20140227_ravenna_lastjudgment_sqIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the The Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril, Enlightener of the Slavs and St Maron of Syria. Saints Cyril and Maron, pray for us!

This is the week of the Last Judgment as we walk towards Great Lent, and we keep vigil on repentance and prayers. As we reflect upon the fearsome Holy Scripture such as Daniel 7, and the Revelation of John, we are reminded that we are to be preparing every moment for spiritual battles within ourselves. When we consider the Last Judgment, we are reminded that there are wolves, sheep and goats.

There will be those who would lead us astray from our spiritual yearnings and the tender calls within our hearts to pray unto and to walk towards God. These are wolves (Ezekiel 13, Deuteronomy 18 and 1 John), even if many would disguise themselves in sheep’s clothing. We are to keep repenting and keep praying His Holy Name as our defense and our undivided attention, to avoid becoming distracted, or worse, persuaded to join the wolves and be lost from Christ our God the Shepherd, as we reflect on Jude 1:11-25.

The 4th century Syrian monk St Maron spent most of his time in the open spaces praying and fasting, and was gifted by God with the spiritual gifts of healing the sick and exorcism. To those who came to the elder, he would teach them to focus on their salvation and to turn away from anger and material desires. St Maron reminded us that we cannot tend to 2 opposing journeys, material desires, and God.

The clearest our Christ taught us was, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven, and come and follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).

We are in the world, and yet we are not to be indulging or drowning in it. Therefore, when we are confronted by wolves, this is one of the yardsticks for us to hold up, to discern where these people are pointing us to.

The Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles St Cyril, Enlightener of the Slavs (and he took the name Constantine when he assumed the Schema), together with his brother St Methodios, gave us many gifts from God, including the Slavonic alphabet, and subsequently the translation of the Gospel, Epistles, Psalter and liturgical books. Although St Cyril longed for solitude, God’s Will intended that they were sent out as missionaries, and helped many turned to Christ. St Cyril showed us that we are to abide by God’s Will, and allow Him to refine us to walk an acceptable journey closer and closer to Him.

Let us be mindful that no one knows of the Last Judgment and when it will descend upon us. Fire means different things to different people. To those who desire God and accept His consuming and refining fire, our repentance and prayers will bring an illuminating warmth to us. To those who have turned away from Christ and be persuaded by the wolves, the books that will reveal our journeys in the Book of Daniel will sear us by our own darkness.

As we look around us in the world, we pray for the martyrdom and suffering of many of our brethren, who shone forth with their undying faith in Christ no matter what evil ones do to them. They have placed their complete faith unto God, just as we reflect upon Psalm 3. These saints we pray for, and may they pray for us. Christ our Lord too showed us as our pristine example to be Christians, where we are to glorify God in all things, whether we may be blissfully enjoying God’s consolations, or going through the crucible of refinement for our journey towards Him (Luke 23:1-34, 44-56).

Let us always remain vigilant, to discern the many wolves lying in wait before us, and to persist in being the sheep of our Shepherd and Christ, for therein lies our salvation, our true hope, and our desire to be reunited with Him. In the darkness that may haunt us in our journeys, do not be afraid, and call on His Holy Name in day and in night, in bliss and in calamity:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Daniel 7:9-10
Psalm 3
Luke 23:1-34, 44-56
Jude 1:11-25