May 3, 2024

Homily One on Holy and Great Friday Before the Shroud (St. John of Kronstadt)

By St. John of Kronstadt

“Behold the man!” (John 19:5)

This is how our sinless and most holy Lord Jesus Christ was mocked, wounded, and tortured! What need was there for the impassible God to suffer so terribly from people in His flesh? What need did the God-man Himself have to endure these seemingly hellish torments on earth? There was no need, brethren, for God to subject Himself to such dishonor and such suffering on earth: His self-sacrifice was completely voluntary, and He could not but be incarnate, suffer and die. Only then would we all, as sinners and as enemies of God, be forever captives and slaves of the devil and would all perish forever. Then there would not be these two sides: right and left, and it would not be said that the righteous will go into eternal life, and sinners into eternal torment, but there would be one terrible fate for everyone - eternal torment. And it’s scary to think about!

But the Lord, in His infinite mercy, not tolerating to see the human race tormented by the devil, came to free us from slavery to him and from eternal torment. And in order to free us from the work of the enemy, to whom we have surrendered and are surrendering ourselves, He wished to become for us the most obedient servant of His heavenly Father, to Whom we have become, and now we are constantly disobedient, and in human flesh and human soul, by human powers, strengthened by divinity, to defeat the devil-tempter, to whom we have so easily given ourselves into captivity, and now we give ourselves up through our sins. Further, in order to free us from the eternal torments of hell, to which our immortal souls, captive to the devil, ought to have been justly subjected, He, the eternal God, willed Himself, by His human nature, to bear upon Himself our eternal torments.

And so, as you see, as you hear from the Gospel, He endured these torments for us. He endured all the shame and all the cruelty of torment from people and demons in order to get us out of hell, where without the Savior we would have to suffer forever. But Christ got us out of hell, and we ourselves are going to hell: we go fearlessly, closing our eyes, so as not to see the light and to rush into it as soon as possible. Many of us fearlessly indulge in all sorts of sins and do not think of correcting ourselves, as if Christ were a servant of sin, and He would bring all sinners, even those who have not repented, who have not changed their hearts and deeds, into paradise. An incomprehensible hardness of heart and insensitivity possesses many of us. At the sufferings and death of Christ the Savior, all creation shuddered with fear – the earth shook, the stones disintegrated, the dead were resurrected, but our souls do not shudder with fear at the sight of the sufferings and death of the God-man, at the remembrance of the eternal and fierce torments to which we would have been subjected if the Lord had not suffered and died for us. Our hearts do not disintegrate, do not soften, and do not part with lack of faith, unbelief, hardness of heart, pride, anger at our neighbor, envy of his well-being, condemnation, gluttony, overeating and drunkenness, stinginess, love of money, and carnal impurity.

How many people there are here, in sight of this shroud, who even in this sacredly terrible time do not stop working for the devil and harboring malice against their neighbor; who envy each other; they think about pieces of silver, about theft, about drunkenness, about uncleanness. How many are there who, as soon as they wait for the feast, immediately get drunk and indulge in revelry, and corrupt the temple of their body, which was the temple of the Lord after receiving and partaking of the Holy Mysteries of the body and blood of the Lord? But what am I talking about the feast? Don’t we see even before the feast, even now, when we remember the suffering of Christ for us, people who are drunk and indulging in debauchery? Are they a lawless people who now bless Christ with their lips, but tomorrow, or even today, will blaspheme Him with their deeds? Oh, ungrateful, insensitive, senseless, stony-hearted people, who today seem to sympathize with Christ and are crucified with Him, and tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, will crucify Him? But how long will this be with us, brethren? How long should we remain hypocrites? How long shall we work for the devil and insult the Lord in the most sensitive way?

Brethren, if our hearts of stone do not disintegrate with their manifold wickedness, their addictions, their impurities, if we do not take away from them lack of faith, unbelief, coldness, overeating and drunkenness, greed, malice, pride, envy, laziness and idleness, and other passions, then we will be condemned, at some point, by those stones that disintegrated at the time of Christ's death. If we do not repent and turn to God with all our hearts, we will rush into the hell from which the Son of God came to deliver us. Yes, brethren, it is true! “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:3). “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:29-31). Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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