“Go quickly and tell his disciples that
he has risen from the dead.” Matthew 28:7
In the Gospel of the Resurrection we hear on Holy Saturday morning, the angel tells the women who have come to the tomb, “Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.” When the same women encounter the Risen Christ, Jesus repeats the instructions, “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10). This repetition in the text is meant for all of us. Our Paschal celebration finds us at the tomb of the Lord. Like the women so many centuries ago, we are meant to be astonished. And, we are also being instructed to proclaim that the Lord has risen to everyone.
The news of the empty tomb was unbelievable then and still difficult for us to grasp today. Christ had suffered a degrading, painful death at the hands of the Romans; crucifixion was reserved for the lowest of the low. The worst criminals received this kind of punishment as a deterrent to anyone who would challenge the power of Rome. Christ’s death upon the cross seemingly ended the hopes of His followers. As we read in the Gospel of Luke, they “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)
But the tomb is empty. Angels tell the women, “He is Risen!” And Christ appears to His followers, showing the marks of His Passion, and is very much alive. Resurrection becomes even more meaningful and significant in light of the Passion. The two go together. As Saint Gregory the Theologian writes, “He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life He restores us…He dies, but He gives life, and by His death, He destroys death.” (Theological Oration 3, On the Son).
The message of Pascha fills us with joy and hope because we have seen the power of death destroyed. As we hear in one of the seasonal hymns “Receive from us the joyous good news of Christ’s Resurrection. Delight, dance, be glad, Jerusalem, as you behold Christ the king emerging from the grave like a bridegroom.” So tonight we will celebrate with lit candles in our hands. Our Churches will ring their bells and decorate every icon and space with flowers. We will break the fast and prepare the sumptuous feast. We will be dressed in our finest, and sing and dance.
Our first celebration takes place in the Liturgy, where we will chant the victory hymn, “Christ is risen…”; all the hymns will be chanted in a crescendo of joy and hope. Attend to them and absorb their message. Participate in the Liturgy, and partake of the Resurrected Lord’s banquet; receive Him in Holy Communion. Greet one another with Christian love because tonight, of all nights, our parishes are filled with the Good News of our Heavenly Father’s love for us, of the Resurrection of His Son that gives life to the whole world.
This message is not to be contained or hidden, but to be proclaimed to all. Just as you will carry the light from your Paschal candle home, carry the Good News with you and share it. As the Lord says, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but on a stand, that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 11:33). Dear brothers and sisters, the angel’s instructions to the women have become our instructions: Go and tell the world that Christ has risen from the dead!
I wish those who celebrate their Feast Day blessed and healthy years ahead, and pray that the Risen Christ grant all of you and your families His Blessings.
Χριστός Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen! Αληθῶς Ἀνέστη! Truly He is Risen!
With Paternal Love in the Resurrection,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco