My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE SIN OF ENVY
Saint James in his Epistle writes, "But if you have bitter envy and
self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth" [3:14].
Also, "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil
thing are there" [3:16].
What is ENVY?
"ENVY is the inner torment and harassment that man feels at the sight of his brother’s happiness. It is a soul-crushing grief at anything good that happens in another person’s life…the soul of an envious person is bereft of love, and he suffers whenever he sees one of his fellows gladdened. Is his brother in good health? He envies him. Has his brother managed to get one of his children settled? The worm of jealousy devours him. Is someone successful in his professional life? Envy deprives him of any gladness. For the envious person, any event that gives joy to one of his fellow men is a cause for grief. Is someone’s household divinely blessed? Is an acquaintance of his always happy with whatever the Good Lord sends his way? All of these things nourish THE VICE OF ENVY and exacerbate the suffering of the envious person’s soul. For such a person, the Apostolic message "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15) IS REVERSED, for he feels distressed at his brother’s happiness and secretly rejoices over his sorrows.
The ENVIOUS PERSON does not grieve over the absence of divine blessing in his own life, but because his fellow is the beneficiary of such blessings. It could be said that his only wish is to see the object of his envy go from being happy to being sad, from health to sickness, from riches to poverty. Only thus will be HIS PASSION be satisfied, and then he is reconciled with the person he envies, in fact, he pretends to be his friend!
No vice is worse than envy. Saint John Chrysostom says of the envious person that "in order that he may destroy another, he brings about his own destruction…he thinks all men are his enemies…He grieves because God is honored, rejoices in what makes the Devil rejoice."
Saint Basil the Great writes: "What could be worse than THE DISEASE of envy? It ruins our life, destroys our nature, arouses hatred of the goods bestowed on us by God." Saint Neilos summarizes the characteristics of envy: "ENVY IS THE VEIL OF PRIDE…THE ROOT OF MALICIOUS GOSSIP…THE PRETENSE OF FRIENDSHIP…THE ENEMY OF LOVE, JEALOUSY OF THOSE WHO SUCCEED." Solomon the Prophet says this about the passion: "WRATH IS CREWEL AND ANGER A TORRENT, BUT WHO IS ABLE TO STAND BEFORE JEALOUSY?" [Proverbs 27:4]
The Holy Fathers conclude that THIS PASSION "IS A POISONOUS WILD BEAST, WILLFUL WICKEDNESS…A VICE WITH NO JUSTIFICATION, THE CAUSE, AND MOTHER OF ALL EVILS." ENVY "IS A DIABOLICAL INVENTION…AN OBSTACLE TO CHRISTIAN LIVING, THE ROAD TO HELL, AND DEPRIVATION OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM."
"Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had HANDED HIM OVER BECAUSE OF ENVY" [Matthew 27:18].
The greatest sin ever committed in human history was THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE God-man Jesus Christ. This event was also the UNMISTAKABLE OFFSPRING OF ENVY.
Saint Basil the Great writes: "Let your thoughts turn now to that MOST BITTER ENVY…which the Jews in their rage leveled against the Savior. Why did they envy HIm?–because of His miracles…The poor were fed, and war was declared against Him who fed them. The dead were resurrected to life, and He Who gave them life was the object of envy. Devils were driven out…lepers were cleansed, and the lame walked, the deaf heard, the blind saw, and their Benefactor was persecuted. Finally, they gave up the Giver of Life to death…and passed sentence upon the Judge of the world." The Jews’ conduct confirms the hymnographer’s verse: "ENVY DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO PREFER ITS ADVANTAGE." The Jews’ envy of Christ was so obvious that even Pilate realized that it was the reason why the high priests delivered Him up.
Saint Romanos the Melodist writes: "So spoke the priest, but did not understand it, for envy did not let him, but urged him on to murder; for murder follows envy. This is proved by Abel, who was envied by Cain and afterward murdered. The same happened to Christ: He loved an envious people, and by showing His love He moved them to anger. He healed the sick, and instead of thanks He suffers and is crucified.
The Consequences of the Vice of Envy
The VICE OF ENVY completely paralyzes a person, "Such is the sting of envy! once it has pierced the soul, it disables the whole man…and deplorably ruins the senses, through the use of which lies the road to knowledge. It does not allow a person either to see where his advantage lies…or to see clearly what is happening." The envious man DESTROYS HIMSELF. "For such is the evil of this passion: first of all, it destroys the person who engenders it. LIke a worm, that is born in the wood and first devours the wood itself, in like manner ENVY FIRST DESTROYS THE SOUL THAT GAVE BIRTH TO IT.
Curing the Vice
The ILLNESS OF ENVY is much harder to cure than the other vices. Saint John Chrysostom goes as far as saying that, "IT WOULD BE BETTER TO HAVE A SNAKE TWISTING ABOUT ONE’S INNARDS THAN ENVY CRAWLING WITHIN. A snake can be vomited out of the body with the help of medicine…while envy that has taken up abode in the depths of the soul is a vice difficult to overcome…"
Therefore, it is of fundamental importance for a person afflicted to a greater or lesser degree with the vice of envy to realize that HE IS IN FACT AFFLICTED WITH THIS ILLNESS. However, diagnosing the illness is not enough; a cure is also needed. Saint Basil the Great asks, "How can we AVOID becoming sickened by this disease, and what is the cure after we have been infected with it?" He answers that in order to rid ourselves of the disease of envy, WE MUST NO LONGER ATTACH IMPORTANCE TO THINGS OF THIS WORLD, SUCH AS RICHES, GLORY, OR PHYSICAL HEALTH: "We do not define our highest good in terms of these transitory things, but we are called on to share in possessions that are real and eternal." There is nothing enviable in a person who possesses transitory goods, since such things in themselves and in the absence of virtue, do not ensure his happiness.
In the struggle against the vice of envy, the MOST NECESSARY THING OF ALL IS TO HAVE THE HELP OF GOD. We must beg for it in heartfelt prayer. Saint John Chrysostom urges believers to be aware of this vice and to pray that those who are afflicted by it may be cured. "We must flee from this vice. We must not be envious ourselves, but we should also send up heartfelt prayers for those who are…For they are the unfortunates, who have within them the worm gnawing perpetually at their heart and a source of poison more bitter than bile. Let us, therefore, pray to the loving God to rid them of the vice, and that we may never fall victims to this disease. For heaven is INACCESSIBLE TO THOSE WHO ARE WASTED BY SUCH AN ILLNESS, BUT EVEN BEFORE HEAVEN, THE PRESENT LIFE TOO IS UNLIVABLE.
Saint Paisios the Athonite suggests a way to oppose this passion: "If a person comes to recognize the talents that God has bestowed on him, and learns to develop and use them, then he will not be envious and he will live as though he were in Paradise. Many people do not acknowledge their own gifts; they only see the abilities of others and become envious. They see themselves as having been dealt a bad hand…and thus torment themselves and make their life miserable." A person is purged of an envious spirit through GOOD THOUGHTS AND FERVENT PRAYER: "If you want to make spiritual progress then you ought to rejoice when your brethren flourish and entreat God for their continued prosperity, and that you too may thrive like them…When a person is able to rejoice in another’s prosperity, then Christ grants all that prosperity of the others, and he will rejoice just as all the other rejoice."
LOVE is the virtue best able to conquer envy. When we attain true love, then envy IS UPROOTED FROM OUR SOUL. Saint Gregory the Theologian urges every believer to ascend to the height of true love, and leave envy and is attendant pettiness upon the earth: "Head for the heights, and leave envy down below."
Saint Paisios the Athonite used to say: "The Devil fiercely assails women (with the vice of envy) because by nature they have more love. He works to poison this love with deadly jealousy."
If we want to stave off the arrows of envy then we must disdain and avoid, insofar as it is possible, "human glory, which engenders envy. For envy is potential murder, it was the cause of the first ever blood-thirsty murder and later on of deicide, with the Lord’s Crucifixion" writes Saint Basil the Great.
All the Saints, at some point in their life, have had the shafts of envy directed at them,. Their virtue and noble conduct, which they could not always keep hidden, sometimes made them stand out from those around them, and they became objects of envy. Yet in the furnace of suffering and temptation, the Saints attained holiness and received the crown of victory from Christ, with Whom they now rejoice forever.
May the Lord of True Love bless and protect each and every one of us from the vice of envy and infuse our souls and hearts with the gift of His unconditional agape and peace. Amen. [ Source: The Vice of Envy by Hieromonk Gregorios of the Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mt, Athos]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George