Christ is Risen!
Have you ever noticed something unnerving about the Resurrection?
Just after midnight on Pascha, in a darkened church, the Priest joyfully proclaims the Paschal anthem “Christ is risen from the dead!” It is then repeated two more times and following that, verses from Psalm 67 (68) are proclaimed between additional repetitions of the Christos Anesti hymn.
The verses say this: “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee from His presence. As smoke vanishes, let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire.” And what happens next? Everybody leaves.
Maybe not everybody and not in every church, but in too many churches it seems that people want to check-in that night, just to make sure Christ has risen and when they are satisfied He has, it’s time to go home. At the same time, so many people celebrate Easter without even making an attempt to come to church. To them, it’s like the 4th of July, only instead of hotdogs, we eat lamb.
It reminds me of our Lord’s words, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
For me, it’s a sad state of affairs and I suppose we haven’t done enough to explain in ordinary terms, how beautiful and important the resurrection of Christ is. Perhaps we have not placed enough emphasis on the centrality of the Resurrection of Christ…to accept it as a reality and in turn, to devote our life to Christ. The only alternative, unfortunately, is to minimize it and live life as if it never happened.
I came across a sermon of Metropolitan Augustinos of Florina recently that said something profound. He stated that before Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He visited the home of His friends, Lazarus (whom He had just raised from the dead), Martha and Mary in Bethany for the last time. Metropolitan Augustinos then asked a question. He asked, “Can you imagine with what feelings of happiness and gratitude Lazarus’ family received Him? Because, after all, where Christ is, there is Paradise. And where He is not, there is Hell. The house of Lazarus became Paradise that day.”
Christ is also present at His resurrection. He is invisibly present every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, teaching, blessing and offering the precious gifts of His Body and Blood. The point is that Christ is in the Church and anywhere Christ is, there is Paradise.
If only every soul could know that and appreciate that and live that.
The unnerving irony of so many people doing exactly what Psalm 67 (68) describes is unmistakable. But the good news is that when eyes and ears and hearts are opened, Christ and Paradise are there for all to receive.