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Brief Notes for Sermons

Cheese-Fare Sunday, 1956
The Sunday of the Dread Judgment


Today is the Sunday of the Dread Judgment, and so it is natural for us to speak of the Dread Judgment and the signs of the end of the world. No one knows that day: only God knows it, but the signs of its approach are given in the Gospels and the Revelations (Apocalypse) of St. John the Theologian. For the most part, Revelations speaks symbolically and cryptically of the events of the end of the world and of the Dread Judgment, but the Holy Fathers have explained them, and there is the pure authentic tradition of the Church that also tells us the signs of the approach of the end of the world and the Dread Judgment. Before the end of life on earth there will be confusion, wars, civil strife, hunger, and earthquakes. People will suffer from fear; their hearts will fail from awaiting disasters. There will be neither spiritual life nor the joy of being alive, but a tortuous state of falling away from life. The falling away will not be from spiritual life only, but also from faith. The Son of Man, when He comes - will He find faith on the earth? People will become proud and ungrateful, refuting the Law of God. Together with a falling away from spiritual life there will also be a diminishing of moral life. Good will be exhausted and evil will grow. It is about this time that the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his divinely-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He himself says that he was "in the spirit" - meaning that the Holy Spirit Itself was in him - when the fate of the Church and the world was revealed to him in various symbols. That is why this is a Divine Revelation. He presents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides in the wilderness during these times. She is not obvious in life. This is happening now in Russia.

In worldly life, those forces preparing for the appearance of the Antichrist will be of primary significance. The Antichrist will be a man, not the devil incarnate. "Anti" is a word meaning "old," or "instead of," or "against." That man will want to exist instead of Christ, to take His place and to have that which is Christ's. He will want to have the same kind of influence and power over the entire world. Indeed, he will obtain that power before he perishes and the entire world perishes. He will have a helper, a magus, who will do his will through the power of false miracles, and kill those that do not recognize the power of the Antichrist. Before the destruction of the Antichrist, two righteous men will appear to condemn him. The magus will kill them, and for three days their bodies will lie unburied, and the Antichrist and his servants will rejoice to the utmost. Then suddenly these righteous men will be resurrected, and the entire army of the Antichrist will suddenly fall down dead, killed by the force of the Holy Spirit.

But what is known about the person of the Antichrist? His exact origin is unknown. His father is completely unknown and his mother a vile, false virgin. He will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan. The indication of this is that Jacob, when dying, prophesied about the future heirs of his children, and concerning Dan, he said that among his heirs "shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horses' heels so that his rider shall fall backwards." This symbolizes that the Antichrist shall act through cleverness and evil. In Revelation, St. John the Theologian speaks of the salvation of the sons of Israel, saying that before the end of the world many Jews will be converted to Christ, but in the list of tribes that are saved, there is no mention of the tribe of Dan. The Antichrist will be very clever and gifted, with a certain ability to deal with people. He will be charming and gentle. The appearance of the Antichrist is already being prepared before his coming: "The mystery doth already work ..."

First of all, the forces preparing for his coming fight against lawful monarchical rule. The holy Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist cannot appear until "the one who restraineth" is put aside. John Chrysostom explains that the "one who restraineth" refers to a lawful, pious regime. Such a power struggles with evil. "The mystery" working in the world does not want this, does not want the struggle against evil by the power of a pious ruler - quite the opposite. It wants the rule of lawlessness, and when it achieves this, nothing more will stop the appearance of the Antichrist. He will not only be clever and charming, he will be merciful and do works of charity for the sake of bolstering his control. And when he strengthens his control to the point where the entire world recognizes him, then he will reveal his face. He will choose Jerusalem because it was precisely there that the Saviour revealed His Divine teaching and His Person, and the whole world was called to the blessedness of virtue and salvation. But the world did not accept Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem, and during the Antichrist's reign Jerusalem will become the capital of the world that has accepted his rule.

Reaching the summit of power, the Antichrist will demand people acknowledge that he has achieved what no earthly power and no one else has been able to do, and will demand worship of himself as an exalted being - a god. He will do only what pleases people, under the condition that they recognize him as the Supreme Power. He will provide opportunities for Church life, allow her to hold services, and promise that wonderful temples will be built, provided that he be recognized as "Supreme Being" and worshipped. He will have a personal hatred for Christ. He will thrive on this hatred and will rejoice in people's apostasy from Christ and the Church. There will be a mass falling away from the faith, during which many bishops will betray the faith, and point to the wonderful position of the Church as justification. A search for compromise will be the characteristic state of the people's faith. Directness of confession will vanish. People will subtly justify their fall, and solicitous evil will support such a general state of mind. People will grow used to apostatizing from the truth and will be accustomed to the sweetness of compromise and sin. The Antichrist will allow people anything as long as they, falling down before him, worship him. This will not be a new attitude toward people: the Roman Caesars were also prepared to grant Christians freedom if they would recognize the emperor's divinity and supreme divine power. They martyred Christians only because they confessed: "One God do we worship, and Him alone do we serve." The whole world will be conquered by him, and he will then reveal his hatred for Christ and Christianity.

How will we see? With spiritual sight. Even now, righteous people see at death that which other people around them do not see. The trumpets will sound in souls and consciences. Everything will become clear in the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Dread Judgment, tells of the Ancient of Days upon His throne, and before Him a river of fire. Fire is a purifying element. Fire burns sin; sin also is burned up by sorrow. If sin has become part of a man, it burns the man himself. Then fire will flare up inside man. Seeing the Cross, some will rejoice and others will fall into despair, confusion, horror. Thus people will be separated instantly. In the Gospel narrative, some stand on the right hand, others on the left hand of the Judge -- they are separated by their inner consciousness. The very state of a person's soul casts him to one or the other side, to the right or to the left. However much more consciously and diligently a person strove toward God in his life, so much the greater his joy when he hears the words: "Come, ye blessed." And on the other hand, the same words will kindle a fire of horror and suffering in those that did not desire Him, or avoided or fought or mocked Him in their lives. The Dread Judgment knows no witness or court records. Everything is inscribed in the souls of men, and these inscriptions, these "books," will be opened. Everything will become clear to all and to oneself; the state of a person's soul sends him to the right or the left. Some will go to the place of rejoicing, others to the place of horror. When the books have been opened it will become clear to all that the root of all transgressions is in a man's soul. Consider a drunkard or a fornicator: when the body dies, some think the sin, too, has died. No -- the inclination to sin was in the soul, and to the soul the sin was sweet. And if the soul has not repented of this sin, has not freed itself of it, it will come to the Dread Judgment with the same desire for the sweetness of sin and "never sate this desire." There will be the suffering of hatred and wrath in this soul. This is the state of hell. "The fiery Gehenna" - this is the inner fire, the fire of weakness and anger, and here will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth of powerless wrath.

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