Thursday, April 10, 2014




Having reached the age of ninety, I am grateful for every day the Lord gives me, but my single  though undeserved hope, is that I may inherit everlasting life.  I have urged many to pursue this course for over sixty years, both in person and by this present blog.  May none of us lose this precious crown, on the day of judgment!  In this present treatise I will reflect on this most sacred season of Holy Week and Pascha, with a few memories, as how I began Church life. 

   In 1931, at the age of 8, I was excited as I would go to Church, for the first time at night.  Church was part of our life as we went to Church and Holy Communion since infancy.  At that young  age, we never went out at night. This  was a big event, going to Church in the dark, for the evening service of the Epitaphios or tomb with its beautiful hymns. However, my desire remained  unfulfilled  that Friday due to an incident, for a 22 cal. bullet exploded near me causing the loss of sight in my left eye. Instead of the beautiful services I ended up in Memorial Hospital in Worcester MA., and though I was not sick, I was there four weeks. My regret was not losing half my sight, but missing Church that night. I sadly sang hymns to  myself which I had learned from my father, and which I hoped to hear that night in Church. Like, ‘E-yen-e e pa a a se, hym non ti ta fee Sou . . .” (Every generation sings praises at your tomb). I realized in later years, this was a small arousal in my soul of  faith, hope and love. I always bless my father who taught us not only the hymns, but the perfect truths of our Orthodox Faith, and the errors and heresies which fight against it. My father lived that faith, showing us by both teaching and  example that there is nothing in the entire world of greater value than Holy Orthodoxy. 

     My Dad was correct! We sacredly hold the perfect treasure which Christ endowed to us. Today, eighty-two years later, with increased faith, hope and love, and my life filled with hope as an Orthodox Christian, having had many sins and failings, I realize that I have not yet achieved the goal for which I ardently yearn, the goal that we all must struggle for – eternal life! This goal is expressed in the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos: “Rejoice Rock that has refreshed those thirsting for life!”  Yes, I have a great thirst for eternal life which I already feel within me. Beloved, let us all thirst for this life that never ends, for our souls are thirsting for the living water of eternal life.  If we make this present effort to enter Christ’s Passion, we can expect go through the door of death into the life that never ends. “I shall not die but I will bless the name of the Lord.” 

     Jesus Christ is truly the only Lover of man, and being God, he also became man, born of a pure Virgin, and in the end He accomplished the greatest work ever done  which we can understand only  in part.   The great power of His suffering during His passion and crucifixion was the greatest destructive weapon ever devised, causing Him to be the Conqueror of death. Through the Cross, he overthrew the authority of the Devil and put death to death, granting us the victory and great mercy. 

The victory is ours  but was gained by Christ who grants it to us, which we must never forget. We cannot save ourselves, but are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ. The Church praises this victory granted by Christ to those who love Him: “Today has salvation come into the world, let us sing to Him who rose from the tomb, who is the Author of our life. For by destroying death by death, He has granted is the victory and the great mercy.”

  Orthodox culture and western culture clash, are mutually inimically disposed. Many Orthodox Christians are unaware of the treasure they possess. We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ,  sealed with the gift of Holy Spirit, commune with the Body and Blood of Christ, and God is easily accessible to us. Also Christ reminds us: “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”  But to reach Him, we must know ourselves and turn inward, realize our many sins and humble ourselves.  Preventing us from reaching the kingdom are our self opinions and egoism, which are contrary to the mind of Christ. Western culture exalts these things but Christ denounces them. To gain everlasting life we need to listen, not to the West but to Jesus Christ. Western thinking exalts man, puffs him up and this separates him from the humble Christ, for the unrepentant  proud can never approach Christ.  When we humble ourselves, we will begin to abandon our pride and self-centeredness, which prevents communion with God, for God listens to the humble-minded and exalts them.  The importance of this virtue is seen in  Christ’s extreme humility for this was the weapon with  which He defeated the proud Devil.  He teaches us: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble in my heart.” Humility is a short and direct path to God.

    The forty day period of the Fast, is about us and the acquisition of humility, for Christ’s  humility was the weapon which destroyed the Devil’s authority,  plundered Hades, and saves our souls.

   The Passion and Pascha is about Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us. He has destroyed death’s authority and power, and is the Author of our forgiveness and newness of life. This Pascha we can make the celebration extra special by really sharing the Passion and Cross of Christ .

   If we place our souls completely with Him, and enter into His passion during Holy Week our hearts will be uplifted and ascend into the heavens.  But we need to lay aside all cares of this life, clear our minds and cleansed our hearts. We gain entrance by giving strict attention with quietness of mind and with our feelings open to the events taking place before us. If we only make the attempt, the grace of God will help us to enter and share Christ’s Passion.

  As we hear the Gospel accounts or hymns describe the insults hurled at Him, let us feel them with Christ. When He is crowned with a crown of thorns, let us feel them and taste the bitterness and the  pain as we co-suffer with Him.  Let us sympathize and feel His agony if only a little. The robber on the Cross, was a co-sufferer with Christ, and His sympathy swung open the door of Paradise. Our attention needs to be concentrated on the suffering of our Master, the King of glory. If we choose to experience His Passion even mildly, He will gladly show us His glorious Resurrection. Then we can exult and sing:“We worship your Passion O Christ; show us your glorious Resurrection.”  Let us also like Christ, forgive our enemies and those who do evil to us, and say, Father forgive them, they do not know what they do.

    This is indeed a reality into which we are entering, for the world is not the reality, but the Suffering and Crucified Lord is reality. The world will one day be gone and a new world will appear but Christ is One of the Holy Trinity!  We must arouse our souls and open our hearts to deeply feel and experience the events taking place before us, remembering, not  the history, but the reality. 

We can feel the bitterness of those who hated Him, and the ugly betrayal kiss of Judas is a reality !  The truth of what is happening, is not simply an account of what Christ suffered when He was crucified and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  We can understand even more that the events and actions of that time are extended in time, and this is the very  center  of our  Faith. 

   Throughout the world, every celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the continuation of Christ’s  real bloody sacrifice, which He established as a bloodless sacrifice. “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is continued at every Divine Liturgy for the original sacrificial crucifixion is perpetuated by the bread and water and wine.  Behold here is the reality!  In preparation for the Liturgy, the Priest takes the offered bread and pierces it with a lance (Christ side was pierced with a lance). When he cuts out the center portion of the prosforon he utters these words of prophecy from Isaiah:

     “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer He is mute, He does not open His mouth, In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who shall deliver His generation? For His life is raised from the earth.”
The Priest then takes the piece he cut out (called the Lamb) and places it on the diskarion, carving it crosswise but not cutting through he says: “Sacrificed is the Lamb of God, the Son of the Father, who uplifts the sins of the world, for the life of the world and for its salvation.”  

Then, recalling the soldier who pierced Christ’s side, the Priest says: And one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who saw it bore witness and his witness is true.” The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is perpetuated in time but is  the same continuous event except that it is bloodless. At the times of the piercing, St. John Chrysostom would burst into tears!

 Christ commanded us to do these things, when He said: “Take eat this is my body” . . .  And “Drink of it all of you for this is my blood . . .”  The Church does not do this merely as a commemoration  or re-enactment, but feeds the faithful with the real Bread who came down from heaven. For this is truly the Body of Christ, and the cup is truly the Blood of Christ.

     During the 12 Gospel readings on Holy Thursday evening, let us keep focused, stand firmly, and absorb everything, breathed into the atmosphere we breathe, His terrible suffering for all men’s sins. Let us cling to every word. Standing as participants not spectators; it is possible to bring our souls into the reality of these events, as we feel the words of  hatred with Him. We can feel the attack and abuse of the one who loves us, as they hurl blasphemous insults against Him. Let us feel their bitter and harsh words, as they shamelessly cover Him with spittle. Considering  Him unworthy of life, they mercilessly slash the whip on the back of the Godman! Let us sympathize and weep with the one whom we love as He undergoes this malicious and murderous assault. Before our eyes suffers the one who is setting us free, our beloved  Bridegroom and Savior. There is no question that if we suffer with Him and extend our faithfulness and love for him during His passion, He will also show us His glorious Resurrection. 

Therefore, with the Priest, and human and angelic choirs, as we actually participate in the suffering and saving Passion of Christ we may cry out as we behold His glorious Resurrection: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life!”

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