Orthodox America

The Gospel Ideal  

The Lord has commanded us to love our enemies, those who curse us, hate us, offend us, persecute us. It is unbelievably difficult to do this, but with the help of God such love can be practiced. The Lord Himself spoke of this, and He also commanded us to forgive without limit. The Lord brought the law of forgiveness out of any limitation of number and measure; He brought it out by His holy word and His personal example, when on the Cross He prayed for His enemies...

The aim of Christianity is the realization of a godlike life on earth. The Saviour came in the flesh in order to sanctify the earth, so that people might know and feel the Divine life at first hand through the exploit of Christ--His life, sufferings, and death on the Cross. This is not a theoretical ideal, but a practical demand. God offers His love, desiring to save us.

With sin, the beauty of the original image is lost and darkened;   - This darkness hides us from each other and we do not see our real nature. Sin has covered with soot the icon of God in us. We do not know ourselves and do not see in others the image of God. Just as a dark icon is sometimes renewed, so does the soul become capable of renewal and enlightenment from the presence in us of the Holy Spirit, For those whose hearts are ready, there is nothing strange in this miracle; the miracle is the action of God in the power of His might.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature...(II Peter 1:4)

God is known in sanctity. The final aim is communion with God, but the way to it is sanctity. With the enthronement of the Lord, the Kingdom of God begins in us, and the heart becomes the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. God is the sun, and how one would that it would be reflected in all of mankind. Indeed, the purpose of the world in essence is the glory of God, and for each person individually it is deification, which is the same as salvation.

The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is a pledge of true happiness in life. His commandments are full of life and joy.

We should look attentively, at least to some degree, at the Gospel ideal of the ancient Church, when Christians made earth into heaven and the pagans cried out about them: "I f the Christians have become angels here, what will they be after departing this life?" Their law was so elevated and perfect that it astonished even their enemies, Wealth, earthly joys, the world's glory had no value for them. They preferred poverty, disgrace, and ignominy. The path of persecutions and sufferings was for them a path of joy and triumph. Meek and humble, foreign to hatred and avarice, they loved each other as brothers, and willingly, joyfully helped their enemies, the pagans and Jews. Living in body on earth, in spirit they dwelt in heaven. Some Were astonished at the unattainable height of Christian life; others heaped mockery :and slander upon it.

Christians did not like to preach only by word: their elevated, holy life was their best preaching. Celsus (the pagan philosopher) wrote: "Christians despise the goods of this life and consider it best not to have them, and they do not pay back insult s With ~ revenge.   .  '

The words of the first Christians about themselves are solid gold. They said what they had. They acknowledged themselves to be what they were. And therefore their words had an exceptional power and authority. They remain eternal examples of exalted strugg1e, of exalted religious purity, of the depth and power of the religious will.

The best means to inspire love in others is to show them love and mercy. In forgiving your enemy, you can convert him into a friend. Self-sacrifice is an almighty power before which everything bows and which triumphs even over crude violence. The power that conquered the pagan world was the power of evangelical self-renunciation, inspired by love and light-bearing truth.

The secret of life is not to put off concern for one's salvation to the future, but to make every step now illuminated by the light of God's righteousness and His will. We must remember that we stand at the edge of an abyss and are going on the path of sin. A temptation comes, sin attracts, the conscience gnaws; and there is only one sigh from the depths of the soul: "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me"--and you are free. The mercy of God has returned to you, and again you are ready to work for and serve Him.

The Gospel ideal is not only to stand above the petty interests of life, but always to be ready to die for it. May the Lord be our helper !

Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov 
St. Nicholas Cathedral
 Brisbane, Australia