Христос Воскресе! Christ is Risen! Χριστος Aνεστη!
I sincerely greet you Reverend Fathers, and dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, with the Radiant Resurrection of Christ! The Pascha of Christ is “the Holy Day of Holy Days” (Irmos 8 of the Canon), the Holy Day above all other Holy Days, the first in order of significance – the Eternal Holy Day! “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death…” In this well-known hymn the Church points out why Christ arose from the dead. The Resurrection of Christ is a victory of God’s force and truth over sin and death. Word for word, in Slavonic the word “victory” is that which occurred “after misfortune or tragedy”, that is, after the tragedy of the shameful sinful slavery which resulted in the defeat of the devil and banishment from paradise.
The Apostle Paul presents death as a venomous serpent which killed everyone with its fangs. “The sting of death is sin” he wrote. (1 Corinthians 15, 54). By His death Christ pulled out the fatal sting. On the night of His Resurrection Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ united us with God again and in this way indeed “death trampled down death”. After this the Apostle Paul mocked death with the words of the Prophet Hosea (13, 14): “Death! Where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15, 55). A serpent, which has its fangs removed is not terrible, not even to small children. This metaphor implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim.
The Prophet Isaah in the 8th verse of the 25th chapter of his book says that “death will be devoured unto ages”. The Apostle Paul, quoting this prophecy of Isaah exclaimed: “death is devoured by victory” (1 Corinthians 15, 54)! What happens when death is devoured by victory? It itself dies. It undergoes what it namely did to everyone else without exemption. St. John of Damascus in the 7th hymn of the Pascal Canon gave St. Paul’s formula absolutely exactly in another way: “We celebrate the killing of death”. Pascha is the Holy Day of the burial of death.
The union with the Source of Life and the annihilation of death is our resurrection from sinful mortality. No, death itself has not disappeared. But for Christians it has stopped being so terrible. It no longer smells terribly, it no longer exhales stench. Wherever sin has been cast aside, death can only interrupt the earthly life and as a door can open into a new heavenly life. For us the way to the celebration over death lies through the victory over sin in our own selves. A Christian should live so that he or she is victorious over sin daily and boldly repeat with Apostle Paul: “For me life is Christ and death an acquisition” (Philippians 1, 21). The final fulfillment of Isaah’s prophecy is completed in the glorious Kingdom of Christ. Apostle Paul explains it such: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that “Death is swallowed up in victory”. (1 Corinthians 15, 54). After the universal resurrection our body will transform, take on a new form of existence, as if putting on new clothing.
I prayerfully wish all of us, through the fulfilling of the Gospel’s teaching given to us by Christ the Savior, to attain in this earthly life the eternal state of Pascal celebration in perfection and fullness! Spiritually celebrating the Pascal Victory of Christ over death and hell, let us glorify Him by our new life remembering the grateful and inspiring words of Apostle Paul from his First Epistle to the Corinthians: “But thanks be to God, Who gives us the Victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord”. (1 Corinthians 15, 57-58).
Indeed He is Risen! In truth He is Risen!
Sincerely asking for your Holy prayers, with prayerful wishes to always remain in the pascal exultation of the Resurrection of Christ and in good health, with love in the Resurrected Christ,
Bishop of Kashira, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes
of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada
Great and Holy Pascha * April 15, 2012 *