Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE LAST [FINAL] JUDGMENT
"The trumpets shall blow, and the graves shall be empty, and all mankind shall rise trembling. They who have done good shall rejoice with joy, expecting their reward; and those who have done evil shall tremble greatly, moaning and shaking, as they are sent to suffering, separated from the elect. Wherefore, O Lord of glory, be compassionate toward us, and make us worthy to be of those who love thee; for thou art good.
-from Vespers (Esperinos), Tone 6
The Following is an excerpt from Great Lent, by Father Alexander Schmemann (Eastern Orthodox Theologian).
From Chapter 2: Preparation for Lent
It is love again that constitutes the theme of "Meat-Fare Sunday." The Gospel lesson for the day is Christ's Parable of the Last Judgment (St. Matthew 25:31-46). When Christ comes to judge us, what will be the criterion of His judgment? The Parable answers: love--not a mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous "poor," but concrete and personal love for the human person, any human person, that God makes me encounter in my life...
Christian love is the "possible impossibility" to see Christ in another man, whoever he is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a "good cheer" or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself. For, indeed, what is love if not that mysterious power which transcends the accidental and the external in the "other"--his physical appearance, social rank, ethnic origin, intellectual capacity--and reaches the soul, the unique and uniquely personal "root" of a human being, truly the part of God in him? If God loves every man it is because He alone knows the priceless and absolutely unique treasure, the "soul" or "person" He gave every man. Christian love then is the participation in that divine knowledge and the gift of that divine love. There is no "impersonal" love because love is the wonderful discovery of the "person" in "man," of the personal and unique in the common and general. It is the discovery in each man of that which is "lovable" in him, of that which is from God.
The Parable of the Last Judgment is about Christian love. Not all of us are called to work for "humanity", yet each one of us has received the gift and the grace of Christ's love. We know that all men ultimately need this personal love--the recognition in them of their unique soul in which the beauty of the whole creation is reflected in a unique way. We also know that men are in prison and are sick and thirsty and hungry because that personal love has been denied them. And, finally, we know that however narrow and limited the framework of our personal existence, each one of us has been made responsible for a tiny part of the Kingdom of God, made responsibly by that very gift of Christ's love. Thus, on whether or not we have accepted this responsibility, on whether we have loved or refused to love, shall we be judged. For "in as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me…"
CATECHESIS BY SAINT THEODORE THE STUDITE ON MEATFARE SUNDAY
(Catechesis on the great and manifest day of our Lord Jesus Christ, spoken by Saint Theodore the Studite on Meatfare)
"Brethren and fathers, it is a universal law on this day for those who live in the world to stop eating meat and one may see among them great competition in meat-eating and wine-bibbing, and even spectacles of outrageous pastimes which it is shameful to speak about. It is necessary to participate with moderation and to give thanks to the Lord of what we have and to make worthy preparation for the banquet before us; while they possessed by the wiles of the devil do the opposite, demonstrating that they have accepted one rather than the other. Why have I mentioned these things? So that we humble monks may not direct our thoughts in that direction, nor desire their desire, which is not worthy of desire, but rather of misery; let us rather turn to consider the Gospel we are going to listen to, thinking, while the canon is being chanted, about the great and manifest day of the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the judge will stand the sheep on His right but the goats on His left. And to those on the right He will utter that blessed and most longed for invitation, "Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," while to those on the left He will utter that most unwelcome and piteous sentence, "Depart from Me, accursed, into the everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels." These words are full of dread, fear and alarm; they should make us, and them, as we reflect fall down and weep and heed the message of the Gospel, striving keenly to serve the Lord with fear and trembling, removing all wickedness from the soul, introducing instead all knowledge of good works, compassionate pity, goodness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, and whatever else is good and estimable, that when we have led lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ we may become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom belong Glory and Might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen."
"One of the important things that Christ teaches us through His message on Meatfare Sunday is that whatever we do to the next person, we do the same to Christ also. And it brings up the important fact that the True Christian is the one who sees Christ in everyone. All are created in the image and likeness of God; we are all (or at least strive to be) living icons of Christ. And it's when we recognize that image of Christ in everyone (including our 'enemies') that we gain a step closer to residing in the mansions of the Father that have been prepared for us.
The next time that you set out to destroy someone's reputation, break someone's heart, show indifference and even ignorance toward a person, or maliciously gossip about someone, remember that Christ says that you're doing exactly the same thing to Him! And whatever you do wrong to the next person will count against you when the Righteous Judge returns. We Christians can sometimes be judgmental toward those around us (both in and out of the Church), and yet we don't stop to think that this will reflect on Christ Himself. We take the duty of the Judge and make judgment against the Savior. We really need to see that icon of Christ in everyone no matter who they are.
We also need to act as Christians, and what this means is pouring out your heart and resources to those less fortunate around us. Great and Holy Lent is a time for repentance, change, and renewal in our lives. It's also a time to evaluate what we have done in terms of caring for our neighbor. Use this time leading toward Holy Pascha to do something about acting like an Orthodox Christian, rather than merely thinking like one." (Source: Holy Monastery of Axion Estin)
SERMON ON THE LAST JUDGMENT
by Saint John Maximovitch
"The day of the Last Judgment! That day no one knows--only God the Father knows--but its signs are given in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse (Revelation) of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian. Revelation speaks of the events at the end of the world and of the Last Judgment primarily in images and in a veiled manner.
However, the Holy Fathers have explained these images, and there is an authentic Church Tradition that speaks clearly concerning the signs of the approach of the end, and concerning the Last Judgment. Before the end of life on earth there will be agitation, wars, civil war, hunger, earthquakes...Men will suffer from fear, will die from expectation of calamity. There will be no life, no joy of life but a tormented state of falling away from life. Nevertheless there will be a falling away not only from life, but from faith also, and "when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (St. Luke 8:8).
Men will become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine Law. Together with the falling away from life will be a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil." (Personal comment: This is already happening!)
"...The Prophet Daniel speaking of the Last Judgment, relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge sits on His Throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Daniel 7:9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sin. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man, himself.
This fire will be kindled within man: seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror and despair. Thus, men will be divided instantly. The very state of a man's soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.
The more consciously and persistently man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: "Come unto Me, ye blessed."
Conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture to those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!
The Last Judgment knows of no witnesses or written protocols! Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these "books," are opened at the Judgment. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.
Moreover, some will go to joy, while others--to horror.
When "the books are opened," it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented and has not freed itself of the sin, it will come to the Last Judgment with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything. "There will be gnashing of teeth" of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.
A "fiery Gehenna"--such is the inner fire.
"There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Such is the state of hell.
Doxastikon of Orthros (Matins) in Tone One
Let us go before, O brethren, and cleanse ourselves for the Queen of virtues; for behold she hath come bringing to us fortune of good deeds, quenching the uprising of passion and reconciling the wicked to the Master, Let us welcome her, therefore, shouting to Christ God, O Thou Who arose from the dead, keep us uncondemned, who glorify Thee, O Thou Who alone are sinless.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God