(note: today's posting is a brief departure from our current study of the Epistle to the Hebrews in honor of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ)
A few years ago, we were invited by friends to attend an Orthodox celebration of Pascha (often known in the West as "Easter"). The celebration was beautiful, and we especially enjoyed the procession outside the building as we all sang:
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Another point in the liturgy that I considered quite profound was the reading of the Prayer for the New Light, penned by St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 a.d.). During this time, candles are distributed to all who are present and, in the darkness the priest reads the prayer aloud. Behind a veil in the iconostasis, the priest lights a single candle to signify Christ, the True Light, and afterward those who are present come and light their candle to that of the priest while the choir sings: "Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has shone upon you!" This prayer of the Divine Liturgy is rich in its Christology and, in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, I invite you to contemplate its depth in reverent worship of Jesus, the Light of the World:
"Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Source of Life and Immortality, Eternal Light born of Eternal Light, Immortal Light, invisible, incomprehensible, unchanging and unchangeable: You are the True Light who dwell in the Unapproachable Light and shine forth from Him; You are the Light of the Father's glory and its radiance; You are the Light of the heavenly hosts and of every man who comes into this world. O Saviour, You established a law for the first man who lived in the state of light, in order to guide him and lead him to the new world of heaven and incite him to grow in the love of eternal life. But he transgressed that law, and fell from that great glory in which You had established him, and by his fall he dealt death to himself and estranged himself from You, O Glorious Light! But You, O Lord, the Lover of Mankind, in Your great bounty and infinite mercy, submitted Yourself to death and condescended to share the lowliness of us wretched sinners, in order to lead us back to that former glory and light from which we had fallen away. For the sake of us transgressors of Your divine law, You accepted to be buried, to go down into Hades, to the depths of the earth. Then, O Lord, You destroyed the gates of death, delivering and raising up those who had been chained in its darkness; You filled our human nature with the light of Your resurrection, bestowing upon the world a new life and a new light brighter than the sun. Merciful as You are, You restored our human nature to its former beauty and to that glorious light from which we had been exiled.
Now, O Lord and God, our Saviour Jesus Christ, grant spiritual and physical light to our minds and hearts that had been blinded with worldly errors; enlighten us as You enlightened the holy Marys and the holy women who came to Your tomb with spices, so they could sprinkle Your holy body, the Source of Life. Fill our hearts with Your joy; fill our souls with Your tranquility, with Your peace, with the happiness that comes from You. Since You have raised us up and delivered us from the stain of our sins and the darkness of our transgressions, make us worthy in Your loving kindness to kindle our lamps with today's light, the symbol of Your radiant and glorious resurrection.
Bestow this perfection of light upon Your holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; grant to us sinners, Your servants, that we may enkindle our own souls with the light of Your divine commandments, and that You may fulfill Your holy will in us every day of our life, so that being pure and undefiled, we may be able to receive You on the day of Your awesome resurrection, and that as the Wise Virgins, with lit candles in our hands, we may come to You, O King of Glory, into Your heavenly bridal chamber, to enjoy the light of the indivisible Trinity, sending up glory to the Eternal Father, to You, O Lord, and to Your All-Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever.
Christos anesti! ("Christ is risen!")
Grace & peace,