The Rich Traveler
By Archimandrite Seraphim /Alexiev/
Into a remote and beautiful mountain village came an unusual stranger for his summer vacation. He was a very rich man. He was traveling alone, and being quite tired, he wanted to find a place to stay and rest. He had the intention of rewarding the people who could give him a quiet and pleasant stay. Since he had countless riches, he wanted to give his cordial hosts a present that they had never even dreamed of. He saw what seemed to be a beautiful house situated on a wonderful spot and decided to ask for shelter there. He knocked on the door, but when it was opened and he was invited to come in, he instinctively shrank away. An unbearably foul-smelling air reached him from inside. What was the matter? The home of these people and their pigsty were under the same roof. Without even mentioning the reason for his visit, the traveler excused himself and went back out into the yard.
He went along the clear river which was running through the village. Close by was another beautiful, newly built house which attracted his attention, and he decided to knock at its door. However, the owner of this home was a very cruel man. When he saw a stranger approaching the gates, he set his dogs on him and did not even let him come into his yard.
The traveler sought shelter in a third house as well. The people there invited him kindly, and he went inside. But after he saw that everything in this home way lying around in disorder covered with dust and soot, and buried in waste and cobwebs, he decided that he would not be able to find the longed-for peace.
By that time, he was so tired that he decided to stay in the next, fourth house no matter what its condition. But there, besides the untidiness and the dirt, he noticed something else. There were signs of bedbugs on the walls, and he could not stand the parasites. Also, fleas crawled all over him, so he hurried to get out of there, too.
In this way he went about the whole village, but he could not find a clean home where he could rest peacefully. He wondered how these people, who lived in such a beautiful mountain country, could abandon their houses so. A small river ran through the village. Creeks spouted out from many places in the steep and curvy streets. In the square and in other places in the village there were spouts and fountains from which abundant water gushed out. It was clear to the traveler that the filth in the village houses was due not to the lack of water, but exclusively to the negligence of the owners.
At the end of the village, exhausted, he dropped by a small house in which, as it turned out, lived a good housewife. There he was met with great cordiality and with friendly, smiling faces. The moment he entered one of the rooms, he noticed that everything there was simple, but clean and well ordered. The windows were shining with cleanliness. There were no cobwebs in the corners. The boards of the floor were recently cleaned. The air in the room was fresh. It was evident that the fragrance of the near fields and forests was often allowed to come into this house through the open window.
The traveler sighed with relief and stayed in this home. At last he had found a quiet, pleasant place to rest. It was there that he left his magnificent gift.
Dear readers, have you asked yourselves: if our Savior were to come, He Who is bringing the greatest gift – His heavenly grace with which He makes our souls happy and saves them – and if He were to seek a shelter for Himself in our souls, where could He find a place fit for rest? St. Macarius of Egypt says: “Just as God has created the heavens and the earth for man to inhabit, so He has created the body and the soul of man to be His abode, that is why the Apostle says, His house we are” (Hebrews 3:6).
Jesus Christ, this wondrous heavenly Guest, often comes among us and wishes to enter under the roof of our soul. He appears among us through the unfathomable mystery of Holy Communion. He knocks on very door, longs to come into every home, desires to talk with every heart, wants to make every believing soul happy and to give it His heavenly gift.
But how do we meet Him? Can He stay in each one of us as He would like to?
Someone approaches the Holy Communion and invites the Lord in the secret room of his heart, “Receive me, O Lord Jesus, that I may have thee dwelling in me,” whispers he in his communion prayers. “Welcome to my house, come under the roof of my soul, come! I will open the doors of my unworthy lips. Abide in me!“
But Jesus Christ backs away in disgust from this hospitality! Unbearably fool-smelling air comes out of it! It stinks of fornication and spite, of avarice and jealousy, of pride and egoism… And our heavenly Guest backs away. He cannot enter such a house in which man and the demons – these spiritual swine- live together under one roof.
Another is urged to fast and to receive communion; they implore him to receive in his heart Jesus Christ who brings the great and all-saving God’s grace, the highest gift which man ever received!
But he will not even hear of it. Unpleasant are the heavenly holy things to him!… They prevent him from living as he likes. Why receive communion? He sets in his soul his dogs on the heavenly Guest and does not let Him approach his gates.
Yet another fasted, prayed, prepared for Holy Communion, but did not forgive the trespasses of his neighbor against him; he did not make peace with his enemies, and did not restore the peace in his soul. Everything in it is lying around in disorder. Sins not unlike dust and soot cover his external piety. Waste and cobwebs make his faith unsightly. Bad moods have shaken up his feelings. And in this state of his he is audacious enough to invite the heavenly Guest in the room of his heart! Is he not afraid that he will offend Him with this rash hospitality, rather than make Him glad?
Someone else hears the knocks on the door of his conscience, but until that moment he has not even had a thought of making it clean. There the once clean windows of the soul have gathered so much untidiness and dirt! So many sinful habits have piled up waste in the secret corners of the heart! The poor man! The evil parasites, the foul spirits, have attacked him and suck on the life juices of his spiritual life. If he were to open the doors and invite to this dirt and disorder the highest heavenly Guest, does he think that he will render Him an unblemished and pleasant rest?
But who can say about his own spiritual house that it is put to complete order and that it can receive the heavenly King?
We all are more or less unworthy for the Redeemer who has come to us from the heavens. Here he comes, knocking on our doors (Rev. 3:20). He Himself desires to make his dwelling with us because we are created for Him and because without Him we are eternally miserable. He comes to bring to all His heavenly gift.
Is there a means to make ourselves worthy anew for Him? With great joy we shall say: yes, there is! The means for this is repentance and confession! With confession – when it is true, deep and inseparable from the disgust of ourselves with the desire to begin a new life – the room of the heart is cleaned thoroughly from all the waste of sins. With confession are driven all demons, these lethal parasites that dwell in it. It is with confession that we put to order all confused thoughts and imaginings, all chaotic feelings and desires of the heart, so that it becomes fit to receive the most wondrous Guest, Jesus Christ.