Heaven Is/Will Be Wonderful

What the kingdom of God will be like we cannot even think, let alone say or write. But this I know, that nothing at all will be missing that you would wish to be there, and nothing will be there that you would not wish to be. So there will be no mourning, no weeping or pain, no fear, no sadness, no discord, no envy, no tribulation, no temptation, no variable weather, no overcast skies, no suspicion, no ambition, no adulation, no detraction, no sickness, no old age, no death, no poverty, no darkness, no need to eat, drink or sleep, no tiredness, no weakness.

What good then will be lacking? Where there is no mourning or weeping or pain or sadness, what can there be but perfect joy? Where there is no tribulation or temptation, no variable weather or overcast skies, no excessive heat or harsh winter, what can there be but perfect balance in all things and complete tranquillity of mind and body? Where there is nothing to fear, what can there be but total security? Where there is no discord, no envy, no suspicion or ambition, no adulation or detraction, what can there be but supreme and true love? Where there is no poverty and no covetousness, what can there be but abundance of all good things? Where there is no deformity, what can there be but true beauty? Where there is no toil or weakness, what will there be but utter rest and strength? Where there is nothing heavy or burdensome, what is there but the greatest ease? Where there is no prospect of old age, no fear of disease, what can there be but true health? Where there is neither night nor darkness, what will there be but perfect light? Where all death and mortality have been swallowed up, what will there be but eternal life?

What is there further for us to seek? To be sure, what surpasses all these things, that is the sight, the knowledge and the love of the Creator. He will be seen in himself, he will be seen in all his creatures, ruling everything without anxiety, upholding everything without toil, giving himself and, so to speak, distributing himself to one and all according to their capacity without any lessening or division of himself. That loveable face, so longed for, upon which the angels yearn to gaze, will be seen. Who can say anything of its beauty, of its light, of its sweetness? The Father will be seen in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Holy Spirit in both. He will be seen not as a confused reflection in a mirror, but face to face. For God will be seen as he is, fulfilling that promise which tells us: ‘Those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and show myself to them.’ From this vision will proceed that knowledge of which our Lord says: ‘This is eternal life, that they should know you the one God, and him whom you sent.’ (From A Rule of Life for a Recluse, by Aelred of Rievaulx)


Those who will have the grace to reign in the kingdom of heaven will see the realisation of everything that they desire in heaven and on earth, and nothing that they do not want will be realised in heaven or on earth. The love which will unite God with those who will live there, and the latter among themselves, will be such that all will love one another as themselves, and all will love God more than themselves.

Hence, no one will have any other desire there than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God. All together, and as one single person, will be one sole ruler with God, for all will desire one single thing and their desire will be realised. This is the good that, from the heights of heaven, God declares he will put on sale.

If someone asks at what price, here is the response: the one who offers a kingdom in heaven has no need of earthly money. No one can give God what already belongs to him, since everything that exists is his. Yet God does not give such a great thing unless one attaches value to it; he does not give it to one who does not appreciate it. For no one gives a prized possession to someone who attaches no value to it. Hence, although God has no need of your goods, he will not give you such a great thing as long as you disdain to love it: he requires only love, but without it nothing obliges him to give. Love, then, and you will receive the kingdom. Love, and you will possess it.

And since to reign in heaven is nothing other than to adhere to God and all the saints, through love, in a single will, to the point that all together exercise only one power, love God more than yourself and you will already begin to have what you wish to possess perfectly in heaven. Put yourself at peace with God and with others – if the latter do not separate themselves from God – and you will already begin to reign with God and all the saints. For to the extent that you now conform to the will of God and to that of the others, God and all the saints will concur with your will. Hence, if you want to rule in heaven, love God and others as you should, and you will merit to be what you desire.

However, you will not be able to possess it to perfection unless you empty your heart of every other love. This is why those who fill their hearts with love for God and their neighbour have no other will than that of God – or that of another, provided it is not contrary to God. That is why they are faithful in praying as well as in carrying on a dialogue in their minds with heaven; for it is pleasing to them to desire God and to speak of someone whom they love, to hear that one spoken about, and to think of the beloved. It is also why they rejoice with those who are joyful, weep with those (From A letter of Anselm to Hugh the Recluse)

Source: Celebrating the Seasons, by Robert Atwell


The Great Cloud of Witnesses

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near…Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 10.23-25; 12.1-2)

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli′jah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9.28-31)

We live in a one-storey universe. We are members of one Church in which we take counsel together regarding the faithful articulation of the faith. This great conversation, by the grace of God, is not limited by time and space.


No mortal has interpreted the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with greater love and depth than St. John Chrysostom. Had St. Paul himself interpreted them, he could not have interpreted them better. Behold, history tells us that it was Paul himself who interpreted them through the mind and the pen of Chrysostom. When St. Proclus was a novice under Chrysostom, during the time that he was patriarch, it was his duty to announce visitors. A certain nobleman was slandered before Emperor Arcadius and the emperor had expelled him from the court. This nobleman came to implore Chrysostom to intercede with the emperor on his behalf. Proclus went to announce him to the patriarch but, looking through the partly opened door, saw a man bent over the patriarch, whispering something in his ear while the patriarch wrote. This continued until dawn. Meanwhile, Proclus told the nobleman to come back the next evening, while he himself remained in amazement, wondering who the man with the patriarch was, and how he managed to enter the patriarch’s chamber unannounced. The second night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in still greater amazement. The third night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in the greatest amazement. When Chrysostom asked him if the nobleman had come by, he replied that he had already been waiting for three nights, but that he couldn’t announce him because of the elderly, balding stranger who had been whispering in the patriarch’s ear for three nights. The astonished Chrysostom said that he did not remember anyone entering to see him during the previous three nights. He asked his novice what the stranger looked like, and Proclus pointed to the icon of the Holy Apostle Paul, saying that the man was like him. Therefore, it was the Apostle Paul himself who was directing the mind and pen of his greatest interpreter. (The Prologue, November 20th)

Come Holy Spirit, Fill Our Hearts

In Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit God gave us the full and final revelation of Himself. His Being now for us is the First Realty. Incomparably more evident than all the transient phenomena of this world. We sense His divine presence both within us and without: in the supreme majesty of the universe, in the human face, in the lightning flash of thought. He opens our eyes that we may behold and delight in the beauty of His creation. He fills our souls with love towards all mankind. His indescribably gentle touch pierces our heart. And in the hours when His imperishable Light illumines our heart we know that we shall not die. We know this with a knowledge impossible to prove in the ordinary way but which for us requires no proof, since the Spirit Himself bears witness with us. Elder Sophrony of Essex (1896-1993)

On Death

Death is the touchstone of our attitude to life. People who are afraid of death are afraid of life. It is impossible not to be afraid of life with all its complexity and dangers if one is afraid of death. This means that to solve the problem of death is not a luxury. If we are afraid of death we will never be prepared to take ultimate risks; we will spend our life in a cowardly, careful and timid manner. It is only if we can face death, make sense of it, determine its place and our place in regard to it that we will be able to live in a fearless way and to the fulness of our ability. Too often we wait until the end of our life to face death, whereas we would have lived quite differently if only we had faced death at the outset.

There is a patristic injunction, constantly repeated over the centuries, that we should be mindful of death throughout our life. But if such a thing is repeated to modern man, who suffers from timidity, and from the loss of faith and experience which prevails in our time, he will think he is called upon to live under the shadow of death, in a condition of gloom, haunted always by the fear that death is on its way and that then there will be no point in having lived. And death, if remembered constantly and deeply, would act as a sword of Damocles for him, suspended over his head by a hair, preventing the enjoyment of life and the fulfilment of it. Such an approach to the saying must be rejected. We need to understand mindfulness of death in its full significance: as an enhancement of life, not a diminution of it.

Most of the time we live as though we were writing a draft for the life which we will live later. We live not in a definitive way, but provisionally, as though preparing for the day when we really will begin to live. We are like people who write a rough draft with the intention of making a fair copy later. But the trouble is that the final version never gets written. Death comes before we have had the time or even generated the desire to make a definitive formulation. We always think that it can be done tomorrow. ‘I will live approximately today. Tomorrow is when I shall act in a definitive way. It is true that things are wrong, but give me time. I will sort them out somehow, or else they will come right of themselves’. Yet we all know that the time never actually comes.

The injunction ‘be mindful of death’ is not a call to live with a sense of terror in the constant awareness that death is to overtake us and that we are to perish utterly with all that we have stood for. It means rather: ‘be aware of the fact that what you are saying now, doing now, hearing, enduring or receiving now may be the last event or experience of your present life’. In which case it must be a crowning, not a defeat; a summit, not a trough. If only we realized whenever confronted with a person that this might be the last moment either of his life or ours, we would be much more intense, more much attentive to the words we speak and the things we do.

There is a Russian children’s story in which a wise man is asked three questions: What is the most important moment in life? What is the most important action in life? And who is the most important person? As in all such stories, he seeks everywhere for an answer and finds none. Finally he meets a peasant girl who is surprised that he should even ask. ‘The most important moment in life is the present – it is the only one we have, for the past is gone, the future not yet here. The most important action in this present is to do the right thing. And the most important person in life is the person who is with you at this present moment and for whom you can either do the right thing or the wrong’. That is precisely what is meant by mindfulness of death.

The value of the present moment may be realized when someone dear to us has a terminal illness and, more particularly, when we are aware that he or she may be dead within minutes. It is then that we recognize the importance of every gesture and action, then that we realize how slight the differences between what we usually consider the great things in life and those which are insignificant. The way we speak, the manner in which we prepare a tray with a cup of tea, the way in which we adjust an uncomfortable cushion become as important as the greatest thing we have ever done. For the humblest action, the simplest word, may be the summing up of a whole relationship, expressing to perfection all the depth of that relationship, all the love, concern and truth that are within it.

If only we could perceive the urgency of every moment in the awareness that it may be the last, our life would change profoundly. The idle words which the Gospel condemns (Matt 12:36), all those statements and actions which are meaningless, ambiguous or destructive — for these there would be no place. Our words and actions would be weighed before they are spoken or performed so that they might be culminating point in life and express the perfection of a relationship, never less.

Only awareness of death will give life this immediacy and depth, will bring life to life, will make it so intense that its totality is summed up in the present moment. Such precisely is the way in which the ascetics fought against mindlessness, lack of attention and carelessness, against all the attitudes which allow us to miss the moment of opportunity, to pass the other person by, not to notice the need. One of the chief things that we are called upon to learn is awareness – awareness of our own self and of the other person’s situation, an awareness that will stand the test of life and death. All life is at every moment an ultimate act.
–Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (1914-2003)

Source: © 2002 Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation

You Have Done It Unto Me

Saint Francis said in response to the disrespect an ill-treatment of a poor person by one of his brotherhood, “Anyone who speaks unkindly to a poor man,” he used to say, “injures the Christ of whom the poor represent the noble symbol, for Christ made himself poor in this world for our sake”

We are reminded by this of the saying of St. Paul, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8.9)

Join with Me in the Banquet Room of God and Give Him Thanks

“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” (Luke 14.15-16)

We are invited to the banquet every day. It is good to enter into the great banquet room of God, the very day He has made. We are invited to rejoice and be glad in this banquet room. While it may not appear to be the banquet room of God’s victory, we do not judge by appearances. We have eyes to see the redemption of all things. It is all the more good and fitting to give thanks to God in concert with the faithful. Join with me at the beginning of each and every day, knowing it to be the banquet room of the Holy One, and take time to extol the greatness of God in our lives.


Psalm 9.1-2
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in thee,
I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.


O Existing One, Master and Lord; O God, the almighty and adorable Father: it is truly proper, right, and befitting the majesty of Your holiness to praise You, to hymn You, to bless You, to worship You, to give thanks to You, to glorify You, the only God Who truly exists, and to offer You this our rational worship with a contrite heart and in a spirit of humility, for You have granted us the knowledge of Your truth. Who can relate your mighty acts? Or make all Your praises known? Who can tell of all Your miracles at all times? O Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation both visible and invisible, You sit upon the throne of glory and behold the depths. You are without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, indescribable, and immutable. You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the great God and Savior, our hope. He is the image of Your goodness, the seal of Your equal likeness. In Himself He is expressing You, the Father. He is the living Word, the true God, the eternal Wisdom, the Life, the Sanctification, the Power, the true Light. Through Him was revealed the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth; the Gift of sonship; the Pledge of future inheritance; the First Fruits of eternal blessing; the life-creating Power; the Fountain of sanctification. Through Him every creature of reason and understanding is empowered, worshipping You and sending up to You the eternal hymn of glory, for all things are subject to You. You are praised by angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers, and the many-eyed Cherubim. Around You stand the Seraphim, one with six wings and the other with six wings; with two they cover their faces, with two they cover their feet, and with two they fly, crying one to another with unceasing voices and ever-resounding praises, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Your glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

With these blessed powers, O loving Master, we sinners also cry aloud and say: You are holy, most holy, and there are no bounds to the majesty of Your holiness. You are holy in all Your works, for with righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. When You created man by taking dust from the earth, honoring him with Your own image, O God, You set him in a paradise of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of eternal blessings in the observance of Your commandments. But when man disobeyed You, the true God Who had created him, and was misled by the deception of the serpent, he became subject to death through his own transgressions. In Your righteous judgment, O God, You expelled him from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Your Christ Himself. For You, O good One, did not desert forever Your creature whom You had made. Nor did You forget the work of Your hands, but through the tender compassion of Your mercy, You visited him in various ways: You sent prophets. You performed mighty works by Your saints who in every generation were well-pleasing to You. You spoke to us by the mouth of Your servants, the prophets, who foretold to us the salvation which was to come. You gave us the law as a help. You appointed angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us by Your Son Himself, through Whom You also made the ages. He, being the Radiance of Your glory and the Image of Your person, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal to You, the God and Father. He was God before the ages, yet He appeared on earth and lived among men. Becoming incarnate from a holy virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being conformed to the body of our lowliness, that He might conform us to the image of His glory. For since through a man sin entered the world, and through sin death, so it pleased Your only-begotten Son Who was in the bosom of You, the God and Father, born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, born under the law, to condemn sin in His own flesh, so that those who were dead in Adam might be made alive in Himself – Your Christ. He lived in this world and gave us commandments of salvation. Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He obtained us for Himself, to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Having cleansed us in water, and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the Cross into Hades that He might fill all things with Himself, He destroyed the torments of death. And rising on the third day, He made a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be overcome by corruption. So He became the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the First-born of the dead, that He, Himself, might truly be the first in all things. Ascending into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of Your majesty on high, and He will come to render to each man according to his works. (The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great)


Psalm 145
1 I will extol thee, my God and King,
and bless thy name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless thee,
and praise thy name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall laud thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of thy majesty,
and on thy wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 Men shall proclaim the might of thy terrible acts,
and I will declare thy greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of thy abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord,
and all thy saints shall bless thee!
11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
and tell of thy power,
12 to make known to the sons of men thy mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of thy kingdom.
13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and thy dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to thee,
and thou givest them their food in due season.
16 Thou openest thy hand,
thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him,
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him;
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.


Christ our God, You are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. You have fulfilled all the dispensation of the Father. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness always, now and forever… For every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from You, the Father of lights. To You we give glory, thanksgiving, and worship, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)