Orthodox America


  Answers to Questions


 by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

I. 

To a nun who asks about the parable: The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven... The Lord said: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matt. 13:33)

You would like to penetrate the mystery of these words, God loving sister. Indeed, there is a great spiritual mystery concealed in these words. To the carnal mind this parable appears to be ridiculously simple. However, this understanding, which comes from the Holy Spirit, is inaccessible to the carnal mind, for one must penetrate the meaning of these words spiritually. And if one is to penetrate it spiritually, as the Holy Fathers did, then this parable appears as follows.

The leaven signifies the Holy Spirit; the woman signifies the human soul; to take and hide - this means to take from God and to place into oneself; the three measures represent the three capacities of the soul: the mind, heart, and will; the meal represents all these three in their natural state; "till the whole was leavened," signifies that all must be leavened, i.e., penetrated by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, man's soul, when it becomes worthy, receives from its Creator His Spirit. And, having received It, holds It in the mind until the mind becomes deified; he holds It in his heart until the heart becomes deified, and he holds It in his will until the will becomes deified. He holds It in these three "measures" simultaneously, until the whole soul becomes deified. Then, when all is deified, it is enlightened and rises like leavened dough. And thereby the soul becomes spiritually rich and holy. Then the soul is able to enliven the body as well, to give it rebirth and sanctify it. And is this not the Kingdom of Heaven? Is this not a marvelous parable?

Peace and grace to you from the Lord.

II.

To the monk Simeon concerning the use of "day" and "night" in Luke 17:30-34. In His sermon concerning the end of the world and His Second Coming, the Lord Jesus Christ uses interchangeably the words "day" and "night." He compares His second coming to the unexpectedness and speed of lightning: Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. And He tells His listeners: In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop and his belongings in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And later: in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left...

He speaks about the same time but sometimes says "in that day," and at other times, "in that night." You ask, how can this be explained? All the words proceeding from the mouth of Christ are infallible; therefore, these words of His are likewise infallible.

In speaking of His "day," He speaks about His Second Coming, while the words, "that night," signify the end of the world and the end of time. This occurs at the same time - this separation between time and eternity, between the death of time (its end) and the beginning of eternal life. When the sun grows dark, so that it no longer shines, and when the brilliant sign of the Son of Man appears in order to shine forever, then there will be no more time. Time will disappear, and there will usher in the everlasting Day of the Lord, in which the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (II Peter 3:10).

This will be the final meeting of day and night, and their final separation forever.

Therefore, when it speaks about the final meeting of day and night and of their final separation, there is no difference in saying "this day," or "this night."

That which appears to us now to be contradictory or incomprehensible, while the course of time still indicates immutably now day, now night, this expression loses its contrariety on the threshold of that fateful division between temporality and eternity.

Peace be to you from God and blessing.

III.

To Khadzhi Jovanu, who asks, "What is most important for the salvation of the soul?"

I shall likewise ask you a question, my dear companion, and the answer you give me will be your answer also.

And so, what is most important for a newborn child? Perhaps food, or warmth, or bathing, or care? Perhaps you will answer that he needs each of these. In fact, you will have to admit that all four are necessary for a child's proper development.

So, too, the soul of a person who has awakened from the sleep of sin and is repenting is like a newborn child. Let us recall what Christ said to Nikodemos: Ye must be born again (John 3:7). A newborn soul needs to be nourished with the teachings of Christ; it needs to be cleansed by fasting and prayer; it needs the warmth of love for its Creator, and it needs to protect its thoughts and desires from all the arrows of destruction. Did not the Saviour command us through His apostles: If you love Me, keep My commandments ? And He did not say to fulfill just one commandment, but to fulfill the commandments, i.e., all of them. Christ's commandments - this is not just one act, one labor, but many.

You are an experienced gardener, and you know how much work is required to grow even one vegetable. You wouldn't leave even one plant without some attention. How, then, can we not labor on our soul, our unique treasure, which the grave itself cannot destroy.

You have acquired a garden in Jerusalem. This was not one of God's commandments, and yet you undertook this labor out of love for God and for the sake of your soul's salvation. How, then, can we disdain even one of our Saviour's commandments as something inconsequential?

Peace and joy to you from the Lord.

From a Russian translation of the original Serbian by Nun Ioanna.


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