Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom
This homily is read aloud to the congregation by the priest on the evening of Holy Pascha, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. It draws from the richness of the Gospel parables to reassure and confirm the faith of the entire congregation. The homily calls us to enter into the joy of our Lord, like the good and faithful servant, whether we have began our spiritual struggle in the 1st hour, the 3rd, 6th, 9th, or even the 11th hour.
On first impressions, the homily may appear to discourage personal struggle where it states: “O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!”, however the emphasis here is not on our personal successes or failures. Rather than rewarding our attempts (great and small) of ascending the spiritual ladder, its focus is on Christ’s victory over death, and His destruction of Hades. This is a triumph for all humanity. This is a joyful celebration of life. It is expressly indicated in the homily, first by expressing the demise of Hades and then, the victory of Christ:
Hades was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
After each line is recited by the priest, the congregation responds with pure joy while making the sign of the cross up high with their lit candles. For the first five lines, the people respond by shouting “It was embittered!”, and for the last five, “Christ is Risen!”. The whole church is overshadowed with jubilation, and all the people radiate the light of the resurrection. Let us all partake of this feast of faith: may we all receive the resurrected Christ. This year, let us enter with jubilation into the joy of our Lord, like those Israelites who entered the Promised Land. May none of us leave at the 11th hour, as those who desired to return to the slavery of Egypt.
Source: Lychnos April / May 2017