SUNDAY OF MEATFARE — Tone 3. Sunday of the Last Judgment. Apostles of the Seventy Archippus (Arkhipp) and Philemon, and Martyr Apphia (1st c.).
Tone 3 Troparion (Resurrection)
Let the heavens rejoice! Let the earth be glad! For the Lord has shown strength with His arm. He has trampled down death by death. He has become the first born of the dead. He has delivered us from the depths of hell, and has granted to the world// great mercy.
Tone 4 (St. Nicholas)
The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of meekness and a teacher of self-control; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you.// O Father Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Tone 3 Kontakion (St. Nicholas)
You proved yourself to be be a holy priest, O Nicholas. You served God in Myra and lived the gospel of Christ. You offered your life for your people, And rescued the innocent from death. Therefore God has glorified you as a trustworthy guide of things divine.
Tone 1 Kontakion (from the Lenten Triodion)
When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory, all things shall tremble, and the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat; the books shall be opened, and the hidden things disclosed; then deliver me from the unquenchable fire,// and make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, O Righteous Judge!
Tone 3 Prokeimenon (Resurrection)
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power, / His understanding is beyond measure. (Ps. 146:5)
V. Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God! (Ps. 146:1)
1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2 (Epistle)
But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. Come, let us rejoice in the Lord! Let us make a joyful noise to God our Savior! (Ps. 94:1)
V. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise. (Ps. 94:2)
Matthew 25:31-46 (Gospel)
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Judgment of Love
Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou
The first goal of this period is to initiate the faithful in the spirit of repentance, which restores a balanced relationship with God and the bond of love with Him. The second goal is to inspire the work of the soul’s renewal. Through repentance and self-reproach, man receives the grace of adoption and becomes heir of the blessed Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as we hear in today’s Gospel. Man was created with a great purpose to become a partaker of the endless life of his God and Creator. Precisely before speaking about His Second Coming, the Lord gives the Parable of the Talents, in order to remind man that all the things he thinks he has are the gifts of God, talents on loan, for which he will be accountable. He has received even his temporary life on loan from the Lord, Who expects it back, not mutilated, not even unimproved, but illumined and adorned. ‘The hands of the Lord have made man and fashioned him;’ they endowed him with wondrous gifts. By God’s mercy, he received a great capital of goodness, but he will have to give account for it, because he is not a horse without a master, abandoned in a fenceless field.
Faith becomes genuine only when man is aware that God is not simply absolute being, He does not merely exist, but He will also be our rewarder. The Lord is He Who has come and shall come again. He Who has come to earth for the salvation of the world shall come again ‘in glory, to judge the quick and the dead’.
Scripture tirelessly emphasizes that Christ indeed took on human flesh, but was different from us as a man, for He was not conceived in the ordinary way, and He never committed a sin. Only the Lord was exempt from the word of the Psalm, ‘in sin did my mother conceive me,’ which is true for all of us. We are conceived in sin not because the union of our parents is an immoral act, but because it brings forth another victim to death, and death is unacceptable and unnatural to us, since God created man for incorruption.
The Lord also calls Himself the Son of man in order to underline the truth that the Judgment will not be performed by God the Father, but by the Man Jesus Christ, Who lived on earth without sin. In his book On Prayer, Saint Sophrony relates his intense struggle with God in the first stages of his spiritual life when, calling himself a worm, deeply grieved, he asked the infinite and almighty God what right He had to judge him, imprisoned as he was in the weakness of the flesh. He was overtaken by great shame when he heard the answer in his heart: ‘The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son… because He is the Son of man.’ He writes: I felt ashamed – I had always lived in circumstances considerably easier than those in which Christ passed His earthly life. He did indeed have the right to judge the whole world. There is no one whose sufferings have surpassed His suffering. Outwardly, many have endured, and to this day endure, terrible torture in captivity everywhere but qualitatively His hell, ‘the hell of love’, is more agonizing than every other. Moreover, according to Saint Paul, neither will Christ judge anyone, but rather the saints will judge, as people of like passions with us who, under the same conditions common to all, dared to resist the temptation of this world and followed the path of salvation. At the Second Coming, the Lord shall appear with all His holy angels, who are ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation’. In this life the angels were given the task to minister unto the salvation of men.
On that great and notable day, they shall give a twofold testimony. First, they shall give witness to the benefits of the Lord for the salvation of each man, to whom they ministered as His servants. Then, having recorded men’s deeds as guardian angels, they shall bring to light their secret struggle and shall intercede for them.
Man and his salvation were in the mind of God from the foundation of the world. In one instant unfathomable to us, God summoned man from non-being into being and, breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, He made him ‘a living soul’. With words that reveal His tender love, He caringly calls the righteous ‘the blessed of the Father’: they are blessed from above, for whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps His word, ‘shall be loved by the Father’. God only desires salvation for man, He only wishes to impart to him the wealth of eternal life. By saying ‘come’, He calls the righteous to enter His quickening Presence that they had known and loved on earth through the keeping of His commandments, and above all through the work of life-giving repentance which, according to the Fathers, is the fulfillment of all the commandments. He calls them to enter the house of the Father and rejoice in the tents of delight of Paradise for all eternity.
‘For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’ The words of His mouth are fearful for they reveal that salvation or eternal condemnation depend on works of love. The righteous are not praised for having avoided sin, neither are sinners condemned for their terrible crimes, but for their lack of good works towards their fellows. In His infinite goodness, the Lord hastens to forgive great and grievous sins.
Just as bodily virginity did not open the door to the bride chamber for the five foolish virgins, so also external sinlessness is not sufficient for salvation, if it is not accompanied by the fulfillment of the two great commandments of perfect love towards God and neighbor. The Heavenly Father is convinced of the genuineness of His children by their works of selfless love, so that He may address to them the word of His fatherly mercy and accept them in His House, in His Kingdom, granting them all that is His. In the Holy Trinity, Divine life is the content of each One of the three Hypostases. Man was fashioned with the capacity to become a bearer of this life which is inexhaustible and infinite, without being required to possess wealth, knowledge and earthly glory, but just a good disposition of love towards his brother.
The citizens of His Kingdom are those who become poor, rejected and estranged from this world for the sake of Him Who ‘for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich’. Every act of love which aims to comfort the pain of any despised and insignificant man is received by the Lord as if it benefitted Him.
Christ thirsts for the salvation of every soul, but according to His word, the soul of man is blessed when she also hungers and thirsts after His righteousness, when she hungers for the grace of God and thirsts unto death for His mercy. By keeping the commandments, the soul is given to drink living, spiritual water. Christ is par excellence the least brother and, as Saint Silouan says, ‘Our brother is our life.’Our brother is our salvation. The Lord considers every good deed and work of love towards every fellow man overcome by necessities and sorrows, as His own benefit.
Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou. At the Doors of Holy Lent. Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex, UK.