Sunday, April 12, 2009


In the very early years of its history the Eastern Churches adopted the custom of using the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom at the Pasckal Vigil service held during the Saturday night before Paskha morning. Chrysostom first proclaimed this sermon as instructions to catechumens, new Christian converts, who were baptized during that vigil service.

The service itself is the high point of the year in Eastern worship, and the Chrysostom sermon, recited (preached) in every Eastern Catholic church each year, is one of the high points of the service. It is presented enthusiastically and with flourish. In one service I attended, the congregation joined the priest in saying the words, “It was angered” and “Christ is risen!” as those were repeated again and again. The poetic sermon is heard but once a year, but many worshipers know it by heart.

Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed!
If there are devout and God-loving people here,
let them enjoy this beautiful, radiant festival.
If there are prudent servants,
enter joyously into the Lord’s joy.
Whoever may be spent from fasting,
enjoy now your reward.
Whoever has toiled from the first hour,
receive today your just settlement.
If any came after the third hour,
celebrate gratefully.
If any of you arrived after the sixth,
have no misgivings, you have lost nothing.
If some have been as late as the ninth,
come forward, do not be at a loss.
If any of you have arrived only at the eleventh hour,
do not be dismayed for being late.

The Master is gracious;
He accepts the last even as the first;
He gives rest to those of the eleventh as well as to
those who have labored from the first;
He is lenient with the last while looking after the first;
to the one He gives, to the other He gives freely;
He accepts the labors and welcomes the effort;
honors the deed, but commends the intent.
So, all of you, enter into the joy of our Lord:
first and second, share the bounty.
Rich and poor alike, celebrate together.
Sober or heedless, honor the day.
Those who fasted, and those who did not, rejoice
The table is full, everyone fare sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; no one go away hungry.
Everyone, savor the banquet of faith;
relish the riches of His goodness.

No one need lament poverty,
for the kingdom is seen as universal.
No one need grieve over sins;
forgiveness has dawned from the tomb.
No one need fear death;
the Savior's death has freed us from it.
While its captive He stifled it.
He despoiled Hades as He descended into it; it was embitered when it tasted His flesh.
Foreseeing this, Isaiah proclaimed: "Hades," he
said, "was embitered when he met You below."
It was embitered! because it was abolished
It was embitered! because it was mocked
It was embitered! because it was slain.
It was embitered! because it was shackled.
It received a body and encountered God.
It took earth and came face-to-face with heaven.
It took what I saw and fell by what if could not see.
Death, where is your sting?
Hades, where is your victory?
Christ is risen and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen and demons have fallen.
Christ is risen and angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life rules. Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the tomb.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
has become the firstfruits of those that slept.
To Him be the glory and the dominion, forever. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom (the name means “golden mouthed”) was one of the most famous preachers and reformers of the second half of the fourth century. He was a priest in his native city of Antioch, Syria, and later became Patriarch of Constantinople. Beginning in 390, he preached a famous series on the New Testament, including ninety sermons on Matthew, eighty-eight on John, and thirty-two on Romans. His reforms to purify the church brought him banishment; he died at age fifty in the year 407 during a forced march into exile. He is the author to whom the majority of the makeup and structure of the Eastern Catholic Liturgy.

No comments:

Post a Comment