The Shepherd, November 2005
FROM THE FATHERS
“THE SLANDERER does harm to three persons at once: to him of whom he says the ill, to him to whom he says it, and most of all to himself in saying it.”
Saint Basil the Great, +379 A.D
“A GOOD GRAPE-PICKER, who eats ripe grapes, will not start gathering unripe ones. A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of what virtues it sees in anyone. But a fool looks for faults and defects. and of such it is said: ‘They have searched after iniquity, and in searching they are grown weary of searching’ (Ps. 63:7).”
Ven. John of the Ladder, sixth century
“LET US FLEE THEN, beloved, let us flee slander! knowing that it is the very gulf of Satan, and the place where he lurks with his snares. For in order that we may be careless of our own state, and may thus render our account heavier, the devil leads us into this custom. But more than this: it is not only a very serious matter, that we shall hereafter have to give account for what we have spoken, but that we shall make our own offences the heavier by these means, depriving ourselves of all excuse. For he who scans with bitterness the conduct of others, can never obtain pardon for the sins committed by himself.”
Saint John Chrysostom, + 407 A.D.
“IT WAS by murmuring that the serpent drove Eve out of Paradise; he who maligns his neighbour is like the serpent, for, along with his own soul, he also destroys the soul of anyone who listens to him.”
“‘LIKEWISE ALSO these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries’ (Jude 1:8) - here it must be understood that they also are to be condemned like the people of Sodom who defiled their flesh, like the unbelieving people who blasphemed the majesty of the Divine power, like the angels who despised the sovereignty of their Creator. ‘Yet Michael the Archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee.’(Jude 1:9).”
Venerable Bede of Jarrow, + 735 A.D.
“CONDEMNATION is when you see or know of a sin or shortcoming of your brother and you say in your heart, ‘In my opinion he deserves torture, execution or illness.’ Then you become like a judge over your neighbour and want to seat yourself on the throne of the only Judge, Christ; so for your proud madness you become like the Antichrist. Speaking evil and vilification are something else, but are not yet condemnation. Scandal is something different: when involuntarily, out of natural feelings, your soul is scandalised at some shameful action or word. The silence of the Fathers, occupied with inward activity, knew not the sins of their neighbours but beheld only their own falls.”
Venerable Leonid of Optina, +1841 A.D.
“FROM THE THINGS you hear against someone, you should not believe anything, and believe only half of what you see. In fact, not even half of it, for many pretend to be fools. Do not judge.”
The Elder Dionysius, quoted in “An Athonite Gerontikon”