Homily of Pascha
The Resurrection – Source of our Liberty
CHRIST IS RISEN ! VERILY, HE IS RISEN !
In the Resurrection of Christ we celebrate with joy the holy Pascha, the Passover (passage) from death to new life. It is the Pascha of Liberation, for Christ has liberated the Nations. It is the day of resurrection from the life of bondage to the new life of freedom in Christ. Pascha is the hour of our deliverance. We do not sufficiently celebrate and thereby understand fully the fullness of this feast if we think of it only as a time to reaffirm our belief that Christ rose from the dead. Yes, today we celebrate this mystery of our salvation. It is truly the historical fact of our faith as Christians, the keystone (cornerstone) of our faith. But is this fact the only reason for the greatness of this Feast?
The Resurrection of Christ constitutes the very heart of the Christian faith. It is the Good News of Christ’s triumph over death and hell and the source of all our joy. Yet unfortunately in the contemporary life of many Christians, faith in the Resurrection has very little place. A strange paradox indeed. Could it be that we have all to often in our modern life of practicality, and in our desire to give priority to the concepts and actions that are easily accessible and useful, lost the sense of mystery of this feast. Have we thus we become indifferent to the full meaning of this victory over sin and death? Do we now see this day as a day in which we merely commemorate the occasion of an event, an event by which we have been liberated, perhaps as a Day of Independence as we celebrate in the United States? No, this day does not merely recall the act by which we have been liberated from sin and death; it revives our freedom. It is the renewal of the mystery in which we become free. This mystery is not only celebrated on one day of the year as an anniversary but it is an event which is ever present in our lives as Christians and throughout eternity.
And what is the mystery of this Passover from sin and death to new life, from slavery and bondage to liberation and freedom? What is this power that has burst upon us with the Resurrection of Christ? It is the victory over the weakness of fallen man, and the triumph over the law by which man endeavored to have access to God, an access which was confined and limited to his own abilities. Now we find in ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it. This is the power of the Resurrection. This is the triumph over sin, slavery, bondage, and death. Through the Resurrection of Christ we are raised above the law, for we now live in the law’s fulfillment, the new law that is hidden in Christ. It is the law of his merciful love for us and for all the redeemed.
We have completed our celebration of the great Forty days of Lent, which summoned us to change our hearts, to effect in ourselves the Christian metanoia. But at the same time Lent reminded us of our own powerlessness to change our lives. Lent was a reminder that the law served us as a pedagogue, teacher, who makes us aware of sin and inflicts upon us the crushing evidence of our own powerlessness and nothingness. It makes us uncomfortable and sobers us; it awakens in us a fear of the possibility of that powerlessness and nothingness. This is the fruit of the law, which judges our freedom. The law is unable to provide and impose full meaning to our life by merely regulating us to the conformity to a moral code. The question inevitably arises, is there nothing more than this? Have we not understood fully the message of this feast ?
Christ is Risen ! The old law is passed away, not replaced, but fulfilled. The law of grace now guides us. Now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. We now live because our joy is in Christ, a joy that calls us to please Him who has given all His love to us! Now our life is full of meaning! In the resurrection of Christ we have passed from slavery and have become children by adoption, from captivity to the law to freedom in the new life of Christ.
Here is the greatness and the unimaginable splendor of the Paschal mystery. Here is the “grace” of Pascha which all to often we fail to grasp and understand, which we fail to live, not only this day, but throughout all our life. To do this, to live continually in the joy of the Resurrection, we must renounce our fear of this new life and live according to the freedom given to us in Christ Jesus. Yes, we must die to sin, but we must also live as newborn children in the glory of the Resurrection. The great truth that St. Paul exhaustively preached in season and out is the truth that we Christians barely grasp and understand; a truth that constantly eludes us. This truth is that we are no longer slaves of the law. The truth that we must witness to this day and throughout our life in Christ is that through the power of the Resurrection we are born into new life, here and now, for the Risen Christ dwells among us and make us free in His Resurrection Love.
Christianity is precisely a liberation from every rigid legal and religious system. But it is a liberation with responsibility and personal discipline freely chosen. This is asserted with such force by St. Paul, that we cease to become followers of Christ the moment our religion becomes slavery to “the law rather than a free personal adherence by loving faith to the risen and living Christ.
“Do you seek justification by the law…… you are fallen from grace…. In fact, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor its absence is of any avail. What counts is faith that expresses itself in love.” (Galatians 6:15).
The Christian has no law but Christ. Our “law” is the new life, which has been given to us in Christ through His Resurrection. This law is not one that is written in books but in the depths of the heart of the believer. It is not written by the pen of man but by the finger of God. It is a law, which is not merely obeyed – but lived in freedom as one who has been risen with Christ.
This is the great truth – the great scandal – of Christianity. It is the stone that is constantly being rejected by the builders. It is the element in our own faith that we fear and refuse to accept. Did not the Jews fear and refuse to face the challenge which Jesus gave them by healing on the Sabbath, when he called Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath?” Today, Christ is risen. Today, He is “Lord of the Sabbath.”
Listen again to the words of St. Paul :
For Freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
Pascha is the mystery of our redemption. We who have died and risen with Christ, who walk as children of the Light, in the New life of the Resurrection, are no longer held in the bondage of sin and death. Death, which comes through the slavery to the law, has been conquered by Christ’s victory over sin and death. Sin is dead in us. The law no longer holds us captive.
Let us therefore rejoice, brothers and sisters in Christ, for today is the dawn of the resurrection of the human race. It is the morning of life without twilight. It is the splendor of the universe. Sin, death, and hell, have been destroyed. Today, life in the freedom of Christ overflows through the power of His Resurrection.
CHRIST IS RISEN ! VERILY, HE IS RISEN !