A priest who lies...
from Joanna's notepad
A story about St. John S&SF that, as far as I know, never made it into print. This story was circulated on the west coast USA back when St. John was still alive, and was heard by Reader Daniel Everiss who remembers it to this day:
It happened that Abp. John came into a situation where a priest had lied about something, and the lie was verified. For a number of days afterwards he went about muttering repeatedly, "a priest who lies... a priest who lies..."
I understand St. John's disbelief. It seems utterly impossible that a priest could be capable of telling lies to people. A priest serves at God's altar, faces Him in such an intimate way, trusts Him and depends on Him to accomplish the miracle of the Eucharist which he then dispenses to God's people. How could he also dispense an untruth, a lie?
It seems impossible.
"Lies destroy love.
Love prevents lies."
It seems just as impossible that any Orthodox person, whether clergy or layman, could lie to a brother. I can imagine a scenario where I would lie, like if the KGB were looking for my brother and asked me where to find him, I would certainly lie and send them looking in the opposite direction. There would be no love lost in that situation.
But within the Body of Christ lies destroy love. And if we have love, it prevents us from lying to a brother, if we have love for God (Truth) and love for neighbor (made in God's image). Where there is Love, lies are not possible, -- we don't give untruths to people we love. It is not possible to mix the two. I understand St. John's mutterings –– something impossible had occurred, something too hard to believe.
Maybe the priest who lied had been a KGB agent. KGB agents don't have any problem lying –– their whole life is a lie.
But if he were not a KGB agent? What would cause an Orthodox person to lie to a brother? It would have to be some terrible passion, like a drug addiction. Addicts are forced to lie and steal because of their addiction. And actually it was an addict who I quoted above, "Lies destroy love – Love prevents lies." My daughter observed this, and made note of it, during the time she was enslaved by a heroin addiction.
Lies can be sneaky, because if we are lying to ourselves, then we will end up inadvertently lying to others. We can find ourselves exaggerating or embellishing, which is also lying and not innocent or acceptable for Orthodox Christians. These lies are sad. But utterly horrifying is the the lie that is a made up story, intending to manipulate another person, purposely causing them to believe something that is not true to get them to behave (or not behave) in a certain way. It seems impossible that an Orthodox person would tell such a lie to another Orthodox person, knowing Christ's prayer and God's will for our unity, oneness. I understand why St. John was shocked and needed time for it to sink in, turning it over in his mind for days, "...a priest who lies..."