Christ is Risen!

John 1:1-17
Great & Holy Pascha

Today, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the great event of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His victory over the powers of death. “Christ is risen, and the demons are  fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns!” as we hear Saint John Chrysostom proclaim in his Paschal Homily.

The Church refers to Easter as the Pascha of the Lord because it sees His Resurrection as a new Passover. The word “Pascha” comes from the Hebrew word “Pesach,” which refers to the Jewish Passover from slavery in Egypt. Led by the prophet Moses, God delivered His people from slavery and led them into freedom in the Promised Land.

The early Christians understood the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be a new Passover, which frees us from the slavery to sin and leads us into true freedom. He is the true Lamb who has been sacrificed for us, and through His death He has conquered death forever.

This Passover of the Lord is one that we are invited to share in. The liturgical texts for Holy Week and Pascha speak not so much about historical events, but repeatedly refer to “today,” reminding us that Christ’s victory over death is a present reality and something that we need to enter into. For, through our baptism, we too have died with Him and have been given the promise of a new life in Him.

The light shines in the darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness but not overtaken by it. By this I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam but encountering God and being defeated – in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light and may become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

Saint Gregory the Theologian

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The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 1:1-17:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The First Witnesses

Matthew 28:1-20
Great & Holy Saturday

Today, on Great and Holy Saturday, we hear how the Myrrhbearing women went to the tomb early in the morning to anoint Jesus’ body, only to encounter an earthquake and an angel telling them that He had risen and had gone before them to Galilee. They were naturally astonished, by the angel told them not to be afraid but to go and tell the apostles that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. And then, on their way, they encountered Jesus Himself.

This news of the resurrection of Christ is indeed ‘a great earthquake’ and it is really beyond our comprehension. Yet these women’s devotion to Christ had brought them to the tomb in the early hours of the morning. They had followed Him closely during His passion and were now keeping watch with Him, intending to anoint His body. And, as a result of this faithfulness, this keeping vigil with the Lord they loved, they were to be the first to encounter the marvel of His Resurrection. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes,

An angel descended and rolled back the stone. He did not roll back the stone to provide a way of escape for the Lord but to show the world that the Lord had already risen. He rolled back the stone to help his fellow servants believe, not to help the Lord rise from the dead. He rolled back the stone for the sake of faith, because it had been rolled over the tomb for the sake of unbelief. He rolled back the stone so that He who took death captive might hold the title of Life. Pray, brothers, that the angel would descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns is heaven, so also the heart in which Christ remains dead and buried is a grave. May it be believed that just as He died, so was He transformed. Christ the man suffered, died and was buried; as God He lives, reigns, is and will be forever.

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The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 28:1-20:
After the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Amen.”

The Silence of the Tomb

Matthew 27:62-66
Great and Holy Friday

Today, on Great and Holy Friday, we stand still at the tomb of Christ. Last night lengthy accounts of His Passion were read at Matins and today the priest removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in white linen and places it on the altar. He then takes the Epitaphion, the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered, from the altar and this is carried in procession before being placed in a sepulchre that represents Christ’s tomb.

Here we see the final condescension of Christ our God, who submits to death for our sake. And yet we also begin to sense His victory over death. For Christ, having conquered death by His death, has now gone down to wake the dead. The earth is still and yet hell trembles. And, as we anticipate His resurrection from the dead, the Church prays,

When from the Tree the Arimathean took You down as a dead body, O Christ, who are the life of all, he buried You with myrrh and a shroud; and with love he embraced Your immaculate body with heart and lips; yet, shrouded with fear, he cried out to You, rejoicing, “Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of mankind!”

When in the new tomb You, the Redeemer of all, had been laid for the sake of all, Hell became a laughingstock; seeing You, he quaked with fear; the bars were smashed, the gates were shattered, the graves were opened, the dead arose; then Adam with thanksgiving cried out to You, rejoicing, “Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of mankind!”

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The Holy Gospel according to Matthew 27:62-66:
Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore order the sepulcher to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the sepulcher secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Life Poured Out

Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44; Matthew 26:40-75; 27:1-2
Holy & Great Thursday

Today we move from the focus on the Bridegroom that dominated the first three days of Holy Week to the Mystical Supper, which the Lord celebrated with His disciples on the eve of His passion. The Gospel readings describe how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, was betrayed by Judas, and was arrested. But the central theme is the Passover meal that He held with His disciples, and which became transformed into the memorial of His own death and resurrection, which, from this point onwards, would form the Church’s central liturgical act and become the Eucharistic Liturgy as we know it today.

It is in this Eucharist that Jesus Christ gives us the meaning of His coming Passion.

‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’

In the Eucharist and on the cross, Jesus Christ hands His life over to us. He gives Himself to us – He gives His life for the life of the world. This divine self-gift is already seen when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, kneeling before them and taking on the humblest of tasks. Indeed, it is already seen in the incarnation when, in the words of Saint Paul, He ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’

In handing His life over to us – in giving Himself to us – Jesus Christ presents us with a challenge. Will we receive Him into our lives and allow our own lives to be transformed by Him?

Let us all approach the mystical table in fear, and with pure souls let us receive the Bread. Let us stay at the Master’s side that we may see how He washes the feet of the disciples and wipes them with a towel; and let us do as we have seen, subjecting ourselves to each other and washing one another’s feet. For such is the commandment that Christ gave to His disciples.

Matins of Holy and Great Thursday

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The Holy Gospel according to Saints Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44; Matthew 26:40-75; 27:1-2:
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people.” Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.” When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter declared to him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples. Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor.

The Fountain of Tears

Matthew 26:6-16

Today we hear the account of the sinful woman who came to Jesus and anointed Him with a jar of expensive ointment. Although the disciples thought this wasteful, Jesus defended her, pointing out that she was anointing Him for burial.

This was certainly an extravagant act, and it points to the depths of her love and devotion, which the texts of today’s Matins contrast to the betrayal of Judas, going so far as to say that this act would be recounted wherever the Gospel is preached. Moreover, it is no coincidence that this woman is presented to us as a sinner, for, in anointing Jesus, she is actually pouring out her whole life before Him and expressing not only her love, but also her gratitude for the healing that she has found in Him.

As we continue into Holy Week, this woman’s reckless generosity is held up to us as an example. For, it is only by laying our own lives before Him, by being prepared to have our own hearts torn open, that we too will be able to find the healing that He offers.

The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. ‘Woe is me,’ she said, ‘for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the lust of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgements, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure.

Saint Kassiani the Hymnographer

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The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 26:6-16:
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Bridegroom Comes

Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-46; 26:1-2

Today we hear the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which sets the tone for the first half of Holy Week. Before telling this parable, Jesus reminds us that we do not know when the Son of Man will come, but that we need to be awake and watching for Him when He does.

The wise virgins that Jesus praises are the ones who were able to keep wait for Him because they had prepared themselves by bringing oil in their lamps, while the foolish virgins had brought no oil with them and had to go off looking for it, thereby missing the arrival of the Bridegroom. Saint Augustine writes,

What is the meaning of ‘took no oil with them’? What is ‘in their lamps’? In their hearts. For this reason the apostle wrote, ‘Indeed, this is our glory, the testimony of our conscience.’ There is the oil, the precious oil. This oil is of the gift of God. We can put oil into our lamps, but we ourselves cannot create the olive. See, I have oil. But did I create the oil? It is of the gift of God. So you have oil. Carry it with you. What does it mean to ‘carry it with you’? To have it within, where it is pleasing to God.

The virgins described in this parable represent all of us. And, as we continue into Holy Week and prepare to meet the Bridegroom, who is Jesus Christ Himself, we are called to ensure that we identify with the wise virgins, rather than with the foolish ones. As we sing at Matins,

Let us cast aside slothfulness and go to meet Christ, the immortal Bridegroom, with brightly shining lamps and with hymns, crying: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.

May there be sufficient oil of fellowship in the oil of our soul, and then we shall not lose our reward because we have gone to buy oil; and let us sing: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.

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The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-46; 26:1-2:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two of them will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man shall come.

“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’

“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 you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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 you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 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.”

When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

The Fruits of Repentance

Matthew 21:18-43

Today, on Great and Holy Monday, we hear the startling and possibly disturbing account of Jesus cursing the fig tree, which immediately withers. This incident is held up to us in today’s services as a call to bear the fruits of repentance. The fig tree was cursed because it did not bear fruit, and we are likewise exhorted in Matins today,

Mindful of what befell the fig tree, withered for its barrenness, O brethren, let us bear fruits worthy of repentance to Christ, who grants us His great mercy.

We are to be judged according to the fruits that we bear. Yet bearing fruit does not simply occur automatically; we cannot control the fruits that we bear. Bearing fruit is not simply about keeping the rules or fulfilling our religious obligations and then expecting God to reward us for our righteousness. Such a way is the way of the chief priests and elders, who thought they could control God. And Jesus tells them that ‘the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.’

Bearing fruit is something organic, something that occurs from within, a matter of the heart. And while we cannot control it, we can nurture the soil of our hearts so that it becomes conducive to growth. All of our Lenten disciplines and all of the services of Holy Week have been given to us as nourishment. If we want to bear fruit, then we need to make the space for truly entering into our hearts, coming to ourselves, and finding God there.

We need to make the effort, but our own efforts are not enough to produce the fruit of repentance, for this is a gift from God. Therefore, we need to pray as we will do at Great Compline tomorrow,

O God, the husbandman of all good trees and fruit, make fruitful my barren mind in Your compassion.

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The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 21:18-43:
At that time, Jesus was returning to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. ” And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men? ” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.

“Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”