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Innocence of Childhood

[James 1:1–8; Mark 10:11–16] With what love the Lord treat­ed chil­dren! Who does­n’t treat them with love? The longer one lives, the more one loves chil­dren. In them is seen fresh­ness of life, clean­ness and puri­ty of dis­po­si­tion, which can­not but be loved. Look­ing at the inno­cence of child­hood, some sup­pose that there is no orig­i­nal sin, that each per­son falls him­self when he comes of age and meets with im­ moral urges, which, it seems to him, he does not have the strength to over­come. Every­one falls him­self, yet the orig­i­nal sin nev­er­the­less is present. Apos­tle Paul sees in us the law of sin, war­ring against the law of the mind. This law, like a seed, at first is as if not vis­i­ble, but then is revealed and entices. Those who are born of lep­ers do not man­i­fest lep­rosy until a cer­tain age, but then it is revealed, and begins to con­ sume them just as it did their par­ ents. Where was the lep­rosy before this time? It was hid­ing with­in. So does the orig­i­nal sin hide until the time, and then comes out and does its busi­ness. Envi­ron­ment means a lot for both sup­press­ing this sin and reveal­ing it. If there were no sin­ful ele­ments all around, there would be noth­ing with which to feed this hid­ den sin, and per­haps it would dry up of its own. But here­in is our sor­ row: that all around there is very much favourable food for it. There is much sin in every per­son as well as in soci­ety; but all of this does not nec­es­sar­i­ly deter­mine that we will sin. Sin is always a mat­ter of free­ dom — strug­gle and you will not fall. Only he who does not want to strug­gle falls. Why do we not want to strug­gle? There are no regula­ tions con­cern­ing desire and lack of desire: I want to, because I want to; and I don’t want to, because I don’t want to. Self-rule is the orig­i­nal prin­ci­ple — one can­not go beyond it.

Saint Theo­phan the Recluse