After seventy days of intense preparation, we have now reached – with the help and Grace of God – the great and most joyous Day of the Resurrection of our Lord, during which “the whole creation, heaven and earth and the deepest abysses of the earth are filled with light”, (Paschal Canon, Third Ode). We have reached the most jubilant feast of our Church, in which: “We celebrate the annihilation of death, the destruction of Hades and the beginning of another life which is eternal. Let us sing with joy to the Author of all these marvels…” (Seventh Ode). We have reached the great moment, when we may repeat, along with St. John Chrysostom, summarizing the promising message of the resurrection: “Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free”. (Catechetical Homily)
However, in order for us to experience the Joy and Light that came forth from the sacred Tomb of Christ and, as a result, to be able to shed the fear of death from our heart and to experience the grace of the Resurrection in our daily life, we need a necessary precondition: that is, purification of our hearts. Because, regardless of how many Easters the unrepentant sinner may celebrate in his life’s course, nothing good can result. On the other hand, he who constantly repents and works for his salvation, he experiences the joy of Easter in his daily life and he will be surely celebrating Easter in eternity. Purification of the heart as a precondition for true celebration of Easter is substantiated by the following fact: firstly, on Easter night, shortly before we hear the joyful news: “Christ is Risen”, we sing several times the chant: “O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing a hymn of praise to your resurrection. As for us who dwell on earth, make us worthy to glorify You with pure hearts”. Secondly, following the proclamation “Christ is risen – He is truly risen”, we go on singing the glorious Resurrection Canon that begins with the following chant: “Let us cleanse our senses that we may be able to witness the resplendent light of the Resurrection…” (First Ode).
Undoubtedly, purification of the heart cannot be accomplished in any other way but only through constant repentance, which “is the beginning and the middle and the end of life in Christ.” (St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 58). Those who constantly walk the path of repentance they encounter Christ “in another form” (Mk. 16:12), just like His two disciples met Him on their way to Emmaus.
And just as when the Lord, after His glorious resurrection, appeared to His Disciples “for forty days and spoke to them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3), so is He now also with us, according to His promise:
“… Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. (Mt.28: 20)
But, unfortunately, there are times when pain, illness, difficulties, distress or death, “prevent our eyes from recognizing Him”(cf. Lk. 24:16). This is the time when we need mental alertness so that we may be able to easily identify Christ when He appears to us “in another form” in the person of our fellow man, who is created “in His image and likeness”.
Let us, therefore, toil, my Brothers, “as long as we have time for repentance” so that we may get rid of the soul-destroying sin and acquire virtue. Above all, let us apply the Lord’s “new” commandment: “Love one another.” (John 13: 34) Thus, by “embracing one another” we will celebrate Easter in a pleasing way to God and we will be worthy of celebrating Easter with endless joy in Heaven.
On behalf of Metropolitan Soterios of Pisidia, the Clergy, the Monks and all our collaborators in the Lord, I wish to all the Faithful and particularly our Newly-illumined Brothers and Sisters to enjoy “the royal banquet of faith” and to receive “the wealth of His goodness.” (John Chrysostom, Catechetical Homily) Amen.
Beloved and dear Brothers,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil.4: 4)
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Always with love and special honor in the Risen Lord,
+ Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea