The Lord concludes His Sermon
on the Mount by likening life to the construction of a house; He demonstrates
how a virtuous life makes a person stand firm against the inevitable trials of
life and how a casual way of life, by contrast, weakens the spiritual strength
of a person, making him an easy prey of temptations.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of
mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house
upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And
every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be
likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain
descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell: and great was the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus had
ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught
them as one having authority, and not as the scribes"(Mat. -29).
In the given passage, the comparison of a personís life to a house was very
understandable to those living in the Holy Land. This
country is for the most part mountainous. Sudden torrential rains can fill the
usually dry mountain streams and rivers with turbulent streams of water, which
rush toward the valley, taking everything in its path with it. No building
lying in the path of the flood can then withstand the pressure of the water,
especially if the foundation under it is sandy. For this reason, prudent people
always built their houses on rocky bases, which were also high enough to be
above the level of the rainy floods.
In human life, different "storms" are completely inevitable. These
are to be understood as: fires, earthquakes, oppression, incurable diseases, deaths of loved ones and similar ills, which always come
without warning and rock human life to the core. In an instant, one can lose
oneís health, family, happiness, riches, spiritual balance ó everything. During
such a storm, the loss of faith, despair or grumbling against God is the fall
of a person.
There are internal upheavals inevitable in human life which can be more
dangerous than physical storms: the raging of passions, difficult temptations,
torturous doubts in questions of faith, attacks of anger, jealousy, envy, fear
and so on. In the given passage, for someone to fall would be to give in to
temptation, to deny God, to deny his faith or to go
against the voice of his conscience somehow. These inner shocks appear not only
as the result of unfavorable living conditions, but partly as the result of the
actions of malicious people, as well as the devil, who, in the words of the
Apostle, "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may
devour" (1 Pet. 5:8).
The last trial which a person must pass through lies ahead on the day of his
death. As described in the lives of several saints, when the soul leaves the
body the other world opens up before it, and it begins to see both kind Angels,
as well as demons. Demons try to humiliate the soul of a person by showing it
the sins which it performed while living in the flesh; they are trying to
convince the soul that there is no salvation. In this way they try to lead it
to despair and to drag it with them into the abyss. At this time the soulís
guardian angel defends the soul from the demons and encourages it with hope in
the mercy of God. If the person has lived sinfully and does not have faith, the
demons can overcome the soul. This passage of the soul to God's throne, from
the place of its separation from the body, is called "tribulations."
It is possible that these are the trials that the Holy Apostle Paul describes
when he encourages Christians to clothe themselves in the armor of God, in
order to withstand the wiles of the devil in the evil day, "and
having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13). "The armour of God,"
as explained by the holy fathers, is the combined virtues of a person;
"the evil day" is the time of heavy temptation after the separation
of the soul from the body. Being banished from Heaven, the evil spirits hover
in the region between Heaven and earth, presenting obstacles to the souls of
people on their way to Godís throne. Only after the Last Judgment will the
demons be permanently confined to the abyss.
Who can be calm and happy with such inconstancy in earthly circumstances? He who is with Christ, and in Christ. Those living by the
laws of Christ are founded upon a hard cliff and shielded from storms. Those
who possess faith and love for God have no need to fear them, because the Lord
will not permit a believing person to fall into temptation above his strength
(1 Cor. 10:13). But those who do not fulfill the laws of Christ cannot stand
when difficult trials arise. Most often they fall into despair, and their fall
will be devastating for them and a warning to others. Observing this, an
ancient sage wrote: "As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no
more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (Prov. 10:25).
The Holy Fathers compared grief to fire. The one and the same fire can
change straw to ashes, but burn gold of any impurities. The Lord reassures
those who live piously with the following words: "There shall no evil
befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all
thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy
foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion
and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet" (Ps. 91:10-13).
So, in His Sermon on the Mount, the Saviour gives us clear and
all-encompassing directions on how to become virtuous, and how to build that
harmonious and well-structured house of spiritual perfections where the Holy
Spirit will reside.
With relation to God, the Saviour teaches us to put His will in the first
place, always to direct our actions toward the glory of God, to try to resemble
God in His perfections, and to believe firmly that He loves us and continually
concerns Himself about us.
With relation to our neighbors, the Lord teaches us not to take revenge, to
forgive offenders, to be merciful, compassionate and peace-loving, to judge no
one, to do to other people what we would like other people to do to us, to love
all, even our enemies, but, at the same time, to beware of "dogs"
and, in particular, self-styled prophets and false teachers.
With relation to our internal aspirations, the Lord teaches us to be meek
and humble, to avoid hypocrisy, to develop our positive attributes, to strive
toward righteousness, to be consistent in our good deeds, hard-working, patient
and courageous, to keep our hearts pure, and to endure suffering in the name of
Christ and His Truth with gladness. No spiritual efforts that a person makes
are in vain: they make him strong and steadfast during lifeís storms, and
prepare an eternal reward for him in Heaven.