May 5, 2024

Homily on Holy Pascha (Archimandrite Kirill Pavlov)

Homily on Holy Pascha

By Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Christ is Risen!

I congratulate you, dear brothers and sisters, on the great, joyful feast, the worldwide joy of the Bright Resurrection of Christ! In the language of church hymns, the feast of the Holy Resurrection of Christ is called the feast of all feasts and the celebration of all celebrations. The bright Resurrection of Christ is the triumph and affirmation of our Christian faith, the triumph of our Christian hope and the affirmation of Christian love. The triumph and affirmation of all that is good, bright, holy and dear to us.

We said that the Holy Resurrection of Christ is the confirmation, the triumph of our Christian faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ, having incarnated on earth, taking upon Himself our human nature, taught the human race the true teaching about everything that exists: about God, about His being, His nature and His works; and about the origin of man, his nature, purpose, present state and future destiny; and about the world, the origin of the world, its nature, the purpose and future fate of the world. But what can be a firm guarantee that the true teaching about everything that exists, taught to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, is Divine teaching, the true revelation of God? He who taught it is the true God. And that is why the very teaching of Christ bears the stamp of Divine origin both in its character and in its content and dignity, and it is, of course, more sublime and holier, and differs radically from the teaching of the sages of this world. There is no foreign admixture of truth, lies and delusion in it, which we notice in the works of people with a limited human mind.

But despite this, in the teaching of Christ there are such mysteries that lead to bewilderment and doubt of some people who think humanly, that is, in a limited way. Therefore, His inner dignity cannot give full evidence of the Divinity of Christ’s teaching; for confirmation, stronger external evidence of His Divinity and the Divinity of His teaching is required. Such external evidence of the Divinity of Christ and His Divine teaching are, first of all, the miracles that the Savior performs during the preaching of the gospel. Announcing to people about His Divinity, proclaiming to them eternal life, the Lord at the same time opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, healed the paralytic, cast out demons from the possessed, fed five thousand people, and resurrected those already decomposed. And these testimonies fully confirm the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is Almighty God and the teaching He taught is the Divine teaching. And these testimonies would have been quite sufficient, undeniable, if not for one event in the life of the God-man, which temporarily shook this truth.

This event is the death of Christ the Savior. The Savior voluntarily went to it for the sake of our salvation. Through humility, through extreme self-emptying - for the sake of our salvation, the Lord goes to the feat of the cross, but those of little faith do not want to appreciate and understand this mystery of the redemption of the human race and see in Him Who was revered as the Great Miracle Worker and God, they see in Him only powerlessness. Evil and crafty enemies try to shake this truth with malicious ridicule. And if the life of the Savior would have been limited only to suffering and death and there would have been no Resurrection of Him from the dead, then what could we say to these worst enemies and their malice? The Apostle Paul says: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). Therefore, our faith is in close connection with the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith stands if Christ has risen, it falls if Christ is not risen. This is how great the significance of the Resurrection of Christ is for our faith. But Christ rose from the dead. And He rose again by His own power. By this He showed that He is the true God, because only God has power over death and life. And our Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, revealed Himself as Lord over life and death. Therefore, He is the true God. And since our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God, then the teaching He taught is the Divine teaching. And our faith in Him is saving, but the disbelief that was revealed by the enemies of Christ is false. The miracles of Christ are also true. It was the Resurrection of Christ that resurrected this faith, this power of Christ’s miracles, again gave them meaning, and people understood that the Lord Jesus Christ only for the sake of our salvation accepted suffering and death, condescended to extreme self-emptying, though He could, as Almighty God, avoid this death, this suffering, and come down from the Cross, and destroy His enemies. But He did not want to pass over that cup of suffering that was prepared for Him by the Heavenly Father. Thus, the Resurrection of Christ is a triumph, a confirmation of our Christian faith.

It is also an affirmation of Christian hope. The good hope of every Christian in his life is the joyful hope that after temporary earthly suffering, sorrow, deprivation, misfortune, after bodily death at a time determined by God, people who believe in Christ will rise from the dead and enter eternity for an endless blessed life. This good, joyful hope sweetens the bitterness of earthly life, helps a believer to courageously and patiently endure all his sorrows and, without falling under their burden, courageously bear the cross placed on each of us by God’s providence.

But what can be a firm guarantee that this hope for a future resurrection, for eternal blessed life will not disgrace, that after death there will be a resurrection, a reunification of soul and body? Both in the Old and New Testaments there are many indications that in addition to temporary life there is eternal life, that a general resurrection will come. Hence, the ancient prophets spoke about this: "Your dead will live, your dead bodies will rise!" (Isaiah 26:19). The prophet Ezekiel, with his prophetic eye, saw the greatest miracle when, at the command of God, the bones came closer to each other, converged, then became covered with veins, flesh, blood, and then the spirit entered them, they stood on their feet - a great multitude of people (Ezek.37:1-10). In the Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ says that the time is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who have done good will come forth into the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil into the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29). These words of Divine Scripture inspire the soul of a believer and, of course, inspire hope.

But in order to maintain this hope, strong faith in the word of God is required, because we constantly see death before us, when the body is destroyed, but we do not see anyone resurrected. Although we have examples of the resurrection of the dead - the prophets Elijah and Elisha raised the dead, and our Lord Jesus Christ raised the dead, and His disciples - this resurrection is not the general resurrection that will happen at the end of the world. For here the resurrected people were resurrected in the same mortal form in which we live. Then they died again. With the general resurrection, people will rise incorruptible, spiritual and immortal. But there is a stronger testimony from the life of Christ the Savior, which fully confirms the hope of the general and our own resurrection, and of eternal blessed life - this is the resurrection of Christ the Savior Himself from the dead. Christ rose from the dead, trampling death, and death no longer has power over Him. Christ does not die. Christ rose again as the firstborn of the dead. And the time will come when all who believed in Christ will be resurrected in the same way, but will be resurrected in a new, glorified body, just as our Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is both the confirmation and triumph of our Christian hope.

Finally, faith in the resurrection of Christ is also the greatest affirmation of Christian love. Love, especially true Christian love, requires great sacrifices and great self-denial from a believer; sometimes self-sacrifice even to the point of death. To love God means to devote your whole life, all your strength to serving God. This requires self-denial and self-sacrifice, a willingness to sacrifice life for the glory of the name of God, for the sake of holy faith, for the sake of the Law of God. Love for neighbors requires tireless work, concern for their eternal spiritual salvation and well-being, for their bodily life, and also requires a willingness to sacrifice one’s property and life for the good of one’s neighbor. These are the sacrifices that love requires. But how can we decide to make these sacrifices when our self-loving nature always seeks benefit, benefit only for itself? When does our pride inspire us that we should live only for our own pleasure, enjoyment, for our own benefit? Isn't it really better to live for your own pleasure? But no. Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. "He who sows to his flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal.6:8 ). An example of this is the love of Christ. The more selflessly a person sacrifices himself for the good of his neighbor, the more fruitful love is. We see this in the example of Christ the Savior. The Lord loved God the Father with boundless love. For Him, food was to do the will of the Heavenly Father. And out of love for the Heavenly Father, out of obedience to Him, the Lord took upon Himself the greatest feat - redemption, the salvation of the sinful human race. And out of love for Him, the Lord laid down His life for his neighbor.

The Lord also loved the sinful human race. He delivered Himself over for our sake, for the sake of our salvation He approached suffering and a shameful death. And what is the result of this His boundless love? The results are priceless. First of all, the Lord, after suffering and death, rose again - also for people. He was resurrected in a new, glorified body and received from God the Father authority in Heaven and on earth, ascended into Heaven with glory and sat down at the right hand of the Father. The Lord redeemed humanity from sin, the curse and death, granted it freedom, opened for us free entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, and resurrected the human race. And these fruits of suffering, death on the cross and the Resurrection of Christ are truly priceless. The Savior glorified the Heavenly Father with His suffering: He founded His Heavenly Kingdom on earth - the Church of Christ. And many believers, following the example of Christ the Savior, in response to His love, kindled in their hearts the flame of love for God the Father, and for the Savior, and for their neighbor. And this love brought joy to the whole world. These are the priceless fruits of Christ's love. Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is also a confirmation of our Christian love.

May this day - the day of the Resurrection of Christ - be a day of joy for us. Always remembering that this feast is precisely the affirmation of our Christian faith, let us love our holy faith, cherish it and try to manage our lives according to this faith. And remembering that the Resurrection of Christ is the confirmation of our hope, let us hope, and we will endure all the labors, sorrows, and hardships with joy in the hope of our future resurrection and our future eternal life. Remembering also that the Resurrection of Christ is the triumph of our Christian love, let us put on the virtue of Christian love and bear abundant fruit, let us love each other. By this we will show that we are real followers of Christ, who came to earth out of love for the human race. "By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” says the Lord Himself in His Gospel (John 13:35). May this bright feast, the bright Resurrection, always be for us a feast of joy, a feast of the victory of life over death. And may He help us to patiently, uncomplainingly endure all the hardships of earthly life in the hope that the time will come when we will hear the longed-for voice of our Savior: "Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). Amen. Christ is Risen!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

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