Catechism of Metropolitan Anthony

Preliminary Concepts
First Part of the Catechism: About the Faith
* Second Part of the Catechism: About Piety, or a Godly Life


About Piety, or a Godly Life

Q. Having understood the basic truths of faith, can a Christian comfort himself with the assurance that he will surely save his soul?

A. By no means, since the Apostle Paul teaches us: “If I...know all the mysteries and all the knowledge, and if I have all the faith, so as to remove mountains from one place to another, but I have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).

Q. According to this, is it possible to agree with the teaching which asserts that faith itself will propel a Christian to carry out podvigs of virtue and he does not need to struggle for this?

A. This doctrine is completely false, because “the demons also believe, and shudder” (Jas. 2:19).

Q. How is it evident that a believer, not being satisfied simply with his assent to the truths of divine revelation, must use his efforts in the struggle against sin and in the acquisition of virtues?

A. From the words of Christ: “The kingdom of the heavens is being taken by force, and the forceful seize it” (Mt. 11:12). Then, in the parable of the sower, the Lord explains that the grains that have fallen on good ground “are they who, after they hear the word with a noble and good heart, held fast and bore fruit in patience” (Lk. 8:15). The Apostle Paul, who is mistakenly referred to by the false teachers mentioned, writes even more clearly about the need to harness your will to achieve eternal life. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forth to those things which are before, I pursue toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Q. How can we understand the apostle’s words that Abraham and Christians are justified by faith and not by the works of the Law (see Rom. 3:28; 4:3; Eph. 2:8-9)?

A. By the works of the Law, the Apostle Paul meant the ritual Law of Moses, which lost its meaning after our redemption by Christ the Savior, and by faith [Saint Paul meant] all the fullness of the Christian grace-filled and holy life, as he himself explains in another epistle: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision hath any strength, nor uncircumcision, but faith energizing itself through love,” or in the next chapter: “but a new creation” (Gal. 5:6; 6:15).

Q. Do not the Holy Scriptures give warnings about a wrong understanding of the Apostle Paul?

A. The Apostle Iakovos gives such warnings, explaining the insufficiency of one’s conviction in the truths of faith, and the Apostle Peter, pointing out that the Apostle Paul in all his epistles teaches Christians to be honoring “the long-suffering of the Lord” (that is, to imitate His patience) as our “salvation,” while “the unlearned and unstable twist” the teaching of the Apostle Paul “as they do also the rest of Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

Q. What is the ultimate goal of that long-suffering and exertion, or podvig, by which Christians accomplish their salvation?

A. The complete destruction of their passions and, as stated at the beginning of the catechism, the attainment of holiness and communion with God.

The Lord Jesus Christ, having offered His listeners the highest virtue of love for enemies, concluded His discourse in this way: “Be perfect, even as your Father Who is in the heavens is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).

Q. What is the path to the gradual and feasible achievement of such perfection?

A. It is two-fold: the fight against sin, and the assimilation of the virtues and communion with God.

Q. What words of God should guide us in these labors?

A. The ceasing from sins is predominantly according to the Ten Commandments of God in the Old Testament, and the testimony of virtues is predominantly according to the nine commandments of the Gospel.

About the Commandments of Both Testaments in General

Q. What is common between the commandments of the Old and New Testaments, and why should one see in them the essence of the moral teaching God gave to man?

A. Both those and the other commandments were given by the mouth of God and under especially solemn conditions, and then were accompanied by many more additions and explanations from the Lord Who spoke.

Q. Under what conditions were the commandments of the Old Testament given?

A. When the Jewish people, descended from Abraham, were miraculously freed from the slavery of the Egyptians, then on the way to the promised land, in the wilderness, on Mount Sinai, God revealed His presence in fire and cloud and gave the Law through the leader of the Israelites, Moses.

Q. Under what conditions were the commandments of the New Testament given?

A. The Lord Jesus Christ, having ascended a high mountain, “stood upon a level place. And there was a crowd of His disciples, and a great multitude of the people from all of Judæa and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases—even those who were troubled by unclean spirits; and they were cured. And all the crowd was seeking to touch Him, for power was coming forth from Him and healing all. And He lifted up His eyes to His disciples, and began to say...” (Lk. 6:17-20).

Q. Did similar healings take place when God spoke the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament on Mount Sinai?

A. On the contrary, the Lord forbade Moses to allow a man or an animal to touch the foot of the mountain at this time, because otherwise they must immediately be put to death.

Q. Do the Old Testament commandments represent only the prohibition of sins, and the New Testament commandments represent only the praise of virtue?

A. No; firstly, the fourth and fifth commandments of the Old Testament also contain the prescriptions of virtues, and then a more sincere perception by the human heart of the prohibitions of the Old Testament and the Beatitudes of the New Testament reveals to him those opposite acts and feelings that are prescribed by the prohibitions of sins and are prohibited by the Beatitudes of virtue.

Q. What is the name of that power in the soul of man, which explains to us the commandments of God in this way?

A. It is called the conscience or internal law.

Q. Does Scripture speak about an inner law?

A. The Apostle Paul says about the nations: “The work of the law [is] written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts one with another accusing or also excusing” (Rom. 2:15).

Q. If there is an internal law in humanity, then why is the external law given also?

A. It is given because men did not obey the inner law and, leading a carnal and sinful life, drowned out the voice of the spiritual law. That is why it was necessary to remind them of it externally, by means of the commandments.

“Why then the Law? It was added on account of transgressions” (Gal. 3:19).

Q. Did the sons of the Old Testament understand that abstinence from sins does not exhaust the will of God?

A. Undoubtedly they understood, because when the Lord asked the scribe what is the main commandment of the Law of Moses leading to eternal life, he answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Lk. 10:27).

Q. Who else answered the question about the greatest commandment of the Law with the same words?

A. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself (see Matthew 22:36-40).

Q. Are all men our neighbors?

A. Everyone. Because everyone is a creation of one God and descended from one man. But those who are united in Faith are especially close to us, as children of the one heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ.

Q. What should be the order in love for God, for one’s neighbor, and for oneself?

A. One should love oneself only for God and partly for one’s neighbors; one must love one’s neighbors for God, but one must love God for God Himself and above all else. Love for oneself should be sacrificed for the love for our neighbors; love for oneself and for neighbors should be sacrificed for love for God.

“Greater love hath no one than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

“The one who loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37).

On the Commandments of the Old Testament

Q. Is it possible to find in the commandments of the Old Testament precisely these two main commandments?

A. It is possible, since the Ten Commandments forbid sins contrary to love for God and love for our neighbor: the first four commandments concern love for God, and the last sixlove for our neighbor.

Q. How were the commandments passed on to the people of Israel?

A. The Lord Himself originally inscribed them on two stone tablets.

Q. How can it be seen that in the words of the Lord setting forth His law, He divided them precisely into ten main commandments?

A. From the words of the same holy Book of Exodus, where they are called the Decalogue (see Ex. 34:28); then these commandments are repeated with all accuracy in Deuteronomy (see Deut. 5), where it is said that the tablets with the Decalogue were placed forever in the Ark of the Covenant by the command of God, which was the main shrine of the people of God.

Q. How are these commandments read?

A. 1) “I am the Lord thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.”

2) “Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, nor likeness of anything, whatever things are in the heaven above, and whatever are in the earth beneath, and whatever are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.”

3) “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord thy God will not acquit him that takes His name in vain.”

4) “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor and shalt perform all thy work. But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.”

5) “Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the good land, which the Lord thy God gives to thee.”

6) “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

7) “Thou shalt not steal.”

8) “Thou shalt not kill (murder).”

9) “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

10) “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his field, nor his servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his livestock, nor anything that belongs to thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:2-17).

Q. If these commandments were given to the people of Israel, then do we also need to act according to them?

A. We must, because in their essence they are the same law which, according to the Apostle Paul, was written in the hearts of all men, so that everyone would follow it.

Q. Did Jesus Christ teach people to walk according to the Ten Commandments?

A. He commanded that, in order to obtain eternal life, one ought to keep the commandments, and He taught us to understand and fulfill them more perfectly than they had been understood before His incarnation (see Matthew 19:17; 5).

On the First Commandment

Q. What is the meaning of the words “I am the Lord thy God”?

A. With these words, God, as it were, points Himself out to man and, consequently, commands him to recognize the Lord God.

Q. What special duties are derived from the command to know God?

A. 1) One should study the knowledge of God as the most important of all knowledge.

2) One should diligently listen to the teaching about God and His works in the church and engage in pious conversations about this also outside the church.

3) One should read or listen to books that teach the knowledge of God: firstly, the Holy Scriptures, and secondly, the writings of the holy fathers.

Q. What is forbidden in the words “Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me”?

A. 1) Atheism, or disbelief, when peoplewhom the psalmist justly calls foolswanting to get rid of the fear of God’s judgment, say there is no God in their hearts (Ps. 13:1), or when, recognizing that God is, do not believe in His providence and revelation.

2) Heresy, when men mix opinions contrary to divine truth with the teachings of the Faith.

3) Schism, that is, willful deviation from the unity of worshipping God and from the Orthodox Catholic Church of God.

4) Apostasy, when men renounce the true Faith out of human fear or for worldly gain.

5) Despair, when people do not at all hope to receive grace and salvation from God.

6) Magic, when, leaving faith in the power of God, men believe in the secret and, for the most part, evil forces of created beings and, especially, evil spirits, and try to operate with them. [This also includes New Age paganism, horoscopes, astrology, ouiji boards, yoga, etc.]

7) Superstition, when men believe in some ordinary thing as if it had divine power, and instead of God, they hope upon or fear it. For example, they believe in an old book and think that it is only possible to be saved by it, and not by a new one, although the new one contains the same teaching and the same divine service.

8) Man-pleasing, when people please men in such a way that they do not care about pleasing God.

9) Hoping upon man, when someone relies on the abilities and strength of himself or other people, and not on the mercy and help of God.

Q. Why should one think that man-pleasing and hoping upon man is contrary to the first commandment?

A. Because the person whom we please or on whom we hope, to the point of forgetting God, is in some way for us another god instead of the true God.

Q. How does the Holy Scripture talk about man-pleasing?

A. The Apostle Paul says, “For if I were yet trying to please men, I should not be a slave of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Q. How does the Holy Scripture talk about hoping upon man?

A. The Lord says about this: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and will lean his arm of flesh upon him, while his heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5).

Q. How does the Scripture teach about superstition and, in particular, about magic and the summoning of the dead?

A. Both are considered grave sins and the Law of Moses commands the stoning of a man or woman who summons the dead or those who practice magic (see Lev. 20:27; Deut. 18:11); magic was denounced by the Prophets Isaias, Ezekiel, and others.

Q. Are there warnings against superstition in the New Testament?

A. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: Be “nourished with the words of the faith and of the good teaching which thou hast followed closely. But be rejecting profane and old women’s fables, and be exercising thyself toward piety” (1 Tim. 4:6-7).

On the Second Commandment

Q. What is this “graven image” referred to in the second commandment?

A. In this very commandment it is explained that a graven image, or an idol, is an image of some creature living in heaven, or on earth, or in the waters, which is worshiped and served instead of God.

Q. What does the second commandment prohibit?

A. It forbids the worship of idols as imaginary deities or as images of false gods.

Q. Is it not forbidden through this to have any sacred images whatsoever?

A. In this commandment there is no such prohibition, since the same Moses, through whom God gave a commandment prohibiting idols, at the same time received from God the command to place in the tabernacle, the movable Jewish temple, golden sacred images of cherubim, and moreover this was in the inner part of the temple in which the people turned to worship God.

Q. Why is this example noteworthy for the Orthodox Christian Church?

A. Because it explains the correctness of the use of holy icons in the Orthodox Church.

Q. What is an icon?

A. This word from the Greek means “form” or “image.” In the Orthodox Church, this name refers to the sacred images of God Who appeared in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, His most pure Mother, and His saints.

Q. Is the use of holy icons in accordance with the second commandment?

A. It would not be agreeable with it only if someone began to idolize them. According to this commandment, it is not at all contradictory to venerate icons as sacred images and use them for reverent remembrance of the deeds of God and His saints, since in this case the icons are books written by faces and objects instead of letters (see St. Gregory the Great, “Letter 9 to Bishop Serenus of Marseilles”).

Q. Does the holy Church teach concerning this?

A. Yes, she specially assembled the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which approved the veneration of icons, for which many saints suffered martyrically from heretics (iconoclasts) who rejected the veneration of holy icons and holy relics.

Q. In what disposition of soul should one be in when venerating icons?

A. He who looks at them must look with his mind to God and the saints who are depicted on them.

Q. What is the general name of the sin against the second commandment?

A. Idolatry.

Q. What does spiritual idolatry mean?

A. The love of a creature more than God, which usually leads a person to the violation of the holy commandments and often to apostasy from the Faith.

The excessive and unreasonable admiration for contemporary modes of thought and fashionable teachings and the deviation for their sake from the doctrine of truth is the same sin. The Apostle Paul warns Christians against this: “Be wary lest there shall be anyone who leadeth you captive through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). The Apostle John predicted this: At some point the beast hostile to Christ (the Antichrist and his teaching) would become strong upon the earth, “and all those dwelling on the earth shall make obeisance to him—everyone whose name hath not been written in the book of life of the Lamb, the One having been slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

Q. Are those who reject the veneration of icons justified in referring to the prohibition in the Book of Deuteronomy against depicting God in the form of a man, or a woman, or any other creature (see Deut. 4:15-18)?

A. If the Jews who were always inclined to idolatry were not forbidden, then this prohibition, like the entire ritual Law, for example, circumcision and the sabbath, was abolished by the redemption of Christ; therefore our Savior, repeating the commandments to the rich young man, did not mention these words of the second commandment.

Q. But in that case there was only mention of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th commandments; did the Lord confirm the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 10th?

A. He did confirm them: the 1st in response to the teacher of the law on the question, “what is the greatest commandment in the Law”; the 3rd when He taught against swearing; the 4th, when He explained its meaning while He was performing healings on the sabbath; the 10th when denouncing contemplation of someone else’s woman, and in the parable of equal pay to the workers in the vineyard.

Q. How does the Church teach about the attitude of Jesus Christ towards the veneration of icons.

A. She preaches everywhere the tradition of Jesus Christ producing an “Image Not Made by Hands” by wiping His face with a napkin and how it was a gift to the King of Edessa, Abgar, who, having received this, was healed of a disease. In memory of this event, the feast day of the Image Not Made by Hands (August 16) has been established since ancient times.

On the Third Commandment

Q. How does it happen that the name of God is pronounced in vain (to no purpose)?

A. It comes about in useless and vain conversations, and all the more to no purpose when pronounced falsely or irreverently.

Q. What sins are prohibited by the third commandment?

A. 1) Blasphemy, or bold words against God.

2) Murmuring against God, or complaining about His providence.

3) Making sacred subjects into a joke or a mockery.

4) Inattention in prayer.

5) Perjury, when someone affirms an oath that is not true.

6) Oath-breaking, when a just and lawful oath is not fulfilled.

7) Breaking vows made to God.

8) Swearing, or the frivolous use of an oath in ordinary conversations.

Q. Is there any special provision in the Holy Scriptures banning swearing in conversations?

A. The Savior says, “But I say to you not to swear at all: neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God,...but let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ ‘no’; and what is more than these is from the evil one” (Mt. 5:34, 37).

Q. Does this forbid one to take any oath in public affairs?

A. The Apostle Paul says: “For men indeed swear by the greater, and the oath for confirmation is to them an end of all contradiction. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel, mediated by an oath” (Heb. 6:16).

From this we must conclude that if God Himself used an oath for an immutable assurance, then all the more is it allowed and we should, in important and necessary cases, at the request of a legitimate authority, use a vow and oath with reverence and with a firm intention not to change it at all.

Q. Did the holy angels and holy apostles use oaths?

A. In the Apocalypse, Saint John saw the angel who “swore by the One living to the ages of the ages, Who created the heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in her, and the sea and the things in her, that there shall be time no longer” (Rev. 10:6). Apostle Paul repeatedly in his epistles called on God as a witness to the truthfulness of his words, for example: “God is my witness, how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:8).

Q. When is an oath allowed?

A. Swearing under oath—when it is necessary for the common good to establish the credibility of a man’s testimony, for example, in court; and a sworn vow—when it is necessary to strengthen a man’s will in goodness and truth, so that he does not depart from it, remembering that in this case he would be not only a liar, but also an oath-breaker. Such is the oath when accepting Church orders, primarily the episcopal, and also military and civil offices.

On the Fourth Commandment

Q. Why is the seventh and not some other day supposed to be dedicated to God?

A. Because God in six days created the world, and on the seventh He rested from the works of creation.

Q. Is the sabbath (Saturday) celebrated in the Christian Church?

A. It is not celebrated as a special feast day; however, in commemoration of the creation of the world and in continuation of the original rest of God, it differs from other days by a relief from fasting.

Q. How is the fourth commandment fulfilled in the Christian Church?

A. It is celebrated every seventh day, but not on the last of the seven days, which is the sabbath, but on the first day of each week, Sunday.

Q. Since when was Sunday celebrated?

A. Since the very time of the Resurrection of Christ.

Q. Does the Scripture mention the celebration of Sunday?

A. The book of the Acts of the Apostles mentions the gathering of disciples, that is, Christians, on the first day of the week, or on Sunday, for the breaking of bread, that is, for the celebration of the Mystery of Communion (see Acts 20:7). The Apostle and Evangelist John in the Apocalypse also mentions “the Lord’s day,” or Sunday (see Rev. 1:10).

Q. Should not the name of the seventh day, or sabbath, be understood to be other days as well?

A. Just as in the old testament Church the other days established for celebration or fasting, such as the feast of Passover, the day of purification, were also understood under the name of sabbath, so in the Christian Church, apart from Sunday, other established feast days and fasts are to be observed for the glory of God and in honor of the most holy Theotokos and other saints (see Orthodox Confession, Part 3, Q. 60, Part 1, Q. 88).

[Q. What are the principal feast days of the Church?

[A. Besides Pascha, the feast of feasts, there are twelve: the Nativity of the Theotokos, the Exaltation of the Cross, the Entrance of the Theotokos, the Nativity of Christ, Theophany, the Meeting, the Annunciation, Palm Sunday, the Ascension, Pentecost, Transfiguration, and the Dormition of the Theotokos.]

Q. So the fourth commandment of the Old Testament does not contain the prohibition of sin, but the prescription of piety?

A. It contains both in the Bible; here it was presented in abbreviated form, and its full exposition reads as follows: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt labor, and shalt perform all thy work. But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; on it thou shalt do no work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy servant nor thy maidservant, thine ox nor thine ass, nor any cattle of thine, nor the stranger that sojourns with thee. For in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, and the sea and all things in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11).

Q. Referring the teaching on the virtue of prayer to the Beatitudes, point here to those external differences that the new testament Church prescribes for Christians on feast days.

A. First, one should not work on these days, or do worldly and everyday affairs; secondly, one must keep them holy, that is, use them for holy and spiritual deeds, to the glory of God.

Q. Why is it forbidden to work on feast days?

A. Because they should be used for holy and God-pleasing deeds.

Q. What exactly is appropriate to do on holidays (holy days)?

A. 1) Come to church for public worship and the teaching of the word of God.

2) Outside the temple to engage in prayer, reading, or soul-saving conversations.

3) Dedicate a part of your property to God and use it for the needs of the Church and those serving her and for the benefit of the poor, visit the sick and those imprisoned, and do other deeds of Christian love.

Q. But should not such things be done on work days, too?

A. It is well for whoever can do it. And whoever is hindered by his work should at least consecrate feast days with such deeds. Prayer, of course, must be done every day, morning and evening, before and after lunch and dinner, and, if possible, at the beginning and end of every task.

Q. What should be thought of those who, on feast days, allow themselves immodest games and spectacles, secular songs, and intemperance in food and drink?

A. Such people greatly insult the sanctity of the feast days. If works that are innocent and useful for this temporal life are not befitting on the days of the saints, then all the more are those works useless which are fleshly and passionate.

[Many amusements and pleasures that the world clamors after should be avoided by Christians, such as TV shows, movies, gambling, tobacco, video games, dancing, theatrical performances, sporting events, worldly music, concerts, social media and any other vain distraction from the remembrance of God.]

Q. When the fourth commandment speaks of doing work for six days, does it condemn those who do nothing at all?

A. No doubt it does condemn those who, on ordinary days, do not engage in labor worthy of their rank but spend their time in idleness and amusement.

Q. What punishment does the Church impose on those who do not come to church for prayer and do not observe the holy fasts?

A. About the firstthe Apostolic Canons command to excommunicate such a Christian who, having no insurmountable obstacles, has not attended the Divine Liturgy for three weeks in a row; concerning the second—as affirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, those who do not fast on Wednesday and Friday and for the holy forty days (Great Lent) should be excommunicated from Holy Communion for two years.

Q. What should one say to deniers of fasting who say that Jesus Christ did not establish fasts?

A. That they are not telling the truth, because the Lord said about His followers, “Days will come, whenever the bridegroom shall have been taken away from them, and then shall they fast” (Mt. 9:15). Therefore, Christians fast on Wednesday and Fridaythe days of Christ’s betrayal and death.

Q. What other fasts are established for Christians?

A. The Great, Apostles’, Dormition, and Nativity Fasts, as well as the day of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and the day of the Exaltation of the Holy and Life-giving Cross of the Lord.

Q. Has the Lord promised a crown for those who struggle in fasting in this age and in the future?

A. He did indeed promise this when He spoke about unhypocritical fasting: “Thy Father Who seeth in secret, shall render what is due to thee openly” (Mt. 6:18); when the disciples asked the Lord why they could not drive out the demon from the young man brought to them, He answered, “Because of your unbelief.... This kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:20-21); from these words of Christ it is clear that fasting with prayer increases the faith of a Christian and gives him power over unclean spirits.

On the Fifth Commandment

Q. So the fifth commandment does not consist of prohibition, but of admonition and command?

A. Quite so; the Apostle Paul points to this, recounting it: “‘Be honoring thy father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise” (Eph. 6:2).

Q. Why did the Lord lay down this commandment differently from the other commandments?

A. Because of its feasibility, since natural humanity, by its very nature, performs it; even animals have affection and obedience to father and mother. Therefore, those who violate this commandment act “worse than cattle.”

Q. How grievous is it for those who violate this commandment?

A. It is so grievous that the Lord, in the same speech in which He gave the Ten Commandments, says, “He that reviles his father or his mother shall surely die” (Ex. 21:17).

The Lord Jesus Christ mentioned these words to the Pharisees who weakened the meaning of this commandment (see Mt. 15:6).

Q. What special obligations does the fifth commandment prescribe in one’s relation to his parents, under the general title of honoring them?

A. 1) Love them and treat them respectfully.

2) Obey them.

3) Take care of them during illness and old age.

4) After their death, as well as during their life, pray for the salvation of their souls and faithfully fulfill their wills that are not contrary to the law of God (see 2 Mac. 12:43-44; Jer. 35:18-19; Saint John Damascene, A Word About the Dead).

Q. Why is the promise of prosperity and long life predominantly added to the commandment to honor one’s parents?

A. In order to more strongly induce, by an obvious reward, the fulfillment of such a commandment, on which first of all the order of family life and then all of societal life is established.

Q. How is this promise fulfilled?

A. Examples of the ancient patriarchs or forefathers show that God gives special power to the blessing of parents (see Genesis 27). “The blessing of the father establishes the homes of children” (Sir. 3:9). God, according to His wise and righteous providence, especially preserves the life and arranges the welfare of those honoring their parents upon earth; to the perfect reward of perfect virtue, [fulfillment of the commandment] bestows an immortal and blessed life in the heavenly fatherland.

Q. If this commandment has in mind the affirmation of the family, then what other kind of love and faithfulness is implied in it?

A. Matrimonial.

Q. How does Scripture teach about the obligations of husband and wife?

A. “Husbands, be loving your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). “Wives, be subordinating yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also the Christ is head of the Church, and is Himself Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:22-23).

Q. Why do the commandments that prescribe love for others mention parents before anyone else?

A. Because our parents are naturally the closest to us.

Q. Does the fifth commandment signify anyone else under the name of parents?

A. We must understand it to mean all who in various respects take the place of parents for us.

Q. Who then takes the place of parents for us?

A. 1) Spiritual shepherds and teachers, because they beget us in the spiritual life by teaching and through the mysteries and educate us in it, which is why they are called spiritual fathers. The Apostle Paul writes: “For if ye have myriads of tutors in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begot you through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).

2) Those who govern our fatherland, especially if they have the royal dignity, in which they are consecrated through the Mystery of Chrismation.

3) Seniors according to age.

4) Teachers and educators.

5) Those having authority over us in different ways.

Q. How does the Holy Scripture talk about obedience to authorities?

A. “Let every soul be subject to authorities which govern. For there is no authority except from God; and the existing authorities have been appointed by God. So that the one who sets himself against the authority hath withstood the ordinance of God; and they who have withstood shall receive judgment to themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).

“My son, fear thou the Lord and the king: and associate not with the rebels” (Proverbs 24:21).

“Be fearing God, be honoring the king” (1 Pet. 2:17).

Q. How does Holy Scripture speak about reverence for pastors and spiritual teachers?

A. “Be obedient to those who lead you, and keep on submitting, for they are watchful for your souls, as those about to render an account, that they may do this with joy, and not groaning; for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

Q. Is there a special instruction in the Holy Scriptures to honor those older in age?

A. “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:32).

Q. What does Scripture prescribe about responsibilities in relation to leaders of various kinds?

A.”Render then to all their dues: to whom the tribute is due, the tribute; to whom the customs duty, the toll; to whom the fear, the fear; to whom the honor, the honor” (Rom. 13:7).

Q. How does Scripture teach about the subordination of slaves to their masters?

A. “Household slaves, be subject in all fear to your masters, not only to the good and fair, but also to the crooked” (1 Pet. 2:18).

Q. If Scripture prescribes obligations towards one’s parents, does it not also prescribe obligations towards one’s children?

A. It also prescribes obligations towards one’s children, in accordance with the title of parents [lit. “begetters”]. “Fathers, cease provoking your children, but be nurturing them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Q. How does the Holy Scripture talk about the obligation of shepherds to their spiritual flock?

A. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising the episcopal office, not by constraint, but willingly, not for sordid greed of gain, but readily, neither as exercising lordship over the clergy, but becoming examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3).

Q. How does Scripture talk about the obligation of rulers and masters?

A. “Masters, keep on providing to the slaves that which is just and that which is equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in the heavens” (Col. 4:1).

Q. What should be done if it happens that one’s parents or superiors require something contrary to the Faith or the law of God?

A. Then we must tell them what the apostles said to the rulers of the Jews: “Whether it is right before the face of God to hearken to you rather than God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). And we must endure everything for the Faith and the law of God, no matter what the consequences are.

On the Sixth Commandment

Q. What is prohibited by the sixth commandment?

A. Murder, or taking the life of a neighbor, in whatever way.

Q. What other circumstances are related to lawless murder?

A. In addition to direct murder, by whatever weapon, the following similar cases are related to the same crime:

1) When a judge condemns a defendant whose innocence is known to him.

2) When someone harbors or frees a murderer and thus gives him an opportunity for more murders.

3) When someone could deliver a neighbor from death but does not do it, as for example, if a rich man allows the poor to die of hunger.

4) When someone exhausts his subordinates with excessive labors and cruel punishments and thus hastens their death.

5) When someone shortens his own life by intemperance or other vices.

Q. How should suicide be judged?

A. It is the most criminal of murders because if it is contrary to nature to kill another person like us, then it is even more contrary to nature to kill yourself. Our life does not belong to us, like property, but to God Who gave it.

Q. How should duels to resolve private feuds be judged?

A. Since it is the government’s business to resolve private disputes, but instead, the dueler willfully decides on such a matter in which there will certainly be death for both him and his rival, then two terrible crimes are involved in a duel: murder and suicide.

Q. Besides bodily murder, is there spiritual murder?

A. Spiritual murder is carried out through temptation, when someone seduces a neighbor into unbelief or iniquity, and thereby exposes that one’s soul to spiritual death.

The Savior says: “But whosoever shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be to his advantage that a millstone turned by an ass were hung upon his neck, and he were drowned in the deep of the sea” (Mt. 18:6).

Q. Are there still subtler types of murder?

A. To a certain extent, this sin includes all deeds and words that are contrary to love and unrighteously disturb the peace and safety of a neighbor, and, finally, inner hatred against another, even if it is not revealed.

“Everyone who hateth his brother is a manslayer” (1 John 3:15).

Q. If murder is sinful, as an expression of hatred, is it permissible when it is done in accordance not out of hatred but some other kind of impulse?

A. It is still reprehensible, for then it is self-will, for which men have not received permission from the Lord.

Q. In the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” are not war and the death penalty prohibited?

A. The commandment prohibits only killing out of hatred or arbitrariness, since the continuation of the Lord’s speech after the Decalogue commands [the Israelites] to put to death not only murderers but also those who slander father or mother, and even those people who were knowingly keeping a butting ox if it gores a person (see Isaiah 21).

Q. Is it therefore permissible for Christians to participate in war?

A. Although war is a great evil, the refusal of individuals or societies to participate in it produces even more because it is the cause of internal war, as history and modernity testify.

Q. What should one think about the death penalty, through which the offender is often deprived of the opportunity to repent of his sinful life?

A. The death penalty is also a great evil, but it is permissible in cases where it is the only means to stop more numerous killings, for example, during a military uprising.

[Christian nations have used the death penalty since ancient times. When an evildoer is put to death, he pays for his sins with his life. Saint Theodore the Sykeote says that a criminal who is put to death “goes to God guiltless.”]

Q. Is there a clear statement [in the Church] about war?

A. In the canonical epistle of Saint Athanasius the Great to Ammun the monk similar thoughts are expressed about war.

Q. What should be thought of an involuntary killer? Why is Church penance imposed on him?

A. For not taking precautions to eliminate the possibility of an accident.

Q. But sometimes he is not guilty of this either.

A. Then he accepts a lesser penance to test his conscience with the question: Did not God allow this misfortune to occur due to his previous sins?

[It is almost impossible that such a situation would occur unless a man was not living a proper, pious life.]

On the Seventh Commandment

Q. What is prohibited by the seventh commandment?

A. Fornication.

Q. What kinds of sins are prohibited under the name of fornication?

A. 1) Unlawful carnal love between people who are not married.

2) Adultery, when those who are married lawlessly turn away their love for their spouse toward strangers.

3) Incest, when through a union resembling marriage, close relatives unite.

4) Masturbation, or malakiya, when this sin is indulged in alone.

Q. How does the Savior teach concerning fornication?

A. He said, “Everyone who looketh on a woman in order to lust after her did already commit adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28).

Q. What must be observed in order not to fall into such a subtle, internal adultery?

A. It is necessary to flee everything that can arouse unclean feelings in the heart, such as: voluptuous songs, dances, foul language, immodest games and jokes, immodest spectacles, [parties, television shows, movies, immodest unbelievers,] and reading books in which impure love is described in an appealing way. One should try to live according to the Gospel and not look at what tempts.

“If thy right eye cause thee to stumble, remove it and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Gehenna” (Mt. 5:29).

Q. Is it really necessary to pluck out the stumbling eye?

A. It is necessary to pull it out not by hand, but by the will. He who has firmly decided not to look at what entices has already ripped out the seducing eye from himself.

Q. How is it clear that the Church understands the words of Christ in this way, and not literally?

A. From the fact that, according to canonical rules, she excommunicates those who have castrated themselves from Communion for a certain period, and then, having received the one who repented, does not allow him to join the clergy.

[The seventh commandment also prohibits the wearing of immodest clothing or other behavior that could entice another person into lustful thoughts. In particular, women should “adorn themselves in modest dress, with regard for others” (1 Tim. 2:9). When a woman dresses inappropriately, God accounts it as a sin for her if a man is thereby tempted to sinful thoughts. A woman should wear modest dresses or skirts and long sleeves, with clothing that does not reveal her figure, and a head covering that symbolizes her subjection. Pious Christian women do not cut their hair, and pious Orthodox men do not cut their beards. Another aspect of modesty is to acquire “a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great value before God” (1 Pet. 3:4).]

Q. What motivations does Scripture provide to flee fornication and live a chaste life?

A. It commands our bodies to be kept pure, because they are members of Christ and the temples of the Holy Spirit, and says that, on the contrary, the fornicator sins against his own body, that is, corrupts it, infects it with diseases, and damages even the mental faculties, such as imagination and memory (see 1 Cor. 6:15, 18-19).

On the Eighth Commandment

Q. What is generally prohibited by the eighth commandment?

A. Theft, or appropriation in some way of what belongs to others.

Q. What particular sins are prohibited by the eighth commandment?

A. In general:

1) Robbery, or the taking of someone else’s property, obviously by violence.

2) Theft, or stealing someone else’s possessions in secret.

3) Deception, or the appropriation of something from someone else by cunning, when, for example, people give a false coin instead of a true one, a bad product instead of a good one, they give a lesser quantity than what was purchased, hide their property in order not to pay debts, do not fulfill their agreed obligations, or when people hide a perpetrator of theft and thus deprive the victim of restitution.

4) Sacrilege, or the appropriation of what is dedicated to God and what belongs to the Church.

5) Spiritual sacrilege, when some betray, while others seize sacred positions not according to their merit, but according to their selfish avarice.

6) Bribery, when a man takes a bribe from subordinates or defendants, and according to their own self-interest they elevate the unworthy, justify the guilty, or oppress the innocent.

7) Parasitism, when men receive a salary for a position or a payment for work but the position or work is not performed, and thus they steal their salary or wages and and also deprive society or their employer of the assistance the worker could have rendered. Likewise, it occurs when those who have the power to earn a living by their labors instead live on hand-outs or charity.

8) Usury, when, under the guise of a certain law or right, but in fact in violation of justice and philanthropy, people turn to their advantage someone else’s property, or someone else’s labor, or even the very misfortunes of their neighbors; for example, when lenders burden debtors with interest, when rulers exhaust those who depend on them with excessive taxes or labor, when in times of famine they sell bread at an exorbitant price.

Q. To what sin did self-interest and petty theft lead Judas Iscariot?

A. Unto the betrayal of his divine Teacher, after which he was seized by despair that ended in suicide.

On the Ninth Commandment

Q. What is prohibited by the ninth commandment?

A. False testimony against one’s neighbor, as well as all lies.

Q. What is prohibited under the name of false testimony?

A. 1) False judicial evidence, when someone in court is testified against, reported, or complained about falsely.

2) False testimony, outside of the court, when someone is slandered in absentia or someone is blamed unfairly to the face.

Q. Is it not permissible to lie when there is no intention to harm our neighbor?

A. No, because it does not agree with love and respect for one’s neighbor and is not worthy of man, and especially a Christian, as created for truth and love.

“Wherefore, having put off the falsehood, ‘Be speaking truth each one with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25).

On the Tenth Commandment

Q. What is prohibited by the tenth commandment?

A. Desires that are contrary to love for one’s neighbor, and, what is inseparable from these desires, thoughts that are contrary to this love.

Q. Why are not only bad deeds forbidden but also bad desires and thoughts?

A. First, because when the soul has bad desires and thoughts, then it is already unclean before God and unworthy of Him, as Solomon says, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord; but the words of the pure are pleasant words” (Proverbs 15:26), and therefore it is necessary to cleanse ourselves from these internal stains, as the apostle teaches: “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, bringing to perfection holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

Secondly, because in order to prevent sinful deeds, it is necessary to suppress sinful desires and thoughts, from which, as from seeds, sinful deeds will be born, as it is said, “Out of the heart cometh forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies” (Mt. 15:19). “But each is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desire. Then after he conceiveth the desire, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, after it is fully formed, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15).

Q. Since it is forbidden to desire anything that a neighbor has, what passion is forbidden by this?

A. Envy.

Q. What is forbidden by the words “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”?

A. Voluptuous thoughts and desires, or internal adultery, are prohibited.

Q. What is forbidden by the words “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, [nor his field,] nor his servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, [nor any of his livestock,] nor anything that belongs to thy neighbor”?

A. Greedy and power-hungry thoughts and desires.

Q. Why is this especially sinful?

A. Because it reveals a person’s addiction to earthly contentment, an indifferent attitude towards spiritual perfection, and discontent with providence, which has given our neighbor a better position than us.

Q. What calamities and crimes in the world are the result of envy?

A. Firstly, the fall and death of all men, and secondly, deicide, that is, the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ to death by His enemies.

Q. How does Scripture testify to this?

A. “Through the envy of the devil, death entered the world,” says the Wise [Solomon] (Wis. 2:24). The Gospel speaks thus of Pilate, the ruler of Judea: “He was perceiving that the chief priests had delivered Him (that is, Christ) up by reason of envy” (Mark 15:10).

Q. What disaster has been the fruit of envy in recent times?

A. Revolt, or the revolution of 1917 with all its terrible consequences: murders, robberies, civil strife and godless sacrilege, blasphemy and hatred of the clergy.

About the Commandments of the New Testament

Q. What are the essential commandments of the New Testament?

A. The following nine:

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”

2. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

4. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

8. “Blessed are they who have been persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”

9. “Blessed are ye whenever they reproach you and persecute you, and say every evil word against you falsely on account of Me. Be rejoicing and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in the heavens” (Mt. 5:3-12).

Q. What should be noted about all these sayings in order to understand them correctly?

A. The Lord offered in these words the doctrine of attaining blessedness, as the Gospel says: “He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying...” (Mt. 5:2). But being meek and lowly in heart, He offered His teaching not as a command, but offering a recompense to those who freely accept and fulfill it. Therefore, in each saying about blessedness, one must consider: first, the teaching, or the commandment, and secondly, gratification, or the promise of a reward.

Q. Did the New Testament commandments abolish the Old Testament commandments?

A. On the contrary, in addition to two modifications to the fulfillment of the commandments two and four, that is, the introduction of the veneration of icons and Sunday [as a day of rest], Christians are obliged to fulfill the entire law of the Ten Commandments.

Q. How does the Lord say this?

A. In His discourse on the Beatitudes, the Lord continued as follows: “Do not begin to think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets; I came not to abolish, but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17).

Q. Apart from His own meekness, what prompted the Lord to offer His commandments not in the form of prohibitions or orders, but in the form of Beatitudes?

A. The fact that the beauty of the listed virtues is so close to human hearts that, upon hearing about them, they themselves would be moved to follow the saving path of beatitude. In this sense, the Apostle Iakovos calls the law of the New Testament the law of freedom (see James 1:25).

Q. Was there any foretelling of this new law of freedom in the Old Testament?

A. The prophets repeatedly foretold the coming of this law, beginning with Moses, but the Prophet Jeremiah is clearer than others: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will surely put My laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people” (Jer. 31:33).

Q. Does only one of the four Gospels contain the Beatitudes?

A. No, they are in two: in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.

Q. In which Gospel are the words more accurate?

A. The Church believes that the words of God are set forth equally accurately in all the holy books and that the Lord said everything as recorded by the evangelists, but some evangelists wrote down some of the words of the Lord, and others—other words.

Q. How is this to be understood?

A. The teaching of the Lord did not occur as one long, uninterrupted speech. He spoke among a huge crowd of people, and, of course, as a teacher in front of His disciples, He repeated the same thought several times, clarifying it and modifying it for the most convenient understanding of the simple people, who interrupted His discourse with questions.

Q. Have we not preserved a record of any speech of Christ with its repetitions and explanations?

A. More than one has survived: such a one, for example, is His farewell conversation with the disciples (Jn. 13:31-17:26), which was interrupted by their questions and His evidentiary explanations.

Conditions for Fulfilling the Beatitudes

Q. What is the main vehicle for strengthening oneself in following the virtues outlined in the Beatitudes?

A. This vehicle is prayer. It 1) restores in us the vision of beauty and the desire for the virtues and 2) attracts the facilitating grace of God for its attainment.

Q. Is there evidence from God’s word that prayer is a means of acquiring empowering grace?

A. Jesus Christ Himself unites prayer with the hope of achieving what is asked for, saying, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, this will I do, that the Father might be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

Q. What is prayer?

A. The lifting up of the mind and heart to God, which is expressed as reverent words of man to God.

Q. What should a Christian do when lifting his mind and heart to God?

A. First, glorify Him for His divine perfections; second, thank Him for His benevolent works; third, ask Him for your needs. Hence the three main types of prayers: praise, thanksgiving, and petition.

Q. Can you pray without words?

A. You can: with your mind and heart. An example of this can be seen in Moses before crossing the Red Sea (see Ex. 14:15).

Q. Does such prayer have a special name?

A. It is called spiritual, or noetic and of the heart, in a word, interior prayer; since, on the other hand, prayer spoken in words and accompanied by other signs of reverence is called oral, or external, prayer.

Q. Can there be an outer prayer without an inner one?

A. It is possible when someone says the words of a prayer without attention and zeal.

Q. Is such an external prayer satisfactory to receive grace?

A. Not only is it not satisfactory to receive grace, but an external prayer, without internal participation, actually angers God.

God Himself expresses indignation at such a prayer: “This people draweth nigh to Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they reverence Me” (Mt. 15:8-9).

Q. Then is inner prayer alone enough without outer prayer?

A. No, it is not enough. Having a soul and a body, we must glorify God with our bodies and with our souls, which are both from God, since it is natural that out of the abundance of the heart the lips should speak. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was spiritual to the highest degree, but He also portrayed His spiritual prayer with both words and reverent movements of the body, sometimes, for example, by raising His eyes to heaven, and sometimes by bowing His knees and face to the ground (see 1 Cor. 6:20; Mt. 12:34; Jn. 17:1; Lk. 22:41; Mt. 26:39).

Q. How can one achieve prayer that is not only verbal but also heartfelt?

A. The holy fathers, who gave very detailed and extensive guidances on prayer, explain that the main rule of prayer is to focus one’s attention on every thought and every word of the prayer and to keep your thoughts from being scattered by extraneous subjects.

Q. Do the fathers advise you to work up your feelings during prayer?

A. On the contrary, they forbid it. It is impossible to work up a feeling; it will itself appear when one focuses his attention. And if someone tries to strain a feeling, for example, of compunction or fear, then he deceives himself; for in fact it produces only bodily tension (of breathing or heartbeat), and then, mistaking this for an upsurge of holy feeling, he falls into self-delusion or prelest.

Q. How much should someone pray?

A. The more you pray, the more it will bring you salvation. The Lord, Who needed nothing, spent whole nights in prayer. “He was also speaking a parable to them to this end, that it is needful to be praying always, and not to be fainthearted” (Lk. 18:1). The Lord concluded His parable about the unrighteous judge and the persistent petitioner with the words: “Hear what the judge of injustice saith. And God, shall He in no wise bring about the avenging of His elect who cry aloud to Him day and night” (Lk. 18:6-7), even if He does delay in avenging them?

With the same admonition to persistent prayer, the Lord precedes teaching His disciples the “Our Father” by giving an example of how even a sleeping man upon being awakened by his friend fulfills his request to lend him bread for a guestand concluded this parable with the words: “I say to you, even if he will not give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Lk. 11:8).

Q. How should one understand the words of Christ, to which those who are weighed down by long prayers like to refer: “But when ye pray, do not begin to repeat the same vain words over and over again, even as the heathens; for they think that they shall be heard for their loquacity. Do not therefore become like them” (Mt. 6:7-8)?

A. It is not the length of prayer that is condemned here but the recital of too many objects in prayer, with a detailed listing of everyday, material needs, which is evident from the further words of Christ: “For your Father knoweth of what things ye have need before ye ask Him” (Mt. 6:8).

Q. What should be done if, even with attentive and concentrated prayer, our hearts remain dry and alien to compunction?

A. The holy fathers teach us that we must patiently persevere in the struggle of frequent prayer: compunction is a gift of God’s grace, and if sometimes the Lord does not send it to the one who prays, it is in order to humble his heart, keep him from pride, and induce him to meditate on whether or not he has sins for which he has not yet brought repentance to God.

Q. What other difference is observed in the Beatitudes in comparison with the commandments of the Old Testament, except for the very manner of their presentation?

A. The Decalogue of Moses speaks primarily of a person’s deeds, while the Beatitudes of Christ concern the constant dispositions of his soul, that is, they bless the virtues and thus condemn the passions.

Q. What is a passion?

A. The constant, although not always felt, disposition of a person to this or that sin.

Q. Are passions easily cut off?

A. The whole life of a Christian must be spent in the struggle with the passions and in the suppression of them.

Q. How else can it be seen that in the eyes of God, it is not so much good deeds in and of themselves that are valued so much as good dispositions of the soul or the virtues?

A. From the following words of the Apostle Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

“For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are worthy of respect, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are pleasing, whatsoever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, be considering these things. And what ye learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things be practicing; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).

Q. So, if God values our dispositions, and not just the deeds themselves, then will a Christian attain salvation who does the external deeds of the Decalogue, but has a hard heart?

A. No; the apostle clearly preaches about this, “And if I dole out all of my goods, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but I have not love, I am being profited nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).

Q. Then can it be concluded from this that external labors and good deeds are unnecessary for salvation? Can a Christian have the love of God without having external good deeds?

A. Such love is not true, for true love is expressed in podvigs (spiritual struggles) and is [in turn] supported by them. The Apostle John writes, “This is the love of God, that we be keeping His commandments. And His commandments are not heavy” (1 Jn. 5:3), and “Let us not be loving in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said the same. “Not everyone who saith to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one who doeth the will of My Father in the heavens” (Mt. 7:21).

Q. So, who is right in the well-known theological controversy: those who say Christians are saved by faith, or those who affirm we are saved through faith and good works?

A. Neither one nor the other. The Christian progresses towards God and salvation by a holy disposition of the soul, through the virtues; faith is a necessary condition for this [acquisition of virtue], and by external good works these pious dispositions or moods are both revealed and reinforced.

But the very existence of holy feelings in a Christian, as well as their growth, is accomplished under the indicated conditions of the grace of God, which bestows upon him and multiplies in him the listed Beatitudes of virtue listed in the commandments.

Q. So what should a Christian do in order to not mistake outward podvigs for the most grace-filled virtue?

A. Attend to yourself, that is, be testing your conscience.

On the First Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the first commandment of the Lord to attain blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must be poor in spirit.

Q. What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

A. It means to have a spiritual conviction that we have nothing of our own but only have what God gives, and that we cannot do anything good without God’s help and grace, and thus reckon oneself as nothing and resort to the mercy of God in everything. Briefly, according to the explanation of Saint John Chrysostom, spiritual poverty is humility (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on Matthew).

Q. Can the rich also be poor in spirit?

A. No doubt they can, if they think that visible wealth is perishable and transient, and that it does not replace a lack of spiritual blessings.

“For what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give as an exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26).

Q. Cannot bodily poverty serve for the perfection of spiritual poverty?

A. It could if a Christian chooses it voluntarily, for God’s sake, or submissively endures the poverty that has befallen him.

Jesus Christ Himself said to the rich man on this matter, “If thou art willing to be perfect, go and sell thy possessions, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and keep on following Me” (Mt. 19:21).

Q. What does the Lord promise to the poor in spirit?

A. The kingdom of the heavens.

Q. How does the kingdom of the heavens belong to them?

A. In this life, [it belongs to them] internally and in an introductory way, through faith and hope; and in the future it is perfected, through participation in eternal blessedness.

Q. In what sense is this commandment called the first? Is it only first in numerical order?

A. No, not only because of this, but also because it is impossible to be a Christian without it, just as without obedience to the first commandment of the Decalogue it was impossible to be a Jew.

Q. But has it not been established that the greatest commandment is love for God and neighbor?

A. Undoubtedly so: in these two commandments of love is the highest virtue of Christianity, but the very desire to acquire virtues and to fight against sins and passions will not be deep and lasting if it is not combined with humility.

Q. But man is characterized by habitual pride and self-esteem; is it possible for him to immediately suppress them in himself?

A. No, Christians achieve this only through a long-term feat of inner ascetic struggle, but those who embark on the path of piety are required to acknowledge the unlawfulness and sinfulness of these prideful feelings and their unrighteousness before God.

Q. How is it clear that without such a [humble] disposition it is impossible to begin to be saved?

A. This is evident from the fact that the preaching of the Savior and the apostles was accepted by those people who were conscious of their unrighteousness before God, for example, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the healed demoniacs, the repentant harlot, but [His preaching was] rejected by those who considered themselves right and were proud, for example, the Pharisees, legalists, Sadducees, Pilate, and the congregation of Jews who raised stones against the Lord because of His rebuke. At the same time, it should be noted that often those who rejected Christ were incomparably superior in outward behavior than many who accepted His words with faith but differed from them precisely because they lacked humility or the consciousness of their unrighteousness before God.

Q. If this is so, what should be thought of the so-called noble pride, or honor?

A. These are prejudices, pernicious superstitions left in Europe as a bitter legacy from the most hostile religion to Christianity: Roman paganism. The true Christian must resolutely renounce these prejudices, which have created the reprehensible and shameful custom of fighting or dueling.

Q. Besides being a direct violation of the sixth commandment of the Old Testament, how can it be seen that this custom is contrary to the teaching of Christ?

A. This custom, of course, requires everyone to challenge his offender to a duel, especially if the transgressor has struck the offended one in the face; but the Savior requires a man to do just the opposite: “Whosoever shall strike thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt. 5:39). Christ the Savior Himself was beaten, as well as the apostles and martyrs and confessors, and this is their true glory.

Q. If the initial stage of humility, or spiritual poverty, is the recognition of the sinfulness of all pride and self-love and the consciousness of one’s guilt before God, then what is the highest degree of this virtue?

A. Complete indifference to one’s own advantages and to human praise or censure.

Q. Explain this with an example from the life of the Church.

A. One holy father, explaining this virtue to a disciple, invited him to go to the cemetery and first revile the dead, and then praise them, and then said, “When you become as indifferent to praise and humiliation as those dead buried in the cemetery, then truly you will be the owner of spiritual poverty, or humility.”

On the Second Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the second commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must be mourning.

Q. In this commandment, what should be understood by the term “mourning”?

A. Sadness and contrition of heart and genuine tears because we serve the Lord imperfectly and unworthily, and even deserve His wrath for our sins. “For the sorrow in accordance with God worketh out repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world worketh out death” (2 Cor. 7:10).

Q. What does the Lord promise especially to those who mourn?

A. That they will be comforted.

Q. What kind of comfort is meant here?

A. The comfort of grace, consisting in the forgiveness of sins and in peace of conscience while still on earth, and the kingdom of heaven after its end.

About this comfort both the Old Testament seers and the holy Apostle John spoke; Saint John saw before the throne of God “the ones coming out of the affliction, the great one,...for the Lamb, the One in the midst of the throne, shall shepherd them, and shall guide them to fountains of waters of life, and God shall wipe away every tear from out of their eyes” (Rev. 7:14-17).

Q. At what time in our life is spiritual mourning especially befitting for us?

A. During prayer, in which we ask from God every day: Grant me, Lord, tears and the remembrance of death and contrition.

Q. What else should a true Christian mourn about?

A. About the sinful state of the world and about the persecution of the Church. So the Lord wept during His solemn entry into Jerusalem, saying about the city: “If thou knewest, even thou, and at least in this thy day, the things for thy peace! But now it is hidden from thine eyes” (Lk. 19:42).

Q. Why is the promise of comfort combined with the commandment of mourning?

A. So that sorrow for sins does not extend to despair.

Q. What sinful and dangerous condition precedes despair?

A. Despondency, for which reason Christians pray with prostrations: “The spirit of despondency give me not” (St. Ephraim).

Q. How does despondency differ from mourning and lamentation for one’s sins?

A. By bitter feelings and an unwillingness to receive comfort from God or neighbors.

Q. What does it turn into if you do not fight with it?

A. Into murmuring against God, anger, and despair.

Q. What is the highest degree of spiritual lamentation?

A. The gift of tears, or constant contrite mourning, in which sorrow about our distance from God, and pity for everyone, and joy regarding God’s mercy is all combined. Therefore, this kind of sorrow is called joyful.

Q. How many have been honored with such a gift?

A. This gift was ingrained in many of God’s saints, so that their eyes were constantly red from tears.

And at the present time, such grace-filled podvigs are found in Orthodox monasteries and among pilgrims and hermits.

On the Third Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the third commandment of the Lord for beatitude?

A. Those who desire beatitude must be meek.

Q. What is meekness?

A. A quiet disposition, combined with caution so as not to annoy anyone, and not to be irritated by anything.

Q. How should one acquire this virtue?

A. Do not grumbleneither at God, nor at men, and when something happens contrary to your desires, do not give way to anger, do not boast, and above all do not take revenge for offenses.

Q. What does the Lord promise to the meek?

A. That they inherit the earth.

Q. Who, long before Christ, spoke the same words about the meek?

A. The Psalmist David: “The meek shall inherit the earth, and they shall delight in an abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).

Q. How is such a promise to be understood?

A. In relation to the followers of Christ in general, it is a prediction that came true literally, for the constantly meek Christians, instead of being eradicated by the fury of the pagans, inherited the inhabited world that the pagans had previously possessed.

The further meaning of this promise in relation to Christians both in general and individually is that they acquire the admiration of others and a good influence on people, and even, as it were, some kind of possession of the heart of others; and while maintaining the meekness of Christ until the end of their days, they will receive an inheritance, in the words of the psalmist, in the land of the living, where they live and do not die, that is, they will receive eternal blessedness (see Ps. 26:13).

Q. What is the highest degree of meekness?

A. Complete angerlessness towards everyone, a friendly feeling, and finally, love towards enemies.

Q. Is anyone who gets angry with a neighbor sinful?

A. The Bible says that “the very movement of anger is a fall” (Sir 1:22).

Q. Who can you point to as an image of the greatest meekness?

A. To the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom the Evangelist Matthew applies the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Behold, My Servant Whom I chose, My Beloved, in Whom My soul is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall declare judgment to the nations. He shall not strive nor cry out, nor shall anyone hear His voice in the streets. A crushed reed He shall not break to pieces, and a smoking flax He shall not quench, until He should send forth the judgment to victory. And in His name the nations shall hope” (Mt. 12:18-21).

Q. What else does the commandment of meekness oblige us to do?

A. To make reconciliation with our offenders and those we offend, without which it is impossible to offer prayer pleasing to Christ.

The Lord said: “If, then, thou offerest thy gift on the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath something against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mt. 5:23, 24). The Savior repeats the same idea when he expounds the Lord’s Prayer.

Q. Is it really possible for a person to love his enemies?

A. First of all, a true Christian cannot have enemies, but only haters, that is, people who hate him, and such people he can love if he himself is not enslaved to the passions, and he must love if he wants to do the will of the Lord: “Keep on loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, doing well to those who hate you, and keep on praying for those who despitefully use you and are persecuting you” (Mt. 5:44).

Q. Is there not anger that is permissible and useful for salvation?

A. Such is the anger, that is, the indignation, of a Christian at his own negligence, sins, passions, and thoughts; also the anger against the tempter devil, in whom there is no longer anything good, but sheer evil.

On the Fourth Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the fourth commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Q. What does it mean to hunger after righteousness?

A. First, to ardently desire to achieve Christian righteousness, that is, to have zeal for the salvation of the soul; and second, to desire with all our heart that the righteousness of God should be established on earth instead of the unrighteousness that persecutes piety.

The petitions of the Lord’s Prayer have the same meaning: “Let Thy kingdom come, let Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

Q. Were there individuals hungering and thirsting for such societal righteousness before Christ?

A. Such were all the prophets of God, but much earlier the Righteous Job and the Kings David and Solomon. Here are their words: “Wherefore do the ungodly live, and grow old even in wealth? Their houses are prosperous, neither have they anywhere cause for fear, neither is there a scourge from the Lord upon them.... For the wicked hastens to the day of destruction: they shall be led away for the day of his vengeance,” etc. (Job 21:7, 9, 30).

The Psalmist David in Psalm 72 sets forth similar lamentations about the impunity of the wicked and the fact that the righteous do not receive their crown of virtue here on earth.

The Book of Ecclesiastes of Solomon contains the same thirst for God’s righteousness. Of the prophets, the Prophet Jeremiah lamented especially ardently, not finding it on earth: “O Lord,...why is it that the way of ungodly men prospers? that all that deal very treacherously are flourishing?... How long shall the land mourn, and the grass of the field wither, for the wickedness of them, that dwell in it? the beasts and birds are utterly destroyed, because the people said, ‘God shall not see our ways’” (Jer. 12:1, 4).

Q. Did those hungering and thirsting for righteousness find any satisfaction before Christ?

A. Such spiritual satisfaction they received only at times and partly in the miraculous deeds of divine providence which shamed wickedness and exalted the righteous, but to a greater extent they were comforted by the promises of God about the coming dispensation of righteousness, when, according to the word of the angel to the Prophet Daniel, eternal truth would be brought forth (Dan. 9:24), that is, the Peacemaker would appear, in Whom subsisted the aspirations of all the nations, Whose coming was predicted even in the prophecies of the Patriarch Jacob (see Gen. 49:10).

Q. Before Christ, were there people hungering and thirsting for righteousness in the sense of achieving righteousness?

A. Such were all the righteous patriarchs, prophets, and in general, all pious Jews. The Book of Psalms is filled with such exalted prayers for the purification of the heart and the sanctification of the soul that it is the best guide for prayer among the sons of the kingdom, that is, Christians.

Q. What psalms predominantly expound such a hunger for holy righteousness in the soul of man?

A. Psalms 119, 50, etc.

Q. What prayer of the New Testament Church expresses the soul’s hunger for righteousness?

A. Most of her prayers; for example, in the Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life,” which is repeated on the days of the Great Fast seventeen times daily with prostrations.

Q. What is the advantage that Christians have in comparison with the Old Testament Jews in hungering for righteousness, when righteousness is not, and will never be, fully realized on earth?

A. Christians, being affirmed that they should expect a new heaven and a new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13), and that our earthly life “is a vapor which for a little time appeareth, but then is made to disappear” (Jas. 4:14), at last, reconciled with the suffering of the redemptive Passion of the Lord, in their hunger for righteousness, also attain fulfillment, although they endure suffering in their own striving for the truth of God, or for righteousness.

Q. How does Scripture teach about this?

A. The Apostle Paul writes: “we boast in afflictions also, knowing that the affliction worketh out patience; and patience, a tested character; and a tested character, hope. And the hope doth not put to shame, for the love of God hath been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

Q. Do those hungry for righteousness on earth find complete fulfillment?

A. No. The perfect satiation of the soul, created for the enjoyment of infinite good, will follow in eternal life, according to the dictum of the psalmist: “I shall be filled when Thy glory is shown to me” (Psalm 16:15).

Q. What should one think of those who are fighting with special persistence against social injustice on earth: against triumphant lies, insults to the poor, slander in the press, and so on?

A. They are worthy of great praise if they do it out of love for the truth and not out of anger against people and not out of self-exaltation or self-justification.

Q. What are the basic virtues prescribed by this commandment for all Christians in general, and for those who hold official ranks in particular?

A. Truthfulness, self-control, evasion of flattery, and for judges, rulers, and juries, justice and impartiality.

Q. What are the highest manifestations of the virtue of those hungering after righteousness?

A. Complete dedication to the glory of God with the renunciation of all earthly advantages and pleasures, as Saint John Chrysostom described it.

Q. Is this dedication to the glory of God a particular kind of service?

A. No, it is possible in the most varied titles, but in the life of the Church it was and is manifested mainly in two ministries.

Q. In which ones?

A. In the manifestation of societal truth, that is, among the human community, on the one hand, with the apostolic or the preaching, pastoral ministry, and in the attainment of personal truth, on the other hand, in the monastic life.

Q. In what words do the apostles describe their ministry for the righteousness of God?

A. The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: “In every way we are afflicted, but not straitened; we are at a loss, but not utterly at a loss; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed—always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10; cf. 2 Cor. 6:4-10).

Q. In what does the monastic vocation consist?

A. In separation from family, in a virgin life, combined with the renunciation of property and one’s own will and the surrender of the latter to his spiritual father.

Q. On what words of Christ is this way of life based?

A. On the following: “Everyone who leaveth houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, on account of My name, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit life everlasting” (Mt. 19:29).

Q. Are there examples of such an ascetic feat in the Gospel?

A. Undoubtedly there are, firstly, in the person of John the Baptist, who for his way of life is revered as the inaugurator of monasticism, and then in the person of the holy apostles, one of whom said to the Lord, “We left all and followed Thee; what then shall be for us?” (Mt. 19:27).

Q. What did the Lord answer to this?

A. In His answer He spoke the words we quoted above. This is the reward for those hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

On the Fifth Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the fifth commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire to be blessed must be merciful.

Q. How should this commandment be obeyed?

A. Through works of mercy—bodily and spiritual. As Saint John Chrysostom explains, “The way of showing mercy is manifold, and this commandment is broad” (Homily 15 on Matthew).

Q. What is the essence of bodily mercy?

A. 1. To nourish the hungry.

2. To give the thirsty to drink.

3. To clothe the naked or those who are lacking necessary adequate clothing.

4. To visit someone in prison.

5. To visit the sick, serve him and help him towards recovery or towards a Christian preparation for death.

6. To give hospitality to the stranger in your house and take care of him.

7. To bury those who died in poverty.

Q. What are the spiritual works of mercy?

A. 1. The exhortation to convert a sinner from the error of his ways (Jas. 5:20).

2. Teaching the ignorant about truth and goodness.

3. Granting your neighbor kind and well-timed advice in difficulty or in danger unnoticed by him.

4. Praying to God for him.

5. Comforting the mourning.

6. Not repaying the evil that others have done to us.

7. Forgiving insults from the heart.

Q. Is it not contrary to the commandment of mercy when a guilty man is punished according to justice?

A. Not at all, if it is done out of duty and with good intentions, that is, to correct him or to protect the innocent from his crimes.

Q. It has been said that the Beatitudes demand from a Christian constant virtuous dispositions and not only external deeds; does not this beatitude, as well as the seventh, represent an exception to that idea?

A. Not at all. It is clear from the Gospel that the Lord praises the merciful not for their outward deeds, but for the disposition of love and generosity that prompts them to such deeds. This is clear from His preference for the poor lady donor, who gave two mites (lepta) to the temple, before the rich ones, who put large offerings in the treasury of the temple.

Q. Is it possible to do works of spiritual mercy and be a comforter and peacemaker without having a heart full of love and compassion for others?

A. It is absolutely impossible: words of consolation and reconciliation, coming from a heart alien to love, will not have a good influence, and the Apostle Paul says about such a person, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).

Q. If this commandment contains an admonition concerning the highest virtue of the Gospel, that is, love, then is not the reward that is promised to the merciful, namely, pardon of the soul at the Judgment of God, a meager one?

A. On the contrary, one should think that this reward is promised not for the highest degree of this virtue, but for those Christians who, while pursuing it, have not yet cleansed their souls of the other passions and primarily need divine mercy for themselves.

Q. Show this from the Scriptures.

A. About the forgiveness of sins by God for showing mercy to the unfortunate there are many records in the Old Testament, but it is enough to quote from the New Testament the words of the Apostle Iakovos: “For the judgment shall be merciless to him who rendered no mercy. Mercy boasteth against judgment” (Jas. 2:13); and about spiritual mercy: “the one who turneth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins” (that is, his own) (Jas. 5:20); and the Apostle Peter: “And before all things have fervent love among yourselves, for ‘love shall cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Pet. 4:8).

Q. Is it revealed in the Gospel that, above all, the virtue of mercy will be valued at the Judgment of God?

A. This is perfectly clear from the Lord’s speech about His Second Coming and Last Judgment (see Matthew 25).

[“Come, ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I hungered and ye gave Me to eat; I thirsted and ye gave Me to drink; I was a stranger and ye brought Me in” (Mt. 25:34, 35).]

Q. What virtues are prescribed by this commandment of Christ for all Christians?

A. Generosity, selflessness, and love.

Q. How should one resist the idea that it would be better, instead of squandering funds on the poor, to use your money for your own enjoyment?

A. We must remind ourselves of the words of Christ and Moses: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which goeth forth out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4), as well as the parable of the Lord about a man who was going to hoard his wealth without helping anyone. “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this night they demand thy soul from thee; and what thou didst prepare, for whom shall it be?” (Lk. 12:20).

On the Sixth Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the sixth commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must be pure in heart.

Q. Is purity of heart the same as honesty [Rus. “clean-heartedness”]?

A. Honesty, or sincerity, according to which a person does not hypocritically show good dispositions without having them in his heart, but manifests the good dispositions of his heart with good deeds, is only the lowest degree of purity of heart. A person achieves the pinnacle with a constant and unremitting struggle of vigilance over himself, rejecting from his heart every unlawful desire and thought and every attachment to earthly objects, constantly observing in his heart the remembrance of God and the Lord Jesus Christ with faith and love; this is called “walking before God,” for which the Bible praises Enoch and Abraham.

Q. What is the primary reason for acquiring this achievement of spiritual life or walking with God?

A. The fear of God, as stated in the Book of Proverbs: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10).

Q. What does the Lord promise those with a pure heart?

A. That they will see God.

Q. How is this promise to be understood?

A. The Logos of God likens the human heart to the eye and ascribes to perfect Christians the enlightened eyes of the heart (see Eph. 1:18). As a pure eye can see light, so a pure heart can behold God.

Q. Does this promise apply to the future life or the present one?

A. In full to the future life, but partly to the present. The apostle testifies to this: “For now we see by means of a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall fully know even as I also was fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

Q. What virtue is especially closely related to purity of heart?

A. Chastity, which is guarded by abstinence and fasting; on the contrary, gluttony and drunkenness, as vices hostile to chastity, deprive the soul of the ability to ascend to the contemplation of God and the enjoyment of His words: “Be taking heed to yourselves, lest your hearts should be weighed down with carousing, and drinking, and cares of this life, and that day should come upon you suddenly. For as a snare shall it come upon all those sitting upon the face of the whole earth. Be vigilant then, in every season entreating that ye might be accounted worthy to escape all these things which are about to come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:34-36).

Q. What is the highest reward promised to those who have maintained complete chastity and purity of heart?

A. The Apostle John in the Apocalypse sees the extraordinary glory of many righteous ones singing before the throne of God, as it were, a new song, which no one could learn but themselves, and explains, “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones following the Lamb wheresoever He may go. These were purchased from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).

On the Seventh Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the seventh commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must be peacemakers.

Q. How should this commandment be obeyed?

A. One should not only act cordially with everyone, even with the concession of one’s rights, for the sake of preserving peace (so long as it is not contrary to duty and is not harmful to anyone), but also try to reconcile others who are at war with each other when we have the opportunity, and when we do not, to pray to God for their reconciliation.

Q. Why is this virtue of peacemaking great?

A. Because she not only cares about what is connected with the life of the ascetic himself but seeks, as it were, to bring heaven itself down to earth, so that instead of the anger and hatred that separates men from each other, “the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, shall guard your hearts” (Phil. 4:7), just like the Son of God came and preached the good tidings, peace to you (that is, to all men) who were afar off and to those who were near” (Eph. 2:17).

Q. How is such a beneficial influence achieved by peacemakers?

A. Peacemakers are men filled with great piety and zeal for God. The society with which they come into contact is thereby imbued with imitating one another in zeal for God and love for one’s neighbor. In such an environment their petty human quarrels and mutual anger subside, which took place before they had a higher goal in life.

Thus, the Book of Acts testifies of the first Christians that they had one heart and one soul (see Acts 4:32).

Q. What must be observed in order to acquire the spirit of a peacemaker?

A. One must be able to find in every neighbor something good or amenable to good and approach his soul from this direction in order to gain a good influence on it.

Q. Do we have examples of this from the holy apostles?

A. Undoubtedly we do. Here are the words of the Apostle Paul: “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews.... To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. To all these I have become all things, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:20, 22).

Q. And how can one make oneself capable of such insight into the good?

A. First of all, we must not condemn our neighbors, but to this end we must curb our tongue; then we must pray for them and remove from our soul the thought of vanity and love of power, so that all the good of life around us is directed not towards our glory but towards God’s glory.

Q. Who is called to the podvig of a peacemaker?

A. All Christians, but primarily Church pastors, as successors of the apostolic ministry, about which the Church chants as follows: “Bound by the union of love, the apostles, laying down their lives for Christ Who rules over all, had their beautiful feet cleansed, proclaiming the good news to all the world.”

Q. What does the Lord promise the peacemakers?

A. That they will be called sons of God.

Q. What does this promise signify?

A. It indicates both the height of the podvig of peacemakers and the reward prepared for them. Since they imitate the only-begotten Son of God, Who came to earth to reconcile man who sinned against the justice of God, by their struggle, they are promised the blessed name of sons of God and, without a doubt, a degree of blessedness worthy of this name.

On the Eighth Commandment of Beatitude

Q. What is the eighth commandment of the Lord for blessedness?

A. Those who desire blessedness must be willing to endure persecution for righteousness without betraying or changing the true Faith.

Q. Why are reproach and persecution foretold to zealots of righteousness and worshipers of Christ?

A. Because the world hates the servants of Christ, since the customs prevailing in it are evilalthough pleasing to the people of this worldand denouncers of public unrighteousness are hateful to it: “He who denounces the wicked shall get a stain for himself” (Proverbs 9:7).

Q. Does Scripture support this view of the world?

A. Yes. The Apostle John writes, “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

The Lord says to His disciples on the day of His betrayal: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hath hated Me before it hath hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world—but I chose you for Myself out of the world—therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).

Q. Why does the Lord divide the beatitude of those who suffer for the truth into two parts?

A. It is according to the nature of suffering. The first degree consists in persecution, which should also be understood in the literal sense of how the saints were banished into exile: Athanasius the Great, John Chrysostom, Philip the Metropolitan of Moscow, and many others (and even in antiquity, Patriarch Joseph), and in a more general sense, as the estrangement of his former friends and even relatives from the zealot of the Faith; this, the first test of spiritual alienation, even without being expelled from one’s home and homeland, is blessed by the Lord in the eighth beatitude, and exile by the verdict of the authorities and people—in the ninth.

Q. Can you point to an example of the first kind of persecution in Holy Scripture?

A. The entire 68th Psalm is written on behalf of such a sufferer for truth and faith. “For on account of Thee did I endure reproach; shame covered my face. I became one having been alienated from my brethren and a stranger to the sons of my mother. For the zeal of Thy house did eat me up, and the reproaches of the ones reproaching Thee fell upon me” (Psalm 68:8-10).

Q. Why are they promised the reward of the kingdom of the heavens, just as the poor in spirit?

A. The poor in spirit have renounced self-love, that is, that feeling that alienates a person from God, and those driven out for righteousness’ sake have renounced the world hostile to the kingdom of God, and therefore are the most worthy sons of this kingdom on earth and its most worthy heirs in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ, having told His disciples that He had chosen them out of the world, lifted up a prayer to the heavenly Father for all who believe in Him, saying, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am” (John 17:24).

On the Ninth Commandment of Beatitude

Q. The world about which the Lord speaks in His prayer is the world of the Jews and the pagans; can His words about a hostile world also apply to a Christian community?

A. Unfortunately, in Christian society there were confessors and exiles for the truth of God, like Saints Chrysostom, Philip, and others, and moreover not only from heretics but also from Orthodox rulers and even from unworthy pastors of the Church. Even the Apostle Paul lamented that he endured troubles “in perils of robbers, in perils from mine own race, in perils from Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26).

Q. What is meant by a world hostile to Christ?

A. Established sinful customs and universal, false, unholy concepts in one or another environment that unite society in an unkind temperament and therefore in a hostile attitude towards the preachers of truth, zealots of the truth, and the virtue of the Gospel.

Q. How do the Holy Scriptures speak about the inner content of worldly life, that is, the life conducted by the society of men who do not strive for piety?

A. The Apostle John writes, “If anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the false pretensions of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Q. What are the main expressions of hostility to the preachers of Christ and to the righteous enumerated in the Beatitudes of the Gospel?

A. Hatred, slander, and persecution.

Q. Where is hatred mentioned?

A. The words “reproach you” express this. Cursing or reproach is an expression of hatred, but this thought is expressed even more clearly by the Savior in the exposition of His Beatitudes in the Evangelist Luke: “Blessed are ye whenever men hate you, and whenever they separate you, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man” (Lk. 6:22).

Q. Was the Lord Himself subject to these three kinds of persecution?

A. As the Establisher of righteous asceticism, He experienced all of this Himself. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hath hated Me before it hath hated you” (John 15:18).

And concerning persecution: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

Q. Who, then, persecuted the Savior?

A. The Gadarenes drove Him out, though respectfully; the Jews, taking up stones, forced Him to leave; the inhabitants of Nazareth took him out of the city in order to throw him off the mountain.

Q. When was the Savior cast out?

A. His enemies called Him a glutton and a wine bibber, they said that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons; at their lawless trial they gathered deliberate false witnesses against Him, although they could not achieve a single credible accusation, but, bringing Him to Pilate, they deliberately slandered Him, saying: “We found this One perverting the nation, and hindering the giving of tribute to Cæsar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Lk. 23:2).

Q. So, what podvig is set before us in this commandment?

A. Those who wish to be blessed must be ready to joyfully accept reproach, persecution, calamity, and death itself for the name of Christ and for the true Orthodox Faith.

Q. What is the name of the feat required by this commandment?

A. The feat of martyrdom.

Q. What virtues should a Christian cultivate in himself in order to endure this feat if God requires it from him?

A. First, hope in the nearness of the Lord to us, Who said to the confessors of the Faith, “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all those who oppose you shall not be able to contradict nor withstand” (Lk. 21:15). Second, constant obedience to God and our conscience, or loyalty to our Lord at the thought of the temporariness and vanity of everything earthly, as the Apostle John teaches us: “The world is passing on its way, and the desire of it; but the one doing the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17).

The Lord Himself teaches us the same: “And I say to you, My friends, do not become afraid because of those who kill the body, and after these things are not able to do anything more. But I will show you Whom ye should fear: fear the One Who after the killing hath power to cast into Gehenna; yea, I say to you, this One fear” (i.e., the Lord God) (Lk. 12:4-5).

Q. What does the Lord promise in heaven to those who suffer for the holy Faith and piety?

A. He said to them, “Be rejoicing and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in the heavens” (Mt. 5:12).

Q. Is it really possible to rejoice in the midst of persecution?

A. The apostles, having experienced imprisonment and beating from the sanhedrin of the Jews, “went on their way rejoicing from the presence of the sanhedrin, because they were deemed worthy to be dishonored for the sake of His name” (Acts 5:41).

In their epistles, the apostles repeatedly exhort Christians who suffer for Him to rejoice in Christ always, especially in sorrows. “If ye are being reproached in the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of the glory and power and the Spirit of God resteth upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). And, indeed, innumerable martyrs rejoiced in the midst of terrible suffering, as their lives now narrate.

Q. What has been revealed to us about the perfect crowning of martyrs after death?

A. The Apostle John saw in heaven under the altar in front of God the souls of those who had been killed for the word of God, and they were given white robes (see Rev. 6:9-11).

Final Chapter: On the Podvigs of Piety

Q. What other condition is required for the fulfillment of the Gospel virtues?

A. The venerable Anthony the Great, when the elders were debating which virtue was most necessary for hermits and some pointed to humility and obedience, others to chastity and fasting, and so on, said that all these virtues are desirable but they would not lead the ascetic to salvation if he or his spiritual guide did not have another virtue, which is indispensable with all the others, such as salt added to various dishes. This virtue is called discernment.

Q. What is this virtue?

A. It is approximately the same as prudence.

Q. How can an inexperienced one acquire it who is zealous for salvation?

A. He must certainly be guided by the instructions of a spiritual father and, if possible, the works of the holy fathers and spiritual writers.

Q. Can you name at least one such guide?

A. One can point to a modern work: The Path to Salvation, compiled by Bishop Theophan the Recluse (d. 1894).

Q. Can you give an example of what kind of useful information one can learn by studying about spiritual discernment from books or through the advice of spiritual fathers?

A. First of all, the gradualness of podvigs (spiritual struggles), which, if not observed, can lead one to suffer “shipwreck concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19).

Q. Is it possible to show from the Gospel that there should be a gradual progression in spiritual struggles?

A. Certainly so. When the rich young man asked Christ, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” then the Lord answered him: “Thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; be honoring thy father and thy mother; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The young man said to Him, “All these I kept for myself from my youth; what lack I yet?” Jesus said to him, “If thou art willing to be perfect, go and sell thy possessions, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and keep on following Me” (Mt. 19:16, 18-21).

Q. Is this command universal?

A. Without a doubt it is universal for those who are like that young man in purity of life and in their position, that is, they are not bound by wife, children, or other obligatory conditions of life.

Q. And what would happen to such a young man immediately pursuing voluntary poverty if he did not free himself from all the vices and was a stranger to hard work and obedience?

A. He would become a parasite, and perhaps even a thief (see Prov. 30:8-9).

Q. Is there a progression in the virtues of the nine Beatitudes?

A. The holy fathers find in them a whole ladder of perfection, as follows: The first decision to embark on the path of salvation arises when one is conscious of one’s spiritual poverty; this consciousness awakens in a Christian a mournful attitude about his sinfulness and spiritual weakness, and he weeps. It is easy for one who weeps for his sins and imperfection to remain meek, for irritation is associated with the thought of one’s own righteousness and superiority over others. Further, people filled with repentance and meek in soul strive to establish good and righteousness around themselves, that is, they are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and they, of course, demand good and righteousness first of all from themselves, that is, they become merciful and brotherly. Mercy towards others drives out selfish desires from our hearts and serves to purify the heart, as the Savior said, “But rather give alms of all things within your power; and behold, everything is clean to you” (Lk. 11:41). A pure heart, seeing God’s finger in everything, is filled with compassion and brings harmony everywhere, as a peacemaker. Around such a zealot of piety, the envy and hatred of the world rises; his former friends estrange themselves from him and thus force him to leave their company, and he inherits the eighth beatitude; and if his zeal for God multiplies and his good influence expands, then the hatred of the wicked grows around him, and they subject him to those persecutions that were mentioned by the Savior in the last beatitude.

Q. Should one think that following the path of each beatitude is possible only by fulfilling the previous ones?

A. Not at all, since the commandments of God require actions of us, for example, showing mercy and confessing the Faith at every appropriate occasion in our life, but the progression of the Beatitudes implies that we must constantly check whether we have sinned against the more preparatory commandments, and try to fill those gaps in our soul with appropriate deeds and prayers.

Q. Besides the virtue of discernment, what other conditions are necessary for the attainment of the Gospel virtues set forth in the Beatitudes?

A. Two conditions: firstly, non-hypocrisy, and secondly, constant hope in God—the Helper and Patron of those who are being saved.

Q. Why should you especially guard your soul from hypocrisy?

A. Because in the hypocritical, that is, feigned or vain performance of deeds, our soul does not acquire virtuous dispositions and is deprived of heavenly rewards, as the Lord explained in detail in His additional words to the Beatitudes, exposing the vanity of the Pharisees and teaching us to do our alms, fasting, and prayer “in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret Himself shall render what is due to thee openly” (Mt. 6:4).

Q. But if we hide our good deeds, then would we not deprive the society of men around us of spiritual benefit?

A. Although our contemporaries constantly raise such objections against secret ascetics and hermits, they are wrong, because the soul of an ascetic, enlightened by secret struggles, will in due time be filled with abundant grace-filled power and will preach to men, and then its deeds will become apparent by themselves, as, for example, the deeds of Saint John the Baptist, who retired into the wilderness from his youth until 30 years of age, when “Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the country round about the Jordan were going out to him, and were being baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mt. 3:5-6).

Q. Does the Lord discuss such a social impact due to the faith and virtue of His followers?

A. In the same speech in which He commands the concealment of one’s external podvigs, He said to the apostles, “Ye are the light of the world. A city situated on the top of a mountain cannot be hid.... Thus, let your light shine before men, that they might see your good works, and might glorify your Father Who is in the heavens” (Mt. 5:14, 16).

Q. Should all prayers be performed in secret?

A. No, because the Lord Himself prayed more than once in the presence of the people (see John 11:41; 12:28) and attended public prayer in the Jerusalem temple; He commands us to hide our prayers, fasting, and other works that are not generally obligatory but which are deeds of special zeal of a pious person.

Q. What does the Holy Scripture say about the necessity for our salvation to safeguard hope upon God in our souls?

A. The Apostle Paul testifies: “And there now abideth faith, hope, love, these three things” (1 Cor. 13:13). The holy Prophet David exclaims, “The ones having trusted in the Lord are like Mount Sion; the one inhabiting Jerusalem shall not be shaken unto the age” (Ps. 124:1).

Q. In what sense is it necessary to accompany the fulfillment of our podvig, that is, our entire life, with hope in God?

A. If the fulfillment of the commandments of God constantly encounters earthly fears (for example, how not to become poor by doing alms, how not to disadvantage yourself and your family by speaking the truth), then the fulfillment of the law of God remains accessible only to that Christian who, first of all, kindles in his soul hope in God as his Helper in his podvigs and as his Protector from the world; and secondly, [in hope] he will confirm in his soul a readiness to lose worldly goods if God and conscience require it and, thus, banish any concern for worldly enjoyment.

Q. How does the Holy Gospel teach about this?

A. The Lord, in the same conversation in which he expounded the Beatitudes, explained this truth in detail: “Do not become anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all of these things. But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not become anxious for the morrow; for the morrow shall be anxious about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil of it.” (Mt. 6:31-34).

Q. Really, according to these words, should one not sow in the spring, store grain in the fall, etc., but only take care of what is needed for today?

A. No, the Lord does not tell us to demand miracles and stop working for the future days of our lives; He prohibits only that spiritual anxiety, that torment of the soul for future needs, to which those who do not trust in the Lord succumb.

Q. How can this understanding of the commandment be confirmed?

A. A few lines above, the same words of the Lord are inscribed in the Gospel with the explanation: “Cease being anxious for your soul, what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink” (Mt. 6:25), etc., without indicating the present day or the days to come. The mention of “your soul” (Mt. 6:25) clearly indicates worry and sorrow, which should be far from the soul that has placed its trust in God, but it is not forbidden to work and store, quietly doing your job and leaving everything to the will of God.

Q. And if it seems to us, like that rich young man, that we have fulfilled all the commandments, what should we answer to such a thought?

A. We must reject it as a deception of the enemy, for the commandments of God require perfection and becoming God-like, to which a Christian can only approach from afar, constantly stumbling along his path. Moreover, we must remember that even if there were such a Christian quickly approaching the goal of his Christian purpose, then he must also act according to the word of Christ: “Whenever ye have done all things which were commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable slaves, for we have done that which we were bound to do’” (Lk. 17:10).

by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia
Translated and expanded by Dormition Skete, 2021
First published in 1924 in Sremski Karlovtsi, Serbia
Collected Works. Volume I: DAR; Moscow, 2007.

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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