The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven
- The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven by Saint Innocent of Alaska
On several occasions I have attempted to compose an article on Christian
life that would present the essence of what a Christian should know and do
in a concise yet complete and inspirational way. Although many parts of
this topic had previously been thought out and developed, how I could
consolidate all this in a short format eluded me. Then I came upon a
booklet entitled "Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven,"
written by "the Apostle of Alaska" — Saint Innokenty Veniaminov. Having
read it, I understood that I could not write anything better. Everything in
it is excellent: the content, the style, and the form of presentation.
Therefore, I have gladly reprinted his sermon, making therein some minor
Bishop Innokenty (known in the world as Ivan Popov-Veniaminov) was born in
1797 in the village of Achinsk, in the province of Irkutsk in Siberia. Even
in childhood, having lost his father, he grew under God’s special care. He
taught himself to read and write, and by the age of seven he was already
reading the Psalter and the Epistles. The parishioners of his church
convinced his mother to send him to school, and Innokenty was accepted into
the Irkutsk seminary at government expense, graduating from it with
distinction. Having married in 1821, he was then ordained into the
priesthood. In 1823 he was sent as a missionary to Alaska, where he went
with his wife. Here, with great self-denial and success, he preached the
teachings of Christ among the primitive Aleuts. He compiled the first
alphabet and grammar of the Aleut language and translated Holy Scriptures,
sermons and divine services into Aleut. After several years in America,
Innokenty traveled to St. Petersburg to obtain assistance for his
missionary work from the Synod. While there, he was informed of his wife’s
death, whereupon he promptly entered the monastic life. In 1840 he was
consecrated bishop and was assigned to the Kamchatka, Kuril and Aleutian
bishoprics, and his missionary activity grew further. Twenty-eight years
later he was transferred to the cathedral of Moscow as Metropolitan. He
fell asleep in in the Lord in 1879. In February 1994, Metropolitan
Innokenty (Veniaminov) was canonized as a saint at the Joy of All Who
Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco together with Archbishop Nicholas, the
Apostle of Japan. —Bishop Alexander (Mileant), Russian Orthodox Church
We were created to live on earth unlike animals who die and disappear with
time, but with the high purpose to live with God — not for a hundred years
or so — but for eternity!
Every individual instinctively strives for happiness. This desire has been
implanted in our nature by the Creator Himself, and therefore it is not
sinful. But it is important to understand that in this temporary life it is
impossible to find full happiness, because that comes from God and cannot
be attained without Him. Only He, who is the ultimate Good and the source
of all good, can quench our thirst for happiness.
Material things can never wholly satisfy us. Indeed, we know from
experience that every item we have desired has pleased us only for a short
while. Then it became boring, and we started to desire something else. This
process of satisfaction and boredom then repeated itself many times. The
most striking example of unquenchable thirst for happiness was Solomon, the
famous King of Israel, who lived around 1000 B.C. He was so rich that all
the household utensils in his palaces were made of pure gold. He was so
wise that kings and famous people from far away lands came to hear him. He
was so famous that his foes trembled at the mere mention of his name. He
could easily satisfy any of his wishes, and it seemed that there was no
pleasure that he did not possess or could not obtain. But with all of this,
Solomon could not find total happiness to the end of his life. He described
his many years of searching for happiness and his continual disappointments
in the book of Ecclesiastes, which he began with the following phrase:
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecc. 1:2).
Innumerable other wise people who were also successful in life came to the
same conclusion. It seems that in the depth of our subconscious something
reminds us that we are just wanderers on this earth and that our true
happiness is not here but there, in that other and better world known as
Paradise or the Heavenly Kingdom. Let man own the whole world and
everything that is in it, yet all this will interest him for no more than a
short period, while the immortal soul, thirsting for personal communication
with God, will remain unsatisfied.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth in order to return to us
our lost capacity to spend eternity in the blissful presence of God. He
revealed to people that all their evil lies in sin and that no one through
their own efforts can overcome the evil within themselves and attain
communion with God. Sin, ingrained in our nature since the fall, stands
between us and God like a high wall. If the Son of God had not descended to
us through His mercy for us, had not taken on our human nature, and had not
by His death conquered sin, all mankind would have perished for ever! Now,
thanks to Him, those who wish to cleanse themselves from evil can do so and
return to God and obtain eternal bliss in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now we will discuss in detail how you can achieve this aim. We will
Which benefits were granted to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
How Jesus Christ lived on earth and suffered for us.
Which path leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.
How Jesus Christ helps us to walk along the path of salvation.
The Benefits the Lord Jesus Christ Has Granted Us
In order to evaluate the benefits given us by our Lord Jesus Christ, let us
first remember what blessings the first man Adam had while he was sinless,
and what sorrows befell him and all of mankind after his fall into sin.
The first man, having been created in the image and likeness of his
Creator, had the most vital and close relationship with Him and therefore
enjoyed total happiness. God, having created Adam in His image and
likeness, endowed him with many of His qualities. The most important of
these was immortality. God, being all-just, created Adam sinless and pure.
Being all-blessed, He created Adam blessed also, and this blessedness or
beatitude was meant to increase in him day by day.
As the book of Genesis states, Adam lived in the most beautiful garden
(named Eden or Paradise), planted by God, and there he enjoyed all the
blessings of life. He knew no sickness nor suffering. He feared nothing,
and all beasts submitted to him as their master. Adam suffered neither cold
nor heat. Although he toiled by caring for the garden of Eden, he did so
with pleasure. His soul was filled with awareness of the Divine presence,
and he loved his Creator with his whole heart. Adam was always calm and
happy and knew no unpleasantness, sorrow, or concern. All his desires were
pure, righteous, and orderly; his memory, intellect, and all other
faculties were in harmony and were constantly being perfected. Being pure
and innocent, he was always with God and conversed with Him as with his
Father, and in return God loved him as His own beloved son. In brief, Adam
was in Paradise, and Paradise was within him.
If Adam had not sinned, he would have remained forever blessed, and all his
descendants would have enjoyed blessedness. It was for this very purpose
that God had created man. But Adam, having succumbed to the tempter-devil,
transgressed against the law of the Maker and took pleasure in the taste of
the forbidden fruit. When God appeared to Adam right after he had sinned,
Adam, instead of repenting and promising obedience henceforth, began to
justify himself and to blame his wife. Eve in turn blamed the serpent for
everything. And so it was that sin became a part of human nature, deeply
injuring it because of the lack of repentance of Adam and Eve. The existing
communion with the Maker was cut and the blessedness lost. Having lost
Paradise within himself, Adam became unworthy of the external Paradise and
was therefore banished from it.
After the fall into sin, Adam’s soul darkened: his thoughts and desires
became muddled, and his imagination and memory began to cloud. Instead of
peace and joy he met sorrow, agitation, ruination, misery, and woe. He
experienced hard labor, poverty, hunger, and thirst. And after years of
unsurpassed sorrows, sickly old age began to oppress him, and death neared.
Worst of all, the devil, the perpetrator of every evil, obtained through
sin the ability to influence Adam and to further alienate him from God.
The whole of nature, which had previously served Adam as a means to
happiness, had now become hostile to him. From then on Adam and all his
descendants began to suffer from cold and heat and to experience hunger and
the effect of changes in climate and environmental conditions. Animals
became unfriendly toward people and looked upon them as enemy or prey.
Adam’s descendants began to suffer from different diseases, which gradually
became more varied and severe. Men forgot that they were brothers and began
to fight with each other, to hate, to deceive, to attack and to kill each
other. And finally, after all kinds of hard labors and tribulations, they
were doomed to die, and, as sinners, to go to Hades and experience eternal
No man, even the most talented and powerful, nor all of mankind in unison,
could ever restore what Adam lost when he sinned in Eden. What would have
happened to us and to all of mankind if Jesus Christ in His mercy had not
come to redeem us?
But we should all thank our Heavenly Father for taking pity on us. He loves
us far more than we are capable of loving ourselves. And because of His
infinite love, He has sent His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to
rid us from our sins and from the snare of the devil and to lead us into
the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
Through His teachings Jesus Christ scattered the darkness of ignorance and
all possible error and enlightened the world with the light of the true
faith. Now anyone who desires it can come to know the will of God and
attain eternal life.
By His way of life Christ showed us how to live to attain salvation. And He
also assists us constantly in everything good. By His most precious blood
Jesus washed away our sins and made of us children of God, who were slaves
of passions and the devil. Those torments we, as transgressors of the will
of God, would have had to suffer, He bore for us. By His death He crushed
the power of the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and delivered us from
death. By His resurrection He gave us life and opened the gates of Paradise
to all. Therefore, death is no longer an irreversible tragedy but a passage
from this temporary world of vanity and sorrows to the world of bright and
joyous life. By His ascension into heaven Christ glorified our nature,
enabling us to share eternal bliss with the angels and all the heavenly
It is impossible fully to comprehend and to describe all the benefits that
the Lord has prepared for us. Let us just say that all who choose to
believe in Him and to live a Christian life will become sons of God, will
attain Paradise, where the angels and the just reside, and will see God
face to face. They will rejoice with a pure and eternal joy, knowing no
weariness, sadness, or troubles.
It is so wonderful that Jesus Christ gives these benefits not to a chosen
few but to each and every person who desires to receive them! The path to
salvation has been shown and arranged; it has been made as smooth and level
as possible. Besides this, Jesus Himself constantly helps us along the way,
so to speak, leading us by the hand. It only remains for us not to oppose
Him, not to be obstinate, but to surrender ourselves to His will. So you
can see how much Jesus Christ loves us and what great blessings He is
bestowing upon us!
Let us consider for a moment what would happen if Jesus were to appear
before us now and ask: "My children! Do you love Me for all that I have
done for you and do you value those blessings that I bestow upon you?" Who
among us would not answer Him: "Yes, Lord! I love You and am grateful to
If, then, we truly love Jesus Christ with our hearts and not just with our
words, and if we are grateful to Him, are we then not bound to carry out
what He wills for us to do? When a person truly loves his benefactor, he
expresses his gratitude by doing what pleases his benefactor.
How Jesus Christ Lived and Suffered for Us
The basis of life is love: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with
all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your
neighbor as yourself (Mk. 12:30-31). Because of our sinfulness, none of us
is capable of loving God and our neighbors in such a complete and perfect
manner. Only Jesus Christ truly loved everyone, even His enemies.
His infinite love was evidenced in His every word and deed. Being the
only-begotten Son of God and God Himself, Jesus Christ in His pity for us
came down from Heaven and was incarnate, becoming in everything the same as
us, except in sin. Being the Sovereign Heavenly King, before Whom all
Angels and creatures tremble, He deigned to take on the image of an
ordinary person, to restore our corrupted nature. While possessing all the
treasures of the world, He agreed to be born in poverty, lying in a manger
in a dark cave.
Being the supreme Lawgiver, Jesus Christ during His earthly life humbly
submitted to all the decrees and commandments of the Jewish religious law.
Thus, on the eighth day after His birth, He submitted to circumcision, and
on the fortieth day His Mother brought Him into the temple and there paid
the redemption fee for Him, the Ruler of the Universe. As was fitting for a
boy and then later a youth, He always obeyed His earthly Mother and helped
His foster father, the elderly Joseph. Once mature, He treated the Jewish
elders and leaders with respect, as well as the Roman governors, and paid
the required taxes. He willingly lived in poverty and often, while
travelling to preach, had no place to rest His head. Christ, to Whom all
nature submits, Himself served people and even washed the feet of His
disciples, who were uneducated fishermen.
Jesus Christ constantly prayed to His Heavenly Father, even at night when
the others were asleep. On Sabbath days at a synagogue, He took part in the
communal prayers and the reading of the Scriptures, and on the major feast
days He made pilgrimages to the temple at Jerusalem.
With all His love and diligence Jesus fulfilled that commission for which
His Heavenly Father sent Him, directing everything toward His Father’s
glory. He felt pity for all people, especially for the poor and
underprivileged, wished well to everyone, and was willing to bear anything
in order to ease their suffering. He bore all conceivable affronts and
insults from the ungrateful crowd with the greatest meekness, and did not
vent His anger on those who slandered Him and plotted intrigues against
Him. Some who bore Christ ill-will called Him a sinner and lawbreaker;
others called Him a carpenter’s son and a shallow person; still others said
He was a friend of drunkards and sinners. On several occasions Christ’s
enemies attempted to stone Him or toss Him from a mountaintop. Jewish
scribes called His divine teachings deceitful; and when He healed the sick,
raised the dead, or exorcised demons, they explained away these miracles as
the deeds of an evil spirit. Some even openly called Him possessed. The
Lord Jesus, being Almighty God, could have destroyed them all with one
word. Instead, He pitied them as spiritually blind and prayed for their
welfare and for their salvation.
In brief, from His early youth till His very death, Jesus Christ constantly
did good to all people, even when, instead of being grateful to Him, they
caused Him anguish and pain. He was especially hated by the Jewish elders,
high priests, and scribes — whose mission it was to teach the people
goodness and to lead them toward faith. They worked with all their might to
keep the people from believing in Jesus as the God-sent Messiah, distorting
the meaning of the prophecies that predicted His coming. They contradicted
all that He said or did. Jesus did not grieve so much that the Jewish
leaders fought against Him as He did from the fact that they were rushing
blindly toward doom, taking the simple people along with them.
Not long before His death, Jesus worked His greatest miracle: He
resurrected Lazarus, who had already been in the grave for four days and
whose body had started to decompose. This miracle took place in the
presence of a great crowd and made an overwhelming impression on them all.
After this miracle, many of the unbelieving Jews started to believe in
Jesus as the Messiah. But the high priests and the scribes, being envious
of His fame, hastily gathered and decided to put Christ to death without
delay, together with Lazarus whom He had resurrected.
Knowing that the days of His earthly life were drawing to an end, Christ
gathered his disciples in a room near Mount Zion for the mystical last
supper. Here He instituted the Mystery of Holy Communion and gave His last
commandments to the disciples. After that He went to the garden of
Gethsemane, where He experienced His most agonizing inner sufferings. The
anguish was so great that during prayer the sweat on His face became a
sweat of blood. At that moment the soul of the Savior was immersed into a
terrible darkness and horror at the unbearable sins which He was taking
upon Himself. Jesus knew that he had to wash away with His most Holy blood
all the countless transgressions of billions of people, beginning with Adam
and including all future generations. Overwhelmed by the oppression of the
world’s evil, Jesus Christ exclaimed: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful,
even to death" (Matt. 26:38).
No one can truly comprehend what the pure soul of the God-man experienced
in the garden of Gethsemane. You can imagine, however, that all the
loathsome sins of mankind were revealed to Him in all their ugliness and
that the pure soul of the God-man was shocked and depressed by this
terrible sight. Christ knew that His great sufferings and boundless love
would be appreciated by only a few, that the majority of the people would
turn away from Him with indifference, and that some would reject His
teachings and would cruelly persecute those who believed in Him. He foresaw
that among His followers there would be many hypocrites who would turn
faith into a means for profit and that there would be false teachers and
false prophets who would distort His teachings and who, because of pride
and greed, would entice the faithful into harmful sects. He foresaw that
false pastors would appear, who, because of ambition, would create schisms
in the Church. Christ knew not only that many Christians would fail to love
God and live righteously but also that they would give themselves to
heinous crimes and vices, so that by their sins they would even surpass
pagans, and as a result the Christian faith would be scandalized.
In these most trying sufferings, while justice and loyalty to His Father
demanded from Christ that He destroy mankind as ungrateful and criminal,
the feelings of pity and sorrow ultimately stirred Him to accept all
sufferings and death itself to save us sinners from the power of the devil
and from eternal damnation.
While Jesus was still praying, a mob with torches and clubs, along with
some soldiers who were sent by the Jewish elders, came into the garden.
They bound Him and dragged Him, as they would an evildoer, to the high
priest for trial. The Apostles, whom He loved so much and brought so close
to Himself, faintheartedly left Him and fled. Then the leaders and all the
Sanhedrin quickly assembled at the home of the high priest, where they
brought a multitude of the most ridiculous accusations against Christ. None
of these, however, was enough to warrant a sentence of death. The high
priest demanded that Jesus, while He was under oath, state whether or not
He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God. After He affirmed that He was,
the Sanhedrin accused Him of blasphemy and sentenced Him to death. After
this, the members of the council, unable to hold back their hatred of Jesus
any longer, surrounded Him and subjected Him to beatings and all kinds of
The Romans, however, had deprived the Sanhedrin of the power to execute
anyone. So, the next morning, on Friday, the day before the Passover, the
Jewish leaders brought Jesus Christ to a new trial before the Roman
governor Pontius Pilate, hoping that Pilate would affirm their decision.
Pilate, realizing that they were accusing Christ out of envy, wanted to let
Him go. But the high priests and elders threatened that they would complain
about him to the Roman emperor. Not wishing to jeopardize his career,
Pilate decided to address the people who had gathered there. Reminding the
people of the custom to free some prisoner on the eve of the Passover
holiday, Pilate asked them which of the two they would want him to set
free: Barabbas or Christ (Barabbas was a robber who had been imprisoned for
some crime). While the mob of people were talking among themselves, the
Jewish leaders convinced them to ask for Barabbas’ release and to demand
that Christ be crucified on the cross.
The people forgot the innumerable good deeds of Christ: from how many of
them He had exorcised demons, how many He had healed of leprosy, blindness,
weakness and other incurable diseases, how many He had turned from
debauchery to the path of goodness, and to how many of the despairing He
had returned hope.
The Roman soldiers submitted the Lord to scourging and cursing. Finally
they placed on Him a purple cloak and on His head a crown of thorns. Pilate
then brought out the wounded Christ, hoping the people would feel pity and
ask for His release. Instead they began to shout, "Crucify Him! Crucify
Him!" On hearing this, Pilate decided to give up. He halfheartedly washed
his hands as a sign of non-participation in the conviction of an innocent
man, ordered the release of Barabbas, and handed Christ over to the Jewish
leaders for them to dispose of.
The soldiers gave Christ the wooden cross on which He was to be crucified
and ordered Him to carry it to the execution site, known as Golgotha
(meaning "place of the skull"). There they removed His outer clothing and
nailed Him to the cross. Two robbers, one on either side, were crucified
with Him. Thus, in the most humiliating circumstances, as if He were a
great criminal, they executed the One Who with the divine light dispelled
the darkness of fallacies and Who with His boundless love defeated hate!
Dear God! How cruel and blind people can be!
But those who hated Christ could not satisfy their hatred. Even on the
dying Sufferer they piled more curses and with sneers demanded a miracle.
When He asked for water to quench His thirst, they gave Him vinegar. And
thus, deserted by all, wounded, bleeding and suffocating, fatigued by an
unbearable thirst, He, the one who once breathed life into the first man,
died the cruelest of deaths! Even soulless nature recoiled at this crime:
the sun darkened and the earth quaked.
For whom, then, did the Savior of the world suffer? He suffered for all
mankind, for enemies and tormentors, for those who, having received many
benefits from Him, failed to thank Him. He suffered for each and every one
of us, stubborn sinners, who daily sadden Him with our indifference,
ingratitude, hatred, lies, and wicked deeds, and who, by these innumerable
sins, crucify Him again and again.
In order to appreciate more fully the boundless love of Jesus Christ and
the extent of His sacrifice, let us remind ourselves how great He is and
how insignificant we are. Indeed, Christ is the true God, equal to the
Father and the Holy Spirit. He resides in an unreachable world, this all
powerful Creator of the universe, this immortal King before whom bow
countless hosts of angels. He is the undying fountain of life, the Lord of
all that is visible and invisible, the formidable Judge of the living and
the dead. This same Jesus suffered for us sinful and worthless creatures.
Who can comprehend this mystery of Godly Love?
The Path into the Kingdom of Heaven
The road into the Kingdom of Heaven was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, and
He was the first one who travelled it. The Bible teaches that only he who
follows Jesus can reach His Kingdom. But how can one follow Him? Hear what
our Savior says about this: Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mark 8:34).
The words whoever desires mean that Christ does not compel anyone to follow
Him. He has no need of the unwilling ones, but He desires that each person
freely follow Him. Consequently, only those who willingly choose the
Savior’s path reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christian! Your salvation or perdition is entirely in your own hands. In
His unspeakable wisdom and love, the Lord has given you freedom to chose
what you wish, and He does not force you to do anything against your will.
Therefore, if you truly wish to follow Jesus Christ, He will show you the
way into the Kingdom of Heaven and will help you along each step. If you do
not wish to follow Him, it is your decision. But take care not to disdain
the grace of God! Pitying you, Jesus Christ knocks for a long time at the
door of your heart, waiting for your decision to save yourself. But woe to
you if He, tiring of waiting, turns His face away from you, as a hopeless
son or daughter of perdition. Then no one, neither the most powerful and
influential person, nor all the angels in heaven, will be able to help you!
That is why it is extremely important to nourish in ourselves the desire
and resolve to follow the path of salvation. To make this desire grow in us
and strengthen our resolve, we must learn where the path Christ showed us
leads and how to follow it. These questions are of such extreme importance
we will discuss them in detail.
1. First of all, a Christian must thoroughly study the foundations of the
Christian faith. To that end, you must read and reread the Holy Scriptures
on a regular basis, especially the books of the New Testament. You must not
only learn their contents but also develop an interest in their origin, who
wrote them and when, how they were preserved and have been handed down to
us, and why they are called Divine and Sacred. You must study the Holy
Books with simplicity of heart, without prejudice or excessive
inquisitiveness, not trying to discover hidden mysteries but trying to
learn that which leads us to self-improvement. Certainly all that is
necessary for us to know for our salvation is revealed quite clearly and in
detail in the Scriptures.
It is important also to study our God-given faith in detail, since he who
is indifferent toward truth is in danger of becoming easy prey for false
teachers. It is so sad that many Orthodox Christians perish simply because
of their disregard for Christ’s teachings. Having access to the light, they
wander in the dark.
The studying of the faith should conform to your aptitudes and knowledge.
For instance, for the serious student, in addition to studying the
Scriptures, it is also useful to become familiar with the works of the
Church Fathers and with the historical and theological books written by
other Orthodox authors. These books will help you to comprehend your faith
more deeply, which in turn will give you an opportunity to strengthen
others in the Orthodox faith, to whom these books are unavailable.
2. When you become convinced that our Orthodox faith is based on Holy
Scriptures and is not invented by people and that the Holy Scriptures
contain the true word of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit through prophets
and apostles — accept it with all your trusting heart. Believe the Holy
Scriptures without doubt or philosophizing, pushing aside all heretical
explanations. If you humbly accept Christ’s truth, then your faith will
become strong and will lead you to salvation.
3. Finally, try to nourish a diligence in yourself to follow that which is
taught by the Holy Scriptures. But if you do not have such diligence, fall
down before the Savior and with a sincere prayer ask Him to send you a
zealous wish to live according to His commandments. Then, when the grace of
God starts leading you toward salvation, follow it, valiantly repelling the
snares of the devil, who will attempt to detract you from Christ’s path.
To illustrate what was just said about the path into the Kingdom of Heaven,
let’s assume that unexpectedly you became the sole heir of a rich relative.
This relative, before dying, willed his magnificent mansion on the top of a
picturesque mountain to you. Loving solitude, he had not built any roads
but reached his mansion by a trail. In order to help you take possession of
the property, he left you a map of the mountain, indicating the correct
trail on it. The mountain has many other trails, none of which reached the
mansion; some lead to a dead end, and others to a steep cliff. Therefore,
in order to reach your mansion, you have to take the trail indicated by
your loving relative.
Prudence would suggest that, before undertaking such a trip, you should
carefully study the map of the mountain, obtaining all the necessary
supplies for the climb and being prepared to spend the night on the
mountain, if necessary. It would be good to ask a ranger about landmarks on
the mountain and how best to avoid losing your way or straying from the
correct trail. Certainly, being a person with common sense, you would make
all necessary preparations before setting off on this new trail.
Similarly, to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, we should determine which path
leads to it, how not to falter, what we must beware of, etc. Our map is the
Holy Scriptures and other Orthodox books; the rangers are the pastors of
the Church, whose duty it is to help the faithful on their way toward
Paradise. The provisions are the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church,
which reinforce our spiritual strength. Sometimes the path leading to
Paradise may become narrow, steep and overgrown with bushes, whereas other
paths may seem wider and easier to travel. It is very important not to
stray from the correct path. The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles
repeatedly warned that there is but one path that leads to the Kingdom of
Heaven, the one given in the Gospel. All others, especially the wide and
comfortable ones, lead to perdition.
Let us now examine more closely the path indicated to us by our Lord Jesus
Christ. He said: Whoever desires to come after Me must:
Take up his cross
Thus, a follower of Christ must begin by denying himself. This means that
you must disown all bad habits, free your heart from sinful bonds (like
hunger for money, luxury, fame, power over others, etc.), squelch impure
thoughts, harbor no lustful desires, distance yourself from situations
leading to sin, and, in general, do nothing because of stubbornness or ego
but do all for the love of God and with the desire to contribute to the
glory of His Holy Name. In other words, to deny yourself is to be dead
indeed to sin but alive to God, as St. Paul has explained in Rom. 6:11.
Then, it is necessary for a disciple and follower of Christ to take up his
cross. The cross means the various difficulties and sorrows associated with
a Christian life. Crosses may be external as well as internal. To take up
your cross means to tolerate everything without complaining, regardless of
how unpleasant things might become. For example, if someone has insulted
you or laughed at you or provoked you, bear it all without anger or
resentment. Similarly, if you helped someone and he, instead of showing
gratitude, made up deceitful tales about you or if you wante bear it without
despondency. Did some misfortune befall you? Did someone in your family
become ill, or despite all your efforts and tireless labor did you
repeatedly suffer failure? Has some other thing or person oppressed you?
Bear all with patience in the name of Jesus Christ. Do not consider
yourself punished unjustly, but accept everything as your cross.
To bear your cross means not only to accept patiently all difficulties that
befall you but also to strive for spiritual perfection, as the Scriptures
teach us. For example, we must do good to others: work for the prosperity
of your parish, visit the sick and imprisoned, help the needy, collect
money for the poor, and assist in spreading spiritual enlightenment. In
other words, we must seek out tasks which will lead to the salvation and
welfare of those around us and then, with perseverance and meekness, strive
in that direction by our actions, words, prayer, and advice.
Should the prideful thought arise that you are better or smarter than
others, quickly cast it aside because it will undermine all your good
efforts. Blessed is he who carries his cross with prudence and humility,
because God will never allow such a person to perish but will guide and
strengthen him with His Holy Spirit.
In following Jesus Christ, it is not enough to carry only an outward cross.
Indeed, external crosses are borne not only by Christians but by everyone;
there exists no person free from one or more sorrows. He who wishes to
become a true disciple of Christ must also carry his own inner cross.
An inner cross comes more readily than an outer one. In a state of
repentance, you need only direct your thoughts inward to study your soul,
and instantly a multitude of crosses will appear. For instance, reflect on
how you were created and what is the purpose of your life. Are you living
according to Christ’s teaching, are you accomplishing something good, are
you growing spiritually? Meditate about this in some depth, and soon you
will come to realize that you are failing in many important areas. God
created you so that with all your works, life, and being you should
contribute to the spreading of good and the strengthening of His Kingdom.
You, however, have not only failed in this, but, by your sins, you have
rejected and even insulted Christ. Reflect on what awaits you beyond the
grave and on what side you will find yourself at the Last Judgment: with
the righteous or with the evildoers? And if you seriously reflect on all
this, you will naturally become distressed and will regret your many words
and deeds — and these painful feelings and the desire for repentance will
become your inner cross. If you continue attentively to study yourself, you
will find many other inner crosses. For instance, hell, which you have so
carelessly avoided considering until now, will suddenly appear to you as a
very real threat. Paradise, which the Lord has prepared for you and which
has barely crossed your mind, will vividly present itself to you as it
really is: a place of eternal and pure joy from which you have deprived
yourself by your careless way of life.
If, in spite of the inner turmoil brought about by such reflections, you
firmly resolve to repent and amend your ways and, if, instead of consoling
yourself with earthly enjoyments, you diligently pray to the Lord to save
you and you decide to surrender yourself totally to His will, then the Lord
will reveal to you more clearly the state of your soul so that you may be
totally healed. Our problem is that the actual condition of our spiritual
sickness is hidden from us under a thick mantle of self-love and passions.
Only occasionally, thanks to our conscience, do we get a glimpse of our
major and most obvious spiritual wounds.
Usually the devil, knowing how good it is for us to recognize our moral
illness, uses all his wiles to prevent us from doing so and tells us that
all is well and there is no need to worry. But when he sees that we are
really serious about becoming true Christians and with God’s help are on
the way to restoring our spiritual health, then the devil uses craftier
means: he presents to us our internal illnesses in such a hopeless
condition that we become bewildered and despair of our salvation. If the
Lord permitted the devil to use this trick on all of us, few of us would
find the strength to continue the struggle. However, the Lord, as a
knowledgeable physician, protects as from despair. He heals our spiritual
ulcers and encourages us as we heal.
Therefore, as the Lord restores your spiritual sight, you will begin to
comprehend more clearly that your heart is corrupt and that your passions
obstruct your path to God. You will begin to understand also that the
little good you have to your credit so far is damaged by your selfishness
and conceit. Then you will certainly grieve, and you will become frightened
and saddened: frightened because you are in danger of perishing forever,
saddened because you have declined for so long to listen to the gentle
voice of God who was calling you to salvation, and saddened because you
have accomplished so little good.
Although these inner crosses present themselves as burdensome, do not
despair and do not think that the Lord has abandoned you. No! He is always
with you and invisibly sustains you, even when you forget Him. He will not
burden you with trials beyond your capacity. Fear nothing, but with total
humbleness and devotion bear your cross and pray. He is the gentlest of
fathers that could be wished for. If on occasion He allows His faithful
servants to be tempted, it is only to remind them of their feebleness and
to completely cleanse their hearts from pride. In our hearts is where He
intends to reside with His Son and His Holy Spirit.
In time of sorrow do not seek comfort from people. Most people are not
experienced in affairs of salvation and are poor advisors. Make the Lord
your only helpmate, comforter, and tutor, and from Him alone ask help. The
man to whom the Lord sends afflictions is blessed a hundredfold, because it
is afflictions that cure our souls. In enduring sorrows, a Christian is
likened to Jesus Christ, who suffered for us. We should consider sorrows a
gift from the Lord and a sign of His care for our salvation.
If you bear your cross with perseverance and seek comfort only from Him,
then He, through His mercy, will not abandon you but will touch your heart
and will impart to you the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is then that you
will feel an indescribable delight, a wonderful inner peace and joy such as
you have never experienced before, and at the same time you will feel an
influx of spiritual strength; prayer will become easier and your faith
stronger. Then your heart will be kindled with love of God and all people.
All these are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
When the Lord decides to honor you with such gifts, do not consider them as
rewards for your labors, and do not think that you have attained
perfection. Such thoughts come from pride. The comforts and grace of the
Holy Spirit are not rewards but gifts of divine mercy. Occasionally the
Lord allows us to get a foretaste of future blessings so that we will put
forth a greater effort in seeking His eternal Kingdom.
Finally, a disciple of Christ must follow Him. This means that in all deeds
and actions we must try to be like our Lord Jesus Christ in His virtues. We
must strive to live and act as He lived and acted. For example, Jesus
Christ always thanked His Heavenly Father and constantly prayed to Him.
Thus we also should constantly thank God and pray to Him in all
circumstances, whether successful or difficult.
Jesus Christ revered His Mother and submitted to lawful authority. Thus we
also should revere our parents and educators; we too should respect those
in positions of responsibility — provided their requests are not in
conflict with God’s commandments.
Jesus Christ fervently and with love performed the task for which His
Father sent Him. We should also conscientiously and zealously perform the
duties which are laid upon us by God and civil authorities.
Jesus Christ loved everyone and did good to all. So should we love our
neighbor and do good to as many people as possible. Jesus Christ did
everything possible for the salvation of mankind. So must we do good to
others, not sparing our own well-being and time.
Jesus Christ voluntarily suffered and died for us. Therefore we too must
not grumble when some unpleasantness befalls us but be ready to make
sacrifices with humility and devotion to God. Jesus Christ not only forgave
His enemies their ingratitude and animosity but wished them well. So we
also must forgive our enemies, repaying them with good for their evil while
blessing those who revile us.
Jesus Christ, the king of heaven and earth, lived in poverty and obtained
His daily necessities through His own labor. So we also must be industrious
and content with what God has given us and not be consumed with desire for
riches for their own sake. In the words of the Savior: It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).
Jesus Christ, being meek and humble of heart, never strove for adulation
but directed all toward the glory of His Father. We also must not parade
ourselves or seek recognition. For instance, do you help your neighbors, do
you give alms, do you live more piously than those around you, are you
wiser than your friends, or are you in some way above others? Do not brag
about it. Remember that all your praiseworthy attributes are not yours but
gifts of God. Yours are the weaknesses, mistakes and sins.
Following Jesus Christ means accepting with faith and submitting to all
that Christ taught without question and with simplicity of heart. He who
accepts Jesus Christ’s words becomes His disciple, but he who fulfills His
commandments with complete devotion becomes His true and devoted follower.
This is the meaning of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and
following Jesus Christ. This is the only straight path into the Kingdom of
Heaven. Christ walked this path and calls us to follow Him. There never was
and never will be any other path to salvation but this one, shown to us by
Jesus! To the beginner this path may seem too narrow and steep. But it
seems this way only because our understanding of divine blessings and
happiness has become distorted. Many of us regard the bitter as sweet and
the sweet as bitter. However, as we come closer to God, much of what seemed
difficult or bitter before will become easy or sweet, and what seemed to
please before will come to seem boring and harmful.
Of course, there will be trying periods in our life when the path of
ascension toward God will seem exceptionally difficult. Then we should
think that for every step taken there are a thousand rewards being
prepared. Sufferings along this path are momentary, but the rewards are
eternal. Therefore, do not fear the path of Christ, for a smooth and wide
path ends in hell, but a thorny and narrow one leads to Heaven.
Why did God not make the path to the Kingdom of Heaven light and pleasant?
Only God knows. Who would question His divine wisdom? He saw that the
narrow path is what we need! We who are below see only bits and pieces, but
He, Who is above all creation, sees our lives from the standpoint of
eternity. However, though not completely understanding the plans of our
Creator, let us consider the following:
1. The Kingdom of Heaven is the highest beatitude and inexhaustible wealth.
If great efforts are necessary to obtain meager and temporary earthly
advantages, then how can it be possible to obtain such a great and eternal
treasure without any effort?
2. The Kingdom of Heaven is the most coveted reward. Where else are rewards
given freely and for nothing? If we struggle to get temporary benefits, so
much more should we struggle to obtain the eternal reward.
3. We must bear our cross because we want to be with Christ and to
participate in His glory. If Jesus Christ, our Master and Teacher, gained
heavenly glory through suffering, would it not be shameful for us to share
His glory when we faintheartedly shun any trials or sorrows?
4. Besides, lifelong crosses are not the lot of Christians alone. Everyone
carries their own cross, both Christians and non-Christians, believers and
pagans. The difference is that for some, their crosses serve as a means of
attaining the Kingdom of Heaven, while for the others they bring no such
value. For the Christian, the cross gradually becomes lighter and more
joyful, while for the nonbeliever it becomes heavier and more burdensome.
Why is this so? Because where the one carries their cross with faith and
devotion to God, the other carries it with grumbling and anger.
Therefore, Christian, do not shun your lifelong cross, but, on the
contrary, thank Jesus Christ that He honored you to follow and imitate Him.
If Christ had not suffered and died, then none of us, no matter how much we
suffered and struggled, would enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for then we
would have had to suffer as slaves, and slaves deserve no rewards. Now,
however, we suffer as sons for our own salvation. O merciful Lord! How
great is Thy love for us. How great are Thy benefits to us. Thou bendest
evil itself for our benefit and salvation!
Christian! Gratitude alone to Jesus Christ, your benefactor, obliges you to
follow Him. Christ came down to earth for you. Can it be possible that you
would prefer some worldly thing to Him? For you Jesus drank the cup full of
suffering; can it be that you would refuse to suffer a little for Him?
5. Jesus Christ redeemed us by His death, and, therefore, by the right of
redemption we belong to Him and must do all that He wills. Christ wills
only one thing: that we should attain eternal bliss.
6. Finally, we cannot avoid the narrow path into the Kingdom of Heaven,
since every man has sins and sin in itself is an ulcer that cannot be cured
without strong medicine. Suffering is the medicine with which God cures our
souls. When somebody is ill, then, regardless of his surroundings — even
though he is in the most magnificent of palaces — he will still suffer.
Such is the fate of every sinner; no matter where he settles, even in
Paradise itself, he will suffer because the elements of hell reside within
him. Similarly, a righteous person can be as happy in a shack as in a
palace. When our heart is filled with the Holy Spirit, wherever we may find
ourselves, there we will always feel joy, since Paradise is within us.
And so, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, you cannot
bypass the path taken by Jesus Christ. Indeed, all the prophets, the
Apostles, the martyrs, the saints and countless other righteous ones walked
along this path. There is no other.
Some might object, saying, how can we who are sinful and weak be like Jesus
Christ or the saints! We live in the secular world and have families and
many responsibilities. Oh, brethren! This is a cunning excuse and an insult
to our Creator. To justify our carelessness by such reasoning means to
accuse our Maker of being unable to create us properly. After all, the
saints, like us, were not sinless at first but participated in worldly
affairs, labored and had various obligations and families to care about.
Surely they were not perfect in everything. They had their share of
temptations and low moments. Notwithstanding this, living in circumstances
similar to ours and having their ups and downs, they steered toward the
main objective of their life: the Kingdom of Heaven. Undoubtedly, we also,
if we truly desire to, can be good citizens, faithful spouses, loving
parents, and simultaneously good Christians. Our faith will not be an
obstacle but, on the contrary, will aid all our good undertakings. The
essence of Christianity is pure and selfless love, which is inspired by the
Therefore, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, follow
the path which Jesus Christ took, and He, the all-merciful one, will help
you every step of the way.
How Jesus Christ Helps Us
While walking the path of Christ, you should not rely only on yourself. If
Jesus Christ, our Great Benefactor, had not given us help every step of the
way, no one could have reached salvation. Even the Apostles, when left to
themselves, were unable to follow Jesus and faintheartedly dispersed. But
when on Pentecost they received help from above, they joyfully followed His
path, and then neither dangers nor difficulties nor death itself could
What is this help given by Jesus Christ to Christians? This help is the
Grace of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace surrounds us, and with it the Lord
draws us to Himself. All who wish can receive this help and become filled
The Holy Spirit, being God, equal to the Father and the Son, is the source
of life and strength. He gives to believers wisdom, inner peace and
inspiration, not according to their merits but for Jesus Christ’s sake. How
the Holy Spirit helps us, what are His gifts, and how one should attract
His Grace will now be explained in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
1. When descending upon a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives him faith and
light. No one can have a true living faith without the Holy Spirit. Even a
person most learned in Scriptures is totally blind without His
enlightenment. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit can make even the lowest
simpleton wise and disclose God’s mysteries to them.
2. Descending upon a Christian, the Holy Spirit brings true love which
warms his heart. This love inspires a person to do good deeds, so that for
him there is nothing impossible or terrifying anymore. God’s commandments,
which appeared to be difficult before, now become easy. Faith and love,
gifts from the Holy Spirit, are such powerful means that the person
possessing them can easily and joyfully follow the path of Jesus Christ.
3. The Holy Spirit corrects a worldly outlook and attitude, so that a
Christian is no longer overwhelmed by the temptations of this passing
world. Gratefully using what God has bestowed, a true Christian does not
become attached to anything temporary but considers himself a stranger in
this world and wishes most of all to be in contact with God. On the other
hand, a person without the grace of the Holy Spirit, despite all his
learning and capabilities, always remains a worshiper of the world and a
slave of the flesh.
4. The Holy Spirit gives a Christian wisdom. This is illustrated very
obviously in the case of the Holy Apostles. Because of their low social
position, they were the most simple and unlearned of men. However, after
the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them on the day of Pentecost, they
received such wisdom and power of speech that even philosophers and orators
could not stand up to them. The Holy Spirit always teaches Christians what
they must do, and when and how they should act. Thus guided by the Holy
Spirit, they will always find the time and the means for the salvation of
their soul. Amid all the turmoils of the world and in spite of being busy,
they will be able to collect their inner self to be with and pray to God. A
non-spiritual person, on the other hand, cannot focus or pray sincerely,
even in church.
5. The Holy Spirit gives Christians true joy and undisturbable peace. They
feel this peace and joy even during external difficulties and in times of
trial. People, on the other hand, who do not have the Holy Spirit, can
never truly rejoice or attain inner peace. When they enjoy themselves, they
find their joy is transient, frivolous and pitiful, and on occasion even
sinful. After their revelry, a boredom greater than ever before fills their
heart. Similarly, when a non-spiritual person feels tranquillity, this is
not a true spiritual peace but a sort of dozing or apathy. Woe to the
people who do not awaken in time and do not start being concerned with the
salvation of their soul! They will remain spiritually dead even while alive
6. The Holy Spirit gives true humility. Even the most intelligent people,
if they do not possess the Holy Spirit, cannot know themselves well enough,
because their internal illness and spiritual poverty are hidden from them.
When they do something good or act honestly, they become haughty, look down
on others, and even judge those who in their opinion are inferior to them.
Through their own blindness, many self-satisfied falsely righteous ones did
not ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and strengthening, and consequently,
perished. The Holy Spirit always comes to those who ask for enlightenment
and help. As a bright ray of sun penetrates the darkness, enhancing the
smallest details found within, so does the Holy Spirit, having descended
upon people, disclose to them all the weakness and wretchedness of their
soul. Enlightened by the Heavenly light, Christians can no longer boast
about their good works, because they realize their soul needs healing and
complete renewal. This realization makes them more humble, and they begin
to repent and decide to live more carefully. They stop relying on
themselves and ask God for guidance and help.
7. The Holy Spirit grants true fervent prayer. Until they receive the Holy
Spirit, people cannot pray in a manner truly pleasing to God because they
cannot control their scattered thoughts and feelings. Christians in whom
the Holy Spirit resides, however, vividly feel the presence of God; their
prayer flows evenly, and they know how and for what to ask God. In this
inspired state, they can beseech God for anything, even the seemingly
This is a short list of the most needed gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In summary, it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or even come
close to it without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should
implore the Holy Spirit with all earnestness to come dwell in us and help
us, just as He helped the Holy Apostles. In order for the Holy Spirit to be
kind toward us, to descend and reside within us, it is important to know
what draws Him to us and what pushes Him away.
Jesus Christ said that the Holy Spirit blows where it wills and you hear
the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes (Jn.
3:8). This means that a person cannot force the Holy Spirit to come to him
or predict the time when He may decide to do so. You can only feel His
touch when this happens. Indeed, the book of Acts states that when the Holy
Apostles and other Christians received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was
always unexpectedly. He seldom descends immediately on those beseeching Him
but does so when it suits Him, as God, to do so. No one should attempt to
foretell when or what gifts, if any, he will receive or to consider himself
worthy of His descent! The Grace of the Holy Spirit is a gift of His
endless mercy. And gifts by definition are given when it suits the giver,
and only those deemed suitable by the giver.
It is the Holy Spirit Himself Who established within the Church the means
of distributing His blessings to the faithful: the Holy Mysteries and other
liturgical services. Non-Orthodox Christians are sadly mistaken when they
assert that they can always, whenever it suits them, receive the Holy
Spirit through well-known means (which are unfortunately also used during
spiritual seances and pagan mysteries). Those who dare to orchestrate these
means will not only remain empty of the divine gifts but also commit a
terrible sin against the Holy Spirit.
Anyone who considers asking the Holy Spirit for beneficial gifts must know
that these gifts are meant only for those who possess true faith. Indeed,
the Lord first of all enlightened the Apostles with the true doctrine and
then bestowed upon them the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the Apostles did not
bestow beneficial gifts upon newly baptized Christians immediately, but
only after a certain period of testing and affirmation in the true faith.
That is why the Lord called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth, and His
Church, the beatified community of the faithful, is called in Scripture the
pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
Therefore, when a Christian, humbly and obediently, has accepted Christ’s
faith in all its purity, without any corrections or misinterpretations,
then the following are the requirements to receive the gifts of the Holy
Purity of heart and chastity
Listening to the voice of God
Reading the Holy Scriptures
Sacraments of the Church, especially Holy Communion
To receive gifts from the Holy Spirit, you must, first of all, cleanse your
heart of sin, self-love, and pride. The Holy Spirit always surrounds us and
wishes to fill us, but the evil nesting within us, like a wall, impedes His
path. Any sin keeps the Holy Spirit away from us, but carnal impurity and
pride are especially offensive to Him. So, if we do not want the Holy
Spirit, Whom we received in Baptism, to depart from us, or if we have
pushed Him away through our sinful life and now want Him to return, here is
what we must do:
1. Cleanse yourself with repentance and sincere confession. Then shun all
sinful thoughts and wishes. In view of the terrible lewdness of
contemporary society, a Christian must protect himself from all that may
pollute his soul and keep his flesh from lustfulness. Indeed, our body was
designed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. When a person is clean
internally and externally, the Holy Spirit settles within him. In the
presence of chastity, the only obstacle for the Holy Spirit is your pride
in your righteousness and your regard of His gifts as your just reward. If
you have unfortunately defiled yourself, then stop sinning and repent. With
a contrite heart regret that you have offended God, your most loving
Father, and strive to live with greater vigilance. Then even you will be
able to receive the Holy Spirit.
2. One of the surest ways of attracting the Holy Spirit is by humility.
Even if you are an honest, just, good, and merciful man, in a word, even
though you may have achieved much goodness, keep considering yourself as an
unworthy servant of God. Indeed, if we examine our good works more closely,
we will see that none of them are completely beyond reproach. For example,
if we give alms or help someone, how often do we add conceited, regretful,
self-interested, judgmental, or other such unkind thoughts to our alms or
help. Of course, every good deed always remains good, even when it is
imperfect. It can be likened to gold which has value even before it is
purified. But as gold becomes more precious when an experienced craftsman
purifies and works it, so let us entrust our good deeds to the Heavenly
Master that He will make them even more valuable.
Thus, if you wish your good deeds to please God, do not boast about them.
You are not the master but only an apprentice. As craftsmanship gives value
to gold, so a pure and unselfish Christian love, which stems from the Holy
Spirit, gives value to our good deeds. Everything that is done without
Christian love, i.e., without the Holy Spirit, is not yet a fully valued
good deed. Without the Holy Spirit a person remains poor and pitiful.
But humility consists not only of realizing your unworthiness but also of
bearing the various sorrows and adversities of life with patience and
without grumbling, considering them as sent or allowed by God for our
benefit. Do not say, "How unfortunate I am!" But say, "I deserve a still
greater punishment for my sins!" And ask God not so much to deliver you
from adversities as to give you patience and courage to bear them.
3. The Holy Spirit can also be received by listening attentively to the
voice of God. God speaks to us by means of the internal voice of our
conscience and through external circumstances. It is very important to
develop sensitivity in order to hear more clearly what God suggests to us.
He, as a most loving Father, cares for you. Daily He calls you to Himself,
warns you and enlightens you. For instance, are you unhappy, has someone
offended you, has misfortune befallen you, or are you ill? In these you can
hear the voice of God, calling you to repent and improve. In time of
sorrow, instead of seeking help from others or consoling yourself by
frivolous distractions and amusements, turn to God and seek guidance and
help from Him alone.
Or suppose that you are prospering and living well and that everything
flows smoothly. Consider this also to be the voice of God. Here God teaches
you to be as merciful to those in need as He is merciful to you. It is
dangerous and sinful to ignore the voice of God, to remain unrepentant and
unimproved during times of hardship, to fail to thank God, or not to help
others when you have plenty. Even more ruinous is to do the opposite of
that to which God is leading us: to grumble and become embittered in
difficult circumstances or to forget God and live only for pleasure in
fortunate surroundings. What might then result is that God, after repeated
teachings, will turn away from you as from a stubborn child and will
abandon you to your own desires. Then passions will easily overcome you,
your intellect and conscience will become dulled, and you might reach a
point at which you will justify even your vilest crimes as natural and
common human weakness. In order to avoid such a fall, it is necessary to
become sensitive to the voice of God in the Holy Spirit and to follow His
4. The Holy Spirit can be received through prayer. Prayer is the simplest,
surest, and most available means to receive the Holy Spirit. Because we are
composed of body and soul, they both should participate in prayer. The
primary elements of prayer are concentration and sincerity, which are
attained by inner effort. Nevertheless, the body should not remain
uninvolved; it can and must assist the soul in prayer by standing in
reverence, making prostrations, making the sign of the cross, raising the
hands, and reading the prayers aloud. Other favorable external conditions
also help in prayer: solitude, silence, ikons with burning lampadas before
them, incense, and when in church, church art and architecture along with
soft and harmonious singing, beautiful ceremonies, etc.
But to achieve concentration and warmth during prayer is not easy. Here,
first of all, it is important to establish a regular time for prayer (for
instance, mornings and evenings), and to develop stability and patience.
You should constantly overcome haste, distraction, indifference and
insincerity. In addition, you must strive to warm your heart with love for
God. Only a sincere prayer brings comfort and peace to the heart. Much
effort is necessary in order to learn to pray properly, and, as we well
know, all the righteous ones strove throughout their lives to learn the art
of prayer. Nevertheless, your personal effort is not enough. It is the Holy
Spirit who makes our prayer to be fervent and to come from the bottom of
our heart. This was well known to the saints who, inspired by the Holy
Spirit, stood day and night in prayer in sweet rapture, failing the while
to notice the time fleeting away.
Pray even though at first your prayer may be weak and imperfect because of
your sinfulness and estrangement from God. Pray with diligence and fervor;
train yourself to be sincere in your conversation with God. Thus, little by
little you will learn to pray and will start to feel a sweet comfort. The
Holy Spirit will have mercy on you and will come and reside in you if you
show faithfulness in your efforts at prayer.
The Holy Scripture teaches: Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). How is
this possible for people living in a secular world? If you are to pray all
the time, how then are you to perform your other duties? The advice of
perpetual prayer is directed not toward outward but toward inner prayer. If
desired, you can turn to God internally whether you are alone or with
others. Only he who does not want to pray wmercy aid prayer. The Fathers of the Church
recommend: If you want your prayer to fly up to God, th<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)