by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
"You might have read or heard a lot about Passion Week, but I would like to talk to you about only one point: the prayer that the church has chosen to pray during the entire Passion Week..."**
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God.
Today, I would like to talk to you about the important subject of the Passion Week. Passion Week is the holiest week of the year. And it's good that we talk about it right now (before the start of Passion Week), so we can have an opportunity to enjoy this week spiritually. In this week, the church focuses completely on the suffering of Christ. It does not become concerned with any other subject, but the suffering of Christ. It does not desire to think about any other matter. Even the Psalms, it does not pray. Because some of the Psalms are about the Lord's birth, Resurrection, Ascension and His Second Coming, and the church wants to focus solemnly on His sufferings. All the readings of the church are about the sufferings of Christ. This subject circulates in the church's mind the entire week. In its hymns and appearance which is clothed in darkness. The front chorus is empty and the people remember that they are out of the camp. All this, gives the idea that our minds shouldn't wander away from the sufferings of Christ.
You might have read or heard a lot about Passion Week, but I would like to talk to you about only one point: the prayer that the church has chosen to pray during the entire Passion Week. She has stopped the Psalms. It turns out to be that the only thing the church prays is the praise that says, "Thok te ti-gowm nem pi o-ou nem pi esmo nem pi amahi sha eneh, amen... etc..." It means, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..."
We say these words to Christ the entire time. What does this mean? We walk, step by step, following Christ and in every step we say in His ears, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..."
Christ goes to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people welcome Him as a king, and we rejoice in the kingdom of Christ, saying to Him, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." And the chief priests and elders were displeased at the horde surrounding Christ, so they start to think of His death. And while they are thinking of His death, we are behind Him saying, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." After that, Christ stays a while at Bethany and we are behind Him with these same words. Judas deals with the chief priests about His deliverance and we say to Him, the entire week, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." Christ is arrested and taken to be tried and we stand with Him in court and say to Him, while He is being tried in front of Pontius Pilate, Herod, Annas and Caiaphas the high priest, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." Christ is insulted, mocked, jeered and crucified and we stand under the cross and repeat the same hymn, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." Throughout all the sufferings that Christ bears, the nails hammered in His hands and feet, we say, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..." During the entire time, we are not occupied with anything else.
So what is the meaning of this prayer and how can we benefit from it? This is what we are going to discuss. What are behind "Thine is the power and the glory"? We want to fully understand it.
In this week, my brothers and sisters, the last development occurred in the strange struggle between Christ and the Jews. In respect to suffering, Passion Week is not the only painful week in the life of Christ. His entire life on earth was full of suffering. It was written about Him that He is a man of suffering and will experience sorrow. A life full of pain, not just a week. But, this week, it has reached its limit.
It is a struggle between light and darkness. In the beginning, the darkness hated and rejected the light. People liked the darkness more than the light because their deeds were evil. Then it developed that the darkness tried to destroy the light.
It evolved to the point that the darkness accused the light of the being the darkness and that it was the light. It is a struggle between the light and darkness. This struggled was evident during the service of Christ. And it is strange that, during this struggle, Christ was not in resistance. "Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its sheerer is dumb; He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). This is Passion Week! Christ said to them that this is your hour and the authority of darkness. Christ was given complete authority in heaven and on the earth, but He did not use His authority against the reign of darkness. He left the darkness to take its toll and violently work what it wants.
Without defense. Without resistance. Without standing against it, while He was able to. He strangely let it go. As an obedient lamb even to the slaughter. And we look at Christ while He is being led to the slaughter. And we sing in His ears this hymn, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..."
Your submission to the works of evil causes you harm, anguish, insult, crucifixion and death. This does not prevent you from being strong, praised, blessed and beloved forever and ever, amen. We know who You are - the Holy God. Christ submitted to the works of the darkness. Just like He gave Satan the freedom to tempt Him as he wishes, He gave the freedom to sinful mankind to torture Him as they wish. Even for Judas, "Jesus said to him, 'What you are going to do, do quickly'" (John 13:27). Do whatever you want. It might appear before the people that He was weak. But if He was, it was not ordered of Him. In His hands was all the power, and we know that. And we sing to Him and say "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..."
When Christ was insulted in Passion Week, we say to Him, "God, we know You, You're not a stranger to us. These people think You were weak, and that You fell in their hands. Never! We remember all Your incredible power. We remember that You have power in miracles. You have power over the diseases that You healed. Power over the devils that You cast out. And power over nature. You are He who walked on the water and calmed the storm and waves of the sea. You broke most of the natural laws. We know that You have the power and are capable."
Before this also, You had the power. The power of creation. You created a new substance in the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes. And created a new substance when You changed the water to wine. Water consists of oxygen and hydrogen, while wine contains alcohol and grape juice. Where did all this come from? A new substance was created. In the miracle of the five loaves and the two fishes a new substance was created. In healing the eyes of the born blind, a new substance was created.
You have the power of creation. Not just in these days, but from the beginning, You created all things. "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). We know who You are. You were from the beginning and You created everything. You created the people that crucified You, the hand that slapped You, and the tongue that insulted You. All things were made through You. In Your hand is the key to life and death. You are able to do anything, but You don't wish to. Thy will be done. We know that You have the power.
We also know that You have the power in holiness. You are the only one who defeated Satan. "For she (sin) hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her" (Proverbs 7:26). You were the only one left standing, because You have the power. You are stronger than everybody, for "all have turned aside: together they have become corrupted. There is none who does good, not even one," (Psalm 14:3) and need the glory of God. Satan was able to trick them all, but You are the only strong one who bruised the head of the serpent.
We know more than this, that You have the power of endurance. Notice that Christ was strong in His crucifixion. Strong because He bore the accusations of the wicked even though He had the power in His hands to wipe them out. Who is able to endure like the Christ? Truly, power is in endurance.
There are people who are quickly shaken, angered and weakened, but Christ was strong. There are people who can't stand one word. Their blood boils, their nerves are tense, their personality is shaken and they want to get revenge. But, Christ was strong in endurance. He endured His servants to slap Him on the face, spit on Him and insult Him. Who of us is able to endure this? The person who's able to is truly strong. The Bible says, I ask of you "that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (Romans 15:1). But, who of us is able to bear? Not only this, but to bear all of this from his servants, slaves and his own creation. Can a manager or a president of a company bear that one of his employees or janitors swear at him or say something rude in front of him? To bear that one slaps him? Or to spit in his face? Who is able to bear all this?
There is no doubt that Christ was strong in endurance. His endurance was based on the power of His love. Because the person who loves is able to bear and endure. He who doesn't love isn't able to endure. Christ was strong in endurance. He didn't just bear the wicked and the accusations, He also forgave them. He didn't just forgive them, but interceded, prayed and defended them in front of the Father. He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Christ gave us, in His crucifixion, a new measure of power. Before, a strong man was able to insult, conquer and destroy another. But, Christ gave us a new example: a strong person is he who is able to tolerate others. Strength is not in shaking and stumbling others. The true power is in being able to love, gain and save others.
Peter, the disciple, didn't understand the power in Christ. He thought that crucifixion is a sign of weakness just like many people today. And they ask, "how can Christ be crucified?" They think that crucifixion is weakness, but Christ was strong. We observe that Christ reached the pinnacle of His power when He was hanging on the cross! The highest level of love. The highest level of giving. The highest level of endurance. No one has greater love than this: to lay down His life for His friends (John 15:13).
Peter didn't understand this. That is why, when Christ said He was going to be crucified, he said "you can't do that, O Lord!" Why did he say that? Because he didn't understand the meaning of power. He thought that power was that Christ be a king and people worship, bow and kneel to Him. Peter didn't think that power was that Christ shed his blood for us. Peter didn't understand power in another situation; when Christ was being arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant. He thought that this was power and bravery. Christ told him no, concerning killing the servant, that's easy, it's easy to kill all these people, but power isn't that we kill them, but bear them. That is the true power.
Just like John and James the sons of Zebedee, they thought that power was that fire come down and burn the city of the Samaritans that shut it's doors in the face of Christ. Christ told them that that isn't power. The power is that I bear them, have patience on them and wait until I save them. That is the true power. He said, "you do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them" (Luke 9:55,56).
Christ gave is a live, practical example of power. He didn't explain in detail the meaning of power, but presented an example of it from a Christian point of view. Power that ascended accepted and bore the cross for the sake of others. But the person that's shaken from one, small word is a weak person. That person can't bear the injustice of the wicked and therefore becomes shaken quickly.
When we stand in the presence of the cross, my brothers and sister, we don't stand to weep over Christ like Mary Magdalene and the daughters of Jerusalem did or to mourn and greet Him. We stand near the cross to glorify the cross and He who is crucified upon it and to sing to Him the lovely hymn, "Thine is the power, the glory, the blessings and the majesty forever, amen..."
Therefore, we boast in the cross. "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). If the cross was a sign of weakness, we wouldn't boast in it! If the cross was a sign of weakness, we wouldn't hang it in our churches, on top of our towers, around our necks, engraved it in our hands or took it as a theme in all our occasions. To us, the cross is a sign of power. In it appears the power of love, self-sacrifice and endurance. Indeed, this is the true power.
Many people said to Christ if you were the Son of God, or if you were powerful come down from the cross. If Christ had come down from the cross, humanity's salvation would have been lost. He was never overcome by this false glory or the wrong meaning of power because He was strong. Expressions of glorification did not matter to Him. Christ never thought of Himself, but of us. He didn't care about saving Himself, but about our salvation.
**Credit and Attribution
This article was translated from an Arabic audio sermon and edited by George Andraws, and also appears on mycopticchurch.com.
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