Significance of this Service
"Peace be unto you..."
Easter Sunday afternoon, the faithful gather once more for prayer with lighted candles. All sing the hymn, "Christ is Risen from the Dead." The people greet one another joyously, saying: "Christ is Risen," the Easter salutation which is answered, "Truly He is Risen." They sing, "The dark shadows of the Law have passed away by the coming of grace," and standing in exaltation, they exclaim, "Who is so great a God as our God?"
The Gospel according to John (20:19-25) is read in various languages, proclaiming the Good News of Resurrection all over the universe without discrimination. The fruit of faith in the Resurrection of the Lord is love in His Name; therefore, this day is called "Sunday of Agape" (love feast), a day dedicated to Christian principles, especially to forgiveness and charity. At this time, Christians seek to end misunderstanding and arguments among those with whom they may be at odds. Apostle Paul firmly interprets the Resurrection of Christ, saying: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:14) The Church also states in its Creed, "The Third day He rose again."
A Living Faith
Remembrance of the events of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ has a practical appeal to the heart of the Christian believer. One's beliefs constitute his being; the more our beliefs are true and firm, the more purposeful meaning life has. The Resurrection of Christ strengthens and illuminates our beliefs; this is our being. It is not only a belief in a historical fact which took place in a certain place and time, but it is marvelous in its nature. The Resurrection of Christ in relation to His Crucifixion and Mystic Supper continue to be present in the mind of the believer as a fact, as well as the source of "the power from above," for which the believer prays. Assurance of a personal participation in the enactment of the same events in the life of Christ becomes an unfaded happiness for the Christian.
This is the divine inheritance that the Church of Christ keeps as its treasure and solid foundation. The goal of a member of the Church is to keep his faith living and working in his everyday life and relations with others. The Christian will be recognized and identified as the friend and disciple of Jesus Christ. His beliefs will be like the flag which flies from the top of the centermost of his own ship, sailing to its divine destiny. The flag's inscription bears the assurance that "Christ is Risen, Indeed."
"If any be pious and a lover of God, let him take part in this fair and radiant festival. If any be an honest servant, let him come in and rejoice in the joy of his Lord. If any have wearied himself with fasting, let him take part now in the recompense. If any have worked from the first hour, let him receive today his just dues. If any have arrived at the sixth, in no wise feast with thankfulness. If any have arrived at the sixth, in no wise let him be in doubt; in no way shall he suffer loss. If any arrive only at the eleventh, let him not be fearful for his slowness.
For the Master is munificent, and receives the last even as the first. He giveth rest to him of the eleventh, even as to him who has wrought from the first hour. And He is merciful to the last, and provides for the first. And to this one He gives, and to that one He shows kindness. And He receives their labours, and acknowledges the purpose. And he honours the action and praises the intention.
Wherefore enter ye all into the joy of our Lord, and let the first and the second take part in the reward. Ye rich and ye poor, join hands together. Ye strong and ye heedless, do honor to this day. Ye who fast and ye who fast not, be glad today. The table is full: do ye all fare sumptuously. The calf is ample: let no one go forth unsatisfied.
Let all take part in the banquet of Faith. Let all take part in the wealth of Righteousness. Let no one lament for poverty, for the Kingdom is made manifest for all. Let no one bewail transgressions, for forgiveness has dawned from the tomb. Let no one be fearful of Death, for the death of the Savior has set us free. He has quenched it by being subdued by it.
He Who came down into Hades despoiled Hades; and Hades was embittered when it tasted of His Flesh. Isaiah, anticipating this, cried and said: Hades was embittered when below it met Thee face to face. It was embittered for it was rendered void. It was embittered for it was mocked. It was embittered for it was slain. It was embittered for it was despoiled. It was embittered for it was fettered. It received a Body, and encountered God. It received mortal dust, and met Heaven face to face. It received what it saw, and fell whither it saw not.
O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen and thou are overthrown. Christ is risen and the demons have fallen. Christ is risen and the Angels rejoice. Christ is risen and there is none dead in the tomb. For Christ is raised from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be glory and power from all Ages to all ages. Amen."
St. John Chrysostom