'Our joy is almost complete. We have celebrated the destruction of Hades and the Resurrection of our Lord. But now the Church will invite us to place ourselves in the shoes of the myrrh-bearing women, who will go to the tomb of Christ to find it empty, and an angel declaring that Christ has risen!'
- Fr Vassilios Papavassiliou, 'Meditations for Holy Week'
This morning, at the Divine Liturgy of St Basil, joy begins to overcome sorrow as we celebrate the harrowing of hell, the vanquishing of death and our Lord's glorious resurrection from the tomb. Our watchful expectation is fulfilled by the priest's joyful chant: 'Ανάστα ο Θεός' (Arise o God). The beautiful hymns and readings of our Church proclaim the great joy of Christ's victory over evil and His awaited Resurrection, granting all human beings life:
'When you descended unto death, O Lord who yourself are immortal life, then did You mortify Hades by the lightning flash of your Divinity. Also when You realised the dead from the netherworld, all the Powers of the heavens were crying out: O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory be to You.'
Let the creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled.'
'But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.' (Rom 6:8-9)
With these joyful hymns we prepare for tonight's Paschal Vigil, having witnessed and venerated Christ's crucifixion, suffering, and tomb, we now await the unwaning light of the world, Who enlightens, renews, and sanctifies humanity and the entire creation. This vigil is not simply a religious custom, but a witness, an experience, and a reminder. By receiving the Paschal light tonight, we are called to bear the good news of the Resurrection, and warmly celebrate the feast which points directly to our very goal - resurrection, life, the defeat of evil, and love. As St John Chrysostom writes:
'All of you enter into the joy of our Lord: first and last, enjoy your reward. Rich and poor dance together. Sober and slothful honour the day. Fasters and non-fasters be glad today. The table is full, enjoy yourselves.. all of you enjoy the richness of His goodness..let no one grieve..let no one bewail his faults, for forgiveness has risen from the tomb.'
Have a very blessed and joyful Easter!