Here we are on Easter morning.
Like those women at the tomb, this morning makes my voice catch and leaves my tongue slack in my mouth.
For centuries preachers across our faith have been left with the task of preaching resurrection
This is a morning that is at the periphery of explanation.
We cannot quite put words to it.
Mark the Evangelist didn’t give us much.
The original ending of his Gospel goes like this:
“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tries desperately to describe the nature of the Resurrection, but can’t quite put his finger on it.
So he turns to song.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
There will be no singing from the pulpit this morning.
Easter is 50 days long.
We have 50 days to try and comprehend this glorious mystery.
And this our Easter work.
We all must claim our undeserved birthright in Christ.
We all must wrestle with what the glorious mystery of Christ’s resurrection means to our lives.
But if Mark and Paul struggled to put words to the resurrection, what chance does anyone else have?
Perhaps this is why a beautiful tradition started in the Byzantine Church.
John Chrysostom, who lived mostly in the Fourth Century, preached one heck of an Easter sermon.
Its reputation spread throughout the church.
And ever since then in the Eastern Church,
Priests have put up their hands and said, “ditto.”
For hundreds of years, the Paschal sermon of St John Chrysostom has been read aloud on Easter morning. According to the tradition of the Church, no one sits during the reading of his Paschal homily.
The sermon points to themes of inexhaustible grace and unimaginable victory.
It recalls the parable of laborers in the vineyard and the generosity of the vineyard owner who gave the same wage to all of the laborers who came to work in the vineyard regardless of whether they came first thing in the morning or an hour before closing time.
So, as we all attempt to put into our own words what wondrous love we have received in Christ’s resurrection, I want to get us off on the right track.
Without further adieu, John Chrysostom’s Easter sermon.
If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of their Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive their due.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into Hell and took Hell captive!
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.
To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.