by Bishop Alexander (Mileant). Translated by Dimitry Baranov/ Irina Guzel NabBarrett
Where Shall We Seek the Kingdom of God?
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 ).
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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"
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.
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 deepinside 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
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
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
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
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...
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