by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
Faith is an orientation of the soul, not an accord with a collection of facts. If sin ultimately means alienation from God, then its cure, true repentance, must consist in a radical re-orientation of one’s mind, soul and life toward Jesus Christ and His great moral imperatives. Western neo-Platonism, which was insinuated into Orthodox thought especially during the three-century “Latin captivity” of Russian seminaries and theology, and the publication of Greek texts by Roman Catholic publishers in Italy during the Turkish occupation of Greece, still corrupt many of our concepts of sin, virtue, morality, ethics and, consequently, the nature and meaning of repentance, and even of redemption. A clear example of this theological corruption is the book, The Soul After Death, which presents an erroneous concept of the nature of sin, judgment, the relationship between soul and body, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Redemption and the nature of Heaven and Hell [See Archbishop Lazar’s compilation of the patristic sources in a booklet by the same name available from Synaxis Press/ or our Mission bookstore.
WHAT DOES “SIN” MEAN?
“Sin” as it became understood in the post-patristic West, is a poor translation of the Hebrew and Greek concepts it is supposed to represent. Consequently, it expresses inadequately the Scriptural idea it is used to render. This is no fault of the English language, which is sufficient for any theological concept; rather it is a reflection of the theological and, perhaps, linguistic inadequacies of the Scholastic era in the Latin world, from which the concepts were derived. The term in Greek and Hebrew means “to fall short of the goal, miss the mark, fall short of one’s destiny.” This term is rendered in Latin as “sons,” “sontis,” which means “guilt; guilty,” and has a forensic significance. We can see already that there is an important difference here. The terms used in Holy Scripture (‘amartia, etc.) refer to something far greater than the Latin term used to translate them. The Latin term (and the understanding usually given to the word in English) is legalistic and juridical, and understood in a forensic sense.2 Ironically, this concept of sin also lowers and degrades the concept of morality. If sin is only a violation of the law, then morality consists only in obeying the law. Such morality could not contribute to one’s salvation, but could only render one as hypocritical as the Pharisees and as alienated from Christ as was the rich young ruler (Mt.16:19-12). It was, in fact, perfectly lawful for the righteous and moral Pharisees to throw a poverty-stricken widow out of her house if she owed them money or they held a lien on the house. In the same way modern “prosperity gospel” moral evangelicals would foreclose on a poor widows’ mortgage or lien without violating a law, so it would be a perfectly moral act from the forensic point of view. “Sin” does not refer simply to a “violation of the law” which is “punished by God’s justice.” This is not to suggest, however, that there is no guilt in sin, and we will discuss this later. The essence of sin should also not be understood as a contravention of God’s will in a legalistic sense, nor to fall below a given norm of behaviour. To sin means to violate God’s will in this sense, that “God wills all men to be saved.” ( ) Sin means to fall short of the destiny (mark, goal) for which man was created. Since the “goal,” “destiny” and “mark” for which man was created is full communion with God, to partake of the Divine Nature (theosis) (2Pet.1:4), sharing in His glory and immortality, then “sin” (as a noun) means to fall short of the destiny of theosis (participation in God). Death, then, may be called “the sin of the world,” since death is both cause and result of missing the goal of the immortality which results from union with God. The Apostle expresses this concept of sin when he says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rm. 3:23) (that is, “everyone has missed the mark and fallen short of the goal of man’s destiny, which is to participate in the glory of God” – theosis). All mankind, therefore, is “sinful” and each one is a “sinner” because in the life of all and each, they fall short of the destiny for which they were created. “Sins” are those things we do which openly manifest and reinforce our separation from God, or “falling short.” All sin is “mortal” sin, because all sin separates us from the source of immortality – God. Indeed, even our virtues can be sin if they somehow separate us from God, for instance, through pride taken in our virtues. True faith, then, is an unconditional orientation of the whole person toward the will of God. God does not punish man for his sins and sinfulness in this life, or even in the life to come. We forge our own destiny. That which we call “hell” is our own creation. We may experience it already in this life and, by our own choices, experience the fulness of it in the age to come.3 God has set as the destiny of all people; immortality, participation in the glory of the Godhead, the joy of the all-embracing Divine Love. God has set this as our destiny and not only taught us how to attain to it, but in Christ has made it clearly possible for us to arrive at it. Because of his sins, man always falls short of this destiny, but because of Christ Who, as true human, arrived at this destiny and attained to it for all mankind, (Rm.5:12) we can inherit it anyway by choosing to strive for a life in Christ (Rm. 3:24-30).4
Death, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is not a punishment of God: it is, rather, the result of man’s failure to live up to his destiny of participating in God’s immortality. Death is the primary manifestation of separation and alienation from God; it is also our principle source of bondage (Hb. 2:15 ) and the driving force behind individual sins. Thus death is the “sin of the world,” and we are mankind is in a bondage to the manner in which the world deals with the question of death, as Paul again says, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world…” (Gal.4:3). “Sin” refers to all those things which form a barrier between us and participation in God. We also refer to these things as “passions.” If we read the Holy Scripture carefully and see that “the Kingdom of God is within you” and “you are temples of the Holy Spirit,” we learn that the essence of sin is really this: we choose to build in our hearts the principality of this world rather than the Kingdom of God. The struggle against sin can really be defined as man’s role in building a new kingdom within himself, as Paul says: “Are ye not aware that to Whom ye yield yourselves to obey as servants, ye are truly His servants Whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience [to God] unto righteousness?” (Rm. 6:16) The principality of this world rules in a man’s heart. He chooses to conquer that principality and replace it with the Kingdom of God. He knows that with God’s help it can be done. Such a person then becomes a warrior of God’s Kingdom. He begins to train for battle, he enters a spiritual “bootcamp,” learning about the faith, studying the Scripture, learning how to fight and struggle against this principality of death within himself. In this war, which is fought in one’s own conscience, mind and soul, each “sin” is a defeat, a failure to conquer one of the enemy’s strongholds and attain our goal. Sin is not merely a “violation of the law,” as our Saviour made plain to the rich young ruler (Mt.19:16-26). For no matter how perfectly the young man had fulfilled the law, he still fell short of the mark and goal (sinned), not because his wealth was evil, but because he chose to give it, rather than Christ, dominion over his heart. He made a choice between two kings.
THE PROBLEM WITH LEGALISTIC MORALISM IN PLACE OF TRUE MORALITY
We can already see how ludicrous it is to give any kind of literal or theological significance to the allegorical pictures of sin and corresponding punishments (such as “visions” in various paterikons, which were often actually concocted stories used as teaching devices for monks. Some of these artificial “visions” show, for example, liars or gossipers being suspended from hot meathooks by their tongues, or demons judging souls at toll houses with bus stop-like designations for legally specific sins). We can also see the fatal danger of regarding ourselves as being “as good as the next person,” or following the new cult of “I feel really good about myself. I don’t feel that I have any sins.” People who offer such proud and un-Christian opinions of themselves are also victims of the legalistic, forensic view of “sin.” This is why Christ Himself specifically refuted such ideas in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Lk.18:10-14). The Pharisee, who was “ethically perfect,” remained unrighteous and was lost; whereas the publican, who was an active sinner, far from being ethically perfect, through repentance obtained righteousness as a gift from God and was saved. A soul departs this life either already in possession of the Kingdom of God or else forever deprived of it. How do we acquire this Kingdom of God within ourselves? By struggling actively against the passions in our nature which induce us to sin (fall short of the goal), not as if the passions were violations of a law (this is mere repression, and not at all a true moral struggle) but barricades which keep us from obtaining union with our beloved God.5 Thus, we can never obtain true repentance from fear of wrath, judgment or punishments; we can come to it only by means of love. The only fear which can help lead us to true repentance and moral victory is fear of being separated forever from the love and glory of our dear Father. When one “repents” from fear of punishment, he is only “repenting” that he cannot get away with it, he is not repenting because his passions separate him from God and keep him from his proper destiny. Fear cannot produce moral behaviour; it can only produce socially correct behaviour by force of repression. Only love can produce true morality and moral behaviour. No deed which is constrained or forced by fear of punishment has moral significance; it is hardly useful for salvation (comp. St. John Damascene, Concise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 2:12).
ABOUT RANKS OF SIN
We should, therefore, put away from us the pagan Hellenic notions of deadly (or mortal) and “venial” sins6 as well as the “cardinal” and lesser virtues of Plato (see, eg. The Republic) All sin is mortal, since all sin causes us to fall short of the goal of immortality in God, but all sin may be repented of and forgiveness obtained. (The one “sin unto death” – 1 Jn. 5:16 – is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,7 although it is clear from several sayings of Christ that refusal to forgive others is also an unforgivable sin). When the monastic fathers explored various “kinds” of sin, they were not legislating or making legalistic gradations. They were exploring the various ways in which man stumbles and falls short of his destiny. Those passions which they considered the worst were the ones which are the most difficult to overcome and which bring one into the greatest bondage. They were not legislating “mortal” and “venial” sins in the fashion of the false teacher Augustine of Hippo and the scholastics. Rather, they were charting the course of our struggle and illuminating the path of our ascent by shedding light on dark places and dangerous stumbling stones and potholes on the path. Moreover, by their own intense struggles, their own fallings and risings again, they were acting as guides for us, learning and then teaching us how to avoid, or at least rise again from these falls. When the early preachers were teaching the illiterate populace they used a great number of parables and allegories to describe, on that level, higher spiritual principles. The Latins made dogmas of these allegories, but we must separate ourselves from them and return to a truly Orthodox understanding. If no one attains to true righteousness and if we all sin throughout our lives, how do we gain our salvation and acquire the Holy Spirit? How are we saved despite the inclination to sin which is so strong in all of us? The whole matter is summarized by Apostle Paul at Romans 3:23-28 (in which we also find a clear Scriptural refutation of the novel doctrine of sin put forth in the work, The Soul After Death). Apostle Paul says: “All have sinned, falling short of the glory of God, but are made righteous freely by His Grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice to make us one (with Himself) through faith in His Blood. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His Divine forbearance, He by-passed all the sins which had previously occurred. This he did to demonstrate at the present time that He is righteous and the One Who bestows righteousness upon the one who has faith in Jesus. What then becomes of our prideful boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle? Good works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we maintain that a man is made righteous by faith apart from works of the law.”
Evidently, as we saw in the book The Soul After Death, [Fr. Seraphim Rose’s neo-gnostic writings] the corrupted contemporary religious thought of many monastics gives no genuine power or effectiveness to the Holy Mysteries (sacraments), nor to faith and repentance in general. The reason for this is that much of this theology has so completely assimilated medieval Latin legalism and scholasticism that it simply does not understand the Mysteries of repentance and confession, and has a very poor understanding of the dogma of redemption. In Scholastic thought, so clearly expressed in the cited work,8 repentance is no longer a Mystery of mental and psychic transformation, but a crude ritual of brutal expiation.9 It really negates Christ’s redemptive work and replaces it with a doctrine of auto-salvation through personal expiatory feats and trials. Our struggle is for sincere repentance, for the conquest of our inner human sufferings (the passions), and not a means of inflicting suffering on ourselves in order to “please God” by our pain. Sin, as we have said, is sin not forensically as a violation of a law, but because it separates us from God, bringing us short of our destiny. It keeps us from being true humans (as God created us) and makes us subhuman. It is evident, then, that sin separates us from the Church; that even legal members of an Orthodox parish who sin and do not repent separate themselves from the Body of Christ – the Holy Church. This is why those suffering from and struggling against certain passions are commanded by the canons to stand in the vestibule of the temple and not to enter into the body of the temple: precisely to teach us in graphic terms that sin is a separation from God and from the Heavenly Kingdom. The Mystery of Confession is, in fact, a mystery of reconciliation and reunion with the Church, the Body of Christ, the community of the redeemed. Confession and repentance cannot be separated, as we see, because repentance means to “reverse one’s mind,” to “reverse one’s perspective.” Epitimias given under the canons of the Church are never punishments (since what is forgiven cannot be punished) but guides and means of helping in the process of reshaping the mind and will of the one who sins. This is why prostrations, as types of the death and Resurrection of Christ, are the most frequent form of epitimia.
FORGIVENESS AND REMISSION OF SIN[S]
In the Mystery of Confession, the repentant person receives, by Divine Grace, the remission of his sins. What does this mean? Sin means to fall short of union with God. If this “falling short” is remitted, it is obvious that “forgiveness” or “remission” here means reconciliation with God: precisely, reunion with the Holy Church, the Body of Christ. Putting aside the crude anthropomorphisms of sectarian literalism in interpreting Divine Scripture, let us summarize: Human nature is yoked by sin, so man can never attain his destiny by himself. For this reason, God became man, truly man, perfect man, and healed human nature, manifesting again the perfect human nature on earth. Thus, the yoke and bondage of sin and death are broken in the One Man. We choose either to unite ourselves with the perfect human nature of Christ (which is united to God) or to remain yoked by the fallen human nature (which is bound to Satan by the power of death – Hb. 2:15). We accomplish this union with the true human nature through the Holy Church which, in a way, constitutes this true human nature being united with Christ God just as a wife is united with and made one flesh with her husband. Our true union with the Church is our real union with God. This is why when we sin again (once more fall short of the goal), we must be reunited with that goal (union with God). This is the essence of the Mystery of Confession-Repentance. Nothing is given by God as a punishment, but everything He allows to happen is given to teach, to educate, to heal, to save us. God does not punish us for our sins and He does not become “angry” with us over them (for then, to whom would God confess and repent for being bound with the passion of anger?) We do not, cannot, make “expiation” for our own sins, for then Christ would have died in vain and Holy Scripture would be a lie. Let us hear the words of St. Antony the Great about this: “God is good, without passions and unchangeable. One who understands that it is sound and true to affirm that God does not change might very well ask: `how, then, is it possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good, becoming merciful to those who know Him and, on the other hand, shunning the wicked and being angry with sinner?’ We must reply to this, that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, because to rejoice and to be angered are passions. Nor is God won over by gifts from those who know Him, for that would mean that He is moved by pleasure. It is not possible for the Godhead to have the sensation of pleasure or displeasure from the condition of humans. God is good, and He bestows only blessings, and never causes harm, but remains always the same. If we humans, however, remain good by means of resembling Him, we are united to Him, but if we become evil by losing our resemblance to God, we are separated from Him. By living in a holy manner, we unite ourselves to God; by becoming evil, however, we become at enmity with Him. It is not that He arbitrarily becomes angry with us, but that our sins prevent God from shining within us, and exposes us to the demons who make us suffer. If through prayer and acts of compassionate love, we gain freedom from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but rather that by means of our actions and turning to God, we have been healed of our wickedness, and returned to the enjoyment of God’s goodness. To say that God turns away from the sinful is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind”. (St. Antony the Great, Cap. 150). We have set forth in outline the Orthodox concept of sin and repentance. For a more theological and in-depth study on this subject, we recommend that one read On The Ancestral Sin, by Fr. John Romanides. 10 We had also promised to make a brief comparison of the Orthodox concept of sin and repentance with Latin and Augustinian concepts, such as those set forth in the work, The Soul After Death. For those who have read the book, the comparison is already clear. In The Soul After Death, we encounter a very juridical and absolutely forensic doctrine of sin and personal expiation (almost an autosalvation), of a ruthless, juridical god who brutally punishes man for every even petty violation of a law or infraction of a theoretical ethical code even if the person was ignorant of the fact that some action violated this theoretical code. Forgiveness of sins (sin being understood in the Latin fashion) is practically impossible to obtain, and indeed, we do not actually receive it. God does not forgive man in the doctrine of this book, rather He is willing to be satisfied in His passions if man makes satisfactory personal expiation for his legal guilt. If a man did not manage to expiate enough to satisfy this god in this life, then he must somehow expiate after death. Even if a person is “saved,” he must be purged by aerial trials of his legal guilt, and can only pass through this purgation if he has sufficient good works to cover his items of legal guilt. He may also pass through this purgation if his spiritual father has enough excess merits that he can use to buy his way through this aerial gauntlet. Sins paid for are not forgiven because punishment and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. Thus we see that the forensic concept of sin, together with any dualistic notion of the nature of Man, is heretical.
THE CONSCIENCE: GUILT AND HEALING
We had promised to say something about the question of guilt; we cannot do this without also mentioning the conscience of man. Guilt is often given too much credit. People can become burdened under a weight of guilty feelings and complexes and be destroyed by them. Nevertheless, guilt is a valuable and necessary human self-awareness. A person who does not feel guilt when he or she actually is guilty of something is usually referred to as a psychopath. Without the realisation of guilt one could not repent and struggle to change his perspectives and the course of his life. How do we have a healthy sense of guilt and how do we deal with that guilt? The conscience is a holy prophet that has been implanted in us by God. It testifies to us if we are undertaking an action which is wrong, leads us away from God, harms someone else, etc. It is our conscience that informs us that we are guilty of something wrong, and calls upon us to correct ourselves. This is why our Saviour tells us, “Be reconciled with your accuser/adversary [i.e., our conscience] in the way [in this life], lest he …deliver thee to the judge……”( Mt.5:25). To have a healthy conscience is as important, perhaps even more important, than to have a healthy body. Enmity with one’s own conscience can result in genuine mental illness. There is, however, no excuse for guilt complexes. If we follow the teachings of some Christian groups, we could be burdened by a crippling sense of guilt over practically every aspect of our ordinary humanity. It is necessary to have some idea of what things we should feel guilt for and what things we should not feel guilty of. Let us begin by mentioning the “blameless passions,” as some of the fathers have called them. What we are speaking of is those “appetites” which are necessary for life. Hunger is not the same as gluttony, for example. If there is any “rule of thumb” that can give us a general idea of what constitutes “sin” and what does not, then perhaps it is this: If an action or way of life is pursued from egoism, self centredness and self-love, then it is a sin. If a course of life is chosen which is based in unselfish love and humility about one’s self, then it is likely not sinful. Egoism and self-centredness are, perhaps, the most clearly defining factors in sin. If we feel guilt for such actions or manners of life, then our conscience is likely trying to bring us to an awareness of this and lead us to repentance – that is, a life of continued re-orientation toward the will of God, toward co-suffering love.
REMISSION OF SINS AND HEALING FROM GUILT
Remember that repentance means to “re-think,” to “turn and go in another direction” with our lives and deeds. These feelings are called “guilt.” Without them, we might have a society which is a living hell or nightmare. If the feeling of guilt is transposed into a “complex” or a general sense of ourselves, it can also create, for the individual, a living hell. It can and does create serious neuroses and psychotic disorders. It is a great sin to burden people with a sense or feeling of guilt for their very humanity itself, or to leave people unhealed of their actual guilt. Such spiritual abuse is common in so-called Evangelical Protestantism, and is the cause of many depressions, suicides and other psychiatric and personality disorders. How do we approach guilt? This is fundamental aspect of both prayer and the Holy Mysteries, in particular Confession – the Mystery of Repentance. Realisation that we are genuinely guilty of some wrong should lead a believing person to pray about the matter and find true repentance. This includes apologising to someone we have hurt and making amends where possible. The Mystery of Confession is given to us so that our parish priest or spiritual father can help us come to true repentance and find the means to turn our lives around, to strengthen our focus on transformation. This determination to turn our lives around is the source of our forgiveness. This process is by no means limited to Confession, although it is referred to as the “Mystery of Repentance.” The life of the Church is as mystical or “sacramental” life, a life of continued sanctification. In this divine/human life of the Church, the unseen is revealed through those things which are seen. The presence of the Church is a seamless life in which we do not isolate the Holy Mysteries in some legalistic fashion, nor do we limit them in number as if they were “departments” or “closets” of ritual. The life of the Church is a unified and harmonious working of divine grace among the faithful. Every aspect of it serves for the sanctification of the believer and his world. We clearly declare in the prayers of the Church that we receive Holy Communion “for the remission of sin and life everlasting.” In the Mystery of Anointing, we also proclaim that we are anointed for the remission and healing of both bodily and spiritual infirmities and receive the remission of sins. The blessing with holy water is for the sanctification of those who receive it. Confession should not be understood in a narrow, legalistic manner, nor should the matter of forgiveness.
11 Confession is not the only manner in which we receive forgiveness and remission of our sins. With regard to Confession, here is the crucial point: if is easy to gain forgiveness from God; sometimes, however, not so easy to forgive ourselves and reconcile ourselves with our own conscience. And yet, Christ has warned us to be reconciled with our conscience in this life. It is in Confession that we receive, through the prayers of the Church, “permission” or help in forgiving ourselves so that we not labour under a harmful and destructive burden of guilt. True repentance should deliver us from the burden of guilt because it reconciles us, brings us into agreement with, our conscience. We often need help in this process, and the Church responds to that with the Mystery of Confession.
Let us briefly summarize these matters. Death is the result of separation from God, Who alone has immortality and is the source of life. Death is the “sin of this world” because it is the manifestation in all mankind of an alienation from God. When we refer to individual sins, we are not referring to “breaches of law” but to any and every action which separates us from God or increases our alienation from Him. Fear of death leads us into more and more individual sins and also into the corporate sins of society (such as neglecting the poor, waging wars of conquest, etc.) The root of all sin is egoism and self-love, and the fear of death pushes man into more and more deeds and life styles of egoism and self-love. Thus, “The wages of sin is death” (Rm.6:23) While death is the product of sin (Rm.5:12). Sin is the falling short of the goal of everlasting life in union with God (theosis). Thus sin and death are partners, or rather “shades of the same thing.” As the root of them is our egoism and self-love, our self-absorption and self-centredness, the healing of them is the unconditional, co-suffering love of God in Jesus Christ, which recapitulates our nature (Eph. 1:10). Having received such a gift of divine love, our struggle is to assimilate it to ourselves and struggle to conquer our own egoism, replacing it with unselfish love. This is the path toward a re-orientation of our lives toward the will of God, and the very meaning of faith, the faith that saves us where works of the law could not, is an unconditional orientation toward the will of God. This is not a call for moral codes or moralisms, but a call for a transformation of the human heart toward unselfish love of God and neighbour. . The ancient Church fathers in the West had the same understanding of these matters as did the holy fathers in the East. It was only with the acceptance of Augustinian neo-Platonism and Aristotelian rationalism (coupled with certain Gnostic influences) that heretical concepts of these matters began to shape the Latin and later Protestant understandings. See, for example, Michael Azkoul, Ye Are Gods, Synaxis Press (2004). . The secondary meanings of the words occurring in the Masoaritic text of the Hebrew Scripture (O.T.) notwithstanding, there is no forensic concept in the ideas of sin expressed in Scripture. . See St. Mark of Ephesus, Ten Refutations, (see SBO, pp – ); Romanides, John, Dogmatiki kai Symboliki Theologia tis Orthodoxon Katholikis Ekklesias (pp.13-14); Kalomiros, Alexandre The River of Fire (St. Nectarios Press). On the actual nature of hell and punishment, see The Nature of Heaven and Hell According to the Holy Fathers (Synaxis Press). . KJV, etc., translates incorrectly. The following is a correct rendering of the text: “All have sinned, falling short of the glory of God, but are made righteous freely by His Grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice to make us one (with Himself) through faith in His Blood. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His Divine forbearance, He overlooked all the sins which had previously occurred. This He did to demonstrate at the present time that He is righteous and the One Who bestows righteousness upon the one who has faith in Jesus. What then becomes of our prideful boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle? Good works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we maintain that a man is righteous by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rm. 3:23-28). . The word “passion” means “suffering,” not sin. When a normal human emotion or appetite becomes so powerful within us that it begins to dominate us and bring about inner suffering, we call it a passion. The urge to fulfil this controlling passion leads us into real sin because it is a distortion of that which is natural (even though natural only to the fallen nature). This distortion may even twist our personalities to such a degree that we will commit crimes we normally would not even dream of. . The origin of the Latin idea of “venial sin” lies in Jerome’s mistranslation of the Scripture. At 1 Cor. 7:6, he erroneously translates the Greek “sungnomen” into Latin as “veniam” (guilt necessitating pardon). The word actually signifies “concession,” and here means “to allow for individual differences.” . Since the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance, complete alienation from the Spirit leaves us without a guide to repentance and salvation. . (And the neo-Messalian and Platonistic thought of many contemporary teachers on Mt. Athos.) . In more extreme and perverted spiritual ideologies among these monastics, novices are taught to use self flagellation as a means of struggling with sexual passions. In fact, what this does is to replace one form of sexual behaviour with another. Flagellation quickly becomes just another form of masturbation and soon manifests itself as a perverse and twisted form of sexual gratification. We even have such perversion in some monasteries in North America. . (bibliography) . We do, in fact, often find such legalism in various books written within the Orthodox Church. There are two sources of this. The first has to do with the Turkish conquest of Greece and the Balkans. During that era, books were seldom published in Greece because of the restrictions of the Turkish overlords. Thus many of the Greek texts were printed in Italy, and were adulterated and “laced” by the Latin editors. This adulteration was so blatant that St. Nikodemos of Mt Athos is said to have once wept openly over the corruptions of one of his texts by the Roman Catholic editors and publisher in Venice.