Saint Nectarios of Pentapolis
The Road to Happiness
Nothing is greater than a clean heart, because such a heart becomes the throne of God. And what’s more glorious than the throne of God? Nothing, of course. Regarding those who have a clean heart, God says: ‘I will live with them and walk among them; and I will be God to them and they will be a people to me’ (2 Cor. 6, 16). So who can be happier than these people? What good thing can they possibly lack? Don’t they find all the good things and gifts of the Holy Spirit within their blessed souls. What more do they need? Nothing. In truth, nothing. Because they have the greatest good in their heart: God himself.
How deceived those people are who seek happiness outside themselves, in foreign countries and travels, in riches and fame, in great possessions and enjoyments, in pleasures and all the luxuries and vanities which, in the end, leave a bitter taste. If you construct a tower of happiness outside your heart, you’re building on ground that’s shaken by continuous earthquakes. Such a structure will quickly collapse.
My brothers and sisters, happiness lies within our own self and blessed are they who realize this. Examine your heart and look at its spiritual state. Have you lost the boldness to address God? Is your conscience troubled because you haven’t kept his commandments? Perhaps it condemns you for being critical, telling lies or neglecting your duties to God and your neighbor? Look and see if wickedness and passions haven’t filled your heart. Perhaps it’s slipped onto a tortuous and rocky path.
Unfortunately, those who’ve neglected their heart have been deprived of all good things and have fallen into a multitude of evils. They’ve expelled joy and have been filled with bitterness, sorrow and worry. They’ve expelled peace and acquired anxiety, turmoil and fear. They’ve expelled love and welcomed hate. Finally, they’ve expelled all the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit which they received at baptism and have adopted all those evils which make people miserable and thoroughly wretched.
My brothers and sisters, our most merciful God wants us all to be happy, both in this life and the next. This is why he founded his holy Church: to cleanse us from sin, to sanctify us, to reconcile us with him and to grant us the blessings of heaven. The Church has opened its arms to us in welcome. If our conscience is burdened, let us hasten to the Church. If we do so, it’s prepared to lift our heavy burden, to give us the boldness to address God and to fill our heart with happiness and bliss.
‘Those who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ’ (Gal. 3, 27).
What a great truth Saint Paul points out to us with these words. Baptized Christians don’t wear the old person, with its passions and sinful desires, but are clad in a new person; they’ve been clothed by Christ himself, who now dwells within their hearts. And the word ‘clad’ doesn’t refer to some ordinary, external garment, but to something more profound, something of the essence, something inalienable.
With our faith in Christ and with our baptism, we’re clothed in Christ himself and become children of God, dwelling-places of the All-Holy Spirit, temples of God, holy and perfect, gods by grace. We’ve cast off perishability and have been robed in imperishability. We’ve put aside the person of sin and put on the person of righteousness and grace. We’ve rid ourselves of death and clothed ourselves in immortality.
We’ve also pondered the great obligations towards God which we’ve undertaken with our baptism. We now realize that we have a duty to act as children of God and brothers and sisters to our Lord; that we have an obligation to align our will with that of God; that, as his children we must remain free of sin; that we should love him with all our strength, from the depths of our soul and heart; that we ought to worship him and long to be united to him for ever. Have we really considered that our heart should be inundated with love so that this love overflows onto our neighbor? Do we have a sense that we ought to become holy and perfect and images of God, children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven?
For all these reasons, we must strive not to be unworthy of the calling from God, lest we be rebuked. Indeed, my brothers and sisters, let us struggle with zeal and self-denial in order to triumph. Let none of us lose courage, let us not neglect our duties, let us not be craven, let us not quake before the pitfalls of the spiritual life. Because we have God as our aid and he will fortify us on the difficult path of virtue.