OrthodoxPhotos.com
HOME | PHOTOS:
Holy Fathers
Orthodox Elders
Athonite Hermits
Holy Relics
Icons & Frescoes
Holy Land
Monasteries, Churches
Pascha Holy Light
Monasticism
Monastic Obedience
Various Photos
SEARCH:
THE ORTHODOX FAITH:
What's Orthodoxy?
Who started it?
Is it 2000 year old,
before catholicism
and protestantism?

BYZANTINE HYMNS:
Athos Monks[play]
Meteora[play]
Th. Vassilikos[play]
EXTERNAL LINKS:
Orthodox Prayer Ropes
The Jesus Prayer & the Orthodox Prayer Rope (resources)

hosted by chotki.com
Thoughts about the Kingdom of God, or the Church
by Bishop Alexander (Mileant). Translated by Dimitry Baranov/ Irina Guzel NabBarrett

Where Shall We Seek the Kingdom of God?

"Thy kingdom come!"

Reading the Gospel we cannot but notice that it often speaks about the Kingdom of God. Christ's many dialogues and parables are aimed at revealing the nature, attributes and purpose of the Kingdom of God. This was so obvious to contemporaries that they called His whole teaching activity as "preaching the good news of the Kingdom" (Matthew 4:23).

But what does this title imply? Does it signify future life after death, which comes upon resurrection of the dead? Or, maybe, it stands for man's present spiritual condition, his readiness for communication with God? Does it imply a society built in accordance with the evangelical principles? Or the universal, one-thousand-year-long reign of the saints described in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20:4)?

The word "Kingdom" itself presumes quite an extensive and complex social structure: a state, an empire. Now, if everything that exists ensues from God (as there is nothing existing that was not created by Him), then the Kingdom of God is, in principle and by design, the entire world of God, the immense universe, which includes all things visible and invisible! This seems to be a correct statement.

But if we know that God is infinitely good and just, where does all this discord come from? All those calamities and disasters, myriads of evils: crimes, acts of violence and injustice, diseases and deaths, which we see everywhere? Why is it that what must happen does not match what actually happens?

"It is because of sin and disobedience to God, because of conscious resistance to Him," explains the Holy Scripture.

It is the gift of freedom granted to people (and angels) by the Creator, that presupposes the ability to infringe His will and laws, bring disharmony to the beauty and order that should have existed throughout the universe. The freedom of will is like fire, which a savage can use to cook his food and warm up his dwelling in cold weather or to burn down the forest and maybe himself perishing in that fire.

In principle, God could have "programmed" us to do good only, cause no harm to others and ourselves, and act only as predestined: eat, sleep, multiply... But in this case we would have been robots or animals, driven by natural instincts, rather than the free-spirit beings. We would be spiritually defective and, moreover, deprived of the very possibility of the delight resulting from creative work, inspiration, spiritual growth and free-will acts of charity and love. God created plenty of beings without moral freedom, which live by the physical laws alone, though; but they were just a preparatory stage before the making of man, for whose sake God created our physical world.

In His incomprehensible love, God did not make men as blindly submissive "mechanisms," but created us as free "children", capable of conscious love and longing for Him as their Prototype and Ideal. God granted man with great spiritual gifts, settled him in the sweet paradise, let him rule over all creatures and gave him the tree of life so that he would always be healthy, could perfect himself and enjoy life. What honor and grace! And what should be the gratitude of the people that dwelled in Eden!

But we are aware of the tragedy that happened: the savage learnt how to make fire, and burnt down the forest. Luckily, he did not burn it all and forever!

We would not retell here the details of the mankind's spiritual catastrophe described in Chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. It is important to remember that due to that tragedy all people are born morally defective and predisposed to sin. The original sin is like a biological damage of a cell, which passes from parents to children.

The tragedy of mankind is that people, with all their good intentions and efforts, cannot cure the spiritual rot, which has its roots very deep in our spiritual and physical self.

By the mercy of God, neither our earth, nor the hell — this gloomy abode of evil, which demons set up for themselves, — has spread throughout the Kingdom of God. They are more like separate "islands," "quarantine wards," or darker spots on the immensely great Kingdom of Light and Good. Peace and harmony reign everywhere, and especially in the angelic world. Everyone rejoices in the life-giving light of the Creator, thanking Him for His never-ending goodness.

But murmurs, groans and cursing are heard in our society, which has fallen away from the Creator. People deceive and offend each other, "a man has become a wolf to his fellow man." Sometimes it seems that spiritual darkness would absorb our world, making a real hell out of it.

But this will never happen! We know, and it has been promised to us by the Savior, that the evil will be permitted only until certain time. Coming to our world for the second time, the Son of God shall raise all people. Then all conscious evildoers, rapists and malefactors, all who hated the light and were happy about the evil, will be thrown to the fiery Gehenna, along with demons. The world will be fully renewed then. All those who lived by the Gospel, loved good, sought for truth, suffered without guilt, avoided lies and violence, will be "saved," which means that they will be re-united with the rest of the Kingdom of God. It will be the joy inexplicable.

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, writes the Apostle Paul in the Book of Revelation: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away... And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city (new Jerusalem) had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb (Son of God) is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it... And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations... And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light" (see Revelation 21-22).

The nature of that world is so much different from our physical universe that the author runs short of words describing it. It is however clear that this is the most beautiful world, and just the understanding of a condemned sinner that he would never get there seems to be his most painful torture.

That is why the Gospel is insistently calling everyone to take all efforts, and sacrifice anything including this temporal life itself, in order to make it into the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is our true fatherland, while this world in its present state is alien to God, and thus must be alien to us as well.

Significance of Penance.

When the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, came into the world, He found it in the most miserable condition. "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19). Wickedness, in the forms of spiritual ignorance and harsh morals, deprivation of rights of the weak, brazen profligacy of the rich, violence and vulgarity, beastly stupefaction of the mob, reckless and insolent orgies of mean passions, was commonplace and considered a norm. That is why spiritual regeneration of people by enlightenment of their minds and correcting their morals became the Savior's main work.

Jesus seems to have been saying, "You people, suffering under the burden of untruth and lawlessness! The life you made for yourselves cannot give you the happiness you seek. But if you want to reach it, then repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

"Repent" is the first call of the Gospel. Repentance is the primary condition for the possibility to receive the Kingdom of God. The Russian word "repent" is insufficient to render the original notion; "metanoi´te" of the authentic text means change your way of thinking, your attitude to life and your entire system of values.

This call for repentance supposes that another life is possible and realizable in the world; a life, different than that which people live, groaning under its burden. Delusion, love for self, malice and chaotic stream of low instincts are not unbreakable chains. Better, noble and holy volitions exist along with them in a man, at least in a latent and potential form: love of the truth, compassion, fraternity, vague longing for righteousness. If one would not lose them but let them open and blossom, then one's inner world will glow with heavenly light; the life will change beyond recognition: peace, righteousness and charity will dwell in one's heart, replacing vicious and shameful desires.

The process of inner renewal of a man is very individual. It may be instantaneous or gradual. Everything depends on the sincerity and the effort of will, which a man takes in turning toward Christ. People that are "readily available" today are not fit for the Kingdom of God; they have to change radically, re-value the basics of their thinking, wishes and ambitions, and start out a new life: in a word, they have to imbibe the spirit of the teaching of Christ and seek to imitate Him.

But sincere desire only is not enough either: the prolonged moral malady has undermined our spiritual powers, and the goodwill itself became shaky and faded. An inflow of fresh spiritual powers is required for a fundamental change and complete turn of life toward the Kingdom of God. Man needs to be born for the second time: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:1-3). Such birth for spiritual life is given through the Holy Ghost, and the baptismal waters convey His power.

Significance of Grace.

The grace of God is the primary source of all spiritual powers and abilities. It is like the Sun that gives our world light and heat.

Having fallen from God through sin, people lost His vivifying power and died spiritually. Christ came to the world to return to us the fellowship with God, and with it our lost lives. This is why turning to Jesus is compared to rising from the dead: the Savior said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God [the proclamation of the Gospel], and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

Grace penetrates into a sinner's heart and makes the misery and damage of his soul manifest to his consciousness. All of a sudden, as though awoken from sleeping, he begins to realize how tragic his condition is, fear for his eternal lot, and care for deliverance and salvation. He used to be blind to salvation, senseless and careless; now, he can see, has sense and takes care. But this is not a change yet; it is an opportunity and call for a change only. It is grace knocking at the heart of a sinner, saying, "Look where you walked into, and take pains to be rescued." Should he wake to this call and note the warning, he will do himself good; should he not, he will be abandoned and will plunge into his heavy sleep.

Self-dissatisfaction and pursuit of loftier things are common repentant feelings incited by the grace of God. Man becomes discontented with everything that surrounds, his advantages and possessions, even though he might be very rich.

The words "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit." (John 3:3) denote the graceful regeneration of a man in the water of Baptism and receipt of the grace of the Holy Spirit through Chrismation. Other spiritual means, instituted by the Savior, and the Sacraments of Penance and Communion in particular, are designed to confirm and strengthen the power of our spirit. Our home and church prayers, Christian austerities and good-doing are helpful in achieving these ends. Special attention should be given to the prayer of the heart, as it draws the grace of God to us and transforms us into the temple of the Holy Ghost.

Grace helps man see the misery and paltriness of everything worldly, and warms his heart with affectionate love for God. Bit by bit, man begins to perceive fellowship with God as his most valuable treasure.

Zeal and enthusiasm in grasping spiritual things are characteristic of indwelling of the Kingdom of God in a man's soul. "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled," said the Savior (Luke 12:49). As flame engulfs the entire building during a fire, so much the spiritual flame must capture the entire nature of a Christian: his thoughts, interests, feelings, desires, his whole activity. But there is a danger of losing the fellowship with God. "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19), be "not slothful in business; [but be] fervent in spirit," warns the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:11).

The good disposition is put into us through God's special suggestion, and in a like way it provides us help in doing good things. What depends on us is the greater or lesser readiness in obeying God's suggestion and accepting His help. We deserve punishment or reward by being slothful or reverently obedient in following God's will in our life.

The process of spiritual renewal occurs deep inside a man, and this is why it reads that "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21). Every effort should be taken to secure this Kingdom inside ourselves: "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," (Matthew 6:33) says the Savior. He does not say, "seek ye only the Kingdom of God and his righteousness" but "seek ye first," meaning that care about the Kingdom of God, longing for righteousness in life should be the priorities of our consciousness.

The enemy of our salvation is taking every attempt to distract us from these priorities, throwing in a variety of 'urgent' and 'important' tasks. Warning us against the new slavery of materialism, the Lord said, "take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:31-32). Material goods can satisfy only people with dormant morality. For the sons of the Kingdom of God, the outward world with all its conveniences can be exclusively instrumental for achieving the main goal, which is beyond it.

Who the Kingdom Appeals to?

It has already been said that, in today's conditions, the Kingdom of God is not as much realized in outward social improvements as in the inward betterment it makes in people. The Kingdom of God is especially close to those oppressed by this world of vulgarity and cruelty, languished under their own sins and imperfections, gasping in the surrounding atmosphere of lies and untruth, and longing for the triumph of good and truth.

Should some one have thirst for spiritual renewal, the Kingdom of God will come for him. Should a nation have this thirst, then the Kingdom of God will come for this nation. But for him who is self-satisfied and happy about the existing world, who cannot understand and ridicules the longing for the ideal, who is not worried by falsehood and lawbreaking, who despises purity and unselfishness, who dreams of riches and pursues the worldly joys and bodily pleasures, for him the Kingdom of God is a strange and unwanted teaching.

The Kingdom of God is not to triumph in this world. It is the "strait gate and narrow way" that few can find. It is not a completed "building" but one under construction. But still it is a fairly real thing that has been fulfilling in the world since the day the Savior came to earth. It always grows and spreads out, attracts and absorbs spiritually sensitive people from all walks of society, all nations and all stages of development. It is an organization (association) of individuals, thoughts, powers, writings, outward transformations and occurrences, guided by God and developed by the invisible power of His grace. The Kingdom of God is a new, righteous life, built upon the faith in the Savior and acceptance of His teaching.

Complete and manifest triumph of the Kingdom of God will only happen after the Second Coming of Christ, when the community of the righteous merges with the angel world to become the Kingdom of Heaven. But now it can only occur, partially and incompletely, in the hearts of the faithful, by the degree of their spiritual advancement.

However, the wholesome results or "fruit" of this Kingdom has been evident in the history of humankind after the Nativity of Christ: abolition of slavery, correction of morals, overcoming of brutality and depravity, humanization of legislation, dying out of superstitions, greater respect to personality, improvement of all arts — literature, painting, architecture, music...

Conclusion.

The Savior's entire life and teaching were aimed at laying new, spiritual foundations in a human life: pure faith, living charity and love for God, striving for moral improvement and sanctity. It is on these foundations that we should build our religious mindset and our whole life.

Building our lives upon the commandments of Christ, we soothe ourselves by thinking that the Kingdom of God shall certainly triumph, and the promised peace, justice, joy and everlasting life shall come to the renewed Earth. We pray that God makes us worthy to inherit His Kingdom!

So even here, under the vaults of the martyrs' tombs, some sorrowful sighs dissolved in the joyful anthem of the victorious faith. Watching the beginning daybreak of the Good News over the world, Christians forget their own woes and misfortunes. We have to remind ourselves that "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."

May Thy kingdom come to us, O Lord!

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

Go to the home page





[ Orthodox Resources / Multimedia / Screen Savers ]
[ Feedback / Donations / Bookmark OrthodoxPhotos.com / Homepage ]

Recommended books for: orthodox & non-orthodox people





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Copyright © 2003 - 2012 OrthodoxPhotos.com All rights reserved.
by Way2Blogging