Continuing with St Theophans’ ‘Thoughts for Each Day of the Year’
The great judgement! The judge cometh in the clouds, surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless heavenly powers. Trumpets sound over all the ends of the earth and raise up the dead. The risen regiments pour into the determined place, to the throne of the Judge, having already a foreboding of what verdict will sound in their ears, for everyone’s deeds will be written on the brow of their nature, and their very appearance will correspond to their deeds and morals. The division of those on His right hand and those on His left will be accomplished in and of itself.
At last all has been determined. Deep silence falls. In another instant, the decisive verdict of the Judge is heard: to some, “Come,” to the others, “depart.” “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! May Thy mercy, O Lord, be on us!” they shall say, but then it will already be too late to plead. We need to take the trouble now to wash away the unfavourable marks written upon our nature. Then, at the judgment, we would be ready to pour out rivers of tears in order to wash ourselves; but this would do no good. Let us weep now, if not rivers of tears, then at least streams; if not streams, then at least drops. If we cannot find even this much, then let us become contrite in heart, and confess our sins to the Lord, begging Him to forgive them, and promising not to offend Him any more through violation of His commandments. Then, let us be zealous to faithfully fulfil this promise.
We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee for by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). Nowadays, this order of things has been perverted: people crucify the flesh, but not together with the affections and lusts—rather by means of affections and lusts. How people now torture their bodies with overeating, drunkenness, lustful deeds, dancing and merry-making! The most heartless master does not torture his lazy animal this way. If we were to give our flesh freedom and reason, its first voice would be against its mistress—the soul; it would say that the soul has unlawfully interfered in the flesh’s affairs, brought passions alien to it, and tortures it by carrying these passions out in the flesh. Our body’s needs are essentially simple and passionless. Look at the animals: they do not overeat, they do not sleep in excess, and having satisfied their fleshly needs at the given time, they remain calm for the entire year. Only the soul, which has forgotten its better inclinations, has by its intemperance developed out of the body’s basic needs a multitude of unnatural inclinations, which are unnatural for the body as well. It is necessary to crucify the flesh in every possible way, in order to cut the fleshly passions off from the soul which the latter has grafted onto itself. This can be done only in the reverse—that is, by not giving it enough of what is necessary, or by meeting its needs to a far lesser degree than what its nature demands.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer
The root of a God-pleasing life is fear of the Lord. When it comes to you, then, as a creative force, it will restructure everything within you and recreate in you a beautiful order—a spiritual cosmos. How can you acquire the fear of God? It is in you, only it is smothered. Resurrect it. Give voice to your reason, and open your heart to accept the influence of truth. Until now, your reason was not given a voice—it was enslaved, and did not dare to speak sensibly. Let it now speak. It will begin to speak about God’s omnipotence, which upholds you and could abandon you at any instant; about God’s omnipresence and omniscience, which sees everything within you and is wrathful with you for all that is bad within you; about God’s justice, which is ready to punish you now, but is restrained until the time by His mercy; about death, which at every instant is ready to catch you and give you over to judgement and retribution. Listen and bring your heart to a feeling of these truths. Awaken this feeling—and together with it will come the fear of God. This is the dawn of life.
O Lord come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me.
It is impossible to follow the Lord as a crossbearer without a cross, and everyone who follows Him, unfailingly goes with a cross. What is this cross? It is all sorts of inconveniences, burdens and sorrows—weighing heavily both internally and externally—along the path of conscientious fulfilment of the commandments of the Lord, in a life according to the spirit of His instructions and demands. Such a cross is so much a part of a Christian that wherever there is a Christian, there is this cross, and where there is no such cross, there is no Christian. Abundant privileges and a life of pleasure do not suit a true Christian. His task is to cleanse and reform himself. He is like a sick person, who needs cauterization, or amputation; how can this be without pain? He wants to tear himself away from the captivity of a strong enemy; but how can this be without struggle and wounds? He must walk counter to all practices surrounding him; but how can he sustain this without inconvenience and constraint? Rejoice as you feel the cross upon yourself, for it is a sign that you are following the Lord on the path of salvation which leads to heaven. Endure a bit. The end is just around the corner, as well as the crowns!
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard (Prov. 21:13). And we often marvel why God does not listen to our prayers? Here is the reason! Because there surely have been instances when we have stopped our ears from hearing the entreaties of the needy; so the Lord does not hear us either. It is no great woe if a prayer about something temporal is not heard; but how woeful if the Lord will not listen to us when we start to pray to Him about the forgiveness of our sins. He will not listen if the cry to Him of those whom we have scorned is stronger than our prayers. We must hurry to avert this extreme misfortune, according to the example of Zaccheus, whose wise decision caused the Lord to say, This day is salvation come to this house (Luke 19:9).
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with Thy Glory.
Cry aloud, says the Lord to the Holy Prophet Isaiah; spare not, convicting the transgressions of My people. What did the people do? They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways. But is there really a sin in this? Indeed, they ought to do this. Yes, they ought to, but the fact is that they do this not as they ought. They hope to be successful in their seeking through fasting alone, not caring for works of righteousness and love. “Fasting is pleasing to Me,” says the Lord, “but only such fasting whereby people, in humbling their body, forgive offences, forgive debts, feed the hungry, bring the outcast out to their house, clothe the naked. When all of this is done together with fasting, then you will succeed in seeking Me and approaching Me; then shall thy light break forth as the morning … the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am.… And the Lord shall guide thee continually (Isa. 58:1–11).
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Who did not meet the Lord when He, as a king, triumphantly entered into Jerusalem; and who did not cry out then, Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matt. 21:15)? But only four days passed, and the same crowd with the same tongues cried, Crucify Him, crucify Him! (John 19:6). An amazing change! But why should we be surprised? Do we not do the very same thing, when upon receiving the holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we barely leave the church before forgetting everything—both our reverence and God’s mercy toward us. We give ourselves over as before to self-pleasing deeds—at first small and then also large. Perhaps even before four days have passed, although we do not cry, “Crucify Him!” we will crucify the Lord within ourselves. The Lord sees all of this, and suffers.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer excerpt)