+Fr. Stamati Sfikas, Annunciation Cathedral - Chicago, IL | April 17, 2020
Today, the Master of creation stands before Pilate, and the Creator of all is given up to the Cross, led away as a lamb of His own volition. He is transfixed with nails, His side pierced, and his lips are touched with the sponge, Who had rained down manna. The redeemer of the world is smitten on the cheek, and the Creator of all is mocked by His own servants. Oh, how great he masters love! For His crucifiers He besought His own Father saying: Forgive them this sin, for the lawless know not what they unjustly are doing. (5th Idiomelon of Apokathelosis Vespers)
In Christ, my beloved, there is no sin. And, therefore, there is no death. He accepted death because He assumed the whole tragedy of our life. He freely poured His life into death, in order to destroy it. Our Lord and Savior’s death is the final and great revelation of His perfect obedience and love. He suffered for us the excruciating pain of absolute solitude and alienation – we hear Him cry out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" Then, He accepted the ultimate horror of death with the agonizing cry, "It is finished." His cry was an indication that He was in control of His death and that His work of redemption was accomplished, it was finished, fulfilled. His death is the total fulfillment.
God, as we know, became man out of love for his creature, for you and me. And this, coupled with our ingratitude, raised him to the cross. God exhausts all the reserves of His goodness and mercy and man brings upon him all hatred and wickedness.
The love and charity of the Lord fervently desires to bring each of us to self-knowledge. The nailed hands of Christ want to unite us; to unite us as people and with God. The message of the Cross and His Crucifixion should serve to us a path to redemption.
Our merciful and loving Lord always utters the word of forgiveness, whoever the perpetrator of the crime may be, whatever his or her faults are. We witness this great love and by Him today as He addressed His Father upon the cross asking forgiveness for all creation. Let us even in these final days of our Lenten journey mimic our Lord and seek forgiveness and show an example of love and sacrifice to those we have sinned against. This is the example and command of the Crucified One above Golgotha to each of us! The events of Holy week, our Savior’s suffering, which in turn leads to His Anastasi, grants hope to all of us for eternal life. These acts truly show us how abundant Christ’s love for us is. All of what happened to Christ throughout His life occurred out of his own free will for our own salvation and we must constantly remember this as Orthodox Christians.
May we attain the love and faith necessary to endure the struggles of not only the remaining days of Holy Week but also every day of our lives, so that as one Eucharistic body in Christ, we may constantly celebrate and glorify with the apostles, with the prophets and with the saints, our Lord and Savior’s Glorious third day Resurrection.
A blessed Anastasi to all!