Homily on Great and Holy Friday, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
It is Holy Friday today, my beloved and brethren fellow-sinners, a holy day full of memories, a day which calls forth strong emotions and tears. Let us, at this hour, cleanse our heart and mind of every worldly idea, every evil thought and idea, let us cleanse our mind, and with the wings of imagination let us go back centuries, and let us noetically visit the Holy Lands.
One can go there, but not be there, while one might not travel bodily to the Holy Lands, but be there spiritually. Therefore, let us go with our thought to that place which is called the place of the Skull, called Golgotha. There is playing out the drama of dramas, where the great battle was waged between the light and the darkness, truth and falsehood. There on Golgotha, the Redeemer of the world is now being crucified.
Many behold His sacrifice from heaven, the ranks of the holy Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim, who from the theoria of eternity behold the drama, and were ready with their flaming swords to slaughter the executioners. From the earth, that mass beheld Him, the people who four days before, on Palm Sunday, cried out: “Hosanna” (Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10, John 12,13) and now they are below the Cross mocking Him. Beholding Him also are the idolatrous soldiers, the regiment which was headed by the Centurion, who received the command to ascend the place of the Skull to fulfill the judgment of the Judean court. These wild Romans, who had fought battles and were used to human blood being shed, remained unmoved, or more properly, not unmoved, but continuing the mocking which thy began in the Praetorium of Pilate.
Following the events, they were casting lots below the Cross and drinking…But straightaway the middle one among those three being crucified, Jesus of Nazareth, caught their attention. They saw that He was different from the others. They were blaspheming, condemning the day that they were born, throwing out sharp insults against everyone, while the Crucified One was silent. His silent is mysterious, a silence which is moving. Christ is silent. And when He opens His spotless mouth to say the seven words of the Cross, His words are not condemnation, but blessings, words which made a deep impression on everyone who heard and saw Him. These words were noted by those who crucified our Christ. The soldiers heard Him say: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), they heard “I thirst” (John 19:28), they heard: “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34), they heard: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
All of these they heard and they thought: “Who is this, who appears totally different than the other convicts…” And when at noon they saw the sun turn dark, and darkness cover all of creation, and the earth quake, and the graves open, then they believed.
There remained not a single hesitation or doubt, and together with the Centurion they said in fear: “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). This was truly not by chance, but He has a supernatural origin, He is the Son of God, the true God.
From the time that the Centurion said those words, about twenty centuries have passed. And this witness and confession does not remain alone. It is continued until today. Many, countless witnesses say that Christ is God, the God-man. Do we have examples? We have. What are they? Let me offer a few.
“Truly this was the Son of God.” First, His teaching cries out. Open the books of all the religions, read all the books of the philosophers, hear the words of the greatest rhetors. You will see that the teaching of Christ surpasses, is incredible. I don’t doubt that the others said important things, but their words resemble small flecks of gold mixed into a ball of various metals. They resemble a small light, like the light of a candle, before the sun. The words of Christ are light and life, and always made a great impression.
Even His enemies who heard Him were compelled to confess: “No man ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46). “Let the human spirit goes forth”, as someone said, “let science progress, let discoveries occur, for humanity will never reach the height of the teaching of Jesus Christ”. And someone else said: “I don’t know if there are other rational beings on other planets, but even if we hypothesize that they exist and dwell there, they could not possibly have a higher religion that that which was preached by Christ”.
“Truly, this was the Son of God.” His teaching cries out, and so do His wonders. The wonders of Christ! Wherever He stretched forth His hands, wherever His divine command was heard, there the wind stopped, the sea was calmed, the demons fled, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the lepers were cleansed, the paralytics stood up, and even the dead were raised from their graves. True wonders, not fantasies. Wonders which occurred not at night in some unseen corner, but before the eyes of the multitude, and sometimes even by the enemies, who saw these and said in astonishment: “We never saw anything else this before” (Mark 2:12). The wonders of Christ are countless. And even if the sea would become ink and heaven paper and the trees pens, it would not be enough to recount all of the wonders that our Lord Jesus Christ worked, that He works, and that He will work until the end of the ages.
“Truly, this was the Son of God”. His spotless life further cries this out. Christ is holy, not in a relative sense like many men, but in the absolute sense. It is He Who never committed any wrong or vice, “there was no guile in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9, I Peter 2:22), it is He Whose life was radiant from every angle, He Whose virtue “covered the heavens” (Amb. 3:33) Which virtue of Christ should we offer first? His poverty and simplicity, for no one else lived so humbly that He had not even “a place to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20)? His meekness and forbearance before His enemies and crucifiers? His boldness and lack of fear before rulers and Pilate when He proclaimed the truth? His humility, to the point that He bent to wash the feet of His disciples? Or before all, His love towards God and men who were suffering? All of these create the greatest icon of the life of Christ on earth. Some tried to find fault, they searched the Gospels, they scratched their heads, but they couldn’t find any blemish. The sun even has its spots, but Christ is the Spotless Sun. It is He who said: “Who convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46), and the question remains unanswered throughout the centuries.
“Truly, this was the Son of God”. This is shown by His teaching, His wonders, His holiness of life, and ultimately by the witness of the centuries. The Centurion was not alone in bearing witness to this. Generations of generations of Saints bear witness. Small children like St. Kerykos, who were held in the arms of their mothers, chaste virgins, simple workers like fishermen, wise scientists: all confessed that Christ is truly God.
We also today, my beloved, behold the Passion of our Savior. How are we following this divine drama? Like the Angels, with love and worship, or like the multitude, who cried out “Hosanna”, and then “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (John 19:6)? Let us follow like the Centurion, who abandoned hesitation, and believed and confessed the Son of God. If there is any who have any doubt regarding the person of Christ, he only needs to approach, to test, to study with sincerity. And then, like the Centurion, he will be led by realities to confess also that Christ is “truly the Son of God”, that He is one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, that He is the God-man and Redeemer. Amen.
Recorded homily which occurred in the Church of St. Panteleimon, Florina, on April 24th, 1981.