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By: Fr. George Dokos – St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church (Minneapolis, MN)

One of Aesop’s Fables goes like this:

Jupiter and Venus were once disputing whether it was possible for a human being to change his or her nature. Jupiter said ‘Yes,’ but Venus said ‘No.’ So, to try the question, Jupiter turned a cat into a young woman, and gave her to a young man for a wife. The wedding was duly performed and the young couple sat down to the wedding-feast. ‘See,’ said Jupiter, to Venus, ‘how becomingly she behaves. Who could tell that yesterday she was but a cat? Surely her nature is changed.’ ‘Wait a minute,’ replied Venus, and she let loose a mouse into the room. No sooner did the bride see this than she jumped up from her seat and tried to pounce upon the mouse. ‘Ah, you see,’ said Venus, ‘Nature beats nurture.’

So, the view of Aesop, and so many others, is that a human can’t change his or her behavior; that we are incapable of overcoming our fallen and sinful nature; our habits and addictions; that we are bound and predetermined by our DNA or environment. But this is not the view of the Church. Change is possible, by repentance and the grace of God.

One of the greatest examples of change is St. Mary of Egypt, a woman who did a divine about-face, a holy U-turn. She so radically changed her life that she went, literally, from sinner to Saint!

Every Saint was a sinner. They weren’t born perfect, but fallen and broken, just like you and me. But God’s grace working in their lives – co-operating with their own will to convert – perfected and sanctified them. St. Paul went from Christian-persecutor to Christ’s chosen Apostle. Zacchaeus went from crooked tax-collector to beloved Bishop. Moses the Ethiopian went from murderer to holy Elder.

Repentance and grace overcome nature!

The ability to be utterly changed as a member of the Holy Orthodox Church is put best by St. John Chrysostom:

“Under Noah’s direction, the Ark took in brute animals and brute animals it released. But the Church, under the leadership of the true Noah, Jesus Christ, takes in sinners and turns them into Saints. The rooster entered the Ark a rooster, and a rooster he departed. The wolf entered the Ark a wolf, and a wolf he departed. But when someone enters the Ark of the Church, he enters a rooster and departs a dove. He enters a wolf, and departs a lamb. He enters a caterpillar and departs a butterfly.”

Repentance and grace overcome nature!