6. A heavenly family
With the sheep in the fold
Today was a sunny day and mum Sophia took her two little children, Joseph and Angela, for a walk in the forest.
Angela wanted to gather beautiful flowers with her brother to give them to their daddy, when he returned home in the afternoon.
Before reaching the forest, a little surprise on the road made the children excited. They met their friend, the shepherd Mr. Pantelis, with his sheep.
He was holding a lamb on his shoulder and all the other sheep were following.
He was taking them to graze on the grassy plains behind the small forest.
Mr. Pantelis was very glad to see them and greeted them with much kindness. Mum Sophia responded in the same way reciprocating the greeting, while the children ran quickly to him to see the lamb which he held in his arms. Angela’s joy was indescribable when the shepherd let her to caress the lamb. It enjoyed Angela’s pettings and sometimes bleated joyfully from its little girlfriend’s kisses.
-Mr. Pantelis, where is its mum? Angela asked.
-This lamb is an orphan, my little one. Its mum was sick and two days after giving birth she died.
-Oh the poor thing! And now what does it do without its mother?
-I'm its mum now and I care for it like my child. I am feeding it with a bottle until it learns to eat grass by itself and I almost always have it with me, because it cries when I leave it alone.
-What do you call it Mr. Pantelis?
-I haven’t given it a name yet, although it seems to me that I should give it one now.
-What name will you give it?
- I am thinking of calling it Snowy, because as you see, it is pure white as snow.
-I really like this name. So, from now on we will call it Snowy. How I wish I could have such a beautiful lamb Mr. Pantelis!
-If you like our Snowy so much, then, if your mum agrees, I would give it to you with pleasure.
-Mummy, my sweet mum, our little Angela shouted excitedly: Can I accept Mr. Pantelis’ nice gift?
-Of course, my Angela, if Mr. Pantelis wishes it.
Angela’s joy was indescribable. She took the lamb in her arms and covered it with caresses and kisses. She felt like a mummy to the small orphan lamb, but it also felt the great love of its new mummy and accepted the adoption with some cheerful bleats. Happiness flooded our little Angela and the good shepherd seemed to enjoy the pleasure of his little friend. The shepherd gave valuable advice to mum Sophia, how best to feed and take care of the lamb, Snowy.
In the chapel of St. George
Mum Sophia and the children, after thanking Mr. Pantelis once again for the nice gift, continued their walk in the beautiful forest. Snowy was running joyfully behind Angela and she kept kissing and petting it.
Soon they reached the middle of the forest, where there was a beautiful chapel dedicated to St George and beside it an old spring was flowing continually so passers-by could quench their thirst. Around the chapel a lot of white flowers and anemones adorned the area like a colourful carpet. Countless birds on the branches of the trees glorified God with their melodic twittering. It was a little paradise on earth.
Mum Sophia opened the door of the chapel and they went in to say a little prayer to God their King. The lamb followed its young mum, our Angela, and entered the chapel too.
It may have been a small and very old chapel, but it was a real architectural gem, with a large dome in the middle and many beautiful wall paintings everywhere.
Mum Sophia loved that chapel very much and she was going there frequently to pray.
A large icon of St. George, in a special alcove on the right side of the chapel, was showing to everyone that the chapel was dedicated to the great martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ, St George.
After the beautiful icon of St. George, our little Angela paid close attention to the magnificent iconography of almighty Christ, which was displayed on the dome of the chapel. Christ was painted among a crowd of angels at the center of the dome. Below, around the dome, were all the prophets who had foretold the coming of the Son of God as man on earth. And just below, where the dome joins the base of the building and four triangles are formed, the four evangelists were painted.
Apart from the dome, all the rest of the church was painted with icons of the saints. In the upper parts of the temple there were scenes from the life of Christ and the various miracles He performed. Just below, a large crowd of saints with their holy forms completed the ecclesiastical hagiographic cycle.
Among the angels
Mum Sophia considered that it was the right time to explain to her little daughter the deeper theological meaning of the various ecclesiastic scenes.
-Angela, do you see high up on the dome our Almighty Lord who is amongst the angels?
-Yes, mummy, He is so handsome among the angels!
-There, in the middle of the dome, which looks like heaven, there is the holy painting of our good God to remind us that He is the king of heaven, earth and all the angels. And as all the angels of heaven are around Him, so He wants one day all people to be close to Him like angels.
-Mum, how can we become like angels, so we can always be close to Him?
-When we desire it very much, then He, Almighty as He is, can help us to become like the angels.
-Mummy, I really want to become a little angel and be always close to Him, but I don’t know what I should do to achieve it.
-For someone to become an angel in his soul, he must first love our good God as all the angels in heaven do. But he has to prove his love by his actions and the way he lives.
-What do I have to do to prove to our good God that I love Him very much and I want to be an angel?
-First, call Him "Daddy" and tell Him that you love Him very much. Second, trust our good God, as you trust me, your mummy, and always do with pleasure what “your good heavenly Daddy" would want you to do.
Before you do something, think about whether it is good, and if He would like it. If you apply this action, you will see how much joy and serenity you will have in your heart!
-Yes, my mummy, I will always remember these three things and apply them in my whole life. I will love our sweet Father and God with all my soul, I will trust Him as I trust you and my good dad and I will always obey whatever He wants me to do in my life!
-Well done, my sweet angel! When each man applies these three things simply in his life, he has already reached God’s embrace. Then he needs to struggle to get into His divine heart.
-What else does man have to know to get into the heart of our good God, mum?
-He has to learn how sweet, tender, merciful and infinitely good our God is, to be able to become one with Him, such is His fatherly desire. If you didn’t know how much I love and adore you as well as your good dad, could you love us so much at the present time and trust us with all your heart?
-I understood, my sweet mummy! It is not enough to love and obey our good God, because He wants it, but we also need to know Him and to learn how much He loves and adores us as our "heavenly Mummy and Daddy."
-That is exactly the secret my treasure; to believe that He loves us like the sweetest mum of the whole world and He covers and protects us like the sweetest daddy of all the earth. He wants, my treasure, all His children here on earth to learn, that He doesn’t just love us, but He is divinely in love with us, like every mummy with her baby. Tell me, can I be happy without you and your siblings?
-No, my mummy!
-So it is exactly the same with our good God; He is not happy without all of us in His arms. He cannot be happy when He knows that some of His children are tangled in the satanic nets of Lucifer and they are far away from the serenity of His divine heart.
-And what does He do then to bring them close to Him, mummy?
-I will explain to you, my Angela. Look again high up to our Almighty God and tell me what icons do you see next?
-The icons of the holy prophets mum.
The prophets of joy
-When, my child, the first created people made that great mistake and God was forced to send them out of Paradise, not to be infected by satanic meanness and cunning, the whole world began suffering from the disastrous consequences of original sin. People were driven by various sins more and more and every kind of meanness began to prevail among them. Wars among people were becoming more frequent and love which brings joy and happiness began to disappear. Peace and serenity were hard to find, and you could see pain, misery and anxiety everywhere. Everyone was expecting something from our good God to console them. Everyone was asking for a sign, a voice from heaven saying that God hadn’t abandoned them and He will find a way to save them.
-And how did God speak to them, mummy? How did He console them?
-He sent, my Angela, some wise and holy men, the prophets, to tell all the people that at the right time He will send His "Messiah" to save them. So many years ago all these prophets started prophesying about the coming of the Son of God and what He was going to suffer in order to release people from Satan’s claws and bring back to them happiness and joy. They also prophesied about the heavenly law of love that the Saviour "Messiah" will bring and because of it countless souls who will believe and follow Him, will enter into the heavenly Kingdom of God. Because of their great prophetic work foretelling that our Lord Jesus Christ is the expected "Messiah", their holy forms are painted just after the Almighty God and His angels. Do you understand, my Angela?
-I understood now, my mummy. And who are those four saints who are painted on the four triangles, at the end of the dome?
-They are the four evangelists; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who wrote the holy Gospel and we were able to learn what our Christ said and taught. Due to them we learned how we should live according to God’s will. Due to them we know what we should do to become like the angels of heaven.
-So, mummy, I who want to be an angel, as our good God wants, should read the holy Gospel to learn how my heavenly "Daddy" wants me to live?
-Yes, my baby, from today on you should start reading the holy Gospel, in order to become an angel of our good God.
Without it no one can know God’s will, or how to walk the virtuous way.
-Then this book is the most important of all the books which exist on earth, since it is telling us how we should live in order to become like the angels of heaven!
-That’s right, my little girl, therefore when we return home, I will give you a valuable gift.
-What kind of gift, mum?
-A New Testament. In this you will find what the holy Evangelists wrote about the life, the miracles and teaching of our beloved Christ. So, you will have the opportunity to know the One better, Whom we love with all our heart and He is the King of our souls!
-Wow, my sweet mummy, you make me so happy!
-I want you, my sweet little girl, to always be happy, therefore you need to know and learn how sweet and tender our heavenly Father is. As the more you will know our heavenly Father, so the grace of the Holy Spirit will flood your innocent heart with joy and peace. Happiness in life doesn’t come by obtaining various material goods but by feeling how much our sweet good God loves and adores you.
-I am also happy, my mummy, not for the goods that you and dad offer me, but because both of you love me so much!
Our heavenly Father
Little Angela’s last words really touched mum Sophia so much, that she embraced her tightly and covered her with many motherly kisses.
-Whatever material things we might obtain here on earth, my daughter, give us joy for a very short time. But those feelings that flood our hearts for someone we love and adore with all the power of our soul are the only ones which give us real joy and happiness. You may rejoice every time we give you a precious gift, but you're happy because we love and adore you as the most valuable treasure of our lives.
-Mummy, I also want to love our good God, not so much for the nice gifts He gives us, but because He is my heavenly "Daddy" whom I love with all my heart.
-He also, my little girl, loves and adores you more than me and He wants to live in your childish sweet heart like the king of your life. His greatest joy is for you to feel how much He loves you and that you are everything to Him, as you are indeed for me.
-Wow mummy! I cannot imagine how much He loves me! How I would like to know and love Him as you do!
-When you know, my little girl, how much He loved all people, even the worst ones with the greatest mistakes and sins, then you will see what a sweet, tender and infinitely merciful heavenly Father you have!
-Are all those things in the holy gospel, which was written by the four Evangelists?
-Yes, my little girl, there you will read and learn what a unique and tender Father He is for all people. All the miracles He performed made known loudly every time in it; how sweet a Father and God He is for everyone, righteous or sinners. He easily forgives every sinner like a sweet mummy and encourages him lovingly to raise himself from his mistakes and start a new life with good deeds of love. That's why in every byzantine church, beyond the four evangelists, are always painted scenes from the life and miracles of our beloved God Jesus, emphasizing how much He loves and adores us as Father of our souls.
-Mummy, can I tell Him to enclose me tightly in His arms, as you and dad do?
-Of course, my little girl. This will be His greatest joy! As I'm happy every time when I hold you with adoration in my embrace and I cover you with my motherly kisses, so He is also happy every time His little girl enters into His divine embrace and curls up in His divine heart like a baby!
Those who loved Him
-Mum...I want to tell you something.
-Go ahead, my little girl.
-Well, when I see Christ as a little baby in the manger, I want to hold Him in my own arms like a mummy and cover Him with many kisses, but when I see Him in the icon, as a teacher and Messiah of the world, then I want to hide myself in his own fatherly embrace, like a baby!
- All our saints, who lived with great divine love in their soul for their beloved Saviour, were feeling the same thing. Do you see, my Angela, all these saints who are painted around the walls, below the scenes of the life and miracles of our Christ?
-All these saints loved our Lord as one of their own as His holy mother, our good Mary did, but at the same time, as the King and God of their soul. Our Lord Jesus was for all the saints the only one sweet, tender, heavenly Father that no one wanted to renounce. My little girl, could you disown me and tell everyone that I'm not your mum?
-Never, my mummy. I cannot live without you and my sweet dad, because I love you so much, with all my heart!
-That’s exactly how all the saints were feeling for our good heavenly King, my Angela. They loved Him so much that they could never renounce Him. Even when they were threatened with death, they courageously confessed the divine love that they had in their hearts for our Christ. Therefore, many of the saints you see in the paintings were suffering terrible tortures by Christ’s enemies before they were killed. None of them wanted to renounce his Father and God. However, due to their sacrificial love they had for our sweet Jesus, God glorified them very much and allowed them to perform many miracles, even to heal illnesses whenever they were asked.
-Mummy, I see here little children too!
-Those children you see are the three daughters of a holy mother, Sophia; Faith, Hope and Love, who suffered many tortures for the love of their heavenly King.
-How old were they when they were martyred?
-Faith was 12 years old, Hope 11 and their little sister, Love was just 9 years old.
-My mother, how could they bear all these tortures, since they were such young children?
-When our Christ saw the divine love of His little girls and the courage of their soul not to renounce Him in front of the kings of that time, He sent angels to protect their bodies from the various terrible tortures and He gave them courage and strength Himself. While no one else was able to see Him, those little girls were not only seeing Him, but were also embraced in His divine embrace, like little babies in the arms of their mother.
-Mum, weren’t the others able to understand what was happening so that they would leave them alone?
-No, my little girl, on the contrary, all the pagans (idol worshippers) were wondering from where the martyrs found strength to bear all these awful tortures. They could not understand the flame of divine love which was burning in the Christians’ hearts! The first Christians, my Angela, didn’t just love our good God as they loved each creation. Their heart was a volcano and their love for Him was like hot lava which erupted from the volcano of their hearts. Every minute of their existence was dedicated to their beloved God the Father. They could not imagine themselves without thinking of their beloved God. Their mind, heart and soul were a lighted candle of love and praise to our Lord.
-Wow, my mummy, how jealous I am of them! How I would like also to love my sweet "Brother" and God as they did! Could I ever love Him like them one day?
-Of course, my little girl you should beg all the holy martyrs, who adored Him so much and sacrificed even their own life for His sake, to give you their own sacrificial love.
-Tell me more, my mummy, about the holy martyrs, because I want to be like them and to love our good God as they did.
-I also want to talk to you about them, my Angela, because God wants us to love them as our siblings and to consider them all as role models. Moreover, most of the martyrs were young children, boys and girls. Look at this wall where the saints are painted; George, Dimitrios, Catherine, Marina, Irene, Christina, Marcella, Barbara and Kyriaki. All these martyrs were young, like your sister Christina. Those holy boys, like George and Dimitrios, were not more than 25 years old. You can love all of them not only as saints of God but also as your own siblings.
-Really, mummy? Can I love them as I love Christina and our little Joseph?
-Of course, my sweet love! They also love you, like their little sister!
-How do the Prophets and Evangelists love me?
-Like their own little girl, my baby!
-Mum, who are those saints who are painted on the other walls?
-They are our holy fathers, the Great Anthony, Savvas the Sanctified and other great ascetics of the desert. On the next wall great miracle-worker hierarchs of our Church are painted, who preached the word of God by their words and their lives, such as John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and the hierarchs Nicholas and Spyridon.
-Do they also love me like their own little girl, my mummy?
-Yes, my Angela. All of them want to be your heavenly family who will love and protect you, like me and your dad, who are your earthly family. But to be your heavenly family you have also to want it and then write in your heart the names of all those saints whom you will remember daily.
-Mummy, what should I do to make my heavenly family happy?
-The more you will love our heavenly "Dad", the happier everyone will be with you. Every time you think about our good God and will talk to Him through your prayer, they will kneel in front of our heavenly Father and will beg Him to make you His little sweet angel here on earth.
-Mummy, when I will have a problem and I need their help, would they be able to help me?
-When you have a problem, my Angela, and ask us or your sister Christina for help, we help you, don’t we?
-Exactly the same thing happens with your heavenly family. Whenever you will call them, they will come to help you; of course as long as it will be allowed by God our Father.
-How are they going to help me, my mummy?
-In many ways, my Angela. First of all they will cover you with the power of their presence and will not easily allow the evil demons to approach you and bother you. Then, they will help you by the grace of the Holy Spirit to understand the cunning ways of the demons, who want to infect your soul and they will whisper to you through your conscience and tell you what you should do to avoid them. They will help you to understand right from wrong, but they will let you decide which of these two you will choose.
-Mummy, why do I have to decide by myself what is the right thing to do?
-Because, my child, whatever we do in our lives only has value if it is done according to our will and not because someone makes us do it. That's why our heavenly family can inspire us to do good and right things, but is not permitted by God to intervene in our decisions and change our will. Therefore, our every decision has a great value before God.
-Mummy, what should I ask from my holy heavenly siblings?
-You should ask them, my sweet girl, to help you in your spiritual struggle in order to live here on earth as our good God wants us to and most essentially to help you to love Him with all the power of your soul, as they did.