Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behold, the Crucified One!.

Elder Philotheos Zervakos.

   Do you see His incorrupt feet which are nailed to the Cross?. They are nailed for us, to direct our own feet upon the way of truth, faith and virtue. Do you see His open arms?. They symbolize the warm love which He has for us; to embrace us, and present us to His Heavenly Father; and to make us His children and His sons, and gods by grace. Do you see that pierced side which pours forth blood and water?. The water represents the baptism by which we were cleansed of original sin. The blood represents the Bloodless Sacrifice which is celebrated on the Holy Altars: by partaking of it, we are sanctified and unified with Him, becoming one Body. Just as a loving mother nourishes her children with her milk, in the same manner, our sweetest Jesus nourishes us as His beloved children; however, not with milk, but with His very Body and Blood.
   Behold, kings; the King of all from whom you received the scepter and diadem!. Behold, hier­archs and priests; your first Hierarch and Priest from whom you received your office!. Behold lay­people, men and women, young and old; your Loving Father who nourishes you; He who made the fields, the valleys, the rivers, the mountains, the ra­vines and the forests!. All of you, Behold Him!. See how He is hung upon the cross crucified, cov­ered with bruises, and bleeding. Run, everyone, cover His incorrupt feet with kisses; shower them with tears of compunction and wash them; love Him with all your soul as He loves you and prefer to die before falling into a deadly sin and sadden­ing such a Master and loving Father. Every sin a Christian commits is a nail thrust into Christ's body. Christ is not so saddened that the Jews crucified Him as He is that the Christians for whom He shed His blood (and sheds it every day on the Holy Altars) crucify Him every day with their sins, "seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Heb 6:6) according to the divine Paul.
   Listen Christians, and come to your senses!. Whoever runs on the road of prodigality, lewdness, corruption, drunkenness, and dissoluteness is like the Jews who had put the nails in Jesus' feet!. Whoever seizes the belongings of others, whoever steals and treats others unjustly puts nails in Jesus' hands!. Whoever is prideful and haughty places the crown of thorns on His head. Whoever has jealousy in his heart and envies his neighbor pierces His side!. Whoever blasphemes and curses God spits in His face!. Be careful, Christians!. As many that sin among you must consider carefully that with your sins you are crucifying Christ as the Jews did!. Consider that He whom you now see crucified upon the wood of the Cross and whom you scorn with your works shall one day come upon the clouds of Heaven in great power and glory as a dreadful and impartial Judge of both the living and the dead. Woe to you then!. Woe to all who die unrepentant!.
   O Crucified Jesus!. Even if the Jews and many of the contemporary pseudo-philosophers do not believe in Thee, even if some of the Christians scorn and blaspheme Thee, Thou art still the King of all, Thou art are worshipped by the angels and praised by all creation!. We Christians, Thy be­loved children (even if we are sinful), believe in Thee, confess Thee and preach that Thou art the King of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible. Thou art He who Is, Who Was, and Who Remains unto the ages of ages. We see the great and glorious Kings of the earth -­ Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon and the other Emperors - their kingdoms lasted until their death; the kingdom of others fell even before their deaths. But Thy Kingdom remains even after Thy death. 19 centuries ago, at this spot, Thou didst die as a human being on the Cross, but still Thou art are the King of all Christian nations and Thou art worshipped by all. Thy kingdom is an Everlasting kingdom and Thy reign is from generation unto generation. We see that no one goes to worship at the tombs of other kings, but they come from the ends of the earth to Thy lifegiving Tomb - kings and rulers and people from every walk of life.
   We unworthy ones present at this dreadful and terrifying Holy Place offer Thee glorification with compunction. Accept our hymns and praise as incense, accept our tears as myrrh and give us Thy Grace and Thy Blessing as well as Thy peace, enlightenment and repentance.
   Our God-Man Jesus is not grieved so much that we scorn Him with our unlawful deeds, sins and transgressions against His Divine Commandments as He is that we remain unrepentant, hardhearted and insensitive, despite the fact that He gave us re­pentance and confession as the means to wash our sins away. "We do not become sinners by committing sin, but rather when we do not hate sin and repent of it", says Abba Isaac. And the divine Chrysostom says, "It is not grievous for one to fall, but it is for him who has fallen to stay as he is-being neglectful and lazy, hiding the sick­ness of his disposition because of thoughts of hopelessness-and not to rise again. It is human for one to sin, however to continue in this sin is not human but completely satanic." And St. John the Theologian tells us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
   So long as there is time, let us repent; for the Lord loves mankind and is slow to anger and very merciful. He is long-suffering, full of great mercy and overlooks our sins. "He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities". Just as He pe­titioned His Father for the Jews - His crucifiers, saying "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do", likewise, He petitions for Christ­ians who curse Him. He is loving unto mankind, but He is also just. As a lover of mankind , He is merciful; but being just, He punishes - not the offenders who repent - but rather unrepentant sin­ners. "If he repent not, He will whet His sword; He hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors" (Psalms 7: 12-13). As a forbearing lover of man­kind He forbore the Jews, that they might repent. But when He saw that they persisted in their evil He gave them up to annihilation and destruction, and they were slaughtered by the Roman armies. They were enslaved, scattered, deprived of the Kingdom and the Priesthood, and accursed and en­raged, wandering to and fro. He likewise forbears Christians when they curse, blaspheme and scorn Him, awaiting their repentance. But when they persist in their evil and do not repent, He then gives them up to wrath and destruction. The wars which take place in our day, along with the fa­mines, plagues, many afflictions, many sadnesses, and the great deprivation are a result of sin.
   Beloved, let us repent before the hour of death arrives; for there is no repentance after death. Let us repent before the dreadful day of judgment, when we shall give account for all our deeds. Let us repent, that we may receive remis­sion of sins and be granted presentation on the right hand side, and enjoy the eternal and unend­ing bounties. May we all attain this through the Grace and compassion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was crucified for our sake; and by the prayers of our Most-blessed father and Patriarch: Amen.
   Thou, O Crucified Jesus, most sweet, most be­nevolent, most beautiful - Thou who bore the dread­ful Passion and a most painful death on the Cross for us; Thou treasure of bounties and giver of life, preserve our Most-blessed Patriarch in Safe­ty, health and with long life for the good of the Church. Preserve the fathers and brothers of this monastery in peace, and. calm the agitations. Send the longed for peace by all nations. Return ev­eryone to the True Faith and piety so that we may all become one flock having Thee as our Shepherd, Deliverer and Ruler. Grant us to venerate Thy holy burial place with compunction so that we may joyfully and gladly celebrate Thy glorious and venerable Resurrection. Amen.

The Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos (1884 – 1980), Orthodox Kypseli Publication (1987), Thessaloniki, Greece.