The angels in heaven praise Your Resurrection, O Christ, Savior. Make us also here on earth worthy, to glorify You with pure hearts.
~Resurrection Service, Pascha, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
Break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have compassion on His afflicted.
Christ is Risen!
After the hymn “Come, Receive the Light” has been sung several times and the light of Christ has been distributed to the congregation, a new hymn begins: “The angels in heaven praise Your Resurrection, O Christ, Savior. Make us also here on earth worthy, to glorify You with pure hearts.” As this hymn is sung, also several times, the clergy make their way to the place where the Gospel of the Resurrection will be proclaimed. In some churches, it is read on the solea, and in other churches it is read in the narthex. In this case, people remain where they are and just the clergy and altar boys move to the location. In many churches, the Gospel and the hymn “Christ is Risen” are offered outside, so during the singing of this hymn, the clergy and the rest of the congregation move outside to the designated place. The purpose of this “journey” is to imitate the journey of the women who went to the tomb in the darkness, found it empty, and proclaimed that Christ had risen from the dead. Imitating this, we make a “journey” (even if it is only a few feet on the solea, a few yards to the back of the church, or the short distance outside), hear the Gospel of the Resurrection, and proclaim that Christ is Risen.
The Resurrection of Christ was another “cosmic” event, in that it changed the entire world. The Creation, the Incarnation of the Son of God in the flesh, the manifestation of the Trinity at the baptism of Christ, the Crucifixion, the Ascension of Christ into heaven, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost are other examples of what I would call a “cosmic” event. As we have already discussed, at the Crucifixion, the sun and moon hid their light and the whole earth went dark. At the Incarnation, the angels filled the skies over Bethlehem. Even though not every human being knew of the Incarnation, there was still a connection between the cosmos and the humanity of earth.
At the Resurrection, there was a triumph of Christ over death. He died as a man, and was resurrected, He came back to life. As part of the Resurrection, as we have already discussed, He went down to Hades and loosed the bonds of those who were confined there. He defeated the power of the devil over souls. Before the Resurrection, the devil claimed every soul when it died. Now in the light of the Resurrected Christ, the only souls that end up with the devil are the ones that choose in their life not to follow after Christ. Christ, in other words, has opened the path to Paradise. We choose whether we want to walk on that path or not. Before the Resurrection, the path led directly to, and only to, Hades.
Thus, on earth, there was joy as Jesus was Resurrected from the dead. And in Hades, there was joy as the souls of those held captive by the devil were Resurrected to Christ, as well. Likewise, in heaven, the angels also rejoiced at the Resurrection of the Word of God, who descended from heaven, was Incarnate on earth, and who died a mortal death. There was celebration for the Immortal Lord, accomplishing the purpose for which He came to the earth, as well as eager anticipation of His return. It is the angels who primary role is to offer praise to God. And never was there more praise than at the Resurrection.
The hymn connects the earth to the heavens, as we reference the angels praising the Resurrection, while praying that we too who are on earth will be worthy to glorify Christ with pure hearts.
O Christ our Savior, Your Resurrection illuminated the universe, and recalled Your own creation. Almighty Lord, glory to You. (Aposticha, Agape Vespers, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Let us joy with the angels in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, not just on Pascha, but throughout the year!
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 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
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