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Indication of the Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven
An Introduction to Christian Life
By Saint Innocent of Alaska
Holy Trinity PublicationsCopyright © 2013 Holy Trinity Monastery
All rights reserved.
The Blessings That Jesus Christ Has Granted Us by His Death
Before speaking of this, let us look at the blessings that Adam had in paradise before he committed sin, and at the evil that Adam suffered after he had committed sin, and with him all men.
The first man, being created in the image and likeness of God, until he had blurred the likeness of God by his self-will, was blessed in that very image and likeness of God. Just as God has no end and is eternal, so, too, was Adam created immortal. God is all-righteous, and Adam was created sinless and righteous. God is all-happy, and Adam was created happy, and his happiness could have increased day by day throughout all eternity.
Adam lived in a most beautiful paradise, in a garden planted by God Himself, where he was content with everything. He was always healthy and well, and he would never have known any kind of sickness. He was not afraid of anyone or anything. All the animals and birds obeyed him as their king. He felt neither cold nor heat. And although he labored and worked in paradise, yet he worked with pleasure and delight and did not find toil burdensome or work tiring.
His heart and soul were full of knowledge and love of God. He was always quiet and happy, and he never knew and never saw anything unpleasant, upsetting, painful, or sad. All his desires were pure, right, and in order. His memory, intellect, and all the other faculties of his soul were perfect. And being innocent and pure, he always lived with God and conversed with Him, and God loved him as His favorite son. In short, Adam was in paradise, and paradise was in Adam.
Now, if Adam had not broken the commandment of his Creator, he would have been happy himself, and all his descendants would have always been happy, too. But Adam sinned before God and broke His law, and the easiest law; and for that reason God banished him from paradise, because God cannot live with sin or with a sinner.
Adam at once lost the happiness he had enjoyed in paradise. His soul was darkened, his thoughts and desires were muddled, his imagination and memory began to be clouded. Instead of joy and peace of soul, he saw sorrow, afflictions, troubles, poverty, the most painful labors, and every kind of adversity; finally, sickly old age threatened him, and after that — death. But the most horrible thing of all was that the devil, who is consoled by the sufferings of men, gained power over Adam.
The very elements, that is, the air, fire, and so forth, that had previously served Adam and ministered to his pleasure, then became hostile to him. From that time, Adam and all his descendants began to feel hunger, heat, and the effects of change of winds and weather. Wild animals became savage, and began to look upon people as their enemies and as prey. From that time, people began to feel external and internal diseases that, in the course of time, increased in number and severity. Men forgot that they were brothers and began to attack one another, to hate, to deceive, to torture, and to kill. And finally, after all kinds of bitter labors and anxieties, they had to die; and as they were sinners they had to be in hell and to be eternally and unceasingly tormented there.
No human being by himself could or can restore what Adam lost. And what would have happened to us if Jesus Christ in His mercy had not redeemed us? What would have happened to the whole human race?
God, Who loves us far more than we love ourselves, in His great mercy sent us His Son Jesus Christ to save us. Jesus Christ became a man like us, but without sin.
By His teaching, Jesus Christ scattered the darkness and errors of the human mind and enlightened the whole world with the light of the Gospel. Now everyone who wants to can know the will of God and the means and way to beatitude (happiness).
By His life, Jesus Christ has shown us the way into the heavenly kingdom that Adam lost, and at the same time has shown us how we must seek it and how to follow it.
By His passion (suffering) and death, Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the debts that we had to pay to God and that we should never have been able to pay; and He has made us, who were slaves of the devil and of sin, children of God. And those torments that we, as transgressors of the will of God, would have had to suffer He bore for us. By His death He delivered us from miseries, from future torment and eternal death.
By His resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed the gates of hell and opened to us the gates of paradise that had been closed for everyone by Adam's disobedience; and He conquered and crushed the power of the devil and death, our enemies. So now those who die in faith and hope, believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, through death pass from vain, rotten, and temporal life into a life that is bright, incorruptible, and unending; while for the conquest of the devil and for driving him away, we have the cross and prayer.
By His ascension Jesus Christ glorified the human race; for He ascended to heaven with His body which He will always have.
Finally, by the grace and merits of Jesus Christ, we can now go into the kingdom of heaven and receive support and help along the way; that is, we can all freely and truly receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with Him. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to go the way Jesus Christ went.
If Jesus Christ had not been on earth, no one could have entered the kingdom of heaven. But now we all, each one of us, can easily enter it; but we cannot enter it otherwise than by the way Jesus Christ went when living on earth.
But what the Lord has prepared for us there in heaven, no one can tell or imagine. We can only say that those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow His commandments will, after their death, live with the angels, the righteous, and the saints in heaven and will see God face to face. They will rejoice with pure, constant, and eternal joy, and they will never know weariness, or sorrow, or worry, or torment, or suffering. At the end of the world, they will rise with their bodies and will reign with Christ eternally.
All these benefits Jesus Christ will give not to just one people, but to all without exception. Whoever wants to can receive them. The way has been shown, arranged, and, as far as possible, smoothed and made level. And besides that, Jesus Christ is ready to help us to go this way, and He Himself is willing to lead us by the hand, so to speak. It only remains for us not to oppose Him and not to be obstinate, but to surrender ourselves completely to His will. Let Him lead us where and how He wills.
You see how Jesus Christ loves us and what blessing He has bestowed upon us!
What would happen now if Jesus Christ suddenly appeared before us visibly and asked us, "My children, do you love Me for what I have done for you? And do you feel in your hearts gratitude to Me?" Who of us would not say: "Yea, Lord, we love and thank Thee"?
But if you love Jesus Christ and consider yourself grateful to Him, will you do what He orders you? Because whoever loves anyone, and whoever feels grateful, will do everything he can to please his benefactor. But Jesus Christ wants from you only one thing: namely, He wants you to follow Him into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus Christ has done everything for us; cannot we do for Him the one thing He asks? Jesus Christ came down from heaven to earth to save us; for love of Him shall we not be willing to follow Him to heaven? Jesus Christ bore for us all torments and sufferings; shall we not for Jesus Christ be willing to suffer and endure a little?
Blessed and most blessed is he who follows Jesus Christ throughout his whole life, because he will certainly be there where Jesus Christ Himself lives.
Happy is he who cares and tries to imitate Jesus Christ, because he will receive help from Jesus Christ.
But unhappy is he who has no desire to follow Jesus Christ, and excuses himself by saying that it is difficult to follow Him, or he has not the strength for it, because such a person deprives himself of the grace of God and, as it were, pushes away the helping hand of Jesus Christ.
But woe to the man who opposes Jesus Christ and is obstinate and in some manner rises up against Him, because the lot of such people is in the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
POINTS OF REFLECTION
1. Why does self-will blur the likeness of God in us?
2. "Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to go the way Jesus Christ went." How do we receive and keep the Holy Spirit within us?
3. "[W]hat the Lord has prepared for us there in heaven, no one can tell or imagine." How often do we contemplate the beauty and joy of life with God in eternity? If we were to do this more, how might it affect our actions here and now?CHAPTER 2
How Jesus Christ Lived on Earth, and What He Suffered for Us
Everyone must obey the law of God. That law is contained in two commandments: (1) Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength and (2) love thy neighbor as thyself.
According to how you fulfill this law, you will receive rewards. But there is no one, and never has been, and never will be a man who could fulfill these two commandments perfectly. Only Jesus Christ fulfilled them perfectly and without any deficiency.
In this respect all the saints, and even the greatest saints, are only like lamps, whereas Jesus Christ is like the sun in all its brilliance and splendor.
And just as it is impossible for a human being to gaze at the sun and describe it, so it is impossible to describe all the virtuous works (deeds) of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I shall tell you only briefly about His life and virtues, and only what can be seen from the Gospel.
No human being and even no angel loved God so much as Jesus Christ loved and loves Him.
Jesus Christ always prayed to God His Father, and especially He often prayed at night and in solitude.
On every feast, especially at the Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, which was not near the place where He lived. Every Sabbath He went to the place where the people gathered for prayer and instruction.
In all His works (deeds), Jesus Christ always glorified the name of God, and both in secret and in public gave praise to God.
All through His life Jesus Christ truly respected, obeyed, honored, and loved His Mother and Joseph His foster father and even respected the leaders and elders and paid tribute to the earthly emperor.
Jesus Christ carried out the service and work for which He came into the world fully willing, acquiescent, and conscientious — with all fervor and love.
Jesus Christ loved everyone, wished everyone well, and did good to all, and, for the true happiness of men, He did not spare His life.
Jesus Christ bore every kind of offense or insult with unspeakable meekness and love; He did not complain about His offenders, and even did not get angry with His most open enemies who slandered Him, mocked Him, and wanted to kill Him. He could have killed and destroyed with one word all His enemies and opponents, but He did not want to do that. On the contrary, He wished them all good, did good to them, prayed for them, and wept over their perdition.
To speak briefly, from His birth until His very death, Jesus Christ did not commit the smallest sin, either in word, or deed, or thought; but He did all kinds of good at all times and to all people.
Now let us look and see how Jesus Christ suffered for us here on earth. Being the Son of God and Himself God, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the body and soul of a man, and became a perfect man, without sin. Being almighty, He took the form of a slave. Being King of heaven and earth, He was born in poverty of a poor mother, in a cave, and was laid in a manger. His foster father was a poor carpenter.
Jesus Christ, the Supreme Lawgiver, to fulfill what the law required, on the eighth day after His birth shed His most precious blood through circumcision. After that, His MostPure Mother took Him into the temple and for Him, the Redeemer of the world, paid the redemption.1 While Jesus Christ was still in His cradle, Herod tried to kill Him, and He fled into Egypt, a foreign country.
But do not think that Jesus Christ in His infancy could not understand what was done and what happened to Him. No! Although Jesus Christ is perfect man, yet at the same time He is also perfect God, and therefore He saw and knew everything that was done to Him.
Jesus Christ, being God and the Almighty Whom heaven and earth and myriads of angels obey, Himself throughout His earthly life obeyed His Mother Who is His Own creation.
Jesus Christ, Who has in His right hand all the treasures of the worlds, during His earthly life had no place on earth to lay His head.
Jesus Christ, the King of the whole universe, paid tribute to an earthly king.
Jesus Christ, Whom all angels and all creatures serve, Himself served men and washed the feet of His disciples who were chosen from the most uneducated and simplest of the people.
Jesus Christ suffered during His preaching a countless multitude of insults of every kind from His enemies. They called Him a sinner and a transgressor of the law of Moses, and an idle fellow, and a carpenter's son, and a friend and comrade of gluttons, wine drinkers, and tax collectors. At one time, the malice and fury of His enemies reached such a pitch that they wanted to throw Him down a mountain. On another occasion they wanted to stone Him to death. They called His most holy teaching lies and deception. When He healed the sick or raised the dead His enemies said that He did all that with the help of Satan and suggested to the people that even He Himself had a demon in Him.
In short, from His birth till His very death Jesus Christ suffered and saw sorrows and outrages on all sides. He suffered both from men and for men. He was grieved not only because people would not listen to Him and offended Him, but also because they were perishing and were unwilling to be saved from their perdition. Jesus Christ suffered, so to speak, both visibly and invisibly, because He saw and endured not only open insults and outrages from men, but at the same time He saw the secret evil thoughts and intentions of His enemies, and He saw that the very people who apparently loved and listened to Him either did not believe in Him or were indifferent to their salvation.
From whom did Jesus Christ suffer most? From the Jewish chief priests and from the scribes, that is, from the learned and from their chiefs who knew and expected the Savior's coming to them but were unwilling to receive Jesus Christ or listen to Him, but on the contrary, delivered Him to death as if He were a deceiver and lawbreaker; and when the Jewish people were ready to deliver Jesus from crucifixion, they (the priests and scribes) incited them to ask rather for the robber and rebel Barabbas, and to deliver Jesus, Who is holier than all saints, to death. To what lengths can the envy and malice of men go! But what is most horrible, Jesus Christ was betrayed by a man who was His disciple, who knew Him, who had eaten and drunk with Him, and had seen with his own eyes His life, His miracles, and the power of His teaching. And how was He betrayed? By treachery and by a kiss. And for what price? For thirty pieces of silver.
For whom did Jesus Christ suffer? For all sinners, from Adam till the end of the world. He suffered also for those very men who tortured Him, and for His enemies who had delivered Him to that torture, and for those who, having received from Him countless benefits, not only did not thank Him but even hated and persecuted Him. He also suffered for all of us who offend Him daily by our untruths, wickedness, and terrible indifference to His sufferings for us who, by our ingratitude and abominable sins, as it were, crucify Him a second time.
Toward the end of His earthly life Jesus Christ worked one of the greatest miracles, that is, He raised Lazarus who had already been four days in the grave and had begun to decompose. This miracle, which was worked in the presence of a great crowd of people, persuaded many to believe in Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as the Messenger of God. But instead of accepting Jesus Christ and believing in Him and assuring others that He is the true Savior of the world, the Jewish chief priests and scribes gathered round Caiaphas and took counsel concerning what to do with Jesus, and they tried to find accusations against Him; and finally they decided to deliver to death Jesus Christ Who raised the dead.
But how Jesus Christ suffered on the last night, that is, after the Last Supper until His delivery into the hands of the soldiers, it is impossible for us even to imagine. His inner sufferings at that time were so great and terrible that only Jesus Christ could bear them. In Gethsemane, He sweated blood.
At that time, His soul felt cruel agony, great sorrow, and terrible suffering. His soul was covered with shame and horror at our sins which He took upon Himself, for all the sins of men committed from Adam till that time, and for the sins that will be committed till the end of the world.
Excerpted from Indication of the Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven by Saint Innocent of Alaska. Copyright © 2013 Holy Trinity Monastery. Excerpted by permission of Holy Trinity Publications.
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Table of Contents
1. The Blessings That Jesus Christ Has Granted Us by His Death,
2. How Jesus Christ Lived on Earth, and What He Suffered for Us,
3. The Way That Leads into the Kingdom of Heaven,
4. How Jesus Christ Helps Us to Go the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven, and How We Can Receive His Help,