The Triodion began with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, when we observe one man realizing his brokenness and need for God’s mercy. Last Sunday we encountered the Prodigal Son who sinned but repented and received the embrace of his father. On this third Sunday in the sequence the Church offers us a caution.
Known as Judgment Sunday the theme of this day reminds us that at Christ’s Second and Glorious Coming he comes as a Merciful but also a Righteous Judge. Yes, indeed, we will have to face Him as the judge of our lives, and this is fearful. In the gospel according to St. John 5:27 we learn that the Son also has the authority to execute judgment. Again in verse 30 the Lord Jesus states “as I hear I judge and my judgment is righteous.” Truly, our lives will be evaluated and a decision will have to be made. It’s a fearful reality and we pray that it is type of fear which is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is the beginning of understanding (Proverbs 9:10). The Oikos of Matins expresses our inner thoughts “...I am frightened at the accusations of my conscience…”. Such a fearsome experience happens to us each day because we cannot escape our own conscience.
The punishment for a life of godless deeds is described as a river of fire which we ask the Merciful Judge to forgive. In the Kontakion of Matins we ask Him to come to our rescue and to count us worthy to stand at His Right Hand. We head into the final week of preparation before the start of Great Lent and the next Sunday brings the consolation for our fears of this Sunday.