St. Amvrossy of Optina, Letter 32 “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:10)

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” In order for the simple to be put on the right track and understand clearly some explanation is needed.

“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” To believe unto righteousness means, first of all, to believe in the Son of God our Lord Jesus Christ Who was born in the flesh from the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and Whom–according to the word of the Apostle–is our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (ICor. 1:30); next to believe in His Divine teaching and Divine commandments. “Blessed”, it is said, “are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mat. 5:6), that is, those who with zeal earnestly fulfill the Divine commandments.

“And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. In ancient times, when heathens forcefully persecuted Christians, these words had another meaning, namely: The heathens searched everywhere for believers in Christ and compelled them to renounce Christ and those who did not renounce, but firmly confessed their faith in Christ received not only the salvation which is prepared but also crowns of martyrdom and the Holy Church glorifies them even until the present. And now, when the times of martyrdom have long passed, the Apostolic words, “And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”, have a variant meaning. He who by word and by deed preaches truth, love and mercy, and benevolence towards one’s neighbor, and the like, such a one openly confesses before all his salvation. On the contrary he from whose lips come envy or hatred, anger and remembrance of wrongs, lying or calumny, judging or disparagement of one’s neighbors, such a one clearly confesses before all his perdition. In one of his sermons, St. John Chrysostom reflects upon the unfortunate fate of Shimei who censured David because of envy (IISam. 16:7) and he says that there are more that are lost from “evil words than from evil deeds”, because they do not consider it necessary to repent for words uttered. We are exposed to this calamity because of our lack of love and benevolence towards our neighbors and, first of all, because of lack of humility upon which love is built. The holy Apostle Paul writes: “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing” (ICor. 31:2-3).

So what can those do who sin by malevolence, envy, judging, or disdain towards their neighbors? Such must strive to correct their own character! And this correction necessitates, first of all, a humble and sincere acknowledgement of such and repentance before God and one’s spiritual father. Secondly, with force, as the Gospel teaches, one needs to restrain his tongue and thought from censuring others. It is not in vain that the Gospel says: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence” (Mat. 11:12). Next, correction demands fervent and humble prayer with the words of the Akathist: “O Lord Who didst cure the greedy soul of Zacchaeus the Publican, heal also my wretched soul from
malevolence, envy, condemnation and remembering wrongs.” It was not without force and humble prayer that the Publican and other sinners, of all kinds, received salvation. The Lord is more pleased by one sinner who repents, who humbles himself, than a righteous man who puffs himself up and disparages others, which is clearly demonstrated by the Gospel’s parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Repentance
and humility are always needed more than all other virtues and they are higher than them. Founding himself upon the words of the Prophet David, St. John Climacus writes: “I have not fasted, I have not kept vigils, nor lay upon the earth, but I have humbled myself and the Lord saved me”.

May we all receive this by the unutterable love for man and mercy of the Son of God, Who was born in the flesh in the humble cave and was laid in a manger so that He may deliver us from an irrational temperament and way of life. Amen.