Sunday of the Dread Judgement (Meatfare Sunday)

The Last Judgement
When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory, All things shall tremble And the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat; The books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed! Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire, And make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, righteous Judge!

(Kontakion – Tone 1)

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep son his right hand, but the goats on the left.
 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Mt 25:31–46, KJV)

This third Sunday of the Triodion leads us into the final pre-preparation week before the start of Great Lent. Some may think the emphasis on the Last Judgment is appropriate given it is the final day of carnivorous life before Great Lent and many plan an interesting meat poisoning event on that day. Probably wise then that the Church gave to us this pre-preparation for the Lenten season to get passions out of our system before we focus on the road to Pascha.

While the Gospel passage read on this day is the parable of the Last Judgement and begins with the separation of the sheep and the goats, dividing the faithful from those who chose their own path, it moves into a distinct explanation of this division. While terrifying for those who have ignored the Gospel, the second half of this message provides a recipe for fulfilling the second of Christ’s great commandments “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (MT 22:39 KJV)

Christ in this passage is making it very plain for us: feed the hungry and thirsty; take in the stranger; cloth the naked; visit the sick and imprisoned. While it is important that we worship together in church services, fast and follow the calendar of the church and focus on scripture there is nothing in this unless it takes hold of our hearts and we do what is demanded of our Saviour.

As we begin the final preparation for Great Lent, let us not only focus on what effect it will have on ourselves, how to cope without the foods we like alone, but how we can affect the lives of others even more dramatically using our talents, time and money to help those who need it most, without expectations in return.

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 11,12 NKJV)