Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bright Thursday: Rejoice in the Lord Always


Here is my translation of a brief Paschal homily given by the much-missed Bishop Mitrophan of Boston (+2002):
Christ is Risen!

What a heavenly, luminous joy does the sound of these two words convey to every Christian soul, immortal by nature. This eternal, inexhaustible, universal joy began when the Risen Lord appeared to the Myrrbearers on the first day with the word: “Rejoice!” They ran to the Apostles with the joyful tiding: “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” and the Conqueror of death revealed Himself to the Apostle Peter. The tiding of Christ’s Resurrection has become the foundation of faith and the inexhaustible source of joy ever since, not only for the Apostles, but for every faithful person. For the sake of Christ’s Resurrection have not only the Apostles, but all the faithful of all times, and in our own days, forgotten and do forget their personal lives, everything earthly, and followed Him to any suffering, even to death on the cross. This is because the Resurrection of Christ is an Historical Fact.

Pascha! This Feast of feasts calls us from slavery to sin to freedom and eternal life! This is a joyful Feast, invigorating our soul, calling all to Divine joy and to rejoicing. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice, the Apostle cries out to us. The essence of our Paschal joy is that we “celebrate the death of death, the beginning of another life eternal.”

We are all, dear brothers and sisters, Christians. Christianity is a religion of joy. Pascha is not a remembrance, it is not a dream. Pascha is reality! It was always Pascha for St Seraphim of Sarov. “My joy, Christ is Risen!” – this is how the saint greeted everyone who approached him, both in spring and summer, both in fall and winter. Why? Because he lived in Paschal joy, he firmly believed in God’s presence in the world and in the reality of the other world. Other saints, too, never tired of repeating the words of the Apostle – “rejoice always.” When they were asked how this joy could be acquired, they answered: this joy comes from a pure heart and unceasing prayer.

In the weeks preparatory to Holy Pascha, the weeks of the Great Fast, the Lord, overlooking our shortcomings in His love and mercy, called us to Himself. We, “with fear of God and faith drawing near,” “tasted the source of immortality,” and sang with great joy on the Paschal night: “a Pascha of the faithful, a Pascha that hath opened the gates of Paradise to us.” The gates are open. May every one of us enter. In order to enter, everyone needs to continue to work on themselves, for Eternal Joy, the plentitude of which is expressed in Christ’s Resurrection, is accessible to us as a result of our confirmation in Christ. How? Through unceasing spiritual vigilance and the conquering of fleshly wisdom. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

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