Nikolai of Zica
The Faith of Chosen People
Vera obrazovanih ljudi
Translated by: Fr. Theodor Mika and Fr. Stevan Scott
© The New Gracanica Metropolitanate
Source: St. Luke's Orthodox Mission
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him.
- (Genesis 1:28).
Who sows good seed on a field that has not been cleared? A logical man does not do it. A logical man will act in accordance with the Word of God. He will first clear the field of weeds, and then will sow good seed.
The field is the human soul, the weeds-polytheism, the good seed - belief in one God.
Today it seems altogether natural and obvious to you to believe in one, single God, and absurd and foolish to believe in more gods. But it was not always so. There was a time when only a few people in the entire world believed in one God, and then came another time, when an entire nation believed in one God. And all the others, who were polytheists, looked upon these monotheists with the scorn of a rich man because those who had only one God supposedly had far too few. But the monotheists in turn looked upon the polytheists with wonder and sorrow because they, having many gods, really had none at all.
Belief in one God had to be received first from a reliable witness, and then it could be sown over the souls of men like fields. The most reliable witness to bear witness to the one God and against a multitude of gods was the Living and True God himself. He himself bore witness to Himself when He said through His worthy servants: "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides Me" (Ex. 20:2-3).
The One, Living, and True God revealed Himself gradually. In the midst of the weeds of polytheism He found a few tiny fields, cleared and cleansed, and sowed the good seed of faith over them. These were the souls of a few righteous men. These souls were moreover like prepared candles which He lit, and they shone in the darkness of polytheism. "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel were candles of God-lit individually!
In this way the One, Living, and True God revealed Himself to the whole nation of Jacob or Israel. In His mercy, He revealed Himself to them-first in the land of Egypt, a foreign land, and then in the wilderness, no man's land, and then in Canaan, their land. And for a period of time the whole nation said: "I believe in one God."
But the people of God began to waver in their faith; and this wavering continued over the centuries. And a danger was threatening to extinguish the light in the darkness and reduce the kindled fire to ashes.
Seeing this danger, the One, Living, True, Compassionate, and most Merciful God sent among men His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ:
to dispel the darkness of polytheism;
to strengthen human hearts on their upward journey;
to sow the good seed of faith in one God, the Only, Living, and True God.
The diligent bees of Christ, the holy apostles, disseminated this faith, this pollen of God, all over the world.
Truly, like honey-bearing bees of God, the apostles dispersed from Jerusalem in all four directions, throughout nations and tribes, in order to sweeten the souls of men with the glad tidings about the One, Living, and True God, as with honey.
The holy apostles were clearing lands of the weeds of idols and clearing the souls of men of belief in a multitude of gods. On the fields they cleared they would sow the holy faith in the One, Living, and True God.
Oh what a painstaking and dangerous task that was! It was the greatest clash ever known which, believe me, cost those missionaries of monotheism sweat and tears and wounds and blood.
It was extremely difficult for men to part with their imaginary divinities, and difficult for them to accept the belief in one God. Confused by the multitude of creatures and contrary forces in the universe, they considered it more believable that a multitude of gods existed rather than just one God. Captivated by the illusion of inexperienced children, that strength lay in numbers, they maintained that it was more believable, that a multitude of gods had greater power than one God. They maintained that more gods could help more than a single God.
Against the apostles there rose up two sorts of men-and there were two sorts of all of them in the world-those who nourished their souls with the poison of idolatry, and others who nourished their bodies by making statues for idols. And these latter were no less of a hindrance than the former. Take the apostle Paul and the silversmith Demetrius, for example. "A man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, 'Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger . . . that this trade of ours may come into disrepute"' (Acts 19:24-27).
Therefore, some regarded the new faith as a threat to their soul, while others considered it to be a threat to their belly.
Thus all the people and peoples on earth, with very few exceptions, considered themselves threatened. And these exceptions were condemned to cruel deaths, like Socrates in Athens.
Culture did not help in the least. The more cultured peoples just made idols from more precious materials and in a more refined shape than primitive peoples, but idols remained idols, and the enslavement of the human soul existed as much here as there. When St. Paul the Apostle was in cultured Athens, "his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols" (Acts 17:16). And the same thing happened with Andrew in Sarmatia, Matthew in Egypt, and Bartholomew in India. Idols in the marketplace, idols in front of courthouses and military barracks, idols before threshholds, idols in homes, idols in every room, idols everywhere. No list could have listed all the gods which people and peoples used to worship.
All these idolatrous thorns scratched the holy apostles and drew blood. But they boldly pruned them, cleared and cleansed them, and in their place they sowed the good seed of faith in one God - the Only, Living, and True God. The apostles accomplished this titanic task with words, miracles, love and sacrifice. Where they failed by one means, they succeeded by another. Where they could not succeed by any other means, they succeeded by their own blood and death. The blood of their martyrdom burned the idols like living fire.
The One, Living, and True God blessed the message of His apostles and their labors, tears, sighs, and their sacrifices. Thus their seed brought forth good fruit. And that fruit consists of this-that today it seems altogether natural and obvious to people to believe in one God, and absurd and foolish to believe in many gods.
"I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides Me." This was the first testimony of God concerning Himself, the first revelation to men on earth concerning God from God, and the first commandment of God. "You shall have no other gods besides Me," commands God; for if you will have other gods, you will bring two disasters upon yourself. First: you will be believing in false, non-existent, imaginary, illusory gods. Second: you will be sharing reverent fear and love, which entirely belongs to Me, the One, Living, and True God, with these false gods.
In this way you will darken your faith in Me, and weaken your reverent fear and love for Me. And I shall withdraw far from you, offended and insulted. And you will be an atheist, no matter how much you imagine you are rich in piety on account of your belief in many gods. For in the final analysis a polytheist and an atheist are the same thing. Both the one and the other are without one God, without the One, Living, and True God.
Belief in one God, the One, Living, and True God, is the faith of the humble and the wise. This is not the faith of the proud, whom pride makes unwise. For they either deify themselves or some creature of the Creator, but not the Creator.
The more humble a man is, the wiser he is; the more arrogant he is, the more foolish he is. God gives understanding to the humble, so that they may know and understand, but He opposes the proud. The more the humble are at peace with the Lord, the more the Lord endows them with understanding. And understanding is light that leads to the One, Living, and True God. Blessed are they who have understanding, to see the transitoriness of this world and the nothingness of man. Blessed are they who feel small and insignificant, for God will elevate them to the highest knowledge, to the knowledge of the existence and majesty of the Most High God.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most humble and most wise forefathers. Let this also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, until the end of time. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. By this faith your fathers were saved. Truly, this is the faith of the chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Fearful Judgment they shall not be put to shame before the faces of the angels and the righteous. Instead they shall receive glory, and shall be called blessed.
The One, Living and True God.
With fear and trembling let us peer through the slightly parted curtain of eternity. The feeble hand of man has not parted this curtain. It has been parted by Him - the One, Living, and True God. Who else could have parted it, if not He? All the minds of men together with all the powers under heaven could not have budged this curtain even a hair.
He had mercy on men and moved the curtain. And three shafts of light flashed on the people who bear His image in themselves. And the chosen people beheld this and trembled with holy joy. He revealed Himself as the Incomparable One - comparable only to Himself. The One, Living, and True God revealed Himself as the Father, the Almighty, the Maker.
A restless thought pops into your mind with the questions: "Whose Father?" and, "At what point in time did He become the Father?" He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He has been the Father from eternity. Before the creation of the world He was the Father. Before time and temporal beings, before the angels and all the heavenly powers, before the sun and the moon, before the dawn and moonlight, the Father begot His Only-begotten Son. When speaking about the Eternal One, do we dare utter the word "when"? From the time when God is God, from that time God is the Father. But in Him there is no "when", because in Him there is no cycle of time.
The most High revealed Himself first as the Father and then as the Almighty and the Maker. This is clear to you who are chosen. His fatherhood is in relation to the created world, visible and invisible. Therefore, He is first the Father, and then the Almighty and the Maker. In eternity no one has been able to call God "Father" except His Only begotten Son.
And in time? Not even in time, across ages of ages no one. Listen to the ancient history of the human race and take it to heart. It fills your mind with light, and your soul with joy. After the world was created, and after Adam was driven out of Paradise on account of mortal sin, the repulsive sin of disobedience to his own Creator, all the way to the time when the Son of God descended to earth, no mortal dared to call God his father. His most splendid chosen ones used to address Him with very great names. They called Him "the Almighty", "the Judge", "the Most High", "the King", and "the Lord of hosts", but they never used the sweet name of "Father".
The best people in the human race could feel like the creatures of an almighty Creator, like the pottery of a divine Potter, but never like children of a heavenly Father. This right was given to men through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a right given to all people, but only to those who have received Him. "To all who received Him,... He gave power to become children of God" (John 1:12): that is, to be adopted and dare to address God with the words: "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:5-6, Rom. 8:14-16)!
Christ himself revealed this adoption - a gift of God's mercy - and offered it to men at the very beginning of His ministry in the world. He revealed to men that from that moment they could call God their Father when He said: "Pray then like this: Our Father, who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). And from that time until today many millions of children and adults on earth's sphere murmur day after day: "Our Father!"
The evil spirits have no right to call God their Father. And inpenitent sinners are not permitted to utter that sweet word: "Father!" Only to the righteous and the penitent has this right been given, so that in their prayers they can cry out to God from their whole heart and soul: "Our Father!" Therefore, those who wage war against God and God's law, whether by thoughts, words, or deeds, are in no way permitted to address God by that comforting and sweet name: "Father!"
The three hundred and eighteen Holy Fathers of Nicaea, who composed the Creed of all you who bear the image of God in yourselves, who are chosen, first called God "Father", and then "Almighty" and "Maker". They did this enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God. They did this first, because the Most High is the Father of Christ the Lord before time and the creation of the world; and second, because the incarnate Son of God brought as the first gift to men - to His followers - adoption, that is, the right to be able to call His Father their Father. Our Father! What joy beneath the sun and the stars could cheer your hearts more greatly, 0 chosen people, who bear the image of God within yourselves? And not only has the Lord, the Son of God, permitted you to call the Most High, One, Living, and True God your Father, but He has even commanded you: "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). Oh your joy - joy ineffable! True fatherhood lies in heaven, beyond the sun and the stars. Fatherhood on earth is just a shadow and a symbol.
Your joy also lies in the fact that your heavenly Father is also the Almighty and the Maker. The Holy Fathers of Nicaea, enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, called the Most High first the Almighty and then the Maker. "Does it not seem more natural," you will say, "to create something first and then rule over it mightily; and that one should therefore first call the Most High the Maker and then the Almighty?" It only appears so, but do not judge by appearance when you contemplate the True One. Look, God is indeed the Almighty first. Before He created heaven and earth, God the Almighty carried within Himself the master plan of creation, from the greatest to the smallest detail, and all forces, all laws, all systems of order. Without this wise almightiness, how would creation have been possible and feasible?
And so, after the magnificent Creator created both worlds, visible and invisible, He continued to be the Almighty and in His irresistible might He continued to exercise absolute control over all the forces, laws, and systems of order in both worlds. "Not a single sparrow will fall to the ground without your Father's will," confirmed the Son of God (Matt. 10:29). "And not a hair on your head will perish" (Lk. 21:18), again without the will of God the Almighty. With His mighty arm, God even commands adverse and God-fighting forces. All their efforts against His laws and against the faithful He diverts and uses for good, in accordance with His indescribable wisdom and power. And He brings everything into harmony with His plans. Not a single tear of the righteous, even if it should drop into the sea, is forgotten. Not a single good or bad word spoken in the world, remains without an answer from God, either open or secret.
The Father, the Almighty, the Maker. This is your God-the One, Living, and True God. As the Maker, God created heaven and earth and all creatures visible and invisible. "Our God has made whatsoever He pleased in heaven and on earth" (Ps 115:3). By the phrase ''in heaven'' the sacred interpreters always understood the kingdom of the angels and all the other mighty heavenly powers, visible to God, but invisible to us. By the phrase "on earth" they understood all material things and creatures on earth, in the earth, around the earth, and apart from the earth accessible to our sensory knowledge.
Everything visible and invisible that was created, was created by God. No other Maker exists, in heaven or on earth except the Most High. Nor does anything created exist, from the largest to the tiniest, which someone else created outside of the Most High. He is the only Maker in the full and true sense of the word. In the full and true sense of the term, the Maker is the one who made both the building material and the building, both matter and the form of matter; and one who instills into everything some mystical power of creation, of reciprocal relation, attraction and reflection, motion and life.
Therefore, when you hear the statement that the Creator created everything that is created, understand it as though it were said that the Creator created not only the form of created things from ready material, but the very material itself. In this the fullness of God's creative power is manifested that He created both the one and the other. Whether matter consisted of four great elements - earth, water, fire, and air - as the ancients thought, or whether these four, together with all the rest, consist of one proto-matter of an electrical nature, as modern scientists think, shall we embroil ourselves in that subject now? One thing is certain: that the warp and woof of the general fabric of the universe are the invention and creation of God, the great Creator.
Can any human thought ever conceive of all the mystery and majesty of that fabric, O chosen people? Can any eye encompass it?
Can any ear capture it with the sense of hearing? Can any tongue express it? Shapes and colors, numbers and proportions, music and
song, joy and pain, worlds in water, worlds in soil, worlds in air, flaming constellations of stars-does all this not drive you, O
chosen people, more towards prayerful silence than to speech?
Know, however, that all this miraculous and lofty splendor of the visible universe is scarcely like a flamboyant guard before the entrance of a royal palace, before the gates of the invisible world, of the spiritual, angelic kingdom. And there, beyond the gates lies the true miracle, the miracle of all miracles, the lofty highness of all highnesses. There where the most High King of kings shines in place of the sun (Rev. 22:5)! Here no thought, nor eye, nor ear, nor tongue is of any use. The great apostle was taken up in spirit "to the third heaven. . . caught up into Paradise. . . and he heard things that cannot be told, which man is not permitted to utter" (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus in the heavens, in the spiritual kingdom of the Creator King, everything surpasses our present power of conception and expression.
And this visible world in relation to that invisible one is like a shadow compared to reality, like a symbol compared to a spirit, like print compared to an idea, like a letter about the homeland of exiles. But the same Maker created both the visible and the invisible worlds. He alone holds both worlds in His tireless and almighty hand - the Creator alone. He alone leads them along mysterious paths towards mysterious destinations, which He has predestined for them - He, the gentle Father of Christ the Lord and of all His chosen children.
This is the faith of the tearstained, who cry for justice, truth, and life. This is not the faith of the servants of injustice, falsehood, and death, of the friends of the laughter which ends in despair. This is the faith of the tearstained who weep over their own feebleness and the feebleness of all mankind. They seek the Source of justice, truth, and life. And this Source is given to them. Then their tears of sorrow are transformed into tears of joy. For they have found the most precious treasure there is - the Father, the Almighty, the Maker. What remains for them to seek, when they have received everything through Him? For them there only remain tears of repentance, with which they wash away any injustice and falsehood, and ward off eternal death. Washed with penitent tears they become meek and merciful of heart towards their brother penitents, their fellow wayfarers on the path leading to the eternal homeland. And they help them to know the justice of God, the Source of justice, truth, and life.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your forefathers, who never regretted toil or tears, while they drew near to the Lord and received consolation. Let this also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the end of time. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Judgment of God it shall not be difficult for them. They shall be called blessed.
The Father - The Almighty - the Maker.
A new light has fallen upon you, O chosen people, who bear the image of God in yourselves. Through the curtain, slightly parted by the hand of the Most High, a new shaft of light has fallen upon you, and you are illuminated like sons of God. This light shows you the mystical, eternal, joyful mystery of eternal fatherhood and eternal sonship. In this light a blessing has descended upon you, and the balm of consolaton has descended upon your tearstained eyes.
The Lord Jesus is the only one, both as the Christ and as the Son of God. As the Christ in the sense of the Messiah, He is the only one from the beginning to the end of the world. Mankind can neither find nor expect another Messiah. "For false christs will arise . . . and will lead many astray" (Matt. 24:5,24). Thus prophesied the Only, Genuine, Clairvoyant Christ. There have been false messiahs, there are even now, and there will be even more of them as the end of the human race draws nearer and nearer. But only one is the true Messiah, the genuine Christ, the incomprehensible Lover of mankind. This True, Genuine, and Incomprehensible One is the Messiah for all nations and peoples on earth, in every region and for all time. He is the one and only Messiah both for the living and the dead: who have been, who are, and who are yet to follow.
You are therefore called, O chosen people, to tell the peoples and the nations: O peoples and nations, you can have great men,
greater than the great; you can have noble sons and daughters, more noble than the noble; but there is one Messiah of you all -
only one. So do not await another, and do not seek another. Truly, any others who might come with that name, except for Him alone,
will be a lie and the son of a lie. The only true Messiah once said, "Then if anyone says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or,
'There he is!' do not believe it" (Matt. 24:23). Do not be like the Jews, who incessantly await their own, Jewish Messiah. Truly,
no such messiah will come, whether Jewish, or Russian, or Hindu, or American. For it is the characteristic of the true Messiah to
be for all men, to appear before all, above all, and for the sake of all.
You have such a Messiah, O peoples and nations, the true Messiah, just as you have a sun in the firmament. And just as one sun shines on you all-white, black, yellow, or red- so one Messiah shines on you all, illuminates all, serves all, and is Lord over all. Who among you seeks another sun? No one. Why would anyone then seek another messiah, when the light of the Messiah Jesus is more brilliant than the light of the sun-more brilliant, more boundless, more life-creating, more joyful, more salvation-bearing?
Beware of new messiahs, O peoples and nations, and beware of many messiahs, for they are lost, money-grubbing souls and the servants of the deceitful one. Satan wants to disparage the significance of the Lord Jesus in the world by turning the unique and unearthly calling of the Messiah, the Christ, into some sort of order, with which he decorates more and more impostors. But you know that it is one thing to be a real general and another to wear all the decorations of a general without really being one. Beware of those messiahs which the unbaptized proclaim. Your Messiah wears only one symbol, one decoration-the cross. The cross which at the same time is also the banner of victory. By this you will recognize your Messiah, the only true Messiah. It is the same One who once went into the field hunched over to sow, and who will come down once again upright, to reap the harvest through the angels.
The only Messiah of the world is the Only-begotten Son of God himself, who was begotten of the Father before all time. This is His heavenly seal; this is the guarantee of His true Messiahship. Whoever denies that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah, will be caught in a lie.
The apostle who rested his head on Jesus' breast tells you this even more sharply. Here are his words:
"Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ," that is, the Messiah (1 John 2:22)? Could anything less than the Son of God be the Messiah? And could men accept anyone less as the Messiah?
He had to graft the aged and decayed tree of humanity with His own blood. No mortal's blood would have been pure enough, young enough, strong and life-giving enough, to have enabled that old tree to be rejuvenated and ennobled. No one's blood, truly, except that of the Son of God, with which He clothed His own Divinity as with a scarlet tunic.
Let your mind now elevate itself to the Only-begotten Son of God, O chosen people, you who bear the image of God in yourselves. You will immediately recognize Him by the image of God within you, and once you recognize Him you will become filled with joy. Christ is called the Only-begotten Son of God because He is the only Son begotten of God the Father. When you call the Most High the Father, you have already confirmed the existence of the Son. A childless man is not called a father; nor is one called a sire who has not sired offspring.
Thus does the Most High speak through the mouth of His prophet: "Shall I, who open the womb, be unable to beget? says the Lord;
shall I, who cause to bring forth, be without offspring? says your God" (Isaiah 66:9). Let no one doubt, then, that God is a
begetter; and let no one doubt the Only-begotten Son of God. Can there be anything good in the world, which is not in God and from
God? And being born is a good thing. Therefore, being born is in God, not as a concept but as a reality, an eternal reality,
because God is eternal.
God is witness. God the Father himself bore witness and proclaimed Christ as His own Son. He did so first through the prophet when He said: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you" (Psalm 2:7). Oh that eternal "Today" of God! Second, he did it directly with his own voice on two occasions: at the River Jordan and on Mount Tabor-"This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Finally, who could know the Lord Jesus Christ better than He himself? And He himself said about Himself: "I am the Son of God" (John 10:36).
Just as no sensible person can call a father a father and deny a son, so no one can call a son a son and deny the father. How could there be a father who never had a child or a son who never had a father? And concerning this, he who rested his head on the breast of the Son of God again tells you: "No one who denies the Son has the Father, and whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well" (1 John 2:23).
A certain rich man had an only son, and this man was very merciful. And so when he heard that there were many orphans in his vicinity, he became sad. So he set out and gathered all the orphans, and brought them into his home. And he made his home their home, his wealth their wealth. And when he addressed them he said to them: "My sons!" in the same manner as he addressed his only son with the words: "My son!" What sort of difference, then, is there?
It is easy for you, O chosen people, to comprehend the difference. The difference is obvious: that rich man was the father in essence only of his only son, while he was called the father of all those orphans in his home through mercy. That only son of the rich man was his son by birth, while all the others were his sons by adoption. Kinship in substance and kinship through the gift of adoption-that is the difference.
This is said to you, O logical people, so that you may be armed against those illogical people who arrogantly say: We acknowledge that Christ is a son of God just as we all are also sons of God! Ask them humbly and gently: Are you all sons through mercy or are you all sons in substance? Speak up and answer us: How could the sinless Christ be God's son through mercy, and how could you, being sinful, be sons of God in substance? You acknowledge that God is sinless. Only one who is sinless can beget the Sinless one. How can one who is sinful be begotten of the One who is without sin? Can someone give what he does not have? And who among the sons of women is without sin? And who among you could call himself a son of God in actual essence?
In substance, or essence only one who carries within himself the divine characteristics and the divine powers of God the Father can be called the Son of God. In other words, only God can be the Son of God. Does not the whole of visible nature testify to you with harmonious testimony that whatever is begotten is the same substance as its begetter? Oak tree begets oak tree, dove begets dove, lion begets lion, eagle begets eagle, man begets man, and so on consistently everywhere in all the realms of living nature. What can God beget of God? The eternal Son of God, begotten of God the Father, is therefore God. The whole of living nature testifies to us that this must be so, and so does the Lord himself with His own testimony. And thus if the sinless Christ is the Son of God in essence, you sinful people can be called sons of God only through grace, through mercy, through adoption.
"Before all ages" - God the Son was begotten of God the Father. The Son of God himself, the Preeternal One, bore witness to this fact before his persecutors, the Jews, when He said: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). And again, when they asked Him: "Who are you?" He answered them: "The Beginning" (John 8:25). By this the Lord wanted to point out that His origin and His eternal sonship were outside of time. He, the Only-begotten, is the beginning of all creation, the beginning of the angelic hosts and corporal beings. The Son of God is the Beginning. Just as the Most High is eternal, so also is His fatherhood. Therefore, you are speaking logically when you say that you believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
This is the faith of souls filled with love. Souls empty of love find it hard to accept this faith. Parents with invincible love for their children, and children with invincible love for their parents accept this faith joyfully. The light of God's fatherhood and God's sonship illuminates the inexplicable and profound mystery of nature concerning the attachment of parents to children and of children to parents. Only in this light can parents and children on earth comprehend the mystery of their mutual love. They can comprehend that their love is not of earthly but heavenly origin. It is kindled by the eternal flame of paternal and filial love, which is to be found in God. Therefore, all parents who love their children with invincible love, and all children who love their parents with invincible love, joyfully accept faith in the eternal Father and the co-eternal Son in heaven.
This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your fathers who loved you. Let is also be the faith of your children whom you love invincibly. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Christ's Judgment they shall be shown mercy and be called blessed.
Jesus - the Messiah - the Son.
Both a prophet and a visionary looked into eternity and saw that it had no sun or moon or stars, but nevertheless had a certain ineffable light, which penetrated and illuminated everything (cf. Isaiah 60:19 and Rev. 21:23). Do you kow, O chosen people, what sort of light this is? You surmise: it is the eternal Light of the face of the Most High. It is the Light of the eternal Father, the Light of the eternal Son, and the Light of the eternal Holy Spirit-one Light, one Deity, one Beauty.
The Holy Fathers of Nicaea, enlightened by the eternal Light from that other world, explained the relationship of Christ the Lord to the heavenly Father and His relationship towards creation with the following six phrases.
The first phrase: "Light of Light. " It was said by the great beholder of mysteries: "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness" (1 John 1:5). If a father is light, what can his son be other than light? If the eternal Father is Light, His Son is also Light. The testimony of the Son concerning Himself proclaims: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). Blessed are you, if you can just be called enlightened by that Light!
The second phrase is: "true God of true God." Once the apostle Philip decided to say to the Lord: "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." The meek Lord answered him: "he who has seen me has seen the Father." And furthermore He added: "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (John 14:8-11; cf. 12:45). Again He said: "all that the Father has is mine" (John 16:15). Again He said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). It was then that the Jews took up stones to stone Him to death, because as they themselves said, "You, being a man, make yourself God" (John 10:33). To the extent that they, blinded by sin, were able to see, they spoke. They saw in Christ-or rather on Christ-just a human body, but that which lay beyond the veil of the body, beyond purple blood and flesh, was hidden from their eyes. Consider how an ordinary copper wire on the ground and a copper wire which conducts electricity, thought and voice, appear identical to all eyes lacking intelligence and experience. There was a blindfold over their spiritual vision, and so when they looked they could not see the essence of God in the essence of a man.
This the baptized, purified and sanctified could see. The holy apostles saw it, as did the Holy Fathers of Nicaea, and all spiritual people over many, many centuries. "God was in Christ," testifies the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 5:19). This is Divine revelation. But is it not clear from the concept of parent and offspring in all the realms of life that the Begotten One of God is true of true God. The true God could only have true God.
The third phrase is: "Begotten." That is, the Son of begotten of God-Light begotten of Light, begotten of Truth, Life of Life, Glory of Glory, true God of true God. The human mind understands to a degree the birth of body from body, but poorly understands the birth of spirit from spirit. "And God is spirit." Bodily birth, O chosen people, is only a shadow and a symbol of spiritual birth. It is sufficient for you to know, O Christ-bearers, that your Messiah and Savior is not death begotten of death, darkness of darkness, corruption of corruption, or weakness of weakness, but rather Light begotten of Light, true God begotten of true God. And how He was begotten in eternity will, should it be necessary, be revealed to you in eternity. Oh it will be revealed to you at that time, when you depart from this world and the gates are shut behind you.
It has been said to you once, that your Messiah is the Only-begotten Son of God, the only One begotten of God, and so let it be a joy for you to hear it again in Him as the begotten. For begetting indicates love. It has been said to you above, that He is the only One begotten of the Father in essence, the Most High begotten of the Most High, the Begotten of the Most High before all ages. And now His begetting is distinct and differs from being made. He was begotten, but not made. He can resemble creatures, but He is not a creature.
The fourth phrase is: "of one essence with the Father"-that is, of one being with the Father. Is this not automatically understood after all that has been said concerning Him? For when one says that He is the Father's Son, he has already explained that He is of the same substance, of the same essence as the Father. And when one says: "Light of Light", he again explains that light was begotten equal in substance and essence to the light which begot it. And when one says: "true God of true God", he confirms the truth that the Son is of one essence with His Father. Finally, when one says:
"begotten, not made," he has even more strongly confessed that which was explained more clearly earlier. For whatever is begotten is of the same essence as its begetter, while whatever is made is of a different essence and substance than its creator. Observe and see: a child is of the same essence as his father, but an ax is of a different substance than its blacksmith.
These are the four phrases which the Holy Fathers of Nicaea used to define the relationship of Christ, the Son of God, with regard to His Father in eternity. And here are the two phrases, which they used to define the relationship of Christ with regard to creation.
The first phrase: "not made". Heaven and earth, and everything that is visible and invisible, everything outside the essence of the One, Living God-is all created. Only the Creator is uncreated. And just as the Father is uncreated, so also is the Son uncreated. He was begotten and not made. Co-eternal with the Father, of the same essence as the Father, He is the Alpha and Omega, together with the Alpha and Omega. Together with the One who has no beginning, He has no beginning. He is timeless, infinite, eternal, immortal. His essence is inseparable from His Father's essence; His light and glory are indivisible from the light and glory of the Father. The Father's power is His power. Therefore, is it not clear, that the Son of the Most High is not made? For how could One who exists eternally be made? And by whom could One who is co-eternal with the Father be made?
Just as one cannot talk about the sun without light, O Christ-bearers, or about a spring without water, so one cannot talk about the Father without the Son, or about the Son without the Father. For if He were created, He would, like many of those created, need a Savior for Himself. If He were created, He would not be the Son but one of many sons; He would not be the Son but one of many adopted sons. Truly He is the Son and not an adopted son. If He were just an adopted son, then the Most High would not have a begotten Son. Then the Most High could not be called the Father, and eternal fatherhood would not exist. Neither would eternal love exist. Neither eternal fatherhood nor eternal sonship - the two pillars of eternal love-would exist. But let your hearts rejoice, children of God, because fatherhood and sonship and love do exist. May the eternal rays of love illumine you!
The second phrase is: "through whom all things were made". Everything created has entered into its existence through Him. Just as it is written concerning the Word of God: "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3). Therefore, not only is the Only-begotten Son of God not made, He is the Maker. "Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made, that was made." Everything in heaven and on earth that derived its existence by creation was the work of the Son as much as the Father; and all that exists is under the authority of the Son as much as the Father.
Thus did our Holy Fathers of Nicaea express the inexpressible. Thus did they put into words their faith and your faith, and all on the foundation of the written revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the unwritten revelation of the Holy Spirit of God. Know, however, that He who cannot be contained in the entire universe, cannot be contained in human words.
All that has been said about Him up to this point, O Christ-bearers, has been said about the Most High God in eternity, in His very Self, outside of created things and beyond creation. It was spoken about the eternally mysterious Father and the Son before He manifested Himself; about the eternal Being, who alone is Father to Himself and Son to Himself, and needs nothing outside Himself. It was spoken about the miracle of an Existence without change, without aging, and without death; about the inextinguishable divine Flame, of which every other light, visible and invisible, is causally envious.
And what will now follow is a description of God the Creator, descended into time, into space, into the finite, in the midst of His own creation. Just as a mother bends down and leans over a tearstained child in a crib, so seems the descent of the Creator of men among men, into this vale of tears.
This is the faith of contemplative and prayerful souls. Sensory people covered with dust find it difficult to accept this faith. Contemplative people sincerely realize the limitations of human reason with respect to all the new and higher mountains of mysteries, which come one after the other. And so just when they have scaled one of those mountains with great effort, and have scarcely caught their breath and begun to feel joyful, before their eyes looms another, more lofty mountain-and so on, from generation to generation.
They look and see that each mystery of nature unlocked is not the messiah but only the forerunner of new mysteries. Each thing new, revealed, and learned is not revelation but a curtain, which conceals all the new, nameless, countless, and endless miracles. Therefore, they prayerfully elevate their mind to the Most High, and with their whole heart they receive from Him the revelation concerning the ultimate and supreme mysteries, which through His love and mercy He has deigned to reveal to the human race. They receive it with joy and reveal it with courage. What can they expect from man? And what can the sons of men, who journey together with them, tell them about the imperceptible, invisible, intangible, divine mysteries, from the countless mountains of natural mysteries? What can they hear with their sense of hearing from sensory people covered with dust? Nothing that they have not already heard-and rejected. This is why the One, True Messiah is so dear to them-because He came from the realm of ultimate mysteries as a personal witness, and revealed them to them insofar as the human soul on earth can receive and bear them.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your contemplative and prayerful forefathers. Let is also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the end of the journey. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Judgment Day of God they shall be preserved and justified by their faith, purity, and good works. And they shall be called blessed.
The Light the Truth - the Word.
Just as a mother bends down and leans over a tearstained baby in a crib, so does the descent of the Creator of men into this temporal and visible world correspond to His miraculous existence in eternity. We men and our salvation were the reason for His descent, and the manner-being born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Who says so? If we men said this, one could doubt it. But He himself said it, the One whom no one who bears the image of God in himself can doubt.
He himself, the True One, said of Himself, that He came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Naturally this meant to serve men and to give Himself as a ransom for men. This is the purpose of His descent. And no man revealed the manner of His descent (who would have believed him?), but an archangel of God. The archangel of God Gabriel revealed it to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth:
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. "When Mary asked, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" the archangel of God answered: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." If anyone among you asks in amazement, how this is possible, God's herald of glad tidings will answer him, just as he answered the Most Holy Virgin when he said: "For with God nothing will be impossible" (cf. Luke 1:28-37). Instead of questioning and probing, silence and gladness are more fitting here-silence on account of the sublime mystery, and gladness on account of the almighty power of our God and Creator.
The Son of God and the Son of the Virgin-the One Begotten in heaven and Born on earth, existing in eternity and in time. This is your Messiah, O chosen people, and your Savior. Begotten in eternity of the Father without a mother. Born in time of the Mother without a father.
Whoever wishes to understand this completely, let him say whether he fully comprehends the grain of sand beneath his feet, or a leaf on a tree, or the stars in the firmament. Has he understood the tiniest creature of God, which he tramples, or sees, or touches? Has the human mind, which for thousands and thousands of years has been probing, counting, measuring, comparing, describing-has it fully comprehended a single work of God in this world?
This world is miraculous; the whole world breathes miracles. This world is mysterious; the whole world is censed with the incense of awesome and sublime mysteries. How much more miraculous is the Creator of this world? At any point where eternity comes into contact with time, where heaven comes into contact with earth, a great light appears. And it is light which is incomprehensible to you, and not darkness. The Holy Virgin in Nazareth was that blessed point, where eternity came into contact with time, where heaven came into contact with earth. And from that point a great light came forth, which began to shine over the entire world. It is light which is incomprehensible to you, blessed people, and not darkness.
Probe, blessed people, with humility and fear; probe with your mind whatever God has created, but believe whatever He has revealed concerning Himself and His own great essence. "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). Is God a man, that His fatherhood and birth should be like the fatherhood and birth of a man? Human fatherhood and birth is only a symbol, only a shadow and a pale picture of God's fatherhood and birth. It is not revealed to us, and therefore, we cannot know, what sort of role the Holy Spirit played in the begetting of the Son of God in eternity. What use is it to probe where God is silent and has not revealed. But God has revealed to us through the archangel Gabriel something about the role of the Holy Spirit in the birth of the Son of God in time. And what the Most High has deigned to reveal through His bodiless herald of glad tidings-this one thing we do know. We know, namely, that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Virgin Mary in Nazareth, and that the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Thus eternity came into contact with time, heaven with earth, the spiritual with the physical, and the great Light appeared, which has illumined the world and you who are in the world. In this manner the Holy Virgin conceived in her body, and gave a body to the One who deigned to be the Messiah and Savior, and appear as a man among men.
“…and became man.” Why did the Holy Fathers of Nicaea also include this phrase, when they had already said: ". . . and was incarnated?" Was not this phrase sufficient, and sufficiently clear? He was incarnated, He assumed bodily form, He appeared in bodily form-is this not sufficient? In no way. The bodily forms in the universe are many and varied. In ancient times God revealed Himself to the Israelites in the form of a pillar of fire and a cloud. The Holy Spirit appeared at the River Jordan in the form of a dove. It was necessary to state precisely in what sort of body the Son of God appeared in the world. He appeared in the bodily flesh of man; not in the form of a man, like the Spirit appeared in the form of a dove-God forbid!-but as an actual physical man. As an actual, true man He appeared, and not as an illusory man. Therefore, both these phrases are said: "and (He) was incarnated ... and became man."
He showed us honor, the greatest honor that could ever be shown, when He, as the Lover of Mankind, descended among us as one of us. Out of eternal glory and joy and beauty; He came down into our inglorious valley of sorrow and ugliness, for the sake of us men and for our salvation.
Just as a king sends his heralds to a city and announces his arrival, so also did the King of heaven, who out of his love for mankind wished to appear on earth, send His heralds to the human race and announced His arrival. At last He "degraded Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). And all this degrading He voluntarily took on Himself - for the sake of us men and our salvation.
This faith is offered by God to all men and to all generations on earth. But the impure cannot accept it, so long as they do not repent and are not cleansed of their injustice, arrogance and cruelty. How could those who have distorted the image of God within themselves accept this faith? The voice of heaven does not find an echo in the blown-down power lines of their souls. When the King of heaven completely sweeps open the curtain of mysteries with His hand and appears in clouds of angels to judge-it will be grievous, oh how grievous and dreadful it will be at that time for wicked unbelievers! But blessed and blessed are pure and chaste souls! A thousand times blessed are those who cleanse their souls of their wickedness in time and accept and keep the faith of God in themselves-the heavenly peace in their pure hearts and righteous souls. They shall not be put to shame in heaven by the holy and most pure Virgin Mother of God, and from her Son they shall receive blessing and eternal life.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your pure and chaste forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, until the end of time. This is the faith which has never been put to shame, the Orthodox Faith, the faith of light, truth and consolation. This is the faith of the greatest, best and noblest people in your race, and in every race on earth. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Judgment they shall be called blessed.
The herald of glad tidings - the Mother of God - the Lover of Mankind.
The flame of divine love in eternity blazes constantly in the hearth of God's fatherhood and God's sonship. The winds of time never reach there. Capricious changes never touch that flame, nor do they bend it, expand it or diminish it. For this reason divine love is unaging life, untroubled joy, unlimited power. With this miraculous flame in His hands, in His heart, and in His whole being, the King of heaven came down in a miraculous way on a miraculous mission among men. And He spoke those blessed words: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49). Let just one spark of that holy fire fall on your hearts, and it will be enough to enlighten your long journey to the eternal hearth. Do not extinguish it, but hide it and guard it as though it were a most precious inheritance, O chosen people, who bear the image of God within you.
The Most Gracious Only-begotten Son of God bowed down the heavens and came down to the earth for our sake and for the sake of our salvation. He did not descend from a throne to another throne, but from a throne to cold stone. He suffered much for our sake and for the sake of our salvation. If we were only to say this much, it would be sufficient for our shame and for the glory of His love. But more must be said, so that the truth may be complete. The Messiah of the human race endured slander, malice, snares, spittings, blows, ridicule, and floggings. Even with this it has not all been told. He was condemned along with thieves, crucified on a cross, suffered to the point of death, breathed His last breath in agony, and was buried. He did not reject the brimming cup of torment, nor did He remove the crown of thorns from His head, nor did He cast the heavy cross from His back. Thus did He crown the true, Orthodox Faith with suffering and love with sacrifice.
Do you know, chosen people, why the Holy Fathers included the name of Pontius Pilate, the murderer of God, in our Creed? Do not doubt that the Holy Spirit of ~ who inspired the Holy Fathers with wisdom, deigned to do so. And the Holy Spirit of God deigned to do so, so that the faithful would know exactly and forever in which Christ they should believe. For there have appeared and there will appear false christs, false messiahs, in the world, to deceive and confuse. Therefore, the All-foreseeing Holy Spirit, filled with love for mankind, wished to safeguard Christ's faithful from any deception and confusion. Therefore, through the mouth of the Holy Fathers at Nicaea, He defined precisely which Christ was meant when the Messiah and Savior of the world was mentioned. It solely and exclusively meant Jesus Christ, who was crucified during the rule of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of the Roman emperor at that time. This Christ is the only true Christ, the only genuine Messiah, the only Savior filled with love for mankind. All the others who have presented themselves or will present themselves to the world under that great name, to the very brink of time, until the Day of Judgment, are false christs.
Pilate's name is mentioned for another reason, to show and confirm the personage of the Savior of the world as a historical personage and not a figment of the imagination. When the name of Pontius Pilate is mentioned, it fixes both the time and the place of the appearance of Christ the Lord in the world. For it was precisely known, even to the pagan, Christ-fighting historians of Rome, when and where Pontius Pilate was procurator of Caesar. Do you know human weakness, O chosen people? In their weakness many, too many people are inclined to renounce their benefactor and not doubt in their malefactor. In their weakness some people up to this time-and there will be other such people after this time-have doubted in the personage of Christ as a historical personage, while no one ever doubted in the existence of a man called Pontius Pilate, a man who in the reign of the Roman Caesar Tiberius was the procurator of Caesar in the city of Jerusalem. By mentioning the name of Pontius Pilate, then, the Holy Fathers of Nicaea wished to emphasize the historical personage of Christ, who appeared at a definite time and at a definite place and lived in this world.
Pilate's name was also included in the Creed in order to point out the injustice of the pagans. Roman laws are considered some of the greatest works created by pagan peoples. Yet the Man of Innocence was condemned to death at a time when these highly acclaimed Roman laws carried authority in the world; and He was condemned by a true representative of those laws, Pontius Pilate, the procurator of the Roman Caesar. In the application of these laws on the One more Righteous than the righteous, this "perfect work" of the pagans was shown to be perfectly worthless. This is one more obvious reason why the God of heaven had to come down into the world Himself-to save the world from the universal darkness of paganism. Hence the mention of Pilate's name in the Symbol of Faith resounds like an eternal condemnation not only of the executor of the pagan laws but of the pagan laws themselves.
"He suffered and was buried," said the Holy Fathers of Nicaea. You will ask: Why did they feel it necessary to add these words, when it was already stated that He was "crucified?" When someone is crucified and fastened to a cross with nails, who can doubt in his suffering? And when he breathes his last breath on the cross, is it not something altogether natural and ordinary, for him to be buried? Logical people do not doubt this. To logical people it is both natural and clear. But doubt gnaws at illogical people. They think that they are exalting themselves by humiliating Christ. They think that by judging their Judge they will escape judgment. Certain illogical people appeared who maintained that the Lord did not feel any pain on the cross. They said that Christ was an illusory man, and that as such he was unable to feel torment and suffering. As though they did not hear the death rattle of the Son of God in Gethsemane: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39)! And as though their heart of stone was not in a position to tremble before His outcry of pain on the cross: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (Matt. 27:46)! O unrighteous people, why do you not believe in the suffering of the greatest Sufferer of all time? Why do you deny the pain which caused the earth to quake and the sun to grow dark? Why has your heart turned to stone before the pain which caused stones to split open? These stones will testify against you on the Day of Retribution, on the Dreadful Day.
Blessed are those two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, for they were zealous over the dead body of the Lord. They took him down from the cross with reverent fear, carefully wrapped it in linen with fragrant oil, and buried it in a tomb with honor. And the Jews came and secured the tomb and sealed it shut. And they asked Pilate for sentries to keep watch over the tomb, lest someone steal the dead body of Christ. Thus did it all happen; and thus do logical people believe. But there were illogical people who invented a fairy tale, that the Lord's body was not completely buried but was only hidden. From this fairy tale the opportunistic scribes concocted other untrue and unjust fairy tales.
All of this untruth and injustice against the Savior of the world was foreseen in advance by the Holy Spirit of God, who enlightened and inspired the Holy Fathers at Nicaea. Therefore, He prompted them to put the words, "He suffered and was buried," in addition to the word, "crucified;" so that you and your descendants, O chosen people, might know the truth about the Lord your Savior forever, and so that you might be able to fight against untruth with truth.
In this way the Holy Fathers expressed our faith in the Lord Savior, the Redeemer and Regenerator of the human race, who suffered for sinners out of love. But ungrateful, selfish, self-centered and soulless people cannot accept this faith. How could it be accepted by those who bury the image of God within them in the ground, and turn themselves into a tomb for their soul? Truly, tombs shall not enter into the eternal kingdom of God. Rather decay shall be handed over to inextinguishable fire.
This is the faith of grateful souls. Living in this valley of grief and terror, they do good without expecting anything back in return. They have recognized the thorny field of this world, and take great care lest their trail become one more thorn. They remain silent when they hear the sarcastic reproach: All the others are thorns, do you really believe that you can be roses? And in secret they weep for their brothers, who eagerly strive to mark their trail in this world with thorns. Only one kind of thorn is dear to their heart, only one-the one through which the tender feet of the Son of God walked, and on which roses have bloomed. Those of grateful heart see these roses, and are intoxicated by their fragrance-oh, the only bearable life-giving fragrance in the midst of the stench of mildew and death.
Grateful souls look and see many other thorns beside the way of Christ. They see the thorns of bitterness, the garden of the Mother of the Savior of the world, all soaked with tears, but all luxuriously abloom with white roses. And as they look they see many other lesser gardens of the righteous and of those who suffered for righteousness' sake, thorny stems adorned with various flowers. And when they sniff these flowers they notice that they all resemble Christ and give off the robust, life-giving fragrance of Christ. And a feeling of gratitude to the heavenly Gardener floods their hearts and overflows. And they strive with all their might to turn their life and the life of their friends into a flower, a scion of the Crucified Christ.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your forefathers, who were grateful to Christ the Lord until death. Let this also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the end, until the Judgment Day of Christ, on which the flowers shall be accepted, but the barren thorns shall be cast into the fire. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Retribution their faces shall shine like the sun, and they shall resemble God. And they shall be called blessed.
Love - the Cross - Death.
Christ is risen, chosen people! The earth cannot harm Him, nor can the tomb restrain Him. Let your souls arise, you who are filled with the grace of Christ! Let the image of God within you shine, cleansed of earth and saved from mortal decay! Rejoice and be glad, for your Messiah, the One and Only, has conquered death, that terror of all those born on earth!
The miraculous resurrection of Christ the Lord from the tomb was completely in accord with His miraculous appearance in the world. It corresponded to His extraordinary birth from the most pure Virgin, His almighty works on earth, His heavenly wisdom and mercy, His superhuman patience and dignity in suffering injustice and torture, and His divine forgiveness of His executioners from the cross. Everything is in accord. Everything resembles and corresponds to each other. Just as you can know the nature of a whole sea from one drop of sea water, you can know the entire character of Christ from one incident of His life. His entire character represents one continuous miracle, organically consisting of innumerable miracles. He is your all-powerful Messiah, O Christ-bearers, who blessed you from the cross, from the tomb, and out of the tomb.
The resurrection is like one precious stone in the string of continuous precious stones, which represents the life of the Lord on earth. This precious stone is of the same beauty, of the same priceless value, of the same grace, as the other precious stones in the divine string of Christ. His resurrection is completely natural in view of the eternal realities which He revealed through all His works and His whole personality. On the third day at dawn the all-powerful Lord rose from the dead and appeared to His Holy Mother, to the myrrh-bearing women, and to the apostles (Matt. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 and 21; 1 Cor. 15:6). Afterwards He manifested Himself for a full forty days to His disciples and friends (Acts 1). Later He appeared to His enemy and persecutor Saul (Acts 9). First, then, He manifested Himself to His friends and followers, as to the first members of His Holy Church, so that He might establish and choose them, and afterwards also to His enemies. And He appeared to these latter as much for the purpose of defending His Church, as for the purpose of showing His mercy towards His enemies, just as He did from the cross. For He "loves the righteous and shows mercy on the sinful," and wishes all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
The resurrected and living Lord has continued to manifest Himself to numerous men and women martyred for His name. He has appeared to venerable men and holy women and virgins throughout the entire history of the Church of God up to the present day. He has appeared in wakefulness and in dreams, in wars and in prisons, next to the beds of the sick and in times of necessity, when human strength is of no use. He has appeared in shacks to the poor, in radiant altars to His holy clergy as well as to penitent sinners in dens of iniquity. He has appeared only where fervent faith and tearful prayer have called upon Him, and where His appearance was indispensable. Why should we enumerate them? His living presence is constantly felt by the truly chosen people, by those who bear the image of God in themselves. Consider what the resurrected and living Lord exclaimed as His final word to His followers: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Amen" (Matt. 28:20) Amen - so be it, O Lord!
"In accordance with the Scriptures." As it had been written by the inspired authors of the Scriptures, as it had been prophesied by God's prophets, thus did it come to pass. It was written by the prophets: "For Thou wilt not abandon my soul in hades, nor wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). And again it is written and prophesied: "God shall arise and His enemies shall be scattered" (Psalm 68:1). But in addition to the many prophesies concerning the resurrection of Christ contained in the Old Testament of the Bible, this majestic incident was symbolically and prefiguratively expressed through the fates of many righteous men.
Thus the fate of the righteous Abraham, who was in danger of death on many occasions at the hands of more powerful enemies and yet emerged alive and victorious, represents a prefiguration of Christ's victory at the resurrection. Isaac is a similar prefiguration, who was placed beneath the knife of his father and yet was saved. Another prefiguration of Christ's resurrection is the prophet Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a whale, and was then thrown out alive. So also were the fates of many other righteous men, such as Moses, Noah, Joseph, King David, the prophets Elijah and Daniel, the three children in the fiery furnace, the much-suffering Job, and many others who, oppressed by Satanic and human injustice, were ultimately victorious over all and attained glory, having preserved the image of God within them inviolate. Therefore, the Holy Fathers at Nicaea also stated that the Lord Christ rose from the dead "in accordance with the Scriptures." For an incident which was prophesied in advance was more convincing to men than one which was not.
And in the gospels the holy evangelists noted how even the Lord himself foretold His own resurrection to His disciples on many occasions. And whenever the Lord would foretell His suffering and death, He would also foretell His glorious resurrection at the same time (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32-cf. Mark 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34; 14:28; Luke 9:22; 18:33; John 2:19-22). And everything came to pass just as it was foretold. Your Lord and Redeemer was tortured, crucified, buried dead, but on the third day He gloriously rose from the dead.
Love is invincible, royal children. Its homeland lies in heaven, its kingdom lies in eternity, its shadow on earth, its absence in hell. Oh how powerful is that shadow! But real love, the love which blazes in the hearth of the eternal fatherhood and eternal sonship of God, the love which Christ brought to earth-that love is all-powerful. Satan along with sinners foolishly rejoiced over the dead Messiah. Satan acquired his foolishness when he totally lost the image of God within him. Where could he have known-where could he have felt-how all-powerful divine love is? The power of this love has no comparisons, no measurements, no limits. The earth would have exploded, if Christ had not risen from it. The earth was incapable of containing Him within itself This is the power of real, heavenly, eternal love. The might of love is indescribable. With the might of this blazing love the King of heaven visited earth, endured all humiliations and tortures, and finally resurrected. By its might infirmities are healed, demons are cast out, diseases are cured, storms are calmed, and all nature is forced into obedience. This love is entirely miracle-working, and wherever it appears, in whatever sphere and at whatever time, it works miracles.
This is the faith of the children of God, O royal children, who have become adopted children of God through the power of Christ's love. Those who hate and do evil, who despise God and mankind, who forge chains for themselves out of their sins and place them in the hands of the demons of hell, cannot accept this faith. This is the faith of radiant and pure souls, of those who love God and mankind. They accept this faith, and suffer for it, following the example set by Christ. Love eases their suffering, and sweetens bitterness. Their eyes become clouded with respect to all the deceptive treasures of this world; but their spiritual vision, washed and enlightened by tears, sees into the homeland of eternal love clearly. Blessed are they on the Day of Judgment, on the Dreadful Day of God's retribution. They shall survive on that Day, and shall warm themselves at the hearth of eternal love.
Is this not your faith, Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most glorious forefathers? Let it also be the faith of your children. This is the faith which has never been put to shame, the Orthodox Faith-as bitter as death, as healing as heavenly balm, and as radiant as resurrection. Truly this is the faith of great souls, of the truly chosen people, who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Judgment Day of the resurrected Messiah they shall be shown mercy and be called blessed.
Victory Resurrection - Joy.
The most miraculous Visitor visited earth and returned. And everything else about Him was also a miracle. And that miracle spread over the whole planet earth. And several hundred generations across nineteen whole centuries have spoken about that Visitor more than anyone else in the world. The greatest miracle is that all those generations have spoken about Him not just as the former Visitor, but as the Contemporary as well. Even today, in our generation, one speaks about Him as the Contemporary as much as the former Visitor. Ever the Former and ever the Contemporary! It is the miracle which has never been repeated in the history of the human race. The personality of that Visitor was extraordinary, comparable to no one, impossible for anything on earth to explain. Many ask in amazement: Who is He? We know Him and we do not know Him. We gaze at Him from afar and we gaze at Him from close by. His breath is among us, His authority is above us. His name brings us hope, comfort, and joy. Who is He?
This extraordinary Visitor to earth is the King of the heavenly kingdom, transformed into man, into true man. Just as His resurrection from the tomb corresponded to His power, so also His ascension into heaven corresponded to His majesty. "I came from the Father," said He himself about Himself, "and have come into the world; and again I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (John 16:28). What is clearer than this?
What is clearer than this-that a son should hurry back to his father after fulfilling his father's will? Is it not natural for
a king to return to his kingdom after he has been victorious in war? And for a sower to come home after sowing his field? And for
a teacher to retire to his apartment after imparting knowledge? And for a shepherd to head back to the place from which he set out
once he has found the lost sheep? And for a priest to return after blessing a home? And for a laborer to go to his rest after
completing his work? The Lord Christ also came down to the world as the Son, as the King, as the Sower, as the Teacher, as the
Shepherd, as the Priest, and as the Laborer. Having completed His task, His mission in this world, it is natural and stands to
reason that He should return to the eternal kingdom in heaven, from which He had come down among men.
The ascent of the victorious Lord into heaven was just as miraculous as His descent from heaven! Miraculously born of the Holy Virgin and the power of God, He miraculously ascended into heaven with divine power before His Holy Mother and disciples. His ascension was both logical and witnessed. It was logical by reason of higher, heavenly logic; it was witnessed by eyewitnesses who voluntarily underwent sufferings for their testimony.
There were many witnesses-who could list them all? The holy apostle and evangelist Mark writes concerning the ascension of the Lord: "And after the Lord had spoken to them, He ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (16:19). Saint Luke the physician gives a more detailed account of this majestic event when he says: "And when He had said this, as they were watching, He was taken up and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood before them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven"' (Acts 1:9-I l; cf. Luke 24:52). During this event we see angels of God, just as we did during the Savior's conception and birth, during his fasting after baptism, during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and at His glorious resurrection. The heavenly warriors are always near their King, and are openly seen by men whenever the King deems it fitting.
Once again the ancient Psalmist spoke prophetically: "Open up, eternal gates, that the King of glory may enter! Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, mighty in battle.... The Lord of hosts, this is the King of glory" (Psalm 23:7 f.). In another place he again says: "The Lord says to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand"' (Psalm 109:1). Even the Lord himself, the witness of witnesses, foretold His own ascent into heaven and His future glory. And this He foretold in the hour of His greatest humiliation when the Jews spat upon Him and slapped Him in the palace of the high priest. He foretold this with these holy words: "But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the power of God" (Matt. 26:64; Luke 22:69). What testimony do people need besides His? No falsehood is to be found in the mouth of your Messiah, neither concerning what He said about the past nor concerning what He foretold about the future.
Yet there are more testimonies, confirmed by the blood of witnesses, that your souls might be even better nourished with the truth. Saint Peter the apostle testifies concerning Christ, "who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him" (I Peter 3:22). Saint Paul the apostle was caught up to the third heaven and, having beheld the wonders of the heavenly world, he testifies that the Father seated His Son "at His right hand in the heavens, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that can be named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and He has placed all things beneath His feet" (Eph. 1:20-22; cf. Heb. 12:2 and Col. 3:1). A similar witness of this is Saint Stephen, the archdeacon and first martyr. "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God."' (Acts 7:55-56). Saint Andrew of Constantinople also saw the Lord in glory in the heavens. And such was the case with many other saints as well, especially martyrs, to whom the Lord appeared, so that they might be able to bear their tortures.
And thus your Messiah and Savior, the one and only, ascended into heaven, whence he had come down as the Visitor. He ascended to His original, eternal and immortal kingdom, where He has prepared a place for His followers from His other kingdom, from His Church on earth.
Therefore, chosen people, do not expect another messiah, who will appear to be establishing an earthly kingdom for you and reign as king on earth. Such a messiah the unbelieving, the unchosen, expect, who have darkened the image of God within themselves. These wretched people do not know that such a messiah is not the true Messiah, but a false one. For however great and long-lasting an earthly kingdom may be, it must eventually come to an end, just as everything else that is temporal and worldly. And with the end comes sorrow and grief.
Could such a reign really satisfy your souls and pacify your hearts? Could such a messiah really be what your heart longs for? The one, genuine, and true Messiah has said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 19:36). The true and genuine Messiah is more exalted than anything and more wondrous than all the pretenses of men; and moreover, He is more beautiful and fair than all desires. His kingdom lies outside of time, outside of the changing and the transitory. It is the eternal, everlasting, immortal kingdom.
There is only one Messiah like this - our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, King and Visitor, born on earth of the most pure Virgin Mary, crucified for our sakes under Pontius Pilate, the One who suffered, was buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven, where He sits in glory at the right hand of God the Father.
This is the faith of the saints, the faith of those who have conquered themselves and have made their mind and heart ascend towards the radiant heavens. With the help of this faith they conquered their lower nature, and made their mind and heart ascend towards the heavens, and became saints. They are the fruit of this faith, the healthiest fruit that the earth has ever seen. The licentious, who drag their mind and heart through the dust, cannot accept this faith. Only those who bridle, train, and restrain themselves grow to the height of heaven. Those to whom prayer is sweet rejoice in this faith. Those who give alms and forgive the fallen are gladdened by this faith. They incessantly think of the Dreadful Judgment; therefore the Judgment will not be dreadful for them. They shall be called children of God, children of the King. And they shall reign eternally with the ascended Lord. And they shall warm themselves at the hearth of eternal love, of the eternal fatherhood of God.
Is this not your faith also, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most holy forefathers? Let it also be the faith of your children from generation to generation. This is the salvation - bearing Orthodox faith, which has never been put to shame, as deep as the bottom of the tombs and as high as the tip of the heavens. It proclaims repentance and purification. It is accepted and kept by the truly chosen people, by those who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Day of Judgment, when the ascended Lord will rise up to judge, they shall be shown mercy and be called blessed.
The ascension - the blessing - peace.
Vigilance is demanded of you-and vigilance is alertness, keeping watch with expectation. Vigilance over yourself, over your
thoughts, desires, and deeds-this is the strict ordinance of your faith. Alertness sharpens spiritual vision, so that it can see
and discern good and evil, and can know who is coming into your heart and thoughts. By keeping watch, one repulses an enemy and
admits a friend. Expectation fortifies love and a clean conscience. To whom does this greatest expectation of yours pertain? To
the Beloved, to the Most Beloved, to the One whose love brought you into this world, and whose love will greet you in the other
world. Lo, He has promised to come. And human souls tremble at that promise, like love that trembles when it expects its beloved.
This expectation fortifies love and a clean conscience. "Watch therefore, for you do not know the day or the hour when the Son of man will come" (Matt. 25:13). These are His words, words of warning. May you not be like the five foolish virgins, who in their carelessness were caught by surprise and cast out. He is coming-stay awake and keep watch!
He came once; He will come again. The first time He came in humility; the second time He will come in glory. The first time He came as the Redeemer of the world; the second time He will come as the Judge of the world. The difference between His first and second coming is very great. During His first coming He spent thirty-three years on earth. His second coming will last a very short time. "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man," as He himself said about His own second coming (Matt. 24:27). Thus the second coming of the Lord will be unexpected and as quick as lightning. Hence, He gave this warning to all the faithful: "Watch therefore, for you do not know at which hour your Lord will come" (Matt. 24:42). The first time He came as a painstaking sower; the second time He will come as a swift winnower. And just as winnowing is a brief task compared to the many tasks involving crops from the time of sowing to the time of winnowing, so shall His second coming, when compared to the first, be swift and brief. Oh, and how unexpected it will be!
Therefore, vigilance is demanded of you, along with alertness of spirit, watchfulness, and expectation.
And the second coming of the Lord will be glorious, all in a flash of unseen glory. "Then will appear the sign of the Son of
man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:30). In truth His coming will be worthy of the King of kings. Before Him, beneath Him and
around Him the radiant hosts of angels will hover. Trumpets will sound from the mouths of trumpet-bearing angels, fire and flame
will go before them. "And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His chosen people from the
four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:31).
Thus does the Lord describe His coming again. And His clairvoyant prophet, whom even the Jews cannot deny, describes it in this way: "His throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A river of fire came forth and flowed before him; a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; the judgment began and the books were opened" (Daniel 7:9-10).
Thus did His great and clairvoyant prophet describe it, whom even the Jews cannot deny. And His holy apostle describes it in this way: "For indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at in all who have believed in Him" (II Thess. 1:7-10).
The coming of the Judge will be unexpected, and will be in power and glory. And His judgment will be just as He himself foretold and described it (cf. Matt. 25:3 lf.). He will divide all people to the right and to the left as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. To those on the right the righteous Judge will say:
"Come, blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And to those on the left He will say: "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." The criterion ofjustice will be simple and clear. He will summon the former to eternal life and blessedness-"For," He says, "I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed Me; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." After these blessed asked Him when they saw Him in need and helped Him, the righteous Judge will answer:
"Truly, I say to you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me."
And the others, who will be standing on His left, the righteous Judge will drive off to eternal torments, into the fire prepared for the devil and the servants of the devil. After these unblessed ask Him when they ever saw Him in need and failed to help Him, the righteous Judge will answer: "Truly, I say to you, when you did not do it for one of these, my little brothers, you did not do it for Me."
Observe, O chosen people, and see how Christ the Lord identifies Himself with those who suffer in the world. He graciously calls them His own little brothers. Would you ever refuse bread to Christ's brothers? Know, that whoever refuses it to them, refuses it to Him. At the Judgment this shall be revealed, and He shall judge with justice.
And when the Judgment comes to an end, there will begin for the righteous an endless and everlasting reign. "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). All other kingdoms will be demolished, and every other dominion and power will dissipate like fog in the face of the sun; only His kingdom will remain, without boundaries or neighboring territories. Even as the prophet, whom even the Jews recognize, foretold and saw in a vision:
"His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14). And His kingdom will be more lasting than visible heaven and earth themselves; for it is written that heaven and earth will pass away, but His kingdom will remain (Rev. 21:1).
With such a flash of light, with such power and glory and worthiness will the divine-human drama conclude, which began in a cold cave in Bethlehem. Thus will the mustard seed grow and grow tall (Matt. 13:31-32), and will unfurl into the tree of life, which will envelop the whole world, visible and invisible. Therefore, let your souls be glad, O righteous, if you should suffer anything for the name of Jesus or endure humiliation for His justice in this life.
Each day of your sorrow, torment, and humiliation, will bring you ages and ages of joy. For you will be rewarded with angelic citizenship in His kingdom. Whoever is at all like Jesus in suffering, will be like Him in glory as well. Your tears and your wounds, now hidden, will be illumined by a sun which never sets. Your illusory defeats for the sake of His gospel, will be transformed into a triumphant victory, which will not be proclaimed in headlines by men, but rather by God's angels with the blast of trumpets.
It would be better for the unrighteous to tremble and weep now than at the Judgment. But you, Christ-bearers, rejoice that your Messiah is the Judge of the world. For He will judge with justice. Behold, that same Jesus,
whom Herod wished to condemn to death in the manger;
whom Judas betrayed for thirty pieces of silver;
whom the Jewish elders tortured and beat;
whom Pilate pronounced innocent and then crucified;
who died in great agony on Golgotha;
who gloriously resurrected from the tomb on the third day;
who ascended into heaven on the fortieth day
and sits at the right hand of God the Father-this same Jesus will come again in power and glory. He will come as the supreme Judge of the world, to judge all the living and the dead. He will come as the immortal King, to open up the immortal kingdom to the righteous. In that kingdom the righteous will shine like the sun.
This is the faith of the righteous, of those who are meek and humble, yet fearless on the path of justice. This faith cannot be accepted by those whose hearts follow their eyes. This faith is loved by those who know the majesty of God and the justice of eternity. For them it is joy to meditate on the majesty of the immortal God in the midst of the stench of death all around them. And it is a joy for them to walk in the way of justice, being surrounded by injustice. The sublimity of God attracts them, and the beauty of justice captivates them. They walk in the way of justice, but do not rely on their own deeds, but on the grace of God. The more righteous they are, the more they await Christ's judgment with fear. But the unrighteous commit injustice, because they have no fear of the Judgment of Christ.
Blessed are they who await the coming of the Lord in power and glory, and help the little brothers of Christ as though they were helping Christ Himself.
Blessed are they who watch for the Beloved One, the Most-Beloved One, with vigilance, alertness, watchfulness, and expectation. Truly, they will await Him and greet Him like the five wise virgins. And He will lead them into Paradise, and they will reign with Him forever.
Is this not your faith, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most righteous forefathers? Let is also be the faith of your
children, from generation to generation. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly,
this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Judgment Day of Christ
they shall be called blessed.
The Judge - the Judgment - Justice.
When a wayfarer in the night sees a torch in the distance, he rejoices. And he directs his steps toward the torch, without questioning what sort of fire it is that is burning in the distance. The closer he comes, the more he begins to question.
The Christian faith has brought men close to the eternal light of the Godhead. This is why Christians question this mysterious and fascinating light so much - because they have drawn very near to it. Those who are further away from this light question it less.
The Semites are amazed at the Japhetites, wondering how they can believe in three gods. Who believes in three gods? Is it really possible that the Christians, who cleansed so many continents and islands of polytheism, believe in three gods?
Tell them that you do not believe in three gods but in one-the Only, Living, and True God; but that your Messiah has brought you so close to the eternal light, that you see and distinguish three flames. Three eternal flames-one Fire. Three majesties-one King. Three miracles-one Mystery. Three persons-one Being. Three hypostases-one God. The great name: The Holy Trinity-the Holy Three in One. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-forever and ever one God.
At the foot of this life-giving mystery the seraphim and cherubim cover their holy faces, in holy fear, in divine awe, in an everlasting intoxication from ineffable sweetness. And the innumerable hosts of angels, in choir formations, chant hymns with gentle trembling as they exalt the majesties of the One God, the Living God:
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth!"
Even the great sun in the firmament represents a trinity in unity: a mass of fire, light, and warmth-all three of these elements, undivided from one another, make up one sun. Every atom on earth also represents a triunity. Even the soul of man-the image of the triune God-consists of three basic indivisible powers: emotion, intellect, and will. Yet these three do not divide the soul into three souls. The soul is one and remains one; its powers are three and remain three in unity.
But the world did not come to know about God as the Holy Trinity through these illustrations, shadows, and symbols of nature. it arrived at this knowledge by heavenly revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed this. From Him the human race came to know about the fatherhood of the Father, the sonship of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Spirit. He led us, wayfarers in the night, closer to the eternal divine light, and we began to see and distinguish three in one: three miracles in one mystery, three hypostases in one Godhead.
From Christ we also received our belief in God's Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father. There are many evil and deceitful spirits of darkness, divided and feeble, but there is only one Holy Spirit. People and peoples, who used to believe in many gods, were actually believing in these evil and deceitful spirits. Only true monotheists, who believe in one God, can believe in the One Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is called the Giver of Life because He bestows life, restores life, brings to life, and resurrects. When God created the world, "the Spirit of God was moving over the waters" (Gen. 1:2). When God created man, He created him "from dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the spirit of life, and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). The apostle of Christ writes to the Christians: "The Spirit of God dwells in you" (Rom. 8:9). But in order not to confuse the spirit of man with the Spirit of God, the apostle points out the difference when he says: "This Spirit (of God) testifies to our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). And this is your joy, Spirit-bearers. What good would man's testimony that you are children of God be, if God's Holy Spirit did not Himself attest to this? And the Spirit of God is given to anyone who asks God for Him.
One must be seeking, and must purify the house of his soul in order to receive this most dear guest. Thus says our Lord, the Conqueror of death: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). This is the greatest gift that God gives to men. For when He gives the Holy Spirit, He is actually giving Himself. Is there any gift greater than this? Is there any love greater than this?
How has the Holy Spirit manifested Himself to the faithful? Let us first say, as fervor in the heart. This would occur during fervent prayer, sometimes as fervent warmth in the whole person. The prophet Jeremiah bears witness to this clearly and truly. For he testifies from his own experience. Jeremiah suffered many mockeries and trials-and his torment eventually reached his throat: "There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." (Jer. 20:9). So irresistible is the Holy Spirit of God in a pure heart, into which He has entered.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit has manifested Himself as a voice. The holy prophets and apostles bear witness often to this mystical yet clear voice of God. You hear it, but do not see who is speaking.
Moreover, the Spirit of God has manifested Himself in the form of a dove. This happened during the baptism of the Lord Christ in the River Jordan. "And John bore witness, saying: 'I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him."' (John 1:32). The purity of the dove is an illustration of the purity of the Holy Spirit. Blessed are the pure souls, for they will be deemed worthy of visitation by the Holy Spint.
But the most tempestuous manifestation of the Holy Spirit in human history occurred in the form of the fiery tongues on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Christ. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4). Thus did the consecration and baptism of the first Church of Christ on earth take place-by the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Thus was the Savior's promise to the apostles fulfilled. It was fulfilled in such power and in such a manner as none of the apostles could ever have imagined. Truly, the works of God surpass all human understanding.
The Lord promised: "And I shall pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you." (John 14:16-17). The first Comforter, the Lord Jesus, was more than ample comfort for the faithful. But the love of God knows no bounds. Through this boundless love even a second Comforter was sent.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus also bore witness concerning the Holy Spirit, when He said: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26). And again: "But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me" (John 15:26). And again: "And when the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth . . . He will gorify Me" (John 16:13-14). And this promise was fulfilled, like every other promise of your Messiah, O Christ-bearers.
The Holy Spirit was promised - thus men came to know of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit manifested Himself - thus men believed in the existence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit abides among the faithful-thus men have come to love God the Holy Spirit.
How is light begotten of the sun and how does warmth proceed from the sun-is this really known to you? How is a thought begotten of the heart and how does power proceed from the heart-have you really comprehended this? How then could you understand the eternal mystery of the unbegotten Father? How could you understand the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit? The sons of men were never able to grasp any truth about the Most High God, unless it was revealed to them by the Most High-neither more nor less-only to the extent that He revealed it to them.
It was revealed to us, that the Holy Spirit is not a creation of God but God. He is the Lord, the Giver of Life, whose presence creates life, gives strength, instills wisdom, produces joy. From the eternal Father He eternally proceeds. He is of the same essence as the Father, of the same essence as the Son-of the same essence of the same power, of the same glory. He differs only in respect to person. A special hypostasis distinguishes Him from the Father and the Son. But to Him also is due the same worship and the same glorification. The holy prophets spoke through Him. Into simple fishermen He poured the wisdom of heaven. To feeble men and women-martyred for Christ-He gives invincible strength, stronger than death.
The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, is true God of true God. He has revealed Himself - and has been active. He continues to reveal Himself and continues to be active. Those to whom He reveals Himself and in whom he is active know Him. They do not know Him in essence; they know Him through His revelation and activity.
Belief in the Holy Spirit of God is not based on supposition, on mental hypothesis, but on revealed, experienced, and witnessed reality. Whoever wishes to become a living witness of this reality, must make an effort to cleanse his heart of sin and cense it with prayer, before any probing of the heavenly mysteries. And the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself to him, the Spirit of truth and life, the Spirit of wisdom and joy, the Spirit of freedom and adoption. And this Holy Spirit will bear witness to his spirit, concerning the truthfulness of all Christ's revelation about God, about the soul, about the way of salvation, about the eternal kingdom of God. He will bear witness to it all, just as He did to the spirit of the apostles and the holy fathers who composed the Creed.
Through the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, knowledge of God as the Holy Trinity came to mankind. He did not offer this knowledge to us in the form of philosophical teaching, but in the form of manifestation and action on the part of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. These manifestations and actions of the living God through His three hypostases are reality. Reality is the manifestation of the Father by the voice at the River Jordan and on Mount Tabor. Reality is the miraculous, manifested person of the incarnate Son of God, as well as His work, suffering, and resurrection. Reality is also the manifestation and activity of the Holy Spirit in the apostles, in the saints, in the righteous and in the entire Church of God from the beginning up to the present day. Always and forever: one God, one eternal King, one power, one glory, one love, one light, one joy, one essence-one God.
This is the faith of the clairvoyant, who direct their gaze toward the fire in the distance. This is not the faith of the blinded or the blind, who barely see even what the sun reveals to them. For the clairvoyant this physical light is darkness, through which they walk like wayfarers in the night, fixing their eyes on the light in the distance. They journey without turning their gaze from that great light. So great is that light that to them all this world seems to be shrouded with darkness. And even though the great light is distant, it illuminates their path in the night and warms their heart with wondrous warmth and joy. And they rejoice like children-like the children of this great light. And they hasten toward it like exiles to their homeland. Boldly they press ever onward and forward, and do not turn back. And in their joy they call their straying and lagging brothers, encouraging them, comforting them, and helping them on the way. With a hymn of victory they hasten ever onward and forward: "Over there, brothers, there is our Father and Savior and Comforter. Shine upon us, warm us, summon us!"
This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, the faith of your clairvoyant forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children from generation to generation, all the way to the end of the journey. This is the faith tested in fair weather and foul, the salvation-bearing Orthodox faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Fearful Judgment Day of Christ they shall be called blessed.
The Spirit - The Comforter - worship.
Wayfarers, behold the ark! When the flood came, Noah was saved in a secure ark. The flood of madness and sin continues incessantly. Therefore, the Lover of Mankind constructed the ark of salvation. Ask for His ark, and you will soon be entering it.
Do not let yourselves be led astray by the multitude of variegated vessels, decorated and adorned on the outside. Ask about the power of the engine and about the skill of the captain. The most powerful engine and the most skillful helmsman are to be found in the ark of Christ. This is the all-seeing, all-powerful, Holy Spirit himself.
Neither let yourselves be led astray by those who invite you into their tiny and new rowboats, or those who offer you private rowboats just for yourselves. The journey is distant and the storms are dangerous.
Neither let yourselves be led astray by those who say that on the other side of the ocean there is no new land, no new world, and that there is no reason to prepare for a distant voyage. They invite you to go fishing on the shore. To such a little extent do they see or know. Truly, they are setting out for destruction, and are inviting you to destruction as well.
Do not allow yourselves to be deceived, but rather ask about His ark. Even though it may be less dazzling to the eyes than others, nevertheless it is strong and secure. Even though it does not have many variegated banners, except the sign of the cross, know that your life is safe aboard it. And on a sea voyage the first and primary concern should be that the life of the passenger is safe.
If you believe in Christ the Savior, O Christ-bearers, you also believe in His work. His work is the Church, the Ark of Salvation. Aboard it are sailing the hosts of the saved and of those being saved. The Lord founded this work of His on faith, as strong as rock. Just as He said and prophesied: "On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). And truly, up to the present day they have never prevailed, nor will they from this day forward.
The Church is called the body of Christ. "You are the body of Christ" (Rom. 15:5; 1 Cor. 12:27). Therefore, there is only one Church. For there cannot be two bodies under one head, and Christ is called the head of the Church (Col. 1:18). Therefore: one Christ, one head, one body-one Church.
If there are apostasies and heresies, why should that confuse you? This was all foreseen and foretold, just as an experienced helmsman foresees and tells travelers about the storms and troubles ahead. "For there must be heresies among you," says the apostle, "so that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (I Cor. 11:19). If one group of passengers aboard the ark should carve a dugout for themselves and then lower themselves into the sea to drift apart, you are naturally sad-and so you should be. Their example, a desperate example of a stubborn plunge into peril, strengthens your faith in the one and only ark of salvation.
The Church is called holy. It is clear to you why she is called holy. First, because it was the Saint of saints, the Holy of holies, who founded her. Second, because the Lord transformed, redeemed, purified and strengthened her with His own holy and most pure blood. Third, because from the beginning the Holy Spirit of God has been guiding her, inspiring her, and bringing her to life. Fourth, because all her members are called to be holy, separated from everything unholy in this world, in which they are growing and through which they are journeying. Fifth, because the holy heavens are set aside for her habitation. Sixth, because in her are all the God-given means by which men become holy and prepare themselves for heavenly citizenship. Therefore, the Church is called holy.
Moreover, the Church is called universal. Why this? First, because she unites to the living God the children of all lands, all tribes, and all languages. She is not confined to a single race, nor to a single tribe, nor to a single nation. Like the man who stands at the crossroads and summons all wayfarers to the king's banquet (cf. Matt. 22:9), 50 also does the Church. So also does the holy, universal Church summon and unite all the sons and daughters of men to salvation. And she rejects no one except one who rejects her and, consequently, himself as well. This is the difference between the all-inclusive Church of the New Testament and the preparatory Church of the Old Testament, which was limited to a single people.
Furthermore, the Church is called universal because she includes both the living and those who have fallen asleep. Those who have fallen asleep in the Lord are as much her members as those who are still living on earth. Wayfarers whom the ark of salvation has transported to the new land, to the eternal kingdom as well as those who are being transported today or those who will be transported tomorrow are all members of the one, holy, universal Church.
And thus the Church is called universal because it is not limited by race, by language, by space, by time, or by death.
In addition to all this, the Church is also universal in both her teaching and in her structure.
The holy Church is called apostolic. The Church is called this first because Christ's apostles were her first members. They were the first personal witnesses of the miraculous life and work of the Son of God on earth, and His first followers. Second, because the apostles organized the structure of the Church and spread the Church across the world. Third, because the holy apostles were the first after the Lord to spill their own blood onto her foundations. Fourth, because her apostolicity has not ceased even to this day. The apostolicity of the Church is reflected today in two ways: in her apostolic mission to the world and in the apostolic succession of her hierarchy. Both in her ministry in the world and in her ministers, the true Church, the Orthodox Church, bears the ceaseless seal of apostolicity.
It is not the task of the Church as an institution to rule but to minister; to minister to the nations of God to the point of martyrdom after the manner of Christ the Lord; to illuminate the souls of men, to guide the moral life of men spiritually, to shine. It is her task not to enslave but to set free. For all men are called to the freedom of Christ, to the freedom of the sons of God. As it is written: "You are no longer a slave but a son" (Gal. 4:7). And again: "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:1). As the ark of salvation the Church of God transports not slaves but free children, royal children, into the immortal heavenly kingdom. There is no cargo more precious and no pier more joyful!
This is the faith of the valiant and of those who love others. The cowardly and selfish find it difficult to accept this faith. The valiant are those who have the courage to rise up against the pagan chaos in their soul and establish order in it according to the gospel. Those who love others are those who like to journey with others and who view their companions in the light of that eternal light in the distance. And they rejoice in their companions, as in their own brothers, in themselves, and in that eternal light which illuminates and embraces them all, and draws them all to itself. The valiant and those who love others like order in themselves and around themselves. They appreciate the help of others and do not refuse help to others. They like to step back in order to make way for others. Like God they burn with the desire that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Recognizing the majesty of the living God, they consider themselves as nothing great. They regard themselves as tiny organs of the mysterious and great body of the Church, whose head is Christ. They do not push or quarrel over first place. They are not afraid of this life, nor do they fear death. They praise the good works of their companions, but their own they do not make public. And so in harmony, in order, and in joy, they migrate like a flock of birds to warmer regions-to the kingdom of divine light and fatherly warmth.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your valiant forefathers who loved others. Let it also be the faith of your children from generation to generation, all the way to the end of the journey, to the tranquil haven. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox faith, which has never been put to shame. In truth, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Retribution, on the great Day of God's justice, when Christ will have judged with justice, they shall be called blessed.
The flood - the ark - salvation.
Water washes. What does water wash? It washes perspiration and dust from the skin. That tiny particle of impurity, which the body secretes by perspiring, water washes. And that insignificant particle of dust, which lights upon the skin from this world, water can wash off.
But water is not able to wash away all that impurity, all that dung and decay, that accumulates inside the body. Water is powerless against that internal impurity, which appears and remains in the organs. This impurity comes from the unsound or superfluous dust of this world, which people take into themselves as though it were food.
And so if water is powerless against this material impurity, how much more powerless is it against the impurity in the deepest recesses of the soul?
It is clear that water does not wash the soul. It washes the air and it washes the ground. It is able to wash all earthly skin, including the skin of man. Its effect is enormous, its service invaluable. But it cannot wash away the greasy impurity of the human soul. The Jews used to constantly carry out ritualistic washings and cleansings; i.e., they would constantly wash their skin with water. But the water was never able to touch the impurity of their soul. And internal impurity accumulated in them to such an extent that, once it was vented and poured out on the most pure Lord Jesus, its stench has been spreading itself all over the world even to the present day.
Water is just a symbol. Physical washing is a symbol of spiritual washing. A symbol can wash a symbol, but not reality. Water can wash the exterior face of man, but not his interior face. And this interior face of man is the image of God in man-the living soul with the spiritual reality within it. Therefore, only God alone, through the power of His Spirit, can wash away the spiritual impurity in man.
Yet even as a symbol of purification, water is necessary for Christian baptism. It was indispensable even earlier for symbolic, pre-Christian baptism. St. John the Baptist baptized with water alone. And according to the apostle Paul's interpretation, the entire Hebrew nation was symbolically baptized with water: "Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (I Cor. 10:1-2). This was not actual baptism, but symbolic prefigurative baptism. It was just a shadow of Christian baptism.
Christian baptism means a complete purification. This baptism represents the doors through which people enter Christ's Church. They do not enter two or three times, but once. Hence, there is one baptism. In God's Holy Scriptures this is especially emphasized with the words: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). Therefore, avoid those who tell you that a person needs more than one baptism.
Through baptism that most shameful stain, with which the ancestor of our race sullied himself and which he bequeathed to his descendants as an inhentance, is removed from the image of God within us. That demonic seal in our soul, as dark and repulsive as hell itself, can only be removed through true baptism.
Consequently, baptism marks the death of the old, sinful man and the birth of the new, sinless man within us. And God's Holy Scriptures at test to this fact: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therewith with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life"(Rom. 6:3-4). Yet the Lord did not die twice, requiring us to be baptized into His death twice. Therefore, the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople stated: "I acknowledge one baptism."
Jewish circumcision served as a prototype of Christian baptism. With a knife a small piece of the body was cut off. This is the prototype. With baptism the sinful growth in the soul is cut off. This is reality. And just as circumcision used to be performed once for all time, so also is baptism performed once for all time. Circumcision used to be performed on both adults and children. Baptism is also performed on adults and children. It has been treated this way in God's Church since apostolic times (cf. Acts 16:14-15, 30-39 and I Cor. 1:16). Therefore, avoid those who tell you that you should not have your children baptized. Ask them:
"Who will answer for the souls of children who die in the households of baptized parents?"
"For the remission of sins"-this is the purpose of baptism. John's baptism was not for the purification of sins, but for repentance only. John himself attested to this when he said: "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11). And He who is mightier than John the Baptist and mightier than the whole world, showed by His own example the manner of true and complete baptism. He was baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit. The Sinless One was immersed in the water of the River Jordan, and at that moment God's Spirit descended upon Him "in the form of a dove." Here then it is John who baptizes, water that washes the body, and God's Holy Spirit who cleanses the soul-the true and complete baptism-the one baptism, which cannot be repeated on the same person.
During the night Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Christ and asked Him to teach him the way of salvation. The baptized Messiah answered him: "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Purification of both the body and the soul. Regeneration of both the body and the soul. The grace of the Holy Spirit gives power and holiness to water. In baptism the fire of the Holy Spirit burns off that ancestral growth on the soul of every descendant of Adam. The sinful burden of many ages and generations, that monstrous hump on the back of man, is removed from the baptized soul. The heriditary leprosy disappears. From that moment the baptized soul is responsible only for the future, not for the past.
The baptism with which John baptized the Jews began and then ceased. It served only as a signal to alarm and prepare. The King of heaven was about to come. The whole spiritual atmosphere had been concealed, like the spirit concealed within a dying man. John felt the blowing of a new, fresh breeze, fragrant and life-giving, in the midst of the corpse-like stench of the world. The Christ was near; and John sounded the alarm and cried out to the people to prepare themselves for His coming, to repent. And he baptized them with water for repentance. That baptism ceased. It did not possess the grace-endowed power of the Holy Spirit, which was given to the world later through Christ (Acts 19:1-6). But baptism with water and with the Spirit has continued to the present day. Without it no one can call himself a Christian. Behold, the Lord commanded the apostles: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). This is the healing and salvation - bearing commandment, which the apostles carried out to the letter, and which the holy, universal, and apostolic Church has continued to carry out up to the present day.
Nevertheless, besides this holy baptism with which we have all been baptized, there exists yet another type of baptism which is
not given to everyone. This is baptism with the blood of martyrdom. All those great men and women who suffered and shed their
blood for Christ have been baptized with the baptism of blood. Baptism with blood is especially well known to you, Orthodox
followers of Christ. Nowhere is there such a great number of people baptized with their own blood as there are among your
forefathers, both distant and recent. Even in our own times the blood of martyrs continues to be shed in the Orthodox world.
Thousands upon thousands of Orthodox Christians are being baptized in their own blood. These are the valiant witnesses of the
gospel of Christ. The children of God, whom pagans and atheists have slaughtered like lambs! Their sacrifice strengthens Christ's
Church on earth, and their holy names expand the Christian calendar. Baptized in their own blood, they have always been and always
will be the treasure and adornment of Orthodoxy.
There have even been pagans who were unbaptized with water and the Spirit, but baptized with the blood of martyrdom. And their baptism is accepted as canonical and valid. Their baptism is even considered higher than our normal baptism. They did not have time to be baptized with water and the Spirit. Being pagans, they were blind in their spirit, but suddenly they began to see and recognized Christ and immediately laid down their lives for Him. Thus they were baptized with one of the Lord's baptisms but not with the other, with the baptism of Golgotha but not with the baptism of the Jordan. And thousands upon thousands of your Orthodox forefathers, both young and old, both male and female, both emperors and patriarchs, both rich and poor, were baptized with both baptisms-of the Jordan and of Golgotha. The number of these valiant forefathers of yours, who were first baptized with water and the Spirit and later with their own blood in martyrdom, has become so great over the centuries that they could populate an entire country.
The first baptism, with water and the Spirit, was commanded; but the second, with one's own blood, was left to the individual decision of each. On one occasion the meek Lord asked the sons of Zebedee:
"Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized?" (Matt. 20:22). Do you see how the Lord called His suffering a baptism? And do you see how He does not say to the sons of thunder: "You must!" Rather He asks them: "Are you able?" It is clear, then, that baptism with blood is not mandatory for all the faithful, as is the first baptism, but it is left up to one's own will. Only those who have exceptionally great faith in the Lord and great love for Him make the decision to be baptized with blood. As He himself said: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends" (John 15:13-14). Countless numbers of your forefathers were friends of the Friend of men. And they bore witness to their friendship towards Him in the same way as He had borne witness to His friendship towards them-with the seal of blood and death.
Do not allow yourselves to be deceived, Christ-bearers, if a heretic tells you that baptism is the only grace-filled sacrament, and that there are no others. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the fact that in our Creed only baptism is mentioned, while the other sacraments are left unmentioned. The Holy Fathers of Constantinople, who mentioned holy baptism, used to recognize the other holy sacraments as well. In addition to baptism, they used to consider chrismation, penance, holy communion, holy unction, marriage, and priesthood holy and canonical. Both the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition strongly attest to all these sacraments. Nevertheless, the Holy Fathers, compiling the brief Symbol of Faith, only mentioned baptism because it is the fundamental and initial sacrament in God's Church.
Indeed, by the sacrament of baptism one severs himself from his diseased past, and brings his soul to the "hospital", as the Church is called. And once the soul enters the "hospital" through baptism as through a door, it finds inside everything else that it needs to be healthy. There it finds chrismation, the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. There it finds confession and penance for any new wounds of the soul. There it finds holy communion, nourishment for the soul with the actual body and blood of Christ. There it finds holy unction-the prayerful invocation of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and have compassion on the bodily temple of man and the weakened dweller in that temple, the soul of man. There it finds the great sacrament of marriage-a miracle of God's most wise economy. There it finds priestly laying on of hands, for the sake of the succession of apostolic ministry and apostolic power. There it finds all the other remedies and channels by which the almighty spirit of God cures, consoles, caresses, and raises up the souls of the faithful.
This is the faith of the considerate and the wise. The inconsiderate and feebleminded accept it with reluctance. Failing to consider their own nothingness, they feel no need for help from God's might. But the considerate have thoroughly investigated their own feebleness and the feebleness of all those born on earth. And by investigating themselves and others they have arrived at the knowledge that the impurity of the human soul cannot be cleansed with water alone, nor with any other element of nature, without the power of the all-powerful Spirit of God. For this reason they turn to God for help in humbleness and humility. And in their wisdom they make use of all those balms for the soul, which are found in the divine hospital, the holy Church. Having turned their backs on the shadows and illusions of this world, they entrust themselves to the will of the Most High. And they direct their gaze continuously towards the eternal light. They know that they are pilgrims, and that their pilgrimage will soon come to an end. Therefore, they joyfully press ever onward and forward. And with compassion they support their fellow wayfarers, their brothers and sisters, as though they were royal children returning to the royal domain of their heavenly Father.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your considerate and wise forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, all the way to the end of the journey. This is the continuous, salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Retribution, on the Dreadful Day of Justice, when Christ will pass judgment with justice, they shall be called blessed.
Water - Blood - Rebirth.
A flock of birds - what an amazing sight! A single bird never leaves an impression of such intoxicating beauty as does a flock of birds. Nor is a flock of birds which has landed on the ground as beautiful as a flock in flight, flying hither and thither.
Imagine a million birds of one species. Imagine them all red. And they are flying in and landing on the ground and remain on the ground. Another million fly in, and land, and remain. And again another, and another, and so on across centuries and centuries, for ages and ages. Countless flocks, countless billions of birds. Remaining on the ground they change color under various influences. Some turn dark red, some black, some speckled, others white.
And imagine if all those countless flocks, those countless billions of birds, by some almighty command took off from the ground and began to fly. What a majestic sight! The white birds are in the majority, and their dense flocks soar to the fore. Behind them are the speckled birds, and then the red, and then the black. The white flocks fly swiftly and cheerfully, while the rest in turn more and more sluggishly and cheerlessly. The sun would be completely blocked, and the earth would be covered with the darkness of night.
Oh my brothers and sisters, this is not just a dream and an illustration. Reality will surpass every dream and illustration of man.
One starry night God led the righteous and faithful Abraham outside and said to him: "Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you can number them." Abraham stood in fear and looked in amazement. Then God said to him: "So shall your descendants be" (Gen. 15:5). And at that time Abraham was old and childless. Would God fulfill His promise?
Already up to the present day countless billions of human souls have flown in and landed on the earth, all clothed in flesh and blood as in a crimson garment. This is a sign of their Creator's good pleasure. Countless billions up to the present day - and yet at that moment when God gave His promise, Abraham did not have a single child! Countless billions just up to the present day are there more stars in heaven?
But Sarah laughed to herself when she heard of God's promise that she would soon bear a son. And Sarah, the wife of Abraham said: "Now that I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have the pleasure of bearing a child?" Then the Lord said to Abraham: "Why did Sarah laugh?... Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" (Gen. 18:12-14). And truly, God does not go back on what He promises. God fulfilled His promise. Abraham's righteous descendants extended in a spiritual line in the Christian people, and have perhaps already multiplied and reached the number of the stars in heaven.
This was God's promise concerning the descent of souls onto the earth. A great and wondrous promise, which is equalled by another promise of God - concerning the raising of souls from the earth, concerning the resurrection of the dead. God in Christ the Lord, the Resurrected One who resurrects, made a truthful promise that the dead will be resurrected and will appear at the Judgment. "When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them..." (Matt. 25:31f).
The Lord speaks about all the nations, about all the flocks of men which have landed on the earth from the beginning to the end of time. Christ's apostle considered the resurrection a precious mystery, and thus he revealed it to the faithful slowly and carefully when he said: "We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope... For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise" (I Thess. 4:13-16). And again he says: "Lo! I tell you a mystery... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable" (I Cor. 15:51-52). Then what is perishable shall be clothed in what is imperishable, and what is mortal shall be clothed in immortality. And then the saying that is written shall come to pass: "O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55).
Then countless billions of souls shall be clothed in light, imperishable clothing, in heavenly bodies similar to Christ's. And
those flocks, Oh those countless flocks, will take off from the ground. Some flocks will be as white as many snowfalls, others
will be dark red, others speckled, and others black. The white flocks will be white from the purity and virtue in them, the red
flocks will be red from the preponderance of blood over spirit in them, the speckled will be speckled from the intermingling of
good and evil in them, and the black will be black from their sin.
Do not let it disturb you, should someone laugh at God's promise concerning the resurrection of the dead. Sarah also laughed at God's promise long before, and later she was ashamed. Believe, Oh believe and do not doubt, that anyone who laughs at this second promise of God will likewise be ashamed. Ask him and say to him: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
"I await the resurrection of the dead." We await the spiritual resurrection of sinners day by day and minute by minute. We wait for souls speckled and blackened by sin as with scabs to whiten and come back to life through repentance. And we rejoice together with the angels in heaven when even one sinner repents and returns to Christ (cf. Luke 15:10). We rejoice with the father who, when he found his lost prodigal son, said:
"This my son was dead, and has come back to life" (Luke 15:24). We often await this sort of resurrection of the dead, and we frequently receive it.
But we also await a general resurrection. We await a single, final resurrection of all the dead, who from the beginning of creation lived on earth and succumbed to the power of death. We base our waiting on reason and conscience, and especially on God's promise.
Unconfused and clear reason tells us that this whirlpool of life does not end with death. From time immemorial nations have sensed that death is not a period, but a comma. All the tribes on earth, even in their idolatrous darkness, felt a presentiment of some sort of life after death. The poets and philosophers of ancient Greece spoke about the life of human souls in Hades, in semidarkness and semilife. The Egyptians used to embalm dead bodies with resins and aromatic spices, so that they might be preserved for some other life. The continuance of life by death and of judgment by justice, which not everyone on earth had attained - this has always seemed like something natural and necessary to a clear human conscience.
However, we Christians do not base our faith in the resurrection and life beyond the grave on the theories of poets and philosophers, nor on the inklings and presentiments of nations and tribes, but on experience and God's promise. Our faith is founded on rock and not on sand. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Revealer of all the truths of life, also revealed to us the truth of the resurrection of the dead. He revealed it to us both by word and by deed - so that your hearts might rejoice, O Christ-bearers.
On one occasion the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, put the Lord Jesus to the test. They asked Him whose wife a certain woman would be in that "world to come." The mockers were themselves rebuked by their own irrationality! The meek Lord answered them: "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven." Moreover, the Lord added: "God is not God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:30, 32). And if all the living on earth were to die and remain in the tombs, how could God be called the "God of the living?"
in Capernaum, in that city of unbelievers which has vanished from the face of the earth because of its lack of belief - in this city the spiritually shallow Jews kept asking the Lord one question after another. Finally the Lord told them: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever eats My body and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day" (John 6:53-54). And before Solomon's temple, which has vanished from the face of the earth because of being desecrated by lack of belief, the Lord said: "The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God ... and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:25-29). To those who shake their heads and say how difficult this is to believe - tell them: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
Moreover, Jesus made many other statements about the resurrection of the dead. But in order not to leave people in any doubt, He attested to these words of His with deeds. He resurrected the dead daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the Jewish synagogue. The Lord took her cold, dead hand in His own and exclaimed: "Little girl, arise!" And the dead girl came to life and arose (Matt. 9:25, Mark 5:41).
Furthermore, the Lord resurrected the son of the widow of Nain. Arriving at that city with His disciples, He encountered a funeral procession and saw a widow in despair, mourning for her only son. First He approached the mother and comforted her with the words: "Do not weep!" Then He set out to comfort her with a deed as well. He crossed over to the pallbearers and cried out to the dead youth: "Young man, I say to you, arise!" And the lad came to life and arose. "And He gave him to his mother" (Luke 7:12-15).
Furthermore, the Lord also resurrected Lazarus at Bethany. Four days he lay dead in his tomb. His sisters were weeping. All his relatives were weeping. Even the Lord began to weep. And Jesus cried out: "Lazarus, come out!" And "the dead man came out" (John 11). And the Lord released him alive, to go to his sisters.
Whom else did the Lord resurrect? Himself. He resurrected from the tomb on the third day after His death, just as He had prophesied. And His disciples "rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20). What human soul, thirsty for life would not rejoice in the Lord, the Resurrected One who also resurrects!
Thus did the almighty Lord Jesus confirm His words and His promise concerning the resurrection with actual deeds.
The holy apostles made the event of the Messiah's resurrection from the dead the foundation of their preaching of the gospel. And all their personal hope and all their unwavering courage in the face of death drew strength and nourishment from that glorious event. One of them, who initially persecuted Christ's Church but later saw the living, risen Lord, wrote:
"Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can any of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?... If for
this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men the most unfortunate" (I Cor. 15:12, 19). But Christ did rise from the
dead, and he also confirmed our resurrection; and He made us who believe in Him the most fortunate of all men.
The Lord died and resurrected to prove and demonstrate our own resurrection from the dead. With His resurrection an inextinguishable flame of faith was kindled forever in the hearts of men, that they too would be resurrected. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all return to life" (I Cor. 15:22). And should some present-day Sarah laugh and say: "This is difficult to believe;" answer her and tell her: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
Long ago in ancient times a prophet saw and prophesied how "those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).
Yet another prophet, before this one, looked and saw in a vision a great valley, filled to overflowing with the dry bones of the dead. And he looked and he saw, how at the voice of God there was a great quake, and the dry bones began to gather and assemble. And staring he saw how the dry bones began to be covered with flesh and interwoven with sinews. And God commanded, and the spirit of life entered into them. And the prophet saw how the bodies of men came to live and stood upon their feet. "It was an exceedingly great host" (Ezek. 37).
These are the visions and prophesies of the righteous prophets of God. But the reality of these visions and the fulfillment of these prophesies came from Christ and through Christ. As for those who still doubt and say that all this is impossible, answer and tell them:
"For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). Answer them in the words of the same One who resurrects. You will dispel their doubts, and you will save your brothers and sisters.
This is the faith of the right-believing and the vigilant. Those who have been led astray by the thinking of this world and those who have been lulled to sleep by the aroma of this world find it difficult to accept and keep this faith. Those whom the world decorates with scabs and blackens with the mire of this world do not incline their ear to the promise of God. But the right-believing believe in God's word, and vigilantly await its fulfillment. They are sick of the lies of liars, and they are fed up with the shortcuts of falsehood. Therefore, the long paths of the Most High have become dear to them, and the great ways of the True One have become precious to them. On that long path He refreshes them with more and more confirmations of the good destination. Their greatest refreshment is the word of the Savior and Guide, who traversed their entire path as a man, and reached the destination, and saw the destination, and proclaimed great joy to them.
At the end of the shortcuts of liars there always sits the dragon; always that ancient serpent, who pushed the first ancestor of our race out of Paradise. But at the end of the long path of truth waits the King and Father, the Comforter who resurrects. This gladdens the right believing and the vigilant. And they share their gladness with their brothers, their fellow wayfarers, the children of the Great King.
This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, the faith of your right-believing and vigilant forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, to the end of the journey, to the blessed end. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Judgment of Christ, on the Great Day, they shall not be saddened, but shall receive life and be called blessed.
Waiting - Rising - Putting on immortality.
Coming home. Oh how joyful it is to come home! Moreover, to a home where a father is waiting, along with many brothers, and
sisters, and children, and friends! Even more so when the home is not a famished and empty hut, but a royal palace, where a father
king awaits his children from afar with deep concern!
Wayfarers, you know that the Father King is none other than the Most High Himself. You are those children whom He awaits with such deep concern. From a foreign land you are returning to Him. Truth and this world are His fields, but they are distant and overgrown with thorns. He sent you into this distant land, so that you might long for Him and see that you can do nothing without Him. It was not mandatory for Him to separate Himself from you, no. This was first mandatory for your first mother, Eve. And at that moment God sent both her and her descendants into this distant domain of His, into this thorny field, where bread is earned by the sweat of the brow.
Many flocks of your forefathers have landed on this thorny field, and on it they have fought over fodder with locusts and beasts. And they became accustomed to a society beneath themselves. And when they had forgotten their home and origin, they began to think that there existed no better field or brighter world than this muddy potter's shop, nor any society more noble than that of animals.
The gentle heavens grew sad when they saw man as a disciple of beasts. The radiant angels grew confused when they beheld the image of God in man debased. The Most High felt sorry for the human race, and resolved upon the most dramatic act in the history of the created world, in the history of heaven and earth. He decided to do something which only infinite love can resolve upon-namely, to send His Only-begotten Son into torments for the sake of man's salvation, to clothe Him in human rags, in the rags of a beggar so that beggars might not be afraid of Him, of His light, of His majesty. He decided to cast the most precious pearl of His heart before swine, before those who were wallowing in the mire like pigs.
And the Son of the King joyfully set out for this sacrifice, and He came down into this bed of worms, where the descendants of Eve were fighting over fodder with animals. He found one unique daughter of Eve-one, unique, pure and holy Virgin, who was worthy to knit a body for Him from her own body. And in this poor clothing of the flesh He appeared among the drunk and the rabid, as though He had appeared in a house of lunatics.
As soon as the disciples of beasts saw Him, they assaulted Him with knives. He withdrew.
When He called them sons of the heavenly Father, they gaped at Him, and demanded a miracle.
When He performed many miracles, they said that He did this with the aid of the devil. For they had ceased to believe in God, but in the devil they never ceased to believe.
When He began to cast out demons from people, they said that He cast out demons with the help of Beelzebub, the prince of demons!
When He poured out the wisdom of heaven before them, they asked Him where He received His schooling. And when they heard that
He was a carpenter, without schooling or teachers on earth, they scorned Him.
When He bestowed sight on the blind on the Sabbath, they reprimanded Him for breaking the Sabbath.
When He fasted, they called Him a glutton.
When He prayed to God, they called Him an atheist. When He shared the company of sinners, they
called Him a sinner. When He asked them what sin He had committed, they barked like rabid dogs.
When He spoke to them about the heavenly kingdom, they accused Him of wanting to betray them to the Romans. But when He told them that they should render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, they handed Him over to the Romans, accusing Him of being a traitor who had committed high treason against Rome!
Finally, they spat on Him; that is, they gave Him just what they had and were - repulsive spittle!
They crucified Him on the cross. And while His holy blood flowed onto the ground, they reviled Him and danced round about Him.
But He was victorious and rose from the grave and proved to the world who He is. And the world set out to follow Him. And the world began to learn from Him and ceased to be disciples of beasts.
Remember, wayfarers, His blood was shed over the earth. With His own blood He marked the path for your homeward journey lest you lose your way. Seafarers keep their eyes on the stars lest they lose their way. Make sure that you likewise keep your eyes on His blood, on those drops which glisten like stars, and you will see the path that leads you homeward.
Neither death nor the grave can block your way. Even if your bodies die before He appears to the world for the final time, you will not be lost or forgotten. You will just wait before the gates of eternal light until the archangel's trumpet sounds.
First the archangel's trumpet will sound. The resurrection of the dead from the graves will follow that blast of the heavenly trumpet. The Fearful Judgment of God will follow the resurrection. And following the Fearful Judgment of God-life for the righteous in the eternal kingdom of Christ. Thus was it foretold by the True One. All His prophesies have been fulfilled. This one will be fulfilled also.
The life of the age to come is life in glory and joy, in the kingdom of the Creator, in the embrace of the Father, in Paradise. It is life unswayed by fear, untroubled by worry, unmarred by sickness, immune to decay and death.
All the troubles of life on earth will seem like a drop of salt water in a fresh water river when compared to life in Paradise. "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what the heart of man has not conceived-God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Cor. 2:9). Earthly life is to that life what the shadow of a tree is to a tree. The shadow resembles the tree, but is not the tree. Likewise, the earthly life of man resembles life, but is not true life.
It is like sleep compared to consciousness. When we enter into that life, it will be like awakening from sleep and entering into consciousness, into the kingdom of consciousness. This kingdom of consciousness is the immortal kingdom of God. In it God alone reigns. And in it there is no mixture of falsehood and truth, for all is truth:
no mixture of justice and injustice, for all is justice; no mixture of beauty and ugliness, for all is beauty; no mixture of light and darkness, for all is light;
no mixture of joy and sorrow, for all is joy; no mixture of life and death, for all is life.
This immortal kingdom is called the kingdom of Christ, "eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:11; II Tim. 4:18). For He is the greatest Victor, and He has been given power and glory and authority and lordship and judgment, and a throne above every throne, and majesty above every majesty. He possessed all this in eternity as the Only-begotten Son of God, but He earned all this on earth as a man: by His own humiliation, suffering, and death.
In this kingdom Christ will be surrounded by the followers of Christ, the sufferers who bear the seals of suffering for their Lord and King on themselves. These are the apostles, the prophets and righteous ones of the Old Testament, the martyrs and monastics, the ascetics and cross-bearers, the shepherds and teachers of the Church-all those who were Christ-like. All those, who waged His war and won His victory, will gather around Him together with His angels. Thus shall it be, for thus did He promise when He said: "I shall take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3).
Furthermore, this immortal kingdom is called the "Holy City" and the "New Jerusalem." In its beauty this city will exceed all dreams, all words, all comparisons, all human preconceptions. As for those who are deemed worthy to enter this holy and eternal city, "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, or crying, nor pain any more; for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4). Thus was it proclaimed by the True One, thus was it perceived by the Clairvoyant One. And thus shall it come to pass.
ln this holy city neither sun nor moon nor stars will shine. "And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign to the ages of ages" (Rev. 22:5). Thus was it proclaimed by the True One, thus was it perceived by the Clairvoyant One. And thus shall it come to pass.
Imagine a world, Christ-bearers, where instead of the sun the Most High God himself shines, warms, gives life, and constantly rejuvenates! This is your world, toward which you are journeying. This is your homeland, to which you are returning: an imperishable homeland, where you will also be imperishable. This is the fatherland of the sons of the heavenly Father, of all those who have been adopted as sons of God through the Lord Jesus. And you shall be numbered among them, if you are victorious. Furthermore, this kingdom is called "the kingdom of the saints of the Most High." Just as the clairvoyant prophet foresaw through the veils of time when he stated: "And the kingdom and the dominion and the majesty of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom" (Dan. 7:27). in this kingdom no foreigners rule, only the Father. Nor are the subjects of that kingdom slaves, but rather sons.
A slave does not dare to look a foreign king in the face. But the holy sons of the holy King will look the Most High King in the face freely and joyfully. Everything will be just as it was foretold and told: "And they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Rev. 22:4). Oh delights of delights, Oh treasures of treasures, Oh beauties of beauties-to see the face of the One, Living, and True God!
This is the Paradise for which you have longed. Paradise-this is the name, one of the sweetest names, of that kingdom. Paradise-your homeland, to which you, tired wayfarers, are returning from distant earth, from the field of thorns.
What is the price for all this blessedness, you ask? How does one answer you, inquisitive brothers? If the sun, the moon, and the stars belonged to one of you, and if you gave all this in exchange for that blessedness you will have given nothing. How does one buy eternity with dust? With what perishable treasure does one buy what is imperishable?
Yet there is a hidden, imperishable treasure which every heir of that blessedness carries within himself. He carries it wrapped
in perishable fabric. it is a tiny, flickering flame of love for the Lord God. This little flame of love does not die out with the
death of physical fabric, but lives and glows. Heroic souls heroically protect it, lest shifting winds extinguish it in the course
of the journey. With this flame of love righteous souls are deemed worthy to come out before the face of the living God, clothed
in a resurrected heavenly body. This is the price. For this tiny gift to God, lovers of God will receive as gifts in return the
kingdom, sonship, and eternal life. In a word-Paradise.
This is the faith of the enlightened and persevering. This is not the faith of the darkened and the cowardly, who have hidden themselves from the divine light, or who hear about it with cowardice. Those enlightened by God's Spirit joyfully receive the rays of divine light emanating from that world of reality. They receive them like letters from their homeland, like holy letters from their father. And they answer those letters with heartfelt greetings in reply. From these holy, fatherly letters which are collectively called-the Holy Scriptures-they come to know about the beginning, the middle, and the end of the created world. And they come to know about the origin and destiny of human life. And they come to know about their royal lineage, their present nothingness, and their future glory. This knowledge they confirm with the Tradition of the holy and enlightened fathers, the Tradition which is preserved in the Orthodox Church.
Possessing this knowledge they perseveringly prepare themselves for their entry into the eternal homeland and for their joyful meeting with their heavenly Father. And they help their brothers, their fellow wayfarers, to prepare themselves also. For the heavenly Father is not awaiting the return of one child from a distant land, but many, many millions of children. Who can say how many they number? Their number is like the number of stars in heaven, like the sand on the seashore, like the dust on the earth. This is the population of the heavenly nation, the kingdom of God, which no nation has ever equalled or ever can equal.
Yes, and this is only one part of the population of the immortal nation of God. The other part consists of the innumerable hosts of bodiless angels.
This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your enlightened and persevering forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the blessed end. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the chosen people, of those who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Day of Judgment, when Christ will judge with justice, they shall be taken into the heavenly kingdom and shall be called blessed.
Coming Home - Paradise - Glory.
Vera obrazovanih ljudi
Translated by: Fr. Theodor Mika and Fr. Stevan Scott
© The New Gracanica Metropolitanate
Source: St. Luke's Orthodox Mission