Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven
by Saint Innocent Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurilian and Aleutian islands
People were not created merely to live here on earth like animals that disappear after their death, but to live with God and in God, and to live not for a hundred or a thousand years, but to live eternally. But only Christians can live with God; that is to say, those who rightly believe in Jesus Christ. Everyone, whoever he may be, desires and seeks prosperity and happiness. To desire what is good for oneself and to seek prosperity or happiness is part of man’s nature, and therefore it is not a sin or vice. But we need to know that here on earth there has not been, and is not, and never will be true and perfect happiness and prosperity; for all our prosperity and happiness is only in God. No one will ever find true happiness and perfect prosperity without God or outside God.
Nothing in this world but God can fill our heart or fully satisfy our desires. A fire cannot be put out with brushwood and oil, because only water will put it out. In exactly the same way, the desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied with the goods of this world, because only the grace of God can quench the thirst of our desires.
Everything we desire pleases us only so long as we do not possess it; and when we get it, we soon get tired of it. Or only what we do not as yet have seems to us good and attractive; while all that we have, even though it is the very best, is either not good enough for us or does not attract us. A good example of this is King Solomon who, as is well known, was so rich that all the household plate and furniture in his palaces was of pure gold; he was so wise that kings came to visit him; and he was so glorious that his foes were terrified of him.
Being wiser and mightier than all his contemporaries, he was able to satisfy all his wishes and desires, so that there was hardly a thing in the world which he did not possess or could not obtain. But with all this he could not satisfy his heart, and the desires of his heart wearied and tormented him far more than an ordinary man: and in the end, having tried everything in the world, he said in his writings: Everything in this world is vanity, and nothing can satisfy our desires.
Truly not a single earthly pleasure can satisfy our heart. We are strangers on earth, pilgrims and travelers; our home and fatherland are there in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom; and there do not exist on earth things which could perfectly satisfy our desires. Let a man own the whole world and all that is in the world, yet all that will not interest him for more than a minute, so to speak, and it will never satisfy his heart: for the heart of man can be fully satisfied only by the love of God and therefore God alone can fill the heart and soul of man and quench the thirst of his desires.
And so, do you wish to live with God there, in the Kingdom of Heaven? Be an Orthodox Christian. Do you want prosperity and happiness? Seek it in God. Do you want your heart to be fully satisfied? Turn it to God from Whom you have been separated by your sins.
However, no one by himself, without Jesus Christ, can turn and draw near to God, because our sins, like a high wall, do not let us come to Him. And unless Jesus Christ in His mercy to us had come down to earth, and unless he had taken to Himself our human flesh and by His death destroyed the wall which separated us from God, everyone would have perished and not a single soul could have drawn near to God or lived with Him. For everyone is a sinner and is born in sin from his mother’s womb; and even in an infant, though it knows nothing of the world and does nothing, there is already the seed of sin.
Therefore Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, Saviour, Deliverer and Benefactor. Now everyone who wants to do so can return to God and enter the Kingdom of Heaven But there is only one way into the Kingdom of Heaven, and that is the very way that Jesus Christ went when He lived on earth. There is no other way, and never was and never will be, for Jesus Christ said: I am the way, and if anyone wishes to follow Me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.
And so, for every Christian, and even for every human being, it is extremely necessary to know how to find the way and how to follow it. And there I want to talk to you about the way; and although I know myself that I cannot show it to you as I ought, yet I shall try according to my powers, trusting in Jesus Christ Who can use dirt itself for healing and curing. Now, whoever comes across my book and wants to read it will find in it nothing but a poor and feeble explanation of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven. But if anyone reads it through with prayers to Jesus Christ, He, being almighty, even by these words of mine can enlighten and warm the heart of the reader. I divide my book into four parts:
- On the benefits which Jesus Christ has granted us by his death.
- How Jesus Christ lived on earth, and what He suffered for us.
- The way by which we must go into the Kingdom of Heaven.
- How Jesus Christ helps us to go by this way, and how we can receive this help.
Lord Jesus Christ, to Thee I cry: hear me Thy unworthy servant! Enlighten my mind; grant that I may truly and clearly describe Thy way into the Kingdom of Glory which Thou, in Thy mercy, has granted us! Grant that those who read and listen to my words may be filled with Thy love, enlightened by Thy knowledge and made strong by Thy power. Warm our hearts with Thy Spirit – and we shall joyfully and fervently go the way which Thou hast shown us.