“For our deliverance from every tribulation, wrath…” We also pray for deliverance from wrath. Wrath is a tornado bursting forth from a person’s soul; it is thunder, lightning, a hurricane that sweeps away everything in its path. Wherever this hurricane sweeps by, there will be only ruins. This is what wrath is. But the first to suffer harm from anger is the angry one himself. The first one who languishes, suffers, and is tormented isn’t the one who has to endure outbursts of someone else’s anger, but the angry person himself. The soul of such a person rots like the body of a dead man. Or so it seems to me at least. Anger corrupts us, and has a detrimental effect on others as well.
We often justify ourselves: “I got angry. I said this and that, but you know, I don’t stay angry for more than five minutes. I calm down quickly.” So you can easily calm down in five minutes? What about the other person—the one upon whom you poured out your anger, the storm of your emotions, and your rude words? Does he easily calm down and forgive? No, the other person doesn’t move on as quickly as you. “Oh, I already forgot about it,” you assure him. But the other person hasn’t forgotten anything. For him, your anger is like bucket of boiling water on his head. He’s covered in burns from your words. How long it takes him to heal from these burns!
Let me share my experience as a confessor. I’ve met elderly people who have reached the end of their lives who still remembered something that was said to them when they were young. They complained that they’d been carrying an unhealed wound in their soul from their youth. When I asked them about this wound, they answered: “When I was young, my friend (or father, mother, or relative) said this and that to me…”
“Okay, but now you’re eighty-five, and you still remember what a friend told you when you were fifteen?”
“Yes, I do. I can’t forget it.”
They really remember it and can’t deal with it. Every person has his own spiritual storeroom. In order to unload our spiritual trauma, we have to make a little effort; we need spiritual medicine, spiritual labor. Therefore, the Fathers placed great emphasis on never hurting your brother in any way. You don’t know what kind of trauma your words can cause his soul. I think you all know (both from your own experience and the experience of those you’ve spoken with) that even one simple mistake can seriously traumatize the soul of your neighbor.
That’s why you have to be careful with all your jokes and ridicule. As they say here in Cyprus, ridicule is a sword that you stab into the heart of your neighbor. “Come on, I was just kidding,” we say, justifying ourselves. Yes, you were just joking, but your joke hurt me.
Jokes are dangerous. Be careful with them. I also have this shortcoming: Sometimes I indulge in jokes. Of course, sometimes a joke can benefit someone else. But the best thing is not to allow yourself to joke at all, and even more so to ridicule others.
Even little children can suffer from someone’s jokes. I often meet kindergarten or elementary school children who suffer psychological torment from the jokes and ridicule of their classmates. “Shorty!” “Fatty!” “Elephant ears!” “Hook-nosed!” Children suffer when they hear things like that. Children are children, and they don’t realize they’re being cruel, that they’re tormenting the other child with their ridicule. There are children who suffer a lot—they weep at home, they don’t want to go to school; and over time, their mental wounds worsen and turn into inferiority complexes. Sometimes a child is ridiculed not even by other children, but by his teachers.
I can testify: How many times I’ve joked around about people, justifying myself by saying I supposedly wanted to correct them so they’d be more prudent, collected, modest, and quiet—and nothing good came of my joking, except that I offended everyone. Especially in our times, people don’t have the humility to accept someone’s comments and recognize: “Yes, it’s good that Father told me that,” or, “The teacher’s remark was good.” It’s very hard for modern people to accept remarks—and not just remarks, but even a word that encourages correction offends and burdens them.
Wrath is a real volcano, shooting everything out. Wrath is destructive; it destroys a man’s soul. As the Holy Fathers say, for even if an angry man raises the dead, his prayer is not pleasing to God. Even if an angry man works miracles, God doesn’t look upon him. Why? Because wrath is, as a rule, a product of our egotism. An egotist wants everything to go according to his plans, as he drew it up in his mind and imagination. And when something goes a different way, he loses his temper and starts getting angry. It’s not good at all. A humble man reacts correctly: It didn’t go the way he wanted? It’s no big deal; he’s not going to get angry or upset about it.
How is anger cured? By humility. We have to humble ourselves and accept circumstances as they are, saying, “This is how the situation turned out? Okay. Let it be. Bless the name of the Lord.” By doing this, you’ll calm down quickly and free yourself from endless, “I want, I want, I want.”
If you wound the soul of another, you should ask him for forgiveness. We have to learn to ask forgiveness. It’s medicine for both sides. Go to the person you’ve offended and burned by the eruptions of your volcano. Just don’t say, “If I happened to offend you, forgive me” (which is what we usually say). No, say this: “Brother, I offended you. Forgive me.” Just like that. And, of course, without any add-ons, like: “Forgive me. But, you know, you also said this and that to me. You put me in a difficult position…” Saying things like that doesn’t mean asking forgiveness. It’s just like saying: “Forgive me. But of course, it’s your fault.” Asking forgiveness means saying: “It’s all my fault. I was the one who treated you rudely.” And even if the other person starts to object, saying, “I also didn’t behave very well towards you…”—don’t let him finish, but take the blame upon yourself: “No, you’re not to blame for anything. It’s my fault alone.” If you do this, God will inform your neighbor’s soul, his heart will soften, and your relationship will change for the better. And even if his heart doesn’t soften, at least your own soul will receive healing. If you humble yourself for God’s sake, then the Lord will find a way to comfort the soul of your neighbor whom you wounded.
“For our deliverance from every … danger and necessity.” We entreat God to deliver us from every danger. This petition is especially relevant to our present times, when danger lurks around every corner. For example, just getting home from here, you’ll be exposed to hundreds of dangers, at least from cars. As St. Paisios the Athonite said, God used to preserve the world with one hand, but now He protects it with two hands. Indeed, often when you’re driving somewhere you see someone’s car overtake you at breakneck speed. “Where are you racing to?” you automatically wonder. And then—oh!—another car comes flying out of somewhere off to the side, also at breakneck speed. Had it shot out two or three seconds earlier, the cars would have collided and been smashed to smithereens. And you realize that they’re saved by God’s providence. And why were the drivers rushing like that? Maybe they were driving drunk, or they were distracted, or, as they say, they lost their nerves, or they couldn’t wait any longer, or something happened to them. We don’t know what happened. The fact is that they overtake other cars at high speed, and they don’t care about the possible consequences.
God’s providence is behind everything, saving a man from danger. Troubles inevitably befall us in our lives. And if the Lord didn’t protect us, there would be immeasurably more of these troubles. Therefore, in the Anaphora at the Liturgy, the Church thanks God “for all things whereof we know, and whereof we know not”—that is, for all the blessings rendered us by the Lord, whether we know about them or not. How many times we simply didn’t notice the danger that threatened us, but God, Who sees everything, delivered us from trouble. God preserves us from sorrows, and from wrath, and from dangers, and from needs.
One of our clerics went to visit the ever-memorable Archbishop Christodoulos1 a few days before his repose. He spoke to the seriously ill Archbishop with words of support:
“Hold on, Your Eminence, everything will be okay.”
The Archbishop answered:
“Father, listen. I know what kind of illness I have and how long I have to live. Before this illness, my life was all about words. I was constantly talking: preaching, teaching. And now I must fulfill everything that I taught others. Now is the time for deeds. I should spend the remaining days of my life enduring pain and suffering, until the Lord calls me to Himself.”
Such is our life. No man can ever say he lived without pain, suffering, danger, needs, sorrows, woes. Look, for example, at them which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles (Mk. 10:42). Let’s say for example Gaddafi, who just yesterday was reigning in his palace.2
Such is human life—a revolving circle. Today you’re at the very lowest point on the circle, tomorrow you move up, and the next day you’re at the bottom again. We should learn to say like St. John Chrysostom: “Glory to God for all things!” And we must learn to use all circumstances—whether good or bad—for our salvation, so in the end our life would have one goal—the salvation of the soul. As Christ said: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mt. 16:26). You might achieve everything you wanted in life, but if you lose your soul, then in the end you’ve achieved nothing. And vice versa: You might achieve nothing in this life, but you can achieve the one thing needful—the salvation of your soul. The salvation of the soul can be achieved through humility, as did the thief on the cross. The thief humbled himself, repented, and entreated Christ: Remember me… (Lk. 23:42), and he was saved. Therefore, we can say the thief achieved success in his life. That’s why the Lord teaches us to be attentive in dealing with others and forbids us from condemning anyone. We don’t know what’s happening in the soul of another; we don’t know what will happen to him or with us in the final moment of our lives. You’re very good, you’re virtuous and holy, and in the last minutes of your life you can fall and perish, while the person whom you condemn today and consider a useless person, a criminal, a liar, a deceiver, may repent and find salvation in Christ.