Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Sunday, April 04, 2010

O Death, Where is Thy Sting?

(Holy Saturday, St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church in Columbus, Ohio)

The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom (Read Each Year at Pascha)

Icon of the Resurrection
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.

He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below." 

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever! Amen!

(Video Excerpts: St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church
Columbus, Ohio; Easter 2009)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

He is Not There...

Mark 16: 1 - 7

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?"
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; -- it was very large.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed.
6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." 

Today when I awoke, I sat in complete silence, a cup of hot coffee, my little dog by my side, and enjoying the cool freshness of a new day. Usually, I need some kind of "noise", and so the television goes on as soon as I awake, even if I am not watching. But on this Holy Saturday, I needed only the silence. I needed only to hear the birds twittering as they flew from tree to tree, the mourning dove sing her solemn song. I needed only to watch the yet-bare branches waving in the early morning breeze outside my window, and the sun emerge from a clouded sky. I needed only to contemplate Him who made all these things, and the historic and world-shaking events which had transpired over a mere few days some 2000 years ago.

Holy Saturday has always been this way for me, even as a child; and we followed this same tradition with our children. I remember being taught to do "quiet things" from Good Friday afternoon until Easter, as we (even in our youthful minds) prepared for the Resurrection, as we gave due respect and honor to God. We may not have understood fully--lack of understanding does not  imply untruth--but there was no need. There is no need. Such is the way with matters of the heart.

Tonight, we will attend the Resurrection services, Liturgy and blessing of Easter baskets as is our tradition (in the Byzantine Catholic Faith), as I have done every Holy Saturday of my life. The services will continue into the small hours of Easter Sunday morning, after which we will share the blessed foods from which we have fasted with our family, in Celebration of the Resurrection. It is these practices which keep me sane in an insane world. It is these celebrations that give my life meaning where, otherwise, I am at a loss to find meaning. It is these traditions that make me whole, bring to me the peace I cannot find elsewhere. It is this faith and this belief in a loving God which makes life beautiful and worth living, as we await the eternal glory promised by God, in Christ Jesus who prepared the way for us to follow .

May Christ crucified touch each of you in a most special way this day, this Easter season; and May God bless us all with an increased faith, wisdom to know Truth and the desire and courage to live it.

(photos: St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church; Columbus, Ohio; Good Friday April 2, 2010)