(Above photo: Seminary students with instructors: Archbishop St. John Maximivitch and St. Justin Popovich in center, 1933)
• From the moment when the question of the human soul will be brought forth, there will be extended before us a vast ocean of divine and awesome mysteries. When again, there is brought forth the question of sin, every human conscience will be transformed into a spasm before the inexplicable “a mystery of sin” (2 Thes. 2: 7), and its power. The human soul, due to its nature, continuously overflows beyond all boundaries, but the soul and sin as if they are not of this world but from another. And truly this is taking place; the soul is from God, the sin is from the Devil. When the soul surrenders to God and lives according to His laws, gradually its life is transformed into paradise. When, however, the soul is given to sin, this “law” of Satan, its life is gradually transformed into hell.
• Sin is the only thing that is unnatural in the nature of man and of the world. Stranger, alien, intruder, criminal, executioner, homicide-this is sin in everyone of us. But, in its destructive power, this sin is something worse and more horrible than all else. What? In its essence, in its energy, it is identified with the Devil since it also corrupts and destroys. According to the unrivaled definition of St. John Chrysostom “Satan is sin”. Within this definition lies the entire “mystery of sin and lawlessness” and the entire power of sin and the entire hell of iniquity. There exists no Satan without sin, and no sin without Satan. Even in the smallest sin the devil is concealed. Satan is uncharitable to man because “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death’ (James 1: 15), and “the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6: 23). This is the final atrocity of sin: death. The experience of the human race testifies that sin and death are identical destructive energies of the devil. With these, the Devil holds man is his horrible embrace. But for how long? As long as man remains unrepentant. The one who repents according to God’s will is saved.
• In our earthly world, the “mystery of iniquity”, the mystery of sin, and the mystery of evil are enormously rising. While, on the contrary, the mystery of good which exists within the innate conscience of man, is always connected with its life-giving roots, with the foundation of every good, God, and certainly our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Life and immortality are nourished and maintained through Him. Christ, the God 0 every good, came into our earthly world to give us the medication for every sin, for every evil. Outside of the sin of human nature, there is no evil. This is the repentance: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Matth. 4: 17). The salvation, the cure, the immortal and sinless life is at hand. If man rejects this unique pan- medication, the penitence, then the human being it inevitably led to demonism, to Satanism, to the kingdom of evil, to hell.
• Through sin, man opposes God, he becomes God-fighting, an opposition to God. Sin is the main energy of the Devil because he can bear neither God, nor anything divine. When he is firmly established in the soul of man, he gradually destroys all goodness within him, first faith, then prayer, then love, fasting, alms-giving. With the desire to sin, man is gradually planning his suicide. There is no worse form of homicide than that which occurs through sin; it is truly the murder of man. Therefore, the main task of the spiritually vigilant man is to kill the sin within himself and, in this way, kill the devil himself, which assassinates us through sin. But how can man kill sin? How will man kill Satan? This can only be done through the God-man Jesus Christ, who became man for this purpose only. He accomplishes this through our faith in Him, our love for Him, our repentance before Him, our prayer to Him.
• Our road and journey of human life, even here on Earth, is extended from hell to paradise, from Satan to God. Within this also lie the immortality and the eternity of man. The unrepentant sin, even on this Earth, becomes for man an unbearable torture, a hell with all of its consequences: Anger – one torment, pride – another torment; hatred – the third torment; avarice wickedness, malice – hell, hell hell. This is because within every sin lies Satan, and within him is hell. This always happens when a sin, any sin, dominates the soul of man. The salvation of the soul from these torments of hell is only one: through faith and repentance, the Life-giver and All-merciful Lord Jesus Christ, who overflows the soul with the eternal paradisiacal peace and Immortal Joy. Only thus can man find, through the Holy Spirit, his justification in Christ, his immortality, his eternity.
• Only the gospel of Christ fully knows the mystery of sin and the problem of sin and everything which hides within it. The prodigal son of the Gospel is the perfect example of the repentant sinner. The Gospel shows us that man, through his free will, can share life with Earth and with Heaven, with Satan and with God, with paradise and with hell. Sin gradually strips man of everything divine in him, paralyzes his ever divine inclination and desire, until it finally throws him into the bosom of Satan. And then man reaches the plight of grazing the swine of his master, the Devil. The swine are passions, which are always greedy and gluttonous. In such a life, the unfortunate man is nothing more than insane. In a shocking parable of the Gospel, the Lord says about the prodigal son, “he cam to himself,” (Luke 15: 17). How did he come to himself He came to himself through repentance. Through sin man becomes mad, insane. Every sin, even the most seemingly insignificant one, is always an insanity of the soul. Through repentance, man comes to his sense becomes complete again, comes to himself. Then he cries out loud to God, runs to Him, and cries towards Heaven, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight” (Luke 15: 21). And what is the heavenly Father doing? He is always infinitely merciful upon seeing His child in a state of repentance. He has compassion for him, runs, embraces him, and kisses him. He orders His heavenly hosts, the holy angels: “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this is My son who was dead, and is alive again; and he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15: 22-24) And this is taking place for each and everyone of us, and for the sake of every sinner who repents. Namely, joy and happiness is taking place in the heaven of the All-merciful Lord and God, and together with Him, all of the holy angels.
Taken from “The preface to the book of Fr. Justin, Sinful Souls, Belgrade, 1968” in Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994, Asterios Gerostergios, ed.)