April 09, 2017
Today, a great and incomprehensible joy fills the depths of our hearts, and overflows therefrom.
Today, an unspeakable light knits all of our hearts together in a great and harmonious symphony of wordless praise.
Today, Divine Love, the eternal life of the Three Divine Persons, showers down upon us from above the highest heavens, bathing us in its grace, and exalting our entire being unto those heights.
Today, the life-giving power of God wraps itself about all creation, mingling itself with all of our life, thoughts, feelings, impulses, movements and perceptions.
Today is the triumphant entry of God our King into His rightful city, Jerusalem; today, is the prelude of that great hymn which will burst forth from the empty tomb of the Lord on Pascha night, filling all creation with light, glory and joy!
But we will not see the risen Christ until we see the dead Christ; we will not know joy until sorrow pierces us; we will not comprehend His great work of re-creating us and all things until we see the destruction of the humble temple of His body on Great and Holy Friday.
Our very nature, all our heart and soul, will not be exalted above all things, rapt in unspeakable joy and wordless hymns of thanksgiving, until all mortal flesh keeps silent on Great and Holy Saturday.
We will not only see our Lord endure His Passion, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection, but we will now enter with Him into His life-giving Passion, so that we might come forth with Him, resurrected from the dead!
We will not just see our most-sweet Savior Christ pierced with nails to the Cross, but we will endure the piercing awareness of our many sins which nail Him to the Cross.
We will not just see our most-humble Lord Jesus lying still and breathless in the tomb, but we will feel with all of our being that spiritual death which fetters all the powers of our soul and body with humbling silence, that death which has entered the world because of our turning away from God our Life.
But what is more, we will not just hear tell of an empty tomb, visions of angels, and vague words of glad tidings, but we will feel ourselves on Pascha-night to arise secretly with the hidden Christ in manifest power and bright-beaming glory.
He will come forth from the tomb, greeting us, not just with body and voice, but He will greet and embrace all our soul with His light-filled, most-joyous, life-giving power of resurrection; and we will fall down in our souls before Him in humble thanksgiving, sensing our great unworthiness before His great grace and love.
We will be humbled on Pascha-night with a new humility; not anymore by the crushing weight of our shameful sins and the heaviness of our guilt, but by the great measure of God’s love, of which we are most unworthy.
Suffering His Passion with Him, we will be humbled by affliction, contrition and a deadening silence; but arising with His Arising, we will then be humbled by His boundless love which fills our unworthy and sinful souls with the incorruptible peace and joy of His very own sinless purity and divine life.
We will be humbled then, on Pascha-night, not anymore by our slavery to the devil, but by God’s great gift of new and unending life which will fill our whole being with a divine intoxication, making us to forget all of our previous sorrows, pains, trials, afflictions, sins and death—and which will grant us to swim again in that freedom of the great expansive ocean of God’s divine life and love.
Who could have purchased these things for himself?
No man, by himself, can put to death the sin which enslaves him. No man can conquer and uproot and completely efface from his own soul his pain-causing passions. No man can raise himself out of hades. No man can bring himself back from the land of darkness, the land of the dead. No man can ascend unto the throne of God. No man can dwell in heaven. No man can purchase by his own sweat, labors, reasoning and will-power the great gift of God’s beginningless and unending divine life.
No man could do all these things, save the Man Who is also God, Jesus Christ our Lord, the King of all, Who now comes invisibly upborne in triumph by the ranks of angels, yet visibly upborne by a donkey, greeted with the humble praises of innocent children which harmonize with the angelic chanting of the thrice-holy hymn.
We are now strengthened by great joy that we might, with courage, endure the Passion of Christ, with Christ.
And we will courageously endure this Passion of Christ that we might enter into the joy of Pascha, His Resurrection.
What is this Pascha which we prepare for every year? It is the foretaste of the endless heavenly Pascha, where we will partake of Christ more fully in the unwaning day of His Kingdom.
This Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ our First-fruits, which we are preparing to celebrate, is the anticipation of the Resurrection of all mankind which will occur at the end of this world when Christ comes again in glory.
Christ resurrected Himself, not for His own sake, and not just so we could praise His mighty power, but He did it for our sake, that we might behold our very human nature arise from death with Him, so that we may be filled with the certainty that we too, even after our bodies die, shall rise again on the Last Day.
About this Last Day the Church teaches in all Her Scriptures, all Her Services, all Her Traditions, that we might prepare to meet Christ when He comes again, when every eye shall see Him!
He will come again, He will resurrect all the dead from ages past, He will judge the living and the dead; and then, at that time, He will triumphantly lead the great Assembly of the saved, His Most Holy Church—even us lowly sinners who have received His grace in repentant humility and love—He will lead us all, together with all the angels and saints, into the Divine Bridal-Chamber, uniting us to His Father for all eternity.
There, in that great Assembly, on that great day, we will mystically chant and sing with all the holy angels; it will be an endless day of joy, a joy which will keep ascending, never knowing any diminishing, but ever-increasing: joy ascending into ever-greater joy, causing great wonder and delight in all whom it fills.
What shall we not undergo in order to be found there? What shall we not suffer that we might rejoice there? What we shall not give up that we might be alive there?
The Pascha of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, which we are now preparing to celebrate on earth, is the anticipation and foretaste of that day when all, who are resurrected by Christ unto everlasting life, will be gathered together as one man in Christ, to be united forever to the divine life of His Father in the Holy Spirit!
About this last day, St. Peter the Apostle teaches us, saying:
“The Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness;
“Looking for and hastening unto the Coming of the Day of God, wherein the heavens—being on fire—shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat;
“Nevertheless, we—according to His promise—look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;
“Therefore, beloved,” St. Peter continues, “seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found by Him in peace, without spot, and blameless!”
The Apostle speaks about the melting of the whole universe! The fervent heat of the Divine Presence of the Most-Glorious Lord Jesus Christ will melt away this corruptible universe, but only to resurrect it anew!
But, even now, we can perceive this fervent heat of Christ which will refashion all creation! Even now the fervent heat of His loving-compassion joyously melts our hearts.
First, there is trial, pain, affliction and humiliation—to wake us up; then there is awareness of our sins; then contrition, repentance and tears; then this is met by God’s living and active mercy; then our hearts are swallowed whole by the fervent heat of His love: we are transformed, set on fire, ablaze with divine joy; our hearts melt, our minds are humbled, our eyes pour forth sweet tears, our souls are comforted.
Then, every sinful, passionate, corrupt and dead thing is taken away from us and dissolved forever; then every beautiful thing, every praiseworthy thing, every virtue, comes alive in us—Christ comes alive in us; He refashions us, re-creates us; He brings us out of the dark hollows of gloomy death into the radiant light of the eternal day of everlasting life!
This is that day of Pascha which we now await! This is the moment we have been preparing for! But here, on earth, we will only experience a small foretaste of what Pascha truly is; but there, on that eternal day, we will partake of Christ most fully in the unwaning day of His Kingdom.
Preparing ourselves to undergo the Passion of Christ on this, the eve of Holy Week, let us stamp our hearts with the unshakeable seal of hope: the certainty that, whatever we may suffer in this life, it cannot be compared with the joy and glory of the life to come.
Let us be certain that God’s love is greater than our sinfulness! Let us be certain that God’s life-giving power is greater than our death-dealing passions! Let us be certain that God’s eternal joy will swallow, in an instant, all of our most painful sorrows and corruption, if only we cling to Him with our feeble seeking and faith.
Let us ever chant in this life, while fervently looking towards the unending life, that great hymn of Pascha, until we leave this life to meet Christ: “Yesterday, O Christ, I was crucified with Thee; and today I arise in Thine arising! Yesterday, O Christ, I was buried with Thee; do Thou glorify me Thyself with Thee, O Savior, in Thy Kingdom!” Amen.
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April 03, 2017
Given at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Wayne, WV after Pan-Orthodox Vespers.
What was it that made St. Mary different from us? What made her into such a wondrous saint? And as we look back on our Lenten struggle, and as we look forward to Holy Week and Pascha, what is there left for us to do?
What did St. Mary say herself about her life of repentance in the desert?
April 02, 2017
Given at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross during the Sunday Liturgy.
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. We have become acquainted with her throughout the whole of Lent. We first chanted about her works in the first week of Lent during Compline when we chanted the Great Canon. We next heard of her life only a few days ago when the Great Canon was chanted in its entirety during Matins this past Wednesday. Today, as we come toward the end of this time of Lent and repentance, we reach the summit of our awareness of St. Mary on this Sunday dedicated to her commemoration.
March 26, 2017
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