Sermon for the Sunday of the Last Judgment (2018)
Today, we see heaven and earth passing away. We see them rolled up like a scroll. We see the elements melting on account of the divine fire of Christ the most glorious God-Man Who has come again to His creation in the same manner as He ascended from it. However, now He is seen by every eye. Now the veil of time and space, of heaven and earth, the veil of spiritual blindness, and of willful ignorance, all of these now are taken away, and every eye sees Christ.
Heralding His coming, His sign, the most holy Cross, appears in the heavens. Every eye sees and those who hated this sign in this life, will become paralyzed with fear as they behold unraveling the truth which all their life they willfully rejected. Now He Who Is has come, visibly, without hiding the inexpressible and majestic, blazing glory of His almighty presence.
Because He raised Himself from the dead in our very flesh, now all men and women rise up from the grave. Death and hades and the sea give forth the dead. That awe-inspiring vision which Ezekiel beheld, which we hear related to us every Holy Saturday—the dry bones gathered together, the nerves and muscles, and the flesh miraculously re-forming themselves around those bones by the divine command—this we see taking place at the end of time.
No matter how much our poor bodily frame decomposed, or was scattered as ash, or was cut asunder by wicked men or blown up in war; none of this can prevent the divine command which is calling all men to rise up, body and soul wholly united together again, rising up incorruptible, immortal, eternal forever.
Righteous and sinner rise up in this bodily resurrection. Men and women, the aged and the young, king and poor man, believers and unbelievers—all rise up, whether they believed in this moment or not. No one can deny this gift from Christ Who bestows immortal life upon all mankind. This is an undeniable fact, and no amount of unbelief and willful blindness can stop this reality; for who can resist God?
Now all arise, body and soul, in wholeness. That holy light and glory which were hidden within the Saints will now shine forth visible and manifest to all. Likewise, the darkness and wretchedness of all men, no matter how much it was kept secret from all the world, will now cover the poor, fearful bodies of those who did not repent.
The books will be opened. What books? Will there be paper and ink at that moment when everything else has been melted by the divine flame? The full manifestation of the Gospel, and the Living Incarnate Word thereof, will be openly manifested to all. The books of our conscience will be opened. The books of all our deeds, dispositions, mindsets, thoughts and words will be laid open to all. All will be judged according to the Gospel, as Christ has said. Every man will be tried in this light and reality.
The book of life will be opened also—those granted to enter the eternal Kingdom will be inscribed therein; but those who blotted themselves out of it by their unbelief, lack of repentance and hardened pride will not be found written therein.
All mankind will be standing before the All-Merciful Christ, the King of Glory, the truest Man, the God-Man, the God over all. The angels will even tremble, the devils already writhe in eternal misery and torment.
All men stand now before Christ the Judge of all. Each receives what the Lord sees fit. Who is more merciful than God? Who, at this moment, is more pained than the most-merciful Christ as He beholds a large portion of His beloved creation still obstinate, hateful and proud against Him?
All our sins will be seen for what they were; yet all of our repentance also. Everyone’s passions and evil thoughts and inhuman actions will be revealed to all; yet every secret prayer also, every slight lifting of our sin-enslaved soul to God will be seen also. All of our efforts will be revealed. God knows each and every one, whether they are His or not.
That great voice is heard; the thunderously-meek and humble voice of the Word is pronounced over each and every one. There will only be two different sentences passed at that time. Either we will hear: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, and inherit the Kingdom which has been prepared for you!” Or we will hear those terrible, heart-rending, tormenting words: “Depart from Me, ye accursed, into everlasting torments, for I never knew you!”
What sentence could be more painful, more terrible? What words from the immortal and supremely-sweet lips of that all-glorious King Who desires to swallow all up in His great and boundless sea of love and joy; what words from Him could be more terrible? “Depart from Me, I never knew you!”
“Depart from Me, I never knew you!” What torment will then swallow up those who hear those words. They will see themselves turned away, for they turned themselves away. They will receive that which they desired, but it will not be as they thought.
The Last Judgment has been decided, and the permanent, unending and unchangeable separation between those who are glorified and those who are forever lost in darkness and torment will occur.
All of those who will be saved then will be awestruck as they see themselves ascending in unimaginable bliss with the most-sweet Christ, His most-blessed Mother, His most benign angels and all the saints, into the eternal bridal-chamber. Christ will gather all of those Who are His into that most glorious choir of unending praise, and He will inexpressibly give all to the Father, and the Father to all.
This is the Kingdom, this is the glory of the Church! This is the Mystery which has been hidden from before the ages: that Pre-eternal Church, that glorious Assembly of Three Persons, the indivisible Kingdom Himself, our One God—into Him will we be fully baptized, immersed, forever and ever; the Spirit will be in all, and all in Him.
That great joy and love and inexpressible concord between the Three Divine Persons, that glorious eternal Feast which always existed—now, after He has created angels and men to partake of His very own Self, now, unto His great and unspeakable joy, it will finally be complete. All His desire was for this. All of His love and care have been preparing for this glorious moment from before all eternity.
Now those angels and men who will be partakers forever of Him will greatly increase His joy. Our great amazement and joy will give Him inexpressibly joy. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrows, no more toil, no more death, no more lamentation—nothing of this old fallen order will be known there.
Who can fully understand it? Who can fully express it? Who can worthily receive it? What a great and inexpressible gift! What asceticism is equal to it? What human virtue can possibly purchase it? What prayer could ask for it? seeing that it is beyond the conception and imagination of all, even the angels. Even if we had tens of thousands of lives to sacrifice unto death for Christ, we could never be worthy of these things, as one of the saints has said.
How shall we be found there, in that great assembly, the Church of the Saints, that eternal Feast Day, that all-joyous company? How can we prepare to receive this? What mind can contemplate it enough that it drives one’s soul to labors which could ever come close to touching it?
All our sins will be swallowed up. Our joy will be inexpressible. All our passions will be committed to oblivion. All the pain and toil and wounds of this fallen life will be forgotten, for all will be intoxicated with the most-sweet and ever-gladdening drink of Love Himself, pouring forth from the midst of their innermost man and swallowing them up in incomprehensible joy.
How can we prepare for this? How could we ever be made worthy of this? Who can imagine that he will be found there in that great unending day? When we look at ourselves, when we realize how earthly-minded we may be, when we come to understand more and more just how much we do not love God and the divine vision of His glory—then we will comprehend how exceedingly great God’s mercy and love for us is.
He gives us joy which not only does not end, but ever ascends into a more joyous state. He gives us immortality, divine life, the communion of the Three Persons of Love, the company of the angels, seraphim, cherubim, the holy archangels, the blessed prophets, the beloved apostles, the holy martyrs and all the saints. He gives us the eternal Kingdom, He gives us His very Self. Who could earn this?
He teaches us that no matter how many sins we have, we can be found amidst all these things. What does He ask of us? Judge not, and you will not be judged on that day. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and all will be forgiven you. As you desire God to be to you, so be to all men—this is how to become a son of God and god by grace: mercy and forgiveness.
But if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven; for as you give, it will be given back to you. Love and you will dwell in love. Blame yourself for your sins, but do not despair, and you shall be found blameless, spotless and most-comely on that day. Let your anger be given to the demons, and let your hatred be given to your sins, but do not hate yourself and break yourself by despair, nor do so to other men. And if you fall into these evils, seek the gift of repentance from God, for as long as you are alive, you have hope for the gift of transformation.
This is what He asks of us, this is the small price He sets in order for us to purchase all those priceless and unfathomable riches of the Kingdom. And if we add to this a little contrition and humble prayers which beg mercy of God, and endurance in trials and difficulties—which pricelessly cleanse us of passionate inclinations and all the evil effects of destructive sin—and if we feel ourselves unworthy before God and unfit to enter His most glorious Kingdom, but yet hope in His great mercy which cannot be conquered by any amount of sin or evil; then we may place our humble hope in Christ that He might not say to us those terrible words: “Depart from me, I never knew you!”
Then we can hope with fear and love and humility, that He might beckon us on the last day to enter His divine, eternal life forever and enjoy, together with the most pure Mother of God, all the angels and saints, that great unending Feast which is He Himself, together with His Father and the All-Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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