How to be resurrected.

Homily 540 – 6GL
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 9, 2023
Epistle:  (247) – Philippians 4:4-9
Gospel:  (41) – John 12:1-18

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

If you have been following along during the services of Great Lent, you may have noticed that up to now, we have been preparing ourselves.

We have recognized truth, both proclaimed by the Ecumenical Councils, then by St. Gregory Palamas.  St. Gregory showed us how to enter into ourselves, by focusing on Christ, and being transformed as a result.

The Cross tells us of what Christ faced, and of what we face, through our self-denial, modeled on His self-denial.

St. John of the Ladder shows us the path we must climb to reach complete self-denial.  His ladder to the Divine is the Ladder that allows us to ascend our cross.

And St. Mary of Egypt, that blessed woman of the desert, who shows us that we repent, and continue to repent, until we receive Christ.  Then we repent again.

Today, yesterday actually, the journey changes.  Great Lent is over, and we begin to prepare not ourselves, but Christ.  We prepare the Lord for His Passion, and His Resurrection.

It is probably important to recognize here that we aren’t reenactors, and that we aren’t just remembering.  We are experiencing – first hand – what Christ experiences in the midst of this time.

When the jar of spices is broken and used to anoint Christ in anticipation of His death and burial, we are the ones taking that action.  When the entrance is made into Jerusalem, recognizing Jesus as the Conqueror He is, we are the ones putting our palm fronds and branches before Him.

We are the ones shouting “Hosannah!”  Or are we just there to witness the spectacle?  Are we just wanting to see and experience an event, an entertainment of sorts?

The sideshow of wanting to witness the man raised from the dead, and not necessarily the One who raised him?  Was it the entrance of the King, or did they come to see a Circus coming into town?  Many of the crowd didn’t know Jesus.

After all, He didn’t have a social media following.  He wasn’t an influencer.  Those who had never encountered Christ didn’t know what He looked like.  He could wander through the Temple itself unrecognized.  He didn’t have a PR strategist, a publicist, or even a personal assistant.

He had a reputation, for sure – the word of mouth was powerful.  But was it in fact true?  Was Jesus of Nazareth a preacher, a prophet, even the Messiah?  Or a political revolutionary to overthrow the Romans?  Or maybe, just a scam artist?

Either way, whether through devotion or morbid curiosity, people wanted to see Him.  Wanted to experience Him in some way.  We are those people.

But we also need to remember that we are also the ones who will betray Him.  Who will abandon Him.  Who will deny Him.

It seems far fetched to us who cry with joy over the entrance of the King into Jerusalem.  But we know it to be true.

We experience it every day.  There are moments of recognition of Christ’s triumph, followed by moments of denial and abandonment.  That is the life we live as fallen humanity.

We are offered forgiveness, that we might begin again, in repentance.  We try to follow St. Paul and his admonition to think on virtuous things, beautiful things, pure and honorable things, just things.  And then, somehow, we end up thinking thoughts of jealousy, greed, lust.

All the Apostles and disciples, including the betrayer, told Christ they were prepared to die with Him.  They offered their own allegiance, and promise, of the death of their ego, the sacrifice of their individuality and will, to be one with Christ.

But they couldn’t do it.  St. John came the closest, and stayed at the foot of the Cross.

The ones who didn’t abandon Christ were the women.  Thank God there were women there to be with Christ, to support Him by their presence if not physically.  They were there and provided the knowledge that whatever was to happen, they would remain, and perform the jobs that needed to be performed.

Thank God that Noble Joseph, and Nicodemus, were willing to step forward, returning to Christ’s side, and ask Pilate for the Holy Body of our Lord.

As we approach the Holiest of Weeks, preparing for the Angel of Death to pass over us by the blood of the self-sacrificed Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the decision awaits us all.

Will we stand with Christ, and be crucified with Him, or will be the one’s shouting for Him to be crucified and ask instead of the Son of God, for the one called the son of the father, Barabbas?

There is no middle ground here, brothers and sisters.  There is no possible way to do both.  But if we want to be saved – if we want the Passover for ourselves – we have to take the blood of Christ, and mix it with our blood – not physical blood, but the death of our ego and will – and stand beneath it.  It will shield us, it will cover us, it will save us.

We can and must focus on Christ this week.  Everything about Christ.  What He gave up to be incarnate, what He could have received as the Son of the Creator, what He willingly sacrificed to ascend the Cross for us.

We have to do the same.  We have to give up everything – our status, our wealth, our power, our desires – just as Christ did.  We have to ascend our own cross, just as Christ did.

And if we do, we will be resurrected, just as Christ is.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.