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Cleans me from within Meditations on Monday of Holy Pascha

April 10, 2023

Events of Monday

The Church places two significant events before us today whose meaning we should be accustomed to understanding. The first event takes place after the Lord has entered Jerusalem, after His triumphant entry into the great city. As He is walking in, He encounters a fig tree, and Scripture says that the Lord approached the fig tree because he wanted to eat its fruit. Let’s understand that this is given to us as an example. Let’s understand that this was done for us and had nothing to do with the irrational entity which was the tree itself. The Lord approaches it because it was filled with leaves. From far, it looked perfectly healthy; it was filled with beautiful leaves, and appeared very plump and ripe. He approached it thinking that surely this tree that looked so beautiful had fruit to offer. But when He approached, He realized that there was no fruit within it. God forbid that we say that the Lord did not know that it did not have any fruit, that He foolishly approached it thinking it did, considering it was out of season. But He does this so that we can learn from this example. He does this so that the disciples can notice and see why He curses the tree. He curses the tree so that we can take a message of benefit if we too are properly arrayed with all those things that make us look healthy, but on the inside we produce no fruit. Of what benefit is it if I am a person who wears my cross proudly, or who has a cross that is hung in his vehicle, or who has icons hung in his house? What benefit is it to me to even come and sit in the pews of the church if, on the inside, the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the virtues that the Lord wants me to demonstrate are not growing within me?

 

He curses the tree because of its hypocrisy, as a sign that the Lord does not look for external manifestation of righteousness, but rather He wants to see the inner man grow. St. Augustine comments on this. That message was for the Pharisees who, from the outside, were adorned with the law. Whoever looked at the Pharisees saw that they followed the law perfectly; they wore the right clothes, they worked on the right days, and they fulfilled every single one of the laws. They followed all six hundred laws of Moses, and yet on the inside, they lacked the fruits of mercy, they lacked the fruits of those things that the Lord wants to see manifested in the life of each person. Here we have the first message of the Monday of Pascha, where we are told not to be like the fig tree who was adorned only with leaves, but in reality did not produce fruit.

 

The fig leaves are also a reminder of what we read in the book of Genesis, how our forefathers Adam and Eve when they first fell away from the glory of God when they realized their nakedness. What did they use to cover themselves? They used fig tree leaves. These fig leaves they used were supposed to cover their nakedness, but you cannot hide yourself from God using these leaves, these external manifestations of things that are not in and of themselves fruit. We cannot hide ourselves from God the way Adam thought he could. What good is it to hide from the living God? What good is it to think we can just adorn ourselves with external leaves, when in reality what we are trying to hide is that we are barren, that we do not produce any fruit? So our mind is brought back to Adam and Eve and how they used these very leaves to try to hide the fact that they produced no fruit. Thus the Lord curses hypocrisy today, and this is the message we receive on Monday of Pascha.

 

The second thing we are reminded of, which happens to be the theme of the day, is how the Lord enters the temple and cleanses it. I want you to notice that the Lord does not hesitate to demonstrate that He has righteous and holy anger towards evil. And the evil He sees before him is this: His father’s house, which is meant to be a house of prayer, a hospital to the sick, is instead turned into a den of thieves. They set up a marketplace and they were selling pigeons, the very things they should be offering to the Lord. So, they were thinking to themselves, “We can make a profit out of the commandment of God.” What is even worse, as the Church Fathers actually tell us, is that those very animals they were selling within the temple did not even meet the requirements of God. So, they were in fact supplying to the people animals that were not befitting of sacrifice. They were actually encouraging the people to do this. If the people wanted the perfect animal to offer that was acceptable before the law, it would cost this much. If they could not afford that cost, they had to opt for one of lesser value and less acceptable according to the law. They defiled the house of the Lord in this way. They turned it into a marketplace. So what does He do? He cleanses the temple, He turns over the table, He throws out the money changers. He does all of these things. Why? Because He cannot tolerate this kind of evil and unrighteousness especially within the house of God the Father.

 

My beloved, the message of the Church to us is that we want to welcome Him also into our hearts. There is a marketplace in my heart, there are exchanges happening within me. There’s a marketplace of lust, greed, of different kinds of passions, of anger, jealousy, selfishness. All of these things have been set up as marketplaces within my heart. I ask Him to come to cleanse the temple of my heart, to turn over those tables to restore it to what it’s supposed to be: a temple that glorifies God. This temple within my heart should truly be a temple of prayer where I can encounter the living Lord, not a temple that is simply overtaken by demons who have set up those tables, who come and sell me sinful passions that I accept so easily, these things that have led me to addictions, fallenness and sinfulness. I ask Him to come and to turn over those tables, to destroy the marketplace of sin, to chase away these demons that have set up these tables and to renew me all over again, to cleanse me.

 

The message of the Church today, my beloved, is that the Lord does both of those things: He calls out hypocrisy and curses those things which give a false impression of bearing fruit and He also cleanses the temple. In cleansing the temple, He rids us of those things that hinder us from being able to truly become temples of the Holy Spirit. So today, as we meditate, as we remember that day of Monday, let us all pray together a very short but powerful sentence, as we come to the Lord and we tell Him, “Lord, please cleanse me from within, rebuke my hypocrisy and take me back to what I am supposed to be according to Your image and likeness.

 

To God be all glory now and forever and unto the ages of all ages, Amen

 

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