7. The stairway to heaven
Mum Sophia’s joy
It is very cold today and Angela is sitting by the fire to keep warm.
Snowy, the little lamb which was given to her by Mr. Pantelis the shepherd is near her.
Christina’s mother and sister had just returned from their visit to the pious priest of the village, Father John. They had gone to confession and to leave all the mistakes they had made under his priestly stole.
Angela saw her mum’s and sister’s faces shining with joy and happiness.
-How happy you look mum!
-Yes, my little girl, I'm so glad and happy, because today I again purified my soul from every sin and mistake I made as a human.
-When, mum, will I also go to our good priest to confess my little mistakes?
-Whenever you want and feel that you're ready, my baby.
-I want to mum, but I don’t know how to confess. Could you help me to prepare myself properly?
-Of course, my little girl. I will help you to know this wonderful sacrament of repentance and confession, which every man no matter how much a sinner he may be; he can be a shining angel to our beloved God.
Mum Sophia was glad that her little girl asked by herself to learn about this great mystery of man’s salvation. She knew very well that the sooner her little girl would begin to realize the little mistakes she made and purify her soul from them with confession, the faster the flowers of virtues would grow in the innocent field of her heart.
Our mistakes are like the various weeds that grow beside the flowers and the useful vegetables and sometimes destroy the useful crops. That’s why the farmers always pull out the weeds in good time and burn them at the edge of the field, in order not to destroy their crops.
Mum Sophia wants to teach Angela, as she did to her older daughter Christina, to take care of the field of her heart with the fragrant flowers of virtues and not allow all these harmful weeds of mistakes and sins to grow in it.
She want her little girl to be an angel who will spread around the fragrance of heavenly love and with the melody of her virtuous life will make her heavenly Father and God happy. So she went near her little girl, who was enjoying the warmth of the fire and after petting Snowy, the little snow-white lamb, she started to explain the great sacrament of repentance to Angela.
How to Care for the Soul
-Do you remember, my Angela, how our good God created man?
-First He made his body and then he put the soul in it.
-That’s right, you remember, my child. First He made our body from soil, which is material and mortal and visible to our eyes.
-What does mortal mean mum?
-That it’s not eternal, since after man's death, our body returns again to the earth. While our soul, as a spiritual being, because it came from the motherly heart of God our Father, is immortal and indestructible, and never dies, but we cannot see it with our bodily eyes.
So, as our physical body needs some treatments, such as bathing to keep it clean, clothes to keep it warm and food to be able to live, so our immortal soul needs to be cared for.
-Since, mum, our soul is not mortal, what kind of care may be needed?
-And yet, my child, our soul needs more bathing, clothing and feeding, than our bodies.
-So, mummy, what are the clothes of our soul?
-The precious clothes of our soul are all those deeds of love that our Lord wants us to do in order to be His own children. The important virtues of love, compassion, charity, philanthropy, alms, spiritual politeness, kindness and others, are the beautiful clothes of virtues that adorn a soul which loves our good God.
-What is the food of the soul, mum?
-It is, my Angela, the word of God which is written in the Holy Bible.
In this book we learn about our good God and how to live, if we want to be with Him one day in the heavenly Kingdom of absolute joy and happiness. In this we will read what His holy will is in order to implement it and become His own angels. This book should never be missing from any home and any person. If, my child, oxygen and the necessary food were missing, could someone live?
-Exactly the same thing happens with our soul, my little angel. Without the word of God, which is the oxygen and the food of the soul, the soul cannot live each day spiritually. Therefore, it is necessary for all of us to read the holy Gospel each day in order that our soul becomes stronger in faith.
-What other spiritual food does our soul need mum?
-Our Lord Jesus himself tells us about another very important and necessary spiritual food, that without it none of us would be glad and happy forever with Ηim.
-What is it, mum?
-My Angela, it’s Holy Communion, the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the soul is purified from all sins and shines like the sun from His blessing. Jesus said: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life.” With Holy Communion our beloved king Jesus Christ doesn’t only forgive us, but burns and washes away all our sins by the power of the Holy Spirit. My child, our God forgives us when we apologize to Him for our various mistakes, but He says that only Holy Communion can burn and wash away all our sins. That’s why He asks all His children to come regularly to take the sacrament of Holy Communion.
-Wow mummy! I want to receive Holy Communion often, so that my beloved King will burn my every mistake and sin!
-Yes, my sweet daughter. I will be very happy when I see you become one with your King through Holy Communion and you will shine like the stars of the sky in front of His holy throne.
But I want, my Angela, to ask you something. If we knew that tonight a very important person was coming to see us at our house, would we welcome him as we are so dirty from doing various jobs or would we wash ourselves and be clean? Would we wear clean clothes and also clean our house not to be messy and dirty?
-We would take a bath, my mummy, we would wear our most beautiful clothes and we would clean our house so it shines in beauty. It would be unkindness, my mum, to welcome in our house an important person, without taking care of all these things.
-Yes, my child, it would be really unkind and very offensive to him. Maybe he would never come back to see us?
-Yes, mum. I understand now how important it is to clean and purify our soul from every mistake and filth. I would like very much, my mummy, for you to talk to me about the cleansing of my soul, so that I never leave any mistake and filth in it.
The precious gift
-Do you remember, my Angela, what the great mistake was that man had made in Paradise and our good God was forced to send him out?
-I remember, mum. It was, when God told them not to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They didn’t hear the words of God and did what the evil serpent, who was the satanic Lucifer, told them.
-Right, my little girl. Instead of man trusting His Creator, he showed confidence in his cunning enemy. Therefore, my child, lack of trust shows the lack of true love for your parents.
A child, who loves and really respects his parents, trusts, listens to their advice and takes it. On the contrary, disobedience to the commands of his beloved parents shows a lack of trust and a little love for them.
The act of the first created humans showed these three serious mistakes; that is, the lack of trust, love and obedience for our heavenly Father which is the basis of any sin that man had made and will make since then.
-Mum, how can man resist these three evils in order not to sin?
-He can, my Angela, but the power of evil is so great which entered into man because of the error of the first created humans. Now he has to really struggle to resist it.
This original sin, that is, the trust that was given to Satan at the time of the fall, created in his soul an inclination towards evil and sin.
Satan managed something unique.
-What did he manage, mummy?
-For man to easily follow his own will and Satan’s will, despite the will of God our Father. That’s why he slowly began to remove himself from our good God and do many bad things which made Satan rejoice and hurt our God.
-And now, mummy, how can our good God help man to return close to Him?
-My little girl, our God doesn’t want the spiritual death of any sinner; therefore He gave us a precious gift from His merciful heart, helping us to return back to His divine embrace.
-What is this precious gift, mum?
-It is the great and beneficial Mystery of Repentance and Confession. With this Mystery, every sinner, even the worst in the whole world, when he wants to return back into the heart of God his Father, he can do it easily and quickly.
-With one word that comes from his heart with deep remorse and sincere repentance. The word, my little girl, is "sorry". It is so small but so miraculous when it is truly meant!
-What can such a small word achieve, my mummy?
-So much that you cannot imagine, my child! It can, not only save a great sinner, but make him a saint, a great saint and teacher of our Church!
-Wow, mummy! How I would like you to tell me a story about these great wonders that this small miraculous word achieves.
-I will tell you my child.
From a thief… to a Saint!
-Once, my Angela, a rich man was living in Africa and particularly in Ethiopia. He had many fields and many slaves who were working in them.
Among the slaves there was one who was very hard, evil and mean. His name was Moses and everyone was afraid of him. Every day he was creating problems either to the other workers or at his boss’s home. He was well built and had tremendous physical strength, that’s why no one wanted to argue with him. You only had to look at him and were paralyzed by fear. When he was angry he looked like α black demon that caused great terror by his presence. He had become so unbearable that his boss was forced to send him away.
Moses took refuge in a bandit gang and after some time became their leader. From that time onwards the entire region suffered many evils by Moses’ bandits. Robberies, disasters, murders and many other evil deeds made his gang famous. He became the fear and terror of all. His name "black demon" was circulated everywhere spreading fear, terror and panic.
-Mummy, how can a man do so many evil things and not realize his mistake?
-When, my child, the grace of God abandons a soul, then he can do the worst things. And Moses was such a case. Listen to what he did once, when he failed in one of his illegal night-time raids because of the wild barking of the shepherd’s dogs guarding a flock of sheep which were grazing around there. He was so angry that he decided to kill the shepherd. But he had to get across the vast obstacle of the great river Nile to reach the shepherd's hut. After tying his clothes in a bundle on his head, not to get them wet, he rushed into the stormy waves of the river and started to swim. In his mouth, held with his teeth, he was holding the machete which was spreading panic everywhere.
-Mummy, was the shepherd saved?
-Yes, my child. When he realized what was happening, he managed to disappear and save his life. Since robber Moses didn’t find the shepherd to kill him he was angry and he fell with unprecedented fury upon the sheep which were grazing without a care and slaughtered them all.
-Wow what terrible cruelty!
-My child, listen to what he did next, so you can see the strength of this monstrous man. When his eyes had seen enough blood, he tied the four best rams together by their tails and he carried them on his shoulders and again swam across the River Nile. Then, he cooked the rams, ate the best meat and drank twenty liters of wine which he had hidden, walked fifty miles without stopping and arrived at his hideout.
-Mum, why didn’t the Police catch him?
-They tried many times to arrest him for his many crimes, but he always managed to escape. Once, when many policemen were chasing him, he was forced to hide deep in the desert, where many great and famous holy ascetics were living.
-Did he also kill the holy ascetics, mum?
-No, my Angela. On the contrary, his fellowship with those holy ascetics and the love and tenderness they showed him slowly calmed his barbaric instincts. All the ascetics started praying to our good God to save this wild robber and release the region from his disastrous raids.
-Did God hear their prayers?
-Yes, my little girl. When we pray with tears and pain for someone, God is hearing our prayers and helping the wounded soul from the influence of Satan. So, the same happened with the robber Moses. He heard the prayers of those holy people and began enlightening his dark mind. He understood the many big crimes he had done and repented for all of these. He began apologizing to God and crying for his mistakes.
-Didn’t our good God forgive him, mummy?
-Of course, He forgave him. And not only did He forgive him but because of his great and true repentance, He began flooding him with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
-What happened next, mum?
-Moses made such progress in the virtues that he became a role model for people. He became like a great holy ascetic. He loved our Lord Jesus Christ so much that he lived only with his remembrance, love and his holy commandments! His holiness was so great that everyone saw the grace of God covering him. The reputation of his holy life had spread so much that people were coming from distant places to listen to and consult with him.
-What did the other robbers do when they learned about the change in their leader?
-Once some of them came to the desert to rob the holy ascetics. Four of them, who were old friends of Moses, went to rob his monk's hut, without imagining whom they would find inside. As they saw him, they looked literally astonished!
-And what did Moses do, mum?
-He caught them easily, tied them up and led them to the meeting of the holy ascetics. He asked them there, what they wanted him to do with them, since he didn’t want to harm humans, nor thieves any more.
-What did they tell him to do?
-They advised him to release them and let them go unopposed. So he did. However, the robbers didn’t want to leave! They were stunned by the example of their former leader. They stayed close to him to find the salvation of their souls and they also became great ascetics.
-It is fantastic, mummy, what happened to this robber!
-It really is fantastic, my child, what our good God allows every soul who repents for their mistakes and apologizes to our Lord to become, as the robber Moses did. He became from a great sinner, a great saint, because Moses is a great saint of the Church, which placed him among the saints and celebrates his memory on August 28th!
The stairway to heaven
After mum Sophia’s nice story about the terrible bandit Moses, who became a great saint by the power of repentance, little Angela remained very thoughtful for a few minutes. She realized how strong the word "sorry" is when it is expressed sincerely from a soul. It is so strong that it makes God himself flood the worst sinner with the grace of His mercy.
-If repentance, mum, has such a power to turn a very sinful man into a saint, then everyone has the opportunity to escape from the power of Satan and become saints!
-Repentance, my Angela, is the most precious gift which is given to everyone by our good God after the first created humans’ eviction from Paradise. It is the unique stairway which elevates us from earth to heaven. Due to this stairway of repentance, all people are now able not only to save themselves from the traps of Satan but to sanctify themselves as well. But in order to climb confidently up to heaven with this stairway, you have to pay attention to two significant things which you have to do faithfully.
-What are these, mum?
-The first is to use the word "sorry".
-If we don’t learn to humbly say sorry every time we make a mistake, we will never manage to climb the first step of this heavenly stairway.
-And what is the second one, mum?
-When we apologize, we should never try to make an excuse for our mistake. An excuse is the base and the power of evil. An excuse destroys the power of repentance and allows Satan to rule over our soul again.
-Why is making excuses so bad, mummy?
-Do you remember my Angela, what Adam and Eve did after their mistake in Paradise? Did they apologize to our good God or begin to justify themselves?
-Indeed, mum, they didn’t apologize for their sin, but began to make various excuses. Adam blamed Eve for his mistake and Eve blamed the serpent.
-Do you know who put all these excuses in their minds instead of apologizing?
-Exactly, my little girl, Satan not only would not let them apologize but persuaded them to make silly excuses saying that each one is innocent and the other is to blame. That’s why our very good God was sad by their attitude, because their excuses were showing how selfish their soul was.
The excuse of the first created humans was the main reason that they lost Paradise.
Whoever wants to be close to God, enjoying His sweet Fatherly love, must learn to apologize humbly for his mistakes and not to justify them.
-Now I understand why when I make a mistake and I apologize, you forgive me immediately and embrace me, but when I start to make excuses and blame our little Joseph for my mistakes you are sad!
-Yes, my baby, I am glad you noticed how sad I am, when you don’t understand your mistake and you start justifying yourself. Our good God also has the same bad feeling when He sees us justifying ourselves instead of apologizing immediately for our mistake. He is sad, because at the time we are justifying ourselves, He sees Satan tangling us in his satanic nets and we cannot understand that we are doing his will.
-I didn’t know, my mummy, how wrong making excuses is, therefore, from now on I will try never to justify myself and not give power to Satan to make me what he wants.
-Well done, my sweet daughter! That soul who apologizes for his mistakes in a shameless manner makes everyone love and respect him; this shows prudence and bravery. The salvation of our soul, my little girl, passes always through the path of forgiveness, while its destruction passes always through excuses. Even when it is hard for us to cut out a passion and a weakness, an excuse for it is dangerous.
-What do you mean, mummy?
-I’ll tell you a story and you will understand.
The boy and the uncultivated field
Once there was a young boy who was initially living a bad life with many mistakes and sins. He repented later for all his sins and asked forgiveness from God. He went to a spiritual father, confessed all his sins and began living as best as he could according to God’s will. Of course, despite the spiritual struggle he made, he had many difficulties giving up some bad habits, which had taken root in him. He was very disappointed and he didn’t wish any more to continue his spiritual struggle. After justifying to himself, that it is impossible to continue, he went to his spiritual father to tell him his decision. Then this wise man said to him:
-What you told me, my child, reminds me of something that happened to a friend of mine, a farmer. Come and sit here next to me and I’ll tell you a little story.
The young boy was always listening with interest to the charming impromptu stories of the wise elder.
-Well, my friend had a field on the edge of the village which was for years uncultivated and so it was full of thorns and thistles. After some time he decided to plant it but he had to clear it first. He sent his older son to do this job.
But, when the boy saw the field full of huge thorns, he despaired and began making excuses.
-I will never be able to clear this field, he repeated over and over to himself. How can I uproot so many thorns and thistles?
So, when he had totally convinced himself that it was impossible to do the job, he lay down under a bush and fell asleep. When he woke up it was already noon. He looked at the weeds with his sleepy gaze and he was frustrated. He remained there looking at them until it got dark. The same thing happened the next day, the third day and all the others. He was yawning, turning over with laziness and falling asleep, then waking up but he didn’t decide to work.
-You did nothing for so many days; his father said angrily when he went and saw that his son hadn’t uprooted at least one thorn.
-I was disappointed, father, when I saw how much work was waiting for me and I could not make a decision to start, he said.
-If every day, my child, you had cleared as much land as your height when you lay down, you would have almost finished.
The son, ashamed of his laziness, immediately put into practice his father’s advice. Soon he found out that it wasn’t impossible to clear the uncultivated field.
So the wise elder ended his charming lesson and after giving courage and comfort to the disappointed boy he said:
-Imitate him, my child, and when you come back, tell me if it is really so difficult to patiently uproot your soul’s passions.
Angela was very excited by her mum’s story and was determined to cut out all her mistakes and childish weaknesses, with determination and without excuses.
She realized that the secret of every spiritual success is the decision of every man to climb the magnificent stairway of repentance which raises us up to heaven, into the arms of God our Father.
She had also understood very well that if someone wants to succeed, he must learn in his life to always “apologize” for his mistakes without excuses.Mum Sophia was happy for her little daughter and begged our good God to flood her with the grace of the Holy Spirit and the infinite love of God’s fatherly heart.