5 January 1948
The Lord knows our weakness and He has granted us daily repentance until we die. St John of the Ladder writes: 'Previous habit often tyrannizes even over him who deplores it. And no wonder! The account of the judgements of God and our falls is shrouded in darkness, and it is impossible for us to comprehend it' [5,29]. He says further: 'Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly the angel who guards you will honour your patience' [5,30]. St Abba Dorotheos says: 'A man who drinks once is not called a drunkard, nor is a person who once commits fornication called a fornicator . . . but only when these are habits' [p. 179]. According to spiritual knowledge, even punishments differ. Lenience should be shown towards a person who strives for virtue and falls, for he was not aiming at sin, but was unexpectedly tempted. But severe punishment is needed for one who does not strive for virtue so that he may come to his senses and do so. Thus your single weakness too deserves lenience; a mere trifle. More likely a touch of pride is disturbing you. 'How could I let this happen?'
The Lord keep you."
Father John, in his last statement to his spiritual child mentions pride back behind the actual sin.
Meaning, the sin, as an act, was committed. The reasons for committing sin, especially at the beginning of the spiritual life are often murky and are not able to be discerned. If they are able to be discerned to any degree, attached to the slight discernment are a jumble of emotions, intentions, regrets, fear of future failures and the like. Even these attachments to the discernments are murky in the understanding of them.
Once the sin has been given life, has been brought into actuality, it is a time/space event that in one fashion may be approached as a "fact", just simply something that happened, say like "Yesterday at 2:00 p.m. I took my lunch break." This event proceeded forth from within me and occurred and having occurred, it can be examined in many aspects or one of my choosing(or my spiritual father's or whomever).
I should note that here I am not discussing what spiritual effect of damage to myself the sin has caused and is causing, nor how God may be viewing it(the particular sin committed) although by not mentioning these things does not imply unimportance but they do not fall into the scope of what I am attempting to explain.
Why I sin, beyond the textbook answers to this question(the story of the Fall and its myriad results and the need of the Savior to raise fallen man to God) does not answer the question of why I, Sophocles, the man writing this work as the unique creation brought forth in the year of our Lord 1970, born as the son of Christos and Anastasia Frangakis, who through choices known and unknown, has become a sinner in practice and deed rather than only in potential and I sin.
I have made choices that have created habits that have now become ingrained into the fiber of my psyche.
In this direction therefore I turn. These choices. What were they? In what circumstances was I in to be presented with these choices in the first place? When I made the choices, what effect was I hoping for? Did I receive the desired effect? What, in other words was my motivation?
Simply offering the blanket statement that I'm a sinner is not of aid to me to overcome the particular sin. Examination must take place and honest self appraisal with the aid of an outside person, my spiritual father.
Much before I am able to arrive here, to be able to "see" my sins at all, I am surprised that I , self-sufficient me, Sophocles, could actually allow myself to do such a thing.
Father John in bringing to the attention of his spiritual child that beyond the actual sin itself is this incredulity that this could happen to her that she could let this happen.
That she could let this happen implies she has power over her ability to not sin. I believe the teaching of our Holy Faith is that no one, not this spiritual child of Father John's, not even I have this power. It has not been granted to the sons of men in their essence. It is granted only in union with the Creator, our Holy God, in Him and Him in us.
Pride in our own ability to not sin is itself sin because here, once again, God is excluded. "I'm going to not sin on my terms, my way" is usually, it seems, my own attitude before my fall.