Found in “The Pilgrim Continues His Way”, this introspective confession challenges us all to try harder, to prioritize love of God and love of our fellowman above love of ourselves!
A CONFESSION WHICH LEADS THE INWARD MAN TO HUMILITY
Turning my eyes carefully upon myself and watching the course of my inward state, I have verified by experience that I do not properly love God, that I have not love for my neighbors, that I have no religious belief, and that I am filled with pride and sensuality. All this I actually find in myself, as a result of detailed examination of my feelings and conduct, thus:
1. I do not properly love God: For if I properly loved God, I would be continually thinking about him with heartfelt joy. Every thought of God would give me gladness and delight. On the contrary, I much more often and much more eagerly think about earthly things, and thinking about God is labor and dryness. If I properly loved God, then talking with Him in prayer would be nourishment and delight and would draw me to unbroken communion with Him. But, on the contrary, I not only find no delight in prayer, but even find it an effort. I struggle with reluctance, I am enfeebled by sloth, and I am ready to occupy myself eagerly with any unimportant trifle, if only it shortens prayer and keeps me from it. My time slips away unnoticed in futile occupations, but when I am occupied with God, when I put myself into His presence, every hour seems like a year. If one person loves another, he thinks of them throughout the day without ceasing; he pictures them to himself, he cares for them, and it all circumstances his beloved friend is never out of his thoughts. But I, throughout the day, scarcely set aside even a single hour in which to sink deep into the meditation upon God, to inflame my heart with love for Him, while I eagerly give up 23 hours as fervent offerings to the idols of my passions. I am forward in talk about frivolous matters and things which degrade the spirit; that gives me pleasure. But in the consideration of God, I am dry, bored and lazy. Even if I am unwillingly drawn by others into spiritual conversation, I try to shift the subject quickly to one which pleases my desires. I am tirelessly curious about novelties, about civic affairs and political events; I eagerly seek the satisfaction of my love of knowledge and science and art, and in ways of getting things I want to possess. But the study of the law of God, the knowledge of God and of religion makes little impression upon me and satisfy no hunger of my soul. I regard these things not only as a nonessential occupation for a Christian, but in a casual way as a sort of side issue, with which I should perhaps occupy my spare time, at odd moments. To put it shortly, if love for God is recognized by the keeping of his Commandments ( “if you love me keep my Commandments”, says the Lord Jesus Christ), and I not only do not keep them, but even make little attempt to do so, then an absolute truth the conclusion follows that I do not properly love God. That is what Basil the Great says: “The proof that a man does not love God and His Christ lives in the fact that he does not keep His Commandments.”
2. I do not properly love my neighbor either: for not only am I unable to make up my mind to lay down my life for his sake according to the Gospel, but I cannot even sacrifice my happiness, my well-being, or my peace for the good of my neighbor. If I did love my neighbor as myself, as the Gospel bids, his misfortunes would distress me also. His happiness would you bring delight to me, too. But on the contrary, I listen to curious, unhappy stories about my neighbor, and I am not distressed; I remain quite undisturbed, or, what is worse, I find a sort of pleasure in them. Bad conduct on the part of my brother I do not cover up with love, but proclaim abroad with censure. His well-being, honor and happiness do not delight me as my own, and – as if there were something quite alien to me – give me no feeling of gladness. What is more, they subtly arouse in me feelings of envy or contempt.
3. I have no real religious belief: Neither in immortality nor in the Gospel. If I were firmly persuaded and believed without doubt that beyond the grave lives eternal life and recompense for the deeds of this life, I should be continually thinking of this. The very idea of immortality would terrify me and I should leave this life as a foreigner who gets ready to enter his native land. On the contrary, I do not even think about eternity, and I regard the end of this earthly life is the limit of my existence. The secret thought nestles with in me: “Who really knows what happens at death?” If I say I believe in immortality, then I am speaking about my mind only, and my heart is far removed from the firm conviction about it that is openly witnessed by my conduct, and my constant care to satisfy this life of the senses. Were the Holy Gospel taken into my heart in faith, as the Word of God, I should be continually occupied with it: I should study it, find delight in it, and with deep devotion, fix my attention upon it; Wisdom, Mercy, and Love are hidden in it; It would lead me to happiness; I should find gladness in the study of The Law of God day and night. In it, I should find nourishment like my daily bread and my heart would be drawn to the keeping of its laws. Nothing on earth would be strong enough to turn me away from it. On the contrary, if now and again I read or hear The Word of God, yet even so it is only from necessity or from a general love of knowledge, and approaching it without any very close attention, I find it dull and uninteresting. I usually come to the end of the reading without any profit, only too ready to change over to secular reading in which I take more pleasure and find new and interesting subjects.
4. I am full of pride and sensual self-love: All my actions confirm this. Seeing something good in myself, I want to bring it into view, or to pride myself upon it before other people, or inwardly to admire myself for it. Although I display an outward humility, yet I ascribe it all to my strength and regard myself as superior to others – or at least no worse than they. If I notice a fault in myself, I try to excuse it. I cover it up by saying, “I am made like that”, or “I am not to blame”. I get angry with those who do not treat me with respect, and consider them unable to appreciate the value of people. I brag about my gifts: my failures any undertaking I regard as a personal insult. I murmur, and I find pleasure in the unhappiness of my enemies. If I strive after any good thing, it is for the purpose of winning praise, or spiritual self-indulgence, or earthly consolation. In short, I continually make an idol of myself and render it uninterrupted service, seeking in all things the pleasures of the senses and nourishment for my sensual passions and lusts.
Conclusion: Going over all this, I see myself as proud; adulterous; unbelieving, without a proper of God, and without proper love of my neighbor, either. What state could be more sinful? The condition of the spirit of darkness is better than mine. They – although they do not love God, hate men, and live upon pride, – yet, at least, they believe and tremble. But I? Can there be a doom more terrible than that which faces me? And what sentence of punishment will be ever more severe than that upon the careless and foolish life that I recognize in myself? ((End of prayer))
DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!
Now, many hearing such a confession for the first time, may feel discouraged. But take heart, beloved, that the Grace and Mercy of God is just one short prayer away. In those moments, we need only cry out to God, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
And in that moment, as was the case for David when confronted by the Prophet Nathan, His forgiveness is assured. In that moment, there is nothing that separates us from the Apostles and Faithful Holy Martyrs before us.
You see dear brothers [and sisters], the cause of not properly loving God is want of belief. Want of belief caused by lack of conviction. And the cause of that is failure to seek for holy and true knowledge, and indifference to the Light of the Holy Spirit. In short, if you don’t believe, you can’t love; if you are not convinced, you can’t believe; and, in order to reach conviction, you must get a full and exact knowledge of the matter before you. By meditation, by the study of God’s word, and by noting your experience you must arouse in your soul a thirst or a longing – or as some would call it ‘wonder’ – which brings you an insatiable desire to know things more closely and more fully and to go deeper in their nature.
The Apostles Peter and Paul both tell us that Love usually grows with knowledge. And the greater the depth and extent of the knowledge, the more love there will be; the more easily the heart will soften and lay itself open to the love of God, as it looks upon the very fullness and beauty of the Divine Nature and His unbounded Love for men.
And so beloved, let us resolve to make use of these methods often, and as often as possible fill our minds with thoughts of heavenly things; and love, poured down into our hearts from on high, will burst into flame within us. We will do this together and pray as often as we can, for prayer is the chief and strongest means for our renewal and well-being.