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Seeking the Kingdom of God

In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear key words about what constitutes the goal of our life and how we should organize our life in accordance with this goal. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” – says the Lord, – “and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

What exactly is it that shall be added unto us, i.e. shall be simply given to use, shall be provided as something of little importance? That which shall be added unto us is everything that is essential for our earthly existence: food, drink, clothing, etc. Certainly all of this is essential for us, but in the same manner as it is essential for all other earthly creatures. And the Lord Himself said that God, our Creator and Provider, knows very well that we have need of such attributes of earthly existence and, therefore, as our heavenly Father, provides us with all such things. God has created our earth in such a manner that we and all other creatures are fully provided with all that is necessary for our existence on earth.

But in view of the fact that these essentials of earthly life are already being provided by God, they should not become the purpose of our life on earth. Yet this is precisely what we see all around us: people are primarily preoccupied with a mad race for the acquisition of earthly goods, for the attainment of material advantages, completely forgetting – and oftentimes expressly disregarding – the insignificance of these things in our life. In the Gospel we hear the Lord’s words: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek” (Matt. 6:31-32). With these words the Lord divides Christians from pagans. Today the entire world, held in the power of neo-paganism, reflects this exclusive concern for material things and complete disregard for spiritual things. But we, Orthodox Christians, should live in an entirely different manner. We must concentrate our attention on the true purpose of man’s life on earth: to seek the Kingdom of God.

But how should we seek this Kingdom of God? The answer is quite simple, though difficult to accomplish. Leaving all concern for the needs of our body – food, drink, clothing – the hands of God’s providence, we must concern ourselves with these selfsame needs of our soul, i.e. we must seek food, drink, and clothing for our souls.

Food for the soul is prayer. Prayer satisfies the soul’s hunger, fortifies the soul with grace, ensures spiritual growth. Just as earthly food contains different elements – vitamins, minerals, etc. – essential for the health of the body, so prayer contains essential elements for the health of the soul: communion with God, spiritual tenderness, repentance, the quieting of passions, attainment of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Drink for the soul is the word of God. The Lord Himself, in His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, said: “Whosoever drinketh of this (i.e. earthly) water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him (i.e. My words, My teaching) shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14). In other words, the word of God is to our soul like a purest spring, a source of living water, and as we absorb the word of God into our soul, – and not only absorb it, but also live by it, – it will gradually lead us to eternal life, to that very Kingdom of God which we are seeking.

And, lastly, the clothing of the soul are virtues. We clothe our earthly body not only in order to conceal its nakedness, but we also try to adorn it: we put on multicolored garments, we adorn ourselves with precious jewelry. We must do the same for our soul: attire it in the most beautiful virtues of humility, temperance, chastity, meekness, generosity, soberness, love, and adorn it with the precious jewels of charity and good deeds.

In this way, by spending our earthly life concerned primarily with the acquisition of food, drink, and clothing for our soul, we will find the Kingdom of God, enter it, and find ourselves among the chosen of God. Amen.

Father Rostislav Sheniloff

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