St. Gregory the Enlightener’s Torture and Imprisonment in the Pit,
Thirty-Fourth Day of Great Lent
 For righteousness is immortal.
 But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away,
and they made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his party.
 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
 Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.
 When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
 Our name will be forgotten in time
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
 For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.
 “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
 Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass by us.
 Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
 Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
 Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.
 But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.
 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
 He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
 the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
 We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
 Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
 Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
 and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hope for the wages of holiness,
nor discern the prize for blameless souls;
 But as for me, I will look to the LORD,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.
 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me.
 I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me forth to the light;
I shall behold his deliverance.
 Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the LORD your God?”
My eyes will gloat over her;
now she will be trodden down
like the mire of the streets.
 I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,
 so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ;
 and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear.
 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.
 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel;
 the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.
 Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,
 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.
 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyright © National Council of Churches of Christ in America