The second stanza of the Lamentations is affectionately called “Axion Esti” which is translated “It is fitting” (or worthy). There are two thoughts to discuss in this reflection. The first is that sometimes things that appear to have no purpose actually have a profound purpose. Take for example the crucifixion. Had a person who did know anything about Jesus walked up to Golgotha two thousand years ago, they would have seen a young man, who was good, polite and even well-liked by many dying a miserable, torturous and heinous death. On face value, that might have looked pointless. He or she might have asked “Why do this to someone so filled with virtue?” We know now that there was a purpose to this suffering. It opened up the gates of Paradise so that all of us can attain salvation. It has change the course of life for billions of people who have lived in the centuries following Jesus’ earthly ministry. It taught us a lesson that sometimes good can come out of suffering, and while we don’t need to necessarily be thankful for suffering we can still be thankful in suffering. We can still ask God to be with us and work through us even in our times of suffering.
The second thought has to do with the battle between God and the devil, between good and evil. If the devil walked into a room with red horns and holding a pitchfork and told us to do something wrong, we’d all recognize the devil and hopefully not follow him. The devil, however, is not so obvious in his appearance in our lives. Most of the time the devil is a voice that either comes through other people, in the form of peer pressure; or through opportunity, in the form of temptation; or in the form of a voice in our heads that clouds our thinking. I think he comes most of the time in the latter way, a small nagging voice that puts seeds of doubt and distraction into us.
Many of us remember the old cartoons where an angel would sit on one shoulder of a person and the devil on the other side. Each had a voice to tempt the person on whom they are appearing. The dueling voices would compete for the person’s attention. It took a lot of attentiveness to listen to the good voice while ignoring the bad one.
I believe that our conscience works in the same way. The voice of God rings in one ear while the temptation of the devil rings in the other. Since the Fall of mankind, the voice of the devil has always come into our ears, bringing with it encouragement to sin, and overall discouragement for life. Before Christ came to earth, the voice of God “Rang” in the ears of the people, but it was a voice to follow orders, to follow after Commandments.
When Jesus Christ appeared on earth, the message on God’s side changed from “strict adherence to the Law” to adherence to a Law of Love. We aren’t supposed to love our neighbor just in order to avoid punishment from God, but rather to show love for God and also for our neighbor. And the motivation to love our neighbor is not for accolades in this life, but to put treasure in heaven in preparation for eternal life.
Stanza two of the Lamentations begins with a cry to magnify Christ, the Giver of Life, who extended His hands upon the Cross and in so doing shattered the power of the enemy. Indeed there was purpose in the Crucifixion and suffering of Christ. We may still have the devil and the angel on our shoulders competing for our attention, but now the power of the enemy has been shattered. He cannot defeat the voice of Christ. Both voices ring in our ears, but when we listen to the voice of Christ, the power (and presence) of the enemy in our own heads is shattered. Because, as we read in I John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
What is the sight, which is now beheld? What is the present rest? The King of the Ages having completed the dispensation with His Passion takes His Sabbath rest in the tomb, granting us a new Sabbath. To Him let us cry out: “Arise, O God, and judge the earth, for You reign to the Ages, Who are boundless in Your great mercy.” (Praises, Sticheron 2, the Lamentations, Good Friday night, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
The enemy (devil) is real. However, we can use Christ, specifically faith, prayer and the cross (and suffering for it ourselves) itself to keep the enemy at bay. Let us not give in to the voice of temptation, but instead let us continually magnify Christ by listening to His voice and magnifying (giving glory) to Him in our thoughts, words and actions.