Watch father Pimen Vlad speak to us about Holy Week, conducting a small analysis of the most important moments from the week of Pascha.
And suddenly Father Nectarios recovered from this state and quickly turned to the other father to say, “Look, father, our candles were lit.” There was no father there anymore. He was either ashamed and ran away fast, or maybe it was the devil, taking this form just to weaken their faith. And God strengthened it because the candles of the whole group were lit by a lightning that came to the Holy Sepulcher, and then to them. An Athonite Cell Joys from the Holy Mountain Here we are again, my dears! I am now in the orchard. It is very beautiful, quiet, with the trees in blossom. Look, behind me I have a tree in blossom. On the other side also, all over. It is beautiful. The smell of spring. Of life. What does that mean? Let’s take a look. We are in Passion Week. Let’s look at Saturday – The Resurrection of Lazarus… What does resurrection mean? We see it in spring, it always shows us. Through insects, through butterflies, through birds, through lizards, snakes – all these things which were dormant, as if they were dead; suddenly they come to life. We look at the vine, which is a dry, dead twig, as it begins to give shoots, to grow, to come to life! You can see God’s work in all this. Do you understand? And look, let’s go back to the resurrection of Lazarus Saturday: What did the Savior want to show us by this? Exactly a week before His Resurrection? He wanted to show us that He is Lord over death and over life. What did he say? Just think, four days after his death Lazarus already smelled in that heat of Jerusalem. “Lazarus, come out!” He said it with power, as God. And Lazarus listened and came! So his soul returned to the body. And why did the Savior do this? So that in the moments that will come to pass, when he will be sold, beaten, tortured, spat upon, crucified – the disciples may not be diminished. To let them know that He is God Almighty Who can even come out of the grave. He showed them that. Despite that we see this week… The resurrection of Lazarus, and after that the entrance into Jerusalem, triumphantly we could say. He was going to Jerusalem where He knew that the Jews had so often wanted to kill him. But the disciples and everyone around them seeing this, because we are not just talking about the 12 Apostles, but also everyone else who saw the resurrection of Lazarus, they thought, “Well, He will go to Jerusalem and take possession there of the kingdom and everything! Because He is Almighty!” But no. What did the Savior do? He got on a donkey! On the humblest animal, on one of those donkeys… You know, as we say nowadays, He came in the poorest car there is, not in a limousine, not in anything like that! The most miserable car that exists and the most simple. Yes! The savior came, He was received by everyone, they lay clothes on the path, olive branches, palms… They waited for Him, received Him and sang: Hosanna, Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Think about it! Bethany was not far away. The elders of Jerusalem soon heard that he had resurrected Lazarus, somebody who had been dead for 4 days. They were afraid of him.
Why? Because they were not living according to God! They were breaking all the rules. And it suited them to be under Roman rule. And then they were afraid, especially when they saw that all the people were singing Him praises. So they said to the Savior, “Can’t You hear what they’re saying?” And He says: “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out.” Because He was God. Yes. And after that, what did the Savior do? On Great Thursday – Holy Liturgy! He gave us the Holy Liturgy, His Body and Blood. He gathered all the disciples there and gave them Holy Communion. And He said we should always do this too. And I will return to this. I hope there is no Christian who will say that because of his carelessness, that he did not confess in this fast! That he didn’t struggle to fast a little… That would be a shame! There are three days left, maybe he should do his best, because he doesn’t live in one of those countries where one can’t find priests or churches. It’s an Orthodox country. So let everyone do their best, for the Savior has given us this great gift – His Body and Blood. For the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting. And to have strength here on earth to go forward. And we see, of the 12 that were close to him, one preferred money; he sold Him! Do you see that? There will always be such a thing in this world! Out of 12 people, one who sells. One of the closest. He preferred the material!
He had seen so many miracles, just think! He saw the healing of the blind, the lame, of lepers and Lazarus being resurrected! And yet he preferred money… Can you imagine, in his inner self how money-loving he was? The Savior did not deprive him of anything, He gave him Communion too, He also gave him the gift of miracle working: as we see, in another period, also in the Gospel, when He sent them to heal, to do good to people in the cities. Yes. And he had the gift of working miracles and everything… Do you see what it means to have a passion for the material, for money, for everything? It means we lose God, we lose eternal life! Yes! And then the Savior, after the Last Supper, when He gave us the Holy Liturgy, He came…they caught Him… Do you think God couldn’t protect Himself? He humbly let them catch Him, to beat Him, to torture Him. Think about it!
Do you know how much beating He received?! In those days there were Roman whips that had hooks on the end, when it struck, it also tore off a piece of meat. There was not a centimeter of the Savior’s body left whole. So He was all just a wound. And then what did He do? They put a cross on His back – just think, a cross, it was thick and tall, large… it was about 100 kilos. They put it on His back. He was human too! We set aside His divinity, He suffered these pains as a man, like we would suffer them. So… He was hungry, He was starving the cross was on His back! He fell, He rose, He was beaten. That is the way of the cross. Do you see what the way of the cross means? Because each person has their own cross. We want the wide, beautiful road, if possible in revelry and delight. No! The Savior has marked out for us the way of the cross. And then crucifixion! What did the Savior do at the crucifixion? He stretched out His hands on the cross. That is, He embraced us all with His love. He said: Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they are doing! See how much love? He sacrificed Himself for us, forgave us and He did not remain in the tomb. You see how careful the Jews were because they too knew that He was Almighty, that He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They said, “Let’s make sure, let’s put up security, let’s keep the situation under control!” But it was precisely to their own detriment that they did this because the soldiers who were there saw the Resurrection. That noise, when the angel came and threw the stone aside and the Savior came out of the tomb!
And they remained as dead, they fainted, because they were not prepared to see all the glory of God. Yes! And what did they do? They fled quickly afterwards into the city and told all this to the city’s elders. And what did the elders do? Did they repent? No! “Quick, take some money too, hide, disappear from the area and we’ll also buy the bigwigs of society with money and we’ll sort it out. Let it not be known that He has risen!” We are attached to this matter so much and we care so much about this life, for a few years here. We want to be masters, to lay our hands on things, to control others, to have more, to live well…But we lose eternity, my dear ones. We lose. And what did the Savior do? He Rose! He Rose. They could not hold Him. And not only that; Where did He go when they crucified Him? He went straight to hell! The devil, what did he say? “He’s ours! He came to hell too!” But why did He go there? To bring out all who waited for Him, all who believed in Him. He broke open the gates of hell and brought them all out and bound Satan the great, the devil, with chains. Yes.. Christ was Master over everything. And He brought them all out, Adam and Eve and all our ancestors who were waiting for Him, He took them out. Can you imagine?
And we have another beautiful example: the first to go to heaven was the thief on the cross. Two robbers were crucified next to Him, one on the right and one on the left. What did one say? “Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom!” And what did the Savior say to him? “Today you will be with Me in Heaven!” Today! That is, the moment He went, He took him straight to Heaven. He was the first to be taken to Heaven. The other cursed Him and… where did he go? In the other place. What do we do? Do we also ask the Savior to remember us, to receive us there, to forgive us? Yes, dear ones. And just think, the Mother of God, what she suffered as a mother, those of you who are mothers… The pain of seeing your child taken away, beaten, tortured, unable to do anything, surrounded by soldiers and finally He was crucified. How many times did she faint on the way, supported by the other myrrhbearers who were beside her. How much she suffered! And what did the Savior say to them, to whom did He first appear? Not to the apostles, no. To the Myrrhbearers! To whom? To the Mother of God, to Mary Magdalene; They were the ones who went there and He told them, “Rejoice!” Do you understand? Rejoice!” Meaning, “Behold, I have conquered all, death… I am Lord of all! Rejoice!” Yes, my dear ones, if we made a small effort, we’re ready to rejoice! Rejoice at the Resurrection of the Lord! You see how beautiful the Resurrection of the Lord is, how joyful. At the same time nature is resurrected. Everything around us, everything is rejoicing, birds are singing, we constantly have birds singing here, I don’t know if you can hear, they are rejoicing, praising God every day. Yes! What can I say?
The Savior left us a sign of his Resurrection, every year, the Holy Light which comes to Jerusalem. I remember a priest from here in Greece, it was Archim. Nectarios. He was very pious, he was the abbot of a monastery, he used to go to Jerusalem permanently for Pascha, for the Holy Resurrection. And one time he was right up there with his group, with the people going to Golgotha. Those of you who have been there know where Golgotha is, and from there he could see the Holy Sepulcher. So a monk, let’s say, approaches them, dressed in monk’s clothes, father Nectarios didn’t know what he was, a monk, a bishop, something… He says: “What’s all the excitement about? No Holy Light is coming! Don’t go by these. All lies! ” Father Nectarios couldn’t believe what he was hearing from someone in monk’s clothes “How can you say that to me? Don’t you realize?” The other didn’t acknowledge. They continued praying in those moments when the patriarch was praying too. And all of a sudden lightning came from above and the whole group had their candles lite in their hands! Can you imagine, tears, joy, all of them crying out “Christ is Risen!”
And suddenly Father Nectarios recovered from this state and quickly turned to the other father to say, “Look, father, our candles were lit.” There was no father there anymore. He was either ashamed and ran away fast, or maybe it was the devil, taking this form just to weaken their faith. And God strengthened it because the candles of their whole group were lit by a lightning that came to the Holy Sepulcher, and then to them. Yes, many miracles and signs. [The Holy Light which comes at Pascha appears miraculously] I had seen a recording, somewhere, filmed around 1960, something like that, with an old priest, Mitrofan, who, around 1920 something or 1930 stayed for a few years at the Holy Sepulcher. He helped out, he was there as a brother, he was tonsured a monk and he tells the story of when he was there as a brother. He also had the desire to see, to understand what the Holy Light is about. To see for himself, with his own eyes, to be sure. And, of course, always helping out there at the Holy Sepulcher, doing the cleaning, he oriented himself before the Service of the Coming of the Holy Light – and he hid when they closed the Holy Sepulcher, he climbed into the vault, up there. And climbing higher up there, he stayed hidden and wanted to see what was going on. When the patriarch went in there, when he began to pray, he saw a ball of light coming down from above, spreading out, somehow it shattered over the Holy Sepulcher, the cotton wool caught fire, and the candles in the patriarch’s hand were lit.
And he tells us that he saw it with his own eyes and was convinced that there is indeed a great miracle there, with the coming of the Holy Light to Jerusalem. Yes, my dear ones! I remember another beautiful thing, told by father Roman Braga, who lived in America. A Romanian priest. He wrote a book. He says that somewhere in Russia when communism was in its heyday, it was forbidden to go to church, the churches were demolished, there were no more priests except secretly. So what happened?
Once, being Pascha, they used to have big meetings so that everyone would gather, lest someone go to church! Well, and as they were going there, their leader met a priest on the way who was trying to sneak off somewhere to do a service… He immediately ordered the priest to be caught and brought on stage. And of course one of their leaders was speaking on stage, everybody was applauding and they brought the priest there, as they say, pulling him by his beard, full of blood: they beat him, pulled out his beard, and put him on stage. The leader said, “Listen to me! Do you see these 50,000 people here? They don’t worship God! They all worship me! If you don’t get them to worship God in two minutes, I’ll execute you on the spot!” he said, being sure of his power, out of pride. And then the priest shook himself a little, he straightened up, he cleared his throat a little as he had been beaten, he looked at the crowd for a few moments – it was completely quiet. And then, with all his heart, the priest cried out: “BROTHERS, CHRIST IS RISEN!”. For two seconds there was silence and then it was as if angels in the sky were shouting too, not just that crowd of 50,000… It was like a roar: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” So all that crowd shouted “He is Risen Indeed!” Then the priest turned to this leader of communism and said “My demonstration is over.” And he pushed him aside, walked off the podium and left. The leader didn’t dare do anything, or say anything. Afterwards apparently he wrote a letter to Stalin and said, “These people praise us only with their lips, their hearts are away from us. They still worship God. In order to do something to them, to make them ours, we have to destroy their inner self, their interior!” Meaning their heart, their soul. And this is what they are trying to do now, what they are succeeding to do through the media and all the madness of the world, to destroy our souls. Yes, my dear ones. Since we won’t see each other until after the Resurrection, I told you a few things, about the Resurrection, about this Week, about how to prepare a little before the Resurrection, as we should with a little more effort, a little more fasting, a little more prayer, to do a good deed. Those who have not confessed – run quickly and prepare for the feast of the Holy Resurrection. To spend it properly, with love, spiritually. And let’s not forget, we talk a lot about death being around us, it was talked about for two years, and now again… If there is so much talk about death, that we will die, that it will be soon…and this that and the other, what do we do? We gather things around us, we stock up, to have everything, but we are told we are dying. What do we do? For the soul? For eternity? What are we taking with us? All this material stuff remains. Everything we gather remains. Let’s prepare a little for the soul too, as little as possible, although we should give the most there! Because we are leaving soon, we don’t know when. But we will leave. And let us go with love to the other side, to know that we have prepared a place for ourselves on the other side: through confession, through good deeds, through prayer, through everything we have done, we have prepared our place on the other side. Yes, my dear ones! Let’s have courage! And let’s prepare a little. And since we will hear from each other again, if the good Lord and the Mother of God want, after the Resurrection, I will tell you now, with all my heart, my dear ones: CHRIST IS RISEN!
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