About the Inescapable Truths of the Day’s Commemoration


        Brothers and sisters!

        This Sunday the Holy Orthodox Church solemnly reminds us of the final judgment that Christ our God will pass on you and on me and on the entire human race at the end of time.  The thought of this dread judgment not only strikes fear into the heart of every Christian who really believes in the truth of the Gospel, but even in the angels, those invisible witnesses to our entire life.  On this Sunday, the Holy Church exhorts us to fix our mental gaze upon the awesome image of the Creator and Lord of the universe descending to earth with the powers of heaven at the end of time; she sets before our eyes the awesome picture of all the members of the human race standing spiritually naked before Him and one another.  On that day every one of us will be seen by the whole of creation for exactly what he is.  The book of our conscience will be opened, and it will be impossible to conceal a single iota of its contents.  All our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds will be exposed in the brightest light of day.  No specious justifications will be admitted at that tribunal.  The perfectly righteous, just Judge will pronounce a judgment extending for all eternity:  for some, an infinitely joyful pronouncement; for others, a horrible, irreversible sentence, casting them into deepest despair.  This judgment is described in the clearest terms in many places both in the Old Testament and the New:  especially in the New, where the Lord’s Forerunner, the Holy Apostles, and the Savior Himself speak about it at length.  Reason and justice demand that there be such an accounting, a weighing, an evaluation of men’s lives, if our deeds, if good and evil themselves have any meaning at all.  The existence of conscience, too, requires this:  conscience, with its ability to discern the finest distinction between right and wrong and its insistent voice urging us to everything good, honorable, true, lofty, and holy, and warding us off from everything evil, dishonorable, false, base, and sinful.  The dread judgment is the ultimate manifestation of the Lord’s love and mercy to the righteous and the penitent, and the last demonstration of His wrath to unbelieving, unrepentant sinners.

        From the very dawn of the human race the holy patriarchs and prophets proclaimed the Lord’s final judgment on mankind.  Enoch, the seventh from Adam, declared, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed.[1]  The holy prophet and King David mentions the last judgment in many psalms, as when he sings, Then shall all the trees of the forest rejoice at the presence of the Lord, for He cometh; for He cometh to judge the earth.  He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.[2]  Israelites who lived before Christ’s Incarnation will be judged according to the Law of Moses, and we Christians will be judged according to Christ’s law, according to the Holy Gospel:  according to whether we have been faithful and obedient to Christ and His Holy Church, or whether we have been unfaithful and disobedient.  Those ignorant of the true faith, whether they lived before or after Christ’s Incarnation, will be judged according to the law of conscience.  This is how the holy Apostle Paul explains it:  There is no respect of persons with God.  For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law:  and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:  which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.[3]  We Orthodox Christians, possessing as we do the fullness of God’s gracious means to salvation and yet neglecting or altogether ignoring them, will be subject to especially stringent examination.  If we are found wanting, our punishment will be more severe than that of many others; yet no one, believer or infidel, will escape responsibility for his choices in life.  The holy Chief Apostle Peter explains, Judgment must begin at the house of God:  and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?  And if the righteous shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?[4]  Know that on the last day, an especially harsh recompense awaits the inventors and propagators of every sort of heresy, schism, sect, and ideology that undermines divine truth and the Church of Christ, as Saint Paul makes clear, saying, Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.[5]

        Our Orthodox Christian faith -- the faith of the Gospel, the faith of Christ -- requires from us absolute obedience to its teachings.  It requires fidelity to the true Church of Christ, and that we flee every heresy and schism.  It requires that we shun this sinful world that lies in evil, and that we be separate from it.  It requires from us works of repentance, the renewal of our life, a spotless wedding garment.  It requires from us, as the Apostle says, purity and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.[6]  It requires that we strive to become living temples of the Spirit of God.  It requires that we strive to achieve a spirit of meekness, humility, simplicity, forgiveness, non-acquisitiveness and, as today’s Gospel makes so clear, of compassion and generosity, especially with respect to the poor.

        On the last day, Christ the King will determine, once and for all, whether or not we have done as He has bidden.  If we have not, then we are in gravest danger of the pit where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.[7] 

        Because she does not wish to see a single one of her children perish on that dread day, our loving mother, the Holy Orthodox Church, insistently reminds us of these inescapable truths especially on this day, very shortly before the beginning of the preeminent season of repentance and self-amendment, Great Lent.  This is the chief reason for the present commemoration.

        And so, brothers and sisters, let us take to heart the exhortations of the prophets, apostles, and Fathers; of the Lord’s Forerunner; and of the Master Himself regarding the final reckoning.  Let us make the fullest use of the blessed season that is quickly approaching, keeping in view the ultimate goal of all our spiritual striving:  to possess a good reply at the dread judgment seat of Christ our God.  Amen.



[1] Jude 1:14-16

[2] Ps. 95:12-13

[3] Rom. 2:11-16

[4] Pet. 4:17-18

[5] Gal. 1:8-9

[6] Heb. 12:14

[7] Mark 9:48