In the darkness of our contemporary world, God has provided us with abundant illumination cast from from the lives and works of many holy saints of the Orthodox Church. St Nicholai of Žica and Ohrid, who along with St Justin Popovich was one of the brightest lights shining in Serbia, ended his life in the United States at St Sava’s Seminary, St Tikhon’s Seminary, and St Vladimir’s Seminary, reposing in 1956. The text below, the final section of his catechistic elucidation of the Nicene Creed, “The Faith of the Saints,” makes it radiantly clear why he has been called The New Chrysostom. It can be read independently, for it stands on its own as a luminous summary of the Orthodox Faith.
By St. Nicholai Velimirovich
Section 14 — “AND THE LIFE OF THE AGE TO COME.”
Coming home. Oh how joyful it is to come home! Moreover, to a home where a father is waiting, along with many brothers, and sisters, and children, and friends! Even more so when the home is not a famished and empty hut, but a royal palace, where a father king awaits his children from afar with deep concern!
Wayfarers, you know that the Father King is none other than the Most High Himself. You are those children whom He awaits with such deep concern. From a foreign land you are returning to Him. Truth and this world are His fields, but they are distant and overgrown with thorns. He sent you into this distant land, so that you might long for Him and see that you can do nothing without Him. It was not mandatory for Him to separate Himself from you, no. This was first mandatory for your first mother, Eve. And at that moment God sent both her and her descendants into this distant domain of His, into this thorny field, where bread is earned by the sweat of the brow.
Many flocks of your forefathers have landed on this thorny field, and on it they have fought over fodder with locusts and beasts. And they became accustomed to a society beneath themselves. And when they had forgotten their home and origin, they began to think that there existed no better field or brighter world than this muddy potter’s shop, nor any society more noble than that of animals.
The gentle heavens grew sad when they saw man as a disciple of beasts. The radiant angels grew confused when they beheld the image of God in man debased. The Most High felt sorry for the human race, and resolved upon the most dramatic act in the history of the created world, in the history of heaven and earth. He decided to do something which only infinite love can resolve upon—namely, to send His Only-begotten Son into torments for the sake of man’s salvation, to clothe Him in human rags, in the rags of a beggar so that beggars might not be afraid of Him, of His light, of His majesty. He decided to cast the most precious pearl of His heart before swine, before those who were wallowing in the mire like pigs.
And the Son of the King joyfully set out for this sacrifice, and He came down into this bed of worms, where the descendants of Eve were fighting over fodder with animals. He found one unique daughter of Eve—one, unique, pure and holy Virgin, who was worthy to knit a body for Him from her own body. And in this poor clothing of the flesh He appeared among the drunk and the rabid, as though He had appeared in a house of lunatics.
As soon as the disciples of beasts saw Him, they assaulted Him with knives. He withdrew.
When He called them sons of the heavenly Father, they gaped at Him, and demanded a miracle.
When He performed many miracles, they said that He did this with the aid of the devil. For they had ceased to believe in God, but in the devil they never ceased to believe.
When He began to cast out demons from people, they said that He cast out demons with the help of Beelzebub, the prince of demons!
When He poured out the wisdom of heaven before them, they asked Him where He received His schooling. And when they heard that He was a carpenter, without schooling or teachers on earth, they scorned Him.
When He bestowed sight on the blind on the Sabbath, they reprimanded Him for breaking the Sabbath.
When He fasted, they called Him a glutton.
When He prayed to God, they called Him an atheist. When He shared the company of sinners, they called Him a sinner. When He asked them what sin He had committed, they barked like rabid dogs.
When He spoke to them about the heavenly kingdom, they accused Him of wanting to betray them to the Romans. But when He told them that they should render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, they handed Him over to the Romans, accusing Him of being a traitor who had committed high treason against Rome!
Finally, they spat on Him; that is, they gave Him just what they had and were—repulsive spittle!
They crucified Him on the cross. And while His holy blood flowed onto the ground, they reviled Him and danced round about Him.
But He was victorious and rose from the grave and proved to the world who He is. And the world set out to follow Him. And the world began to learn from Him and ceased to be disciples of beasts.
Remember, wayfarers, His blood was shed over the earth. With His own blood He marked the path for your homeward journey lest you lose your way. Seafarers keep their eyes on the stars lest they lose their way. Make sure that you likewise keep your eyes on His blood, on those drops which glisten like stars, and you will see the path that leads you homeward.
Neither death nor the grave can block your way. Even if your bodies die before He appears to the world for the final time, you will not be lost or forgotten. You will just wait before the gates of eternal light until the archangel’s trumpet sounds.
First the archangel’s trumpet will sound. The resurrection of the dead from the graves will follow that blast of the heavenly trumpet. The Fearful Judgment of God will follow the resurrection. And following the Fearful Judgment of God-life for the righteous in the eternal kingdom of Christ. Thus was it foretold by the True One. All His prophesies have been fulfilled. This one will be fulfilled also.
The life of the age to come is life in glory and joy, in the kingdom of the Creator, in the embrace of the Father, in Paradise. It is life unswayed by fear, untroubled by worry, unmarred by sickness, immune to decay and death.
All the troubles of life on earth will seem like a drop of salt water in a fresh water river when compared to life in Paradise. “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what the heart of man has not conceived—God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). Earthly life is to that life what the shadow of a tree is to a tree. The shadow resembles the tree, but is not the tree. Likewise, the earthly life of man resembles life, but is not true life.
It is like sleep compared to consciousness. When we enter into that life, it will be like awakening from sleep and entering into consciousness, into the kingdom of consciousness. This kingdom of consciousness is the immortal kingdom of God. In it God alone reigns. And in it there is no mixture of falsehood and truth, for all is truth:
no mixture of justice and injustice, for all is justice; no mixture of beauty and ugliness, for all is beauty; no mixture of light and darkness, for all is light;
no mixture of joy and sorrow, for all is joy; no mixture of life and death, for all is life.
This immortal kingdom is called the kingdom of Christ, “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:11; II Tim. 4:18). For He is the greatest Victor, and He has been given power and glory and authority and lordship and judgment, and a throne above every throne, and majesty above every majesty. He possessed all this in eternity as the Only-begotten Son of God, but He earned all this on earth as a man: by His own humiliation, suffering, and death.
In this kingdom Christ will be surrounded by the followers of Christ, the sufferers who bear the seals of suffering for their Lord and King on themselves. These are the apostles, the prophets and righteous ones of the Old Testament, the martyrs and monastics, the ascetics and cross-bearers, the shepherds and teachers of the Church-all those who were Christ-like. All those, who waged His war and won His victory, will gather around Him together with His angels. Thus shall it be, for thus did He promise when He said: “I shall take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
Furthermore, this immortal kingdom is called the “Holy City” and the “New Jerusalem.” In its beauty this city will exceed all dreams, all words, all comparisons, all human preconceptions. As for those who are deemed worthy to enter this holy and eternal city, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, or crying, nor pain any more; for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Thus was it proclaimed by the True One, thus was it perceived by the Clairvoyant One. And thus shall it come to pass.
ln this holy city neither sun nor moon nor stars will shine. “And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign to the ages of ages” (Rev. 22:5). Thus was it proclaimed by the True One, thus was it perceived by the Clairvoyant One. And thus shall it come to pass.
Imagine a world, Christ-bearers, where instead of the sun the Most High God himself shines, warms, gives life, and constantly rejuvenates! This is your world, toward which you are journeying. This is your homeland, to which you are returning: an imperishable homeland, where you will also be imperishable. This is the fatherland of the sons of the heavenly Father, of all those who have been adopted as sons of God through the Lord Jesus. And you shall be numbered among them, if you are victorious. Furthermore, this kingdom is called “the kingdom of the saints of the Most High.” Just as the clairvoyant prophet foresaw through the veils of time when he stated: “And the kingdom and the dominion and the majesty of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom” (Dan. 7:27). In this kingdom no foreigners rule, only the Father. Nor are the subjects of that kingdom slaves, but rather sons.
A slave does not dare to look a foreign king in the face. But the holy sons of the holy King will look the Most High King in the face freely and joyfully. Everything will be just as it was foretold and told: “And they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). Oh delights of delights, Oh treasures of treasures, Oh beauties of beauties-to see the face of the One, Living, and True God!
This is the Paradise for which you have longed. Paradise—this is the name, one of the sweetest names, of that kingdom. Paradise—your homeland, to which you, tired wayfarers, are returning from distant earth, from the field of thorns.
What is the price for all this blessedness, you ask? How does one answer you, inquisitive brothers? If the sun, the moon, and the stars belonged to one of you, and if you gave all this in exchange for that blessedness you will have given nothing. How does one buy eternity with dust? With what perishable treasure does one buy what is imperishable?
Yet there is a hidden, imperishable treasure which every heir of that blessedness carries within himself. He carries it wrapped in perishable fabric. it is a tiny, flickering flame of love for the Lord God. This little flame of love does not die out with the death of physical fabric, but lives and glows. Heroic souls heroically protect it, lest shifting winds extinguish it in the course of the journey. With this flame of love righteous souls are deemed worthy to come out before the face of the living God, clothed in a resurrected heavenly body. This is the price. For this tiny gift to God, lovers of God will receive as gifts in return the kingdom, sonship, and eternal life. In a word—Paradise.
This is the faith of the enlightened and persevering. This is not the faith of the darkened and the cowardly, who have hidden themselves from the divine light, or who hear about it with cowardice. Those enlightened by God’s Spirit joyfully receive the rays of divine light emanating from that world of reality. They receive them like letters from their homeland, like holy letters from their father. And they answer those letters with heartfelt greetings in reply. From these holy, fatherly letters which are collectively called the Holy Scriptures they come to know about the beginning, the middle, and the end of the created world. And they come to know about the origin and destiny of human life. And they come to know about their royal lineage, their present nothingness, and their future glory. This knowledge they confirm with the Tradition of the holy and enlightened fathers, the Tradition which is preserved in the Orthodox Church.
Possessing this knowledge they prepare themselves with perseverance for their entry into the eternal homeland and for their joyful meeting with their heavenly Father. And they help their brothers, their fellow wayfarers, to prepare themselves also. For the heavenly Father is not awaiting the return of one child from a distant land, but many, many millions of children. Who can say how many they number? Their number is like the number of stars in heaven, like the sand on the seashore, like the dust on the earth. This is the population of the heavenly nation, the kingdom of God, which no nation has ever equalled or ever can equal.
Yes, and this is only one part of the population of the immortal nation of God. The other part consists of the innumerable hosts of bodiless angels.
This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your enlightened and persevering forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the blessed end. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the chosen people, of those who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Day of Judgment, when Christ will judge with justice, they shall be taken into the heavenly kingdom and shall be called blessed.
Coming Home – Paradise – Glory.
Source: St. Luke’s Orthodox Mission
About the Author
- Saint Nikolaj Velimirović (Николај Велимировић, 1880-1956) was bishop of Žiča in Serbia and the author of many Orthodox books. His most widely-known work is the Prologue from Ohrid. On December 14, 1944 he was sent to Dachau, together with Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo, where he suffered both imprisonment and torture. After the War he left Communist Yugoslavia and immigrated as a refugee to the United States in 1946 where he taught at several Orthodox Christian seminaries. He died on March 18, 1956.