Father Zossima tells his followers that the greatest torment is discovering the meaning of love too late to profit by it. You’re on your deathbed, in your dying brain you seem already at the gate of Paradise itself, and soft as a dying breeze it’s dawned on you that the greatest thing in life is to be able to give all you have to help another human being, to be overflowing and have everything to give and to give it – but now on your deathbed in your final ruin you have nothing left to give, nothing to sacrifice, nothing to share with your fellow human beings, not even a breath of your own to spare. The greatest gift in the world is living love, and what does it mean to be alive with love? Alive! It is to see another as your friend, his needs as your own, and to give wholeheartedly to help him. “It will come to pass that even the most corrupt of our rich will end by being ashamed of his riches before the poor …” He will be ashamed because he will realise how foolish he has been, that he had rejected the greatest gift – living love – in favour of power and worldly riches.
“He taught that life is a great joy and not a vale of tears,” is how Zossima is remembered. A great joy because whatever the hardships you suffer in your poverty, they are nothing compared to the lightness of heart you find in the living love that led you to give your riches away.
“The time is at hand,” is the tone of Zossima’s message. With Christianity you’re always on the cusp of the new world, Heaven on earth, these past 2000 years have been nothing but passing shadow before the cloud passes and the sun of truth shines again.