Works of virtue

by Stylianos Kementzetsidis

"In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him"
(Acts 10:34-35).

The weight of one soul, if it could be weighed, is greater than the weight of the world. Our soul is diseased by sin, for sin separates us from our spiritual health and from God. This separation is the greatest misfortune or tragedy that afflicts mankind. The science of the soul, in a spiritual sense, is not concerned with wealth, glory or social positions, but aims at healing the soul. This healing is achieved when Christians live with a personal and loving relationship with God. If this type of relationship is neglected we also neglect our chance for salvation and the devil will not trouble himself with us, because we separate ourselves from God though our sins and non-repentance. If, on the other hand, Christians are at peace with God, they will fear nobody, because the grace of God moves and protects them, making them spiritually mighty.

In the Church, we are all immortal after entering Christ's army through Baptism. Our souls will live, in paradise, after our lives close. From the moment of Baptism until a cross is placed on our tomb, we are obliged to walk and be like God in a careful or watchful life. The devil, through the carelessness of sin and with the help of the devious world, in which we live, wounds us. For this reason, our Church is a spiritual hospital, which remedies the wounds and heals the soul.

There are three types or categories of spiritual health. Some of us are more heavily diseased and do not want Christ, the Church, or a spiritual life. They are in intensive care ready for their imminent spiritual death. Then there are those who are being cured and are following the therapy prescribed by the Church. These people maybe sinners, but they cooperate with the priest by taking the prescribed medicine of the Church. Finally, there are those who are already cured who have been to the spiritual hospital (the Church), have taken their medicine, and are now careful not to become sick again. It is the last category we should be in, with the grace of God. Otherwise we are amongst the dead occupying space in the Church, just like the prodigal son in the Gospels, who was loitering from here to there, and whom Christ called a dead and lost sheep. Of course he was not physically dead, but he was spiritually dead living for sin and not for Christ or virtue.

We must have some education or guidance to be able to follow deep spiritual lessons, because knowledge is not important in our faith. Knowledge is only important for the mind and not the soul; virtue however, when present, beautifies the soul. In the clear or cleansed soul, the grace supports and encourages the child of God. The more we live in virtue, the more we will have a spiritually insight. If gradual steps of virtue do not shape a spiritual life, we will be spiritually ignorant, even if we have immense literary knowledge or are the most intelligent in the world. This type of 'intellectual' knowledge is useless, especially if we are not cleansed of the stains of sin. Conversely, an old lady, with simplicity, humility and the fear of God, who knows how to fast, pray, go to Confession and participate in Holy Communion, understands a lot more about the heart and has greater spiritual knowledge. The greatest misery is the curtailing of the true Christian life.

He who believes and is Baptised is saved. No less important is that teachers must follow their teaching, and those who are students must act upon the teaching, otherwise they become doers of the law who do not see the light. You see nothing in total darkness, even if you have the best eyes. Our spiritual eyes see clearer when our light is clearer.

The following are some practical examples, which I hope will illustrate the points outlined above.

The Titanic

During April of 1912, the Titanic left England on her maiden voyage to New York in the United States of America. The ship was the biggest and greatest of its time; it was a colossus made of steel. Just before its journey, a director of the company that owned the Titanic said, "The Titanic is impossible to sink". The ship soon departed with the orchestra playing, sailing 2635 people in to history. Messages came from other ships warming of the dangers of icebergs in the north Atlantic Sea. The captain ignored these messages believing that the Titanic could not be sunk. Many similar messages followed, which were disregarded. The captain eventually noticed that the ship was heading towards a huge iceberg and raised the alarm seconds before the ship collided with it. The collision caused a 90 m long split along the side of the ship, which dramatically stopped her. The ship sunk soon afterwards drowning or freezing 1635 people in icy cold water. This is a tragedy of epic proportions, but where are you going in this ocean of life without Christ accompanying you? Are you steaming through an ocean full of icebergs without a map to guide your way, and with the belief that you too can not be sunk?

Mediterranean mission

During the Second World War, an English submarine was in the Mediterranean Sea during surveillance manoeuvres. A member of the crew informed the captain of the ship that they were close to hazardous rocks, as marked on a map of the area; the captain ignored the warming thinking the map was inaccurate. A few minutes later, the ship collided with the rocks, and many of the crew drowned, including the captain who was too proud to escape the submarine. In a similar way, how many of us ignore the spiritual map, known as the Bible that leads us away from dangers and to salvation? We proudly do not use this spiritual map resulting in spiritual disasters.


There is a spider in Java that puts insects it bites to sleep; sin is analogous to the bite of this spider. Sin gently and gradually deadens our interest for the spiritual, and arouses our corporeal passions. We then become preoccupied with what we eat, drink or wear and loose our direction to paradise.


The northern American Indians know that the easiest way to catch deer is to wear the hide of a deer and to walk amongst them. The deer, thinking that the Indians were other deer would come close to them. Of course, the unexpecting deer were killed. In the same way, sin dresses with different disguises intending that we should come near and be killed.

In this day of sin, having surpassed the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, we should not expect refuge and anything without misfortune. The blessed Fr Paisios of the Holy Mountain said that horrible times were coming, when people would actively seek salvation and become Christians, but if you are disrespectful to God He will not listen to you. You must listen to God and His commandments so that He will listen to you during your prayers.

St Martin

In the first century of Christianity, the merciful St. Martin, in an act of love, offered his overcoat to a poor man. Later that night the saint saw Christ wearing this very coat. On another occasion, beggars and cripples, hearing that St Martin was about to pass on his way to Church, picked up their lot and walked away; they did not want to be cured by the grace of God through St. Martin's charismata. These people used their disabilities to gather alms.

Do you know how many Christians in our century do not go to Church, which is the doctor of their bodies and souls? These people do not go to Christ, the Doctor, through their priest and the Sacrament of Confession, and remain in the dark, although they are 50, 60 or 70 years old and close to death; these people may even diligently cross themselves in Church. Who told these people that Christ needed their candles; what does He need these candles for? He wants our sins confessed with contrition and repentance to deliver us from darkness, and to give us His blessings and spiritual grace.

St Moses the Black

At the beginning of St. Moses the Black's ascetic struggle, he was tried by many temptations that reduced his spiritual faith. He confessed these temptations to his spiritual father, who told him to look westward, where he saw thousands of evil spirits devising traps for the destruction of many people. The Confessor then told St. Moses to look eastward, where he saw thousands of angels, saints and martyrs who were ready to assist those who are willing to fight. These same fighters are ready to assist us if we are willing to ask for their help.

The old man

An abbot in the old days, who had many disciples in the desert, prayed "God grant all of us Your kingdom". One of God's angels answered, "Now that the monastery's name's day is near, sent your disciples ahead to prepare for the celebrations and follow on the day before". On his journey to the monastery on the day before the celebrations, the abbot heard moaning and saw a beaten old man lying on the ground. The old man said, "You can not help me". The abbot then asked if the monks that passed him on their way to the monastery stopped to help him. The old man replied, "They told me that they were too busy to help me, because they were going to an all-night vigil in the monastery and were in too much of a hurry to help me and left me here". The elder understood that unless we follow all the commandments, all our qualifications and our participation in all-night vigils would not help us. The elder then insisted in helping the old man by carrying him on his back to the monastery. The abbot noticed that the old man gradually became lighter as they came closer to the monastery. He stopped and turned around to see a beautiful angel. The angel that God commanded "If you want your disciples to have a place in God's kingdom, then they have to follow your example".

What you say, read or write is not important, but what is important is how you live and treat others. If we believe in Christ, by following His commandment, He will recognise us and save us as one of His own.

The Desert Father

A very old desert father had a small cell about 20 kilometres from a fresh-water spring. One day, he thought he was getting too old to continue walking the long distance to the spring, and decided to set up a tent closer to it. He immediately saw a man measuring the number of steps the old man usually takes to the spring and asked him, " Who are you and what are you doing?" He responded, "I am an angel sent by God to count the number of steps that you make for the love of Christ". Hearing that even his walk to the water was for the love of Christ, he set up his tent further away from the water.

In these modern days, we want to style our lives as comfortable as possible, making all efforts except for the salvation of our souls. We have all the automation to reduce our labours, but we do not bother to strive for a spiritual life. It is getting to the stage that we can not be bothered to learn about Christ, unless someone is willing to come to our homes when 'we have some spare time'. No saint entered the kingdom of God asleep or without effort. They worked hard to follow the commandments and fought against the passions. It is with fear that we must cultivate our salvation, as St. Paul the Apostle says, yet we allow the passions to drive us further away from salvation.

St Kosmas Aitolos

In St Kosmas Aitolos' writings there is a story of a bandit called John, who was a member of a group of about 800 thieves. Every day, John would read about the lives of the saints and venerated our Lady Theotokos. The devil, desiring to stop him from reading and veneration the Theotokos, sent a demon to joining the group as a cook and to wait until he stopped reading about the Theotokos for one day, so that he could approach to kill him. God did not want the bandit to die and sent a desert father to help him. The monk told the thieves that God sent him, asking all the thieves to gather near him. He was told that everyone was there except for the cook, who did not want to be present. The thieves then forced the cook to come to the gathering as the monk demanded "In the name of Christ reveal who you are and what you are doing here!" The demon replied, "Even though we can not tell the truth, because the devil has lied from the beginning, due to the power of Christ I am forced to tell you that I am a demon. I have been waiting 14 years for the bandit to stop reading the Akathist to the Lady, so that I can approach him to kill him". The monk commanded the demon to leave, which, on his departure, left a horrible stench. Some of the bandits immediately joined monasteries and became monks.

We do not study the lives of the saints, and we do not learn the Word and commandments of God. Prepare yourselves now, because things will get a lot worse and we will be totally possessed.

from The Truth, November 1998
published by the Missionary Association of Our Lord

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