Augustine Sokolovski

The first day of Holy Week is called "Great Monday". On this day, in the service, the gospel story of the fig tree is recalled. It tells how the Lord, going up to Jerusalem, saw a tree that did not bear fruit. The Lord cursed the fig tree, and it withered immediately (Matthew 21:18-19).

The gospel story contains a direct moral edification addressed to everyone: if we do not bear the fruits of virtue, then we will be identified with a barren fig tree, and the word of damnation will be pronounced over us.

But this narrative has another, theological meaning, which is directly related to the theology of salvation.

According to Scripture, the Lord Jesus is King, High Priest, and Prophet. Like the great Old Testament prophet, in His words and deeds, and what is very important, in gestures and deeds, He pointed to what, by the mysterious Predestination of God, was to happen.

After all, every person, by nature, is spiritually barren. Unable to bear fruit. Already withered and died, being alive. “You bear the name as if you were alive, but you are dead,” says the Apocalypse (Rev. 3:1). As Dostoevsky writes about this in his Notes from the Underground, “we are all stillborn.” Or, as Metallica prophetically sang a quarter of a century ago: "To live is to die."

According to biblical teaching, the Lord Jesus had no sin in him and did not have to die. Having ascended the Cross, He took upon Himself a biblical curse, addressed not to Him, but to everyone hanging on a tree. “Cursed before God is he who is hung on a tree,” writes Deuteronomy. In the Epistle to the Galatians, these words, in relation to the Lord Jesus, are reproduced by the Apostle Paul.

The Lord was crucified “for the sake of us people and for the sake of our salvation,” says the Creed. He did it voluntarily. Done once and forever.

This means that for the sake of man's salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself became a fig tree - a flowering fig tree, full of life and strength.

Approaching the saving mystery of our deliverance, perfected by the Lord, it is necessary to carefully overcome any fatalism. After all, according to Scripture, the suffering of the Lord was voluntary. He was not doomed. He might not die.

The enemies of the Lord tried to stop His Messiahship. Feared the Kingdom proclaimed by Him. Demanding signs and wonders, they sought to destroy Him before, like the innocent fig tree in the Gospel (cf. Mark 11:13), it bears its fruit.

But the curse of the human race fell on His head: the Lord Himself became a fig tree that accepted the curse so that we could all partake of the life-giving fruits of His Suffering.