Love of Worms ( 29.12.2007 )
“So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous [another’s] wealth, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” (Luke 16:8-9)
All we have is a gift of God. This does not apply only to grace of priesthood, or only to grace that every Orthodox Christian receives in the Church, but it also refers to the graceful gifts of existence, of life, and of rationality possessed by every man. With all these gifts, for which we have contributed nothing as to have them, we must put ourselves in service to the temporary and eternal salvation of our fellowman.
Therefore the questions we will have to answer before the dreadful judgment seat, too, do not refer that much to the faith and Church to which we belong as they refer to concrete personal deeds: did we give Christ our Lord food when He was hungry; did we give Him drink when He was thirsty; did we take Him in when He was a stranger; did we clothe Him when He was naked; did we visit the Lord when He was sick; did we come to Him when He was in prison… If one should by any chance ask, “When was this all, Lord?”, the answer, at least to us Christians is quite clear: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:45).
Now, this is the way in which one makes friends by another’s wealth, so when we die we could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Still, such material and concrete way applies only to the ‘sons of this world’, i.e. it applies to all those who have not sufficiently freed their heart from the passions and do not have the gift of prayer in the heart—that is, those who are at the first stage of spiritual development. Another rule applies to them who are at the second stage of spiritual development, the stage of illumination of the mind. Such ones implore and receive from the Lord, in their heart, every good for their fellowmen. In their hearts the Son of Man has where to lay His head (Luke 9:58).
Let the commentary to the preceding passage from the same chapter in the Gospel serve only as an introduction to the interpretation of today’s Gospel reading…
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much…” (Luke 16:10)
About it, this time I would say the following: the fighter is a fighter both in what is least and in much, whereas the weak is such in both cases; the one brave and resolute is such in what is least and in much, while he who is a coward and waverer in what is least is such also in much; the God-loving and obedient is such in what is least and in much, whereas the self-loving and disobedient is such in both cases; he who is consistent in what is least is consistent also in much, and he who is inconsistent is such in both cases. I am speaking about the general direction of movement, not about the oscillations. I am talking about the inner attitude in the heart, not about the outward manifestations. I am telling you about the war in which we are already winners, not about the lost battles.
“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth [a gift by which our faithfulness is checked], who will commit to you trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11)
If we use the first light of the purified energy of the mind, granted to us by God for realization of our own sins and defilement, to observe others’ sins and to judge and condemn our fellowmen, then we close to ourselves the road to the true light that God grants us to see with our transformed physical eyes, after we have purified the essence of the mind in the heart as well.
If we do not use the gift of the mind-and-heart prayer for a several-hour practice of prayer daily, Who will entrust us with the true i.e. unceasing mind-and-heart prayer?
If with our illumination we do not activate and do not persist in the struggle for ascetical love towards our enemies, Who will entrust us with the true i.e. graceful love for our enemies? And that is a gift without which any other interpersonal “love” is called into question.
“And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:12)
If we do not use the time granted to us for spiritual growth in the moments when grace hides itself from us—that is, if we do not act the same in times when grace is hidden from us just as when it is present—Who will give us our grace i.e. such that will be permanently and openly with us?
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)
If consequences of division happen and we see them even within the frames of serving one and the same Master (He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 1 Cor. 7:32), how much more then does the evangelical conclusion stand when some have already chosen with their deeds to serve God or the devil? The difference is in that while we serve God, the demon continuously aggressively forces himself on us and does everything to make us his servants; as about those who serve the demon, God constantly and unobtrusively leads them with His providence towards salvation and humbly waits for the answer to His long-suffering and immense love.
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. (Luke 16:14)
Avarice (love of money) in fact is love of flesh, love of earth, and eventually—love of worms. As Saint John of the Ladder says: For all created insatiably longs for its equivalent: blood longs for blood, the worm longs for a worm, earth longs for earth. Why should not then the body also long for a body? Our Lord wants us to surpass this state when He says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6); also: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Therefore, again according to Climacus: anyway, we who conquer our nature and crave for the Kingdom of Heaven try (in the course of the struggle for spiritual growth) to deceive this deceiver (the body, but also the demon) with various shrewdness. Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum
(as recorded by the Sisters)