On 15 February 2015, the Orthodox Church is on the Sunday Awful Judgement. His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral. Besides His Beatitude, His Grace Ieronim Sinaitul, Assistant Bishop to the Patriarch and His Grace Timotei Prahoveanul, Assistant Bishop to the Archdiocese of Bucharest con-celebrated assisted by a group of priests and deacons.
The Evangelical Parable of Saint Evangelist Matthew 25: 31-46 was read at the Divine Liturgy in all the Orthodox churches:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Universal judgement is complete, final and frightening
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel delivered a sermon in which he showed the difference between the private and universal judgement, underlining the fact that the last judgement, namely the universal one, is complete, final and frightening.
“God’s judgement of the man just after his death or the private judgement is incomplete and temporary, because the results of his good or bad deeds expect to be evaluated till the end of the world. This is why only the Last Judgement or final universal judgement is complete and final. The universal judgement is frightening through its context, form and content. First of all it is frightening through the context of the disorder of the universe which precedes it, as the same Saint Evangelist Matthew says in chapter 24:29: ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken”. This is the collapse of the visible material universe. Secondly, it is frightening through its form, namely through the solemnity and universality of this judgement, because Jesus Christ, the Saviour, comes in glory and with much power to judge all nations, namely all generations and peoples. Thirdly, this judgement is also frightening through the unexpected content it reveals. None of the humans, neither the merciful nor the unmerciful ever expected to learn that Jesus Christ, God-the-Man, was mysteriously present in the hungry, thirsty people, in the strangers or naked, in the sick and in the imprisoned ones. Also unexpected is the fact that the humans will be judged not only for the bad deeds, but also for the good they could have done but they have not. But the universal judgement is also frightening because it reveals the contrast between the lowliness of Christ, God-the-Man present in history, when He observes the man’s freedom, on one hand, and the glory of His justice when He evaluates the man’s responsibility, on the other hand”, His Beatitude said.
Merciful love – the ultimate criterion of the universal Judgement
Merciful love is the ultimate criterion of the universal judgement – emphasised the Patriarch of Romania in the speech addressed to those present in the Patriarchal Cathedral: “The Gospel of the Sunday Awful Judgement is devoted merciful love, while the ultimate criterion of the judgement of all people irrespective of their ethnic affiliation, culture, social position or age, is the merciful love. Those who showed merciful love to their fellow beings in their life on the earth will be blessed to get into the joy of the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity in the Kingdom of Heaven. And those who were indifferent and unmerciful to their fellow beings in distress are called cursed. This very severe name is a reproach-sentence which shows the seriousness of some people’s indifference to other people’s sufferance”.
Only when we do good deeds we are really free
At the same time the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church showed us that the Gospel of the Sunday Awful Judgement faces us with the mystery and purpose of our freedom: “That is, how can we use our freedom during our life on the earth? Have we used our freedom to cultivate merciful love for the fellow beings in distress or have we confused freedom with neglect and indifference towards them? In fact, the Gospel teaches us that only when we do good deeds we are really free and live life as a blessing from God”, His Beatitude has also said.
The charitable institutions of the Church stemmed from the light of the merciful love
His Beatitude has also shown that the Gospel of the Sunday Awful Judgement inspired especially the philanthropic or charitable work of the Church.
“Many other texts of the New Testament urge us to merciful love, but today’s Gospel charges us most, because it shows us that mercy is a duty and need for salvation or for getting eternal life. The merciful love proved in the good deeds done on the earth helps us to get salvation or eternal life in heaven. Today’s Gospel motivated both the mercy of the faithful as individual persons, and the appearance of the charitable institutions of the Church of the first centuries, starting first in the East and then in the West, when the Church organised houses to receive strangers, hostels for orphan children, hospitals for sick people and canteens for the poor. And the entire social work of charity or philanthropy of the Church stemmed from the Gospel of the merciful love of Christ, our Lord, has created a civilization in the course of time, namely the Christian civilization of charity or philanthropy. Even the European modern states, very secularised today, who have forgotten in great part that the Gospel of the merciful love and of human dignity was the source of social solidarity of the Christian society, have taken over from this civilization the message of responsibility for the people in distress, in needs, sickness and loneliness”, the Patriarch of Romania said.
Next Sunday, the Church will be on the Sunday of Adam’s Expulsion from Paradise.