May 3, 2024

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

By St. John of Kronstadt

“If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32), that is, if I am lifted up on the cross, then with My sufferings on the cross I will redeem the whole world, and by the power of My cross I will draw to Me a multitude of the elect. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ said, by the way, not long before He suffered for us. Oh Christ, our love, and again I will say: oh Christ, our love! What has Your love for us brought You to? You were spat upon, strangled, wounded, and died in the unspeakable suffering of the cross. Oh Christ, our love! How deeply You loved us!

Your sufferings for the world are immeasurably great, but the fruits of your sufferings are immeasurably greater: “By your wounds we are all healed” (1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5). You endure suffering in order to free us from passions; accepted the crown of thorns so that our hearts would not be tormented, like prickly and burning needles, by the thorns of sins; accepted wounds so that repentant sinners could take refuge in Your wounds from the arrows of heavenly wrath; endured the cross in order to give us a strong weapon against our invisible enemies, who are strongly fighting against us; and I will say finally, you endured the fierce torment of the cross in order to deliver your faithful followers from the cruel, unceasing torments of hell, and the end of all this is to draw us to Himself and unite us with Himself forever.

Thus, beloved, our Head, Christ, suffers, so that His whole body, that is, us, may feel at ease. Our head burns with the fire of the torment of the cross in order to deliver His members from sins and from the eternal fire of hell. Who will comprehend with his mind, feel with his heart the full value of this good deed? He alone knows fully how great His sacrifice was for us: because He alone knew, saw, as if real, the eternal torment of sinners and all the cruelty of eternal torment, when He spoke about sinners: “These go into eternal torment” (Matthew 25:46), which will inevitably befall unrepentant sinners. "And hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon earth, and with labor do we find the things that are before us," for very often we do not understand all the misery of our present situation, "but the things that are in heaven," that is, what will happen after death, "who has sought for it?" (Wisdom of Solomon 9:16).

Oh, our most beloved Savior! What will we bring to You for Your infinitely great sacrifice for us? Faith and love. So, beloved, believe with all your heart, without the slightest doubt, that the only begotten, incarnate Son of God suffered for you, and precisely for you, in order to deliver you from eternal torment, which we had to undergo according to the justice of the heavenly Father, and now we will undergo if we do not believe with all our hearts in His Son, who took upon Himself the sins of the world, and keep His commandments. Bring His torments closer to your heart, appreciate them as much as possible with your weak minds and endure generously, without grumbling, with gratitude to God, each in your own life, your own sorrows, illnesses and sufferings, and let the fire of love burn in your hearts for the One whose love for you endures the tormenting fire of physical and mental suffering.

Let each of you avoid dislike, hatred and discord among each other: because our mutual dislike and hatred, like arrows, pierces the heart of the Lord, who loved us to the cross and death, and excludes us from among His followers. Let no one attach his heart to the world, to its pleasures. For us there is no place in this world; no, our place is in heaven: “Where I am, they also will be with Me” (John 17:24), said the Savior about His followers. “Our life is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), says the apostle. The world with its blessings is not worthy of us: heaven should be in our thoughts and hearts. We will transfer our thoughts and desires there more often.

You who suffered for our sake willingly, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, You said, going to suffer: “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32). Draw us to Yourself into Your kingdom by Your grace. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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