Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fearsome Judgment Seat of Christ

In the liturgy, in the litany known as “Angel of Peace—Anhela Mirna,” we pray for “a Christian, painless, unashamed, peaceful end of our life and for a good account before the fearsome judgment seat of Christ.”

This Sunday's theme (Sunday of Meatfare) presents to us in particular, the scene of the “final judgment." Each year before Great Lent, we are reminded to reflect seriously upon the “last things” which all of us will face. Since, according to our faith, this is something certain and unavoidable, it is a good practice that we keep the thought often before us. Thus, in almost every service, we include this petition, that our lives end in a good way.

None of us know how our lives will see their conclusion. There are countless ways in which people pass from this life to the next. While we hope for the holiest, smoothest, most upright and tranquil way, there is no guarantee.

We can help ourselves however, in being prepared to go to meet the Lord and to receive a good report from him. It is this kind of peace of mind that the Gospel read (Matthew 25: 31-46) teaches us how to attain. Artists over the centuries have tried to depict the “awesome and fearful judgment” using the passage from Matthew’s Gospel as the prototype, as can be seen in the graphic included here.

The real questions however lie within our own minds. We must answer the questions in the Gospel honestly: Did we really treat others in a humane way? Did we lend encouragement and support to those who came to us for help and affirmation. Did we promote and encourage their aspirations and good deeds? Did we help them temporally when we were able? Did we rejoice in their accomplishments and good efforts? Were we constant in our friendships and loyal to those who put their trust in us? Did we truly see Christ in them?

OR, did we shy away, turn our backs, find an excuse, allow fear to corrupt our knowledge of right from wrong, justice from oppression? Did ambition or political pressure cause us to hurt others or estrange them from our circles? Did we build them up, only to crack the foundation from beneath? Has jealousy caused us to downplay or even undermine the blessings and success others have worked hard for? Did we betray confidences or allow self-serving reasons to effect how we treat others?

This is an examination of conscience we must take daily, if we are to come to that “Christian, unashamed and peaceful end of our life and receive the “good account before Christ's fearsome judgment seat” that we pray for.
- Vladyka Mykhayil -

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