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Even Alms Cannot Save the Unrepentant

Originally appeared at: The Catalog of Good Deeds

Be aware, brethren, that alms distributed by the deceased who died without repentance of their corrupt ways will not serve them. This is evident from the following story.

There once lived a man in Constantinople who was very noble and wealthy and merciful to the poor. However, he had one flaw: he spent all his life in adultery, and died without repenting of this sin in his old age. After his death, Patriarch Herman and his bishops had a dispute over the eternal fate of the deceased man’s soul. Some said that the deceased was safe, for it is written that “deliverance to a man is his wealth”, while others, on the contrary, said that the deceased was doomed because it is written: “I will judge you by where I find you.” After that, the patriarch commanded all monasteries and hermits to pray for the dead to discover his fate.

The Lord revealed to one hermit where the soul dwells. That hermit called the patriarch, and told him in front of all people, “I saw a place on the right side of which there was a paradise full of unspeakable blessings, and a lake of fire on the left side, from which the flames rose to the clouds. The dead man stood tied up in the midst of the terrible fire, moaning loudly and crying bitterly as he looked up at the heaven. A light-bearing angel came up to him and said, “Why are you moaning in vain? Behold, for the sake of your alms, you are delivered from the torment; and because you had not left your iniquities until your death, you are deprived of the blissful paradise.”

When the patriarch and those who had been with him heard this, they said in terror, ” Truly, the apostle said, ‘Avoid fornication’. What would those who used to say, ‘Even if we commit fornication, we shall be delivered from the punishment because of our charity’ say now?” So the deceased man had to maintain both charity and purity, without which no one would see God. There is no benefit in the offering of silver if the person who gives it, does so with an impure hand and an impenitent soul.

Therefore, brethren, if on the one hand, you do something good and, on the other hand, you commit a mortal sin, it means building with one hand and destroying with the other. So let us not be limping on both knees and let us devote ourselves completely to the Lord. Let us remember that the virtues are the stairs of the ladder leading up to the heaven; they are inseparably linked to each other. Take away the value of one virtue through sin, and the other virtue will lose its value, too. Therefore, let us remember that no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9: 62). Amen.

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