Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.
Велика Єктенія / Great Litany of Supplication [intercessions]. From the Divine Orthodox Liturgy in Ukrainian. Choir of Vydubychi Orthodox Monastery, Kyiv. (2017). The words are remarkably similar to those we use.
from: Rowan Williams, “Sinners.” In Joan Chittister and Rowan Williams. Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2014. (Continued from Day 30, yesterday.)
. . . What matters is that we recognise that here we are faced with a different level of resistance to truth——and that we don’t have illusions about how difficult it is to change it.
In fact the good sinner will be able to spot the fact that his day-to-day prosaic actions marked by idleness, aggression, or suspicion are the soil on which a whole atmosphere of evil can grow. The small, barely noticed acts of self-delusion and self-serving have ‘a relation to the pictures of horror-—grinning faces around a humiliated prisoner, burning eyes fixed on the video camera as a hostage is butchered, blind denial of the facts of an epidemic or a famine because of political interest. Years ago, in one of the British daily newspapers, there was a satirical column that regularly featured a stupid and single-minded sociologist—“Dr. Heinz Kiosk,” I think—whose invariable and automatic comment on any act of vandalism or brutality was, “We are all guilty.” We can recognise the glibness of a certain generation of social commentators—but actually we shouldn’t laugh too heartily. The sinner knows that the great evils of the world are not too hard to understand as extrapolations from much more ordinary behaviour; we need to be a bit cautious about using “evil” as a way of not thinking about someone else’s actions, their significance and their origins——and their perhaps distant but very uncomfortable relation to more familiar patterns.
So the good sinner is aware of living in a bigger world than she can clearly see, and of being in some important ways a slave to illusions. She will be more than a little sceptical of whatever tries to silence her doubts as to whether the familiar world is, after all, the natural and obvious one. She will have noticed that there is some quality of relationship missing from her life. There will be a certain amount of shame and self dislike around, because of this sense that somehow the usual pattern of actions and reactions isn’t free but follows a whole agenda of instinctive and compulsive or habitual moves which don’t fit too well with the recognition of what’s possible. St. Augustine has had a bad press for what he is supposed to have said about sin, but at least one line of his has always made me think he has been unfairly treated. When his opponents tried to maintain that every sin was a fully conscious act of rebellion against God, he replied that most sins were committed by people weeping and groaning”—people who knew better and felt trapped. It’s one of the most realistic and compassionate insights in early Christian literature.
(Continues on Day 32, tomorrow.)
May God our Redeemer show us compassion and love. Amen.