Thursday, February 23, 2012

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for Meatfare 2012

The Arabic original, given in the Church of St. Nicholas in Barsa, can be found here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

This Sunday is known in the Church as the Sunday of the Judgment because on this day the Gospel passage about the judgment is read to us. We know that immediately before this day comes the Saturday designated for the dead. This is because on the last day, when all the dead rise from the ends of the earth, the Bible says that all people, living and dead, will be gathered together for judgment, for the accounting that is at the very same time the resurrection! This is why Soul Saturday is an image of the Saturday of Light and so the Sunday of the Judgment is also an image of Easter because, as the dead are in the graves, so too was Christ in the tomb on the Saturday of Light before the resurrection was proclaimed on the day of Easter.

The Day of the Judgment preceding the great fast is also known as Meatfare Sunday, in which we eat meat for the last time, since it is required in the Church for the committed faithful to fast from meat starting tomorrow. This coming Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday and after it we fast for forty days from meat and cheese.

What does the Gospel teach us today?

It teaches us something basic, that after our sojourn on this earth we will be judged in particular about our love for others, especially the people in need who are around us. As one of the fathers says, the fast is nothing other than abstinence for the sake of love. That is, we deny ourselves in order to give to others this true love that the Lord Jesus revealed to us when He came into the world. We pray in order to purify ourselves and become united to the Lord Jesus. We fast from material things and not only from fatty foods. Indeed, we fast from superfluous luxuries that are not necessary in our life! The person who is faithful in the fast abandons everything external in order to focus on himself and especially if he has sins he should attempt to be freed of them, to cleanse himself, just as when someone cleans their house, they clean everything so that the house will be "clean." What is more important, a house or a person's interior soul, which is much more important than material, external things?

This is the time in which the Church has arranged for us to purify, to cleanse our hearts. Let every person who has jealousy, envy, or any idle quality, try during the fast to become free of it, or at the very least to combat them and control them in order to become someone who is pure, loving, generous, open-minded, and with a heart for all people. This is Christianity. If we are not like this, we are not Christians and we are lying to God and to the people. We ask God to open our hearts and for this fast to be an opportunity for us to glorify God and to live with Him, amen.

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