My beloved spiritual children 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.
"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall kill Him, and on the third day He shall rise again…" (Gospel of Saint Mark 10:32-45)
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich
This all came to pass, word for word and phrase for phrase, only a few days later. So exact a foretelling could only be given by Him to whose eyes there is no veil between the present and the future, by Him Who sees what is to happen as clearly as what is already happening. Raised up above the natural elements, the Lord Jesus was also raised up above time. Events at all times were revealed to His eyes in the same way that what is happening in the street is clear to the eyes of the ordinary beholder. He Who could see the Samaritan Woman's whole past, and the world's whole future to the end of time, could easily and clearly see what was to happen to Him Himself a few days after this day on which He, for the last time, went through the hills of Judea on the way to Jerusalem. While the disciples were, in their human way, expecting greater and greater wonders from Him, and greater and greater glory. He, at this same time, saw Himself in the midst of a great crowd, bound, mocked, spat upon, bleeding and crucified. Before coming to His last and greatest miracle, He had to become the dung-heap of the world, a plaything to be spat upon by the foulest sinners the world has known. Before His Ascension into heaven, He had to go down deep beneath the earth, beneath the grave, to the very depths of hell. Before entering into heavenly glory and taking His place on the Throne as Judge of heaven and earth, He had to endure beating and shame. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (St. John 12:24). Without suffering, there is no resurrection; without humiliation, there is no exaltation. He had been explaining this to His disciples for three whole years, and now, just before He is to be parted from them, it is clear that they have not understood Him. For here we see two of the chief of His Apostles coming with a request of this sort:
"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto Him, saying: "Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatever we desire." And He said unto them: "What would ye that I should do for you?" They said unto Him: "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory."
These were the thoughts and desires that were obsessing these two disciples on the very eve of the great tragedy their Teacher was to undergo! This is the hardened, coarse human nature that the Lord, the Healer, was seeking to soften and deify! After so much emphasis on His part that "the first shall be last, and the last first," after so much re-iterated teaching on fleeing from worldly glory and eminence, after so great an example of submission to the will of God, and lastly, after the terrible foretelling of His final humiliation and undeserved suffering-these two disciples, both of them among the chief of them, condemn themselves by seeking of the Lord their own, personal reward and glory! Their thoughts are not concentrated on the foretold sufferings of the Lord, but only on His foretold glory. They demand the lion's share of this glory for themselves: to sit, one on his right hand and the other on the left of the Lord when He comes to reign! What sort of friends are these who are not suffering at the thought of all the coming sufferings of their friend? "Ye are My friends" (St. John 15:14), said the Lord to them. And they behave so thoughtlessly towards His sufferings and demand their share-and this a very sizeable share-of the glory that will be His only after His humiliation, sweat, bloodshed, suffering and pain have passed. They do not ask to share in His sufferings, but only in His glory. But on what basis should we accuse these two brothers? All this came about in order to reveal the deep corruption of human nature. James and John are seeking of the glory without the sufferings is sought by all Adam's descendants-always the glory without the suffering. Whenever the Lord spoke of His future glory, He always spoke also of the suffering that would precede it. But His Apostles, as all other men, wanted to leap over the suffering straight into the glory. To men not initiated into the mystery of Christ's suffering, the connection between suffering and life, between pain and glory, is, to this day, not clear. They would always want, in some way, to separate life and glory from suffering and pain, blessing the one and making it their own, but cursing and rejecting the other. This is what James and John tried to do in this instance; and in so doing, they not only revealed their own weakness but the weakness of the whole human race. And it was the Lord's desire that not one of His Disciples' weaknesses should remain unrevealed, that so the whole human race might be helped. He came as the Physician and the Fount of Healing. Man's weakness was revealed through the Apostles, and finally, Christ's healing and power were seen through them. On this occasion, the Lord once more confronted the Apostles with images of His suffering and His glory. For the sons of Zebedee, this was a temptation to which they submitted: they chose the glory and rejected the suffering. The Lord desired to squeeze the last spot of puss out of the souls of His disciples before His Crucifixion. His words on suffering and glorification exerted great pressure on the souls of these two, and from this pressure the last residual suppuration of pride was squeezed out of their souls. The Lord performed this spiritual operation on the souls of His dearest friends for the sake of both their health and ours.
Let none of us think that he is already healed of his sinful enfeeblement, even if he has, for a considerable time, kept himself from evil, and has fasted and given alms, calling on the Lord Jesus for aid. These two Apostles had spent three years in the company of the Incarnate Lord; they had seen His face, received teaching from His lips, witnessed His miracles, eaten and drunk with Him and then, after all this, showed their still-unhealed wounds of vanity, self-love, earth-bound theorizing and spiritual ineptness. They still thought as Jews, not as Christians: they still believed in an earthly kingdom for the Messiah, in His earthly victory over His enemies and in His worldly power and glory, like the power and glory wielded by David and Solomon. O Christians, think and decide: how will you heal yourselves of these wounds, and how will you achieve the perfection of humility and submissiveness to the Will of God, when these two wonderful brothers were unable to achieve this in the three years they spent in unbroken, personal contact with the Living Lord? They achieved this later, when the Spirit of God descended as tongues of fire into their hearts, setting them on fire with love for Christ. They did not, then, crave glory without suffering, but, with shame at their former vanity, partook voluntarily in the sufferings of their Lord, willingly nailing their hearts to the Cross of their Friend.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God