Friday, May 14, 2010

Martyrdom or Suicide?

Q & A with Fr Job:
Question: There are saints who ended their lives by suicide. How can this be explained from the point of view of Orthodoxy? After all, one could find a justification for any suicide.

Answer: Suicide is a self-willed deprivation of one’s life in the condition of depression, extreme despair, wounded pride, the loss of all meaning of life. The common spiritual basis of all cases of this mortal sin is lack of faith and the absence of hope in God. This has nothing in common with such an elevated display of love of God and man when someone sacrifices their life for faith, homeland, and people. “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn 15:12-14). The holy martyrs sacrificed their lives with great love and devotion to God. History knows of many examples when Christians had a choice and preferred death. The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer was brought to Rome in order to be eaten by wild animals. On the road to the capital of the Empire he learned that the Roman Christians intended to attempt to change the royal order for the death penalty. In a letter he asked that this not be done. His words from this letter are known, in which he expressed his great desire to become a sacrifice for the sake of Jesus Christ: “I am His wheat and will be ground by the teeth of the animals, in order to be pure bread for Him.” He turned down the possibility to stay alive. Out of fullness of faith he wanted to leave this life and be united with Christ.

In the times of persecution the position of chaste virgins was a very difficult one, who for the love of Christ chose the path of a pure and virginal life. Persecutors, led by the devil, aspired to strike them at the very heart of their podvig – to disgrace them. The persecutors wanted to to cast them into the same filth, in which they themselves lived (the pagan world at that time was strongly debauched. Nikephoros Kallistos relates how two Antiochean virgins, by advice of their mother, threw themselves into water in order to avoid disgrace. Other examples have reached us. One cannot but see in these actions sacrifice for the sake of moral purity, and not despair and lack of faith. Glorifying certain of them, the Church values the holiness of their foregoing lives.

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