Homily of the Very Reverend Archimandrite Parthenius on Holy Pascha, Easter
y dear ones, we have gathered today, in this most holy dawn, to celebrate with Paschal joy this “chosen and Holy Day, the first of Sabbaths, the Sovereign and Queen, the Feast of Feasts, and Triumph of Triumphs”, as the whole of the Orthodoxy chants today. The Resurrection of Christ is a foundation, essence of our god-revealed faith. If we just think about it, our very existence would have been unimaginable without Christ’s victory over death. It’s easy to conclude that mankind cannot be reconciled with egoism, passions, sin, and ultimately with death. They don’t give man the internal peace and happiness, but rather the opposite: make him confused, disturbed and frightened. Therefore, deep in his soul he yearns for some kind of change of the state he is in, a pass from that miserable state to some other, much better and more joyful. Biblically speaking: man requires Pascha.
In the Old Testament, the holiday of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea was called Pesah, which in Old Hebrew means “Passover”. It was the greatest holiday of ancient Israel, a holiday in which all, with gratitude and offerings, reminded themselves of the way God delivered them from the Egyptian bondage. In a spiritual sense, every person has an essential need of freedom from the tyranny of evil in the world and mostly, in himself, and no less need to escape from the mortal embrace of death. That’s why all the religions, philosophies, ethical systems and ideologies are preoccupied with finding a better way of life, finding the right path which leads to a passover to a safer and more satisfying state of being. All of them managed, to some extent to bring peace to man, even if only seemingly. However, none of them managed to find a real solution to the greatest problem which for centuries mercilessly held man captive – death.
The only One Who made a passover from death to life is Christ. This is the undisputable fact which for nearly 2000 years shines to the entire humankind, with the rays of the salvational paschal light of the gloriously Resurrected Christ. The Crucified Nazorean, The God Made Man who has risen and is no longer here in the grave (Mark 16, 6), is our true Pascha, “sacred Pascha is revealed to us, holy and new Pascha, the mystical Passover, … the Pascha which is the key to the gates of Paradise, the Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful”. He is the real passover of man from death to life; He is our Emperor and High Priest; And there is no other leader to Resurrection, than Christ Who as a man willingly tasted death, and as a God resurrected with His own power. Prophet Moses from the Old Testament, who was assigned by God to be a prophet and a leader, by a great Divine miracle, managed to get the Jews across the Red Sea, and save them from the Pharaoh’s wrath. And when he brought his people to the Promised Land, he climbed Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho, then God showed him all the land He had promised to the sons of Israel. Before that, God revealed to Moses the greatest prophecy for his nation, a prophecy which overcomes all the others, including the one for the Promised Land: I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. (Deuteronomy 18, 18); No one else could these prophetic words apply to, but to the Logos of God Itself, because if such Leader Who could overcome sin and death didn’t appear, then there would have been no use of any other leaders, prophets, magistrates and kings. All the others succumbed to death, as to their final destination. While as Christ, although all the evil of this world fell on Him, crucified Him and closed Him in a grave, still He triumphantly resurrected. He reposed “as a dead lion but as a young strong lion cab resurrected”. It wasn’t possible for the dark forces to defeat the Life-giver and Creator. For twenty centuries now the life-giving rays of His all-salvational Paschal joy warms and keeps alive the entire creation.
One might ask what could this world as we know it have in common with the joy of Resurrection? Drowned in the terrible darkness of passions, animosity, hatred, mutual extinction, it seems like the world cannot find place for the Man Made God Christ. In fact it was this world that crucified Christ. But with this willful Crucifixion of His, the Son of God won the world over, holding it tight in His loving embrace on the Cross. The words spoken from there: Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. (Luke 23, 34), was His flashlight through the darkness of hatred. He proved that He has brought salvation for everybody, crucified Himself even for those that crucified Him. His love, as an unstoppable spring, pours itself on all of us: on those striving to live righteously but also on those who constantly sin, who fornicate, giving into the modern vices and addictions, even on those filled with hatred and envy.
The message of the Cross and the Resurrection has been sent to everyone. However only the faithful, who have based their life on the mysterious event of the Resurrection of our Lord, can truly feel and fully rejoice in it. The Paschal joy has no magical character, it simply isn’t something given to us for just one night. The Paschal joy is a reality we live. Those who became Christ’s friends through the fit of love, live the Resurrection every Sunday, but also on every Liturgy, which is actually a revelation and a mystical experience of the Paschal event. Contrary to the sons of this modern time – who crucify others in the struggle for their own interests, even if the struggle is against evil, these children of God crucify themselves for their neighbors, by nailing on the cross of constant fit their egoism and passions. It is them who are the personification, the presence of Christ’s Paschal light in this world. They are the counterbalance of all the worldly evil, which is desperately trying to dispute the truth about the glorious empty grave at Golgotha
But my dear ones, Christ has truly risen from the Grave, and has given this world bright light and immense joy. It is up to us to choose whether we would accept the life of Resurrection. Let us not follow the example of the darkened world on Holy Friday, when during the crucifying of our Lord, there was darkness all over the world from the sixth hour until the ninth hour (Luke 23, 44). Without Christ, the world is darkness, an abys of despair and desolation. Therefore let’s open our hearts and rejoice in this supreme holy night, radiant with light, the harbinger of the bright day of Resurrection, let us celebrate the Resurrected Christ Who has invited us to be His friends, in order to present us with the most precious gift – life eternal and never ending joy. And let’s not forget that this joy is not from this world, therefore not temporary as all worldly things, but goes on in eternity.
Thank you for being so numerous today, for the sake of Christ – our everlasting joy, to the great joy of the spirits of our fathers, brothers and sisters, who had lived and reposed with the hope in the Resurrection, and finally to the joy of the angelic orders in the heavens, who call us now with pure hearts to celebrate the luminous Christ’s Resurrection.
Christ is Risen!