Ομιλία Γέροντος Νεκταρίου Μουλατσιώτη με θέμα: "Η ΠΟΡΝΗ ΕΙΝΑΙ Η ΨΥΧΗ ΜΟΥ" Η ομιλία πραγματοποιήθηκε την Μεγάλη Τρίτη 2013 στην Ακολουθία του Νυμφίου.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
(Θεολογικό σχόλιο στο περιεχόμενο και το νόημα της Μεγάλης Τετάρτης)
«Τη αγία και μεγάλη Τετάρτη της αλειψάσης τον Κύριον μύρω πόρνης γυναικός μνείαν ποιούμεθα οι θειότατοι πατέρες εθέσπισαν, ότι προ του σωτηρίου πάθους μικρόν τούτο γέγονεν». Αυτό είναι το συναξάρι της σημερινής ημέρας, της Μεγάλης Τετάρτης. Οι συνοδοιπόροι του πάθους του Χριστού μας πιστοί καλούμαστε αυτή την ιερή ημέρα να τιμήσουμε την έμπρακτη και ειλικρινή μετάνοια της πρώην πόρνης γυναικός, η οποία έγινε συνώνυμη με την συντριβή και την αλλαγή ζωής.
Το σημαντικότατο, συγκινητικότατο και διδακτικότατο γεγονός της αλείψεως του Κυρίου με πολύτιμο μύρο από την αμαρτωλή γυναίκα διασώζουν με μικρές παραλλαγές και οι τέσσερις ευαγγελιστές. Ο Ματθαίος (26,6-13), ο Μάρκος (14,3-9) και ο Ιωάννης (12,1-8) ομιλούν για την ίδια γυναίκα, την Μαρία, την αδελφή του Λαζάρου, η οποία, όπως αναφέραμε, από ευγνωμοσύνη για την ανάσταση του αδελφού της, έκαμε αυτή την σπουδαία πράξη. Αντίθετα ο Λουκάς αναφέρει πως η γυναίκα, που δεν αναφέρεται το όνομά της, ήταν αμαρτωλή πόρνη. Είναι προφανές ότι πρόκειται για διαφορετικό περιστατικό. Ίσως να ήταν η πόρνη γυναίκα, την οποία έσωσε ο Κύριος από το λιθοβολισμό των υποκριτών Ιουδαίων (Ιωάν.8,5). Βεβαίως στον Εσπερινό της ημέρες διαβάζεται η περικοπή από το Ευαγγέλιο του Ιωάννη, όμως το περιεχόμενο και η θαυμάσια υμνολογία της ημέρας είναι εμπνευσμένη από την περικοπή του Ευαγγελίου του Λουκά.
Σύμφωνα με τον ιερό ευαγγελιστή ο Ιησούς προσκλήθηκε σε δείπνο στο σπίτι κάποιου Σίμωνος, ο οποίος ανήκε στην τάξη των Φαρισαίων. Κάποια γυναίκα αμαρτωλή όταν έμαθε ότι ο Κύριος ήλθε στην πόλη, ζήτησε να μάθει σε πιο σπίτι έχει καταλύσει. Και ενώ έτρωγαν και συζητούσαν, ξάφνου μπήκε στο σπίτι η γυναίκα εκείνη, κρατώντας στα χέρια της αλαβάστρινο δοχείο γεμάτο πολύτιμο μύρο. Προχώρησε στο μέρος του Ιησού και αφού στάθηκε πίσω Του, γονάτισε και άρχισε να κλαίει και να οδύρεται γοερά. Άνοιξε αμέσως το δοχείο και άρχισε να ρίχνει απλόχερα το μύρο και να πλένει με αυτό πόδια του Ιησού. Μαζί με το πολύτιμο μύρο έσμιγε και τα καυτά δάκρυά της, τα οποία έτρεχαν σαν ποτάμι από τα μάτια της. Αφού άδειασε το δοχείο ξέπλεξε τα πλούσια μαλλιά της και σκούπισε με αυτά τα πόδια Του, φιλώντας τα αδιάκοπα.
Ο Φαρισαίος οικοδεσπότης απόρησε με το γεγονός και διαλογιζόταν: Αυτός εδώ είναι προφήτης, δε γνωρίζει το ποιόν αυτής τη γυναίκας και την αφήνει να τον αγγίξει; Ο καρδιογνώστης Χριστός είπε στον Σίμωνα: Έχω να σου πω το εξής για τις σκέψεις σου: Εκείνος είπε: μίλα μου δάσκάλε. Κάποιος, του είπε, δάνεισε χρήματα σε δύο ανθρώπους, στον πρώτο πεντακόσια δηνάρια και στον δεύτερο πενήντα. Όταν έπρεπε να τα επιστρέψουν αυτοί δεν είχαν και ο δανειστής τους τα χάρισε. Και ρωτά το Σίμωνα: ποιος από τους δυο θα χρωστάει μεγαλύτερη χάρη στον δανειστή; Ο Σίμων απάντησε: αυτός που του χαρίστηκε το μεγαλύτερο ποσό. Σωστά απάντησες του είπε ο Ιησούς. Για κοίταξε αυτή τη γυναίκα. Εγώ μπήκα στο σπίτι σου και δεν μου έπλυνες τα πόδια με νερό, όμως εκείνη μου τα έπλυνε με τα δάκρυά της και τα σκούπισε με τα μαλλιά της. Χαιρετισμό δε μου έδωκες, όμως αυτή δε σταμάτησε στιγμή να μου φιλάει τα πόδια. Με λάδι δεν μου άλειψες το κεφάλι, όμως αυτή με πανάκριβο μύρο μου άλειψε τα πόδια. Δεν αξίζει να της πω: «σου συγχωρούνται οι τόσες πολλές αμαρτίες σου, διότι με αγάπησες τόσο πολύ»; Γυρίζοντας προς τη γυναίκα της είπε: «σου συγχωρούνται οι αμαρτίες σου». Τότε άρχισαν οι συνδαιτυμόνες να διερωτώνται: ποιος είναι αυτός που μπορεί να συγχωρεί αμαρτίες; Ο Χριστός ξαναλέγει στη γυναίκα: «Η πίστη σου σε έσωσε, πήγαινε στο καλό».
Η γυναίκα αυτή ήταν διαβόητη για την αμαρτωλότητά της. Οι υποκριτές συντοπίτες της την ήθελαν πόρνη, για να ικανοποιεί τις πορνικές τους αμαρτωλές έξεις. Ένα σκεύος αμαρτωλής ηδονής και τίποτε περισσότερο. Στην κοινωνική και θρησκευτική ζωή της πόλεως δεν είχε θέση, ήταν το μίασμα, την οποία έπρεπε να αποφεύγουν. Κάπως έτσι σκέφτηκε και ο Σίμων ο οικοδεσπότης, όταν είδε να μπαίνει στο «καθώς πρέπει» σπίτι του εκείνη και να το «μιαίνει». Πολλώ δε μάλλον να αγγίζει τον υψηλό καλεσμένο του ραβίνο.
Το σώμα της αμαρτωλής αυτής γυναίκας έχε παραδοθεί εξ' ολοκλήρου στο βόρβορο της αμαρτίας και της διαφθοράς. Όμως μέσα στα κατάβαθα της ψυχής της σιγόκαιγε αμυδρή φλόγα λυτρώσεως. Ο ψυχικός της κόσμος δεν είχε διαφθαρεί ολοκληρωτικά. Η παρουσία του Σωτήρα Χριστού στην πόλη εκείνη λειτούργησε στην καρδιά της ως ισχυρότατος άνεμος, ο οποίος θέριεψε την αδύναμη φλόγα λυτρώσεως και την έκαμε πυρακτωμένο καμίνι, ασυγκράτητη ορμή για μετάνοια και σωτηρία και γι' αυτό έτρεξε κοντά Του με τον χαρακτηριστικό αυτό τρόπο.
«Προσέξετε, φιλόχριστοι Χριστιανοί, συμβουλεύει ο ιερός Χρυσόστομος, να νοήσετε και να απολαύσετε την καλή διήγηση της καλής αυτής γυναικός, η οποία έφτασε ως εκεί, χωρίς να την καλέσουν, πλησίασε στο μέρος που βρισκόταν ο Κύριος και εξομολογήθηκε δημόσια, εξ όλης καρδίας, τα κρίματά της, χωρίς να αισχύνη, χωρίς φόβο η αντρειωμένη στην ψυχή. Δε λογάριασε τίποτε, ούτε την ταραχή των υπηρετών, ούτε την κατηγορία και το όνειδος των παρισταμένων».
Ο Χριστός, εγκαινίασε μια νέα αντίληψη για τον αμαρτωλό άνθρωπο, εντελώς διάφορη από εκείνη της ιουδαϊκής κοινωνίας. Δεν είναι ο αμαρτωλός άνθρωπος μιασμένος από τη φύση του, αλλά ένας πνευματικά ασθενής, ο οποίος χρειάζεται βοήθεια. Έθεσε ως αντίδοτο της πνευματικής ασθένειας τη μετάνοια, η οποία είναι ο ισχυρότατος εκείνος μοχλός, ο οποίος γκρεμίζει το οικοδόμημα της αμαρτίας και αναγεννά τον άνθρωπο. Δια του Κυρίου μας Ιησού Χριστού παρήλθε ανεπιστρεπτί το καθεστώς του νόμου και της μισθαποδοσίας, και ανέτειλε η εποχή της χάρητος και του ελέους.
Οι θείοι υμνογράφοι, θέλοντας να τονίσουν το σωτήριο νόημα της μετάνοιας της αμαρτωλής γυναικός, στόλισαν τις ιερές ακολουθίες της Μεγάλης Τετάρτης με μια ποιητική και μουσική πανδαισία ύψιστης αξίας. Η ακολουθία ιδιαίτερα του Όρθρου, σύμφωνα με επιφανείς λειτουργιολόγους, είναι από τις καλλίτερες ποιητικές συνθέσεις όλων των ακολουθιών του έτους. Τους ύμνους της Μ. Τετάρτης χαρακτηρίζουν οι πλούσιες εικόνες, οι διάλογοι και οι αντιθέσεις. Ο Όρθρος ξεκινάει με το γνωστό «Ιδού ο Νυμφίος έρχεται...» και ακολουθούν τα υπέροχα καθίσματα «Πόρνη προσήλθε σοι...», «Ιούδας ο δόλιος φιλαργυρίαν ερών...» και το καταπληκτικό «Η πόρνη εν κλαυθμώ ανεβόα, οικτίρμων...». Στο κοντάκιο παρουσιάζεται ο κάθε άνθρωπος αμαρτωλός να βρίσκεται στη θέση της πόρνης. Ο ιερός ποιητής παίρνει τη θέση της και ικετεύει στο Δεσπότη και Λυτρωτή Χριστό να τον ελεήσει, «Υπέρ την πόρνην αγαθέ, ανομήσας, δακρύων όμβρους (όπως εκείνη) ουδαμώς σοι προσήξα, αλλά σιγή δεόμενος προσπίπτω σοι, πόθω ασπαζόμενος τους αχράντους σου πόδας, όπως μοι την άφεσιν, ως Δεσπότης, παράσχης των οφλημάτων, κράζοντι, Σωτήρ, εκ του βορβόρου των έργων μου ρύσαι με». Εξαίσιες ποιητικές συνθέσεις έργα του αγίου Κοσμά του Μελωδού, είναι τα τροπάρια των στιχηρών των αίνων. «Σε τον της Παρθένου Υιόν πόρνη επιγνούσα Θεόν...», «Το πολυτίμητον μύρον η πόρνη έμιξε μετά δακρύων...», «Ότε η αμαρτωλός προσέφερε το μύρον...», «Ω της Ιούδα αθλιότητος! Εθεώρει την πόρνην φιλούσαν τα ίχνη και εκέπτετο δόλω της προδοσίας το φίλημα...». Στα υπέροχα αυτά τροπάρια γίνεται αριστοτεχνική αντίθεση μεταξύ της μετανοούσας γυναικός και του μελλοντικού προδότη μαθητή Ιούδα. Ο ιερός ποιητής εξαίρει την μετάνοια της πόρνης και στηλιτεύει την προδοσία του μαθητή. Τα τροπάρια των αποστίχων είναι και αυτά καταπληκτικές ποιητικές συνθέσεις και είναι έργα του Βυζαντίου του Μελωδού. «Σήμερον ο Χριστός παραγίνεται εν τη οικία του Φαρισαίου...», «Ήπλωσεν η πόρνη τα τρίχας σοι τω Δεσπότη, ήπλωσεν ο Ιούδας τας χείρας τοις παρανόμοις...», «Προσήλθε γυνή δυσώδης και βεβορβορωμένη...». Στο τέλος ψάλλεται ένα από τα κορυφαία ποιήματα όχι μόνο της Εκκλησίας μας, αλλά και γενικότερα της παγκοσμίου λογοτεχνίας. Πρόκειται για το γνωστότατο δοξαστικό «Κύριε η εν πολλαίς αμαρτίαις περιπεσούσα γυνή...», το γνωστό τροπάριο της Κασσιανής, της μεγάλης αυτής βυζαντινής ποιήτριας, την οποία μερικοί αμαθείς την ταυτίζουν με την πόρνη, που αναφέρεται στον περίφημο ύμνο της. Κανενός η ψυχή δεν μένει ασυγκίνητη στο άκουσμά του.
Η αφιέρωση της ημέρας αυτής στην μακάρια πρώην πόρνη γυναίκα έγινε σκόπιμα από τους αγίους Πατέρες. Η μορφή της προβάλλει ως φωτεινό ορόσημο καταμεσής στην οδοιπορία προς το Θείο Πάθος για να δείξει και σε μας πως αν δεν συντριβούμε, σαν και εκείνη, και δεν δείξουμε έμπρακτη μετάνοια, δεν μπορούμε να ακολουθήσουμε το Χριστό στο Πάθος και την Ανάσταση. Η αγία μας Εκκλησία θέσπισε τη μετάνοια ως ύψιστη δωρεά η οποία ανανεώνει την ουρανοδρόμο πορεία μας προς το Χριστό και την τελείωσή μας. Καλός χριστιανός δεν είναι εκείνος, ο οποίος γεμάτο κομπασμό και εγωιστική αυτάρκεια, ισχυρίζεται ότι έφτασε σε επίπεδο αγιότητας και δεν χρειάζεται πια άλλο αγώνα, αλλά ο διατελών σε διαρκή μετάνοια.
Two beloved disciples asked the Lord for thrones of glory He gave them His cup. (Matt. 20:23) The Cup of Christ is suffering. To those who drink from it on earth, the Cup of Christ grants participation in Christ’s Kingdom of grace; it prepares for them the thrones of eternal glory in heaven.
We stand in silence before the Cup of Christ, nor can any man complain about it or reject it; for He who commanded us to taste it, first drank of it Himself. O tree of the knowledge of good and evil! You killed our ancestors in Paradise, you deceived them by the delusions of sensual pleasure and the delusions of reason. Christ, the Redeemer of the fallen, brought His Cup of salvation into this world, to the fallen and to those who are exiled from Paradise. The bitterness of this Cup cleanses the heart from forbidden, destructive and sinful pleasure; through the humility flowing from it in abundance, pride of understanding on the carnal level is mortified. To him who drinks from the Cup with faith and patience, the eternal life which was and still is lost to him by his tasting of forbidden fruit will be restored.
“I will accept the Cup of Christ, the cup of salvation.” (Psalm 116:13) The cup is accepted when a Christian bears earthly tribulation in the spirit of humility learned from the Gospel. Saint Peter turned swiftly with a naked sword to defend the God-man, who was surrounded by evil doers; but the meek Jesus said to Peter: “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup My Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) So you too, when disaster surrounds you, should comfort and strengthen your soul, saying: “The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
The Cup is bitter: at first sight all human reasoning is confounded. Surmount reason by faith and drink courageously from the bitter Cup: it is the Father who gives it to you, He who is all good and all wise. It is neither the Pharisees, nor Caiaphas, nor Judas who prepared the Cup; it is neither Pilate nor his soldiers who gave it! “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
The Pharisees think evil, Judas betrays, Pilate orders the unlawful killing, the soldiers of the government execute his order. Through their evil deeds all these prepared their own true perdition. Do not prepare for yourself just such a perdition by remembering evil, by longing for and dreaming of revenge, and by indignation against your enemies. The heavenly Father is almighty and all-seeing: He sees your afflictions, and if He had found it necessary and profitable to withdraw the Cup from you, He certainly would have done so.
The Lord as the Scriptures and Church history testify has often allowed afflictions to befall His beloved, and often warded off afflictions from them, in accordance with the unfathomable ways of Providence. When you are faced with the Cup, turn your gaze from the people who give it to you; lift your eyes to Heaven and say: “The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
I will take the cup of salvation. I cannot reject the Cup, the promise of heavenly and eternal good. The apostle of Christ teaches me patience when he says: “...we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) How can one reject the Cup which is the means of attaining this Kingdom and growing within it? I will accept the Cup the gift of God. The Cup of Christ is the gift of God. The great Paul writes to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Phil. 1:29)
You receive the Cup which seemingly comes from the hand of man. What is it to you whether the bearer of the Cup acts righteously or unrighteously? As a follower of Jesus, your concern is to act righteously; to receive the Cup with thanksgiving to God and with a living faith; and courageously to drink it to the dregs. In receiving the Cup from man, remember it is the Cup of Him who is not only innocent but all-holy. Thinking on this, remind yourself and other suffering sinners of the words that the blessed and enlightened thief spoke when he was crucified on the right hand of the crucified God-man: “We receive the due reward of our deeds... Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy Kingdom.” (Luke 23: 41 & 42) And then, turning to the people, you will say to them: “Blessed are you who are instruments of the righteousness and of the mercy of God, blessed are you henceforth and forever more!” (If they are not in a fit state to understand and receive your words, do not cast your precious pearls of humility under the feet of those who cannot value them, but say these words in thought and heart.) By this alone will you fulfill the commandment of the Gospel which says: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you...” (Matt. 5:44)
Pray to the Lord, on behalf of those who have insulted and outraged you, that what they have done for you should be repaid by a temporal blessing and eternal reward of salvation, and that when they stand before Christ to be judged, it should be counted to them as if it had been an act of virtue. Although your heart does not wish to act in this way, compel it to do so: because only those who do violence to their own heart in fulfilling the commandments of the Gospel can inherit Heaven. If you have not the will to act this way, then you have not the will to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look deep within yourself; consider searchingly: have you not found another teacher, the teacher of hatred the devil and fallen under his power?
It is a terrible transgression to offend or to oppress one’s neighbor: it is a most terrible transgression to commit murder. But whoever hates his oppressor, his slanderer, his betrayer, his murderer, and whoever thinks ill of them and takes revenge on them, commits a sin very near to their sin. In vain does he pretend to himself and others that he is righteous. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer of man, proclaimed Saint John, the beloved disciple of Christ. (I John 3:15)
A living faith in Christ teaches one to receive the Cup of Christ, and the Cup of Christ inspires hope in the heart of him who receives it; and hope in Christ gives strength and consolation to the heart. What torment of hell to complain or to murmur against the pre-destined Cup from above! Murmuring, impatience, faint-heartedness and especially despair are sins before God; they are the ugly children of sinful disbelief. It is sinful to complain of neighbors when they are the instruments of our suffering; still more sinful is it when we cry out against the Cup that comes down to us straight from Heaven, from the right hand of God. He who drinks the Cup with thanksgiving to God and blessings on his neighbor, achieves holy serenity, the grace of the peace of Christ. It is as if already he enjoys God’s spiritual Paradise. Temporal suffering has no importance in itself: we lend it significance because of our attachment to the earth and to all corruptible things, and through our coldness towards Christ and eternity.
You are prepared to bear the bitter and repellent taste of medicines, the painful amputation and cauterization of your limbs, the long drawn out suffering of hunger, and prolonged seclusion in your room; you are prepared to bear all this to restore lost health to your body, which after it is healed will certainly become ill again, and will certainly die and become corrupt. Bear then the bitterness of the Cup of Christ which brings healing and eternal beatitude to your immortal soul.
If the Cup appears to you to be unbearable, deadly, then it reveals that, although you bear Christ’s Name, you do not belong to Christ. For the true followers of Christ, the Cup of Christ is the Cup of joy. Thus the holy apostles, after having been beaten before the gathering of the elders of the Jews, went out from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 5: 40- 41) The righteous Job heard bitter news. Tiding after tiding came to pierce his steadfast heart; the last of these was the hardest all; his sons and daughters had been struck down suddenly by a cruel and violent death. In his great sorrow, the righteous Job rent his clothes and sprinkled his head with ashes. And then in submissive faith he fell down upon the ground, and worshipped the Lord saying: “I myself came naked from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, the Lord taketh away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Entrust your heart in simplicity to Him by whom all the hairs of your head are numbered: He knows the measure of the healing Cup that you should be given. Look often on Jesus standing before those who put Him to death; He was delivered to death, to be slain as a defenseless sheep. Do not take your eyes from Him, and your suffering will be transformed into heavenly spiritual sweetness: the wounds of your heart are healed with the wounds of Jesus. “Suffer ye thus far,” said the Lord to those who wished to defend Him in the garden of Gethsemane, and He healed the ear that had been struck off. (Luke 22:51) “Thinkest thou,” replied the Lord to him who had tried to take the Cup from Him, “that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26: 53)
In the time of misfortune do not seek the help of man; do not lose precious time. Await help from God: by His command and in His own time will people come to your help. The Lord remained silent before Pilate and Herod, He made no attempt to justify Himself. You must imitate His holy and wise intention of certain conviction.
Whether the cup comes to you as a gradual gathering of clouds, or as suddenly as a furious whirlwind, say to God, “Thy will be done.” You are a disciple, follower and servant of Jesus. Now Jesus said: “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.” (John 12:26) But Jesus spent His life on earth in sufferings; He was persecuted from His birth to the grave; from the time of His swaddling clothes malice was preparing for Him a violent death. Nor was malice satisfied by achieving such an aim, but tried to uproot the very remembrance of Him from the earth.
In following Him, all the chosen of our Lord pass by the road of temporary suffering to blessed eternity. While bodily pleasures dominate us, it is impossible that a spiritual state should also prevail in us. That is why our Lord ceaselessly offers His Cup to those He loves, so as to keep them in deadness to the world and to enable them to live the life of the Spirit. St. Isaac the Syrian said: “The man who is sent unceasing sorrow is known to be especially under God’s care. Pray to God, that He may avert all calamity and every trial from you; but when sorrows come of themselves, do not be afraid of them, do not think that they have come by chance, or by force of circumstance. No, they are allowed by the inscrutable Providence of God. Filled with faith, and the fortitude and magnanimity born of it, swim fearlessly amidst the darkness and howling storm into the peaceful harbor of eternity: the unseen hand of Jesus Himself will guide.
With reverent and deep reflection, learn the prayer which our Lord offered to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane during the heavy hours of suffering that came to Him before His Passion and Death on the Cross. With this prayer, meet and conquer every sorrow. “O my Father”, prayed our Savior, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39) Pray to God to avert misfortunes, and at the same time renounce your own will, as being a sinful, blind will; entrust those nearest to your heart to the all-holy and all-wise will of God. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) When you are surrounded by afflictions, pray more often, that you may draw the special grace of God towards you. Only with the help of special grace are we able to surmount temporal misfortunes.
When you receive from Heaven the gift of patience, be attentive and vigilant over yourself, so as to hold and keep within yourself the grace of God, lest sin should creep unnoticed into your soul or body and drive away this grace. But if with carelessness and inattention you let sin enter within you, and particularly the one sin to which your weak flesh is specially addicted, and which stains the body and soul, then grace will depart leaving you stripped and lonely. Then sorrow, given to you for your salvation and perfection, will trample heavily on you, will crush you with sadness, depression, despair, and like someone who holds the gift of God without due reverence to the gift. Hasten to bring back your heart to purity in true and resolute repentance, and through purity to the gift of patience: since this gift of the Holy Spirit reposes only in the pure. The holy martyrs sang a song of joy in the midst of the fiery furnace, when walking on nails, on sharp swords, sitting in cauldrons of boiling water or oil. So also will your heart rejoice when by prayer you have drawn to yourself the comfort of grace, and kept it within by constant watch over yourself. Then your heart will sing amidst misfortunes and terrible misery, with a joyful song of praise and thanksgiving to God.
The mind, purified by the Cup of Christ, is endowed with spiritual vision; it begins to see the all-embracing Providence of God, invisible to the carnal mind: to see the law of corruption in all things mortal; to see near at hand the immensity of eternity; to see God in His great works, in His creation and re-creation of the universe. The earthly life then comes to seem like a quickly-ending pilgrimage, whose events are dreams, whose blessings are but brief visual delusions, short-lived because of the perilous misconceptions of the mind and heart.
What fruit does temporary suffering bear for eternity? When Heaven was shown to the Apostle John, with an innumerable gathering of bearers of light dressed in white and celebrating their salvation and blessedness before the throne of God, one of the dwellers in Heaven asked him: “What are these arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” “And I said unto him,” says Saint John the Divine, “my Lord, Thou knowest.” Then the dweller in Heaven answered Saint John, “These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)Withdrawal from God is eternal torment in hell, eternal contact with the devil and devilish people; with flames, bitter cold, the gloom of Gehenna; that is what may be truly described as suffering. That is torment, great, terrible and insupportable. Over-indulgence in the sweetness of earthly pleasures leads to great eternal suffering. The Cup of Christ saves from this torment whoever drinks from it with thanksgiving and praise to the all-blessed God who, through the bitter Cup of temporal suffering, gives man His boundless and eternal mercy.
When the Lord had finished the Mystical Supper with His disciples and given them His Instructions, He went with them to the Mount of Olives. On the way He continued His final teachings, after which He addressed the Heavenly Father with a prayer for His disciples and those who would believe their word (Jn 17).
On crossing the stream of the Cedron, the Lord and His disciples went into the garden of Gethsemane, where He had been accustomed to gather with them earlier. Here, He left His disciples, except for Peter, James and John, telling them to sit down for a time while He prayed. Then, He Himself with Peter, James and John went on a little further. He wanted to be on His own as much as possible, but knowing all that was going to happen, He began to sorrow, to be distressed and horrified, and He said to those with Him: My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. Stay here and watch with Me. And going a little further off, He fell face down on the earth and prayed.
Twice the Lord interrupted His prayer, and went up to Peter and the sons of Zebedee. Alas! They were there, but not watching: sleep had overcome them. In vain did their Divine Teacher exhort them to watch and pray, so as not to fall into temptation: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38). The disciples again fell asleep and immediately the Savior departed from them in order to continue His prayer, which ended only when the hour of the betrayal of the Son of Man into the hands of sinners drew near. Jesus’ intensity of prayer reached the highest degree—He came out in a bloody sweat which fell in drops on the earth (Lk 22:44).
What did Jesus pray about with such fiery intensity? What did He beseech the Heavenly Father, falling face down to the earth three times? Abba, My Father! All is possible to Thee; O if only Thou wouldest grant that this cup be taken from Me. If it is possible, let this cup pass by Me; take this cup from Me. However, not as I will, but as Thou willest; not My will, but Thine be done. My Father, if this cup cannot pass by Me, but I must drink of it, may Thy will be done.
The Lord Jesus Christ was the God-Man. The Divine and human natures, without merging into each other and without changing, undivided and un-separated (the dogma of the Chalcedonian Council) were united in Him in one Person. In accordance with His two natures, the Lord also had two wills. As God, Jesus Christ was of one substance with God the Father and had one Will with Him and the Holy Spirit. But as perfect man, consisting of a soul and a body, the Lord also had human feelings and a human will. His human will was completely obedient to His Divine will. The Lord subjected His human will to the Divine will—He sought only to do the will of the Heavenly Father (Jn 5:30); His spiritual food was to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to finish His work. (Jn 4:34).
But the work which was set before Him to finish was greater than any other, and even unfeeling, soulless nature was bound to be amazed at it. It was necessary for Him to redeem man from sin and death, and reestablish the union of man with God. It was necessary that the sinless Savior should take upon Himself all human sin, so that He, Who had no sins of His own, should feel the weight of the sin of all humanity and sorrow over it in such a way as was possible only for complete holiness, which clearly feels even the slightest deviation from the commandments and Will of God. It was necessary that He, in Whom Divinity and humanity were hypostatically united, should in His holy, sinless humanity experience the full horror of the distancing of man from his Creator, of the split between sinful humanity and the source of holiness and light - God.
The depth of the fall of mankind must have stood before His eyes at that moment; for man, who in Paradise did not want to obey God and who listened to the devil’s slander against Him, would now rise up against his Divine Savior, slander Him, and, having declared Him unworthy to live upon the earth, would hang Him on a tree between Heaven and earth, thereby subjecting Him to the curse of the God-given law (Deut 21:22-23). It was necessary that the sinless Righteous One, rejected by the sinful world for which and at the hands of which He was suffering, should forgive mankind this evil deed and turn to the Heavenly Father with a prayer that the Divine righteousness should forgive mankind, blinded by the devil, this rejection of its Creator and Savior. Such a holy prayer could not fail to be heard, such a power of love was bound to unite the source of love, God, with those who even now would feel this love, and, understanding how far the ways of men had departed from the ways of God, would manifest a strong determination to return to God the Father through the Creator’s reception of human nature.
And now there came the time when all this was to come to pass. In a few hours the Son of Man, raised upon the cross, would draw all men to Himself by His own self-sacrifice. Before the force of His love the sinful hearts of men would not be able to stand. The love of the God-man would break the stone of men’s hearts. They would feel their own impurity and darkness, their insignificance; and only the stubborn haters of God would not want to be enlightened by the light of the Divine greatness and mercy. But all those who would not reject Him Who called them, irradiated by the light of the love of the God-Man, would feel their separation from the loving Creator and would thirst to be united with Him. And invisibly the greatest mystery would take place—mankind would turn to its Maker, and the merciful Lord would joyfully accept those who would return from the slander of the devil to their Archetype. Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Pss 84:10); righteousness has pressed close from Heaven, for the incarnate Truth has shone out on the cross from the earth. The hour had come when all this was about to take place.
The world did not suspect the greatness of the coming day. Before the gaze of the God-Man all that was to happen was revealed. He voluntarily sacrificed Himself for the salvation of the human race. And now He came for the last time to pray alone to His Heavenly Father. Here He would accomplish that sacrifice which would save the race of men. He would voluntarily give Himself up to sufferings, giving Himself over into the power of darkness.
However, this sacrifice would not be saving if He would experience only His personal sufferings—He had to be tormented by the wounds of sin from which mankind was suffering. The heart of the God-Man was filled with inexpressible sorrow. All the sins of men, beginning from the transgression of Adam and ending with those which would be done at the moment of the sounding of the last trumpet—all the great and small sins of all men stood before His mental gaze. They were always revealed to Him as God—all things are manifest before Him—but now their whole weight and iniquity was experienced also by His human nature. His holy, sinless soul was filled with horror. He suffered as the sinners themselves do not suffer, whose coarse hearts do not feel how the sin of man defiles and how it separates him from the Creator. His sufferings were the greater in that He saw this coarseness and embitteredness of heart, the fact that men have blinded their eyes that they should not see, and do not want to hear with their ears and be converted, so that they should be healed. He saw that the whole world was even now turning away from God Who had come to them in human form. The hour was coming and had already come (Jn 16:31) when even those who had only just declared their readiness to lay down their lives for Him would be scattered. The God-Man would hang in solitude upon the Cross, showered with a hail of insults from the people who would come to see this spectacle. Only a few souls remained faithful to Him, but they, too, by their silent grief and helplessness would increase the sufferings of the heart of the Virgin’s Son, overflowing with love. There would not be help from anywhere...
True, even in these minutes He would not be alone, for the Father was always with Him (Jn 8:19; 10:30). But so as to feel the full weight of the consequences of sin, the Son of God would voluntarily allow His human nature to feel even the horror of separation from God. This terrible moment would be unendurable for His holy, sinless being. A powerful cry would break out from His lips: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? And seeing this hour in advance, His holy soul was filled with horror and distress.
Still earlier, when some Hellenes came to see Jesus, He allowed His human nature to experience the approach of that dreadful hour. When these sheep from another fold came to Him, the God-Man saw that the hour when everyone would come to Him as He was raised upon the cross, was near. His human nature shuddered, His soul was in distress. But Jesus knew that without His sufferings the salvation of men was impossible, that without them His earthly activity would leave a trace as small as that of a grain which lies for a long time on the surface of the earth before being dried up by the sun. It was therefore at that time that He appealed to His Father not to allow human weakness to prevail over all the thoughts and feelings of His human nature: Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? And yet for this purpose have I come to this hour. (Jn 12:27).
And as if heartened by the remembrance of why He had come to the earth, Christ prays that the Will of God for the salvation of the human race be carried out: Father, glorify Thy name. (Jn 12:28)—glorify it on earth, among men, show Thyself to be not only the Creator but also the Savior (St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius, Bk 4). I have glorified it and will glorify it again (Jn 12:28) came a voice from Heaven announced that the time for the fulfillment of the Mystery which had been hidden from the beginning of the age was coming (Col 1:26; Eph 1:9; 3:9).
And now that time had already come. If before the human nature of Christ had shuddered and been troubled at the thought of what was to come, what did it experience now, when in expectation of the coming of His enemies and betrayer He for the last time prayed alone to God? The Lord knew that every prayer of His would be answered (Jn 11:42), He knew that if He would ask the Father to deliver Him from torments and death, more than twelve legions of angels would appear (Mt 26:53) to defend Him. But had He not come for this? So that at the last moment He should refuse to carry out that which He had fore-announced in the Scriptures?
However, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The spirit of Jesus now burns (Rom 12:11), wishing only one thing—the fulfillment of the Will of God. But by its nature, human nature abhors sufferings and death (St. John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk 3, chapters 18, 20, 23, 24; Blessed Theodoret; St. John of the Ladder, The Ladder, word 6, On the Remembrance of Death). The Son of God willingly accepted this weak nature. He gives Himself up to death for the salvation of the world. And He conquers, although He feels the approaching fear of death and abhorrence of sufferings. Now these sufferings will be particularly terrible, terrible not so much in themselves, as from the fact that the soul of the God-Man was shaken to its depths.
The sin of man that He takes upon Himself is inexpressibly heavy. This sin weighs Jesus down, making the sufferings that are to come unendurable.
Christ knows that when His sufferings reach their peak, He will be completely alone. Not only will no man be able to relieve them I looked for one that would sorrow with Me and there was none, for one that would comfort Me and none was found. (Pss 68:21). I looked, but there was none to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold. (Is 63:5). But in order that He should feel the full weight of sins, He would also be allowed to feel the burden of separation from the Heavenly Father. And at this moment, His human will can wish to avoid the sufferings. But it will not be so. Let His human will not diverge for one second from His Divine Will. It is about this that the God-Man beseeches His Heavenly Father. If it is possible for mankind to re-establish its unity with God without this new and terrible crime against the Son of God (St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius Bk 4), then it is better that this hour should not come to pass. But if it is only in this way that mankind can be drawn to its Maker, let the good Will of God be accomplished in this case, too. May His Will be done, and may the human nature of Jesus, even at the most terrible moments, not wish anything other than the fulfillment of the will of God, the completion of God’s economy. This is precisely what Christ prayed for in the garden of Gethsemane: He offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him Who was able to save Him from death. (Heb 5:7).
He offered up prayers and supplications to Him Who was able to save Him from death, but He did not pray for deliverance from death. It is as if the Lord Jesus Christ spoke as follows to His Father: Abba, My Father, the Father of Him Whom Thou has sent to gather into one the people of Israel and the scattered children of God—the people of the Gentiles, so as to make out of two one new man and by means of the cross reconcile them with Thee. All is possible to Thee, all is possible that is in accord with Thy boundless perfections. Thou knowest that it is natural for human nature to abhor sufferings, that man would always like to see good days (Pss 34:14) But he Who loves Thee with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his mind wishes only that which is pleasing to Thy good and perfect will. I have come down to earth to fulfill Thy wise will and for this purpose I have communed with flesh and blood, assuming human nature with all its weaknesses, except the sinful ones. I also have wished to avoid sufferings, but only on one condition—that this is Thy holy will. If It is possible that the work of economy should be completed without a new and terrible crime on the part of men; if it is possible for Me not to experience these mental sufferings, to which in a few hours’ time will be united the terrible sufferings of the human body; if this is possible—deliver Me then from the experiences and temptations which have already come upon Me and which are still to come. Deliver Me from the necessity of experiencing the consequences of the crime of Adam. However, this request is dictated to Me by the frailty of My human nature; but let it be as is pleasing to Thee, let not the will of frail human nature be fulfilled, but Our common, pre-eternal Council. My Father! If according to Thy wise economy it is necessary that I offer this sacrifice, I do not reject It. But I ask only one thing: may Thy will be done. May Thy will be done always and in all things. As in Heaven with Me, Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thee there is one will, so may My human will here on earth not wish anything contrary to Our common will for one moment. May that which was decided by us before the creation of the world be fulfilled, may the salvation of the human race be accomplished. May the sons of men be redeemed from slavery to the devil, may they be redeemed at the high price of the sufferings and self-sacrifice of the God-Man. And may all the weight of men’s sins, which I have accepted on Myself, and all my mental and physical sufferings, not be able to make My human will waver in its thirst that Thy holy will be done. May I fulfill Thy will with joy. Thy will be done.
The Lord prayed about the cup of His voluntary saving passion as if it was involuntary. (Sunday service of the fifth tone, canon, eighth hirmos), showing by this the two wills of the two natures, and beseeching God the Father that His human will would not waver in its obedience to the Divine will (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk 3, 24). An angel appeared to Him from the Heavens and strengthenedhis human nature. (Lk 22:43). His human nature, while Jesus Who was accomplishing the exploit of His self-sacrifice prayed still more earnestly, being covered in a bloody sweat. And for His reverence and constant obedience to the will of the Father, the Son of God was heard. Strengthened and reassured, Jesus rose from prayer (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk 3, 24). He knew that His human nature would not waver any more, that soon the load of the sins of men would be taken away from Him, and that by His obedience to God the Father He would bring human nature that had gone astray to Him. He went up to His disciples and said: You all sleep and rest. It is finished, the hour has come: Lo! the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us go, he who betrays Me is at hand. Pray that you do not fall into temptation.
Coming out to meet those who had come for Him, the Lord voluntarily gave Himself into their hands. And when Peter, wishing to defend His Teacher, struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear, the Lord healed the servant, and reminded Peter that He was voluntarily giving Himself up: Put your sword into its sheath: am I not to drink the cup which the Father has given Me? Or do you think that I cannot now ask My Father and He will send Me more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, that this must come to pass? And willingly drinking the whole cup of mental and physical sufferings to the bottom, Christ glorified God on earth; He accomplished a work which was no less than the very creation of the world. He restored the fallen nature of man, reconciled Divinity and humanity, and made men partakers of the Divine nature (2Pet 1:4).
Having accomplished the work which the Father gave Him to do, Christ was glorified also in His human nature with that glory which He as God had before the world was (Jn 17:5), and sat in His humanity at the right hand of God the Father, waiting until His enemies should be laid at the footstool of His feet (Heb 10:13).
Having been made for all those who obey Him the cause of eternal salvation (Heb 5:9), Christ remains even after His ascension known in two natures without confusion (Dogmatikon of the sixth tone), bearing two wills according to each nature unto the ages (Sunday canon of the fifth tone, troparion of the eighth eirmos), but His glorified body cannot now suffer and does not need anything, while in accordance with this His human will, too, cannot diverge from His Divine will in anything. But with this flesh Christ will come again on the last day to Judge the living and the dead, after which, as King not only according to His Divinity, but also according to His humanity, He will be subject to God the Father together with the whole of His eternal kingdom, so that God may be all in all. (I Cor 15:28).