Hasten To Do Good

Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco

The modern man’s trouble is that he is always, perpetually in a hurry, often fruitless and meaningless. Man moves mountains with his energy. He builds and destroys whole cities within very short periods of time. But if we consider men’s energy in different countries and look at its consequences, we shall find that it does not increase goodness in the world, and at times it greatly increases evil. Struggle against evil is itself fruitless if it does not manifest true goodness in the world. Man’s life is continually growing more and more hurried. Everyone is in a rush, afraid of not being on time for something, of being late, of not finding someone at home, of missing, or failing to do something. . . Machines rush along through the air, along the ground and on the water, We feel and see both in technical science and in life this irrepressible, ever accelerating overwhelming rush of machines and men.

The kingdom of evil must have an end, and maybe it is not far off. As though conscious of its approach, evil doomed to perdition tosses itself about in the world; it disturbs and frightens mankind, excites its imagination, lures it on and compels men, who have not protected their hearts and minds with the cross of God’s seal, to strive unrestrainedly for the possession of more and more material goods and run after them ever faster and faster. Deafened and hustled by vanities, men are no longer able to think of great and eternal truths, the comprehension of which needs at least a moment of divine silence in the heart, at least a moment of holy stillness.

Technical science is continually increasing the rate of locomotion and of acquiring earthly goods. One would have thought, this should leave people more time for developing their lofty spirit and reason. But, no. Many souls find life harder and more difficult than ever. Man’s soul is perishing; it has not time to think of the lofty, to sigh for the truly great, to turn to the Holy. Everything whirls round and round at an ever increasing speed. How much of what men do is illusory! Instead of seeking spiritual heights and inspiration, many are obsessed by the striving to increase only material values and energies. Then these values cease to be a blessed gift of God; they are not counterbalanced by the human spirit’s striving for truth. There arises an "illusion of activity" — for man is called to activity and cannot be content without it. But purely material activity does not satisfy man, if he is mastered by it instead of being its master. If he becomes the slave of his material concern he is building his house upon sand, and his handiwork shall be destroyed. Nothing but dust and ashes remain of many proud buildings that stood up high only yesterday.

Poor man, find time for the good! But you have not time even to think of it. Every moment of your life is filled up, and the good stands at your door and knocks. It has nowhere to lay its head. Oh, if only you could invite it, even for five minutes, to come into your thoughts, feelings and desires! But "you haven’t time". . . Extraordinary that the good does not understand this but goes on knocking at your conscience! Man, where is your good, where are you yourself? You have hidden from God and from your own self behind the revolving wheels of life. I tell you, hasten to do good, hasten while you are still in this world! "Walk in the light while there is light." The night will come when you will no longer be able to do good even if you wished it.

Begin first by thinking of doing good; then think of how to do it; and then begin to do it. The good is a source of light; it warms and illumines your life and the people around you. The good is the most important work in life. Hearken to the voice of God and of your own conscience. Learn to love the good before it is too late. It will be dreadful to be too late in doing good — to enter eternity and to appear before the Creator’s Judgment seat with empty hands and a cold heart.

He who will not hasten to do good, will never do it. The good requires ardour. The lukewarm are incapable of doing good. Indifference and insensitiveness seek to blind us and tie our bands and feet before we even think of the good. Only the ardent, fiery and sincere can do good. Only a man who is quick as lightning in his goodness can be truly good. And the further life develops, the more lightning-like quickness is needed for doing good. This quickness is an expression of spiritual power and serene faith.

But evil, hurry and excitement, which we find in the world, spring from an uneasy conscience, from a heart intoxicated with itself and agitated by fancies.

Evil always tries to unbridle man and then to bridle him after its own fashion. Evil would like to drive to death every soul and every nation through making them work beyond their strength in pursuit of the unattainable and always receding mirage of purely material happiness, independent of inner spiritual life. . . But the good gives men the wings of holy inspiration, unites them in disinterested union and leads them to the supreme joy of the world’s Creator.

Let us be good always and in everything. And let us be particularly good when we defend goodness. And let us be particularly peaceful when we call for peace. Don’t let the words of peace be accompanied by shouts of hatred. Love the sinner, but hate his doings: it is worth while to remember these words of the ancient Christian sage, Isaac the Syrian. It is only by such spirit that evil can be overcome.

Let us counteract the hurry of evil by the quickness and ardour in doing good. Let quick repentance before God after every sin — an evil deed, word or feeling — be our first kind of ardour. Let the second be quick forgiveness of our brother (but not of his evil). Quick response to every request, the fulfillment of which is possible for us and useful for the petitioner is the third kind of true ardour. The fourth is a fiery rejection of every evil and temptation. The fifth kind of ardour is the capacity of quickly observing what people around us need and of doing everyone a service, be it only a small one; the capacity of praying for every man. The sixth kind of ardour is the decision to counteract every expression of evil by goodness, to oppose to all darkness the Light of Christ, to every falsehood — God’s, Christ’s truth and not our own truth. . . And the seventh kind of ardour in our faith, hope and love is the power of instantly lifting up our heart — and all our life — to God, thanking and glorifying Him for everything.

Year Book and Church Directory of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America, N.Y., 1956, pp. 100-101