The following lecture was given in Belgrade at a solemn gathering In memory of His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by the renowned Serbian theologian Archimandrite Dr. Justin Popovich, at that time professor of dogmatic theology at the Theological Faculty of Belgrade University. The lecture was printed in the journal of the Orthodox theological faculty in Belgrade "Theology" (vol. XIV, No. 1, 1939, p. 40) and is presented here in an English translation by Joachim Wertz. The Russian text of this most eloquent article appears in Vol. X of Archbishop Nikon’s “Life and Works of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky”. - Ed.
I find myself in the position of an ant who must speak about the soarings of an eagle. Can an ant follow the path of an eagle? No! However, it is possible, from its ant's perspective, for it to admire the eagle soaring in the heavens, and to stand frozen by the awe of sweet delight.
Therefore, with my ant's tongue I want to babble on with some of my observations, and I ask you to pardon an ant, that he dare to speak of an eagle of Orthodoxy. Oh! I am firmly convinced that I possess neither the skill nor the capability to explain the mystery of the wondrous personality of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony, but I am only able to bow down, in fervent awe and pious respect, before the wonders of his boundless love for Christ and his gracious love for man.
We have read various discussions about the apparent lack of accord among the Gospel narrations of Christ's Resurrection. There have been a number of attempts at demonstrating a concordance among the Evangelists in this regard, but not all have been successful.
I wish to offer some considerations on the subject, and I wish to begin by mentioning the most obvious point of seeming lack of accord.
In Matthew's Gospel, we read that upon being greeted by the risen Lord with the word "rejoice," Mary of Magdala and the other Mary immediately embraced His feet. Nevertheless, we read elsewhere [John 20:11-17] that, when Mary of Magdala was weeping at the empty tomb and did not recognize Christ, but thought that He was the caretaker of the garden. When she did finally recognize Him, she was forbidden to touch Him.
"And when the centurion, who stood near Him,
saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit, he said,
'Truly, this man was the Son of God'." (Mark 15:39).
Thus began the faith of the centurion. It is clear that this cry of Christ expressed a treasure of moral content in a spirit which the centurion understood. Such a connection between a tormenting cry of the soul and the beginning of a new grace-filled life in one who has heard it, is found repeatedly in the Holy Scripture. We will begin a survey of these places in the Scripture with the most dramatic one, found in the Book of Esdras:
I lifted my eyes, and on my right hand I saw a woman, and behold, she mourned and wept with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved in heart, and her clothes were torn, and she had ashes upon her head.
Then I let my thoughts go and turned and said to her, "Why are you weeping? Why are you so grieved in heart?"
IF ONE WISHES TO UNDERSTAND the most essential events of the earthly life of the Savior and the people that surrounded Him, in particular the events connected with His trial or with the taking of anyone into custody, it is indispensable to acquaint oneself with the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy. There one can recognize the following rules by which society was guided in the arrest and punishment of offenders.
Have you ever noticed, dear reader, that in all of Christ's parables there occurs but one proper name? If you have noticed, have you ever attempted to ascertain why the Lord calls only this Lazarus by name, while even his rival during his earthly sojourn remains under the general title of the Rich Man? Evidently, the Divine Teacher wished His followers to keep firmly in mind both the earthly and the eternal lot of poor Lazarus, although the main idea of the parable is concentrated nonetheless in the person of the Rich Man: Lazarus remains silent in the parable, while the Rich Man speaks and prays for himself and his brethren. The Savior's wish did not go unfulfilled: Lazarus has become a favorite theme in the songs of good Christians! The poor are comforted by such hymns amid their misfortunes, the hearts of the rich are turned from greed thereby, and all are taught to be mindful of death, the judgment of God, and generosity towards the poor. Yet, our problem remains unresolved. The parable of the Prodigal Son is also a favorite topic, if not for folk songs, at least for ecclesiastical hymns, and there are others as well in which mercy and repentance are extolled; but there are no proper names therein. Furthermore, in songs about Lazarus the singers do not draw inspiration from his name, but from the depictions of heaven and hades, the hardheartedness of the Rich Man on earth, and his belated repentance in hades.