Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,
Great Lent is a time that we more consciously try and come to terms with our own personal sins - of deed, or word, or thought. Sin is, of course, "missing the mark" about both God and neighbor. It is to confuse our desires with what is good, to even confuse the very realities of good and evil. Aware of that struggle, we do out best to avoid sin, no matter how tempting. But the great saints will take us a good step deeper in this struggle. They teach us to hate sin. They write about the horror sin, how it debases us, makes us less than human, and eventually - though much sooner than we are often aware - its slave. When that happens, we often rationalize or justify our sinful inclinations, for facing up to them is quite painful.
Here is some of the "wisdom of the divine philosophers" - the great saints - who write about sin with clarity and sharpness, not allowing for any subtle embrace of sin. The great saints, ultimately, teach us to "love the sinner," but to "hate the sin."
"Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him; because evil is but a chance misfortune, an illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement."~ St. John of Kronstadt
"Every sin is more injury to him who does, than to him who suffers it."
~ St. Augustine of Hippo
"The devil presents small sins to us as insignificant in our eyes, for otherwise he cannot lead us to great sins."
~ St. Mark the Ascetic
"When a man places the Law of God and the holy commandments of God in his heart, so to speak, and loves them, then he comes to hate sin. He becomes inflamed with a desire for life in the Lord, and he restrains himself from every sin."~ St. Nikon of Optina
"God does not insist or desire that we should mourn in agony of heart; rather, it is his wish that out of love for him we should rejoice with laughter in our soul.
"Take away sin, and tears become superfluous; where there is no bruise, no ointment is required. Before the fall Adam shed no tears, and in the same way there will be no more tears after the resurrection from the dead, when sin has been destroyed. For pain, sorrow and lamentation will then have fled away."~ St. John Klimakos