(This year Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Pascha will be celebrated respectively on April 22, 23, and 24. In anticipation we offer the following sermon by Fr. Alexander Men. According to one source: "Father Alexander Men (1935-1990) was a great leader, and one may say architect, of religious renewal in Russia at the end of the Soviet period. He was a pastor, who found the time to write a great number of books including a seven volume study of world religions, ranging in style from the academic to the popular. He lectured widely, at the end gaining access to radio and television and becoming a nationally known figure...He was assassinated in 1990 but through his writings and through his memory and his spiritual heritage he still speaks and it may be is an increasing presence in the world as his work becomes better known.")
The last Gospel of Christ -- St. John's Gospel -- describes the Lord's trial, His sufferings, death and burial. Throughout three short years the Lord had preached every day. As St. Mark tells us, sometimes He and His disciples didn't even have bread to eat. He spoke and did a great deal. John the Evangelist says that if all the things He said and did were to be written down, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
However, when He stood before unjust judges, Christ was silent. This is mentioned by all the evangelists. He answered the high priest only once and then was silent. When He was ridiculed, beaten and mocked, He was silent. When He was brought before Pilate, He also answered him briefly and then fell silent. What did this mean? Why was He, who formerly inspired people with faith and hope now keeping silent?
It was because He had already said all He had to say and also because His unjust judges would have remained deaf to His words and His defense. That was the reason for His silence. Only once during the trial, in answer to the question, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" did He reply, "I am," adding "and you shall see the Son of Man coming in glory, in the clouds of heaven." He said this and once more fell silent. Then, when He was dying, those standing around the Cross heard only a few words from Him. He suffered and died in silence. How many bitter words He could have found for the ungrateful human race. But He was silent, for He was the God-Man, through whom the Lord revealed Himself to us. He had said everything, taught everything; He had opened the doors, and thereafter He was silent. He submitted to insults, ingratitude, flogging and death.
Is it not the same in our lives? We sometimes feel that the Lord is silent, that He does not respond to our sufferings and sadness, to our sorrowful prayers. In fact, however, He is listening. He knows and feels for us, just as He did then, at the time when He Himself was suffering. He suffered when He stood before me blinded by envy, hatred and malice, yet was silent because His heart was moved even for them: for their degradation, their sins and blindness. In the same way our Lord suffers for us, seemingly without speaking. We appeal to Him, but we must not think that His divine silence signifies indifference, that He "doesn't hear," as we say. He cannot fail to hear. It is simply that, as before, He has told us everything. He has said more to us than the world or our hearts could contain. He has shown us the read to life and now He is silently awaiting a movement of the heart or will in each one of us.
In the same way that He broke His silence then, and spoke of the Son of Man coming to judge the living and the dead, so now the Lord tells us that He is longsuffering. He silently endures our sinfulness, our meanness, our lack of faith -- all our unworthiness -- but not for ever. A time will come when all will be weighed by the justice of God. For us, the silence of the Cross is both a reproach and a call to a real Christian life Most important of all for us is the fact that He acknowledges us, for we know that the One who was silent on the Cross, who is silent in heaven, is also the One who is our Savior, who has not forgotten or left us. He is our only hope. Amen.