Monday, April 05, 2010

Christ has risen! Easter and St. John Chrysosthom

Christ has risen!

Well, he rose yesterday, strictly speaking, but the last day of the Triduum Triathlon was extremely busy what dragging ourselves awake after the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, dealing with a sick toddler, getting out to Easter Sunday service where I was MCing and, then, having friends over for our Paschal feast of leg of lamb, Greek style potatoes, asparagus et al. I had a good Triduum, especially because, for the first time in a couple of years, I managed to make all the services (Good Friday was the children's service- an abbreviated Stations of the Cross- but, still, good) plus the Stations of the Cross on Wednesday. Good, but tiring.

Another good thing was that I made an acquaintance with St. John Chrysosthom's famous Paschal Homily. I can't believe that I hadn't run into this sermon before. Not only is St. John Chrysosthom one of my favourite patristic authors, this homily is so famous it is read Easter morning in Orthodox churches. You'd think I'd have read it before. Mind you, I could have and simply forgot. That happens sometimes.

So, for those of you who haven't read it, here is the full sermon from good folks at

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting,

Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

What I love about this homily is that St. John manages to convey the joy of Easter in such a human and humane way. We all know that St. John was not exactly a shrinking violet when he saw injustice or luxury or sin in his congregation, but here he is at his most charitable, largely because he sees God's grace cascading forth in Easter in such a way that it covers over our sins and shortcomings. Thus, he invokes the labourers in the parable of Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20) as a way of encouraging his congregation to celebrate the Easter no matter their successes or failures at Lenten disciplines. Further, he reinforces this sense by the bold juxtapositions in the fourth stanza in which he sets those who 'succeed' at Lent and those who do not, but calls them both to the Paschal (and, thus, the eschatological) Feast.

Ultimately, the reason for this call and for this grace comes towards the end- the resurrection of the Lord. That moment, the moment when Jesus broke the power of sin and death, is a crucial moment for all of us sinners. Without warning or expectation, God intervened in the world in a dramatic and intimate way in order to save us (US!) from the mess that we ourselves had created through our continued rebellion against God. Easter reminds us of that new beginning and the new creation we are called to be. And it calls us to the consummation of that new beginning in the hoped-for future

So, it is comforting to know that no matter how well our Lenten discipline have gone, we are called to the Paschal feast and to the redemptive victory so painfully won by God himself.

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!


No comments: