"O All-good One, Whose kindness is immeasurably greater than the deceit of the world, strengthen my miserable soul with hope in thy kindness, for it has been weakened and become exhausted to the extreme by the crushing infirmities of deceit and sin, and it holds on only by relying on Thee, for it hopes to find comfort in Thee!"
--St. Ephrem the Syrian
We are living in a time when the "crushing infirmities of deceit and sin" seem to us to be greater than ever. The very foundations upon which the very notion of civilization rested are seemingly crumbling beneath us. Why, as Christians, does this surprise and frighten us? Do we forget that it has been thus in the world since the serpent first whispered its lies to Eve, mother of all the living? Some times and societies may seem to us to have better, others worse: But the ancestral deceit, that we can become "like God," by means of our own choosing, has reverberated through each and every generation of humankind. Should we not expect this lie to increase apace as the years and human knowledge -- and pride -- increase?
If we sincerely hope to find comfort in reliance upon God the All-good One, then we must struggle against the temptation to allow the deceit and sin that surround us, to enter into us. We must be mindful that the first and foremost place in which deceit and sin must be overcome, is within our own souls. So often, we are zealous that everyone else should be more righteous, but overlook the presence of un-righteousness within our own hearts.
Do the sins of others make us hate them? Do we lash out against them or, God forbid, exercise our anger through violence towards them? If so, then their deceit and sin have entered into our souls and led us astray from the All-good One whose Word spoke to us saying, "I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Mt 5:44).
In our Orthodox Western Rite, this coming Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. In these, our own troubled and troubling times, let us remember, with St. Ephrem, that our reliance must not be placed on institutions, on politics, on movements, on governments, or on false promises of utopia -- whether from progressives or conservatives -- but upon our Lord Jesus, who triumphed over deceit, sin, and death by dying on the Cross in seeming ignobility: but who could not be held by corruption and rose in glorious and life, shared with us through citizenship in his eternal and life-giving Kingdom. And how do we attain to that citizenship? By dying, with him, to ourselves and living in the light of his Resurrection, poured upon us in the new life of Grace.
Perhaps, when we feel overwhelmed by the vast sea of sin and deceit that seems to be triumphing over all that is good, true, and beautiful, not to mention "sane," it would be good to quietly affirm in our mind and heart, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor: to Him be glory and dominion for ever" (from Rev. 5, Introit verse for the Feast of Christ the King)