Vespers of Pascha (2019)

Peace be with you!

Those were the first words that the risen Lord spoke to His disciples when He came into their presence in the upper room as they hid in fear for their lives (John 20:19-25).


We can imagine the strangeness of that scene and what was going through their hearts and minds.  On the one hand, He who had just been executed by crucifixion and buried, now stands in their presence and wishes them peace!  What kind of peace could they find in a world filled with terror, terrorism and torture?  On the other hand, they are seeing before them a dead man, or his ghost.  What peace can there be if the dead can walk into the room where they are hiding.  No place on earth is safe!

And again, on the one hand, Christ the person they professed as Lord and Master had been murdered, and they did nothing to protect or help Him.  In fact they all had fled from Him, and denied Him, denied they even knew Him, and abandoned Him, and one of them had in fact betrayed Him.  On the other hand, if Christ is alive, who should they fear more the people who killed Him or Christ who now is alive and can make Himself present no matter where they hide and pay them back for their failures?

The dead Christ’s appearance in their midst is a shocking sight, startling them right out of their despair, out of their failures, out of their fears – into a whole new set of fears!   And yes, at first they saw Him not as the risen Lord but as a dead man appearing to them!  This was probably a worse shock and fear then the people they hoped to keep outside of the locked room where they were hiding.


And today, we the disciples of Christ find ourselves still threatened, still worried that people might want to kill us, and we see in Sri Lanka, Egypt, Pakistan and other places in the world our brothers and sisters in Christ are murdered because they are Christ’s disciples.

And we hear Christ’s words as He stands in our midst: “Peace be with you!

And we too wonder what kind of peace can a dead man, even a resurrected one grant us?  He doesn’t seem able to protect His followers for they have been martyred throughout history.  Fear takes hold of our hearts.

40675919665_f02e9a6c7d_nChrist did not choose His Twelve Disciples because He knew they would be perfect in their faith or in following Him or in doing all the right things.  In fact, the Gospels tell us He knew who He chose and how they would betray Him, deny Him and flee from Him in His hour of need.  Yet He still chose them.  He still came into their midst and wished them Peace.  It is His desire to save us all and unite us to our God, despite our sins and failings and fears.

He comes to us knowing our fears, faults, failures and foibles.  He grants us His peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”   (John 14:27)

How can we live without fear in this world?

Christ has chosen us to be His disciples.  He still relies on us, trusts us to accomplish His work on earth and promises that we will see greater things than even the Apostles themselves witnessed (John 1:50).

Christ says to us:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.  If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  (John 15:16-18)

And then He went on to say:

I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStrive to find the peace of Christ in your hearts,  Pray for the gift of the peace of Christ so that all fear will be driven from your life and that you might have good cheer despite the threats of the world and the courage to continue to do good and to do the godly thing even in the face of threats.

May the peace of God be with you.  May the God of peace be with you.

Christ is risen!

Holy Pascha (2019)

Pascha Sunday

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)


… to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.  (Acts 1:2-3)

While singing “Christ is risen!” can fill us with joy, the full implications of the resurrection may escape us.  Archimandrite Amilianos brings to our attention an important detail from the Acts of the Apostles:  Jesus’ resurrection means not only that he is alive, but that He is living – He has life in Himself that can never be taken away.

But it was precisely then, after the passion, that He presented Himself alive. (Acts 1:3)

If you look at this verse closely, you’ll see that Luke does not simply say that Christ presented himself “alive,” as if to say that He was merely “seen to have been alive,” or “appeared to be alive,” like everyone else. The sense is rather that He presented Himself “living.” Of course Christ is alive, and “there was never a time when he was not alive.” But here Christ’s assumption of life, His taking up of life, is an absolutely voluntary act, for no one takes My life from Me, He says, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; this charge I received from My Father (Jn. 10.18).


After the passion, He presented Himself living. The life of Christ is the life given to Him by the Father after the passion. After the resurrection, therefore, the life in Christ that the apostles experienced was not simply the same life they had come to know during the days of His earthly ministry. Neither was the resurrected body of Christ simply the same body they had known, and which His enemies had slain and buried. It was a resurrected body, raised in glory, raised in power (cf. 1 Cor 15.42-45). The body that Christ assumed in His love for mankind had formerly been subject to the laws of corruption, to the laws of nature. But now those laws are of no consequence for Him. That was how He was able to enter into the upper room while the doors were closed (Jn 20.19, 26). That was a sovereign activity by which Christ, after the passion, presents Himself as living, as true and eternal life itself (cf. Jn 11.25).


Whoever is able to accept suffering, whoever is able to die the death granted to Him by the Father, is able to participate in the true, eternal life of Christ. If he cannot, or will not do this, then his life is a living death, for whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will preserve it (Lk 17.33).

After the passion, He presented himself living.

(The Way of the Spirit, pp. 162-163)

Jesus is able to present Himself as living precisely because He is Life (John 11:25, 14:6).

Pascha: Journey from Earth to Heaven

For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us as we sing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead! (Hymn of Pascha)


Great Lent is a spiritual journey.  At the beginning of Lent, we began reading the Book of Genesis.  We were expelled with Eve and Adam from Paradise and sent into this world in which we live.  We migrated into Egypt with Joseph, and then God called us out of that great civilization into the desolate desert.  Now at Pascha we travel from earth to heaven. Our sojourn has thus taken us from Paradise to this world, to the desert, to Hades and 47449541621_ef2bff53d1_qthen back to the world and now to heaven itself.   A journey from the earth to the moon is nothing compared to what we undertake every Lent! And that journey to the moon costs millions of dollars to get two people to the moon, while our spiritual journey was free and there is no limit to the number of people who can make the journey.

The Gospel reading for the Pascha midnight service, perhaps surprisingly, is not one of the Resurrection accounts, but rather from Chapter 1 of John which takes us back to the beginning of time, to the beginning of creation, to the Big Bang.   This Gospel reading helps us understand the resurrection of Christ as a universal event – not something that happened at a moment 2000 years ago, but one which brings us to eternity.

8062392074_5e6935bb48_nIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

We thus travel every Great Lent the breadth and depth of time and space!  Nothing is left untouched by Christ, not even death’s kingdom. Christ, the one in whom life dwells, brings life not only to Hades, but in baptism, He comes to dwell in each of us.  As St Paul says:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   (Galatians 2:20)

We have the Word not only dwelling in our midst but also within each of us.  As we prayed each time we celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during Lent:   

may we be united to Your Christ Himself, our true God, Who has said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him,” that by Your Word, O Lord, dwelling within us and sojourning among us, we may become a temple of Your all-holy and adorable Spirit …


Throughout our long Lenten sojourn which has taken us from the beginning of time to its end (and just in 6 weeks!), Christ has sojourned with us – at every moment and in every place Christ is with us always and in all ways.

Our Lenten sojourn has accomplished what God intended from the beginning:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Christ is risen!

Wishing you a joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ.