Two Pentecostarion hymns from the 4th Week of Pascha caught my attention during Monday Matins. The first is a pretty standard Orthodox Paschal hymn. It focuses on Christ being truly first in all things. Christ is the one who existed first, before all humans and in whose image all humans are created. Christ is the firstborn of the dead – first fully risen from the dead who did not die again, the first fruits of all those who have died. Jesus is the God-man, the incarnate God who created the world and who by His incarnation restores human nature.
CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD,
THE FIRST FRUITS OF THEM THAT SLEEP,
THE FIRSTBORN OF ALL CREATION,
AND THE MAKER OF ALL CREATED THINGS.
IN HIS FLESH HE RESTORED THE NATURE OF MANKIND GROWN CORRUPT.
DEATH, YOUR REIGN IS OVER,
FOR THE MASTER OF ALL HAS MADE YOUR POWER OF NO AVAIL!
DEATH, YOUR REIGN IS OVER! This is the proclamation of Christianity, the Good News of Jesus Christ. The power of death has been destroyed, shown to be of limited duration and not capable to holding all humans. The reign of Christ begins and He shall reign forever and ever. It is in Christ’s flesh, not just in His divinity, that He redeems, restores, recreates humanity. The incarnation is essential to salvation.
The second hymn focuses on the Gospel of the Paralytic, John 5:1-15, which is the Gospel Lesson for the 4th Sunday after Pascha. The hymns playfully examines who really was paralyzed – the man ill for 38 years, or the scribes who felt God’s healing on the Sabbath day violates the rules for keeping Sabbath. There are many forms of paralyses in life – not only physical, but spiritual, mental, and moral as well. One can keep the letter of the law but still be paralyzed in one’s faith, love and thought – so rigidly frozen that one is incapable of acting in faith or in love.
YOU LOOSED THE PARALYTIC’S BONDS ON THE SABBATH DAY,
BUT THE SCRIBES WERE PARALYZED, BOUND IN ENVY’S CHAINS.
THEY COMPLAINED: IT IS NOT LAWFUL TO HEAL ON THE SABBATH!
OUR FATHERS KEPT THE SABBATH REST;
WILL YOU NOW DESTROY THIS COMMAND?
THEY WOULD NOT RECOGNIZE YOU AS MASTER OF THE LAW,
AND THE SAVIOR OF OUR SOULS!
Jesus kept the blessed Sabbath on the 7th day of creation, and also while lying in the tomb following His crucifixion. His resurrection from the dead shows He is the holy One, the Savior of all humankind and Lord of the Sabbath.