Last Judgment (Meatfare)

Today, the Orthodox Christian world continues the “Lenten Triodion,” the cycle of services that prepare us for, and guide us through, Great Lent.

Our preparation continues with reflection on the Last Judgment, as described by our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:31-46.

The “proper” hymns of last evening’s Vespers and this morning’s Matins can be found, for instance, here, thanks to the industry, dedication and generosity of The Community of the Holy Myrrbearers, as part of a complete online Triodion. If you are put off by the lack of fancy formatting here are the versions of Vespers and Matins I print out for leading the singing of Saint Alexis Parish.

From Vespers:

O Righteous Judge of all mankind,
You will come, enthroned in glory and escorted by Angels,
to judge the living and the dead.
Every man will stand in fear before You,
trembling at the river of fire flowing past Your throne,
as each one waits to hear the sentence he deserves.
On that awesome day have mercy on us as well, O Christ;
count us worthy of salvation,
for, worthless as we are, we turn to You in faith,
O compassionate and merciful Lord!

The books will be opened, and the works of all men laid bare;
the vale of tears will echo with the gnashing of teeth;
the sinners will mourn in vain, as they depart to eternal damnation.
Your judgments are just, O Lord Almighty!
We beg You, O Master, full of goodness and compassion,
take pity on us who sing to You, O most merciful One!

The trumpet shall sound, and the graves shall be opened;
all mankind will arise in trembling;
the righteous will rejoice, as they receive their reward,
but the wicked will depart to eternal fire with wailing and horror.
O Lord of Glory, have mercy on us!
Number us with those who love You,
for You alone are good, O Master!

I shudder in terror when I think of that dreadful day;
I weep as I consider the darkness that will never see light:
there the worm shall not cease, or the fire be quenched;
the pain of those who reject You will never end.
Save me, Your most worthless servant, O Righteous Judge,
for Your mercy and compassion are my only hope!

Woe, to you, O my darkened soul!
Your life is stained by depravity and laziness;
your folly makes you shun all thought of death.
How complacent you remain!
How can you flee the awesome thought of Judgment Day?
When will you change your way of life?
On that day your sins will rise against you.
What will your answer be then?
Your acts will condemn you; your deeds will expose you.
The time is at hand, O my soul.
Turn to the good and loving Savior!
Beg Him to forgive your malice and weakness, as you cry in faith:
“I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned against You,
but I know Your love for all mankind.
O good Shepherd, call me to enjoy Your lasting presence on Your right hand!”

From Matins:

From the Triodion. Same Melody.
Bringing to mind the imminent fearful day of the judgment, Lord
and of Your ineffable glory,
I shudder wholly, and trembling fearfully cry out:
O Christ when You again come on earth to judge the universe,
O my God, in Your glory, I pray You free miserable me then from all perdition,
and count me worthy thus to stand at Your right hand, O Master.

O Women, hearken.
Behold, the great and fearful day is coming, of Almighty Lord.
And who will endure the fear of His imminent Second Coming?
For it will be a day of wrath,
the burning furnace will be there,
the Judge will sit upon His throne,
and unto each He will render according to their own actions.

When I reflect upon the hour of the interrogation, Lord,
and of the frightening coming of You the Lover of mankind,
I shake all over and I cry dejected:
O my Judge most just and only very merciful,
accept me now in repentance,
through prayers of the Theotokos.

I ponder that day and hour,
when we all, naked and as convicts, will appear beforethe Judge we cannot bribe.
Then a great trumpet will sound
and the foundations of the earth will be shaken,
and the dead will be raised from the graves,
and all will become of one stature.
And all that which is hidden will be presented overtly before You,
and they shall mourn and wail who have never repented,
and they shall depart into the outer fire.
And with joy and exaltation will the lot of the righteous enter into the heavenly chamber.

O what an hour and fearful day shall that be,
when the Judge shall sit upon His fearsome throne!
Books will be opened,
deeds will be checked,
and the hidden
works of darkness will be made public.
Angels speed about, gathering all the nations.
Come, hearken, kings and rulers,
slaves and freemen, sinners and righteous,
rich men and paupers,
He is coming who is about to judge the whole world;
and who shall bear His countenance,
when angels are at hand to accuse your acts, your thoughts, your desires,
be they of day or night?
O what an hour that shall be!
But before the end arrives, O soul, make haste to cry,
“O God, convert me, save me as You alone are compassionate.”

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your wondrous things.
Daniel the prophet, a man of goodly desires,
considered God’s authority, and cried out thus and said,
“The Judgment Seat was set up and books were opened.”
Look, my soul, are you fasting? Do not neglect your neighbor!
Are you abstaining from food? Do not condemn your brother,
lest you be sent to the fire that will burn you up as wax.
But unimpeded, let Christ lead you into His kingdom.

Let us first cleanse ourselves, O brethren, by the queen of virtues,
for behold, she is here, providing us with a wealth of blessings!
She suppresses our swelling passions,
and reconciles offenders with the Master.
Therefore, let us welcome her with a cheerful heart,
crying out to Christ our God,
“You who rose from the dead, keep us uncondemned
as we glorify You, the only sinless one.”

A personal reflection from Reader John, who posted this:

It’s not possible for a sober Christian, with any grasp of his or her sins, iniquities and infirmities, to reflect on the Last Judgment without solemnity. The Gospel at the Liturgy today suggests we’ll be judged according to our deeds, and who of us can measure up? But note the emphasis of the hymns above on Christ’s mercy and compassion.

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