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.
THE SUNDAY OF THE LAST JUDGMENT (Gospel reading: St. Matthew 25:31-46)
The two past Sundays spoke to us of God's patience and limitless compassion, of His readiness to accept every sinner who returns to Him. On this third Sunday, we are powerfully reminded of a complementary truth: no one is so patient and so merciful as God, but even He does not forgive those who do not repent. The God of agape (love) is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come as our judge. 'Behold the goodness and severity of God' (Romans 11:22). Such is the message of holy Lent to each of us: turn back while there is still time, repent before the end comes. In the words of the Great Canon:
"The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; Yet thou dost not care or make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower."
This Sunday sets before us the 'eschatological' dimension of holy Lent: the Great Fast is a preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior, for the Eternal Passover (Pascha) in the Age to Come. (This is a theme that will be taken up in the first three days of Holy and Great Week.) Nor is the judgment merely in the future. Here and now, each day and each hour, in hardening our hearts towards others and in failing to respond to the opportunities we are given of helping them, we are already passing judgment on ourselves. (Source: The Lenten Triodion)
SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS ON OBEDIENCE
"Obedience is a total renunciation of our own life, and it shows up clearly in the way we act. Or, again, obedience is the mortification of the members while the mind remains alive. Obedience is unquestioned movement, death freely accepted, a simple life, danger faced without worry, an unprepared defense before God, fearlessness before death, a safe voyage, a sleeper's journey. Obedience is the burial place of the will and the resurrection of lowliness. A corpse does not contradict or debate the good or whatever seems bad, and the spiritual father who has devoutly put the disciple's soul to death will answer for everything. Indeed, to obey is, with all deliberateness, to put aside the capacity to make one's own judgment.
The beginning of the mortification both of the soul's will and also of the body's members is hard. The halfway stage is sometimes difficult, sometimes not. But the end is liberation from the senses and freedom from pain…He who is submissive is passing sentence on himself. If his obedience for the Lord's sake is perfect, even when it does not appear to be so, he will escape judgment. But if in some things he follows his own will, then even though he thinks of himself as obedient, he takes the burden onto his own self. If the superior continues to rebuke him, then that is good; but if he gives up, I do not know what to say.
Those who submit to the Lord with a simple heart will run the good race. If they keep their minds on a leash they will not draw the wickedness of demons onto themselves."
"Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. The penitent stands guilty--but undisgraced. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins. It is the purification of the conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The penitent deals out his own punishment, for repentance, is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness."
ON TALKATIVENESS AND SILENCE
"The time has come now to indicate the cause of this vice and to give an adequate account of the door by which it enters--or, more accurately, by which it goes out.
Talkativeness is the throne of vainglory on which it loves to preen itself and show off. Talkativeness is a sign of ignorance, a doorway to slander, a leader of jesting, a servant of lies, the ruins of compunction, a summoner of despondency, a messenger of sleep, a dissipation of recollection, the end of vigilance, the cooling of zeal, the darkening of prayer.
Intelligent silence is the mother of prayer, freedom form bondage, custodian of zeal, a guard on our thoughts, a watch on our enemies, a prison of mourning, a friend of tears, a sure recollection of death...
The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him. Jesus, by His silence, shamed Pilate; and a man, by his stillness, conquers vainglory. Peter wept bitterly for what he had said. He had forgotten the one who declared: "I said: I will guard my ways so that I may not sin with my tongue" (Psalm 18:1). He had forgotten too, the saying, "Better to fall from a height to the ground than to slip with the tongue" (Ecclus 20:18). [Source: John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent]
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God