On Love for Christ

A Homily for Holy Friday

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Again the holy Church calls us, its children, to the tomb of our Savior. Again it urges us to remember our Lord’s death on the Cross with its great bodily and spiritual sufferings with a wonderful, touching service. And, imbued with these memories together with the Church, we understand that the Lord accepted these sufferings and death for our salvation. For our sake, He experienced deadly sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane and entreated His disciples to stay with Him. For our sake, He endured a godless judgment from the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas, and then from Pilate. For our sake, He was tied to a pillar, endured spitting, slapping, beating, and was adorned with a crown of thorns. For our sake, He was innocently condemned to death. For our sake, He was abandoned not only by all people, but even His own disciples. In order to drink the whole cup of suffering to the dregs, the Savior was even abandoned by His Divine Father, which is why He exclaimed on the Cross: My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Mt. 27:46).

The Lord endured all these great torments and death upon the Cross in order to remove from us the Divine curse to which mankind was subjected for the ancestral sin and again grant us the grace of the Holy Spirit to acquire a holy and blessed life in unity with Christ forever in His effable Kingdom.

Will we, aware of all the salvific power of the sufferings and death of the Lord, really depart now from His tomb only to go out and immediately drown out this consciousness in ourselves with the whirlpool of everyday vanity? If, beloved, we have behaved this way heretofore, let it not be so with us from now on. Let us leave here not only with the awareness of the saving significance for us of the sufferings and death of Christ, but also with love for Him—of course, with true love, that is, sacrificial love, for there can be no love for God without labors, without self-sacrifice, without sufferings for the sake of Christ.

Oh, if only we would leave this tomb as once St. John the Theologian left the departed Lord on Golgotha. He was so wrapped up with love for Christ that the mortal danger that threatened him couldn’t overcome it. Driven by this love, he couldn’t leave his Divine Teacher, and for this the Lord honored him with a great, incomparable honor by adopting him to His Most Pure Mother. Oh, if only we would walk away from this tomb as the centurion walked away from the Cross. Seeing how nature shuddered at the sufferings and death of Christ, he openly confessed him as the Son of God, and later suffered for Him as a hieromartyr of the Orthodox Church of Christ. Oh, if we would leave this tomb as the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women left the dead Christ, from Whom nothing in the world could separate them. Oh, if we would leave this tomb with such love for Christ as had the great Apostle Paul. Embraced by it, he said: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughterFor I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-36, 38-39).

The Savior Himself demands such sacrificial love for God from us when He says: Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mk. 8:34). If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple (Lk. 14:26).

It’s not because He needs it that the Lord demands of us to love Him with complete selflessness. He demands such love from us because we are in need of it if we want to save ourselves, for without self-sacrificial love for God, as a spiritual Divine power, we’ll be powerless to fulfill the commandments of Christ. This is why He told the disciples at the Mystical Supper: If ye love Me, keep My commandments (Jn. 14:15). If a man love Me, he will keep My words… He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings (Jn. 14:23-24).

Yes, it’s not easy for us who are so attached to earthly things to have love for Christ. But without it, we will not only never be able to follow Him, to be His disciples and love our neighbors, but we will be the most miserable people and perish forever. This is why the Lord says: I am the vine, ye are the branches… If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (Jn. 15:5-6). And the Holy Apostle Paul looks upon those who have no love for Christ as lost. He gives such Christians over to anathema, saying: If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema (1 Cor. 16:22).

Yes, it’s not easy to have love for Christ. But what great promises the Lord has given to those who love Him! If ye abide in Me, He says, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (Jn. 15:7). If ye … abide in My love … My joy shall remain in you, and your joy shall be full (it will be perfect) (Jn. 15:10-11). He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him (Jn. 14:21). If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him (Jn. 14:23).

This is what the Lord promises those who love Him. He promises to fulfill all their prayers. He promises to pour His Divine joy into their souls. He promises to appear to them and make His abode in them together with His Father and Divine Spirit and thus make their hearts, still here on earth, the abode of the entire Holy Trinity.

Therefore, let us endeavor, beloved children in Christ, to depart from this tomb with true love for Christ, or at least with a firm determination to kindle this great and blessed love in ourselves. However, it won’t immediately open up in our hearts. This love is preceded by great labor. It requires a bloody, painful struggle against our passions, against the world lying in evil, and especially against the devil—the first and most dangerous enemy on the path to acquiring this love. But for now, let the determination to acquire this love for Christ, come what may, arise in our hearts. The Lord, Who aids every good deed, will also help us in the realization of this holy determination of ours. How could He not help us have this love for Him, when, for us to acquire this love, that is, to unite men with God, Christ both suffered and died on the Cross? Alas, we are very negligent about our salvation. We often make every effort to acquire something that’s unnecessary for our salvation while not caring at all about acquiring what is salvific. Therefore, let us thus pray to Jesus Christ, Who suffered and died for us: “Lord, Thou hast said: Without Me ye can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Kindle Thou the fire of love for Thee in our hearts, and may this Divine fire burn ever more in us and burn brightly in our lives, that we might ever serve Thee and glorify Thee with our pure Christian love and be Thy true children and inherit the blessedness of Thy Heavenly Kingdom. May Thy Divine words be fulfilled in us: If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be (Jn. 12:26). Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world (Jn. 17:24).


St. Seraphim (Sobolev)
Translation by Jesse Dominick



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