April 20, 2024

Homily Two on the Passion for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent: On the Suffering of the Savior

Homily Two on the Passion for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

On the Suffering of the Savior

By Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)

(Delivered in 1963)
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Gospel has now revealed before our mind’s eye a stunning picture of the terrible suffering and death of the God-man – Christ the Savior. What Christian heart will not tremble and be moved by tenderness when hearing about such painful sufferings of our Lord? All the more should we be distressed in our hearts from the realization that each of those standing here is to some extent guilty of the torments of the Divine Sufferer on Golgotha.

Humanity raised Christ the Savior to the Cross. Before His coming, the human race was in darkness and the shadow of death, mired in the abyss of sin. From this abyss nothing could bring peace except the descent from Heaven of the Only Begotten Son of God, who offered Himself as a Sacrifice for its salvation.

The world before the coming of the Savior had fallen into the very depths of wickedness and sin. Rivers of iniquity overflowed throughout the earth, pride raised its head to the heavens, people served the devil, forgetting and forsaking their Creator. The cup, dissolved by the sins of the whole world, would have drowned this world if it had not been received by the Lord. Before His all-seeing gaze there was constantly presented this terrible cup – the cup of God's wrath, the inevitable damnation, rejection and eternal destruction, ready to fall upon the criminal human race.

For more than thirty years He carried within Himself the thought that He must suffer grievously for the salvation of the world. The predetermined time was approaching. And this time was a time of sorrows and deprivations for the God-man. But then night came, the night when the fate of the whole world was decided for all time. How much internal torment and what near-death exhaustion He had to experience here at this time in order to finally decide to accomplish the great work that the Father gave Him to accomplish! It was a night, the like of which has not been and will not be among all the days and nights of the world, a night of struggles and sufferings of the most fierce and indescribable kind; it was a night of exhaustion - first of the most holy soul of the God-man, and then of His sinless flesh; a night of cries and tearful kneeling prayer before the Heavenly Father; this sacred night was terrible for the Celestials themselves, but all-joyful for fallen humanity and deadly for the prince of darkness and hell.

It was a night of exhaustion and cries, crowned by the victory and triumph of the spirit over the flesh and unconditional devotion to the will of the Heavenly Father before the terrifying phantoms of Golgotha's torment.

Who can measure the abyss of sorrows that then enveloped the holy soul of the Savior of the world? They surpassed any human concept. Seeing the sad and fearful disciples around Him, the Savior Himself openly surrendered to the inner sadness that consumed Him; He began to grieve, yearn, and be horrified, saying: "My soul is sorrowful unto death" (Mark 14:34). Yes, at the sight of approaching death, He Himself is horrified and suffers as if He were mortal, for His pure and sinless human nature especially averted all kinds of violence and torment - and especially death.

The death of the Redeemer, which had to exude life and incorruption, is the mystery of the mysteries of God. It was not just death, but also a terrible slaughter on the altar of the cross, a slaughter that combined all possible horrors and torments, not only earthly, but also underground and hellish.

Therefore, when remembering them, the Savior becomes extremely exhausted. His most pure hands had not yet been nailed to the Cross, but His suffering on Golgotha had already begun in the Garden of Gethsemane: "His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44), and so abundant that it wet His very clothes.

Among these painful internal struggles, He remained alone, because His most faithful disciples, and those who were sorrowful, were burdened with sleep and there was no one with whom He could share His heavy inner sorrows: I waited for the grieving, and not for those who comforted , and did not find (Ps. 69:21).

Then a painful cry emerged from His grieving soul: "My Father! if possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26:39). Streams of human iniquities bowed the Lord to the ground, He fell to the ground, protecting it from the punishing right hand of the Almighty, taking into His heart the arrows of God's wrath.

The horror, mortal melancholy, and grave sorrow that the Lord then experienced were aggravated by the fact that before His gaze appeared a gloomy picture of the terrible sins of mankind, which He had taken upon Himself. What the whole world had to endure for their sins - all this burden - now fell on Him alone. He clearly saw all the crimes, all the lawlessness and wickedness of people from Adam to the end of the world in all their ugliness and vileness; before His gaze appeared that coldness, that indifference and unrepentance of many people with which they would pay Him for His love; He foresaw the hardness of their hearts, in which they would not appreciate the greatest Sacrifice He made as Atonement for them, and would reject it. He also foresaw that terrible wrath of the Heavenly Father that would break out on them, and this more and more depressed the Divine Sufferer and added bitterness to bitterness.

But in addition to mental suffering, physical suffering is added. One of the twelve disciples of the Savior, Judas, comes to the Garden of Gethsemane and with a kiss betrays his Teacher to the soldiers and servants, who, having tightly bound Him, drag Him, like a lamb, to the slaughter, to the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, where He meekly accepts countless reproaches and insults. And finally, He is led to the Place of Execution for crucifixion. Exhausted, tormented and bloodied, He falls three times on His way to Golgotha. And then, sinless, He is nailed to the Cross, experiencing indescribable suffering.

During His way of the Cross, some Jerusalem women, moved by a feeling of compassion for the grave torment and impending death of the Redeemer of the world, cried for Him, but the Lord answered their tears: "Daughters of Jerusalem! Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourself and for your children, for the days are coming in which they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed! then they will begin to say to the mountains: fall on us! and the hills: cover us! For if they do this to a green tree, what will happen to a dry tree?" (Luke 23:28-31).

Beloved brothers and sisters, these words were spoken by the Lord to the Jewish people, but they are valid at all times for every nation and directly for every Christian. Let us test ourselves to see if sinful inclinations and desires prevail over us, disturbing the peace and quiet of the soul?

The Lord brought us Redemption, bestowed His Divine grace to heal our vices and sinful wounds, but this saving grace operates subject to the application of our zeal, subject to our fulfillment of God’s commandments. As you know, the main commandment bequeathed to us by the Savior is the commandment of love, about which He spoke so much with his disciples on the eve of His suffering: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, let you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Let's look at our lives, actions and behavior in relation to our neighbors and test ourselves: have we put on Christian love for each other?

If we have spoken an abusive and insulting word against our brother in one place, we have slandered our neighbor in another place; if today it is strife, tomorrow it is anger, vengeance, and resentment; if today it is heartless laughter at a weak person, tomorrow it is a hard-hearted refusal of a hungry man's daily bread. Then will such behavior of ours be an expression of love for our neighbor? No, these actions are arbitrary sins with which we crucify the Lord a second time.

Today’s touching Gospel reading about the suffering of Christ calls us, first of all, to put on humility, meekness, long-suffering, kindness, and most of all, all-forgiving love for our neighbors. By this we will show our love for the Lord, and He, in response to our love, will love us, and will introduce us into His Eternal Kingdom of goodness, truth, peace and love, and will make us heirs of eternal blessedness. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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