Synaxarion: The Sunday Of The Last Judgment

Meatfare Sunday

On this day we commemorate the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge.

The most-godly Fathers placed the present commemoration of the Second Coming of Christ after the two parables of the preceding Sundays so that no one, having learned of God's love for mankind, might lead a life of negligence, saying to himself, "God loves mankind, and when I finally cease sinning, everything will go easily."

Hence, they appointed the remembrance of that fearful day in order to frighten the negligent with the thought of death and the anticipation of the future torments and rouse them to the acquisition of virtue so that they will not merely trust in God's love for man but also bear in mind that He is a just Judge who rewards everyone according to his deeds.

Another reason is that, since yesterday the Holy Fathers celebrated the commemoration of the souls of the departed, it was necessary today for the Judge to come. In a way, this feast is observed today as the end of all feasts, as this will be the final event of all things concerning us. This Sunday concludes the festal series of the preparatory period of the Triodion and makes the circle of life complete. For we should consider that on the following Sunday, the Holy Fathers shall appoint the commemoration of the beginning of the world and Adam's fall from Paradise; whereas this feast is the end of all our endeavors and of this world, for on the Day of Judgment, everything in this world will end. The Holy Fathers placed this feast on Meatfare Sunday in order to check the indulgence and gluttony that usually occurs just before Lent by means of the fear this observance inspires and to urge us on to sympathy for our neighbor. We can also understand this another way: by indulging ourselves, we were expelled from Eden and came under judgment and the curse - hence the present feast was placed here. And on the next Sunday, in the person of Adam, we shall be removed from the delight of eating many foods, corresponding to the model of Eden, until Christ comes and brings us back to Paradise.

We must also remember that today is the last day to consume meat and meat products. (After this Sunday, no more meat is eaten until the Sunday of Pascha, but otherwise there is no fasting this week, so that eggs, cheese, butter, milk, and fish are permitted each day, including Wednesday and Friday.) Therefore, as we partially proceed into the full fasting that is to begin on the Monday following next Sunday, the constant remembrance of the harmful results of eating shall assist us on our Lenten journey.

The term "Second Coming" is used because the Lord once came physically, though quietly and without glory. Now He shall come from heaven with supernatural wonders and manifest brightness. He will come with His body, so that He will be recognized as the One who has come before and freed the human race and will come again to judge whether it has well preserved what it has been given.

No one knows exactly when the Lord's Second Coming will occur. The Lord kept this hidden even from the Apostles. But He did allow for some visible signs to take place in the meantime. Some of the Saints have expanded on the description of these signs. In any case, it is said that it will occur after the passage of seven thousand years of human history. Prior to the Lord's reappearance, the Antichrist will come. He will be born, as St. Hippolytus of Rome says, of a defiled woman who will appear to be a virgin and will be from the Jewish race, from the tribe of Dan, one of Jacob's sons. He will live a life imitating that of Christ. He will perform miracles, such as the ones Christ did, and will even raise the dead. Yet, all that he shall do will be an illusion: his birth, his flesh, and so on, as the Apostle Paul says: "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thess. 2:9-10). But, as St. John of Damascus says, Satan will not himself be transformed into flesh, but a man born of fornication will accept into himself all the activity of Satan. He will suddenly rise up in rebellion. Then he will appear to be kind and accommodating to all. There will be a great famine and he will supply the people with food. He will study the Holy Scriptures and practice fasting. Forced by the people, he will be proclaimed king. He will greatly love the Jewish race, restore them to Jerusalem, and build their temple.

According to the Holy Prophet Daniel, seven years before the end, St. Enoch and St. Elijah will come preaching to the people not to accept the Antichrist. He will imprison them, torture them, and then behead them. Those people who choose to live piously, keeping their true religion, will flee far away. Finding them in the mountains, the Antichrist will tempt them by means of demons. But those seven years will be shortened for the sake of the elect. There will be a great famine, with all the elements undergoing a change, such that almost all living creatures will be obliterated.

After this, suddenly, like lightning from heaven, the Lord will appear, preceded by His precious Cross. A boiling river of fire will go before Him, purifying all the earth of its defilements. The Antichrist will immediately be captured, together with those who have served him, and will be delivered over to the eternal fire.

When the angels have sounded the trumpets, then the entire human race will at once come together from the ends of the earth and from all the elements to Jerusalem - for Jerusalem is the center of the world. Here thrones will have been set for judgment. Yet each person will be with his own body and soul, all of which will have been transfigured and made incorruptible, and all will have one appearance. The elements themselves will have undergone an alteration for the better.

With a single word, the Lord will separate the righteous from the sinners. The workers of good will go to receive eternal life and the sinners eternal torment. We ought to know that when He comes again, Christ will not require fasting or miracles, though these are good, but rather works of mercy and compassion, which are far better. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, both the righteous and the sinners will be judged according to six requirements: giving food to the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality to the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and visiting prisoners. By rendering these acts of compassion to the least of our brothers, we perform them for Christ Himself. Since these six requirements can be carried out by everyone, anywhere on earth, it can be understood why His judgment shall be a just one. Through this realization that God is manifested in love, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (See Philippians 2:9-11.)

The torments, as the Holy Gospel has handed down, are the following: the wailing and the gnashing of teeth from despair, being consumed by the worm that never dies, the agony from the unquenchable fire, and being cast into the outer darkness.

The Church of God accepts all these doctrines without any concealment. In addition, she holds that the "delight" and the "kingdom of heaven" inherited by the saved are their life together with God and the saints and their continuous illumination and ascent; whereas "torments" and "darkness" are the estrangement from God and the wasting away of the souls of the damned, tormented by an evil conscience. They are deprived of the illumination that comes from God because of their negligence and desire for fleeting pleasures.

O Christ our God, through Thy unutterable love for mankind, count us worthy to hear Thy desired voice, and number us with the righteous, and have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Archpriest Victor Sokolov Rector, Holy Trinity Cathedral San Francisco, CA