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HOLY AND GREAT TUESDAY EVENING

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Rev. Dr. Constantine G. Christofis, ECONOMOS

The service for Holy and Great Tuesday Evening is the Orthros (Matins) for Holy Wednesday celebrated by anticipation. Indeed, why should not the Universal Church of God be eager and vigilant in its worship services since she awaits on Pascha Eve the sacramental manifestation of: "the eighth day," the dawn of a new beginning, the unwaning day of the heavenly Kingdom, the day of resurrection (Eusebius), the symbol of the future age embraced by the power of the Resurrection (Origen), the day of mercy and forgiveness from the side of God to the side of man (Clement of Alexandria), the true circumcision from the devil's deceit and wickedness (Justin Martyr), "the great day of the Lord" (Zep 1:14), and the day of just judgment (Gregory of Nyssa)?

The members of the Church prayerfully and with psalmody, repentance, almsgiving, contrition, love, fasting, humility, unity, and in the Spirit of God desire to behold and concretely experience their Bridegroom's complete and perfect bodily resurrection from the dead (exanastasin). Who is this Bridegroom? He is Christ the Savior, Lord and Redeemer, the Master of the Universe, the Son of Man, and the Only-Begotten of the Father of All. And these Christians taste of His Resurrection through His deified, immortal, naturally incorruptible, life-giving, awesome and heavenly Mysteries. The Mysteries, or the Eucharist, are His very Flesh and Blood. The Eucharist equals the Church; and we become the Church's members through worthy Communion with the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, during the celebration of the Paschal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. However, before we can correctly encounter the glory of the Empty Tomb, our holy Fathers have deemed it necessary that we heed this evening's Gospel reading taken from the Gospel of St. John 12:17-50.

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:23-24). With these timely words, the Lord, in His unfathomable wisdom and righteousness, has revealed to us the means to the Father's spiritual paradise. This access key is martyrdom. Although, here, the Master is referring directly to His own bodily descent into the grave and three day glorious Resurrection, He also teaches us that imitating His life-style and mannerisms is authentic martyrdom. Even if the opportunity does not arise for us to be baptized in our own blood, or to suffer a martyrdom by death, the course of martyrdom is still open to us. Practicing the virtues, living the life of the Holy Spirit and putting on a Christ-like disposition is the road of martyrdom. The life of Christ exposes the falsehood of the life of the prince of this world; and those who embrace Christ shall suffer, indeed, here on earth, but shall triumph in eternal bliss in the Kingdom of the Heavens. "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me the Father will honor him" (Jn 12:25-26). Therefore, let us walk steadfastly in the Light so the darkness will not overtake us (Jn 12:35). "Believe in the Light so that you may become sons of light" (v. 36).

Since Christ cautions us in tonight's Gospel (v.47, 48) that He came into this world as a savior and not as a judge, and that our judgment on the last day will be our deaf ear to His Father's commands outlined in the Gospel, let us begin this very evening to read the Scriptures daily and faithfully. We sin and betray our salvation when we are ignorant of the divine laws. Whoever reads the Scriptures with attention and conscientiously implements their teaching, shall acquire great faith and the ability to commune worthily with their Author in the Mysteries -- the Author of all creation -- Jesus Christ. The familiar liturgical exclamation, "Let us be attentive," keeps us vigilant to receive the Bridegroom in a proper state of soul and body, when He shall come and snatch us in the dead of night and transport us to the Everlasting Throne of Glory, so we may give account of our earthly life's thoughts and deeds. May this emigration from the Church on earth to the Church in heaven afford us an everlasting citizenship with God and His Saints. For to Christ our true God, belongs all the praise, honor and glory, together with His Father and Holy Spirit, Trinity One in Essence and Undivided, both now and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

© 1997 C. Christofis

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