On Zeal

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A monk must be extremely cautious of carnal and animal zeal, which outwardly appears pious but in reality is foolish and harmful to the soul.

Worldly people and many living the monastic life, through ignorance and inexperience, often praise such zeal without understanding that it springs from conceit and pride. They extol this zeal as zeal for the faith, for piety, for the Church, for God. It consists in a more or less harsh condemnation and criticism of one’s neighbours in their moral faults, and in faults against good order in church and in the performance of the church services. Deceived by a wrong conception of zeal, these imprudent zealots think that by yielding themselves to it they are imitating the holy fathers and holy martyrs, forgetting that they – the zealots – are not saints, but sinners.

When for your labour in the garden of the commandments God grants you to feel in your soul divine zeal, then you will see clearly that this zeal will urge you to be silent and humble in the presence of your neighbours, to love them, to show them kindness and compassion, as Saint Isaac the Syrian has said. 

Divine zeal is a fire, but it does not heat the blood. It cools it and reduces it to a calm state. The zeal of the carnal mind is always accompanied by heating of the blood, and by an invasion of swarms of thoughts and fancies. The consequences of blind and ignorant zeal, if our neighbour opposes it, are usually displeasure with him, resentment, or vengeance in various forms; while if he submits, our heart is filled with vainglorious self-satisfaction, excitement and an increase of our pride and presumption.

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

The Arena

Chapter 36

Banquet for Worms

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valley of death

II.

Who put me in this bed of worms? Who buried me in the dust, to become a neighbor of snakes and a banquet for worms?

Who pushed me off the high mountain, to become a companion of bloodthirsty and godless men?

My sin and Your justice, O Lord. My sin stretches from the creation of the world, and it is swifter than Your justice.

I count my sins throughout my entire life, throughout the life of my father and all the way back to the beginning of the world, and I say: Truly, the name of the Lord’s justice is mercy.

I bear the wounds of my fathers on myself-wounds that I myself was preparing while I was still in my fathers—and now they have all appeared on my soul, like a spotted hide on a giraffe, like a cloak of vicious scorpions that sting me.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, open the floodgate of the heavenly river of Your grace, and cleanse me of leprous evil, so that without this leprosy I may dare to proclaim Your name before the other lepers without them ridiculing me.

At least raise me up by a head above the rotten stench of this bed of worms, to inhale the incense of heaven and return to life.

At least raise me up as high as a palm tree so I can laugh at the serpents chasing my heels.

O Lord, if there has been even one good deed in the course of my earthly journey, for the sake of that one deed deliver me from the companionship of bloodthirsty and godless men.

O Lord, my hope in despair.

O Lord, my strength in weakness.

O Lord, my light in darkness.

Place just one finger on my forehead and I shall be raised. Or, if I am too unclean for Your finger, let a single ray of light from Your kingdom shine upon me and raise me-raise me, from this bed of worms, O my beloved Lord.

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