in our lives, His love:
Quote

Galatians 5:22-25

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Thus, the greatest saints and monks have always believed that sincere humility is the surest and most direct way to God. Humility is the exact opposite of pride; it is a kind of supreme selflessness, a discarding of one's ego in the trusting knowledge that God will guide our lives better than we could ever guide ourselves.

Christ Himself is the model:"Nevertheless, Your will, not mine."  We aspire to be like Him.

The idea of sin you mention is more Calvinist than Orthodox, and it's misleading. Calvin believed humanity was evil and fatally damned. The Orthodox, OTOH, believe God loves humanity or He would never have created it in the first place. Also that, He, in the person of Jesus Christ, came down to earth and told us everything we need to know about how to save our souls. But humans are imperfect. We need to put our egos down and vigorously empty ourselves of our own illusions in order for God to be able to work within us.

Not one of us is a sinless person; we are all vulnerable to pride, anger, sloth, despair, lust, etc.---sometimes several of these at the same time. That is all that is meant by sin: innate human frailty. It's also called, I believe, the Tragic View of life. I realize that modern education places a great deal of emphasis on "self-esteem," but this runs counter to the fundamental Christian worldview. The church does not intend for you to feel irremediably bad about yourself, but you are supposed to cultivate a healthy distrust of your motives and actions. Every day, we fall short of perfection--sometimes without even realizing it. That's what Forgiveness Vespers is all about. It's a chance to rectify hidden sins.

Lent is very beautiful in that it permits us to get back to basics once a year.

I came from agnosticism and Buddhism myself, and I know how some of that language can sometimes fall on the ear ("and in sin did my mother conceive me"). After a few years in the church, however, I came to realize how very true it is.

I'm sorry to state this, but if you are satisfied with your soul, feeling there is very little in yourself to improve upon, you are probably not going to enjoy being an Orthodox Christian. I might suggest taking it slow and easy until you know what you're committing yourself to.
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jah777
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2012, 07:25:47 PM »

From the Philokalia, on Despair and God's compassion

St. Hesychios the Priest
On Watchfulness and Holiness

135. When we are in trouble or despair or have lost hope, we should do what David did: pour out our hearts to
God and tell Him of our needs and troubles, just as they are (cf. Ps. 142:2). It is because He can deal with us wisely
that we confess to God; He can make our troubles easy to bear, if this is for our benefit, and can save us from the
dejection which destroys and corrupts.


St. Maximos the Confessor
Two Hundred texts on Theology…

36. When we think of the height of God’s infinity we should not despair of His compassion reaching us from such a height; and when we recall the infinite depth of our fall through sin we should not refuse to believe that the virtue which has been killed in us will rise again. For God can accomplish both these things: He can come down and illumine our intellect with spiritual knowledge, and He can raise up the virtue within us and exalt it with Himself through works of righteousness.


St. Peter of Damaskos
That We Should Not Despair Even if We Sin Many Times

Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in
addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, who for your sake created the
great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His
incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance, as He accepted
that of the prodigal son (cf. Luke l6:20) and the prostitute (cf. Luke 7: 37-50). But if repentance is too much for you,
and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (cf. Luke 18:13): this is
enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard
himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s
compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so may receive many other blessings as well.
Even if he is subject to the devil in that he sins, yet from fear of God he disobeys the enemy when the latter tries to
make him despair. Because of this he has his portion with God; for he is grateful, gives thanks, is patient, fears God,
does not judge so that he may not be judged. All these are crucial qualities. It is as St John Chrysostom says about
Gehenna: it is almost of greater benefit to us than the kingdom of heaven, since because of it many enter into the
kingdom of heaven, while few enter for the sake of the kingdom itself; and if they do enter it, it is by virtue of God’s
compassion. Gehenna pursues us with fear, the kingdom embraces us with love, and through them both we are saved
by Christ’s grace.


St. Gregory Palamas
To the Reverend Nun Xenia

17. This is why no one should give way to despair, even though the devil finds various means by which to
insinuate it not only into those who live carelessly but also into those who practice the ascetic life. If, then, the time
of this life is time for repentance, the very fact that a sinner still lives is a pledge that God will accept whoever
desires to return to Him. Free will is always part and parcel of this present life. And it lies within the power of free
will to choose or to reject the road of life or the road of death that we have described above; for it can pursue
whichever it wishes. Where, then, are the grounds for despair, since all of us can at all times lay hold of eternal life
whenever we want to?

18. Do you not perceive the grandeur of God's compassion? When we are disobedient He does not immediately
condemn us, but He is longsuffering and allows us time for conversion. Throughout this period of longsuffering He
gives us power to gain divine sonship if we so wish. Yet why do I say 'gain sonship'? He gives us power to be united
with Him and to become one spirit with Him (cf. 1 Cor. 6:17).
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2012, 07:43:45 PM »

I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms.
There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2012, 10:32:13 PM »

I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms.
There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.

This is a really good post.

And are you referring to Adam in the first sentence?

BTW I think I might sig quote that refusing to be Christ, we dehumanize ourselves. Awesome.
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2012, 12:55:04 AM »

Hi Joyce,
  I am in the same position as a catchumen and a similar background.
I wish I had an answer for you, but I just wanted to tell you that you are not alone and it's ok to feel the way you do.  I think it's part of the journey. 
I'm learning about Christianity from the ground up as well through Orthodoxy, and at first it was really hard to accept the exact same words you mentioned as well.  I have to admit, I look forward to when my church says some things in Greek rather than English.  English causes an instant stir in me, and reminds me when my peers used to make fun of me as a child, constantly telling me that I'm going to Hell.  And all I did was want to play with friends; not talk them out of going to church.  My parents, therefore me, just wasn't Christian or even religious.  I just happened to grow up that way.
I am struggling through Lent too right now. Even prayers are very hard for me to say outloud. I can't get into a routine because a few unexpected things have happened, and I don't know how to handle both at the same time yet.    But each week that I have been going through Catechism classes, my priest has a knack for putting a lot of things into perspective.  I wish I could repeat how he explains things, but it's too difficult for me to explain it correctly. 

 I hope that it comes clear for you someday. I hope that it would come more clear for me too.  It took a lot of thinking and self evaluation for me to come to Orthodoxy, and I'm still taking it slow with the support of the church.  The best way I think of sin is in more of a child like way for now; we are not perfect.  There is only One who really is perfect, and I should look up to Him to try do to the right things in life.  I have to keep it that simple right now because I get overwhelmed by stories and versuses that I barely understand.  Many good-hearted well-intended Christians who grew up Christian don't understand what it's really like to have a missing foundation in faith where even the Bible was once (to me) just a book on a shelf full of stories that blended in with other creation stories in the same row.  I used to think,,so what makes this one so special over the others?''  So support for Christian beliefs feel sometimes too limited to a Bible verse that in itself seems flat and uninspiring until some kind of foundation has taken root.

I hope that you stay with your church.  I believe that your priest truely wants to help you and will stay with you through your journey. 
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2012, 01:18:33 AM »

I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms.
There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.


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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2012, 01:27:54 AM »

I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms.
There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.


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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2012, 08:46:43 AM »

dear joycev925 and ava,
being a sinner is like a comparative word.
so, if you compare yourself to the worst kind of criminal, you would say (i suppose) that that person is bad and you are good. and if you compare that criminal to God, you would say God is good and the criminal is bad.
you see we all are made in the image of God, so we all have got a conscience that makes us 'feel' that bad things (rape, murder etc.) are bad, even if we have never been taught they are bad.
but if u compare yourself to God, u are nowhere near as good as God, and the difference between u and God is like the difference between u and the criminal. in fact neither u nor the criminal are like God.

Jesus taught (matthew 5: 21-22) that if we are angry with someone, it is like if we murder them. u may say 'how can that be? u didn't hurt anyone by keeping yr anger inside yourself.' but what Jesus is saying is that the anger is where it all starts. i don't go out and just kill my neighbour for no reason.

what happens is my neighbour gets a new car, i get jealous, then my neighbour laughs at me, i get angry, then many years pass as the anger and bitterness grows and grows, and eventually one day i kill him. so Jesus is showing us where all the bad things come from is from inside our thoughts. the devil tempts us to have all kinds of evil thoughts and desires and then when we accept these evil thoughts and let them grow in us, they cause us to do bad things that hurt people.

so if i say i am a 'sinner', it is not that i have just come to church after killing a few people, but i recognise that i have enjoyed the wicked thoughts i had about my neighbour. i have imagined bad things happening to him, instead of thanking God for the neighbour's success (a new car or whatever) and asking God for the things i need, and accepting that if i don't get what i want it is because God knows better than i do what is best for me.
so when i confess my sin, i am asking God to clean away the bad thoughts, and help me trust in God and to love my neighbour the way God loves him, without jealousy or bitterness.

as you understand more about God, you realise the difference between u and the criminal is smaller than u thought, and the difference between u and God is bigger than u thought.

so, u rightly ask, how is that good news?!
the good news is that 'even when we were sinners, Christ died for us' (romans 5:Cool which means that God is not waiting for us to be 'good' before He can come in and dwell with us. He is ready right now, even though u r far from God. He accepts u AS U ARE and then comes in and changes and cleans u from the inside.
so the reason we use the term 'sinner' is to remind ourselves that it is really a big deal that God comes close to us and makes us more like Him as we walk with Him every day.

please ask more questions if it does not make sense coz the Christian message is very different to what most people in the world might think. it is only though asking questions that u can see what we are trying to say.
may God bless u as u continue on this spiritual journey towards accepting God's love.
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2012, 10:34:14 AM »

For myself, I found the idea that I was a sinner and unworthy to be a revelation and immensely liberating. When I say that I am the worst of sinners, it is because I acknowledge and understand that I am so far from becoming the person that God meant me to be. No, I haven't killed anyone today, but neither have I loved them as I love myself. Not even close.

Any reasonable person can look around the world, (and look at themselves honestly) and conclude that something is wrong. That something is sin. Sin is not simply a list of bad actions (though of course it can be) - it is a chronic and ultimately fatal disease.
The good news is that there is a cure.
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 12:54:34 PM »

i find that calling myself the worst of sinners helps to keep me humble and unlikely to assume superiority over another.
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 01:09:17 PM »

The questions and answers on this thread are so good that I think they should be compiled and published. I am so grateful to having had the opportunity to be part of this forum!
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 01:36:38 PM »

I mean these as questions, and not a criticism.
If someone is constantly calling his or herself a sinner and one of the worst, is that not a sin in itself?  There is a difference between gloating in front of God and having a sense of self worth.  To me that would seem to be forcing symptoms of depression on the soul to call themself the worst of sinners.  I can't see myself that way.  I've seen some horrible things in my life; I'm happy to say that I've had enough sense not to do them; why would that be wrong?

If God put us on this Earth, it means He believes in the life He gave to us.  Doesn't that make us worthy?  or at least be saying thankful officially and not unworthy.
If I gave a present to someone that they really wanted and they contantly called me on the phone telling me that they're not worthy of it, I'd get pretty offended to be honest.  Sorry for the lay analogy, but how is a negative outlook on one's self ever bring someone closer to God?  He knows best, I don't.  I do the best I can, and I'm sorry for the stuff I do wrong. I guess personally I feel that words of negativity does not help my personal situation or anecdotally those who are still trying make a Christian foundation for themselves if the language seems to depressing and self inflicting. Maybe there are some basic definitions I'm missing here.  Sin in Orthodoxy was told to me that it is missing the mark, if so why beat ourselves up over it if our heart is in the right place?
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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2012, 02:18:37 PM »

From the Philokalia, on Despair and God's compassion

St. Hesychios the Priest
On Watchfulness and Holiness

135. When we are in trouble or despair or have lost hope, we should do what David did: pour out our hearts to
God and tell Him of our needs and troubles, just as they are (cf. Ps. 142:2). It is because He can deal with us wisely
that we confess to God; He can make our troubles easy to bear, if this is for our benefit, and can save us from the
dejection which destroys and corrupts.


St. Maximos the Confessor
Two Hundred texts on Theology…

36. When we think of the height of God’s infinity we should not despair of His compassion reaching us from such a height; and when we recall the infinite depth of our fall through sin we should not refuse to believe that the virtue which has been killed in us will rise again. For God can accomplish both these things: He can come down and illumine our intellect with spiritual knowledge, and He can raise up the virtue within us and exalt it with Himself through works of righteousness.

<snip>

Thank you for these! Very helpful reminders. I'm going to print them out!
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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2012, 02:22:48 PM »

There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.


So simply stated but makes A LOT of sense to me. Thank you!
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« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2012, 02:35:49 PM »

...but how is a negative outlook on one's self ever bring someone closer to God?  He knows best, I don't.  I do the best I can, and I'm sorry for the stuff I do wrong. I guess personally I feel that words of negativity does not help my personal situation or anecdotally those who are still trying make a Christian foundation for themselves if the language seems to depressing and self inflicting. Maybe there are some basic definitions I'm missing here.  Sin in Orthodoxy was told to me that it is missing the mark, if so why beat ourselves up over it if our heart is in the right place?

It's not a negative outlook (for me, at least). It's a simple realization of who I am. YMMV, of course, but I consistently don't do the best that I can. I don't even come close. Naturally I can fool myself and play Pharisee that I'm not that bad (there are plenty worse than me!)and don't spend my leisure time drowning puppies and stealing money from old ladies. But the hard truth is that I am still not anywhere close to the person He meant for me to be. I can say that my heart is in the right place, but if it was, wouldn't I be out there tending to lepers or something?
A friend of mine said that he became Orthodox because it was the only way he could become a saint. He read the lives of the saints and thought, "that's the kind of person I want to be!"

We are not called to be more or less ok, or nice or well-meaning or even have our hearts in the right place, we are called to be saints. The really stupendous and mind-blowing realization is that it's possible.
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« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2012, 02:58:35 PM »

I mean these as questions, and not a criticism.
If someone is constantly calling his or herself a sinner and one of the worst, is that not a sin in itself?  There is a difference between gloating in front of God and having a sense of self worth.  To me that would seem to be forcing symptoms of depression on the soul to call themself the worst of sinners.  I can't see myself that way.  I've seen some horrible things in my life; I'm happy to say that I've had enough sense not to do them; why would that be wrong?

If God put us on this Earth, it means He believes in the life He gave to us.  Doesn't that make us worthy?  or at least be saying thankful officially and not unworthy.
If I gave a present to someone that they really wanted and they contantly called me on the phone telling me that they're not worthy of it, I'd get pretty offended to be honest.  Sorry for the lay analogy, but how is a negative outlook on one's self ever bring someone closer to God?  He knows best, I don't.  I do the best I can, and I'm sorry for the stuff I do wrong. I guess personally I feel that words of negativity does not help my personal situation or anecdotally those who are still trying make a Christian foundation for themselves if the language seems to depressing and self inflicting. Maybe there are some basic definitions I'm missing here.  Sin in Orthodoxy was told to me that it is missing the mark, if so why beat ourselves up over it if our heart is in the right place?

By all means do not beat yourself up and depress yourself as a result. There is indeed much to be thankful for, to look forward to, to rejoice over. God loves us all and that includes you as you, Ava, are precious to Him. Yes, he was crucified and suffered and died for us, as forecast in the Scriptures. But, He also rose up, conquered death by death and gave all of us (including you) the chance to be part of His Holy Body. Your progress as a catechumen may be such that you will grow in the Lord at your own pace and style. I predict, however, that one day in the future, you will find all of these words and prayers to be somewhat applicable to you. You will not be depressed but you will be sad; you will then partake of His Holy Body and Blood; and you will be comforted, loved and at peace. You may even feel unworthy to have received such a great gift from Him. But, you will not be miserable and depressed.
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« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2012, 07:10:50 PM »

I'm hoping someone can maybe explain this in a way I can understand but I've been a catechumen since this past Oct, prior to that I was pagan for 20 years. I wasn't raised with any Christian knowledge so I'm literally learning from the ground up who Jesus is. I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms. At first it sent me into great despair like, "Why bother seeking God's love if I'm so bad a person/full of sin/UNWORTHY of it anway? What is the point? If I am unworthy of God's love, and undeserving of it, there's nothing I can do to be worthy, why shouldn't I just dig a hole and sit in it?"
 
We did.  It's called hell.  This was God's answer

As the Prophecy fullfilled in the Gospel says "Those who sat in darkness have seen a Great Light.

Angels do not fall.  Demons fall and do not get up. Men fall and get up.  We don't sit at Lenten services, we do prostrations.

There is a hymn that refers to God calling Adam in the garden, and when He didn't find him, He bent the heavens and came down and looked for him, going down to hell to find him.  There's a Theophany song where it says that God looked down at His image and likeness, the man He had made "in chains that knew no escape," so He bent the heavens and came down and washed the lost sheep put him on His shoulders.


I broke down into tears in front of my priest during one of our sessions but I don't think he understands how I can feel despair over being called a sinner so he is not sure what to say to me. I'm getting better at accepting that these words are common but it doesn't make me feel any better about using them - it seems like negative self talk and makes me feel very sad and confused.
Denial doesn't solve the confusion, and becomes very sad.  You first have to admit you have a problem before you can solve it.  Any one who has worked with addicts knows that is the biggest problem-admittance-and many addicts can't take that step and spiral further down.

btw, on things like "me, the chief of sinners," it is not to say sin is judged on a sliding scale of where you fall between Hitler and Mother Theresa, but rather acknowledgement that sin stands in the way between you and the goal of theosis.

I'm especially having a hard time since it's my first Lent and it's all dark, repentant, with prostrations, recalling the sins of man and how horrible we are. I went to Pre-sanctified Liturgy last week and almost ran out I was so uncomfortable and upset. Everyone I talk to who has been raised in the church tries to tell me how "beautiful" it is, and how there's joy in Lent. Really? Because I'm not seeing or feeling any joy in the services from the first week of Lent. And I'm surely not feeling joy in being a wretched sinner.
You're not supposed to feel joy at being a wretched sinner.  You feel joy that there is a way out.

God loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.
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« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2012, 09:40:46 PM »

I'm re-reading everyone's posts again, and all are giving me some things to think about.  Thank you Joyce for  the original posting and having me put up some thoughts in addition.

ialmisry: I loved your post with the icons to illustrate, thank you.  It put some of the previous posts from others into perspective for me.  It gives me more to think about.
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« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2012, 09:45:45 PM »

I mean these as questions, and not a criticism.
If someone is constantly calling his or herself a sinner and one of the worst, is that not a sin in itself?  There is a difference between gloating in front of God and having a sense of self worth.  To me that would seem to be forcing symptoms of depression on the soul to call themself the worst of sinners.  I can't see myself that way.  I've seen some horrible things in my life; I'm happy to say that I've had enough sense not to do them; why would that be wrong?

If God put us on this Earth, it means He believes in the life He gave to us.  Doesn't that make us worthy?  or at least be saying thankful officially and not unworthy.
If I gave a present to someone that they really wanted and they contantly called me on the phone telling me that they're not worthy of it, I'd get pretty offended to be honest.  Sorry for the lay analogy, but how is a negative outlook on one's self ever bring someone closer to God?  He knows best, I don't.  I do the best I can, and I'm sorry for the stuff I do wrong. I guess personally I feel that words of negativity does not help my personal situation or anecdotally those who are still trying make a Christian foundation for themselves if the language seems to depressing and self inflicting. Maybe there are some basic definitions I'm missing here.  Sin in Orthodoxy was told to me that it is missing the mark, if so why beat ourselves up over it if our heart is in the right place?

By all means do not beat yourself up and depress yourself as a result. There is indeed much to be thankful for, to look forward to, to rejoice over. God loves us all and that includes you as you, Ava, are precious to Him. Yes, he was crucified and suffered and died for us, as forecast in the Scriptures. But, He also rose up, conquered death by death and gave all of us (including you) the chance to be part of His Holy Body. Your progress as a catechumen may be such that you will grow in the Lord at your own pace and style. I predict, however, that one day in the future, you will find all of these words and prayers to be somewhat applicable to you. You will not be depressed but you will be sad; you will then partake of His Holy Body and Blood; and you will be comforted, loved and at peace. You may even feel unworthy to have received such a great gift from Him. But, you will not be miserable and depressed.
Thank you for your response. I think it is a really powerful thing to think about and keep to heart.  Sometimes I forget these concepts, and I have to have reminder.  Thank you  Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2012, 09:59:13 PM »

Cheerfulness is not a sin. It drives away weariness, for from weariness there is sometimes dejection, and there is nothing worse than that.

-- St. Seraphim of Sarov
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« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2012, 10:56:08 PM »

I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms.
There was once a creature that had the potential to become truly human, but failed. He is spoken of in the book of Genesis.

Christ became incarnate, and was truly human for their sake.

To the Orthodox, being human means being Jesus Christ, who is a human being in the truest sense. Insofar as we refuse to be Jesus Christ, we dehumanize ourselves.

So those words in the psalms aren't lamenting the human condition. They are lamenting the state of one who has abandoned it. And don't we all?

But when you say that you are a sinner, you are not berating yourself in vain of some static fact. Instead, you are emptying yourself of pride and delusion, which leaves a void to be filled by the mercy of God. If you believe that you are a sinner and unworthy, the emptiness caused by this is filled up.

In other words, believing words like "sinner" and "unworthy" is like going to get help from a doctor, and telling him what is wrong. If you are afraid to say what is wrong, then how can medicine be given? It won't be forced on you against your will.


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« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2012, 11:14:47 AM »

I'm hoping someone can maybe explain this in a way I can understand but I've been a catechumen since this past Oct, prior to that I was pagan for 20 years. I wasn't raised with any Christian knowledge so I'm literally learning from the ground up who Jesus is. I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms. At first it sent me into great despair like, "Why bother seeking God's love if I'm so bad a person/full of sin/UNWORTHY of it anway? What is the point? If I am unworthy of God's love, and undeserving of it, there's nothing I can do to be worthy, why shouldn't I just dig a hole and sit in it?"
We did.  It's called hell.  This was God's answer
 


Thank you, I am truly loving this board. Different people have different ways of conveying things and these images really help me see the "bigger picture". That’s the icon of God pulling Adam & Eve out of hell right? Powerful image.

 
Quote
You're not supposed to feel joy at being a wretched sinner.  You feel joy that there is a way out.
God loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.



I think that was the very link I’ve been missing. “Joy that there is a way out”.
I think what’s stumbling me is that with learning about Orthodoxy I’m FEELING everything. In no other faith I’ve experienced have I felt so emotionally stirred. Sometime it’s very scary to be so shaken up. But then I think if I am emotionally shaken, then by body is telling me there is something worthwhile here. So I keep on reading, learning, experiencing…
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« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2012, 11:15:48 AM »

There's an interesting book called "The Lenten Spring," by Fr. Thomas Hopko. It talks about how Lent is the way we get ready for the triumphant Resurrection. If we keep our minds on this, the food restrictions and such are not depressing.  Smiley

(Welcome to the board.)

My priest found his copy of this book and gave it to me last Friday. Oh! How I wish I had access to it a few weeks ago! It's incredibly helpful and not a difficult read (which I feared it would be) and has really helped me take all the pieces of what I've seen scattered about and being confused about and help start to put it into a picture. I realize I was looking at Lent upside down. From the point of "look how sinful we are" instead of "look how loving and merciful God is". It's a huge difference in perspective and how you internalize it.
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« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2012, 03:35:17 PM »

There's an interesting book called "The Lenten Spring," by Fr. Thomas Hopko. It talks about how Lent is the way we get ready for the triumphant Resurrection. If we keep our minds on this, the food restrictions and such are not depressing.  Smiley

(Welcome to the board.)

My priest found his copy of this book and gave it to me last Friday. Oh! How I wish I had access to it a few weeks ago! It's incredibly helpful and not a difficult read (which I feared it would be) and has really helped me take all the pieces of what I've seen scattered about and being confused about and help start to put it into a picture. I realize I was looking at Lent upside down. From the point of "look how sinful we are" instead of "look how loving and merciful God is". It's a huge difference in perspective and how you internalize it.

It is an excellent book. Btw, on the traditions on the beginning of Lent:
Quote
The happy, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday may seem at odds with the Lenten spirit of repentance and self-control, but this seeming contradiction is a marked aspect of the Orthodox approach to fasting, in accordance with the Gospel lesson (Matthew 6:14-21) read on the morning before, which admonishes:
When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret... (v. 16-18).
In this manner, the Orthodox celebrate the fact that "The springtime of the Fast has dawned, the flower of repentance has begun to open..." [Aposticha, Vespers on Wednesday of Cheesefare Week.]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Monday
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« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2012, 05:41:35 PM »

Just do not call yourself 'nothing' like many Protestant Churches do. Jesus did not die for nothing; He died for potential gods who had been held down for so long from the oppression of sin and death.
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You're really on to something here. Tattoo to keep you from masturbating, chew to keep you from fornicating... it's a whole new world where you outsource your crosses. You're like a Christian entrepreneur or something.
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« Reply #28 on: March 12, 2012, 07:17:54 PM »

My priest sent out this on his email service.

"Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre...for it (is) very great? (Mark 16:3). Who rolled it away? An angel, at God's command. He will likewise roll away the stone of insensibility from our hearts, when the time is right for this. We must show faithfulness to the Lord during times of callousness, faintheartedness, doubts, coldness, times of sorrow, illness and various misfortunes. We must exert our willpower to strengthen faith in ourselves when, by God's allowance, it seems to be all but extinguished. He permits this in order that we may show again and again what it is we are striving for, where our choice lies.

There is a saying among the elders: a good deed is either preceded or followed by a temptation. A good deed, such as heartfelt prayer, or especially Holy Communion, will not pass without the devil taking revenge. He uses all his might to prevent fruitful prayer and/or communion. If unable to achieve this, he then tries to spoil everything after the fact, so that not a trace of the benefit acquired remains. This is very familiar to all those who have some experience in spiritual endeavor. For this reason it is necessary to ask the Lord, with humility and contrition of heart, that He preserve us from the snares of the devil, who acts either directly upon the soul, or indirectly, through people subject to his power.

Do not be surprised at this. This warfare is fierce. Except the Lord build the house, in vain do they labour that build it. Except the Lord guard the city, in vain doth he watch that guardeth her, (Psalm 126:1-2). We must surrender ourselves into the compassionate hands of God, acknowledging before Him our weakness and inability to guard ourselves from visible and invisible foes. Do not be afraid. The devil does not do what he would like, but only that which God allows him to do. Take a look at the book of Job.

May God's blessing always be with you. Never despair. May Christ's Cross always serve to remind you of God's boundless love toward fallen man. Is this thought not enough to inspire one to wholly give oneself over into God's hands? One must make at least a small effort to seek the Kingdom of God, and then the Lord will not leave such a person without His help and comfort. The Lord loves you! Have patience with the Lord."

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.
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« Reply #29 on: March 12, 2012, 07:55:59 PM »

Thank you for sharing Second Chance!
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« Reply #30 on: March 12, 2012, 09:52:48 PM »

I'm hoping someone can maybe explain this in a way I can understand but I've been a catechumen since this past Oct, prior to that I was pagan for 20 years. I wasn't raised with any Christian knowledge so I'm literally learning from the ground up who Jesus is. I'm having a very difficult time processing things like calling myself a sinner, unworthy, wretched soul, and other type of negative words about being human that are often said in prayers and psalms. At first it sent me into great despair like, "Why bother seeking God's love if I'm so bad a person/full of sin/UNWORTHY of it anway? What is the point? If I am unworthy of God's love, and undeserving of it, there's nothing I can do to be worthy, why shouldn't I just dig a hole and sit in it?"  I broke down into tears in front of my priest during one of our sessions but I don't think he understands how I can feel despair over being called a sinner so he is not sure what to say to me. I'm getting better at accepting that these words are common but it doesn't make me feel any better about using them - it seems like negative self talk and makes me feel very sad and confused.

I'm especially having a hard time since it's my first Lent and it's all dark, repentant, with prostrations, recalling the sins of man and how horrible we are. I went to Pre-sanctified Liturgy last week and almost ran out I was so uncomfortable and upset. Everyone I talk to who has been raised in the church tries to tell me how "beautiful" it is, and how there's joy in Lent. Really? Because I'm not seeing or feeling any joy in the services from the first week of Lent. And I'm surely not feeling joy in being a wretched sinner.

I have been emailing a person online who was formerly a Mormon and who now attends a WOF church (Word of Faith). This person also shares your feelings because she considers herself to be good, and not junk, a sinner, wretched, or unworthy person. After all, the Bible teaches that everything was created good. Anyway, she has bought into the peer pressure of those who preach "self-affirmation" and "self-esteem." Since self-esteem was taught in almost all my college courses, I share your sentiment. My catechumenate was also very difficult.

However, in addition to the Bible mentioning that we are created good, it also mentions that mankind sins, and has sinned repeatedly. St. Peter in Acts 2:38 preaches: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  p. 1473 Orthodox Bible Study, NKJV, 2008.

With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are given the grace to help us attain theosis in the spiritual life .. to help us put on Christ and to be Christ to all we meet.

However, by acknowledging our own sinfulness and constantly calling upon the name of Christ to have mercy on us, we humble ourselves. Through humility, we can better resist the Evil One who would like us to fall into pride. Nevertheless, those who freely admit that they are humble are usually falling into pride.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

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« Reply #31 on: March 13, 2012, 01:04:50 PM »

Yes, I think the type of belief systems you mentioned above Maria are created in response to imbalanced teachings such as total depravity...Orthodoxy holds a balanced view on the human condition.
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« Reply #32 on: March 13, 2012, 02:39:53 PM »

My priest sent out this on his email service.

"Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre...for it (is) very great? (Mark 16:3). Who rolled it away? An angel, at God's command. He will likewise roll away the stone of insensibility from our hearts, when the time is right for this. We must show faithfulness to the Lord during times of callousness, faintheartedness, doubts, coldness, times of sorrow, illness and various misfortunes. We must exert our willpower to strengthen faith in ourselves when, by God's allowance, it seems to be all but extinguished. He permits this in order that we may show again and again what it is we are striving for, where our choice lies.

There is a saying among the elders: a good deed is either preceded or followed by a temptation. A good deed, such as heartfelt prayer, or especially Holy Communion, will not pass without the devil taking revenge. He uses all his might to prevent fruitful prayer and/or communion. If unable to achieve this, he then tries to spoil everything after the fact, so that not a trace of the benefit acquired remains. This is very familiar to all those who have some experience in spiritual endeavor. For this reason it is necessary to ask the Lord, with humility and contrition of heart, that He preserve us from the snares of the devil, who acts either directly upon the soul, or indirectly, through people subject to his power.

Do not be surprised at this. This warfare is fierce. Except the Lord build the house, in vain do they labour that build it. Except the Lord guard the city, in vain doth he watch that guardeth her, (Psalm 126:1-2). We must surrender ourselves into the compassionate hands of God, acknowledging before Him our weakness and inability to guard ourselves from visible and invisible foes. Do not be afraid. The devil does not do what he would like, but only that which God allows him to do. Take a look at the book of Job.

May God's blessing always be with you. Never despair. May Christ's Cross always serve to remind you of God's boundless love toward fallen man. Is this thought not enough to inspire one to wholly give oneself over into God's hands? One must make at least a small effort to seek the Kingdom of God, and then the Lord will not leave such a person without His help and comfort. The Lord loves you! Have patience with the Lord."

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.
Notice that how, although they asked the question, they did not go looking for someone to roll it away.  They continued on their way in Faith, trusting that if they came, God would provide.
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« Reply #33 on: March 13, 2012, 07:23:25 PM »

My priest sent out this on his email service.

"Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre...for it (is) very great? (Mark 16:3). Who rolled it away? An angel, at God's command. He will likewise roll away the stone of insensibility from our hearts, when the time is right for this. We must show faithfulness to the Lord during times of callousness, faintheartedness, doubts, coldness, times of sorrow, illness and various misfortunes. We must exert our willpower to strengthen faith in ourselves when, by God's allowance, it seems to be all but extinguished. He permits this in order that we may show again and again what it is we are striving for, where our choice lies.

There is a saying among the elders: a good deed is either preceded or followed by a temptation. A good deed, such as heartfelt prayer, or especially Holy Communion, will not pass without the devil taking revenge. He uses all his might to prevent fruitful prayer and/or communion. If unable to achieve this, he then tries to spoil everything after the fact, so that not a trace of the benefit acquired remains. This is very familiar to all those who have some experience in spiritual endeavor. For this reason it is necessary to ask the Lord, with humility and contrition of heart, that He preserve us from the snares of the devil, who acts either directly upon the soul, or indirectly, through people subject to his power.

Do not be surprised at this. This warfare is fierce. Except the Lord build the house, in vain do they labour that build it. Except the Lord guard the city, in vain doth he watch that guardeth her, (Psalm 126:1-2). We must surrender ourselves into the compassionate hands of God, acknowledging before Him our weakness and inability to guard ourselves from visible and invisible foes. Do not be afraid. The devil does not do what he would like, but only that which God allows him to do. Take a look at the book of Job.

May God's blessing always be with you. Never despair. May Christ's Cross always serve to remind you of God's boundless love toward fallen man. Is this thought not enough to inspire one to wholly give oneself over into God's hands? One must make at least a small effort to seek the Kingdom of God, and then the Lord will not leave such a person without His help and comfort. The Lord loves you! Have patience with the Lord."

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.
Notice that how, although they asked the question, they did not go looking for someone to roll it away.  They continued on their way in Faith, trusting that if they came, God would provide.

That's awesome. I've never considered it that way before.
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The Episcopallian road is easy and wide, for many go through it to find destruction. lol sorry channeling Isa.
ialmisry
There's nothing John of Damascus can't answer
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« Reply #34 on: March 13, 2012, 09:43:19 PM »

My priest sent out this on his email service.

"Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre...for it (is) very great? (Mark 16:3). Who rolled it away? An angel, at God's command. He will likewise roll away the stone of insensibility from our hearts, when the time is right for this. We must show faithfulness to the Lord during times of callousness, faintheartedness, doubts, coldness, times of sorrow, illness and various misfortunes. We must exert our willpower to strengthen faith in ourselves when, by God's allowance, it seems to be all but extinguished. He permits this in order that we may show again and again what it is we are striving for, where our choice lies.

There is a saying among the elders: a good deed is either preceded or followed by a temptation. A good deed, such as heartfelt prayer, or especially Holy Communion, will not pass without the devil taking revenge. He uses all his might to prevent fruitful prayer and/or communion. If unable to achieve this, he then tries to spoil everything after the fact, so that not a trace of the benefit acquired remains. This is very familiar to all those who have some experience in spiritual endeavor. For this reason it is necessary to ask the Lord, with humility and contrition of heart, that He preserve us from the snares of the devil, who acts either directly upon the soul, or indirectly, through people subject to his power.

Do not be surprised at this. This warfare is fierce. Except the Lord build the house, in vain do they labour that build it. Except the Lord guard the city, in vain doth he watch that guardeth her, (Psalm 126:1-2). We must surrender ourselves into the compassionate hands of God, acknowledging before Him our weakness and inability to guard ourselves from visible and invisible foes. Do not be afraid. The devil does not do what he would like, but only that which God allows him to do. Take a look at the book of Job.

May God's blessing always be with you. Never despair. May Christ's Cross always serve to remind you of God's boundless love toward fallen man. Is this thought not enough to inspire one to wholly give oneself over into God's hands? One must make at least a small effort to seek the Kingdom of God, and then the Lord will not leave such a person without His help and comfort. The Lord loves you! Have patience with the Lord."

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.
Notice that how, although they asked the question, they did not go looking for someone to roll it away.  They continued on their way in Faith, trusting that if they came, God would provide.

That's awesome. I've never considered it that way before.
I didn't either, until I heard it in a sermon by an Arab who was a Greek monk in the Albanian Church in America under the EP.  Refering to the myrrh, he said "they brought something, so they got something."
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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