April 3, 2023

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent: Homily on Repentance (Bishop Elias Meniates) - Part 1 of 5

The following discourse is a product of the rhetorical skill of Bishop Elias Meniates of Kernika (or Kernitsa) and Kalavryta, who is considered a "New Chrysostom", due to the content of his words, but also due to his natural effervescence. He was born in Lixouri of Kefallonia in 1669 and reposed in 1714, at the age of only 45 years. He preached in Venice, where he studied, in Kerkyra, in his native Kefallonia, in Zakynthos and for seven years in the All-Revered Patriarchal Church of Saint George in Constantinople. There he was officially appointed under Patriarch Gabriel III the Preacher of the Great Church of Christ. From the few discourses of his that have been saved, one understands their power, the appeal they had and how much the enslaved Greeks under the Turks and Venetians were deprived of such a comforting and consoling sermon. His sermons became the spiritual sustenance of the Orthodox for a long time until today, being in publication many times.  

Homily on Repentance

Delivered on the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent

A virtuous soul with divinely-inspired zeal, what will it not do and what can it not find!

The pious and wise monk Methodios was sent by God and by the Church to instruct the king of the Bulgarians in the Orthodox faith. This was when he had renounced idolatry and entered into the true knowledge of God. He had been baptized and had submitted his authority to the empire of the Romans and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

So this good and faithful servant of God began to instruct the newly-illumined with the power of his teaching, but more with the example of his life and to indicate to him with the doctrines of the faith and the commandments of the Gospel, how a true Christian should live.

But he was not satisfied with these: he skillfully painted two icons. On one he painted the Second Coming of Christ and on the other Hades. In the first, it presented the Son of God sitting on a high and majestic throne and surrounded by angelic powers, in great glory, clothed in all the light of His divine glory. A thousand thousands of angels and an innumerable multitude of people were present who were being tried and were waiting for the decision of the terrible Judge. There was also the sign of the Cross, which was seen in front of the terrible bema, the fiery river which issued from the fiery throne and in detail all the incidents of the coming Judgment. In the other icon it showed the all-consuming and insatiable Hades and the unquenchable fire there. There he showed the outer darkness, the worm that never sleeps, the various tortures of sinners in Hades and the various forms of the tormenting demons.

These two terrible images were placed by the wise teacher daily before the eyes of the royal student to make him understand that for an ungodly and sinful person such will be the Judgment, such will be Hades. In this way he tried to fix him in the right faith and motivate him to live a God-pleasing life.

I praised the zeal and the art of the good Methodios and therefore I wanted to imitate him. In my past two teachings, I presented you with two images. I depicted for you the future Judgment on one side and the eternal hell on the other side. I did this in order to lead you to repentance, which is the only way to avoid both the wrath of the coming Judgment and the sufferings of eternal hell. And it is about this repentance that I come today to speak to you. Today when we "go up to Jerusalem". Today when the Son of God goes to be delivered into the hands of the High Priests and Scribes, to suffer, to die, to shed all His precious Blood, to give over His life to death, for our redemption from sin and "to give His life as a ransom for many".

We cannot wish for a more fitting time to be saved, than these holy days in which the Son of God negotiates for our salvation. Alas! Are you still resisting? Still not repenting? Are you therefore resisting by your will, by your desire, in your sin?

Hard-hearted, incorrigible sinners, listen to what I have to say to you today! I will talk to you about repentance and I will prove to you how whoever doesn't want to repent while he can, a time will come when he might want to but can't.


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