The Most Just Scales
Archbishop ANTHONY (Medvedev)
“Come, God-lovers all, behold the honorable Cross”
In the artistically figurative language of our marvelous Orthodox divine service, the Cross of the Lord is compared with "just scales." In the Church Slavonic language, this is expressed by the words "merilo pravednoe" ("just balance").
"In the midst of two thieves, Thy Cross was found to be a just balance."
Here before our spiritual gaze is Golgotha on the day of our redemption from sin, the curse and death.
Our Lord the Redeemer is on the Cross. As a man, He is crucified; but as God, He weighs everything, He tests everything.
And He is between two thieves, who are crucified on their crosses.
One of the thieves, as a real forerunner of the Bolsheviks, maliciously blasphemes. But the other thief, who stopped the first, and himself repented... O, how his image has become imprinted on the soul of the Christian, in the consciousness of the whole Church! With what compunction we listen on Great Thursday evening when this "repentance of the thief" is read about in the Eighth Passion Gospel, and after that when they sing about the wise thief. For centuries and centuries they have been singing about him. The hearts of those singing are humbled, and in response, the hearts of the listeners are also humbled. But someone is malevolent and will not want to humble himself; some unfortunate one will not want – stubbornly will not want – to depart from his malice. And amidst all stands the crucifixion, as a depiction of that Cross of the Lord on Golgotha, of that most just balance with which the Son of God, invisible to us, weighed and weighs everything.
But how does the balance of the Cross act according to the explanation of the Church' s hymn?!
"In the midst of two thieves, Thy Cross was found to be a just balance: the one was brought down to hades by the weight of his blasphemy, while the other was lightened of his transgressions unto the knowledge of theology; O Christ God, glory be to Thee!"
And so, one (the blasphemer of God) is brought down to hades by the weight of his blasphemy, while from the other the weight of his transgressions was cast off, so that he came to know the One about whom he theologized; that is, so that he came to know more and more the One whom he called Lord.
Thus, malice and blasphemy forced one cup of the scales to go down, while the faith, repentance, humility and self-condemnation of the wise thief drove the other cup of the scales upwards.
That is why on our eight-pointed depictions of the Cross of the Lord the "footrest" or the lower crossbeam of the Cross is depicted symbolically aslant, as the crossbeam of scales on which one cup of the scales drops down, while the other is raised up.
The left side of the Cross from our view is the right side from the view of the Lord, Who was crucified on the Cross. According to tradition, the repentant thief was crucified on the right side, his calling into the Kingdom of Heaven being signified by the raised end of the footrest of the Cross, while the other end signified the fall and condemnation of the unrepentant thief.
This action of the Cross, as a most just balance, we may call divine all-justness, and the fact that Christ the Savior, as the true Incarnation of Love, on the Cross stretched out his pierced hands to all people, praying for His crucifiers – this is His most divine all-goodness.
He weighs and tests; He also calls.
The mystery of the joining of His all-justness and all-goodness is the mystery of our salvation and the mystery of the future life.
All-goodness touches us, it raises us up and encourages us while all-justness forces us to responsibly weigh every action, word, thought...
"A good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask!"