Unworthy Servants ( 05.01.2008 )
Today, Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum celebrated Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Saint Maximus the Confessor and Saint Gregory Palamas in Star Dojran.
About the today’s Gospel reading, the Bishop said the following:
So you also, when you have done all those things which are commanded you, should say: we are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty. (Luke 17:10)
It is evident that the overarching theme of today’s Gospel is the humility to which Lord Jesus Christ desires to teach us. Consequently, now we should talk about the mind and its fall into pride, distraction, and darkness. Given that, on one hand, I have told you about this many times by now, and on the other, I was reminded of another aspect of the struggle of humility by today’s Gospel, I would like to draw your attention to the following:
The first thing that came to my mind after reading the Gospel were those moments of our spiritual life when we suffer an attack with which a demon or a man desires to cause or awaken the passion of high opinion of ourselves and to misguide us into fall, in condemnation or in paying back evil with evil. For instance, we all have those thoughts cross our mind after registering the information in our intellect about the suffered attack, along the lines of: how could he do that to me?; how could he say that about me?; who knows what he thinks of me now, and so forth… How should we protect ourselves from these thoughts? By humbling ourselves and condemning ourselves far worse from what is being done to us, from what we hear is being spoken about us, and from what we suppose or what the demon is whispering that is being thought about us: Yes, I am indeed such and such and that is what I deserve, and far worse than what is being done to me now!
After such self-condemnation, we ought to pray for our enemies. We say the prayer until the moment when the peace we used to have is restored within ourselves and with the enemy. The best would be to stay in prayer until we start shedding tears of repentance in which we will see that it is our fault for everything… Anyone who looks for the fault in anything or in any case outside of himself is leaving the path of our Fathers, is leaving the path which leads to the heart, is leaving the narrow path to the Kingdom of Heaven and to the Heavenly King… And, there is no other path!
Yet, let us go back more concretely to today’s Gospel. I think that it is clear to us all: the Lord desires to preserve us from pride, from high opinion of ourselves, even if we fulfilled all that was commanded us. Lord Jesus Christ is showing us the way to humility. Still, the Lord’s advice in it only refers to those who would possibly fulfill all that was commanded them. How can we, who do not fulfill what we have been commanded, humble ourselves? And if unworthy servants are those who did fulfill, then like what are we, who did not fulfill? We know what the Master said to the servant who did not use the talent He gave him so that he could use it appropriately: You wicked and lazy servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed; so you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest (Matthew 25:26-27). So the answer is: you wicked and lazy servant! It seems that from ‘wicked and lazy servant’ one must go a long way as to arrive at ‘unworthy’…
The question is, can we fulfill what we have been commanded, even if we tried to fulfill it? This question especially refers to all those who are bearers of some of the clerical ranks. Since all of us, by God’s permission, and not by God’s will, bear the clerical ranks that we do, we would not be able to fulfill what God expects from us, even if we wanted to because of inadequate inner spiritual coverage. For example, the word of the illumined one bears one kind of power, while the word of the one who morally and intellectually edifies himself bears another, whereas the power of the one who does not work on himself is a whole different thing. Let me not speak of the miracle-working word of the deified one. Lord, forgive me and be merciful to me, a sinner…