And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you (Jos. 3:5).
Joshua the Son of Nun once spoke thus to all the Jewish people, preparing them for the miraculous crossing of the Jordan. You would think the Jordan itself would serve for cleansing, and yet, it was necessary to enter into it pre-cleansed. A miracle was coming, and where there is the hand of God, there purity and holiness are required. Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you!
We’re not crossing the Jordan in the morning, brethren, but we are to approach the Lord’s table—communing of the Body and Blood of our Savior. What’s greater: the Jordan or the Blood of the Son of God? Oh, indeed, every one of you will say: “What we have here is greater, a hundred times greater than the Jordan.” And so, sanctify yourselves. Let us also call to you with the voice of the Son of Nun: Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you!—the wonders of Sinai and Zion will pale in comparison to what He will do.
“Sanctify yourselves!” It’s impossible that those who are the most attentive to themselves and their Savior wouldn’t find something impure in themselves, inasmuch as they delve deeper into their hearts and understand what it is that they should approach and receive tomorrow. If the eye of the Almighty even sometimes beholds, as it says in the book of the Righteous Job, “folly” in His angels (Job 4:18), will He not see something in us? If it behooved the Apostles to be washed to approach the Mystical Supper, should we approach without ablution? If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us—this applies to us all (1 Jn. 1:8). We are all sinners; we all require purification! And what of those of us who have had the misfortune of leaving the garden of our souls completely unattended to, of living outside ourselves and acting only according to the flow of circumstances, the impulse of feelings? Such people, now returning to their inner temple, may find that the house of their soul is “empty and fallen,” and looking into the mirror of their conscience, they may see that from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it (Is. 1:6).
Should such people, desiring only mercy, approach the Lord’s table without purification? On the contrary, judging by the multitude of spiritual wounds, such people should be forced to refrain altogether from participating in the Lord’s table for a time. But long-term withdrawal from this healing meal itself can be fraught with great danger and loss. “By much abstaining from Thy communion,” a soul, as St. John Chrysostom rightly reasons, “becomes the prey of the spiritual wolf” (2nd Prayer Before Holy Communion). Therefore, let all those who are permitted to approach the table, receive the medicine and taste the spiritual food to strengthen themselves for spiritual feats: Only let them be cleansed through repentance and confession.
Not a few hours should be spent on this great work, but the rest of our lives; but in the few hours that remain until the morning, much can be done: The beginning of true repentance can be laid, and the absolution of past sins and a blessing for future virtues can be laid. If the beginning does not contain within itself all the continuation and the end, then there can be neither continuation nor an end without a beginning. We must start so as to then continue and finish. Thus, begin now that which you should continue your whole life; begin that which hitherto has not been, and without which you yourself were neither a Christian nor a man: Begin your salvation. What better way to end the Holy Fast than by holy determination to put an end to your sins? What better way to greet the bright day of the Resurrection than by rising from the grave of passions and vices? What sign from you is more appropriate for the covenant with the Lord that you intend to enter into tomorrow than this? Oh, truly this will be a New Covenant both for you and for Him—that covenant which He has been waiting for from you from your very birth.
Is it hard to give up a vice forever? Do you, beloved, really think you’ll be its slave forever? It will be necessary at some point to fling this serpent from your hands, which, while diverting you with its coils and spots, at the same time strikes a fatal blow. You can’t be a sinner forever without becoming a devil. Do you want to be a devil for the sake of sin? Has sin brought you pleasure? But hasn’t it afflicted you a hundred times? How long did the roses bloom? But there are and will be thorns: They will be here, and what will be there? Make haste to come out of the abyss, before they call you here and stretch out their hands to you, before the path is completely lost, before your own burden drags you to the very bottom.
If something great were required for the salvation of the soul, you must, absolutely must, do all that is required. Aren’t you ready to do almost anything to save the body? But what does the body mean in comparison with the soul? No matter how much you protect it, in a few years, the body will leave you, lie down in the grave, and become prey to corruption; but the soul is always yours, with you forever. Don’t you care for it? Aren’t you willing to endure anything for it? And what will you endure? What is required of you? Confession of your sins, which, are anyway all already known to God, all the angels, and perhaps to many people; the hatred of your sins that separated you from God, killed your soul and body, and led you to hell; an aversion to them in the future—an aversion that you cannot but feel if you only feel the venom of sinful pleasures to some degree. Could the demand be any less, any more just, any more necessary? When you don’t do this and afterwards you perish (and you will certainly perish if you don’t do it), then you will have to say that thou hast destroyed thyself (Hos. 13:9).
Thus, brethren, sanctify yourselves, and again I say, sanctify yourselves! If you do this, if you reconcile with God, make a beginning of correction and give a firm vow to lead the rest of your life in purity and holiness, then tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you. But if you don’t sanctify yourselves, if you approach the cup of the covenant thoughtlessly, without contrition, hypocritically, then the enemy of salvation will be quick to work something terrible over you—to bring you seven other spirits more wicked (Lk. 11:26).