On Judas’ Betrayal

29 April 2021

a) …Today, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was handed over. On the coming evening, the Jews took him and led him away. But don’t be dejected on hearing that Jesus was handed over; or rather, do be dejected and weep bitterly, but not over Jesus who was betrayed, but over the traitor, Judas. For the former, who was handed over, saved the whole world; whereas the latter, the traitor, lost his own soul. He who was betrayed sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven; he who betrayed him is now in hades, awaiting condign punishment. So do weep and moan for his sake; mourn for his sake, since even our Master shed tears for him. Seeing him, Jesus was troubled and said: ‘One of you shall betray me’. How great our Master’s compassion is. He who was betrayed grieved for his betrayer. Seeing him, Jesus was troubled and said: ‘One of you shall betray me’. Over whom was he disheartened? He showed his tender love and, at the same time, taught us that it is altogether proper to mourn, not for the person enduring a wrong, but for the one committing it. The latter is worse off than the former. Or rather, enduring a wrong isn’t bad; but acting wrongly is. Suffering wrong gains us the Kingdom of Heaven; committing wickedness results in Gehenna and punishment for us. For the Lord says: ‘Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Do you see how enduring evil has the kingdom of heaven as its recompense and reward?

c) … ‘What will you give me to deliver him to you?’. Tell me, did Christ teach you that? Didn’t he tell you: ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor copper in your money belts’, in order to stop you being avaricious from the outset? Did He not continually urge this, and also say: ‘But if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to them also’? ‘What will you give me to deliver him to you?’. What madness! Tell me, for what? What fault, small or great, do you bring to bear in order to betray the Teacher? That He granted you authority over demons? That he made you able to end sickness? To cleanse lepers? To raise the dead? That he ended the tyranny of death? This is how you paid back these benefactions? ‘What will you give me to deliver him to you?’. What madness! Or rather, what avarice! Because that’s what has engendered all this wickedness: because of his lust for money, he betrayed the Teacher. Such is this evil root, worse than a demon; it deranges the souls it’s conquered and makes them oblivious to everything: themselves, their neighbors, as well as the laws of nature. It drives people out of their minds and makes them insane. Look how much it cast out from the soul of Judas: shared discourse, habit, social eating, miracles, instruction, counsel, and admonitions. All of that was then cast into oblivion by avarice. So Paul was right to say: ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’…

I’ve said all this so that no one will blame Christ, saying: ‘Why didn’t he change Judas? Why didn’t he make him sensible and benign?’ How ought Judas to have been made benign? By force or voluntarily? If by force, there is no way that would have improved him, because no-one ever becomes good by force. But if Judas had wanted to, by his own choice and inclination, then Christ would have used all means to amend his will and intent. If people chose not to take medicine, that’s not the fault of the physician but of those who avoid treatment. Look at how much Christ did in order to win him over and save him. He taught him all wisdom by words and deeds; he set him above the demons; he prepared him to perform numerous miracles; he frightened with the threat of hell; he encouraged him with the promise of the kingdom; he continually checked his unspoken inclinations, without making them public; he washed his feet along with the others and shared his table with him. Nothing, great or small, was left undone; Judas remained incorrigible because he chose to…

e) …But it’s time to approach that dread table. Therefore, let us all approach with all due discretion and sobriety. And let no one be Judas any longer; let no one be wicked; let no one be venomous, saying one thing and thinking another. Christ is present, and he who laid that table then [i. e. the Last Supper] also sets this one now [Holy Communion]. For it is not a man who makes into the body and blood of Christ what is set out, but Christ himself, who was crucified for our sake. The priest, standing in for him, speaks the words. But the power and the grace belong to God. ‘This is my body’, he says. These words transform what is set forth. Just as the words ‘Increase and multiply and fill the earth’ were indeed said on one particular occasion, but have throughout all time enabled our nature to beget children, so also from that time until now and until His Coming, these words, that were said once, accomplish the perfect sacrifice on each altar table in the churches. Therefore, let no one be unscrupulous; let no one be full of wickedness; let no one have venomous thoughts, lest they be condemned. For truly it was after Judas had received the offering that the devil fell upon him, not out of contempt for the body of the Lord, but contempt for Judas’ shamelessness, so that you might learn that the devil especially falls upon and repeatedly attacks those who partake of the divine sacraments unworthily, as he did with Judas at that time. For honors benefit those who are worthy; but those who enjoy them unworthily are cast into greater punishment. I’m not saying this to frighten you, but to keep you safe. Therefore, let no one be Judas; let no one that enters [for Holy Communion] have the venom of wickedness. The sacrifice is spiritual food, and just as bodily food that enters a stomach full of unhealthy secretions makes the illness even worse (not because of its own nature but because of the sickness of the stomach), this is also usually the case with the spiritual sacraments. They also, when they enter a soul that’s full of wickedness, bring even more ruination and destruction, not on account of their own nature but because of the sickness of the soul receiving them.

Therefore, let no one have wicked thoughts within themselves, but let us purify our mind, for we’re approaching the spotless sacrifice. Let us make our soul holy; it’s possible for this to happen even in a single day. How, and in what way? If you have anything against your enemy, expel your anger, heal your wound, put an end to your hostility, so that you may receive healing from the holy table; for you’re approaching the dread and holy sacrifice. Stand in awe before the meaning of this offering. Christ lies slain before us. On what account was he slain and why? In order to make peace between heaven and the earth, in order to make you a friend of the angels, in order to reconcile you to the God of all, to make you, an enemy and opponent, into a friend.

Source: On the Betrayal by Judas and on the Passover and on the transmission of the sacraments and on not being malicious. Holy and Great Thursday.

P.G. 50 (in Greek).