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March 12, 2010

Sermon for the Fourth Friday of Great Lent

CATECHESIS 67: That to Feast Each Day and to Easter to the Lord God Consists in the Death of the Passions and the Resurrection of the Virtues.

by St. Theodore the Studite

For the Fourth Friday of Great Lent

Brethren and fathers, the day of Pascha is drawing near, since with God’s help we have passed the mid-point of the fast. But are we pressing forward to reach the Pascha that comes and goes? Have we not achieved this year after year? The present Pascha too will pass, for there is nothing lasting in the present age, but, "All our days pass like a shadow",[1] and our life travels like a rapid rider, until it has driven us to the final boundary of life. ‘What’, someone says, ‘is Pascha not to be desired?’ Of course, it very much is to be desired. How could it not be? But we accomplish Pascha every day. And what is this? Cleansing from sins, contrition of heart, tears of compunction, a clean conscience, the "death of the parts of us that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire",[2] and any other evil that is at work. One who has been found worthy in all this does not easter and celebrate a much longed for feast to the Lord just once a year, but, we may say, does so each day. Someone, on the other hand, who does not have all the foregoing, but is held fast by the passions, cannot celebrate. For how can someone celebrate whose god is their stomach?[3] Or who is aflame with fleshly lust? Or melted by the heat of jealousy? Or drowned by the love of money? Or enslaved to vainglory? Or caught up by the other passions. No one could possibly say that someone with a high fever was at rest, or that someone shipwrecked was making a good voyage. It simply isn’t possible. It is impossible for someone who has become dark to be enlightened, or for someone possessed by sins to celebrate. But for you, brothers, we are confident of better things, ones that promise salvation. For our way of life is nothing other than preparation[4] for a feast. Look at the reality: psalmody succeeds psalmody; reading, reading; study, study; prayer, prayer, like a wheel drawing us and joining us to God. How truly excellent is this way of life, how supremely excellent! How blessed this life and thrice-blessed! So then, since we have been shown the sought for Pascha, my honoured brothers, let us make it our aim, and, as far as we can, celebrate it every day, through the death of the passions and the resurrection of the virtues, in imitation of the Lord, "because he too suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps".[5] And I say this, not so we become judges of the others — "for each has their own load to carry"[6] — but so that, conscious of the grace that has been given us by God, we may give thanks to the Giver, glorify the Benefactor, repay the Master, who has not only granted our present blessings, but also, to those who genuinely serve Him to the end, He will also give those that are in His promises, that eternal and heavenly Pascha. May we all attain it, by the grace and love for humankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


[1] Psalm 143:4.

[2] Colossians 3:5.

[3] Cf. Philippians 3:19.

[4] The ordinary Greek word for ‘preparation’, paraskevi, in Christian Greek also means Friday, in particular Good Friday, the ‘preparation’ for Pascha.

[5] 1 Peter 2:21. The critical editions have the second person throughout.

[6] Galatians 6:5.