Rise Heart, Thy Lord is Risen!

Rise Heart, Thy Lord is Risen!
Photo by David Monje / Unsplash

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

You’ve made it! Whether you have been in the Church since the day you were born, whether tonight is your first encounter with Christian faith, or some point in between, you’ve made it to the most important night of the year! After all of the planning and preparing, the cleaning and cooking, the rehearsing and correcting, the praying and fasting, the day has come!

Yesterday the church was empty, bare but for the wood of the cross. It was a place easy to feel lonely, empty, isolated, and despairing. Waiting in the cool of early spring to see and hear what would happen next. Even when we know the next chapter of the story, those quiet hours between the end of the liturgy of Good Friday and tonight’s celebration can be unsettling. Tradition holds this is the time when Jesus descended to the dead to free them from their waiting and bring them up from the depths to eternal life. We, among the living, wait for news.

And when it arrives, the news is better than we could have hoped for! Rise heart, thy Lord is risen!

I will not belabour this celebration with too much talking on my part. Christ is risen, death is defeated, we are inheritors of eternal life, and never again will death or sin have dominion over us. We should celebrate! I will leave the rest of tonight’s homily to our brother, St John Chrysostom. For 1,600 years, these words have been part of the Church’s celebrations on this night:

Let all pious [people] and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you [strong] and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over their sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because it has been frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Andrew Rampton

Andrew Rampton

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