Saint Nikolai of Serbia - The Pyramid of Paradise
In the very ancient time, the kings of Mizraim, the pharaohs, built pyramids of stone. Some of those pyramids were 50, some 100 and some more than 100 meters tall. There are those that are two times higher than Hagia Sofia, the most famous church in the Orthodox East. Why pharaohs built these pyramids remains a mystery as everything else in ancient pagan Mizraim. There, everything is augural and soothsaying. But the most probable reasons for building these giant buildings are the pharaohs’ wish to become immortal. They augured the immortality of their soul and their bodies. Vanity, as well as competition, was a motivator for these building. They wanted to immortalize themselves with such monuments that would stand against time and last as long as the Earth. The Mizraim “Book of the Dead” contains the judgment of Oziris and man’s immortality is expressed in a hundred ways, veiled in vague auguries and wild guesses.
That ancient Mizraim conjecture about man’s immortality is revealed as reality in Christianity. The difference is that the Christian notion of immortality is without any confusion, detached from vague pagan dreams, fantastic auguries and wild guesses. The notion of immortality in the Christian era is connected to the existence of the Only Living God and to the saviour victim of Christ and His resurrection victory over death.
And Christianity moved all people to build pyramids. It moved not only kings and great people of the world, but all people who believe in Christ and follow Him. For all the Christians are called kings according to the words of the Seer: and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father (Revelation 1,6). Therefore, every Christian has honour and duty to build a pyramid for himself. So, there should be as many pyramids as there are Christians in the world. These Christian pyramids are far more higher than all the pyramids of pharaohs. They cannot be measured by regular meter. They rise above the Sun and the Moon and the whole material universe. They rise into the heavens, and only there can one see how big and wonderful they are. They are neither afraid of time, rain, wind, frost, bombs, grenades nor any destructive force. The whole world is powerless in front these pyramids.
They stand aside from destruction and death. Immortality is guaranteed for them in a world where death is not mentioned and the sting of death not felt. They lie on a spiritual foundation, ordered by spirit, decorated by spirit, fortified by spirit and intended for spiritual kingdom. Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared the needs and plans for these pyramids. The builders are all the christened people and they build with the help of the Spirit of God. Each of these pyramids has nine main floors and the tenth floor is the tower of joy with which God crowns the building. Each floor has several special floors with many compartments. All the higher floors lie on those below them, which is natural for an ordinary building on the earth. And they all represent a gorgeous building which one cannot stop looking at. As it is known, pharaohs built their pyramids on sand and they hauled stone from far away places.
Christian pyramids, pyramids of paradise lie on the hardest foundation, on stone, and that stone is Christ, as said by a great Apostle of Christ: consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians, 2, 19-22)
THE FIRST FLOOR
On an elevation above the blue Genisaretian lake, Divine Creator sat on green grass and started to reveal the plan for a new building. He neither showed the plan on a sheet of paper nor wrote it down with a pencil. But, He spoke glorious words that He stamped as softened wax into the souls of His disciples and nations. His first words reveal the way to start building the pyramid of paradise and its first floor.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
That was all He said about building the first floor, the widest and the strongest one which should hold the rest of the palace. But, this is enough for you, oh, Christian. Only if you truly wish to build the pyramid of paradise will you take delight in the Heaven of Eternity. You know that the deeper the foundation , the safer the building. Our human poverty is very deep, so deep and hidden that many do not reach its bottom. But, lucky are those who reach the very bottom. The human poverty is not a kind of a gift you get , but a real state which you get to know itself. And you can get to know your poverty by non-flattering self-examination. The one who does this can get to know his triple poverty: 1) poverty regarding one’s knowledge, 2) poverty regarding one’s goodness, and 3) poverty regarding one’s deeds. Poverty is the higher level of impoverishment. Such great poverty, which is, in fact, nothingness, can be felt by a man who becomes aware of his mental or moral or acting power. He would like to learn something about his destiny, about who he is and where he comes from, about what he is to do in this interwoven tissue of life. But he realizes – even if he is the most educated - that all his knowledge, in comparison to his ignorance, is like a shell full of water compared to water in seas. He would like to elevate himself above all the others in the world with his goodness . But, he sees that at every step he takes, he falls into the mud of evil and wickedness. He would like to do the best and the biggest deeds all the time, but he realizes his weakness, his nothingness. Other people cannot help him because they are indigent as he is, as a poet says:
“ all their thoughts gathered
Mean nothing to me
But thirsty roaming through darkness
And a look destroyed by darkness.”
Then, a man addresses his Creator, he falls in the dust in front of Him, he puts himself into the hands of God and cries out for help. This knowledge and feeling of utter helplessness and nothingness is called the poverty of spirit. And the poverty of spirit is against the haughtiness of spirit. But haughtiness is greater nothingness of the poverty of spirit. Realizing and feeling one’s own nothingness is less poor than wickedness , since haughtiness is not only ignorance, but stupidity as well. Haughtiness is the mother of all stupidities and all human evils. Knowing oneself means realizing one’s own powerlessness and nothingness. Then, the penitence of the heart will come and one will finally cry out for God’s help and mercy.
Penitence or humility, which comes from the true knowledge of one’s powerlessness, is the foundation of all virtues, it is the base for the spiritual life of every Christian, and the foundation the pyramid of paradise. John Kolov said: “ Humility is the door to God.” Once upon a time, an evil spirit argued with St. Macarius and finally shouted: “I can do everything you can do but only you can beat me with your humility!” Someone said that humility “ has no tongue to speak evil about others, has no eyes to see other people’s evil, has no ears to hear other people’s evil.”
The one who realized that he can do nothing without God’s help, he builds the first floor of the pyramid of paradise well. Without Me you can do nothing, God said.
At every step, from the morning till night, a reasonable man realizes the truth in these words. And only this knowledge makes him great in front of God.
When a man is free from the evil wind of wickedness, then there is silence in his soul and there enters the Spirit of God. And when the Spirit of God enters a soul, then He builds the pyramid of paradise according to His reason and His will, under the guise of man. Oh, my Christian, it is important that we do not disturb the Spirit of God to enter and build. It is important, my Christian, to despise everything within yourself which comes from you and not form God, whether it is knowledge or feelings or wishes. Bernard Clairvaux said: “ The one who gets the real knowledge of oneself, he becomes despised in his own eyes.”
Do not ask, oh, wicked man, why you should humiliate and underestimate yourself. No one asks you to humiliate yourself, you should only accept your humiliation. No one asks you to make yourself nothing, but to accept your nothingness, which undoubtedly exists. When you recognize what you already are and confess that, only then will you be able to lay the cornerstone of you spiritual building. Then, you will be able to build the complete first floor of your pyramid of paradise which looks like it is all made of iron: strong as iron and dark as iron.
THE SECOND FLOOR
After building the first floor well, a Christian hurries to build the second one. The first floor is not attractive in its beauty, but it is solid and useful for tall buildings just as iron is not attractive, but it is solid and useful as well. It is more in the soil than above it. It is more invisible than visible, like any foundation. Humility is not a shining and gleaming virtue. The first floor is all built of thoughts about one’s own nothingness and of memories of one’s own nothingness and powerlessness.
The second floor is made of tears.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Tears - such a strange material! Completely tender, but reliable. They glitter as an opal stone. And truly, this second floor, the floor made of tears, looks like the floor made of an opal gemstone.
The wicked one has no tears. He boasts of inability to cry and of never having cried. He doesn’t know that it is weakness, not power. His eyes release the dry fire which makes human hearts dry. Wickedness came out from the shallow soil on a rock. However, humidity appears in deeper layers. Penitence towards God resembles deep tillage where humidity appears. The Penitent one, who is humble in spirit, cries. His soul is all in tears, his eyes witness that. One of the Orthodox teachers spoke about two baptisms: one in water and one in tears. Some other teacher once said: cry day and night and do not feel satiety in crying!
You as well could think: tears are the sign of weakness! Do not think that. Christians who cried most went to their place of execution singing.
“Tears are the unction of the eyes”, Anthony the Great said. The most sinful women: Mary of Egypt, Taisa and Pelagia washed their souls in tears and got sanctified. That happened to thousands of others.
You can do that as well, Christian. You will regret much laughter in your life, but not a tear you shed. Woe unto you that laugh now for ye shall mourn and weep. – these words are from the holiest mouth ( Luke 6.25). Never did evil sprout from the seed of tear, while many evils did sprout from the seed of laughter. But, not all tears are Evangelic tears. Tears needed for building the pyramid of paradise neither come from anger nor sorrow for lost or ungiven treasure.
Evangelic tears are those that flow from penitent and humble heart. Evangelic tears are tears from Paradise lost. Evangelic tears are those that mix with tears of children and martyrs. Evangelic tears are those that wash offenses we make to heavenly Love.
Dew is created when cold and warm air meet. Thus, tears naturally and easily flow from a man who met the warmth of heavenly Father’s love. My tears have been my food day and night, this is what a penitent king confesses when his cold heart meets the warmth of spiritual Sun (Psalms 42.3)
Those who never cry never feel comfort. Only a crying child can be comforted when caressed by his mother.
This world is not named the valley of sorrow in vain. And God Himself shed tears when he was in this world.
Man, you can choose only between sorrow and sorrow, and not between sorrow and non-sorrow. You can either cry desperately and hopelessly in front of blind and deaf nirvana or in front of living Comforter. If you cry in front living Comforter, you shall receive comfort. God Himself will appear as your comfort and in the silence of your comforted soul, he will continue to build your pyramid of paradise.
THE THIRD FLOOR
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The third floor of the pyramid of paradise is built by meekness. Meekness is the granddaughter of humility and the daughter of crying. The best characters from the preparatory Testament – Samuel, John the Baptist and Virgin Mary – are granted by God after many tears shed in prayers. Meekness itself is a virtue granted by God after many tearful prayers. That’s why meekness is absolutely inseparable from the above mentioned characters, a tear drop from the heart. Meekness can only come third, and the third floor can be built after the first and the second one. After the clouds pour their rain, there is silence; therefore, meekness comes after crying. Meekness was not unknown in the time of the Old Testament. For example, it is said that Moses was very meek, above all men which were upon the face of the earth (IV Book of Moses 12,3). Meekness of forefather Jacob and King David is mentioned as well ( remember, Lord, David and all his meekness). Meekness was included in the material needed for building human souls when Christ appeared. For I am meek, the Son of God said. And all His people should be the way He is. Meekness is the first Christ’s virtue that people noticed. Look, the Lamb of God!, cried Saint John the Forerunner when he noticed Messiah on the Jordan. Other people elbowed their way to reach John as soon as possible, to hear him and to receive baptism. But Jesus didn’t elbow his way, He meekly went around and around.
Meekness appears among those who do not hustle to get to the first row. And that comes from the perfect submission to the will of God. The meek one knows that Creator puts people where he wishes and the meek one is ready to do the will of God whether he is in the first row or in the last one. It is unessential to him where he is; the most important for him is to let God’s will be done. The meek one knows that those from the last rows, who act upon the will of God, will get more glorious wreaths than those who hurry into the first row to act upon their own will. Meekness can be described like this: offend no one and patiently bear each and every offense. The lamb is truly the example of meekness. Imagine Christ in front of His brutal judges. While they shouted, cursed, spat and tore their own dresses, He stood silent and voiceless as a lamb. The silence of His soul was like the silence of light above frothing sea gale. Such wonderful and inconceivable was the silence that the apostle swore the faithful saying: Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Corinth. 10:1). And the apostles were similar to their teacher in meekness. He sent them as lambs among the wolves, that is, the meek among the wicked, the patient among the vindictive. Like nursing women suffering from their nurslings, they bear and suffer. We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Some visitors admired a holy man who stood some shepherd swearing around his cottage. Upon that he said: “ This way I learn to stand evil saying to myself: if I cannot stand this evil, how will I endure the greater evil when it comes?”
An old man was pilfered by a neighbour who served him. Whenever he entered the old man’s room, he would pilfer something. The old man knew that and said nothing. When the death hour came, all the neighbours gathered around the old man’s bed. The old man took the hands of the pilfering servant and started kissing them saying: “I have to thank these hands for my entering the Kingdom of Heaven today.”
Oh, the meek, you shall inherit the earth. Do you ask yourself how? The same way the apostles inherited it. Whose name is more mentioned in the world than theirs? Is there a king or a duke whose word is obeyed more than the word of apostles on all four points of compass ? Those who are not meek will not inherit a feet of the earth, neither here nor in Heaven. And you, Christian, build your third floor with meekness. Meekness is like a precious amethyst iridescent with gorgeous soft colours.
The fourth floor
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be.
This is the building plan for the fourth floor of the pyramid of paradise. Here, the building materials are hunger and thirst for righteousness. Thirst and hunger have always served as a building instigator on earth. But, here we do not talk about physical hunger and thirst which you can satisfy with bread and water. A meek man, a lamb-like man would say he is satiated because he is silent and patient. In fact, a great hunger and thirst for righteousness is hidden in the depth of his soul as a sleeping volcano.
It is easy to feed a conceited one, that is, a person who spends his earthly days ruining his own soul. He eats and drinks each and every kind of earthly ooze. Just push him forward to lead the human caravan and he will be satisfied. But, the one who built the first three floors of the pyramid of paradise cannot be satisfied by anything earthly and temporary. He watches the world with God’s eyes, he thinks with God’s thoughts and he seeks God’s justice. Here, justice includes truth and order the way God revealed and ordered. The truth about Creator, the truth about the world, the truth about a man, the truth about a goal and the truth about the way.
The internal and external order, the order in soul, the order in a body, in a society, in everything – the order in accordance with the truth. In other words, righteousness means two things: the knowledge of truth and the rule of conduct. All that a man needs to know in order to reach God lies in one word- righteousness. Those who were hungry for righteousness were not Pharisees, because they thought they had righteousness. Pilates was not hungry for righteousness either, although he asked Christ : what is the truth? The hungry and thirsty for righteousness were all those who stuck to Christ from the beginning and did not leave Him till His death. Those who are hungry for Christ today are also hungry for righteousness. For Christ is all the fullness of righteousness, He who said for Himself : “I am the truth” and “I am the way”.
The hungry and thirsty for Christ as perfection of righteousness are promised to be satiated. Believing it, many Christians disdain this hunger and thirst for the world and the worldly and they seek the satisfaction for their spiritual hunger and thirst. Many of them left everything, they retreated into themselves, they closed themselves in caves, they isolated themselves in deserts, they attached themselves to pillars to nourish that spiritual hunger and to satiate that chosen hunger with heavenly righteousness, that is, Christ the Lord. They were hungry for heaven, and the world was hungry for them. The emperor Constantine the Great invited St. Anthony to come from the desert only to see him. The Emperor Theodosius summoned Elder Sennuphius from Egypt to Constantinople just to see him and talk to him. The Emperor Leon travelled to a desert just to see Saint Moses Murin the Black.
Therefore, powerful kings with spiritual hunger came down their thrones and sought to see the ones who felt themselves the hungriest and the thirstiest and who passionately satiated themselves with the heavenly meals of God’s righteousness. Although they felt this lofty, chosen hunger till their death, the world held them satiated. Truly, to choose hunger is a skill. Between the two hungers, God’s servants chose the hunger for heaven. With this hunger, they built the fourth floor of their pyramid of paradise, solid and gorgeous as precious emerald. Behold, their hunger is the only one to be satiated. And deceitful hunger for the world and worldly lusts will never be satiated in this world or in heaven . As Creator said through the prophets: “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. “ (Isaiah 65:13)
THE FIFTH FLOOR
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
He who is hungry for higher treasures, will he be avaricious for lower treasures? He who is hungry for everlasting God’s righteousness, will he clench temporary dust in his hands? He who seeks the immortal spiritual clothes, will he cry for a dress and shirt made of grass?
For such a person, alms are natural. He is like a traveler preparing for a long journey. He gives away all the things which would make his journey hard. Giving away material things is the least of all sacrifice. But it is a necessary sacrifice. Taking care of human souls is a much bigger sacrifice. It is a great sacrifice to strengthen the neighbours in truth, to show them a righteous way and to pray for them.
The biggest sacrifice of all is to lay your life for you neighbours. Christ did these alms for the humankind. These alms are so immense that we cannot call it alms any longer. They change their name into – love.
Alms can originate from many springs, clear or muddy. The clearest spring of alms is mercy. And mercy is a caressing heart. When someone caresses a man in need and help him in the name of Merciful God, then alms come from a clear spring and they have a high price in seraphic heavens.
Read beautiful stories about two people who were called merciful: St. John the Merciful and St. Philaret of Moscow.
A person who values earthly treasures more than a soul cannot be merciful. St Gregory the Dialogist feared he would lose his poverty when he was appointed the Bishop of Rome. He feared to lose his poverty the same way a rich man fears to lose his treasure. It is written in Scriptures: A merciful man does good to his own soul (Proverbs 11, 17). When you do good to others, you do manifold good to yourself. For God sees everything and rewards everything, and God is rich and his reward is rich. Reverend Mother Sarah used to say that mercy can be raised. “ Do alms even if you do it to please other people, for you will get used to doing alms for fear of God.” St Seraphim of Sarov advises to pray for a poor man if you do not have anything to give. God told unmerciful people: I want mercy, not offerings, which means : I wish you to be merciful to each other more than to offer Me sacrifices. That is how much God loves people! He considers our alms given to others greater than a sacrifice dedicated to Him. And, without God, we cannot be merciful towards people. Our correct thought about people as brothers depends on our correct thought of God as Father. So, every circle of our benefaction to others has its center in God
But, God’s command about mercy is clear to us as much as his threat to the unmerciful is sharp. God’s Apostle Jacob says: because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. (Jacob 2 : 13).
And a merciful one will be forgiven. Forgiven at the time of the judgment of God. Forgiven in immortal Christ’s Kingdom. Forgiven and caressed in eternity with angels and righteous people.
Thus, with alms you build the fifth floor of the pyramid of paradise. Every stone of that floor stands for some alms, either towards your own soul or towards other people, or towards animals or whatever God created. And this whole floor shines with heavenly blueness as if it is built of precious sapphire. This is the fifth floor of the pyramid of paradise.
THE SIXTH FLOOR
Blessed are those who are pure in their hearts, for they shall see God.
The purity of the heart is based on mercy. It is as natural as the sixth floor lies on the fifth one. A selfish and stingy man will not feel the bliss called the purity of the heart. They will never be able to build their sixth floor because they have not built the fifth one. Abraham was very merciful. Mercy helped him to purify his heart, while the purity of the heart helped him to see God.
Why do we not talk about the purity of soul, but the purity of the heart? Because the heart is the center of the soul. Thoughts come from the heart, wishes lie in the heart, all the passions nest there. Thus, advice is given: son, above all else, guard your heart (Proverbs 4,23)
While the heartwood of the tree is healthy, you can cut branches without any harm for the tree. But if the heartwood is eaten by worms, there is no use of branches and many leaves. Sins were called worms by Symeon the New Theologian. Worms harm the tree the way sins harm a man. And there are no such sins that tear one’s heart as secret sins. If you have worms lit by sunlight, they will die; if you reveal your sins to at least one man, they are forgiven and they disappear. Worms and sins are the most powerful in darkness. Yes, in darkness.
While David strictly tried not to break God’s law, he talked to God and he got to know God’s will easily. As soon as he broke God’s law, God stopped talking to him and started sending messages through other prophets.
A pure heart is a mirror where God likes to see His own reflection. God wrote His great and fearful name everywhere in mysteries of natural materials. But, He did it directly and without mysteries. God is shown in a pure man’s heart. How great is an elevation of a man above all nature! What glory and honour for a man it is to deserve to welcome his Host as his Guest in the anxiety of his heart! This is so great happiness for people that they can hardly believe it if they look at the manger of Bethlehem and see how God of love humbles Himself. A man can sublime and humble himself, but God cannot sublime, He can only humble Himself. God cannot sublime above Himself, while a man is allowed to sublime above himself as high as the very God. A man humbles with his weakness, and he sublimes with God’s power. A man should prepare his heart, clean it from dust of venial sins and from mud of cardinal ones. The rest depends upon God’s power and God’s love.
The heart is cleaned with faith, hope, love, memory of death and God’s judgment, admiration of God’s creations, questioning the ways of Providence, patience, meekness, mercy and many other means. But, even if the heart is pure after applying all these means, there will still be the smell of earth, sins and death till the Spirit of God airs the heart as a wind from heights and makes the heart sweet-smelling with his ozone. As the fathers said: only when memories of committed sins fade can we talk about a pure heart.
The purity of the heart is a crystal with which you build the sixth floor of the pyramid of paradise. The heavenly light shines through that floor and comes across no obstacle. There is nothing dark or dirty to stop it illuminate all the corners and spots on that floor.
Oh, Christian, when you enter the Kingdom of Christ, the immaculate angels of God, the infants who reposed in God in early life and virgins whose chastity led them over the bridge of death to Heaven will take delight in your building. On this sixth floor, on the floor of purity, you will meet them and together you will take delight in God’s face.
THE SEVENTH FLOOR
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
The purity of heart is the base of peace. You build the floor of peace on this base, you build the seventh floor of the pyramid of paradise rising to heavens. A heart full of false thoughts, foolish wishes for this temporary world and mean passions cannot be peaceful. For all these cause restlessness and raise dark storms in the life of man.
Muddy water from the filthiest ponds can be purified in the heights. Man, raise your heart, and heavens will purify it. Silence will move into a pure heart. And God is watched in that silence.
Peace is spiritual enjoyment the same way the purity of heart is spiritual enjoyment. He who has peace inside himself, he has great enjoyment in his soul. And no one can take this enjoyment from him. He who has peace he has Christ. It is said that He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He who stands close to the prince of peace, he has to have peace, and Christ is called Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) He who sticks to Giver of peace in storm, he has peace and he does not fear. Peace I leave with you, He said (John 14 : 27). He who says he has Christ within himself, in fact, he says he has peace within himself.
Thus we get peace with Christ. We never get peace without Christ. Paul talked a lot about reconciliation with God. But, this reconciliation does not mean a deal between our will and God’s will. This reconciliation means we completely and joyfully submit our will to God’s will. Paul talked about our reconciliation with other people. But, this also does not mean a deal between our will and other people’s will. People have been reconciling for thousands years and they haven’t reconciled yet. What Paul the Apostle wishes is to establish peace among people through general acceptance of God’s will.
The one who inhales , he exhales. He who inhales God’s peace into himself, he exhales it and spreads around himself. It happens without any special effort, it is as easy as breathing. Creating peace everywhere means getting and giving. Getting peace from God and giving it to people and beasts. Yes, to beasts as well: saints of God lived with beasts in peace and stroke them as meek lambs. So, to beasts and all nature around us. For, nature is disturbed only with sinful human restlessness. People do not get peace from nature, but nature gets peace from people. As soon as peace reigns among people, the nature enjoys peace.
A peacekeeper will be called a son of God. He will be called what Christ is from eternity to eternity. A peacekeeper does Christ’s deed. He proclaims the brotherhood of people in the name of God. He proclaims brotherly love in the name of love of God. In order to let peace among people, he warns people and elevates them to a higher degree of kinship. Only on that higher level can true and eternal peace be created. Civil peace is unreal, brotherly peace is the only real one. Heavenly and true peace cannot be accepted and possessed by fellow citizens, but by fellowmen.. A peacekeeper is inevitably a preacher of great and close kinship of God’s family, a preacher of heavenly fatherhood and human brotherhood. “ You are brothers, you have one Father in heavens!” It is a peacekeeper’s infallible argument for peace and a reasonable man cannot make a stand against it. It is the highest excuse and inspiration of peace among people. Besides, a peacekeeper constantly prays, thus addressing offended God: “ forgive them for they know not what they do; forgive them, they are Your children and You are their Father!” And Father listens to His son, a peacekeeper, and thanks to him, He gives people His Holy Spirit who brings heavenly gift of peace to embittered souls. And peace is health.
That is the way to build the seventh floor of the pyramid of paradise. This floor is built of pure gold . And it has a peaceful glitter of gold.
THE EIGHT FLOOR
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
He who builds a tall building of earthly materials arouses envy in his bad neighbours. And he who builds a tall pyramid of paradise arouses envy in demons. Demons hate those who got great soulful peace and who create peace among their brothers.
For demons take delight in the dispute between brothers. They would like people to live in constant restlessness and unhappiness, so that people start objecting their Creator. From the beginning, their job was to agitate people against God. They like Kain the fratricide, not meek Abel. They like Esau and they hate Jacob, they like Saul and hate David, they like Caiaphus and hate Gamaliel, they like Saul and hate Paul. Thus, they indefatigably raise the persecuted against the just. They do evil to the just directly and through people with wrecked souls. They join all morally feeble people against God’s hero and Knight of Christ’s justice. And God watches and allows the weakness of people and demons to attack His servant. The All Seer allows this so that weakness shows itself weak and get embarrassed. The All Wise allows this so that the world can see that justice in rags is more powerful than injustice under busbies and on thrones. The All Gracious allows this so that his servant can be decorated with more victories and victorious wreaths. As thieves and robbers attack worldly rich men, the insidious demons and stray people attack spiritual rich men.
St Nilus said from his experience: “ if you pray honestly, be ready for demonic attacks.” Paul the Great said to Timothy that he suffered exile and hardships which, he said, happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, I suffered many banishings and Lord safed me from all. In the end he stresses this as a rule: all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (II Timothy 3, 12-13). God Himself foresaw all that and he did not hide it from His disciples (Matthew, 10). The Apostles were thrown stones at in many places. St. Athanasius was chased as a wild beast by odious persecutors. Melentius of Antioch was chased as well. St. John Chrysostom died in exile as well as venerable Olympia. And many, many other. Saint Basil the Great told a judge who threatened him with exile that he can only rejoice in exile since he cannot be exiled to a place without God. Wise Crysostom explained the fruits of exile: ”as plants grow faster when watered, our faith flourishes and mulitiplies when persecuted” (Panegyric sermon for St. Mart Juventinus and Maximinus).
All sons of God wanted to be persecuted because Son of God was persecuted as well. They considered that to be their decoration. And they knew that persecution for God’s justice is excellent material for building the pyramid of paradise. The eighth floor of their pyramid of paradise is built solid on the previous seven floors and it is all precious and wonderful as topaz. On this floor, when they move to the Kingdom of Christ, they will talk cheerfully to all those who have been persecuted for God’s justice since the genesis of the world.
THE NINTH FLOOR
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
Persecution is being mentioned now and it was mentioned earlier. Persecution for justice earlier , and persecution for Christ now.
There, justice represents the whole system of Christian truth and conduct, while here Christ represents incarnated justice of God. These two floors of the pyramid of paradise are made of similar material – suffering for justice or for Christ. Since God repeats it twice and praises it twice - as two stamps confirming all other previous virtues, that suffering must be so valuable for building a spiritual palace. In the latter case, more severe and harder suffering is mentioned.
Insults, persecution, blasphemy, lies and slander – and all that for Christ, they attack a faithful man as the last and the scariest temptation. The hardest stone would get polished under such pressure, let alone a heart of man. The dirtiest cloth gets whiter under such a shower, let alone a soul of man.
Here we talk about martyrdom for Christ. He who willingly accepts this martyrdom, he collects invaluable material for building his ninth floor of the pyramid of paradise. They who succeeded in building and securing the first eight floors of their spiritual palace well, they want nothing in the world except to lay their lives for their Lord. This wish for martyrdom has always been a living flame since the apostolic times. When Andrew the Apostle was taken to a cross to be crucified by infidels, he cried excitedly: “Oh, sweet Cross, how long I have wanted you and waited for you!” And St Anthony, full of virtues, had only one wish in his old days – to be tortured and killed for Christ. Thus, he left the desert and went to Alexandria where he started arguments with heretics just to be killed by them. But God’s Providence was not concordant with that, and Anthony quietly reposed in his desert.
Image a procession of Christian martyrs, who are being taken to their place of execution, rejoicing and singing spiritual songs as if they are going to a wedding and not into death. The World has not seen the strangest view in its history. Many of these martyrs spent many years trying hard to build their pyramid of paradises. They built all well except their ninth floor. Some just started building and they hardly built a floor or two. Some called themselves Christians one day – or even one hour- and then they died for Christ. Because of their supreme sacrifice, God will give them the whole spiritual reward from the first floor to the last one. For they are the same as the workers who were hired by Master in the evening and they got the same salary as those who worked the whole day. Adrian was the Roman officer who declared himself a Christian after he had seen Christian suffering. “Have you lost you mind, Adrian?”, he was asked by an infidel emperor. “No, Emperor, I have just found it!” was the answer of this Christ’s martyr.
Our time is also full of martyrdom and martyrs. Millions of martyrs in Russia witnessed to the world that the apostolic times still last and that God’s harvest is rich now the way it used to be. But, torturing Christians exists even there where there are no official persecutions. Our neighbour was reproached by an infidel husband who beat her up and drove out of the house because she believes in Christ and prays to Him. Does she need Emperor Nero for her martyrdom when she has one in her own house? A student came home crying because he said he loved Lord Jesus Christ and his friend mocked at him at school. Some soldier got a slap on his face because he crossed himself when he stood in the formation. All of them are builders of the pyramid of paradise and they will be in many armies of saints who suffered mockery, ridicule, whipping, slander and even death. The ninth floor of their pyramid will be all made of red ruby wondrously iridescent with heavenly light. Many of those who suffered for Christ on the earth will meet and see each other on this floor.
THE TOWER OF JOY
The pyramid of paradise is completely finished with this floor. But, above the ninth floor, there is something which looks like the tenth floor of the pyramid. However, it is like a light tower illuminating the whole pyramid whose foundation is meekness and the top floor is martyrdom. People are not those who try to build the tower. It is Creator who lays it there because of His Love. Since the tower brings overwhelming joy to every soul noticing it, we call it the tower of joy. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. And joy and delight and reward! The joy is imperishable, not perishable. The delight is not corporal, resulting in bitterness and disappointment, but spiritual delight denoting eternal spiritual pleasure. And the reward is not for a labourer but for a son; it is not from a strange master but from Father; it is not given according to working hours but out of love.
It seems that this tower of joy rather comes down from heavens than it rises from the earth. It looks like God approaches human building with the tower. And Creator does decorate and illuminate our pyramid of paradise with this tower.
The tower of joy has unseen shine. It seems that it is a huge diamond rock. Its shiny beams light up the whole building , from the first to the last floor; they stroke all the floors, illuminate them and make it one living, inseparable whole.
It’s hardly needed to say this at the end: no one should be deceived and understand this pyramid of paradise as a material building. It is not material, but spiritual. Although not material, it is real, even more real than every visible building. If watched from heaven, out of bodies, the pyramid of paradise looks like a man. But not like every man. It looks like Lord Jesus Christ. For, no one can enter the Kingdom of Christ if he does not resemble Christ. Nor can he build it his way which is different from the way Lord Jesus Christ planned and declared. And when we separate from our earthly body, then we will clearly see - together with the angels – what we have built on Jesus Christ’s foundation during our Christian lives.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward (1 Corinthians, 3, 12-14). Praise and glory to our God forever! Amen!