One is Enlightened, One is Darkened

A Homily Following Holy Wednesday Matins

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I greet all of you on this Holy Wednesday evening, my beloved flock!

By the grace of God, the Divine services of Holy Tuesday have ended. By today’s celebration of Matins, we have already entered in upon the sacred Holy Wednesday. The wondrous hymns continue to stir up our souls. We sang “Behold, the Bridegroom Comes at Midnight” for the last time today. Tomorrow we will enjoy the wonderful hymn “I See Thy Bridal Chamber Adorned, O My Savior”—the pearl of Holy Week. The Church is ever comforting our souls in these holy days. No matter how abominable we are, no matter how fallen, no matter how fetid—we are God’s. Our prayerful groan goes: “O Giver of Light, make the robes of my soul to shine, and save me.” And grant, O Lord, that this groan might ever accompany us in this earthly life, that we might feel this groan, that we might go towards God, that we might not despair, not become despondent in this life, no matter how sinful and seriously fallen we are. “O Giver of Light, make the robes of my soul to shine, and save me.”

At today’s Matins we heard the wonderful words of Christ: Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you (Jn. 12:35)—the darkness of sins, the darkness of unbelief, the darkness of godlessness, and the darkness of our impurity. May every soul be enlightened by the light of Christ. Today Christ says: I am the Light of the world. And grant, O Lord, that we might strive in church, especially in these holy days, to walk with love, leaving aside all vanity. The unique moments of the light of Christ sound out during every Divine service of Holy Week.

Holy Wednesday—what a controversial, difficult day! The sinful woman is forgiven by Christ (before you, on the analogian, the small, ancient lithograph). A harlot came, fell at the feet of Christ (we will hear this marvelous Gospel during the Liturgy tomorrow), washed His feet with tears, wiped them with the hairs of her head, and anointed them with precious myrrh. She loved much, which is why Christ says that much was forgiven her. The Church exalts the fallen sinner and offers a wonderful stichera about the chaste harlot, telling all of us that it’s never too late to go to God. There is no sin, except despondency and despair, that God cannot forgive. But repentance should be special, for Christ’s words are heard: Go and sin no more. These words must be clearly remembered.

The darkness fights with the light tomorrow. On the one hand—the pardon of a fallen sinner, on the other—the betrayal of Judas… Christ’s closest disciple, the treasurer, who always carried the box of silver coins with him, was ready to betray his Master. Anger towards Christ boils within his heart. He goes to the Jewish assembly and says, lowering his head: “What will you give me, and I will betray Him to you?” One is enlightened and finds the Kingdom of Heaven. The other is darkened and goes to hell. Teach us, O Lord, to never go down the path of Judas, to never hold to a friend a knife covered with honey—the flattery of Judas. And teach us, O Lord, the bright example of the repentance of the harlot! Though we are sinful, we are God’s, repentant sinners, striving for correction, for the renewal of our lives.

God always forgives the penitent, but remember that there is no repentance after death. While there is time, the salvific light, think again about your evil thoughts, about your petrified heart. For the Judge is already near for many of us. We don’t know when the Lord will call us. Judge for yourself. I was driving in my car—alive, healthy—I got out of the car and became sick, my health ran out, everything—I lost consciousness. Death was coming immediately, instantly. It’s good that the Lord still granted me reason, so I especially repented, with tears, lying on my death bed, recalling my entire life and repenting before God. May the Lord accept my deathbed groaning! And may He grant you all this strength to repent! Not mentally, but with such spiritual cries to the Lord. Perhaps someone here will cross the threshold of death tomorrow and will appear with his guardian angel at the Judgment of God. Do not retreat from repentance! What is verbal repentance for our fallen, sinful lives? We should weep, gnaw on the ground in the churchyard! We should crawl on our knees with a mighty cry of repentance for our past life! But we still say: No, I’m not a sinner! God, forgive all of us, great sinners!

The day of the Mystical Supper is coming. Grant us, O Lord, to sigh to the Lord with a light heart and soul. Grant us, O Lord, not to come to the holy Chalice as the sycophant Judas; not depart defiled from this Mystical Supper into hell, as Judas went into the darkness. But may the Lord accept our repentant sigh, and when the time comes, may the Lord meet us all and say to us as to the Wise Thief: Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise. May the penitential cry of Holy Thursday: “Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom,” ever sound in our hearts, my beloved flock.

Open your hearts to God! Don’t just listen to the service and be mentally touched, but spiritually feel the majesty of these holy days. Every day has its gem, its particularities, its spiritual consolations and sorrows, diluted by joy, that no matter what the pain and suffering, Pascha is drawing near, the bright Resurrection of Christ approaches! I greet you all in our holy church with this spiritual joy of Holy Week.

Do not succumb to temptations: irritability, despondency, despair. The Lord does not love this. Guardian angels retreat from such people, while demons approach such despondent, irritable, angry people. Bright guardian angels—they are a wondrous creation, whose beauty is impossible to describe—there are no adequate colors on Earth. Do not drive him away by these sins. May the demons not dance around us, but defeat the demonic hordes! And may our guardian angels ever accompany us for the rest of our earthly lives.

Now are we finishing today’s Matins. Tomorrow, God willing, we will for the last time sing the marvelous hymn, “Behold the Bridegroom Comes at Midnight,” and we will sing it again after the leave-taking of the feast of the Holy Trinity. Tomorrow morning is the last Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. Pray that the Lord would strengthen me to celebrate it with you for the glory of God, because I haven’t served a single Presanctified Liturgy this Lent because of sickness. We’ll finish reading the Psalter tomorrow, which we’ll read until Compline. We’ve celebrated Great Compline for the last time. The Great Lenten services are gradually ending and special services of the Divine Passion of Christ are starting. In the evening we’ll sing, “When the glorious disciples were enlightened.” I remember from childhood how touchingly the singers sang, how solemnly batiushka carried the Gospel to read the Passion of Christ. How we all waited for the choir to sing! We counted the Gospels—is it the eighth yet? Now they’re going to sing the famous “The Wise Thief.” Grant us, O Lord, to live this year until this sacred moment, to the glory of God. Help us, O Lord!

Help us, O Lord! Rest during these days. Sleepless night vigils are coming—you need to rest very well. The Church rubrics strictly call for reading the Passion of Christ during the night! Three nights Christians do not sleep: the night of the Passion of Christ, the night of His burial, and Pascha night.

Schema-Archimandrite Zosima (Sokur)
Translated by Jesse Dominick

Batjushka Zosima


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