Persecuted Archbishop’s story: How I met Christ in prison, and what I learned

Dear Friends,

I should like to share a unique experience with you: how I met Christ in prison, where I spent more than thirteen years, nine of which in solitary confinement, without ever having been tried or sentenced, all alone, without a friend in the world, without ever seeing my family, constantly under the eyes of two guards. At times I experienced despair; I could no longer pray. Without a special grace, I would have gone out of my mind.

I. My non-Christian fellow prisoners often asked me: “Who is this Jesus? Why do you love him to the point of being willing to sacrifice your life for him here in prison?” My jailers asked me: “Does Jesus really exist? What is he like? Have you ever met him?”

I had gotten to know Jesus in Scripture and in other books, at the university and in prayer, but in the utter deprivation of prison, all the outer trappings fell away, and I met Jesus in the total transparency of the Gospel.

My dear friends, I am sharing a very personal secret with you: I met the living Jesus; he fascinated me. I followed him – because I love the defects of Jesus. I could name at least ten of them, but since time is short, I shall tell you about only five of these defects of Jesus.

First Defect: Jesus does not have a good memory (Luke 23:42-43)

During his agony on the cross, Jesus heard the voice of the thief at his right side: Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. If it had been me, I would have answered him: “I won’t forget you, but you must pay for your crimes by spending some 20 years in purgatory”. On the contrary, said: Today you will be with me in Paradise. Jesus just forgot all about his sins. As for Mary Magdalene, Jesus never questioned her about her scandalous past life. He simply said to her: Your sins have been forgiven you because you loved so much. When the father sees his prodigal son coming home, he runs to meet him, embraces him and does not even give him time to pronounce the little speech he had prepared. He calls his servants and says: Kill the fatted calf to feast my son. My dead son has returned to life … Jesus doesn’t have a memory like mine. Not only does he forgive, he forgets everything.

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On Fasting, St. John Chrysostom, a Greek Father of the Church

Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.

In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well.

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