The word “sin” in ancient Greek literally means the “missing of the mark.” Indeed, the mass of sins in which modern man is often immersed are by no means direct and defiant transgressions against the Law of God, but rather a blind and hollow-hearted choice of the non-essential over the essential.
Or, how about bringing a useful and even healthy idea to the point of absurdity?
There are examples galore. Radical feminism, transhumanism, offensively assertive eco-activists, or certain vegetarians who fiercely attack carnivores…
The boundless and cultish love of animals would be one of the most striking examples close to the heart of the average citizen.
No, please don’t assume that I don’t like “our furry friends!” By the way, the Bible says: A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10).
Besides, our family has a wonderful Border Collie as a pet and I have to tell you in all honesty, that being a dog owner is quite an insightful experience! I sometimes think that if we had the same level of love and devotion for God that a dog has for its owner, I’d be a holy man by now…
But when I see how people, young and old, are busy pampering their tiny well-groomed pooches, their fur trimmed and coiffed nicely at some specialized ultra expensive pet care salon, or when hundreds of thousands of rubles are raised on social media for the medical treatment of animals, while at the same time our charity organizations fail to timely collect the necessary funds for sick children. Or two-thirds of our schoolchildren’s essays entitled, “My Good Deed” are written exclusively about rescuing a lonely kitten from a nearby basement, or feeding a stray dog… That’s when I begin to realize that it is some kind of a surrogate. It is the same “missed mark” of sin.
It’s fake love for a man and, ultimately, for God.
Archimandrite Abel (Makedonov) When I think about this, a truly cautionary tale on this subject comes to mind that I once heard from Archimandrite Abel (Makedonov) of blessed memory.
It is a funny story, but also somewhat terrifying. It has to do with our town and the Lenten fasting period.
Before the revolution, a nun in the Kazan convent, which is still located on Zatinnaya Street, had a cat. This nun truly adored her kitty. Returning to her cell after a long monastic prayer rule, she’d often spoil it with all kinds of delicacies and hold long conversations with her furry charge.
Once, on a sunny day in March, the cat, sensing the call of awakening nature, trampled all those monastic vows it had frankly never even signed on to, jumped through the open ventilation window and… off it went.
But its owner lost everything: her sleep, her appetite, and even the desire to pray.
She spent practically all of her free time after monastic obedience trying to search for her beloved pet. She worriedly thought of it even when she was at church.
“It will return, that cat of yours. He’ll get tired of freedom and come back by the end of the spring! Don’t worry so much!” the other sisters consoled her as best they could.
The cat, sensing the call of awakening nature, jumped into the open ventilation window and… off it went
Still, the nun couldn’t help but suffer…
The ascetic time of Great Lent arrived. The nuns stood in the church in silence, like candles. Life in their monastery, despite the abundance of pilgrims, seemed to stand still, as did the time…
But our cat-loving nun still couldn’t pull herself together. She was still haunted by thoughts of her helpless little creature whose life had fully depended on her only a short time ago.
Nothing helped—not the entreaties of her strict abbess to come to her senses, nor the gentle admonitions of her father confessor. Not even her sister-nuns’ concern for her sanity could help.
All her thoughts were fixed solely on the cat.
Then came the Bright Resurrection of Christ. The soul of the nun of the Kazan Convent grew warmer. Still, it wasn’t like it was before, when she would share all her joys and sorrows with her beloved pet.
But then, one day, as the Bright Week of Pascha was drawing to its end, the nun was on her way back from church—and lo and behold, she saw her cat!
The animal, serenely basking in the rays of the spring sun, was sitting next to the flowerbed, and as if oblivious to its owner, was looking the other way.
The nun felt her legs wobble, her heart was pierced with unspeakable joy…
“My kitty! Kittyyy! Christ Is Risen!” she screamed, impulsively stepping into the flowerbed and clutching her precious charge in her arms.
“No! Woe unto us that He Is Risen!” the cat bellowed violently in a bass voice and, leaping from the hands of its horror-stricken owner, scampered off on its feline business.
“Thus,” concluded Father Abel, “an animal, deliriously glorified by this unfortunate woman, became possessed. That’s how the Lord showed her what is undesirable to Him—when instead of love for God and neighbor there is such a deceitful substitution.”
By the way, Fr. Abel himself actually loved animals…