Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this He appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.
And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.
Mark 16: 9-20
(Third Eothinon Gospel)
Christ is Risen!
The day after Pascha is a very important day in your life! Why? Because it sets the tone for the rest of your year until next Lent. There is no “virtual” church today. During most years, the Holy Week journey is exhausting for us physically. And emotionally. This year, with “virtual” church, the “come down” from Holy Week is likely to be different. We didn’t actually go to church each day, or see friends, or receive sacraments. In fact, many of us probably struggled to stay engaged.
Which is why today is the most critical Bright Monday we’ve ever had. We didn’t get as much of a spiritual infusion as we usually get during Holy Week probably. It’s back to home schooling kids, trying to manage work, home and them. Holy Week might have been a good diversion from the coronavirus news and collateral concern but those things will be right back front and center today. Hopefully you took away something positive from the Holy Week journey. If nothing else, hopefully you are more committed to making the journey next year.
When we sang “Let all things begin anew in the Light of the Resurrected Christ,” it didn’t mean that all of our problems got wiped out. It means that we have new lenses through which to see our challenges. Hopefully in the last week, even with “virtual” worship, we have gained a new lens of forgiveness, a new lens of optimism, a new lens of hope. Hopefully we have received an infusion of patience as well.
So, today, when you have the urge to say something unkind, be purposeful in refraining from that. When you have the urge to cut someone off in traffic, be purposefully patient. When you have the urge to snap at someone, resist that. If the Resurrection was a sign of Christ healing the fissure between us and Him, we should use the Resurrection as an opportunity to heal the fissures between us and Him and us and one another.
For the next forty days, we will greet each other with the words “Christ is Risen” and we will respond with “Truly He is risen.” Will we faithfully do this? Or will the joy of the Resurrection quickly pass from our lips as well? I use the Paschal greeting in all correspondence and I try to answer the phone the same way, even when I know the caller isn’t Orthodox. It is a small and simple way to keep Christ in the conversation, in the consciousness.
Christ is Risen, and that matters. That matters for our whole life. As we read in the Gospel of John at the Resurrection, which is the scripture quote, “to as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God.” When our parents took us out to dinner for our birthdays, or did special things for us, we were grateful. Gratitude seems very fleeting in the world today. Someone does something for us, and we think almost immediately what else will they do for us? If the first sin was ingratitude, then we have to offer the Paschal greeting with a sense of gratitude. More important, we have to live the reality of Christ’s resurrection with gratitude.
To say, “Christ is Risen but I’m still going to pick a petty fight with my spouse, or my coworker or with someone” doesn’t fit.
Neither does “Christ is Risen and I will be a maniacal driver.”
Or “Christ is Risen but I’m going to make people nervous every time they see me.”
Or “Christ is Risen and nothing is going to change in my life from two weeks ago.”
Christ is Risen and that matters. Christ is Risen and that calls us to change. Christ is Risen and that calls us to action. Christ is Risen and that calls us to continue to grow TOWARDS Him.
Last week, you set aside extra time for God. Make sure you set some time aside for Him today, and tomorrow, and every day.
Resurrection Day! O peoples, let us brilliantly shine! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha! For Christ our God has out of death passed us over into life, and likewise from earth to heaven, as we now sing unto Him a triumphal hymn. (From the Matins of the Resurrection, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
I invite you to be different today than you were a week ago!
St. John the Baptist, Tampa, FL