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You know, it’s funny how you can hear something several times and be moved by it. Then, there is that one time you hear it, and it just knocks you down.

Very early this morning, this officially became the most moving sermon I’ve ever heard.

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.




Last night, as I attended the service of Holy Unction, most of my attention was on the service itself and related things: the readings, the hymnography, how joyfully relieved many people looked after being anointed with the Holy Unction, how happy my non-Orthodox girlfriend was after being anointed with oil from the shrine of St. Panteleimon at the Holy Mountain, how it was nice to have _two_ priests instead of just one this year….you get my point.

But, then, as Fr. Stephen began to deliver his reflection on the night’s events, I glanced forward and looked at the icon that we’ve been seeing a lot of this week: the Bridegroom.

I saw Christ, with the reed in his hand, the crown of thorns on his head, the look of sorrow on his face (yet, still glowing with love, somehow), and everything else about it. And I began to choke back tears.

As Fr. Stephen slipped into making announcements about a youth retreat, egg hunt, confessions, post-Pasha BBQ, etc., all I could do was fix my moist eyes on that icon and think, over and over, “My Lord….my Savior….what are they going to do to you?”

They will betray Him. They’ll arrest Him. They’ll flog Him. They’ll hurt Him so much that He’ll lack the strength to carry His own cross. They’ll label Him “King of the Jews”, nail Him to a tree on top of a hill, and leave Him there suspended for all to see and to mock. They’ll cast lots for His garments. They’ll watch—some in sadness, some in joy—as He cries out to the Father and takes His last painful breath.

And we’ll be there, in the crowd, as we continue this “walk through eternity” called Holy Week.

God’s blessings as you continue on the journey toward our Lord’s Pascha.