I bear false witness

witness

 

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.   -Romans 10:10

I am sure that many of you have met a certain type of human being that we refer to as “professor.”  There are many types: math professors, history professors, science professors, and so on.  I’ve known many professors in my long educational career, but some of the ones that I have found most curious are religion professors.

While some religion professors confessed some kind of faith, there were some that puzzled me. I wanted to ask them, “Well, you are a professor, but what do you profess?” From the way they taught, I couldn’t tell what their “profession” was, despite the fact that they might be teaching the New Testament, church history, or Christian Theology. Perhaps they were experts in their field, but what they professed in class, they never seemed to confess in life.  I often longed for the moment when they would confess that what they professed was not the truth at all.

I have to ask myself the same question: Is my profession the same as my confession?

I’ve noticed quite often, and with great sadness, that what I profess is I rarely what I confess. Most of the time, I bear false witness about myself. The words of St. Ephraim the Syrian describe me so well:

“I am worthless, but think much of myself. I lie constantly but get angry with liars. I condemn those who fall, but myself fall constantly. I condemn slanderers and thieves, but am myself both a thief and a slanderer. I walk with bright countenance, although I am altogether impure. In churches and at banquets I always want to take the place of honor. I see hermits and act dignified; I see monks and I become pompous.  I strive to appear pleasing to women, dignified to strangers, intelligent and reasonable to my neighbors, superior to intellectuals. I do not want to know those who are higher than I, and I scorn those who are lower. If I refrain from eating, I drown in pride and arrogance. If I am wakeful in prayer, I am vanquished by irritability and wrath. To all appearances I am wise in humility, but in my soul I am haughty. I seem not to be acquisitive, but in reality I suffer from a mania for possessions. I appear to have forsaken the world, but if fact I still think about worldly things all the time. Such is my life! With what vileness do I obstruct my own salvation!”

I’m such a liar about myself. I put up such a front to everyone. I truly bear false witness about who I am.

St. Paul spoke of both heart and mouth and I prefer his order of sequence. The inner reality comes before the outward reality. With the heart we believe unto righteousness and then we confess unto salvation. What we believe must come right from the core of our being and it must be the truth. How truth or untruth lives in us will determine if we live in righteousness or unrighteousness.

In other words, what we confess, that is, what we truly believe will determine what we profess, that is, how we live.  When I look at my actions and behavior, it is clear that I have not “believed unto righteousness” and therefore my profession is a lie. Of course, rather than fix this problem, it is so much easier to put on a front.

The only answer is repentance. In fact, repentance must be my only confession. I should become a professor of confession and an expert in repentance. The Fathers always said that a true theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a true theologian.  What I should pray for is a heart that believes unto righteousness so that the mouth will confess unto salvation.

Let me end with the words of St. Ephraim:

“Awesome indeed is the miracle! How the Lord has tolerated my sins! How is it that He has not conveyed me who am miserable to the depths of hell while still alive!   Without doubt, thou, O Lady, hast granted me life by thine intercessions. Thou seekest my repentance- O All-good Virgin, give it to me, Thy servant – for thou art my wall, my harbor and my rampart.”

I bear false witness. Lord, I repent. Help Thou my unrepentant heart.

 

NOTE: The quotes are excerpts from A Spiritual Psalter, from the works of our Holy Father, Ephraim the Syrian, translated by Br. Isaac E. Lambertson, published by the St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1997, Liberty, Tennessee.

One Response to “I bear false witness”

  1. Saint Ephraim the Syrian on His Own Sinfulness « Salt of the Earth Says:

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