Christ is Risen!
Let’s go back for a moment to the rubrics of the Resurrection service. The Light was distributed by the priest to the faithful. And a procession was made to a designated place where the Gospel of the Resurrection was read. All four of the Gospels have an account of the Resurrection. At the Resurrection service, the account from Mark 16:1-8 is read. Following this, the faithful sing the hymn “Christos Anesti/Christ is Risen” ten times, while the priest intones verses from Psalm 68:1-3 and Psalm 118:24 in between.
As a personal aside, I find these verses very powerful. It’s like we’ve made this slow journey through Lent, the long weeks, the fasting, the long services, and more significantly, the long look we’ve hopefully taken within ourselves, our own souls. And with the beginning of our celebration of the Resurrection, our anticipation takes off like a rocket ship, with power and with urgency. Not only do we sing the triumphant hymn “Christ is Risen,” the priest intones, with emphasis:
Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those who hate Him flee before Him!
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before fire.
Let the wicket perish before God! But let the righteous be joyful. Psalm 68:1-3
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 124:18
After singing Christos Anesti/Christ is Risen ten times, the priest intones the Great Litany, the series of twelve petitions that begin most of our services. In the parish where I serve, we celebrate the Resurrection service outside, and thus these petitions are offered outside our church once a year. As we pray for “peace in the world” and “for our city” we are actually offering these prayers out in the world and in our city, rather than behind the closed doors of our church.
With all of these concluded, we begin to chant the Paschal Canon. We have already discussed the first Passover of the Jews, when they were liberated from slavery in Egypt. The “Passover” was when the tenth plague came upon Egypt and the angel of death passed by every home and brought death to the first born in all the land. The blood of a lamb was put over the doors of the Jews and the angel of death “passed over” their homes, sparing them. Following the “Passover,” Pharaoh let God’s people go free.
The New Passover, is the Passover of the Lord. “Pascha” is the Greek word for “Passover.” Thus, these words “Pascha” and “Passover” can be used interchangeably. So, this Pascha, the new Pascha, is the Pascha of the Lord, where we commemorate the freedom from the bondage of death that is granted to God’s people through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are called to the feast now with joy. Again, in the parish where I serve, as we sing this hymn, we walk back into the church, the lights are turned on fully, revealing the church decorated in white, representing a new beginning. As the hymn said, we “glory in splendor!” And why? Because “Christ our God has transported us who sing the triumphal hymn from death to life, and from earth to heaven.”
This hymn echoes Christ’s words from John 5:24, when He told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed form death to life.” Remember when we discussed on Good Friday, when we pass under the Epitaphios, we are rehearsing what this Bible verse and the Paschal canon will be for us in reality one day, that those whom the Lord judges worthy will not pass from death to Hades, but will pass from death to eternal life, that there will be life “to those in the tombs.” And this is reason for joy indeed, not just that we made it to another celebration of Pascha, but that it puts each of us closer to that moment when we will pass to eternal life.
The hymn that will serve as our prayer today is the third ode of the Paschal canon, and references the water that Moses got from the rock to feed God’s thirsting people in the desert during their forty years of wandering after the Exodus. With the New Passover, the Pascha of the Lord, the water does not come from a rock, but from the tomb of Christ, from which we can be eternally satisfied.
Come, let us drink a new drink. Not one miraculously brought forth from a barren rock, but from the fountain of immortality, spring forth form Christ’s tomb, from which we are edified. (Third Ode, Paschal Canon, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
“It is the day of Resurrection! O people, let us glory in splendor!”