Are there any who are devout lovers of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay. For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends. Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
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!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hell when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
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 the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa AD 400)
Exult O you divine mysteries: and let the saving trumpet resound for the victory of so great a King. Let the earthly realm also be joyful, made radiant by such flashings like lightning: and, made bright with the splendor of the eternal King, let it perceive that it has dismissed the entire world’s gloom.
Let Mother Church rejoice as well, adorned with the blazes of so great a light: and let this royal hall ring with the great voices of the peoples. Wherefore, most beloved brothers and sisters, you here present to such a wondrous brightness of this holy light, I beseech you, together with me invoke the mercy of Almighty God.
Let Him who deigned to gather me in among the number of the Levites, by no merits of mine, while pouring forth the glory of His own light enable me to bring to fullness the praise of this waxen candle.
Deacon: The Lord be with you! Response: And with your spirit! D: Raise your hearts on high! R: We now have them present to the Lord! D: Let us then give thanks to the Lord our God! R: This is worthy and just!
Truly it is worthy and just to resound forth with the whole of the heart, disposition of mind, and by the ministry of the voice, the invisible God the Father Almighty, and His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, on our behalf, resolved Adam’s debt to the Eternal Father and cleansed with dutiful bloodshed the bond of the ancient crime.
For these are the Paschal holy days, in which that true Lamb is slain, by Whose Blood the doorposts of the faithful are consecrated.
This is the night in which first of all You caused our forefathers, the children of Israel brought forth from Egypt, to pass dry shod through the Red Sea. This is the night which purged the darkness of sins by the illumination of the pillar. This is the night which today restores to grace and unites in sanctity throughout the world Christ’s believers, separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sins. This is the night in which, once the chains of death were undone, Christ the victor arose from the nether realm. For it would have profited us nothing to have been born, unless it had been fitting for us to be redeemed.
His Beatitude, Archbishop Fouad Twal Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
We have arrived at the doorstep of Holy Week, the great week, which is the summit of the Christian year. During this blessed week, God gives us the grace to relive the event of our salvation: with Jesus, and in Jesus, we pass from death to life, we strip off the old man in order to clothe ourselves with the new man. This week is the synthesis of our entire Christian life.
Let’s be clear about this. The account of the Passion, of the Death and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus does not just relate to historical events already completed, events that we drag out from a dusty tome in order to give pious remembrance to them, but which nonetheless remain outside of the real drama and tragedies that are being played out in our lives. No, in these feasts we find ourselves on the inside of the drama, the same drama that is being played out within us. We are participants in the mystery of salvation, and the mystery of salvation is accomplished in us! This is because we recognize ourselves very well in each one of the characters of the Pascal event: in Jesus and his suffering, those same sufferings that each one of us must undergo in the course of our lives: hunger, betrayal, exhaustion, injustice… in Peter, so impulsive and generous, but ever so vulnerable; in Judas and the apostles; in Pilate and in the chief priests, who judge and strike out without mercy; in the crowd that now is cheering and then roaring in its hate; in the Virgin Mary, whose heart is pierced by a sword, but who accompanies Jesus along his way of the cross and stays by his side in the most dramatic moments in a total and confident abandonment; in the soldiers who mock him, strike him and are completely indifferent to the sufferings of the Christ; in Veronica and the other holy women who weep and attempt to assuage the sufferings of his Mother; in Simon the Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea; in the good thief who calls on Jesus and manages, in the very last moments of his life, to snatch for himself paradise itself… In the course of our lives, we are in turn each one of these characters.
But the One who attracts us most of all, who touches us, moves us and transforms what is inside of us, this is Jesus the Christ. It is He. During all this Holy Week, we must never allow ourselves to take our eyes off of Him… For it is towards Jesus that we have to turn our eyes and hearts “to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10-11)
Here we have Jesus, the Messiah, the one who we cheered so much just a few days ago on Palm Sunday, who staggers out of Pilate’s house bearing upon his shoulders the heavy cross. His path moves through those narrow, winding and steep streets of Jerusalem. We follow this scene, but from a distance; in this way no one notices our presence… We are too afraid of ending up like him, suffering and dying. The soldiers shout and strike the Lord in order to stir up within him the last dregs of energy that he has left. Look, Jesus falls. To see our Lord fall, the same one who we beheld in all his glory on MountTabor… Three times he falls, but struggles up again and just barely manages to continue on his “via crucis.”
He finally arrives at Golgotha, and there is crucified between two criminals. Mary his mother is near him, with two other women. John is there also. What a terrible sight. It is too much to bear… Our hearts are torn between compassion and revulsion – compassion for the Master who suffers this martyrdom though “he has done nothing wrong.”(Is 53:9) On the contrary: “He always went about doing good.”(Acts ). How things have turned around, that this Lord here, who so many times showed his power in words, lets these men have their way with him and stands there mute “like a sheep before its shearers.” This Lord here who so many times revealed his power in gestures, hangs there impotent… We too sometimes are tempted to say with the chief priests: “Let him come down from the cross now! Save yourself, you who saved so many others! (Mt 27:42)
Seeing Jesus on the cross really puts our faith to the test. He performed so many signs during his public ministry… but this time, where is the sign? What can be the meaning of all this? And here is Jesus shouting out in a loud voice: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt 27:26) Then he expires. He is dead. It is finished.
Why stay here to watch this, to look upon this pitiful failure? Let’s go home.
Today is Holy Saturday. It is all emptiness. The Lord is dead. Our fondest hopes have taken flight and departed. We are gathered here with the apostles and their disciples, and we brood over our sadness, our disappointment but also our shame and our guilt at not having “been up to the task.” The only comfort that we find in our midst comes from Mary his Mother. She suffers, you can see that, but at the same time she is at peace. She invites us to believe, to hope against all hope. Jesus can neither be deceived nor deceive us. The truth will come to light. When? How? And what has all this been for? This is the day of “why’s”, but still no answer comes. Still there is Mary whose mother’s heart beats with an unutterable premonition. Mary believes with her whole heart, with her whole soul and with all her strength. We do as she does.
Resurrection Sunday: We have trouble believing what Mary Magdalene and the women have come to tell us. They say that they have seen the Lord alive! They say that we are to wait for him in Galilee. Women’s talk, nothing more…
And yet… And yet, if it’s true…
Here are Peter and John racing to the tomb. We follow them. Our hearts are pounding in our chests… What has happened? Has someone taken his corps off somewhere? The Romans? The Sanhedrin? No, no we have an inkling that something else has happened. The fragments and half phrases of the Lord, which were lying dormant in us, rush back to our memory. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mt 17:22) Are not those the same words that the angels spoke to the women? But whatever can it mean to “be raised” from the dead? In the tomb, the corps has disappeared! And this cannot have been a robbery since, just as the women and Mary Magdalene confirmed, everything is in its place: there is the shroud, empty on the inside, in the very same place where the corps had been lain… there is the cloth that surrounded the Lord’s head, collapsed in on itself…
Could the women, then, have been telling the truth? The Lord, who was dead, could he be alive? With the eleven disciples, we hurry on to Galilee, to the mountain that Jesus mentioned. The Lord is waiting for us in Galilee. Galilee, our Church, our home, it is there that we performed our service; Galilee, that is the place where the Lord sent us to be joyous witnesses of His death and resurrection.
We come to the mountain. The Lord is there! Yes, it is really him! He is different and yet the same. Yes, it is really us! The same, and yet so different. With Thomas we cry out: “My Lord and my God!” With Mary, we say with our whole heart: “Rabbi.” Yes, Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
The adventure now continues. Or rather, it now begins again, all new! For ourselves, for our country, for our Church. Salvation has been accomplished and must be proclaimed to all men. Once again, Easter has taken place in our Churches, in our houses, in our towns and villages, in our parish communities, monasteries and convents, in our souls and our hearts, on the beautiful faces of all of our dear pilgrims and tourists. Halleluiah rings out once again far and wide!
This is our feast! And participating in our joy, Jesus says to each one: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
The Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is upon us. First Vesper’s has me thinking of what the Christian life is all about and the horizon to which all Christians are facing: Christ fulfilling the Father’s promise of life eternal. We’re not talking about a fiction here, but reality.
Let God’s people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. Let not the things, which have been made new, return to their ancient instability; and let not him who has ‘put his hand to the plough’ forsake his work, but rather attend to that which he sows than look back to that which he has left behind. Let no one fall back into that from which he has risen, but, even though from bodily weakness he still languishes under certain maladies, let him urgently desire to be healed and raised up. (Saint Leo the Great, Easter Homily)
But the Son rose again! History is for us the continuity of Christ’s resurrection. Every moment of history, by now, is for us the way in which the mystery of the resurrection is accomplished. And at the end of this moment, i.e., at the end of history, the world, everything, everything there is, will be convinced of the intelligence that God has chosen to manifest and the grace that binds us together with which He has filled our hearts.
Do not be afraid; let us not be afraid to serve the Lord, to serve Christ with all the possibility He has given us. (Monsignor Luigi Giussani, March 11, 2003)
Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.