Today, Holy and Great Saturday is such a joyous day, isn’t it? Even though we are still in Holy Week we are all quietly anticipating the Resurrection of the Lord and that anticipation fills us with a secret sort of joy. The boys and I have been playing this sweet little board game, The Narrow Way, from Orthodox Lighthouse
and I’ve been working on finishing up these sweet little censers for Pascha baskets. (for those interested, pattern can be found here.)
We keep practicing singing Christ is Risen with the little ones and their brightly colored church clothes are hanging in their rooms next to their decorated candles that they will receive the holy light with.
Today, is probably my favorite day leading up to the Feast of Feasts. I keep catching myself smiling and humming and momentarily ask myself why before I remember that it is the joy of the Resurrection bubbling up inside of us making us feel as though we might burst! I’m in awe as I think about how Adam and Eve heard the footsteps of God as He approached them in Hades, as they once did in the Garden of Eden but this time instead of being ashamed they rejoice. Can you imagine?? How magnificent our God of Love is!
One of my favorite parts of tonight’s services is the Catechetical Homily by St. John Chrysostom read toward the end of Orthros before the Paschal Divine Liturgy begins. Growing up, I’d heard this homily in every year in Greek and recognized the familiar “Risen is Christ!” verses but had never actually read it in full in English. But when I did… oh, my word, it immediately took hold of my heart and I’ve looked forward to reading it every year since.
For those of you who may not know of it, I’m posting it below. For those of you who are already familiar with it, a lovely reminder. <3
If any be pious and a lover of God, let him delight 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 now enjoy the recompense. If any have worked from the first hour, let him receive today his just reward. If any have come after the third, let him feast with thankfulness. If any arrived after the sixth, in no wise let him be in doubt; in no way shall he suffer loss. If any be later than the ninth, let him draw nigh, let him not waver. If any arrive only at the eleventh, let him not be fearful for his slowness, for the Master is munificent and receiveth the last even as the first; He giveth rest to him of the eleventh even as to him who hath wrought from the first hour. He is merciful to that last and provideth for the first; and to this one He giveth, and to that one He showeth kindness. He receiveth their labours and acknowledgeth the purpose, and he honoureth the deed and praiseth 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 sober and ye heedless, do honour 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 hungry. Let all enjoy the banquet of Faith. Let all enjoy the wealth of righteousness. Let no one lament his poverty, for the Kingdom is made manifest to all. Let no one bewail his transgressions, for forgiveness dawned forth from the tomb. Let no one be fearful of Death, for the death of the Saviour hath set us free. He hath quenched Death by being subdued by Death. He Who came down into Hades, despoiled Hades; and Hades was embittered when he tasted of Christ’s Flesh.
Esaias, anticipating this cried out and said: Hades was embittered when below he met Thee face to face. He was embittered, for he was set at nought. He was embittered, for he was mocked. He was embittered, for he was slain. He was embittered, for he was cast down. He was embittered, for he was fettered. He received a body, and encountered God. He received earth, and met Heaven face to face. He received what he saw, and fell whither he saw not.
O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Risen is Christ, and thou art overthrown. Risen is Christ, and the demons are fallen. Risen is Christ, and the Angels rejoice. Risen in Christ, and life doth reign. Risen is Christ, and there is none dead in the tomb. For Christ is raised from the dead, and is become the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.