I recently began reading Generations of Priests by Thomas J. McGovern. This book reviews the lives of ten saintly priests / bishops of our tradition. The first reviews the life and writings of St. John Chrysostom (345 – 407). St. John was known for his preaching and great use of analogies to help his followers better understand the Scriptures. In keeping with the theme of lessons of nature in my last few blogs, I wish to share one of the quotes from St. John comparing the life of sin to that of a fire in a forest:
For a soul which once has tasted sin and becomes unfeeling, intensifies the malady more and more. Just as a spark falls into a huge forest and immediately ignites what it meets, and does not stop at that alone but extends to all the rest; and the more it captures with its flame, the more strength it acquires for the destruction of the remainder, and the multitude of stricken trees becomes a danger to the trees about to be vanquished, since the flame always arms itself against the trees that remain by what it has already captured – such is also the nature of sin: when it captures the mind and there is no one to extinguish the evil, it becomes more serious and intractable, as it gains ground. This is why the subsequent wrongdoings very often are more serious than the initial ones, because by additional sins the soul is continually aroused to greater madness and presumption, which weaken its own power and foster that of sin. In this way, to be sure, many fall into every kind of sin inadvertently , because they do not extinguish the incipient flame. Whence also that miserable man added to his earlier sins other worse ones. (St. John Chrysostom; Babylas, pp 105-6; from Generations of Priests, p. 29)
This is a powerful analogy on the power of sin. It is an accurate assessment how the moment we allow a “simple sin” enter our life we open our self up to its inevitable spread. We must be aware of the reality of evil and sin while at the same time being ever conscious of the fact that in Christ we are redeemed. We should never “presume” God’s mercy, but must never be slow to seek it. May each of our lives always be a resounding “Yes” to Christ. Be cautious with the fire of sin, and stoke the Fire of soul, Who is Christ!