My 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.
"WHEN THE SON OF MAN SHALL COME IN HIS GLORY." (Meat-fare Sunday)
This Sunday is called 'Meat-fare Sunday' because it is the last day on which the consumption of meat is authorized. From the next day, Monday, one should, if one can, abstain from meat until Pascha. On the other hand, the use of milk, butter, and cheese are allowed during all the days of this week, including Wednesday and Friday. During the liturgy a portion of the First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (8:8-13 and 9:1-2) is read in which the holy Apostle, in substance, says the following: "Eating or not eating meat in itself is not a matter of importance, but his liberty which we have must not scandalize or be a stumbling-block to the weak. A man who believes in the only God and does not believe in the reality of idols may, with a clear conscience, eat the flesh of beasts sacrificed to idols; but, if one of his brothers is less enlightened and thinks that this means some sort of association with the worship of idols, then he should abstain from doing this, and respect the conscience of those brothers for whom too, Christ died." And so, if we are inspired by Saint Paul's idea, someone who feels he has valid reasons for not fasting, or for modified fasting during Lent, will, all the same, be careful to avoid anything that might scandalize or offend the conscience of those who are less strong.
The Gospel for the Divine Liturgy (St. Matthew 25:31-46) describes the Last Judgment. "When the Son of Man Shall Come in His Glory"…with all the holy Angels, all the nations will be gathered before His Throne. He will separate the sheep from the goats, setting the righteous on His right and the sinners on His left. He will invite those who have fed, clothed and visited him in his human guise of the poor, the prisoners and the sick, to enter the Kingdom of the Father. He will exclude from the Kingdom those who have acted otherwise. This description of the judgment obviously is partly symbolic. We pass judgment on ourselves when, voluntarily, we adhere to God or reject Him. It is our love or our lack of love which will place us amongst the 'blessed' or amongst those who are dismissed (or perhaps deferred). Even if we do not have to interpret the details or the judgment literally, exactly as the Evangelist describes them, we must listen very carefully to what the Savior says about His presence in those who suffer, for it is in them alone that we are in way able to help the Lord Jesus.
The prayers at Vespers (Esperinos) this Saturday evening and at Orthros (Matins) for the Sunday give a general impression of terror in the face of God's judgment. There is mention of open books, of fearful Angels, of rivers of fire and of trembling before the altar. All this is very sound, and many sayings in the Gospels urge us to be converted (to change our ways) before it is too late. But his shadowed side, the darkness into which a stubborn sinner can choose to throw himself, must not make us forget the side of Light and Hope. Here is a phrase from one of the chants at Vespers in which these two aspects find themselves well united:
"O my soul, the time is near at hand; make haste before it is too late, and cry aloud in faith; I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned against Thee; but I know Thy love for man and Thy compassion, O, Good Shepherd..."
"Repentance signifies the renewal of Holy Baptism. Repentance is a new agreement with the Lord for a New Life. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. It is reconciliation with God by deeds (works) of virtue (mercy) in opposition to our sins. Repentance means a purification of our conscience" Saint John Climacus. [Ladder of Divine Ascent, Homily 5,2].
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God