(Hebrews 9:11-14)

Today, on this 5th and last Sunday of Great Lent, our Church has chosen these particular Holy Readings to prepare us spiritually for the great event that is to come:  Our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross. In the Holy Gospel, we heard Jesus speaking to His disciples of what will happen to Him in a few days.   What will be endured, where “they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him” (Mark 10:34).   Meanwhile, in the Apostolic Reading, Saint Paul explains how beneficial the Lord’s Sacrifice is for all of us.

In the Old Testament, we see that the Israelites had built a tent for the worship of God. A curtain separated an area that was called “The Holiest of all” (Hebrews 9:3).   No one but the High Priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, celebrated at the end of September).  When he entered “the Holiest of all,” the High Priest carried blood from animal sacrifices, as an offering for his sins and the sins of all the people (see Hebrews 9:7).

With this in mind, the Apostle Paul explains how much greater the Holy Blood of the Lord, poured out on Golgotha is, compared to the mere blood of animals.  How Christ is the ultimate High Priest, greater than any High Priest who lived in the days of their Hebrew forefathers.

“Christ,” writes Saint Paul, “came as High Priest of the goods things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation" (verse 11).  What does this verse mean?  We get the answer from St. John Chrysostom and the other Fathers of the Church.   It is referring to Christ’s Body, the Word becoming flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.   This is not done in the natural human way; it is not “made with hands” or “of this creation.”

What did Christ do for us, as Supreme High Priest? With His own blood on the Cross, “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (verse 12).   Christ offered Himself as a pure and holy sacrifice to God the Father for us.   So the pure Blood that Christ poured out, cleanses our conscience from dead works that lead to death, so we can worship and serve the true living God (see verse 14).

Have we ever really sat down and thought about this? Truly contemplated what Christ suffered for us?  Every year on Good Friday, the Church invites us to not be passive spectators, but active members of the body of Christ, participating in the holy and horrible trials of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.  To feel deep within us what He suffered for our benefit: wicked people spitting in His face, the beatings, the whip of cords, the crown of thorns, and above all being nailed to the Cross!   Honestly, when we see our Lord hanging on the Cross, with the blood flowing from His wounds, do we participate in His pain?   Do we join together with our Holy Mother Theotokos, who under the Cross, felt the pain as a sharp sword piercing her heart?   Does this pain bring gratitude to our soul towards Christ Crucified, Who suffered the Passion for our salvation?  If so, how do we express this gratitude towards our Lord and Savior?  As we know, there are many people who have suffered martyrdom to stay faithful to Christ, millions of Holy Witnesses of our Church.  Are we willing to do something to give thanks to Christ?   On this Friday, do we drop whatever we are doing and come to the Church to participate, with body and soul, in the Holy Passion of our Christ?   Do we kneel in front of the Crucifixion, asking forgiveness for our sins, which are the very reason for this sacrifice?   Do we offer Him the myrrh of thanksgiving for the salvation that He has given us?

As we know, it is not enough to remember the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday alone.   The Church has established every Friday of the year as a remembrance of the Crucifixion of Christ.  That is why we fast on Fridays, denying ourselves in love and gratitude for our Lord’s Sacrifice.   In addition, every day the Holy Service of 9th Hour is celebrated, which corresponds to the 3rd hour in the afternoon (3:00 PM).   This is the hour Christ died on the Cross.   The Psalms, Hymns and Prayers of this short, sacred service reference the Crucifixion.   We give thanks to the Crucified Lord, and express repentance for our sins, asking Him to call us to live with Him, in a place of unceasing joy.

My brothers and sisters, we are entering the last week of Great Lent, and after that comes Holy Week. The Holy Passion of Christ is near.   Whatever we have said, let us bring it to mind every day to help us, at the encouragement of the hymnographer: “Come, then, and with our minds now purified, let us also go with Him and be crucified with Him and die for Him to the pleasures of this life, so that we may also live with Him and hear Him when He says.... I will raise you up with me to the Jerusalem on high in the Kingdom of heaven" (Lauds of Holy Monday).

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