Κυριακή 10 Μαρτίου 2024

Apokries, Meatfare Sunday

The Sunday of the Last Judgment or Meatfare Sunday is the third Sunday using the Lenten Triodion, the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent. It is the Sunday after the Sunday of the Prodigal Son and Sunday before Forgiveness Sunday. This is the third week of the pre-Lenten start of the Pascha cycle of worship in the Orthodox Church.

This Sunday is called Meatfare Sunday since it is traditionally the last day before Easter for eating meat. Orthodox Christians observe a fast from meat all week, but still eat dairy products and eggs till the start of Great Lent.

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is the third Sunday of a three-week period prior to the commencement of Great Lent.

During this time, the services of the Church have begun to include hymns from the Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great and Holy Saturday.

On this day, the focus is placed on the future judgment of all persons who will stand before the throne of God when Christ returns in His glory.

The commemoration for this Sunday is taken from the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning his Second Coming and the Last Judgment of all, both the living and the dead. In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ speaks about what will happen at this specific point in time when He will “come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him” (v. 31).

The Gospel reading this Sunday remembers Christ’s parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

This adds to the previous pre-Lent Sundays and teaches that it is not enough to see Jesus, to see ourselves as we are, and to come home to God as his prodigal sons.

The Church teaches that, in addition, one must also be God’s sons by following Christ, his only-begotten divine Son, and by seeing Christ in everyone and by serving Christ through them.

Salvation and the final judgment will depend upon deeds, not merely on intentions or even on the mercies of God apart from personal cooperation and obedience.

All piety and prayer are ultimately directed towards the goal of serving Christ through his people.

From the reading, the faithful hear:

… 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 in prison and you visited me. …. For truly I say to you, if you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25 ).

On the past two Sundays of this pre-Lenten period, the focus was placed on 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 love is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come as our Judge. Such is the message of Lent to each of us: turn back while there is still time, repent before the End comes.

This Sunday sets before us the eschatological dimension of Lent: the Great Fast is a preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior, for the eternal Passover in the Age to Come, a theme that is also the focus of the first three days of Holy Week.

But the judgment is not only in the future. Here and now, each day and each hour, in hardening our hearts toward others and in failing to respond to the opportunities we are given of helping them, we are already passing judgment on ourselves.

Another theme of this Sunday is that of love. When Christ comes to judge us, what will be the criterion of His judgment?

The parable of the Last Judgment answers: love—not a mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous “poor,” but concrete and personal love for the human person—the specific persons that we encounter each day in our lives.

The parable of the Last Judgment is about Christian love. Not all of us are called to work for “humanity,” yet each one of us has received the gift and the grace of Christ’s love.

We know that all persons ultimately need this personal love—the recognition in them of their unique soul in which the beauty of the whole creation is reflected in a unique way. We also know that people are in prison and are sick and thirsty and hungry because that personal love has been denied them.

And, finally, we know that however narrow and limited the framework of our personal existence, each one of us has been made responsible for a tiny part of the Kingdom of God, made responsible by that very gift of Christ’s love.

Thus, on whether or not we have accepted this responsibility, on whether we have loved or refused to love, shall we be judged.

Saint Gregory of Palamas
Last Sunday the Church commemorated the indescribable charity of God towards us which is presented with the parable of the lost prodigal. Today's Sunday he teaches about the coming terrible judgment of God, using a good class and following the prophetic voices; because, he says, "I will sing to you, Lord, mercy and judgment", and "once God spoke and I heard these two , because the state is God's and yours, Lord, the mercy, because you will give to everyone according to his works".
Therefore, mercy and long-suffering precedes divine judgment. Indeed, God, having and containing in excellence all the virtues, and being at the same time just and merciful, because mercy does not go hand in hand with judgment, according to what is written, "don't be pitied poor in judgment", blessedly God distributed the each in his own time; he appointed the present time for long-suffering, the future for recompense. That is why divine grace arranged the events in the Church in such a way that we, realizing this, that we receive the forgiveness of our sins from what is happening here, should hasten, as long as we are still living in this present life, to achieve eternal mercy and to become our own merits of divine charity. Because that crisis, the last one, is merciless for him who showed no mercy.
We talked about the indescribable mercy of God for us just a little while ago. And today we will speak about the second presence of Christ, as well as about the terrible judgment and about what will happen after it in secret - things that no eye has seen and therefore has not heard and that have not entered the mind of man, if he is without the divine Spirit, which go beyond not only the human senses, but also the human mind and reason. Because, even if the one who teaches us about all this is the one who knows everything and is going to judge the whole earth, but he condescends to the capacity of those being taught, offering the reasons symmetrical to it. Therefore lightning and clouds, trumpets and thrones and the like are introduced, although according to the promise we await new heavens and a new earth, since the present things are changed.
But if these words alone, and indeed condescendingly said, fill the souls of the prudent listeners with horror and awe, who will stand then when the same things will be done? How worthy we must be in holy studies and piety, when we expect the presence of the day of God, about which, as Saint Peter says, "the glowing heavens will be dissolved, and the burning elements will melt, while the earth and Will the buildings in it burn down?" But before this, the harsh presence and influence of the Antichrist will take place against faith, which, if it was not crucified authorized for a short time, no man would be saved, as the Lord says in the gospels. That's why He orders His disciples to "watch therefore, supplicating all the time, that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man".
Of course, all of these are full of excessive horror, but for those who spend their lives in unbelief and injustice and rashness, they are threatened even worse than these, as the Lord himself says: "then all the tribes of the earth will cry". Tribes of the earth are those who did not obey the one who came from heaven, who do not recognize and do not invoke the heavenly Father, nor do they raise the race to him because of the likeness of works. He says again that "that day will come as a snare to all those who sat on the face of the earth, i.e. to those who, with their debauchery and drunkenness, with their sorrows and life's cares, are attached to the earth and to the earth and have attached themselves completely in the phenomena according to the sense brilliant, in the wealth, in the glory and in the pleasure. Indeed, with the word "face" of the earth, he praised its apparently happy character, while with the word "sit" he implies the persistent and inward commitment. With these words, he concludes with the ungodly those who sinned unrepentantly until the end, as Isaiah foretold, that "the lawless and the sinful will catch fire at the same time, and there will be no one to extinguish it". "However, our own state is in the heavens, from whom we await the Saviour", says the apostle; and "you are not of this world", said the Lord to his disciples, to whom he again says that, " when all this will be done, rise up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near".
Do you see that those who live according to Christ are filled with inexpressible joy and pride for what happens immediately after that, while those who live according to the flesh are full of pain and suffering and gloom? As Paul also shouts saying, "God will render to each one according to his works, that is to say, to those who with good works patiently seek glory and honor and incorruption he will give eternal life, while for those who believe in the truth, but those who are persuaded in injustice there will be anger and rage, there will be sorrow and distress in every person who works evil". Indeed long ago upon Noah, when sin increased and dominated almost the entire human race, a flood came from God, which destroyed every breath, while only this righteous man and his family were preserved for the sake of being born in the second world. Again, after him, God partially curtailed the increased wickedness, as for example when he burned the Sodomites with fire, drowned the Pharaohs in the sea, and decimated the Jewish nation with hunger and poverty, with diseases and bitter punishments.
But the common physician, who used for the sake of our race the strict medicines and remedies, did not omit those which are pleasant and benefit with pleasure, but raised fathers, raised up prophets, performed signs, gave the Mosaic law, sent angels. But because even these were powerless for the unrestrained impulse of our wickedness, the Word of God himself, the great medicine that stops grave sins, came to earth bending down to the heavens below, and after everything had been done for us, except sin. , he abolished sin in himself; then he strengthened us too, so as to soften the center of it, and he exemplified on the cross its leaders and accomplices, abolishing through death the one who had the power of death.
And since, as in the days of Noah he covered sinners with water, so afterwards he covered sin through his justice and grace, he raised himself immortal, as the seed and beginning of the eternal world, as an example and demonstration of that which is surely hoped for by us. resurrection. But after he rose and ascended into the heavens, he sent apostles throughout the world, raised a great crowd of martyrs, raised a multitude of teachers, raised assemblies of saints. Because, while we did everything, without omitting anything that was necessary, he again saw the wickedness due to the arbitrariness of our predilection so high, or rather then he will see it rise, so that then men will bow down and obey to the Antichrist, forsaking the true God and His true Christ; for this reason he will come down from heaven again with much power and glory, not to be long-suffering, but to punish those who, through wicked works, have stored up for themselves the wrath of the time of His long-suffering; and those who are incurable He will cut off from the healthy like rotten members and will deliver them to the fire, but He will free His own from the influence and association of wicked people and will make them heirs of the kingdom of of heavens.
Therefore, right after the abominable derision of the Antichrist, he who created everything will shake everything, as said by the prophet, that he still wears "I will shake not only the earth, but also the sky". Euthys therefore shakes the world and dissolves the highest limit of the universe, collapses the heavenly body and mixes the earth with fire and confuses everything, from below disturbing the universals we would call foundations, and from above sending the multitude of stars like indescribable lightnings above on the heads of those who deified the wicked, so that those who believed in the Antichrist would be punished for them first, because they were fixed with the mind and believed in the anti-god as a god. Then, after he himself appears in unspeakable glory, with a loud trumpet, as of old by blowing the forefather, he will revive all and present before him alive all those who have been dead for ages. And those who are ungodly will not be brought to judgment, nor will he claim any reason for them? because the ungodly, according to what is written, will not rise for judgment, but for condemnation.
But he will present all ours for the judgment, according to the voice of the gospel that has been revived today, because, he says, "when the Son of Man came in his glory and all the holy angels with Him". At his first presence the glory of His divinity was hidden under the flesh which He took from us for us, now He is hidden with the Father in heaven with the same flesh, and then He will reveal all the glory, for He will appear bright from the east until the west, brightening the ends with rays of divinity, while a universal and life-giving trumpet will sound everywhere and at the same time will call everything to him. Previously he brought me and the angels with him, but invisibly, restraining the zeal of those against the gods, but later he will arrive openly and will not be silent, but will check and deliver the faithful to the punishments.
"So when the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels come with him, then", he says, "he will sit on the throne of his glory". For thus Daniel prophesied and prophesied: "behold," he says, "thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days sat down, and I saw as it were the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, and he came to the Ancient of Days and all the world was given to him. honor and power - a thousand thousands ministered to him and countless myriads attended him". In agreement with him, the Holy Gospel says, then "all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them among themselves, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats". As sheep he calls the righteous as meek and meek, who have walked the smooth path of virtues, trodden by him himself, and as assimilated to him because he too was called a lamb by the Forerunner and Baptist who said, "Behold the lamb of God that anoints the sin of the world". But he calls the sinners goats, as impudent and disorderly, and brought to the folds of sin. And he says, the first ones he will place on his right as workers of right works, the others who are not workers of such works he will place on the left. "Then the King will say", he says, without adding who or whose kings, since there is no other besides him because with all that and there are many lords and kings, but one is really Lord, one king, the natural despot of universe. Then the only king will say to those on his right: "before my Father's blessed ones, you have inherited the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".
Indeed, from the beginning of the creation of the world, this is what the heavenly and most ancient will of the Father had in view, according to which the angel of the great will of the Father treated man as an animal, not only in an image, but also in his similitude, so that it may one day contain the majesty of the divine kingdom, the blessedness of the divine inheritance, the perfection of the blessing of the supreme Father, for which all things visible and invisible were made. Because he did not say "of the sensible world", but rather "of the world", both of the heavenly and of the pygeon. And not only this, but also the divine and secret kenosis, the theandric state, the salvific passions, all the mysteries, for this purpose they were presciently and all-wisely arranged, so that he who will appear faithful in the present may hear from the Saviour; "Come, good servant, since you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you steward over many things; enter into the joy of your Lord." Come then, he says, those who, in my opinion, have used the earthly and perishable and temporary world well, you have also inherited the imminent and permanent and heavenly world. Because "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me".
Here it must be discussed for what reason did he only mention almsgiving and for this reason alone did he give that blessing and inheritance? and the kingdom. But he did not only commemorate her for those who understand what is being heard. Because previously he called his workers sheep, with this description he confirmed both their likeness to himself and their every virtue, as well as that they were constantly ready to die for the sake of good, just as he too was led as a sheep to the slaughter and as a silent lamb in front of the one who cuts him, according to what is written.
Since they are also like that, he particularly praises charity, because he who is going to inherit that glorious kingdom must have it, as an example and fruit of love, as a head above all other virtues. The Lord also showed this with the parable of the ten virgins, because not all who happen to be nymphs are admitted to God, but those who are adorned with virginity, which cannot be achieved without practice and self-control, as well as without many and varied struggles for virtue, add those who hold lamps in their hands, i.e. their mind and the alert knowledge within it, which ascends and rests on the practice of the soul, which is expressed with the hands, and is dedicated for life to God and is contracted with the flashes from it . However, plenty of oil is needed to keep them burning. Oil is love, which is the pinnacle of virtues. "Just as, if you lay a foundation and build the walls on top of it, but do not add the roof, you leave them all useless, in the same way, if you acquire all the virtues, but do not acquire love, they are all useless and beneficiaries? and the roof of the house cannot be built without the elements that hold it together".
And the Lord therefore offers His inheritance to those who have sealed the other virtues through the works of love and ascended to it through the irreproachable life or fled to it through repentance. Of these I call the first sons, because they are guardians of a secret from God of regeneration, and the second hired men, because they regain grace through the many sweats of repentance and through humiliation as wages.
For this reason, after previously in the divine gospels he explained in many ways the things related to judgment, then he explained the things about love with the view that it perfects or restores the virtues listed there. But the righteous will answer with the words: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you water? When did we see you as a stranger and gather you together, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" Do you see that those on the right are also called righteous? Therefore, for them, mercy comes from justice and is with justice. But do you see another virtue, humility, being commended to the righteous out of the fullness of love? For they assert that they are unworthy of proclamation and praise, as if they had done no good, those who testify that they have left no good undone.
That is why, I think, the Lord responds to them with arrogance, so that they discover that he is of such a form and are lifted up with humility and rightly find grace from him, which the Lord provides abundantly to the humble, "for the Lord opposes the proud , while to the humble he gives grace", who even now says to them? "Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me." He calls the other, at least for the poverty and the meanness, brother, because this is how he also lived in the flesh on earth.
Hear and be glad, all you who are poor and needy; for by this you are brothers of God; even though you are poor and lowly involuntarily, you have made the good voluntary for yourselves through patience and thanksgiving. Listen, you rich people, and desire blessed poverty, so that you may become heirs and brothers of Christ, even truer than those who fell into poverty unintentionally, because he fell into poverty for us willingly. Hear and lament, you who despise your brothers, when they suffer, but rather God's brothers, and you do not convey to the poor from what you have in abundance, food, shelter, clothing, appropriate care, and do not offer your surplus to the lack of those. But rather let us listen and groan, since I myself who tell you these things, I am controlled by my conscience that I am not completely out of passion, because, while many fall and lack, I am full and clothed. But much more deserving of mourning are those who have and possess treasures more than the daily need or even take care to increase them; while they are commanded to love their neighbor as themselves, they do not consider them even like dirt. For what else is gold and silver that we have loved more than brothers?
But let us return, repent and share by serving the needs of the poor brothers among us with what we have. And if we are not willing to give up all that exists in a godly way, at least let us not keep everything for ourselves ruthlessly; but let us do this one thing, and for that which we will omit, we humble ourselves before God, and we will succeed forgiveness from Him, because His charity makes up for our lack, so that we do not, as it were, hear the awful voice; because, he says, "then He will say also to those on the left: depart from me, you who are cursed". How awesome is this! Get away from life, get rid of the pain, get rid of the light!
And he doesn't just say this, but goes on: "depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels". Just as those on the right will have life, and even more so, life since they will meet with God, and more than that since they will be sons and heirs of his kingdom, so also those on the left, failing to obtain the true life due to the distance from God, they will find even more evil, since they will have made a pact with the demons and will be delivered to the hellish fire.
And whose kind is that fire, which touches both bodies and minds in bodies of beings, and incorporeal spirits, grieving and distressing the eternal, and because of which our fire will also melt, according to what is written, "the burning elements will melt"? How much does the hopelessness of redemption add to the suffering? For, he says, there is a river, which drags away that fire, as it seems, and carries it farther from God. That is why he did not say "depart", but "depart from me you who are cursed" because you have received many curses from the poor, and with all that they suffered, you are still worthy of a curse. He says to them "go into the fire that has been prepared" not for you, but for the Devil and his angels, because this is not my previous will, I did not create you for this, I did not prepare the fire for you. The limeless fire has been kindled for the demons who have unaltered the six of evil, with whom you were connected by agreement with those unrepentant opinion. So coexistence with the wicked angels is voluntary. "Because I was hungry and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you did not give me water, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me". As brothers, love and works of love are the fullness of virtues, so hatred and the works of hate, the unsympathetic manner, the uncommunicated opinion, are the fullness of sin. And just as virtues follow and co-exist with charity, so misanthropy follows vices; for this reason alone they are condemned.
So I would like to say that there is no greater example of hatred than to prefer abundant silver to our brother, but I see malice as a greater example of misanthropy. That is to say, there are people who not only do not come from what they possess richly, but also usurp the things of others. If they consider, therefore, from the decision towards the unmerciful, what they will find and what they will suffer, and what incomprehensible and unbearable condemnation they deserve, let them turn away from injustice and propitiate God through works of repentance. And they will then answer as follows: "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we did not serve you?"
Do you also see this last evil, pride, coupled with the unsympathetic way, as humility with sympathy? The righteous praised for their charity. they are humbled more, they do not justify themselves. The proud, when they are accused of their impudence by the liar, do not fall down humbled, but counter and justify themselves. That is why they will hear the words: "I tell you the truth, inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." And so they will go, he says, "they will go to eternal hell. but the righteous in eternal life".
Let us therefore have mercy on ourselves, brothers, by having mercy on our brothers, let us gain sympathy through sympathy, those we benefit in order to be benefited. The response is similar, because it is about benevolence and charity, about love and mercy and sympathy; but it is not equal in value and measure of excellence. Because you do not provide from what man has, and as much as man can benefit, but you receive in return from the divine and inexhaustible treasures a hundredfold and eternal life, and you benefit from all and as much as God can benefit, "things that leap he did not see and therefore he did not hear that they did not rise to the heart of man".
Let us therefore hasten to obtain the riches of goodness, which we have bought with a few pieces of silver for an eternal inheritance, which we fear at the end of the judgment against the builders, so that we may not be condemned by it there; giving alms, because I We hear from Christ, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the earth". Shall we be afraid and burn everything, so as not to appear out of love for God through impudence? "for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen", says the evangelist, "how will he love God who has not seen him", and he who does not love God, how will he coexist with him? And the one who does not co-exist with him will be removed from him; the one who is removed from him will definitely fall into the hell of fire.

But let us show works of love towards our brothers in Christ, having mercy on the poor, returning the lost, to whatever error and poverty they may be, justifying the wronged, strengthening those who are bedridden with sickness, whether they suffer this because of the insensible enemies and diseases either through the invisible evil spirits and the passions of dishonor, visiting those imprisoned in prison, but also tolerating those who beat us, and forgiving one another whatever reproach he has against him, just as our Christ also forgave it. And in general, let us show love to each other in every way and with every deed and word, so that we may achieve God's love and be blessed by him and inherit the heavenly and eternal kingdom promised to us and for us from the foundation of the world.
May we all obtain this, with the grace and charity of the Lord Jesus Christ together with the one who is due to the Father, as well as to the Holy Spirit, honor and glory forever and ever. Born

Math. pp. 31-46
"And when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before him, and shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from of the sages, And set the one sheep on his right hand, and the sages of euonymous ones. Then shall the king be at his right hand: see ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. I was hungry, and give me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me water, I was a stranger, and bring me together, naked, and surround me, I was sick, and visit me, I was in prison, and come to me. Then the righteous answered him, saying: Lord, when did we see you hungry and we fed you, or thirsty and we gave you water? When did we see you a stranger and preached, or naked and surrounded? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you? And the king answered and said unto them: verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, I have done unto you. Then it is said to those who are euonymous: depart from me, you who are accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, and you did not give me food, I was thirsty, and you did not give me water, I was a stranger, and you did not bring me together, naked, and you did not surround me, sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also answered 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 answered them, saying: Verily I say unto you, if ye have not done one of the least of these, neither have you done me. And these are sent to eternal hell, but the righteous to eternal life".

Λειτουργικά κείμενα
Κοντάκιον
Ἦχος α’.
Ὅταν ἔλθης ὁ Θεός, ἐπὶ γῆς μετὰ δόξης, καὶ τρέμωσι τὰ σύμπαντα· ποταμὸς δὲ τοῦ πυρὸς πρὸ τοῦ Βήματος ἕλκῃ, καὶ βίβλοι ἀνοίγωνται, καὶ τὰ κρυπτὰ δημοσιεύωνται· τότε ῥῦσαί με, ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ ἀσβέστου, καὶ ἀξίωσον, ἐκ δεξιῶν σου με στῆναι, Κριτὰ δικαιότατε.