Daily Devotional April 30 – May 5
This week more excerpts from St. Nikolai:
If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them (John 13: 17). The most important aspect of this saying of our Lord’s, dear brethren, is that the Lord does not bless the knowing, but the doing. He does not say to the apostles: “Blessed are ye when ye know this.” Some pagan teachers who viewed salvation only in terms of knowledge spoke in this manner. However, our Lord says: Blessed are ye if ye do them. The knowledge of salvation was given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself, and no one is able to attain that knowledge through his own efforts. Some of the ancient Greek philosophers said that mankind could neither come to the knowledge of the truth nor be saved until God Himself came to earth. The Lord came among men and revealed this knowledge to them. Whosoever receives this knowledge also accepts the obligation to fulfill it. Oh, how much easier will it be at the Judgment for those who never received this knowledge at all and consequently did not fulfill it, than for those who received this knowledge and neglected to fulfill it! Oh, how much easier it will be at the Judgment for unlearned pagans than for learned Christians!
The Lord Himself showed that he was not only a Knower but also a Doer. His perfect knowledge corresponded to His perfect doing. Before the eyes of His disciples, He personally fulfilled all of His own commandments. He gave them this commandment after He had completed an act of humility and love. When He had washed the feet of His disciples, He then commanded that they should do the same to one another. The Lord did not dwell among men to soil them, but to wash them. He never soiled anyone, but cleansed all who wished to be cleansed. What a shame it is for many of us, who labor much to wash ourselves and labor twice as much to soil others! O my brethren, we muddy our own blood brothers. Even Christ weeps when He sees how we, with the mud of slander, soil those whom He has washed with His own blood.
If someone loses his faith in God, he is recompensed with stupidity. Of all the forms of stupidity, it is difficult to say whether there is a greater one than this: that someone calls himself a Christian and then proceeds to gather pathetic proofs for God and eternal life from other beliefs and philosophies. How will he who does not find gold among the wealthy find it among the poor? The revelation of eternal life, the facts, the proofs, the signs and the actual visions of the spiritual world— all of these not only constitute the foundation of the Christian Faith but also constitute the walls, the floors, the ornaments, all the furnishings, the roof and the domes of the majestic building of the Christian Faith. A single ray from the spiritual world shines through every word of the Gospels, not to mention the miraculous events, both in evangelical and post-evangelical times, throughout the entire two-thousand-year history of the Church. Christianity has thrown open the gates of that world to such a great degree that it almost should not be called a religion, in order not to confuse it with other faiths and religions. It is Revelation! God’s Revelation!
He who sees the light also sees the sun beyond it. For could anyone see the sun and not the light? If the sun did not emit its light, none of us would know about the sun. All of our knowledge about the sun we have received with the help of the rays of light that have come from the sun. No one has ever seen the sun with the help of some other light, other than that which comes from the sun itself. So it is with our knowing the Father with the help of the Son. He who does not know the Son cannot know the Father. He who knows the Son, knows the Father. He who sees
the Son, sees also the Father. God cannot be known without His Light, Who came among men. The Light of the Father is the Son. I am the Light (John 8: 12), said Christ. And the Light shineth in darkness (John 1: 5). The physical world would be in complete darkness if it were not for light from the sun. The spiritual and moral world and all the life of mankind would be in darkness if it were not for the Light that is from the Father. That Light is Christ the Lord.
Speaking in human terms, Christ, by His obedience, elevated Himself to primacy in the Church, in the world, and in the history of mankind. No one can be a good leader who has not completed the school of obedience. Adam forfeited his authority and dominion over living creatures and the elements of nature at the very moment when he
showed himself disobedient to God. Abba Moses said: “Obedience begets obedience; if someone listens to God, God also listens to him.” It is obvious, then, that God listens to man more than man listens to God, especially when one takes into consideration how often and in how many ways man sins daily against the commandments of God. It is a fact that the Eternal God listens to us, corruptible as we are, more than we listen to Him. This should fill all of us with shame who still have a conscience. When St. Eutropius was being tortured along with his two companions, he prayed to God: “Come to our aid as Thou camest to Thy servant Theodore the Tyro.” Suddenly, the ground shook and the obedient Lord appeared with His angels and St. Theodore. The Lord said to the sufferers: “During the time of your torture, I stood before your faces and observed your patience. I will write your names in the Book of Life.”
Illumined with the love of Christ, the Apostle Paul acknowledged, in his Epistle to the Philippians, that for him death is a gain because his life is Christ’s. Paul’s love for Christ draws him toward death so that he may stand by Christ as soon as possible, but his love for the faithful compels him to remain in the flesh. However, these are not two loves that attract the Apostle and pull him in two directions, but one and the same love that opens before him two treasures of wealth. One treasure is the blessed world in heaven, and the other treasure is the souls of the faithful on earth. That heavenly treasure is increased by that earthly treasure; both treasures flow together into one. To go to heaven— to that the Apostle is drawn by love and reward; to remain on earth— to that he is drawn by love and duty.