Into Zion’s Upper Room

A Homily for Holy Thursday

By the grace of God, brethren, we are already upon the final threshold of the Holy Quadragesima. As before the ancient Israelites, wandering forty years in the desert, before us now stands the spiritual Canaan—the suffering, death, and Resurrection of our Lord. The Holy Church has spared no effort to prepare us for a worthy entrance into this promised land!

And the thunder of the curse roared upon the rebellious sons; and the obedient were nourished with the manna of various prayers and hymns, and the very Body and Blood of Christ; and the bitter waters of repentance were sweetened for those languishing on the way by the wood of the Cross; and in these last days the book of the New Testament was unfolded before all, showing all the works of our Lord. After such a long and wide-ranging fertilizing and sowing of the land, there should be a good crop. So where are Joshua and Caleb now—those who labored well in the asceticism of fasting? May they cease from their forty-day wandering, may they cross over the Jordan without getting wet, and may they walk directly into Zion’s upper room, where is prepared the immortal table. There their red feet will be washed from the finest dust of earthly thoughts; there they will hear of the last will and testament of the Lord coming to His suffering, and receive peace and the promise of the Spirit; and from there they will follow behind Him, without our instructions; they will go to Gethsemane and to Golgotha, to suffer with Him and be co-crucified with Him in spirit.

But what to do, brethren, for those of us who, in the time of spiritual wandering in the desert of fasting, did not stop turning our faces and hearts to Egypt, murmured at the bitter waters of repentance, and then, when Moses received the law on the mount, worshiped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain (cf. Ex. 32:1-6)? The Jordan will not open up before such, the walls of Jericho will not fall, the sun will not stand upon Gibeon (cf. Josh. 10:12)! There is no such place at the tomb of the Savior, but at the tombs of the lustful (cf. Num. 11:34)!

But what do I see? On the right of the crucified Lord hangs a thief. What do I hear? The Lord announces to him, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Lk. 23:43). Who can close Paradise, when the Lord opens it? Thus, brethren, no matter who you are, no matter how great your sins seem to be, go to Golgotha: the crucified Lord is calling you. Despite our impurity, He does not want to exclude anyone from the blessedness of His covenant; He wants us all to take part in the Heavenly Kingdom, obtained by His merit. Forsake, brethren, all your dark deeds, and hasten to your Savior, while He is yet on earth, while He has not given His spirit to the Father without you. Forsake, I say, dark deeds. Will you really dare to appear before the Lord with them, and show them at His Cross? You have quite disturbed His life by your iniquities: do you really need to disrupt His last minutes by them? No, brethren, no matter how obstinate the sin in your soul, do not allow it such insensitivity, and such neglect of its Savior: by means of repentance you stack the burden of your sins at the foot of Golgotha. Present yourself before the face of the Crucified, if not with the myrrh of good deeds, at least not with the stench of lawlessness—present yourself in order to fall in tears at His feet, and to bring repentance for your sins. Ask the obliteration of your betrayals and a blessing to correct your life, and for the vanquishing of your evil habits, the battle with which will become from now on your main pursuit in life. Without this it’s better not to appear at the tomb of our Savior, and better not to kiss His wounds.

Hasten, brethren, to cleanse yourself by repentance; hasten to revive thereby your union with God and Christ, dissolved by your sins. There is no more favorable time than now, and there will not be. Looking unflinchingly upon the suffering of the Lord, the soul itself will beseech a cross, and the heart itself will worship at His footstool. Do not suppress, brethren, this holy sense: follow your Savior with all your thoughts. He will grow faint under the weight of the Cross; touch him together with Simon the Cyrene—touch with faith, and go to Golgotha, and begin with firm resolve the crucifixion of your flesh with its passions and lusts.

They will remove the Lord’s clothes—hurry to clothe yourself with them, to cover your sinful nakedness with His righteousness and accomplishments. A spear shall bring forth water and blood from His side—stand beneath the Cross with open mouth, that at least a drop of life will fall inside you, to extinguish the flames of hell which consume you.

Again, I repeat: the coming days are the most favorable for sinners’ repentance, for the essence of these days is the salvation of the whole world, to which the wise thief bears witness. Amen.

Holy Hierach Innocent (Borisov)
Translated by Jesse Dominick


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