QUESTION: For as long as I can remember, my parents have been drinkers. They still are, not as much as before, but still. I’m already an adult, but I am developing ever more complexes – throat problems, problems interacting with others, I don’t like myself, no one has filled me with love, and I don’t know how to love. I’ve gone to confession, have gone to a priest, and I want to see a psychologist, but I also want to ask for your help. What advice can you give me? And can such sins be passed on to me? Also, I would like to have a child, yet I have paranoid feelings that my family is soiled and in need of being cleansed, that all those sins can be passed on to me, and I wonder whether I can even have children.
ANSWER: Parents set their children a poor example, do not show them a good one, and here you are: You want to establish a family, but you do not have a clear understanding of what will be required of you. Therefore, the sin of drunkenness is transmitted, as a physiological and psychological inclination to drink (i.e., you are in a “risk group” with an inclination to drink, greater than in children whose parents do not drink). At the same time, you of course are not personally subject to punishment for your parents’ drinking. Wanting to have a child is a good thing. However, children do not simply appear. They are conceived, and their conception can be either sinful (outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony) or legitimate (within the married state). Based upon your question, you are not married. This means that you must first take general measures to calm your restless soul, through church sacraments, prayer, regular attendance at divine services, and diligent fulfillment of the Commandments of God. When you begin to humble yourself before God, before the One Who created you and placed you in such a family, you will discover that, even in your present state, Divine love and the path to salvation are not closed off to you. And then, you will be able to think about having a spouse, having children, and even more.
Parish Life, September 2022
And lead us not into temptation
QUESTION: Please help me to understand the meaning of the words in the Lord’s Prayer “And and lead us not into temptation.” Can the Lord possibly tempt us?
ANSWER: You are entirely correct. In his Epistle, the Holy Apostle James addresses exactly that point: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13–14).
Then what temptation is contemplated in this prayer? Obviously, that which comes from this world, where, according to the words of the Apostle John, The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life… reigns. (1 John 2:16) These temptations must be resisted, but we do not always possess the necessary strength within ourselves. Accordingly, we ask God for help to protect us from such temptations, to give us the strength to resist them.
Parish Life, August 2022
QUESTION: To what extent do sinful thoughts differ from sins actually committed? I don’t do anything wrong, but sometimes I have some kind of aggression inside me. That’s why it’s scary for me to go to confession. And in general, with what sin is it not even worth going to confession, or coming close to the church?
ANSWER: There is no such sin in nature. In the Gospel, Peter asked: Lord! How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Christ answered: Until seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22), that is, as many times as they ask for forgiveness. Elsewhere it is said that All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven unto men, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men, (Matt. 12:31)—that is, in practice there is but one [unforgiveable] sin.
But what is behind this question? It is distrust in God. When a person takes such a position, it means that a tragedy has already occurred within him: At some point, he has ceased to trust in God’s mercy, he has ceased to believe that God’s love is far above anything we can all accomplish together. The question to be posed is not “With what sin can one not go to Confession?” We should ask “What kind of heart cannot go [to Confession]? If the heart is repentant, if it trusts in God, if it seeks Him, there is nothing with power over us that that would not lose it. But if one’s heart is awash in selfishness, in egocentrism, perhaps there is no need to even go to Confession, for one is no longer going to God, but to oneself, trying to get away from oneself but turning to oneself.
As for thoughts, except in the case of particularly holy people, they come to everyone’s mind. While it is written in the Patericons that most of humanity will be attacked by evil desires and thoughts until the end of life, that is not what is important here. What matters is whether I accepted [those thoughts and desires. In short, the thought that I did not accept as a norm, as a cause for permissible action, should not be attributed to me; I should forget about it as soon as possible. If I have already agreed with the thought, regardless of whether it has been put into concrete human action, the sin has already occurred, for the heart has been poisoned, and according to the Lord, it is from the heart that everything comes. Outward physical action is the expression of what has already taken place within. All the more so because other sins e.g., vanity—the fear of others judging you, of thinking less of you—can limit the outward manifestation of a given sin.
Parish Life, July 2022
St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, DC