"While He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy"...with great joy ... "and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" (Lk. 24:51-3).
If, during the course of six weeks, the Holy Church has been teaching us to preserve this peace which Christ granted on the first day of His Resurrection, saying: "Peace be unto you" (Jn. 20:19), then now this feeling of peace should fill our hearts. You see, this feeling of peace appears in all of us as an expectation of joy. People search for some kind of rest, some kind of comfort. For this they travel from place to place in order to find peace. And yet this peace is within them, only in an unrevealed state. Peace is that gift which the Lord gave to us, that peace which keeps a person in a kind of unearthly state of joy. This is what the Holy Church has been teaching us during the six weeks of Easter: to be close to Christ, to preserve this peace, protect ourselves from those things which, entering our heart, might disturb this peace.
You see, our heart is the place in which peace abides.
Today we heard at the Divine Liturgy the account of the Holy Evangelist John the Theologian about the healing by Jesus Christ of the man born blind, that is, who had never seen anything before. It is characteristic that, when this Gospel account ends, the Lord said: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (Jn 9:39). And His spiteful enemies, the scribes and Pharisees, probably with irony and mockery, asked Him: “Are we blind also?” (Jn 9:40). And they received an answer, as the Lord told them: “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin” (Jn 9:41), because if a person does not know and does not see, he cannot transgress consciously and does not sin so greatly. Even if he makes a mistake, the Lord Himself does not find it a sin, if the person did not know he was sinning. So the Lord spoke, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin, but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (Jn 9:41).
The Church calls tomorrow’s Sunday the Sunday of the Samaritan, that is, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, because at the Divine Liturgy the Gospel narrative is about how our Lord Jesus Christ spoke at Jacob’s Well with the Samaritan woman, turning her to the light [of truth] and towards a good and pious life. In this moving narrative we all see, above all, a lesson for us about how careful we ought to be in judging our neighbors, and to avoid all condemning judgment of them, remembering what the Gospel tells us.
Today’s Gospel reading confirms us more and more strongly in the divinity of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Gospels for the last two Sundays told us about the appearances of the Risen One. They were as if filled with the light of Christ’s Resurrection: the wonderful appearances to the disciples, to Thomas, to the myrrhbearers. But today’s Gospel starts with a dismal, horrible picture: there is no brightness, no light. At the Sheep Gate there was a pool which had five porches. "In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered.... For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years" (Jn. 5:2-5).
"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?" (Mk. 16:1-3).
Brothers and sisters! Can you imagine the state of mind these Myrrhbearing women were in? For those who lived through Soviet times in Russia and through the persecution of the Church, it is so understandable. In some churches, as in the outskirts of Kiev, this service (the Burial of the Savior) was performed at night. People made their way to such a church through dark streets. Anything could happen, you had to be careful of everything. Neighbors might hear that you went somewhere at night; and you could be stopped on the street. And the service itself in church and the carrying of the Shroud around the church could be interrupted by the authorities. One did not know if tomorrow, on Holy Saturday, this already semi-Easter Liturgy would be performed, because the priest might be arrested.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ!
Christ is Risen!
With what joy and even exultation, the soul of every Orthodox person responds in the victorious exclamation: Truly He is Risen! The Resurrection of Christ is the Victory over death, it is Pascha, it is the way to life everlasting, where there is neither sorrow, nor disease, nor death. Who is found in eternal joy with all the heavenly beings? All believers who seek the Truth - find it in Christ, for Christ is the Way and the Truth. Yes, the Truth is crucified, it can be denied, it is in the minority, but Truth can be defeated by no-one, by nothing - not even death. And if the Truth of Christ is in us, if we confess intact Orthodox Christianity, then we are the victors, no matter how small the last remnant of truly Orthodox Christians may seem. Remember this, beloved in Christ, brothers and sisters! And don't let the enemies of the Risen One bother you! Their days are numbered, they are "as smoke disappears, let them disappear," for our life is only one moment in a world damaged by evil. And the Pascha of the Lord opens the door to eternal life and everlasting joy. Therefore, the church hymns are overflowing with joy today: “Pascha, Lord's Pascha! Pascha, most honorable has shone for us. Pascha, we hug each other with joy. Oh, Pascha! The deliverance from sorrows, for from the tomb this day, Christ has shone forth from the hall of Christ. " Therefore I say to you again and again: Christ is Risen!
☦ Metropolitan Philaret.
We have read various discussions about the apparent lack of accord among the Gospel narrations of Christ's Resurrection. There have been a number of attempts at demonstrating a concordance among the Evangelists in this regard, but not all have been successful.
I wish to offer some considerations on the subject, and I wish to begin by mentioning the most obvious point of seeming lack of accord.
In Matthew's Gospel, we read that upon being greeted by the risen Lord with the word "rejoice," Mary of Magdala and the other Mary immediately embraced His feet. Nevertheless, we read elsewhere [John 20:11-17] that, when Mary of Magdala was weeping at the empty tomb and did not recognize Christ, but thought that He was the caretaker of the garden. When she did finally recognize Him, she was forbidden to touch Him.
"And when the centurion, who stood near Him,
saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit, he said,
'Truly, this man was the Son of God'." (Mark 15:39).
Thus began the faith of the centurion. It is clear that this cry of Christ expressed a treasure of moral content in a spirit which the centurion understood. Such a connection between a tormenting cry of the soul and the beginning of a new grace-filled life in one who has heard it, is found repeatedly in the Holy Scripture. We will begin a survey of these places in the Scripture with the most dramatic one, found in the Book of Esdras:
I lifted my eyes, and on my right hand I saw a woman, and behold, she mourned and wept with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved in heart, and her clothes were torn, and she had ashes upon her head.
Then I let my thoughts go and turned and said to her, "Why are you weeping? Why are you so grieved in heart?"
IF ONE WISHES TO UNDERSTAND the most essential events of the earthly life of the Savior and the people that surrounded Him, in particular the events connected with His trial or with the taking of anyone into custody, it is indispensable to acquaint oneself with the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy. There one can recognize the following rules by which society was guided in the arrest and punishment of offenders.
Today we prayerfully and solemnly remember the Royal entrance of the King of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ into His “royal capital,” the holy city of Jerusalem.
Noisy was the crowd of Judeans when Christ entered the city before the beginning of Passover. Millions flocked to Jerusalem during those days, and it was already overfilled with people when the ceremonious, royal greeting of the long-awaited Messiah, Savior of the world commenced.