Today, Tuesday of Passion Week, is a special day, when we remember what the Savior said and preached shortly before His sufferings, which was full of special power and the deepest meaning (Matthew 24:36-26:2). This day is dedicated to the memory of the Savior’s words that testify to the end of the world, the end of history, the Day of Judgment, and which cannot leave anyone indifferent. If we were to summarize everything we heard in the Gospel today, we would sum in up in one word that we heard in today’s reading: “Watch!” Watch, because you know neither the day nor the hour when your Lord will come, the word of God tells us.
What does it mean to “watch”? Sleep is very important for maintaining physical health; and, due to the characteristics of the human psyche, this recumbency occurs when a person disconnects himself from the world and sinks into unconsciousness. Sleep is disconnection with reality. While asleep, a person is not in contact with his environment. He can preserve his connection with the world indirectly through dreams, but this is not a real connection, but a dream. This is merely a reflection in our memory or mind of what has occurred or may still occur to us. A sleeping person has no connection with the outside world; he leaves this world.
In what sense then does the Lord use the word “watch” in today’s reading of the Gospel? He spoke it in one sense only: although we lose our connection with the outside world while asleep, we should never lose our connection with God in our spiritual life. “Watch” is a warning to us not to drift into a spiritual slumber, that our living connection with the Lord would not break, and that we would always feel His presence in our life. One can recognize this presence through prayer and life in accordance with God’s Commandments. However, if we fall into a spiritual slumber, it is very difficult for us to have a constant connection with God.
There is yet another analogy between physical sleep and spiritual sleep. Sometimes it is difficult to get a good night’s sleep, especially for elderly people and those who experience special psychological pressure. If we cannot fall asleep, we take sleeping pills, which send us to sleep artificially, so that our mind and nerves can recover and reach a normal and balanced condition, which is so essential for our vital functions. But what can be said about spiritual sleep, which is characterized by a break in our relationship with God? Similarly, there are sleeping pills that send us into a state of spiritual sleep. These are the large number of temptations that this world has for us, this world that lies in wickedness. Any distraction of our mind and thought from God, and any breach of our interior prayerful life, are the sleeping pills that are often given to us through the mass media, literature, film, lifestyles, fashions, and false values. When we turn our eyes away from God, we fall into spiritual unconsciousness – into spiritual sleep – and it will be terrible if death finds us in such a state.
What should we do so as not to be asleep? We should truly strengthen ourselves in prayer, we should constantly feel a connection with the Lord, and live in accordance with His commandments, so that we might attain the great spiritual potential that is capable of providing the great energy that will lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven. An image of this energy has been so wonderfully expressed in today’s parable: it is the oil that the wise virgins poured into their lamps, but the foolish ones did not; and when the latter lit their lamps in order to meet the bridegroom, their lamps went out. Those who did not have this oil are those who did not have this spiritually vital energy. We are called to accumulate this energy, so that our lamps would burn, that we would not fall into spiritual slumber, and that we would preserve our connection with God, which will only be strengthen and fully revealed following our physical death.
And, completing today’s reading of the Gospel, the Lord speaks about the Dread Judgment in simple words that are understandable to everyone, be he an infant or an elderly person, an educated or an uneducated person. He told us what the cause of our judgment will be: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: 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.” If we fulfill this simple commandment of love for our neighbors – when the grief and sickness of others become our own grief and sickness – then, living according to God’s Commandment, we will gather the energy that does not end with our death, but will bring us into the eternal and Blessed Kingdom.
Today the Lord teaches us great timeless truths through His word, which define the fullness of life and eternal salvation. Let us guard the words that we heard today at the Divine Liturgy in our memory, and let us try never to fall asleep in our spiritual life, but let us watch, for we know neither the time nor the hour when our Lord will come. Amen.
April 30, 2013. Vysokopetrovsky Stauropegial Monastery in Moscow.
Translated from the Russian.