THE RICH TRAVELER
By Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev
Into a remote and beautiful mountain village came an unusual stranger for his summer vacation. He was a very rich man. He was travelling 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 was 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 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 windows.
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? Saint Macarius of Egypt says: "Just as God has created the body and the soul of 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 every 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?
Here is a man approaching Holy Communion and inviting the Lord into the hidden room of his heart: "Come, Lord Jesus, and settle in me!" he whispers in his prayers before Communion. "Come under my roof, in the home of my soul; come in, please! I will open the doors of my heart! Settle in me!"
But Jesus Christ draws back with disgust from these hospitably opened doors! Such an unbearable spiritual stench is coming from the inside! There it stinks of debauchery and malice, of avarice and envy, of pride and selfishness...And the heavenly Guest draws back. He cannot enter such a home, where the man and the demons--these spiritual pigs--are co-existing under the same roof...
"...We are all more or less unworthy of the Redeemer coming from heaven. But here, He is knocking on our doors (cf. Revelation 3:20). He Himself longs to come into us, because we are created for Him and without Him we are infinitely unhappy. He is coming to bring His Heavenly Gift to everyone.
Is there a way for us to become worthy of Him again? With great joy we must say: There is! This way is Confession! Through Confession, when it is sincere, deep, and involves disgust with oneself and a desire to start a new life, the room of the heart is thoroughly cleaned from all the waste of the sins. Through Confession, the demons, these deadly parasites in the heart, are chased away. Through Confession, the windows of the soul are opened for the fragrance and the freshness of God's grace to come through them. Through Confession, all confused thoughts and ideas, all chaotic feelings and desires of the heart are once again put in order. At last, through Confession the soul is adorned, so that it becomes fit to accept the Most Marvelous Guest--Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: The Forgotten Medicine. The Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance.)