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April 14, 2023

Homilies on the Passion - The Way of Sorrow (St. Luke of Simferopol)

The Way of Sorrow
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

We have already said that the torment of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then He was beaten on the cheeks, pushed, dragged with beatings to Jerusalem, to the high priest Caiaphas, where His worst enemies gathered and where they mocked Him, spat in His face, struck Him and boldly asked: “Prophesy to us who struck You” (Matt. 26:68).

The mockery continued all night, and early in the morning the Lord was taken to the praetorium, to be judged by Pilate. Frightened by the cries of the furious, wild crowd, Pilate handed Christ over for scourging. They beat Christ on a grand scale, whipping Him with a Roman scourge, which had a short handle and a whole bundle of belts, tightly woven and interlaced with copper wire, with pieces of bone tied in places. Flagellation was such a terrible torture that often those who were scourged died from it. The blood of the unfortunates flowed in a stream, the body was torn, pieces of skin and muscles were torn off.

The purple robe was removed from the Lord, but the crown of thorns was left on Him, which was struck with a stick so that the thorns of the crown would pierce His holy head. Large drops of blood trickled down his face.

Then the Lord was led to the execution along a narrow street, which still bears the name "The Way of Sorrow". A heavy Cross was placed on Him, for the one condemned to be crucified himself had to carry his cross to the place of execution. Exhausted, tormented by scourging, on the way He collapsed in exhaustion under a terrible weight.

He was lifted up with beatings and again forced to carry the Cross, but He fell again. Then they stopped a certain Simon of Cyrene, returning from his field, and ordered him to carry the Cross of Christ. Oh blessed Simon! Did he know what Cross he was carrying? And now he knows, since for bearing the Cross of Christ he, I have no doubt, was awarded the kingdom of God.

The Lord was accompanied by a huge crowd, since during the Passover days a large crowd gathered in Jerusalem, who came to the feast. People reacted differently to what they saw. The women wept with bitter tears, for their hearts are soft and sensitive: they could not see such suffering, such reproach against the Sinless One. But the Lord, having heard their cry, opened His mouth, which had been silent for a long time, and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem! Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children; for the days are coming when they will say: 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the nipples that have not nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains: 'Fall on us,' and to the hills: 'Cover us!' For if they do this to a green tree, what will happen to a dry one” (Luke 23:28-31)? If this was done to a green, fruitful tree, to the Bearer and Giver of life, what will happen to the dry tree of the Jewish people, who rejected the Messiah, betrayed Him to such a terrible, painful execution?

We know that this prophecy came true, as every word of God comes true: the Roman generals came and completely destroyed the whole city and the Temple of Jerusalem. In the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, we read about the indescribable horrors that happened then, about how terrible the punishment of the people who crucified the Messiah was.

But let's leave the women, let them cry pure tears. Let's look at the men who accompanied the Lord Jesus. Who are these people? How could those who only six days ago greeted the Lord with great joy at His entry into Jerusalem, exclaiming: “Hosanna in the highest,” spreading clothes under the feet of the donkey on which He sat, how could they now cry wildly: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!" How could they rejoice in what they saw?

A terrible thing happened: abusing their sacred power, the leaders of the people of Israel taught and infected the people with blind hatred for the Righteous One, which even went as far as demanding His execution, to a terrible cry: “Let His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt . 27:25).

The difficult way has been passed, the way of sorrow has come to an end. They arrived at the terrible Golgotha. Here they dig a hole, and take off all the clothes from Jesus. Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, seeing this, cover their faces with their wings in horror. He Who adorned all the nature He created with unspeakable beauty, now stands naked and awaits a terrible execution. How can they see this nakedness?!

They throw the CCross on the ground, place the most pure Body on it, and with terrible iron nails they nail to it those most pure hands, the touch of which restored sight to the blind, with a wave of which the storm on Lake Gennesaret subsided and the wind stopped. They also nail His feet, then raise the Cross and fasten it in the ground.

An unthinkable crime has been committed: people have crucified their Creator and Lord. Of all the executions that human malice could devise, this one is the most cruel. For several hours the Lord endured terrible torments, which we can hardly fully imagine, for they were truly inhuman. The wounds from the nails on the hands were torn under the weight of the body, the nerves of the hands, stretched like strings, caused terrible pain.

At the sixth hour "darkness fell over all the earth" (Mark 15:33). The sun dimmed and hid its rays. And at the ninth hour came the terrible moment of the death of Jesus Christ. From His breast came a word that still shakes the Christian world: “It is finished!” The great work of the redemption of the human race was accomplished, the mountains trembled, stones and rocks fell apart, and the veil in the temple of Jerusalem was torn in two, from top to bottom. The people, who had recently demanded His execution, dispersed from Golgotha, bowing their heads and beating their chests. Let us also go, lowering our heads low and beating our breasts. Let us remember that for our sins, as well as for the sins of all mankind, the Savior endured these terrible torments and sufferings. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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