This is the Day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
-- Psalm cxvii.24
Things are different today.
Gone are the sad, minor Lenten melodies. Gone are the dark vestments, the hushed penitential and even funereal feeling. Gone are the prostrations and the repetitions of St. Ephraim’s Prayer. Gone are the seemingly endless readings about those terrible, tragic hours, the days and nights of Our Lord’s unswerving approach to Golgotha. Gone are the painful stories of no one understanding Him. Gone are the horrible depictions of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, and everyone else’s abandonment. Gone are the terrible recitations of the moment when the earth stood still in anguish, when the sun hid its face and the mountains trembled, and the curtains of the Temple tore down the middle, and the graves around Jerusalem cracked open and the ghosts of the Righteous Dead walked the streets of the City.
Gone … at least for now.
Now in place of the darkness is the Light. In place of the nightfall it is now Day. In place of penance, there is Joy. In place of sorrow, there is Peace. In place of death, there is Life in Christ.
It is for this reason that we Christians of the Apostolic Church call the Resurrection the “Eighth Day.” It is a Day that leaps above the rest of the days of the week. It is a Day beyond all reckoning, exceeding every expectation. It is undefinable, unconfinable. It explodes every concept, every idea and formulae.
It is the Day of New Creation. It is the Day the Lord has made, and calls anyone who wants to live and to love, to enter into its everlasting Dawn.
This Feast today is the larger, more massive and expansive, than the rest of the year put together. As St. Gregory the Theologian proclaimed in his Paschal Oration:
This is the Feast of Feasts, the Holiday of Holidays, which surpasses not only human feasts, but even feasts of Christ, as the light of the sun is brighter than that of the stars. It is the Day of Resurrection and the beginning of True Life.
Every Christian Feast is rooted in this Feast of Feasts. Every Sunday, in particular, is a “little Pascha.” The final blessing on every Sunday begins with “May Christ our God, risen from the dead …” The Sunday Entrance Hymn calls out: “O come, let us adore, and bow down before Christ, save us O Son of God, risen from the dead we sing to You: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Pascha, the Resurrection of the Son of God, Who is also the Son of Man, is the center of every Divine Liturgy. This Paschal Light, that always streams over-abundantly from the Eighth Day, is the light that illumines every prayer, every hymn, every heart that would only open its doors to the Risen Lord.
The Lord has made This Day. Let us rejoice and be glad. Joy is not something we wait for. Joy is a free decision. Gladness is a chosen life. Darkness and despondency, the cold “liturgy” of the cynical world, is a temptation that must be rejected on this Day. On every day.
Against all odds, against the certainties of a hopeless, cynical world, against the cold dread of Death and against the enormous terror of Hell, Christ is Risen indeed. The Nicene Creed proclaims: “And the Third Day He arose again, according to the Scriptures.”
According to the Scriptures -- that is, not according to the world. The Scriptures are a radically different testament. The Bible is revolutionary speech. It could not have been imagined. The world speaks only of what it knows: Scripture speaks of glory -- something that is always above and beyond the gray clouds of unbelief.
This Resurrection, the world will tell you, was certainly impossible.
And they are right, as far as the world is concerned.
But with God, all things are possible.
Even the impossible.
Even your salvation. Even mine.
For that, too, is impossible as far as the world is concerned. And that is something, in your heart of hearts, you already know for sure. In the shadows of the night, the darkness whispers foreboding tales of a grim future -- a future that rejects all hope of a Saviour. And the only energies you harvest are the deficit and toxic energies of anger, dejection, self-centeredness, comfort, entertainment and self-defense.
I must tell you this and you may not like to hear it. But those whispers are actually groaning, diabolical echoes. And those feelings are actually the experience -- even in this life -- of the smog of perdition.
Hell begins now, in every passion.
It goes without saying that passion, thus, is a bad energy. Like an acid reaction that eats through the vat. Like nuclear fission that cannot be controlled.
I only bring this up because you must know what Jesus Christ, the Saviour, has delivered you from. He has delivered you from a Hell whose Reception Room is on this world right now, in this time and generation, and its atmosphere is stinking up the place. Sin is nothing more that getting addicted to Hell and staying in its environment … and when it comes time to pass on, the sin-addicted soul is so used to the darkness that it doesn’t want to leave.
Is this not pitiful? Is this not a heartbreaking thing, that an addict will not let go of the very thing killing him?
On Holy and Great Saturday, a moment after He breathed his last tortured breath on the Cross, Jesus descended into Hell and called out the souls imprisoned there. Here He stood at the place metaphorically described by our hymnwriters as “the Gates of Brass.” Here He stood as the Good Shepherd, Who calls every sheep by its name with the loving sound of His Voice: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew xi,28-30).
And the imprisoned souls saw that the Gates collapsed into ruin at the gentle sound of the Still, Small Voice of the Son of God, and at the presentation of the Cross -- the instrument of Divine Victory. They saw their Shepherd standing, calling, with open arms and nail-scarred hands. They saw their Creator waiting, as He has been waiting under the Trees of Paradise since that sad lost day in Eden, at the Fall of Man, waiting for His friends to join Him in the walk at the cool of the day. They saw Him, the Father of the Prodigal, waiting at the very edge of His estate, waiting for the Prodigal runaway to come Home.
And so they came, like the animals that streamed into Noah’s Ark. There was John the Forerunner, who had preached to the souls and prepared them for this day. There were David and Isaiah who had foreseen this day and written of it in poetic lines, impossible-sounding words that stretched all human reckoning. There were Abraham who never stopped believing in God’s promises. There was Jacob, who recognized this Jesus as the One Who had wrestled him by the brook of Peniel, Who had tested him to see if he really wanted life from God. There was Joseph, who quickly recognized the scars in His hands as marks of betrayal and abandonment -- something he too well understood. There were the Three Holy Children, Who recognized the Good Shepherd as the One Who had stood with them in the fiery furnace of persecution.
And finally, there came Adam and Eve. They came, finally keeping their evening appointment with the Gardener of Eden, and the Good Shepherd of our souls.
They came rejoicing. They came believing, though it was a fact beyond all expectation. They came out of the Darkness and into the Light. They came freed of the chains of passion.
They were glad and rejoiced in the Day the Lord had made.
I ask you, then, won’t you be so glad, and rejoice so much, for surely you have seen indications of this Day?
Surely you have heard His call and His invitation:
“I have shattered the darkness for you: enter into My morning,” says the Risen Lord.
“I have ascended the Cross for you: take up My easy burden, for I am meek and gentle of heart.
“I have cancelled the cold sentence of unending death: step into My life of Eucharist and true freedom.
“I have descended into Hell and death for you, and have obliterated the Gates of Passion. I have broken every chain of sin, every manacle of despair.
“I have thrown open your prison doors.
“Do not remain in this present darkness. Come out into the Light. Come with Me into the Springtime of your soul. Come back into the Eden where you belong.
“Wake up to My light and grace. Breathe the air of true liberty.
“This is the Day I, the Lord, have made for you. Rejoice and be glad in it.”
Will you commune with Christ? Will you know the Risen Jesus? Will you run into the Eighth Day, and never stop going? Will you accept the gift of Peace that passes all understanding, and rest in the meekness of Christ, Risen from the Dead?
I pray that you may hear His sweet voice this day, and open the doors of your heart to the One Who says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Apocalypse iii,20).
And that supping is soon, at the Table of the Lord. Here and now. In this moment of Grace. Where Eden begins, again, and is in full bloom, waiting for the Sons and Daughters of the Second Adam to come back home.
It is the morning of the Day the Lord has made.
Let us be glad and rejoice in it.