Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!

For today’s message, I wish to share the sermon I gave in church at the Anastasis Service.

I tried writing a sermon for this evening earlier today but as I sat at the computer, I found myself so fatigued that I could not concentrate. I knew immediately that no words would come without a nap, as I generally write better right when I wake up, even if I’ve only slept a short time. My body was craving rest, and rather than go against it, I laid down. As I was falling asleep, I offered a prayer to God, to unlock my mind, and to give me an idea. As so often happens, the moment the alarm went off, I had this idea, I went to the computer and wrote.

There are lots of times in life we will try to do something, only to find our path blocked, by fatigue, by circumstance, by temptation, by sin. We will get to places where it is hard to concentrate, to know what is the right thing. If we are honest, there are things that block each of our paths, things that keep us from the smooth and easy life we would love to have. While some of these things may be material things- whose life wouldn’t be easier with a little more money- even all the money in the world can’t unblock certain paths and can’t fix certain things. And this is where God comes in.

In Genesis 1:1-3, we read that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was moving over the waters, and God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. The first thing God created was light.

In John 1:1-5, which we will hear in the Gospel lesson at the Divine Liturgy this evening, we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This means that the source of our life is the light of God. And nothing can extinguish that in us.

In 2 Corinthians 2:6, St. Paul writes, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.’”  God’s light is present in every human heart, each of us has that light of knowledge of the glory of God regardless of our age, our intelligence, our education, or our lack of these things.

Light is the one quality we share with God. In John 8:12, Jesus reveals Himself as “I am the Light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. . .Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

The theme of Pascha is light. The church is absent of light at this moment, only the light of Christ burning on the altar remains. Darkness is defined as the absence of light, so where there is even a little light, it is not completely dark. And wherever Christ is, there is light, because He is the light that shines in the darkness—on the darkest day, in the darkest life, in the darkest situation, He is there. Every time we enter the church, the first thing we do is light a candle, we reconnect with the light, we are reminded of our relationship with Christ, and our purpose to serve Him. The same applies to tonight. We will light our candles in the light of His Resurrection, to be reminded of what He did two thousand years ago, to be reminded of who we are—we are the light of world—and to reconnect with Him, the light that shines even in the darkest places.

People become physically fatigued when they overexert and do not rest enough. Sleep is the cure for that. People become spiritually fatigued when they forget to walk with God, when they forget that He is the light, when they forget that we are His light. And the cure for spiritual fatigue is to return to God. One can avoid spiritual fatigue by regularly connecting with God. Spiritual fatigue includes things like being despondent, feeling hopeless, being stuck in temptation, losing focus, being unable to forgive someone, questioning God, and lots of other things. If you are spiritually fatigued tonight, receive the light of Christ, and offer those things that are weighing you down to Him.

Some of us have felt spiritually renewed this week. We’ve enjoyed the services, and now it’s time to leave this place of light and safety and go back into the world. I hope you feel some renewal after this long and beautiful week. If this describes you, receive the light of Christ, and reflect on its warm glow. Some of the most beautiful things we see in the world involve light. A sunrise or sunset, a full moon or a crescent moon, the light of a single candle, or the light of a church filled with them, something all of a sudden becomes more beautiful when light is added to it. If we look at a picture of a group of people, we might say “that’s cool,” or “that was a fun time.” Put those people in a dark room, each holding a candle and all of a sudden the picture becomes beautiful, powerful, moving. That is the power of God’s light, that is the power God’s light adds to life when we allow it to shine on us, in us and through us. In a few moments when the church is filled with candlelight, the scene will be beautiful. The light of Christ will hide our imperfections, everyone for a moment will be equally bathed in its light. Darkness is not cured by sin or violence, but by the light of Christ. We carry this light, today in our hands, but always in our hearts. So carry that light with you in your lives, in your conversations, in your actions, in your thoughts about yourself (you are the light of the world) and your thoughts about others (they are the light of the world as well).

On Palm Sunday, I asked us to ponder two questions: Do you believe in God? Do you trust God? Those are two different things. Most of us have some belief in God. But do we trust God? With our decisions, with our relationships, with our time, with our resources? As you receive the light this evening, offer a prayer asking God to unlock your soul, just as I asked God earlier to unlock my mind, and to put ideas of personal repentance, forgiveness of others, consistency in showing up for Him, whether in prayer, in worship, in relationships, in hardships, in good times and in challenging ones, ask God to keep your soul filled with His light. Offer your darkness to Him and let all things begin anew in the light of the Resurrected Christ.

Tonight should not be seen so much as an ending, but as a new beginning.  The Church in her wisdom, after we proclaim the Resurrection, will take us back in the Divine Liturgy to the beginning of the Gospel of John, to that beautiful verse I quoted earlier of how light shines in the darkness and darkness does not overtake it, and how that light is Christ.

As we stand on the threshold of another celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, I pray the words of Psalm 18: “I will love you Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in Whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. . .Yes, You light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. The Lord lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.” (1-3, 28, 46)

With love in the Risen Lord,

+Fr. Stavros


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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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