Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Christos Anesti!

Christ is Risen! I apologize that this is a couple of days late. I hope that each of you had a blessed Pascha celebration.

One of my favorite parts of the Orthodox Pascha service is the reading of the Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom. Written around 400 A.D., this masterpiece of preaching has been read immediately before the Paschal Divine Liturgy each year since. I bet when St. John was writing this sermon, he had no idea that it would be repeated year after year for over 1600 years (and it may be many more if our Lord tarries).

Those of you who are not Orthodox may never have had the pleasure of hearing or reading the homily. Those who are Orthodox have no doubt heard it several times, but you may not have ever looked at it closely. So, for the benefit of all, I am reproducing the text of the homily here. Enjoy, and may the Lord bless you during this Bright Week.

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
"O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?"

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

1 comment:

Paul said...

During all of Lent, year after year I have felt heavier and heavier and weighted down by worries and concerns of life in my failings as a child of Christ.

Holy Week though is a time of great sorrow and anticipation and weighs heavily on my heart with the uncertanty of my salvation.

It is not until I hear the priest, seemingly out of nowhere, repeat St. John's homily that my heart truly leaps with anticipated joy and surprise that Christ still is interested in (me) THE sinner of sinners.

I drink in every word of this homily every year with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart that I too have been invited to His feast of Feasts.

Christ is Risen: and has allowed me to ride in on His coat tails.