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.
If any be a devout lover of God,
let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.
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.