The Most Joyful Hymn

The Most Joyful Hymn

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Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel,  the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory. The saying is sure:  If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  II Timothy 2: 8-12  Bright Tuesday 

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

Christ is Risen!

The marquee hymn of the Orthodox Church, is the hymn of the Resurrection, known as “Christos Anesti” or “Christ is Risen”.  This hymn is about twenty words in length, and yet it encapsulates what we believe about the Resurrection and its significance for our lives.  The hymn provides history from the past, theology for the present and direction for the future:

Christ is Risen from the dead, by death trampling down death and to those in the tombs He has granted life. (Translation by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 2013)

We will sing this hymn multiple times at every divine service until the Feast of the Ascension.  If an Orthodox Christian knows only one hymn, this is the hymn.  More important than knowing how to sing it, however, is knowing what it means:

Christ is Risen from the dead—This is a statement of triumph and one of faith.  None of us was there at the Resurrection.  We put our faith in the writings of the scriptures, the eye-witness accounts recorded for us in Scripture and Tradition, and we put our faith in the history of a church that for 2,000 years has spread this message of hope.

By death trampling down upon death—Through His death and Resurrection, Christ destroyed the power of death.  He proved that God can have dominion even over death.

And to those in the tombs He has granted life—To the one who has died, the death is only of a body.  The soul inside of that body leaves from the body and goes back to God for judgment, and if the soul has lived in faith, then it goes into everlasting joy, heaven.

This beautiful hymn neither praises God, nor asks God for anything.  Rather it states for us in very encouraging language, the whole goal of life, which is to live as a person of faith, so that we can conquer death and attain eternal LIFE.  We sing it hundreds of times during the Paschal season, so that we can retain its important message.  If anyone asks you why the Resurrection is necessary or important, you can answer this complicated question in twenty-one words, the words of this hymn.

It is not only this hymn that is front and center to our Paschal observance.  We are also supposed to greet one another with the words “Christ is Risen,” and the response is “Truly He is Risen!”  In Greek, we say “Christos Anesti,” with the response being “Alithos Anesti!”

Why greet one another with these words?  First, because it’s good news!  On Christmas, everyone wishes each other “Merry Christmas!”  When it’s someone’s birthday, we wish them “Happy Birthday!”  Well, the most significant thing that has ever happened in the history of the world and in our lives is that Christ is Risen from the dead.  So, we should greet each other with these words with great JOY.  This statement is one of triumph and also one of encouragement.  Many times when we are down in the dumps and someone says, “Well, think of it this way, it could be worse.”  Well, when you are down in the dumps, remember “Christ is Risen” and this is cause for hope even in the worst of times.  Because Christ is Risen, there is eternal hope for me.  There may not be hope on a given day or in a given circumstance, but speaking in God’s eternal terms, there is always eternal hope and this is so because Christ is Risen!

Finally, these words serve as a good conversation starter.  We all have caller ID on our phones.  I challenge you to answer your phone with these words “Christ is Risen” for 40 days.  Even if the person calling is not Orthodox, it will be a great way to witness for your faith.  You don’t have to stand on a street corner holding a sign, or go to a third world country to tell others about Christ.  It can be as simple as answering your phone!  Begin all correspondence with this greeting as well!

So, let us greet one another with these words, and let us sing this hymn with joy and with purpose.  Christ is Risen!  And because He is, there is hope for me to be risen with Him.

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, Who alone is without sin.  We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection.  For You are our God, and we know no other, except You, and we call on Your Name.  Come, all you faithful, let us worship Christ’s Holy Resurrection; for lo, through the Cross, joy has come to the whole world.  For, at all times, blessing the Lord, we praise His Resurrection.  Having endured the Cross for us, He destroyed Death by death.  Having risen from the grave, as He foretold, He has given us Eternal life and the Great Mercy.  (Resurrection Ode at the Resurrection Service, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)

Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0