Today we rejoice because the Lord has set us free. In His Resurrection, death and its hold over mankind has been defeated. As we see in the icon of the Resurrection, Christ lifts Adam and Eve out of their tombs and through them lifts all of us from the bonds of corruption. The doors of Hades have been broken forever and death himself has been bound, rendered powerless before the omnipotent God. As Moses led the Hebrew people from slavery and death in Egypt to life in the Promised Land, Christ has led us from the tyranny of death and corruption into a new reality of life with God. As we hear in the praises of Pascha, “Paradise has been opened for us.”
We have labored throughout our Lenten journey to bring us to this point. We have observed the practices and ascetic disciplines of our Tradition so that we would be prepared physically, intellectually, and spirituality for this moment. We have spent Holy Week sharing in the Passion of the Lord so that we might enter that blessed and empty Tomb and bear witness to the reality that, “He is not here. He is risen” (Matthew 28.5). To paraphrase St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, the sixth century father of our Church, we have descended with Him so that we may rejoice together.
And so, my beloved sisters and brothers, today, we can put our asceticism aside and celebrate. As we hear in the Paschal homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom, “O rich and poor … dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!”
Yet, not all are able to feast at the table as we do today. Not all are able to celebrate in freedom. The Christian community in the Middle East and Africa still yearn to be free from persecution, merely for calling themselves Christian. They long to be able to walk through the streets of their cities and share the Good News that Christ is risen and “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15.22). But out of fear of persecution and martyrdom, the message of the Resurrection must only beat in their hearts. So, for them, let us chant the hymns of Pascha with greater strength and joy, proclaiming “God has put all things under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15.27). For them, let us raise our lit candles high because “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15.554). For them, let us share the Good News with our neighbors.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
With Love in the Risen Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco