The World is very attractive, and as such it is innocuous; and it basically provides for our physical preservation. When does it become a peril for us? When it becomes the goal of our living on earth. The goal of a Christian is to reside in the kingdom of God. That is why Jesus said, “You are from this world, but not of this world”. The pleasures of this world are only to be used for the greater purpose of achieving our ultimate goal, which is the abode where God is. Look around us and see the world around us. The world generally praises glittering pomp and shining gold and empty extravagance and delusory affluence; and it attracts its residents. We need a lot of money for this kind of life style. This style is not satisfied with the minimum needs. For minimum needs one does not need a lot of money. Our problem is that we do not stick with the minimum anymore. We buy the biggest house possible to show off our affluence, we buy expensive jewelries when can still be modestly attractive with a modest amount of jewelries. We buy unusually expensive cloths to compete with our neighbor. Our cars should carry the mark of high affluence. The list goes on… Behind all these desires grow a number of cardinal vices, which are fundamentally sinful, and hence evil. Greed, vengeance, envy, gluttony, injustice, covetousness and many related vices grow very rapidly in this kind of environment; and we forget that these are not just sins, but deadly sins that take you directly to hell.
Is luxury is vice? Strictly speaking pomp is a vice. A decent living with all the conveniences to meet our needs is not a vice at all. When does it reach the point of being despicable before God? When our luxuries do glorify ourselves and our egos, forgetting the needs of the poor, and forgetting the source of every good we enjoy. Any necessities beyond the level of our reasonable needs come to borderline sinfulness. For example, ask ourselves if we reasonably need a gold-filled Rolls Royce, or a five storey building for our house. If there is no justifiable reason for a possession, there is sinfulness hidden in it. We need a decent house; but we do not need a palace for ordinary living. The house of a head of State could be bigger to accommodate his offices and ministers.
But does an Orthodox bishop need a palace (Aramana)? Definitely no! First of all, he is a monk; a monk does not live in a palace (Aramana); he lives in a monastery. The Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be a humble entity without any claim to worldly royalty; and the Church of Christ does not need a palace to run its business. The best that the Church of God can aspire is only a secretariat, or a Church Center, or a Diocesan Center, not an Aramana or a Palace. Why does then an Indian bishop have no scruple to utter the following: “I am calling from Aramana”; “Send the report to the Aramana”, etc., etc. Or why can’t he say, “I am calling from my residence”, or “from my monastery”. Believe me, a bishop does not live in a palace; if he does live in it, it is a violation of his vows, and it is against Christian simplicity. He is definitely committing a sin. The Church should be the symbol of Christian poverty, and the top of the hierarchy should show its commitment to Christian poverty. If an Orthodox bishop is found guilty in this area, he should be singled out as a scandal to the Christian faith.
See how much we are immersed in the World that destroys the soul of a Christian.
We are so much attached to earning more money. This writer does not say that we do not need money; we need money for a decent living in this world, and it is for that purpose we all work hard. When we multiply our needs, often unnecessary needs, we need more revenue, and we are forced to work beyond our physical capacity, finally crippling our own health with overtime work and subsequent fatigue or high blood pressure. We compete with our neighbor in possessing a better luxury home or car. The truth is that we seldom sleep in or enjoy that home as we are always away working two jobs to pay off a heavy mortgage! There are several vices involved in this scenario. God is not against you having a good home or a car. However, when we pass beyond our modest needs, we might slowly slip into sinfulness.
When we are anchored on possessing more and more, our greed also becomes limitless. People generally seek unethical methods to grab more money. Greed for money is often the source of many evils in the society, and in the Church. Often greed for money is a constant problem among the clergy. A priest who is greedy of money would definitely sacrifice his integrity as the custodian of orthodox faith and morals. Such a priest becomes so liberal and lenient in observing his faith, because a stricter priest is not appreciated by the rank and file and his donations generally do not multiply. Back door money comes only from people who seek exception to the rules or violation of canons. Or a liberal position by a priest is the only way to please his flock, which is often translated into tapping more money from his parishioners. Often such liberal behavior involves violation of standard canons or even violation of God’s law.
A year ago a new bishop visited one of the regions of his diocese and held a clergy meeting. In the meeting, the bishop very gladly expressed his happiness for being their bishop saying: “Many of the other new bishops desired to come here as your bishop; but I was the lucky one to be chosen to come to this diocese…” What were his inner emotions when said so? Every bishop wanted to become the head of that affluent diocese or he himself was so lucky to get such a wealthy diocese to rule over. In either case it reflects the passion for wealth that is rampant in our higher clergy, and it is evil and sinful. In the same meeting one of the elderly priest, who is well-educated and a former professor, suggested, “Your Grace, we hope that you do not run around cities after cities blessing marriages and houses, which are the functions of local priests; this will not enhance a bishop’s image, which would be interpreted as greed for money”. Another priest also encouraged the priest with his body language. The bishop immediately looked at him and the rest of the priests and frowned at the participants and asked, “If some request for it, what could I do?” (Meaning, he did not want to give up this money making practice kept by the majority of the episcopate in his Church). The priest who originally pointed out the problem smiled at all other priests and gave up without asking additional questions. Later in the same meeting, the bishop wanted to impress them with a “new idea”, which he wanted to implement as a new practice. “I will turn over the honorariums I will be receiving from parishes to the diocese…