The Last Judgment: Wearing Christ as a Garment

 And He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead,

whose kingdom shall have no end.

(Nicene Creed)

At each Divine Liturgy we do profess a belief that Jesus Christ is Lord who will one day return to earth to judge all humanity when He comes in His Kingdom transforming everything into that Kingdom in which God’s will is done.  In the Orthodox calendar year, we also have one day devoted to commemorating this Final Judgment – a day which comes one week before we enter into the Great Lenten period.   We are reminded why we need to repent of sins before that Fearful Day of Judgment.   The Gospel lesson for this Sunday of the Last Judgement is Matthew 25:31-46, in which Christ clearly speaks about the judgment.  Interestingly, he speaks directly about the judgment not in dogmatic terms but as a parable, and does not mention a judgment against sin, but a judgment about whether we each loved the weak, the needy, the vulnerable, or not.

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

mercytoChrist

St. Gregory Nazianzus writes:

“Has a poor person come to you? Remember how poor you were and how much you have been enriched. Has someone in need of bread and drink, perhaps another Lazarus, thrown himself before your gates? Respect the mystical table that you have approached, the bread of which you have partaken, the cup in which you have participated, having been initiated through the sufferings of Christ.

A stranger has fallen before you, homeless, a foreigner. Receive into your house through him the one who became a stranger for your sake, even among his own, and dwelt in you through grace, and drew you toward the dwelling place on high. Become Zaccheus, who was a tax collector yesterday and today is magnanimous. Bear every fruit for the entry of Christ that you may show yourself as great, even if you are small in bodily height, nobly looking upon Christ. Does someone sick and wounded lie before you? Respect your health and the wounds from which Christ freed you.

‘If you see someone naked, cover him,’ honoring your robe of incorruption. This robe is Christ, ‘for as many as have been baptized into Christ have been clothed in Christ.’ If you receive a debtor who falls before you, tear up every contract, whether unjust of just. Remember the ten thousand talents that Christ forgave you. Do not become a cruel collector of a smaller debt. And this from whom? From your fellow slaves, you who have been forgiven so much by the Master. Otherwise you may have to give a recompense to his loving kindness, which you have not imitated, though you were given an example.”  (Festal Orations, pp 126-127)

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