In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, at the end of the anamnesis, the remembrance of the Mystical Supper, the priest says “Commemorating this holy commandment and all that had to pass for our sake: the cross the tomb, the third day resurrection, the ascension into heavens, the throne at the right hand [of the Father] and Your second and glorious coming.”
“But how can one remember something that has not happened yet, as the second coming of Christ?” you may wonder.
The words are very clear.
In this mystically revealed prayer, the past (the salvific events of the life of Christ), the present (the Divine Liturgy being served), and the things yet to come (the Kingdom of heavens), are brought together by the priest that serves in the name of the Archpriest Jesus Christ. “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:14) The daily repetition of the Liturgy actualizes Christ’s Resurrection to every time and place, revealing its universality to the entire human race.
The effects of the Resurrection are rippling through the very fiber of past, present, and future generations of humanity, changing them with every liturgy into something better. Just as He changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, so with every Liturgy—the service of our mystical union with the heavenly Bridegroom—man is changed by the ferment of divinity that he receives in it: The Holy Communion. The change is profound, the boundaries of time and space are broken, and man starts to move from an ordinary earthly existence toward his original heavenly destination.
The repetition, seemingly ad nauseam for the casual visitor, of the troparion of Pascha: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life”, underlines this centrality of Resurrection in the belief, worship, and life of the Orthodox Christians. For 40 days we begin and conclude every service of the Church singing this hymn with exuberance and joy simply because everything stands on it. As the apostle Paul declares: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
An Eternal Celebration
Pascha for us is not just an annual event that comes and goes and, in between, we go on with our lives. The life-changing news of the Resurrection is omnipresent throughout the entire yearly cycle of services, which are expressed in the hymnology of the Church. Every Sunday, we witness the Resurrection again, and the hymns of the eight modes of Byzantine Chanting expand and proclaim this theme with every stanza.
“When You the Life of the universe were nailed unto the Cross, and You were reckoned among the dead, O Lord, the Immortal One, O Savior, on the third day You arose, and resurrected Adam from decay.” (Kathisma at Matins, 1st mode)
The Resurrection of Christ is not just His Resurrection, but it is the resurrection of Adam and all his progeny. It is our Resurrection as well: “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.’” (John 11:25)
By believing and proclaiming The Resurrection, we are pulled by God’s grace into the ark of salvation that restores in us the potential of the first man. This is why Christ has died, that we are saved and the two are forever linked with each other. We cannot look at Christ externally, and say, He was a great man, He did this and that, but yet remain separated from Him. He did not die outside of us. He died in our midst and for our sake. We are involved with Him by the resolve of His intent. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
According to the calendar, the Paschal season may have ended again for this year, but for us Pascha never ends. It is embedded in our existence as Christians, and we carry it in our hearts at all times and in all places. Through it, the promise of the Kingdom to come is reality here and now for all believers.
“This is it, the Day which is chosen and holy, Day One of the Sabbaths. It is the queen-day, the Lord’s Day, and the Feast of all feasts, and the Festival above every festival, on which we extol Christ and bless Him to the ages.” (Canon of Pascha, 8th Ode)
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