Fr. Thaddeus at St. Lawrence Orthodox Church in Felton, California told this story.
When St. Amphilochios was asked how to avoid despair over reoccurring sin, he answered with the following account:
“A certain brother, overcome by the passion of immorality, sinned every day. However, each time, with tears and prayers, he would fall before Christ and receive forgiveness from Him. And as soon as he had repented, the next day, being misled again by shameful habit, he would fall to sin again.
After having sinned, he would go to the Church, prostrate himself before the Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and tearfully confess: “Lord, have mercy upon me and takeaway from me this fearful temptation, for it troubles me fiercely and wounds me with the bitter taste of pleasure. O my Master, cleanse my person once more, that my heart might be sweetened and thankful. My Lord, on my word, I will no longer commit this sin.”
And though his lips had just whispered these words, no sooner would he leave the Church than he would fall once again to sin. This happened not for one or two or even three years, but for more than ten years.
One day when all that we have described again occurred, the brother, having fallento sin, rushed to the Church, lamenting, groaning, and crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that He might have compassion on him and take him from the sin of immorality.
No sooner had he called on God, the lover of man, than the Devil, that destroyer of our souls, seeing that he could gain nothing, since whatever he accomplished by sin, the brother undid by his repentance, became infuriated and appeared visibly before the brother. Facing the Icon of Christ, the Devil said to our compassionate Savior: "What will become of the two of us, Jesus Christ? Your sympathy for this sinner defeats me and takes the ground I have gained, since you keep accepting this dissolute man and prodigal who daily mocks you and scorns your authority. Indeed, why is it that you do not burn him up, but, rather, tolerate and put up with him? To this fellow here, even though an immoral man and a prodigal, you calmly show your sympathy, just because he throws himself down in front of your Icon. In what way can you be called a just Judge, then?
The Devil said all of this, poisoned with great bitterness, while there poured forth from his nostrils a black flame.
Having said these things, he fell silent and a voice from the sanctuary answered him,"O, all-cunning and ruinous Dragon, are you yet not satisfied with your evil and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try to do away with this man here, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of my compassion to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold my murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.
"You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might
win him over; but should I, who [taught my disciples] to forgive sins seven times seventy (Matthew 18:22), not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed, simply because he flees to me, I will not turn him away until I have won him over. I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to me; such a person will not leave my Temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent. Look at this man who a few moments ago repented, having returned from sin and having fallen at my feet with a sincere resolution to abandon sin, has there by conquered you.”
While[all of] this was being said, the repentant brother had thrown himself before the Icon of the Savior. With his face to the ground and lamenting, he surrendered his spirit to the Lord. From this incident, my brothers, let us learn of the limitless compassion of God and of His love of man, that we mightnever again be disheartened by our sins, but rather look after our salvation with zeal.”
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