ABOUT SLAVES, SERVANTS AND CHILDREN – Иверский Орский женский монастырь



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Saint John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai 



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Slaves work for food and because they do not want to be beaten. If they work poorly, they are beaten. Servants work for a salary; they earn as much as they work. This relationship is different and more profitable. The philosophy of the Old Testament people made them be either slaves or servants. Their relationship with God was slave-like, “Lord, we will behave, may earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and illnesses never come to us. If we misbehave, we know punishment will follow.”  

The Old Testament people lived somewhat like servants, “Lord, I will behave, and You will not only punish me, but also give me something in this life.” Even in the Psalter King David says the following words, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.”1 In other words, righteousness itself presupposes some kind of prosperity.  

Christ comes and brings a new religion, a new philosophy, and, as it might seem,  His disciples should have even more. However, His very first followers have the same thing He does: a cross, crucifixion, humiliation, persecution, beating, and the most extreme of this all – death. During four centuries, the first four centuries, Christian blood flew like water only because people were Christians, only because they confessed their faith. You do not protest, do not organize any demonstration, but the mere fact of your Christianity is the cause for persecution, tortures and killing you. What kind of religion is it? One might be confused.  

What did Christ bring to us? What did He offer us? Before Him, people at least had a status of slaves: behave and you are fed and not beaten. Moreover, they had a status of servants: work properly and you earn a lot, you are rich and your family is prosperous. But suddenly Christ brings this confusing religion. Certainly, at first He heals the blind, sick and lepers. In the beginning, people respond to this and follow Christ, but suddenly His gospel ends with Cross, Golgotha, and the very shameful death. A Roman could not be crucified. Only outlaws and the most worthless people could find their death on a cross. But we have this absurdity. What did He bring to us? If He did not bring anything, it’s absurd again, then why did so many people voluntarily die for Him during those four centuries? In the Lives of Ancient Saints, we read how Christians were tortured at the Amphitheater of Athens. They were torn to pieces by lions, crucified, cut into pieces. Meanwhile, a woman was running there with her child across Rome. “Where are you running?” “There, to the place where they torture Christians. I am a Christian too.” “Mad woman! Don’t you realize they will kill you too?” “I understand this.” “But you are twice mad! You go there yourself and you bring your child with you!”   

This is not fanaticism. There should be some deep and strong reason why those people did so. On no account, some people will not do or tolerate something, much less go to death. In no way they will do this, as this is madness and nonsense. But what did saints have? Perhaps, they had something more than the Old Testament people. They did not only have a contract with God for not having earthquakes, plague or flood; or receive a remuneration in the format of this world and then not to sleep overnight thinking how not to lose this money but multiply it, scaring the inflation and considering what to do with it at all.      

One of our priests told me about a ridiculous situation. When there was instability in 2008, a director came up to and asked him, “Father, how do you keep your money?” (He thought that the priest had a lot of money.) The priest joked, “I keep them in gold bars, as they are not prone to inflation.” He joked and forgot about it, but in a month, the director came up to him again and said, “Ok, describe me the process how you recast the bars and where you hide them.” The priest said he did not even understand if the director was joking or not. He only answered, “Are you serious? I only joked. I do not have gold.” 

Those Christians might have had something. No one should live in illusion. Perhaps, it is possible for some time but then the illusion will fade away like a mist. They had something very real and dear. The Lord says in the Gospel, “A man sold all that he had and bought a pearl.”2 Only one pearl. The man can give his money for it because he knows its price. He can tell an imitation, a mere bead, from a precious thing which costs all his possessions.  

Christians understood what was their priority and the most precious thing on earth. Some people will say family is the most precious. Go to the cemetery, look at the graves of your parents – this is your family. A husband lost his wife, a wife buried her husband, or the most horrifying thing – some people have lost their children. This is the scariest thing – to outlive your children. Priests constantly stay by the coffin. Well, very often. By the coffin, all meanings and values go to pieces together with the deceased, who goes to pieces too. Some people dedicate their lives to art, science or social service. Believe me, everything goes to pieces. All this can be and should be, but this is not the major thing for a human.  

By Christ, Christians acquired the most valuable treasure – Him. After the Ascension, He remained with them with His Holy Spirit. They acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and were ready to die for this real treasure… Fanatics have some spiritual ardency but they go to pieces. In order to test whether this is an imitation or a precious pearl, there is only a cross.  Illusions go to pieces on a cross. Everything you fancy, dream and worry about will go to pieces when you are on a cross. Only a true treasure will stand out. It is strong and unshakeable. This is why Christ brings Himself and the theme of a cross. To be with Him, one should go through a cross. Cross is His theme, it is inseparable from Him.  

Today we commemorate the Passions of Christ again. The Apostle says, “It is foolishness to the Greeks, to us it is the power of God.”3 It is foolishness to the Greek because they do not know and do not understand this. How can you understand something you do not know, what does not have any shape in the format of this world, and what is beyond the world? They do not understand.  Apostle Paul comes to the Areopagus of Athens, to the wisest people of Athens, who constantly meet to share wisdom with one another and compete in their thoughts, and tells them about Christ. To which they say, “You behave like a madman, Paul. Come next time, perhaps we might listen to you. You behave like a madman now.” These wisest people on earth, exactly on earth, cannot encompass Christ with their earthly heads. Their heads are too narrow for Him.   

Some people who come to Orthodoxy want to be either slaves or servants. You should understand Orthodoxy is not a religion of slaves or servants; it is the religion of children. A child will follow his Father wherever He goes. If a father goes to war, his child will share his fear and fate. If a father goes to cross, his child will unconsciously share it; the cross will come through his heart anyway. If we set our priorities right and realize what is primary and secondary in our life, then we will win through these hard and horrible days because we will fight for the highest Value. If we fight for something earthly, we will lose, because this war does not make sense.   

Glory to our God, always, now, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!

1 Ps. 36:25

2 Mt. 13:46

3 1Cor. 1:23-24