11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Christ is Risen! Two days, that’s all. Just two days. Two days have passed since the celebration of Great and Glorious Pascha. Two days since we have heard the good news of the death of death and the rising of the Son. Two days since the brazen gates were brought low and the souls of those who were held captive in torment were lifted up. Just two days.
The world spins on. You can almost feel the boots of others struggling to climb up and over people to just get a glimpse of the sun or to catch just a pocket of fresh air. You can sense the desperation and the abandon in their actions as they struggle for meaning, for control, for understanding, for power.
And we, the Orthodox having just run the course of the Fast, join right in.
Oh, please don’t think I am saying that I am better off than anyone else: whatever vantage point I hold is because my boots have done some climbing too. I know (and hate, really) how the Penguins/Caps series is going. I am fully aware of Ted Cruz, the Donald, Hillary and the Bern. Irritainment at its best.
And I continue to be aware of the scourge of heroin throughout Pennsylvania as it slowly creeps over and through the hills and valleys like some post-modern angel of death, sparing none. Some things should not be ignored or covered up. It casts its plague on the just and the unjust, leaving none unaffected. It does not give a damn about fasts or feasts – I know of its many casualties, and they have passed in every season, including this season of Holy Pascha. It is Leviathan, and we are its pitiful playthings.
Yes, the world spins on. Yet two days and the resurrection seems to be so far away. Yet, that is part of the challenge, isn’t it?
The passage from St. Luke at the top of this article helps to drive home my thoughts on the matter. Christ, the Physician and Healer of our souls and bodies, has cured us of the leprosy of death. Without Him we would be lost, alienated, and estranged from all that we hold dear like the lepers were. Through Pascha we have been delivered from our fate, raised up and brought to where God wanted us to be all along. Through Him we are totally healed.
Yet now that it is Pascha and we have come to the end of our leprous journey, we scatter like the nine who were healed in the Gospel narrative, eager to resume normal life, never thinking of coming back to say thank you. The zaniness of our world comes back to fill our time and attention; after all, nature despises a vacuum. We put our boots back on, because for a time our feet were bare – standing on holy ground, you know. We put our boots back on and climb, frantically searching for a glimpse of light or a waft of fresh air.
We should, rather, be like the one, like the Samaritan, who returned and fell at the feet of our Lord. Recognizing that his life was forever changed for the better, he came back and fell at the feet of Christ His Savior and Healer. This is exactly what we should do. The world indeed will spin on. The desperation will not go away. But the desperation I speak of is there because Christ is not. A better way to put it is that Christ is eclipsed. Our towers are too high, our walls too thick.
Elder Sophrony speaks of the inverted pyramid: people climb up when they should instead be descending where Christ is at the pinnacle – which is actually at the bottom – and the ways of the world are at the top. Christ teaches us through Lent, Holy Week and Pascha, that to lose is to gain, to be weak is to be strong. As counterintuitive as it seems, the Light is at the bottom, the fresh air is beneath us. It is counterintuitive because the world is obsessed with power, control, violence, and security, which is symbolized by the top of Blessed Sophrony’s pyramid. Only when these things are given up will we know peace. Only then will we know Christ.
It is sad that we are in such a hurry to return to the world and its ways. I hope, for my sake and for everyone’s, the I can and we can take what we have heard, learned and done during this holy season and bring it to the world. No, we will not save the world – Christ will save the world. If we can bring Him to the world, however, as gently and as faithfully as we know how, then just maybe the world will be a little less crazed, a little less existentially neurotic.
We need to be like the Samaritan leper. We need to worship and adore the Resurrected Christ. The world will still be there when we are completely ready to return. Hopefully at that time we will be better equipped to be in the world and not of it.
Christ is Risen!
Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and in itself consider nothing of earth; for the King of kings and Lord of lords cometh forth to be sacrificed, and given as food to the believers; and there go before Him the choirs of Angels, with every dominion and power, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, covering their faces, and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
In a grave they laid thee,
O my Life and my Christ:
And the armies of the angels were sore amazed,
As they sang the praise of thy submissive love.
Today is suspended on a tree He who suspended the earth upon the waters.
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.
Brethren, take as an example of suffering and patience the prophets who spoke in the Name of the Lord. Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation. Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
Thy bridal chamber, O my Saviour, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.
O Christ God, when we were buried with Thee in Baptism, we became deserving of Thy Resurrection to immortal life. Wherefore, we praise Thee, crying: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for every created thing. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person’s eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart; as a result of his deep mercy his heart shrinks and cannot bear to hear or look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. This is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and for enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy.