On Death by St. John of Kronstadt

Love to be reproved of sin by others, justly or unjustly here, in preference to being reproved at the dreadful judgment seat, before the whole world, before all the Angels and men. O, the unbearable fear and shame of Thy terrible judgment seat, Lord!

Excerpts from the diary of St. John of KronstadtOn Death and life After Death

Nothing in the world is more important than the salvation of human souls, and there is no subject more worthy of unceasing and perpetual remembrance than the redemption of the world by the Son of God from sin, the curse and eternal death. The Holy Church has engraved in her Divine services, by means of eternally indelible letters, by images and rites, the whole ordering of our salvation, in order that men — so inclined to forget God, and the salvation of their souls, and all that God has done for their salvation, eternal joy and bliss — should constantly have, so to say, before their eyes, and as though within their reach, all God's great, most wise and good deeds concerning them, and that they may continually be urged to repentance, amendment, and salvation, and shun the vanities of this corrupt and fleeting world. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."[979]

We love everything brilliant on earth: gold, silver, precious stones, crystal, bright clothing — why then do we not love the future glory to which the Lord calls us? Why do we not aspire to shine like the sun? "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."[671] It is because we have perverted the nature of our soul by sin, and have attached ourselves to earth instead of to heaven, to corruptible things instead of to incorruptible ones; because we love earthly, transitory, perishable, and seductive splendour. But why is there such a love for everything bright in us? Because our soul was created for heavenly light, and was originally all light, all radiance; thus light is inborn in it, the feeling and desire for light are inborn in it. Direct this aspiration to seeking for heavenly light!

The degrees of beatitude and torment in the next world will be different. This is proved by the present state of the souls of different people or of the same man at different times under different conditions. The more simple, the better and more sociable the man is, the more blessed he inwardly is; the more deceitful, evil, and selfish he is, the more unhappy; the firmer his faith and the stronger his love are, the more blessed he is; the weaker his faith and love are, the weaker, the worse he feels. Thus those who have little or no faith, those who hate their fellow-creatures, are the most unhappy of men. By this we can understand what future torments will be.

These hands, that like to take gifts, shall be folded upon the breast and shall take no more; these feet, that like to walk for evil, and that do not like to stand in prayer, shall be stretched out for ever, and shall not go anywhere more; these eyes, that look enviously upon the prosperity of their neighbour, shall close, their fire shall be dimmed for ever, and nothing shall charm them again; the hearing, so often open to listen with pleasure to evil speaking and calumny, shall be deadened, and no thunders even will be audible to it. It shall only hear the trumpet raising the dead, when our incorruptible body shall rise, either "unto the resurrection of life or unto the resurrection of damnation."[540] What, then, will live in us, even after our death, and what should be the object of all our care during our present life? That which we now call the heart, that is, the inward man, our soul; it should be the object of our solicitude. Cleanse your heart during all your life, so that it, or your soul, may be capable of seeing God afterwards; only care for your body and its requirements as much as is necessary for maintaining its health, power, and decency. It will all die; the earth will bear it all away. Strive, therefore, to perfect within you that which loves and hates, that which is calm or disturbed, which rejoices or grieves — that is, your heart or your inward man, which thinks and reasons through your intellect.

After the resurrection our bodies will be spiritual, and not earthly ones, everything earthly will remain upon earth. Remembering what our future abode will be, Christians, let us, then, gradually detach ourselves from everything earthly. In the resurrection of the dead, men shall be "as the angels of God in heaven"[1005] — as spiritual as they! And therefore, there will be neither meat, nor drink, nor raiment, nor air, nor warmth — which nourish, warm and support our bodies here; "but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."[1006] Now our earthly bodies are supported by the earth, that is, by earthly elements, but then all "the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."[1007] And thus remembering these future changes in our destiny, in our bodies, and in our lives, " and the wonder of seeing God incarnate, let us shun the vain world, and set our minds upon Divine things: Christ came upon earth, in order to raise us up to heaven."[1008] The spiritual body is entirely different from the material, elemental one. "That God may be all in all."[1009]

All present things are but a shadow of the future. The present light is a shadow of the future ineffable light. Earthly bliss is a faint shadow of future unspeakable, eternal bliss; fire a faint shadow of the fire of Gehenna, which will burn sinners unto ages of ages; pure earthly joy a shadow of unspeakable future joys; the magnificent royal palaces a faint shadow of the resplendent mansions of Paradise prepared for those who love God and fulfil His commandments. The glorious attire of the sons and daughters of men cannot be compared with that glorious garment with which the elect shall be clothed, for they will put on Christ. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father,"[366] according to the Saviour's sure promise.

Christian! thou art to be united to the angels, archangels — all the heavenly powers. Imitate the angels; despise earthly things; love that which is heavenly, eternal, spiritual; shun worldly passions; do not serve the belly, the demon of covetousness; be gentle, meek, calm as an angel, pure as an angel, simple and holy as an angel.

When I call to mind the Son of God, Who received human nature into union with His Godhead, and also the lives those live who call themselves Christians, then I am seized with fear and pity: fear because I anticipate the great wrath of God upon the careless, ungrateful, and evil-natured; pity because I see a great multitude of Christians voluntarily depriving themselves of the indescribable bliss of the future life, and casting themselves into eternal fire — into eternal torments.

That our union with God in the future world will come to pass, and that it will be for us the source of light, peace, joy, and beatitude, this we partly recognise by experience even in the present life. During prayer, when our soul is wholly turned towards God, and is united to Him, we feel happy, calm, easy, and joyful, like children resting on their mother's breast; or, I would rather say, we experience a sensation of inexpressible well-being. "It is good for us to be here."[291] Therefore struggle unremittingly to obtain future everlasting bliss, the beginning of which you know by experience even in the present life; but bear in mind that these beginnings are only earthly, imperfect, which we see now only "in part, as through a glass darkly."[292] How will it be with us then, when we shall indeed be most truly united to God, when the images and shadows shall pass away, and the kingdom of truth and vision will come! O! we must labour unceasingly all our life, until death, for future blessedness, for our future union with God.

But the time and place for the action of grace is here alone: after death there remain only the prayers of the Church, and these prayers can be efficacious for penitent sinners alone — that is, only for those who have developed in their souls the capability of receiving God's mercy or of benefiting by the prayers of the Church — that is, the light of the good works which they have taken with them out of this life. Impenitent sinners are undoubtedly sons of perdition.

Men are perplexed, and, to tell the truth, many do not believe in the honour which is promised to the righteous in the future life, because Satan has lowered mankind in its own eyes. But this honour shall truly be, and we should hope to attain it; for man is the image of God, and it is for this that the Son of God was incarnate, in order to re-establish his image...

By reverencing the angels, we ally ourselves with the life-giving conviction that there exists another world of reasonable beings, perfectly pure, simple, and bodiless, and that therefore the existence of our soul after death is not only possible, but real and actual. And by reverencing the saints, we again accustom ourselves to the thought that there is life for us after death, that virtue and holiness are rewarded after death, and therefore, if we live virtuously, we too shall be rewarded; that evil is punished, as we see in the Gospel story of the rich man and Lazarus, and that therefore we too shall be punished for the evil which we do here. In general the veneration of the angels and saints does not show any polytheism, but is entirely in accordance with our nature, and tends to actual spiritual profit.

Christian hope is our hope for life in the Christ. We were created for life, but have fallen away from life into spiritual and bodily death, and, but for Christ, we should have been lost for ever, though we could not in any case have been altogether destroyed. God is true to Himself. Having created Godlike, eternal spirits, He is true to His eternity in them, and to destroy them altogether would be to renounce His eternity; whilst, on the other hand, He cannot receive fallen, sinful, uncleansed beings into union with Himself, otherwise He would have been obliged to disown His holiness and His immutability. Therefore, may the firm love of God the Father unto us be for ever glorified; for the redemption and cleansing of us sinners, He did not spare His Only begotten Son, Who gave Himself up to death for us, not only that He might sanctify and cleanse us from every impurity, but also that He might present us to Himself a glorious Church "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."[1173] "Because I live ye shall live also."[1174] This is in Whom and upon what all our hope is founded. Because I live, says the Lord, ye shall live also, that is, shall pass from death unto life. The whole Gospel confirms our hope in life. (The resurrection of Lazarus, the conversation with Martha and Mary, the words of the Saviour on the occasion of the institution of the Eucharist, in the Gospel of St. John.)

Pray to the Lord for the repose of the souls of your departed forefathers, fathers and brothers, daily in the morning and in the evening, in order that the remembrance of death may live in you, and that hope in the future life, after death, may not be extinguished in you, and that your spirit may be daily humbled by the thought of the transitoriness of your life.

A terrible truth. Impenitent sinners after their death lose every possibility of changing for good, and therefore remain unalterably given up to everlasting torments (for sin cannot but torment). How is this proved? It is plainly proved by the actual state of some sinners and by the nature of sin itself — to keep the man its prisoner and to close every outlet to him.

When you pray for the repose of the soul of the departed, force yourself to pray with your whole heart, remembering that to do so is your essential duty, and not only that of a priest or ecclesiastic. Represent to yourself how necessary repose is to the departed one, and how greatly he (or she) needs the prayers for him (or her) of the living, being a member of the one body of the Church; how the demons are contesting his (or her) soul from the angels, and how it trembles, not knowing what its eternal destiny will be. Our prayer of faith and love for the departed means much in the Lord's sight. Represent to yourself, further, how necessary rest is for you when you are bound by the fetters of sin, and how fervently, with what sincerity, ardour, and power you then pray to the Lord and to the Most-pure Mother of the Lord, and how you rejoice and triumph when, after your fervent prayer, you obtain the remission of your sins and peace of heart. Apply all this to the soul of the departed. His (or her) soul also needs prayer — your prayer now — because it cannot pray fruitfully any longer itself; the soul of the departed also requires the rest which you can implore for it by means of your ardent prayer, joined to works of charity for the benefit of that soul, and especially by the offering of the bloodless sacrifice on its behalf.

We may therefore ask God for everything trustfully in the name of Jesus Christ, every blessing or gift that we can think of, for "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."[189] Do you pray for the forgiveness of the sins or for the repose of the souls of the departed? "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world."[190] "The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."[191] He can forgive even the departed every sin committed by them in word, deed, or thought. "He is the resurrection, the life and the repose of His departed servants"...

All the words of the Church prayers and praises are great words, but these words, "For Thou art the resurrection and the life, and the repose," which afford such great consolation to our mortal race and constitute the hope of the Christian, are especially great. Therefore they must be pronounced with special power, with special emphasis.

Finally, when praying for the repose of the souls of the departed (in heaven, upon earth, [999] and in hell), we consider them also as forming one spiritual body with ourselves, and we desire peace and rest for them in the immortal country, acknowledging that their souls actually live, and that we ourselves perhaps very soon shall join them. This is the fruit of the faith of Christ — the union of love with all, with those in heaven, upon earth, and in hell. How high is the spirit of the Church! O, if we could raise ourselves up to this spirit! Penetrate into the spirit of the Christian Divine service, into the spirit of the litanies, the sacraments, rites, and be imbued with it yourselves.

God grant that even after death our brotherly union with our departed relatives, and those whom we knew in this life, may not be broken off, that our love may not be extinguished, but may burn with a bright flame, and that constant true remembrance of those at rest may ever remain with us until our death. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you."[1142]

Why did God send His Son to be the Saviour of the world, and deliver Him unto death for the sins of men? Because men are the image of God. Why are such unspeakable promises and blessings given unto men, that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him"[1307] All because they are the image of God. What respect we ought to have for men! What hope Christians ought to have! Friends of my God! "Set your affection on things above"[1308]!

I have a Teacher, Who gives me life; every word of His is the word of life, and is, therefore, truth. I believe Him in everything, and all that is contrary to His word — either in my thoughts and heart, or in what I hear from other people — I do not believe, and look upon as falsehood and death to my soul.

Man is truly a wonderful creature of God! Glory be to his Creator and Providence! Glory be to the Saviour of mankind, Who draws us out of the mire of the passions, from corruption and death, and leads us into the life eternal!

If you wish to live long on the earth, do not hurry to live in a carnal manner, to satiate yourself, to get drunk, to smoke, to commit fornication, to live in luxury, to indulge yourself. The carnal way of life constitutes death, and therefore, in the Holy Scripture, our flesh is called mortal, or, "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts."[1381] If you wish to live long, live through the spirit; for life consists in the spirit: "If ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,"[1382] both here on earth and there in heaven. Observe temperance and simplicity in food and drink; preserve chastity; do not foolishly squander the balsam of your life; do not seek after riches, after luxury; strive to be contented with little; keep peace with all, and do not envy anyone — respect and love all; and, above all, strive ever to bear Christ in your heart, and you shall live in peace and felicity for many years.

Those who have not found Christ live in this life without hearty faith; they think and care more about worldly things — how to enjoy themselves, how to eat and drink pleasurably, how to dress exquisitely, how to satisfy their carnal desires, how to kill time, with which they do not know what to do, though time seeks them and, not finding them, quickly flies away before their eyes. Day flies away after day, night after night, month after month, year after year, until, finally, the last terrible hour strikes, and they hear a voice: "Stop, the course is finished; your time has been lost; your sins and iniquities have preceded you; they will fall upon you with all their power, and will crush you with their weight eternally."

Vain is our life — that is, vainly and for nothing, uselessly, to no purpose are the days of our lives, lost for eternity; we only care about earthly, worldly things, and think but little of eternity. We do not represent to ourselves the future terrible judgment, future torment, and future endless bliss. We all live in a kind of spiritual mist; the flesh and passions have overpowered us, whilst the spirit is oppressed, crushed, stifled. But "behold! the Bridegroom" of our souls "cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watchful; but unworthy is he whom He shall find cast down " by worldly cares. "Beware then, my soul, lest thou be weighed down by sleep, lest thou be given over to death, and be shut out from the kingdom; but arise, and cry: 'Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O God! Through the Mother of God have mercy upon us'"[1343]

It is proper to the one eternal Almighty God, Who has life in Himself, not to have hope, but for us, the creatures of a day, who have received life, and all the gifts pertaining to life, from God — for us, the guilty creatures before the Author of our life, who have not fulfilled and do not keep the commandments of life — for us, the creatures who have rebelled against our Creator and Lord, only hope is left for our lot, and this only by the mercy of the Lord Himself, Who has devised hope as a means of restoring life to us, who have fallen from life eternal into eternal death. We all know that we carry spiritual death in our hearts, which gradually prepares our bodily death. Meanwhile our hearts, which were created for the life eternal, though they have tasted death, but not being completely struck by it, yearn after life and bliss. It is this lost bliss that has been restored to us by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and that is ready to be opened unto those who believe in Him even at the last time. This hope that we shall obtain, in Christ's name, the promised bliss, is the Christian hope. During the whole continuation of our earthly life, for the sake of His Son, Who was incarnate for us and took upon Himself all the sins of the world, God cares for our salvation, leads us to it, as though by the hand, by means of His Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance of future blessings, through the Divine services, through sermons, through the Word of God and the sacraments, through our conscience, and through trying our inward parts; and finally He will lead us to the inheritance of the promised blessings.

Life is the vivifying power. Therefore God, as the first source of life, and the cause of life, is infinite Power, vivifying all. This is also why the angels are called the heavenly powers: the human soul is also power. The angels and men are powers vivified by the first Life, borne, guided, and strengthened by the first Power in their reasonable and free service to the first Life. Death is the destructive power. The first power of this kind that appeared in the kingdom of the living God, Who created all things for life, was in the person of the Devil, and from him it passed to men and other earthly creatures, " for the creature was made subject to the bondage of corruption, by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same."[1228] That is, man, who subjected himself to the first destructive power, the Devil. As the Devil is a mental power, therefore, he acts by the power of his infernal mind upon our minds, originally perverted by his breathing, and separates us from God the Life by doubt and mistrust in God, the Power that is almighty and unchangeable in its attributes; he separates us from God Who is Love by the spirit of enmity, malice, and envy; he separates us from God the Spirit by strongly attaching our heart to earthly blessings. We observe that in the sinful, unnatural attachments of our heart there is a power working that is destructive to our soul — as, for instance, in malice, doubt, and all sins, in despondency, despair, and in resistance to God's commandments. On the other hand, the Lord God reveals Himself in our soul chiefly as the power of love: "The love strong as death,"[1229] as the power of all virtues, overcoming all obstacles set against the soul by the powers of hell.

Now we stand up and fall (in faith and virtue), but we hope for a time and condition when we shall no longer be able to fall, when we shall reach such a state of perfect safety from falling, as the angels have attained to, who are now inaccessible to evil, and when we shall become strengthened in holiness. In the meantime fight against sin, and hope that the time will at last come of perfect victory over sin and over death, which is its offspring. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."[1160]

Even here I rest in Christ and with Christ; how, then, can I do otherwise than believe that eternal rest in Him awaits me after death, and after the struggle against earthly enemies? Here without Christ I feel oppressed and in pain; how can I do otherwise than believe that it will be still more grievous to be without Christ there, when He will finally cast me away from before His face! Thus the present state of our souls foreshadows the future. The future will be a continuation of the present inward condition, only in a modified form as to its degree: for the righteous it will be turned into the fulness of eternal glory; for sinners, into the fulness of everlasting torment.

I love to gaze upon the image of the risen Life-giver with the banner in His hand, with that symbol of victory over death and Him who has the power of death: " O death, where is Thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"[945] What a glorious Victor! What a cruel, most wicked enemy He has conquered! An enemy who gloried in his victories during thousands of years! "To Thee, Conqueror of death, we cry: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."[946] "We glorify Thee, Life-giving Christ, Who descended into hell for our sakes, and didst raise all with Thyself."[947] "In rising from the tomb, Christ, Thou didst raise all the race of Adam with Thyself."[948]

"Now even a just man falleth seven times,"[1161] and, falling, sighs and says: "O wretched man than I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? With the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin;" but the time shall come "when the law of sin, which is in our members shall be destroyed,"[1162] and the law of God alone shall dwell in our hearts.

Now we seek lasting bliss, and do not find it; the pleasures which we invent are not lasting, they are false, vain, and of short duration; but if the Christian walks worthy of his vocation, [1163] then he shall obtain as an inheritance a bliss which is true and lasting, and which shall completely satisfy the requirements of his soul.

Holy thoughts, or words of life and truth, can be easily distinguished from thoughts and words of falsehood and death; the latter are anguish, disturbance, spiritual death. "For to be carnally-minded is death; but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace."[1053]

Christian hope is our hope in Christ and in the eternal bliss promised us by Christ. He is the limit of our desires: "He shall save His people from their sins."[1191] Many Christians say: "I should like to go to Paradise, but my sins will not let me;" but those who speak thus have no idea of Christian hope: they look upon sins as a kind of indestructible wall. No; I say that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, has destroyed this very wall by His cross and death, and has opened God's Paradise to all those who repent. Let us stand firmly in this, in order to teach how to trust in Christ, for not every hope is the Christian, true, and saving hope. We will point out the properties of Christian hope, its soundness, firmness, and fulness, as well as the signs by which we may know whether we have Christian hope in us; we will point out that Christian hope breathes by means of prayer as by air, is maintained and strengthened by means of the Life-giving Mysteries, by the reading and hearing of the Word of God, and of the writings of the Holy Fathers, and by the good works of each of us. Here we will mention that as the Christian is a free and reasonable being, created after the image and likeness of God, but having fallen (of his own will) or withdrawn himself from God by his iniquities, therefore he himself must draw near to His Prototype by means of faith, hope, and love. Let us advise every Christian to consider carefully what specially constitutes the God-like, immortal man in him; let us beseech him to turn his attention to his heart, to listen to its requirements, which very often disclose themselves to the man's consciousness, and to satisfy such requirements without delay. Our heart requires faith in God and union with Him, in Whom it finds peace and blessedness; but it is also tempted by the action of the spirit of darkness and inborn corruption, by all the earthly goods, which do not constitute its peace, life, and blessedness, but only sorrow and anguish. To unite this heart to Christ by means of faith and hope — this is our last wish for you in our present sermon on the subject of Christian hope; to break off your trust in earthly blessings, in men, honours, riches, sensual pleasures — this is our sole desire. We sink in sins, and often despond, despair, and perish from their multitude. To turn the attention of all to our Hope — to Christ the Saviour — in all sins, in all sorrows, in all the changes of life, both in happiness and in misfortune; to show that He is the God of those who repent, and the Saviour of those who sin — this is our desire. To show that in Christ is our life, our blessedness, our light, our riches, our meat and drink, our all; and to teach all to strive after Him during all their life, as the limit of all our desires — this is what we wish above all things. Jesus is the ever-living Source. I would desire to so lead you that each one of you should with all his heart call Jesus his Jesus, his Saviour. God grant that it may not fall to us to exclaim: "Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?"[1192]

Sensualist! upon what will you set your love after your death, when you will no longer have any carnal delights, and their place is filled by the bitterness of entire deprivation? Upon what will your imperishable soul be fed? Carnal delights will no longer be compatible with it. Covetous man! upon what will you set your heart's love when with your death the possession and enjoyment of your money and various treasures cease? Your soul, a spiritual being, will not then require these treasures; they would be repugnant to it, like poison, like the rust and rottenness which corrupted it during its lifetime, estranging it from God and depriving it of the incorruptible treasure — God. Proud, ambitious man! you who seek distinctions and honours, and love them above everything in the world! upon what will you set your love when death divests you of all your distinctions and shows you in all your nakedness and deformity? What will then be the food and life of the imperishable spirit that has withdrawn itself from God for the sake of the vain honours of this world, making a god of itself, like the worshippers of idols] So vain is the man subjected to passions that he does not understand what he does, what deprivations he prepares for himself, what torment for his foolish passions, that after having been honoured by the likeness of God, by the name of a child of God, of a friend of God, of an heir of the heavenly kingdom, of a joint heir with Christ, by his foolishness "he may be compared unto the beasts that perish,"[985] in greediness, in his sensual fury, in malice, in envy! Therefore fear to cleave with your whole soul to anything earthly.

Christ is our hope, our cleansing and sanctification, our resurrection, life and repose. He alone-is what we all need, and, therefore, the Church constantly pronounces these words aloud so that we may hear them during the requiems or funeral services, and during the other Church services, for we are inclined to forget the only thing we need; the passions draw away after them our intellect, memory and imagination, our heart and will. With death all will be taken from us, all earthly goods: riches, honours, the beauty of the body, beauty of raiment, spacious dwellings, all the sweetness of food and drink, but the virtue of the soul, that incorruptible raiment, shall remain with us eternally; and Christ — our eternal riches, our life and true beauty, true glory and honour, our incorruptible raiment — will eternally remain with us.

The body, being only the temporal garment of the soul, is perishable, and does not constitute the true life of the man. The true life is the spiritual life. If you rend, if you destroy the man's garment, still he himself remains alive; so also after the slaying, after the death, the corruption of the body, the soul remains alive. Let us then chiefly care for the soul, for its salvation!

Glory to Thee, life-giving Father, life-giving Son, and life-giving Holy Spirit, incomplex Being — God; ever saving us from the spiritual death caused to our soul by passions. Glory to Thee, Lord, in three persons, who enlightenest the dark face of our soul and body, and bestowest upon us Thy peace, which exceeds every earthly and physical good, and surpasses all understanding.

There is, my brethren, a true, real life, and there is a false, imaginary life. To live in order to eat, drink, dress, walk; to enrich ourselves in general, to live for earthly pleasures or cares, as well as to spend time in intriguing and underhand dealings; to think ourselves competent judges of everything and everybody is — the imaginary life; whilst to live in order to please God and serve our neighbours, to pray for the salvation of their souls and to help them in the work of their salvation in every way, is to lead the true life. The first life is continual spiritual death, the second — the uninterrupted life of the spirit.

The Word of the Lord is deed, life, being. From Him Who exists comes existence; from the Life, life; from the Truth, truth; whilst from the Devil, who fell through his illusive pride, who wished to appropriate to himself the impossible, and who fell away from life and truth, come illusion, falsehood, and death from death.

God is Life; He gave being and life to everything. He is That Which Is and Almighty, for everything proceeds from Him, and everything is supported by Him; let us therefore know Him Who alone Is. The Devil is death, because he voluntarily turned away from God the Life, and as God is That Which Is, so the Devil, by reason of his having completely fallen away from That Which Is, is the cause of that which is not, of imagination, enticement, for he cannot truly bring anything into being by the word; thus he is falsehood, as God is truth.

A true shepherd and father of his flock will live in their grateful memory even after his death. They will extol him; and the less he cares to be extolled here on earth on account of his zealous labours for their salvation, the more his glory shall shine after his death: even when he is dead he will make them speak of him. Such is the glory of those who labour for the common good.

Brethren! amongst the beings created by God, there are the temporal, transitory ones, such as all unintelligent, animate and inanimate creatures, organic and inorganic, as well as the world itself, which will pass away; "for the fashion of this world passeth away."[707] And there are eternal beings, which are not transitory, such as the angels and the souls of men, the demons themselves with Satan. For man, the earthly life, life in the body, serves only as a preparation for eternal life, which will begin after the death of the body. Therefore we must avail ourselves without delay of the present life as a preparation for the other life; and as we chiefly work during week-days for the earthly life, we must work on Sundays and other holidays wholly for the Lord God, devoting them to attendance at Divine service, to reading the Word of God, to pious meditation, to edifying conversations, good works, and especially to works of mercy. Those sin grievously who neglect the matter of their spiritual education for eternal life in the world above. How can we forget our final destination? How is it possible to be so ungrateful to the Creator, Who created us after His own image and likeness, incorruptible, and for union with Himself; Who redeemed us by His cross, and opened to us the gates of the kingdom of heaven? How can many of us become "like the beasts that perish"? [708] "Let us lift up our hearts!"[709]

It is a wonderful thing that, however much we trouble about our health, however much care we take of ourselves, whatever wholesome and pleasant food we eat, whatever wholesome drinks we drink, however much we walk in the fresh air, still, notwithstanding all this, in the end we are subjected to maladies and corruption; whilst the saints, who despised their flesh, and mortified it by continual abstinence and fasting, by lying on the bare earth, by watchfulness, labours, unceasing prayer, have made both their souls and bodies immortal. Our well-fed bodies decay and emit an offensive odour after death, whilst theirs remained fragrant and flourishing in life as well as after death. It is a wonderful thing: we, by building up, destroy our body; whilst they, by destroying, built up theirs; they, by only caring for the fragrance of their souls before God, obtained the fragrance of their bodies also. Brethren! understand the problem, the purpose of your life. We must mortify our body with its many passions, or our carnal passions, through abstinence, labour, prayer, and not animate it and its passions through dainties, satiety, and slothfulness.

That which a man loves, to which he turns, that he will find. If he loves earthly things, he will find earthly things, and these earthly things will abide in his heart, will communicate their earthliness to him and will find him; if he loves heavenly things, he will find heavenly things, and they will abide in his heart and give him life. We must not set our hearts upon anything earthly, for the spirit of evil is incorporated in all earthly things when we use them immoderately and in excess, this spirit having become earthly by excessive opposition to God.

O, how we ought to love our Lord, Who was pleased to call us into existence from non-existence, to honour us by His image and likeness, to establish us in a paradise of delights, to subdue all the earth unto us, and Who — when we did not keep His commandments, but were allured by the enticement of the Devil, and immeasurably offended our Creator by our ingratitude, and assimilated unto ourselves all the qualities of the tempter (pride, malice, envy, ingratitude) and all his evil arts, which he taught us as his prisoners — did not reject us for ever, but deigned to redeem us from sin, from the curse and death into which we had fallen through sin, and Himself appeared upon earth, having taken our nature upon Him; He Himself became my Teacher, my Healer, my Worker of miracles, my Saviour; He Himself bore the punishment for us, died for us in order that we should not be eternally lost. He rose from the dead, in order to raise us too after death. He ascended into heaven, in order that we, too, should ascend, we who had fallen so low through sin; and He became everything to us — food, drink, light, purification, sanctification, health — and the power that protects, saves, preserves, and has mercy upon us.

Sometimes in the affliction of your soul you wish to die. It is easy to die, and does not take long; but are you prepared for death? Remember that after death the judgment of your whole life will follow.[39] You are not prepared for death, and if it were to come to you, you would shudder all over. Therefore do not waste words in vain. Do not say: "It is better for me to die," but say rather, "How can I prepare for death in a Christian manner?" By means of faith, by means of good works, and by bravely bearing the miseries and sorrows that happen to you, so as to be able to meet death fearlessly, peacefully, and without shame, not as a rigorous law of nature, but as a fatherly call of the eternal, heavenly, holy, and blessed Father unto the everlasting Kingdom. Remember the old man who, being weary of his heavy burden, called for death. When it came he did not wish to die, and preferred to go on carrying his heavy burden.

What is most terrible to man? Death? Yes, death. None of us can imagine, without terror, how he will have to die and breathe his last sigh. And how parents grieve when their beloved children die, when they lie breathless before their eyes! But, brethren, do not fear, and do not grieve beyond measure. By His death Jesus Christ our Saviour has conquered our death, and by His resurrection He has laid the foundation for our resurrection, and every week, every Sunday, we solemnise in the risen Christ our common future resurrection from the dead, and begin beforehand the life eternal, to which our present temporal life is but a short, narrow, and most sorrowful way. For a true Christian death is merely like a sleep until the day of resurrection, or like birth into a new life. And thus in solemnising every week the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection from the dead, let us learn to continually die to sin, and to rise with our souls from dead works, to enrich ourselves with virtues, and not sorrow inconsolably for the dead. Let us learn to meet death without dread, as the decree of the Heavenly Father, which, through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, has lost its terror.

Do not merely not care for pleasures and fine things, but do not even care for your own sinful flesh; for by the slightest attachment to all these things you anger God. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."[594] You see, therefore, that you are not to pay attention to visible things — let them be as though they did not exist; but you must pay attention to invisible things; for the former are temporal, and the latter eternal. Besides this, if you seek the invisible, then God will provide the visible for you, as He has done until now.

Looking upon the many various diversions of men, upon their exclusive care for the flesh, one thinks: "Have these men a soul? And if they have, then why do they not care for it, why do they not think of its salvation? — for it is given up to innumerable sins which constitute its death, and eternal death. Are there indeed eternal torments and eternal bliss? And if these exist, then why do men strive so little, or do not strive at all, to escape eternal torment and to inherit eternal bliss?" This is what astonishes me. And, also, why do not men fear the terrible hour of death? For we cannot live on earth for ever. Some time our turn will come, and we shall be told: "Return ye, sons of men, unto the earth from which you were created." O, how heedless we are, how great is our pride, how manifold our passions, our attachments to the earth! Sinners, do you think that God has no means by which He can punish you ? O, there are means, there are! There is the fiery gehenna, the lake of fire, the terrible Tartarus, at which even Satan himself trembles, the worm that never dies, and the gnashing of teeth. But why do I discourse of this only to you? I ought to say the same to myself, to myself also, for I am the greatest of the sinners, for whom the torments of hell were prepared, but from which Christ, in Whom is all my hope, has saved me. But you, my brethren, have you all faith in Christ, in His Gospel? Where is your evangelical life? Who of you reads the Gospel, even daily, that greatest gift of God, and law of life?" They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."[687]

A day is the symbol of the transitoriness of earthly life: it begins with the morning, then comes the day itself, followed by the evening, and, with the coming of the night, the whole day has passed away. So, likewise, life passes away. First, childhood, like the early morning; then, adolescence and manhood, like the full day and noon; and then old-age, like evening, if God grants it; and afterwards inevitable death.

Adam became so proud that he wished to become God and died for his pride; the Son of God humbled Himself unto death, and gave life to the fallen. O abyss of humility! Adam and Eve lost themselves through gluttony, the Lord fasted and died for them, in order to give them life. They were disobedient, Christ fulfilled obedience.

The Lord — is my being; the Lord — is my deliverance from everlasting death; the Lord — is my eternal life;

What an insignificant cobweb the world must be to God! What an insignificant cobweb is my body! And yet all is wisdom in every point of matter, and all stands only by wisdom, by the eternal laws of wisdom. O, wisdom, wisdom! We all owe our being to thee, to thy merciful Author! My death, my decomposition or destruction, clearly proves what an insignificant cobweb thou hast in me.

When you are asked to pray that someone may be saved from bodily death, for instance, from drowning, from death through any sickness, from fire, or from any other disaster, commend the faith of those who ask you to do so, and say in yourself: Blessed be your faith, according to your faith may the Lord fulfil my unworthy, feeble prayer, and may He increase my faith.

The kingdom of life and the kingdom of death go side by side. I say go, because they are spiritual. The Chief of the first — that is, of the kingdom of life — is Jesus Christ, and those who are with Christ are undoubtedly in the kingdom of life; the chief of the second — that is, of the kingdom of death — is the prince of the powers of the air — the Devil, with the spirits of evil subject to him, of which there are so many that their number far exceeds the number of all men dwelling upon earth. These children of death, the subjects of the prince of the air, are in constant stubborn warfare with the children of life — that is, with faithful Christians — and strive by every crafty means to win them over to their side, through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, because sin and crime are their elements, and through sins, if we do not repent of them, we pass over to their side; whilst those to whom sins form as though an every-day requirement, who drink in iniquity like water, are not disturbed by the spirits of evil, because they already belong to them as long as they live carelessly in regard to their souls. But as soon as they turn to God, acknowledging their sins, both voluntary and involuntary, the war bursts forth, and the hordes of Satan rise up and carry on an unceasing fight. You see by this how necessary it is to seek Christ, as the Chief of the kingdom of life, and the Conqueror of hell and death.

How many times death entered into my heart, communicating its beginning to the body also an innumerable number of times! And yet the Lord delivered me from this state of death, was merciful to me with unspeakable mercy, and gave me new life. O, how full of gratitude to the Lord my heart should be! "If the Lord had not helped me, it had not failed, but my soul had been put to silence."[527]

The character of our earthly life is constant expectation of God's call from this life to the other. We are not our own; we are the servants of God, as the Church so rightly calls us; and servants ought to hourly await their Lord's call. He will knock, and you must go; "that they may open unto him immediately."[1321] But meanwhile how do we live! We have entirely forgotten that we are the servants of God; we think that we belong to ourselves, and order our lives not in accordance with God's commandments, but in accordance with our own will; we live as we like. And it is owing to this that our life is full of numberless sins. Look upon human life, and you will see that it is full of "vanity of vanities; all is vanity:"[1322] fashions, theatres, card-playing, dancing parties, masquerades, luxurious furniture, pictures, and so on. Everything for ourselves and nothing for our neighbour; he may go naked, or die from hunger and cold.

O, woe, woe, woe to us who bear the name of Christ, but have none of the spirit of Christ in us; who bear the name of Christ, but do not follow the teaching of the Gospel! Woe to us who "neglect so great salvation"! [454] Woe to us who love the present fleeting, deceptive life, and neglect the inheritance of the life that follows after the death of our corruptible body beyond this carnal veil!

Look upon everything in this world as upon a fleeting shadow, and do not cling with your heart to anything; do not consider anything in this world great, and do not lay your hopes upon anything earthly. Cling to the One imperishable, invisible, most wise God. "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."[843]

Christ is our hope, our cleansing and sanctification, our resurrection, life and repose. He alone-is what we all need, and, therefore, the Church constantly pronounces these words aloud so that we may hear them during the requiems or funeral services, and during the other Church services, for we are inclined to forget the only thing we need; the passions draw away after them our intellect, memory and imagination, our heart and will. With death all will be taken from us, all earthly goods: riches, honours, the beauty of the body, beauty of raiment, spacious dwellings, all the sweetness of food and drink, but the virtue of the soul, that incorruptible raiment, shall remain with us eternally; and Christ — our eternal riches, our life and true beauty, true glory and honour, our incorruptible raiment — will eternally remain with us.

Let us put away from us our spiritual short-sightedness, and let us cease concentrating all our attention upon temporal, earthly things; let us foresee with our mental vision the future, everlasting life, and rise in our hearts to our heavenly country. Indeed, it is wonderful short-sightedness for the immortal soul only to look upon the present, visible things, generally relating to the senses, and flattering our carnal nature, and not contemplate the life of the world to come — the blessings which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man," but which the Most Merciful and the Most Wise " God hath prepared for them that love Him."[606] Of what do we not deprive ourselves through this voluntary short-sightedness! Like flies we adhere to earthly sweets, and do not wish to rise up, to tear ourselves away from them. Blessed is he who despises the joys of this world; there shall be no end to his bliss.

"The unspeakable bliss of them that behold the infinite goodness of Thy countenance."[362] Earthly bliss all passes away by itself, and also through vicissitudes of human life; whilst joys of heavenly bliss will never end — will be infinite. Is it not worth while, therefore, to despise all the enjoyments of this transitory world, and of this still more fleeting life, in order to strive with the whole heart after spiritual and unchangeable joys.

[39] Hebrews ix. 27
[189] St. John xiv. 13.
[190] 1 John ii. 2.
[191] 1 John i. 7.
[291] St. Luke ix. 33.
[292] 1 Corinthians xiii. 12.
[362] From the Russian Orthodox Church Morning Prayer: Prayer of St. Basil the Great
[366] St. Matthew xiii. 43.
[454] Hebrews ii. 3.
[540] St. John v. 9.
[594] 2 Corinthians iv. 18.
[606] 1 Corinthians ii. 9.
[671] St. Matthew xiii. 43.
[687] Romans iii. 12. Compare Psalm xiv. 3.
[707] 1 Corinthians vii. 31.
[708] Psalm xlix. 13, 21.
[709] Exclamation at the Liturgy.
[843] 2 Corinthians iv. 18.
[946] Troparia at Matins on Palm Sunday.
[947] Glorification at Matins on St. Thomas Sunday.
[948] Canon at Easter.
[979] 1 John ii. 17.
[985] Psalm xlix. 12.
[1005] St. Matthew xxii. 30.
[1006] Romans xiv. 17.
[1007] 2 Peter iii. 10.
[1008] Acathistos to the Sweetest Lord Jesus.
[1009] 1 Corinthians xv. 28.
[1053] Romans viii. 6.
[1142] St. Mark iv. 24; St. Matthew vii. 2.
[1173] Ephesians v. 27.
[1174] St. John xiv. 19.
[1160] 1 Corinthians xv. 26.
[1161] Proverbs xxiv. 16.
[1162] Romans vi. 6; vii. 23-25.
[1163] Ephesians iv. 1.
[1191] St. Matthew i. 21.
[1192] St. John xii. 38; Isaiah liii. 1
[1228] Romans viii. 20.
[1229] The Song of Solomon viii. 6.
[1307] 1 Corinthians ii. 9.
[1308] Colossians iii. 2.
[1321] St. Luke xii. 36.
[1322] Ecclesiastes i. 2.
[1381] Ephesians iv. 22.
[1343] Troparion at Matins in Passion Week.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.