Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou
Question: Sometimes it is difficult to accept that our God of love can pronounce such words as ‘outer darkness’ (Matt. 8:12) or ‘the worm that dies not’ (Mark 9:44).
Archim. Zacharias: On the one hand He says, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37), but it is also written that we will ‘knock at the door and He shall answer, I know you not whence ye are… Depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity’ (Luke 13:25, 27). However, the fact that He is warning us is also an expression of His love. If we show even a little desire to amend ourselves, He is there to help us. Even if we give Him a little finger, He will grab our hand and take us out of the pit. We accept what the Lord says about hell as true and we humble ourselves. This brings contrition and humility, and we come closer to Him. It is a way to keep our mind in hell. Some Saints say that whoever is not mindful of hell will not escape hell. Whoever lives without reckoning with hell and without taking necessary precautions to avoid it, will not escape it. In the end it is a matter of denying our own reason and believe the words of the Lord. If we go by our own logic, we will remain ignorant because human logic is always confined within the limits of the created world. Even imagination cannot go beyond. We know nothing about the uncreated world until we begin to conform to the word of the Lord which comes from there. If we accept the commandment of God and begin to apply it, grace comes to enlarge the heart and illumine the mind. Then we begin to reason differently, we acquire different dispositions and aspirations. We are strengthened and established in a logic inspired by God, which is derived from the other world. Without the word of God and without the invocation of His Name, we have no contact, no means to know anything about the upper world.
Question: Saint Sophrony says that love for enemies is impossible without faith in Christ, but we hear stories even about non-Christians, who forgive their enemies.
Archim. Zacharias: Saint Paul says that even if we give ourselves to be burnt, it is not a great thing, unless it is done for Christ, that is to say, unless it is done in the spirit of the humility of Christ (1 Cor. 13:3). Love for enemies is the highest form of love because to forgive the one who wrongs us requires utter humility. With difficulty we forgive those who chastise us when we have made mistakes. Imagine if we are attacked when we are innocent. It is impossible to forgive without the grace of Christ, without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Only Christ has this utter humility, for He suffered an unjust death. He was innocent, sinless, and yet He surrendered to the sinners who killed Him, praying for them, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). It is the humility of Christ that characterises true love for enemies.