Monday, June 8, 2015

Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom

This phrase, taken from Luke 23:42, has always made an impression on me. The whole story of the thief asking, on the Cross, for Jesus to remember Him when they died, when they entered the Kingdom of God, shows exactly that a stranger, a thief, recognised that next to him was the Son of God. It is a story we should all have close to our hearts, understanding that God could be next to us and that even at the last moment we should repent and forgive. However, what happened to the thief after his death? Reading Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos’ new book Gazing on God I came across a narrative, taken by an Apocryphal source, showing what took place after these words were said by the thief.  The narrative shows the thief going into the Heavens, after the Resurrection; after Jesus broke own the gates of Hades. The narrative is as follows:

‘And as Enoch and Elias spoke thus with the saints, behold there came another man of vile habit, bearing upon his shoulders the sign of the cross; whom when they saw, all the saints said to him: Who are you? For your appearance is as of a robber; and why do you bear a sign on your shoulders? And he answered them and said: You have rightly said so: for I was a robber, doing all manner of evil on the earth. And the Jews crucified me with Jesus, and I saw the wonders in the creation which came to pass through the cross of Jesus when he was crucified, and I believed that he was the maker of all creature and the almighty king, and I besought him, saying: Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom. And he received my prayer, and he said unto me: Truly I say to you, this day you shall be with me in paradise, and if the angel that guards paradise does not allow you to enter, show him the sign of the cross; and tell him: Jesus Christ the Son of God who now is crucified has sent me. And when I had done so,  I said all these things to the angel who guards paradise; and when he heard this of me, he opened the door and brought me in and set me at the right hand of paradise, saying: Lo, now, stay here a little, and Adam the father of all mankind will enter with all hi children that are holy and righteous, after the triumph and glory of the ascending up of Christ the Lord that is crucified. When they heard all these words of the robber, all the holy patriarchs and prophets said with one voice: Blessed be the Lord Almighty, the Father of eternal good things, the Father of mercies, you who have given such grace to your sinners and have brought them again into the beauty of paradise and into your good pastures: for this is the most holy life of the spirit. Amen, Amen.’[1]

[1] Andreopoulos, Andreas, Gazing on God, (Cambridge, Clarke & Co, 2013), p. 48-49.

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