The Dreadful Judgment Seat ( 02.03.2008 )
Today, Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum celebrated Divine Liturgy.
Today, Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum celebrated Divine Liturgy.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:31-46)
My children, do you notice that the questions we will have to answer before the dreadful judgment seat are not related in the least to faith and the Church to which we belong; they rather pertain to concrete personal charity deeds: did we give Christ our Lord food when He was hungry; did we give Him drink when He was thirsty; did we take Him in when He was a stranger; did we clothe Him when He was naked; did we visit the Lord when He was sick; did we come to Him when He was in prison… What if one should ask the Lord when it all happened? The answer, at least to us Christians is quite clear: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these [My brethren], you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:45).
We know and believe that the Lord, through His entire Dispensation of salvation, identifies Himself with every man, most of all with every man who suffers. Therefore whenever we help one of the least of these brethren of Christ who suffer, we make Christ our brother. Anyone who despises one of the least of these brethren of Christ, denies Christ.
However, I will not talk with you now about the social and the purely humanitarian dimension of today’s Gospel reading. I will not talk with you, monastics, about the minimum that every Christian who lives in the world ought to fulfill with hope of salvation. Why do I say the minimum? According to the Holy Fathers, out of two reasons. The first one: since, for instance, the Lord does not demand from the Christians to cure the sick or to free the captives, but to visit and console them. Is there anything easier than this? The second reason: since the Lord does not set as the criterion of salvation not doing evil, but doing good. Is there anything easier than this, too?
Now, before we leave the care for restoration of the Christian moral image to them who administer the parishes in the world, I would like to remind you once again of what the Holy Fathers say: when we do good while suffering, “we must not be convinced that we are sharing in Christ’s suffering. Only God, in His judgment, can consider our sufferings as participation in the kenosis of His only-begotten Son. Our way is to humble ourselves, to abase ourselves constantly; only God can exalt and glorify us.”
Enough about this, though. We here, in the monastery, ought to talk about the ascetical-hesychastic aspect of the passage read. Orthodox monasticism is first of all and above all hesychastic, and only after this, if possible, in good time and place, charitable, too. Hence, all the above written and explained principally applies first and foremost to people who live and work in he world. To the monastic, as one who is dead to this world, principally applies another rule. It is incumbent upon the monastic to give food, drink, and abode, to visit and minister to Christ in his heart.
From the ascetical-hesychastic aspect, I cannot but relate what we heard today with the Gospel passage where it reads: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The place where the Son of Man has nowhere to ‘lay His head’ is our heart, bound and defiled by passions. Since our mind cannot enter the closed heart and reach the Son of Man, Christ resides there—lonely, hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison… Therefore, so that we can reach Christ and minister to Him we must first purify our heart from the passions, come to know the ‘place’ of the heart, discover the entry into the Kingdom of Heaven within us and stand humbly with our mind before the King of Glory, Who suffers for us and our salvation.
Finally, as a conclusion, I will say: when we interpret today’s Gospel reading from the ascetical-hesychastic aspect, we should know that the sole way in which we, monastics, must minister to Christ—Who is lonely and deserted in our heart—and the sole way by which we justify our calling is the practice of mind-and-heart prayer. The sufficiently purified heart—from the passions that defile it and keep it closed up to then—is the only place where we monastics meet Christ and where we minister only to Him. There are no other place and way for them who are dead to the world.
My children, in today’s Gospel reading my attention has always been drawn the most by the words: ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
On the one hand, I admired the humility of them who stood on the Lord’s right hand, and on the other, I wondered at the madness and effrontery, manifested through self-justification and blaming (the Lord, which is more) of them who found themselves on the left hand. This is yet another example that self-justification is always accompanied by shifting the blame on the other one (even if it were directly the Lord) and by apostasy from God.
Let us go back to the behavior of those whom the Lord justified. It is interesting and useful to you to know the meaning of the words, ‘Lord, when did we see You…’, uttered by them whom the day of dreadful judgment finds at one of the stages of spiritual development.
Those whom the day of dreadful judgment found at the stage of purification of the heart from the passions say the above-mentioned words because, despite their struggle for fulfilment of Christ’s commandments in practice, living in the world’s cares they did not see the Lord in their heart through the gift of the mind-and-heart prayer.
They whom the day of dreadful judgment found at the stage of illumination of the mind say the above-mentioned words because, despite their struggle in the mind-and-heart prayer and in love for the enemies, most often due to pastoral duties in the world they did not see the Lord in their heart and outside around them through the gift of the beholding of uncreated light.
They whom the day of dreadful judgment found at the stage of deification say the above-mentioned words because, despite their struggle in the unceasing prayer and in the mourning for the whole world, owing to misuse of liberty on the part of them who personally placed themselves on the left hand, did not see the Lord in them as well. Lord have mercy…!
Briefly, all who humbled themselves during their whole life, what else do they know but to humble themselves also at the dreadful judgment day before Christ.
It is interesting and useful to you to know the meaning of the words, ‘Lord, when did we see You…’, uttered by them whom the day of dreadful judgment finds in sin and fall.
So that you understand it easier, I would like to remind you first of the Adam’s fall. As we all know, after Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, they become stripped off God’s grace and violate their union with God. Still, when God asks them if they have eaten of the forbidden fruit, instead of repenting Adam shows great pride, self-justifying himself and blaming for his fall first of all God (the woman You put here with me), and then Eve (she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it). Eve, too, answers proudly, self-justifying herself: the serpent deceived me, and I ate. The Holy Fathers say that had only one of them asked for forgiveness, none of them would have been banished from heaven, with all the consequences that we all see and suffer to present day, as heirs to the consequences of their fall. I would like to conclude: the thing that God seeks our Forefathers Adam and Eve and enters into a dialogue with them is nothing but that He gave both of them yet another chance for repentance.
I would like to draw the same conclusion also about them whom the day of dreadful judgment finds in sin and fall. The thing that the Godman Christ enters into a dialogue with them at all, however much dreadful that may sound (depart from Me, you cursed) is nothing but that He gives everyone yet another chance to repent. And, rather than admit they deserve the punishment and ask the All-merciful Christ for forgiveness and mercy and be saved in the last moment, they self-justify themselves and blame the Lord even before the dreadful judgment seat: ‘Lord, when did we see You…’ O, immense madness!? O, demonic unrepentance!?
Briefly, all who during their whole life self-justified themselves and blamed others, what else do they know except to repeat the same at the dreadful judgment day before Christ, too.
We are left speechless before Your love and long-suffering, Christ, our God… Who wants all to be saved…
It is time, though, for us to come back down to earth a little with two more practical counsels that arise from the interpretation of today’s Gospel reading.
“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these [My brethren], you did not do it to Me.” Let us have a look at these words also from the aspect of love for the enemies and recall something we have heard before… Namely, when we strive to love ascetically them who hate us and when we strive not to respond with evil to the evil they do to us, then we leave such ones space to repent. Only the Lord knows when their time for repentance will run out, yet He will also not allow they to do us wrong endlessly. Our struggle must not be based on our expectation their time for repentance to run out and some evil to happen to them, but on the hope that they will truly repent and be saved.
When we link these words with the passage in the Gospel where it reads, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” , then they refer to our attitude towards them whom the Lord placed to administer the Church; among else, they refer also to the attitude of the monastery residents towards their superiors. This means that if you, who live in a monastery, do not receive the sister or do not receive the brother whom I have appointed superiors, then you have nothing with me, who has placed them there. If you do not receive me, then you have nothing with Christ and with our Heavenly Father.
Otherwise, a day of dreadful judgment before the day of dreadful judgment is our every meeting with our fellowman. A day of dreadful judgment before the day of dreadful judgment is our every standing in prayer, particularly when our mind stands up before the throne of our heart, before the Lord. A day of dreadful judgment before the day of dreadful judgment is also every Holy Liturgy, as already and not yet: Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us—the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the Second and glorious Coming—Your own, of Your own, we offer to You, on behalf of all and for all…
Metropolitan of Strumica Nahim
(as recorded by the Sisters)