The Saint and the Sinner

"Sinners Welcome" banner over church door.

Photo: Mary Karr

This photo reminds me of a story. I heard it years ago and don’t remember the details, but here it is to the best of my recollection:

There was this church—in Russia, let say—a big, beautiful Orthodox church with an extraordinary icon wall and stunning mosaics. It was always full of devout worshipers at every celebration of the Divine Liturgy. One of the parishioners was an elderly hermit—a very holy man, admired by everyone in the community—another one was a young man and a notorious sinner. The young man hadn’t been to the Liturgy in many months, but he came one Sunday.

Before long, the whispers began. “Why is he here?” “How dare he set foot in this sacred place!” “He should be outside in sackcloth and ashes begging the community for forgiveness and instead he comes here in his Sunday best as if nothing had happened?”

The priest sensed the tension and just before he entered the sanctuary to begin the liturgy, he walked over to the young man. They spoke for a few minutes and the man left.

The priest returned to the sanctuary and in a few moments the procession stepped out in front of the icon wall. But as the priest swung the censer, no one was watching him. Instead they turned and watched the hermit as he walked to the door, made the sign of the cross and left the building. It wasn’t until the priest gave the homily that he noticed the hermit was gone.

After the liturgy, the priest walked across the garden to the hermit’s cell, which was on the far end of the church’s property, and knocked on the door.

“O Holy Abbot,” the priest asked with his head bowed. “Why did you leave during the liturgy?”

“Well, father, I saw you asked the young man to leave,” the hermit replied.

“But he is a notorious sinner,” the priest responded. “Certainly you’ve heard.”

“I have. But as Saint Paul wrote ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first,’ and, since sinners are no longer welcome at your parish, I left as well.”

At that point the priest dropped to his knees and begged the hermit to forgive him. He did. And the priest visited the young man that very afternoon, heard his confession, and welcomed him by name the following Sunday.

Five Minute Friday

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4 thoughts on “The Saint and the Sinner

  1. Hello David, I have the privilege of commenting on your five minute Friday post, as I was the next person to link up after you! Thank you for the story you shared and the invaluable reminder that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Your post also reminds me of the Scripture in Ephesians that it is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and we must extend this same grace to others.

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  2. I am so glad He didn’t discard me and that I found a church that was really a healing hospital for one like me. This is a great reminder David! Thank you. Visiting from the #FMFParty crew. 🙂

    Like

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