Tuesday, January 16, 2007

St. Innocent, Enlightener of North America, on Sin and Salvation

[NOTE: St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of North America, penned in Aleut, in 1833, while he was Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurilian and Aleutian Isles, one of the finest introductions to the Orthodox Faith ever written: the Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Though this work exists on the internet, it can be found only in a highly abridged form, edited by someone who wished to strip away the Saint's teachings on Original Sin, Satisfaction, Substitution, Gehenna, and so on, calling such abridgements "minor stylistic changes". It is my hope, ultimately, to publish the entire work on the internet, in English and without any dishonest editing. The following is Part I of the Indication, unabridged, entitled The Blessings that Jesus Christ has Granted Us by His Death. ~EHB]

Before speaking of this, let us look at the blessings that Adam had in Paradise before he committed sin, and at the evil which 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 Adam was created immortal. God is all-just, and Adam was created sinless and just. 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 laboured 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 the 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 favourite son. To be brief, 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 or 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 labours 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, etc., which had previously served Adam and ministered to his pleasure, then became hostile to him. From that time Adam and all his descendants began to fee! 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 which in 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 labours 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.

By His life Jesus Christ has shown us the way into the heavenly Kingdom which Adam lost, and at the same time has shown us how we must seek it and how to follow it.

By His passion and death Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the debts which we had to pay to God and which 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 which 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 which 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 carry or wear.

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 Just 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 any 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 blessings 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: Yes. 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 in order to save us; shall we not for love of Him 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 a manner, rises up against Him. because the lot of such people is in the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

We are hoping one of these days to publish it in Zulu.