Again, I thought of writing my own reflection, but I think I’d rather just share, for those who have not read it or heard it, the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom. This is read every year in every Orthodox parish on Pascha (Easter), and it is one of the highlights of the night. (We begin at 11pm.) Pascha, for us, is a season that begins with the feast today and does not end until forty days later on the feast of the Ascension. Thus, I’m sure I will have plenty of time for my own words. But for now, I will simply say that all the hope and joy and triumph and peace of Christianity is summed up in the single phrase: “Christ is risen!”
Without further ado, St. John Chrysostom:
If any be a devout lover of God,
let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.
For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour
in the same was as him who has laboured from the first.
He accepts the deed, and commends the intention.
Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike your reward.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice together.
The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it.
The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.
Let none lament his poverty;
for the universal Kingdom is revealed.
Let none bewail his transgressions;
for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let none fear death;
for [the] death of the Saviour has set us free.
He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled Hades by descending into Hades.
He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried:
Hades was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;
filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.
Hades received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven.
O death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your 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, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.
(Note: I have changed the word “hell” to “Hades” from the source in the foregoing to more accurately reflect the Greek.)