His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Homily for the Vespers of Agape The Holy and Great Pascha
April 19, 2020
Archdiocese Chapel of Saint Paul, New York, New York
My Beloved Christians,
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
Δόξα τῇ ἁγιᾴ αὐτοῦ τριημέρῳ ἐγέρσει!
Glory to His Three-Day Resurrection!
With these glorious words, I greet each and every one of you in the joy of the Lord and the joy of this day. This truly is the Day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice together and be glad in it![*]
We have come through harsh and difficult days – the most challenging Lent in anyone’s memory. And we have still arrived at the Holy Pascha of the Lord, for nothing could halt the Resurrection of Christ.
This is a sign for us, that even in the midst of this pandemic, we will pass over from death to life, from sickness to health, and from the current isolation to fellowship and communion again in the bonds of love and peace.
We know that on this Eve of the Resurrection, the Disciples were in hiding – καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ συνηγμένοι διὰ τὸν φόβον – “and the doors were sealed shut where the Disciples had gathered because of fear….”
The Disciples feared the Judeans, those who had called out “Crucify Him!” We are also behind closed doors, but not merely from fear of the coronavirus. In fact, we are not hiding at all. We are sheltering for the sake of our own health, and for the health and safety of our fellow human beings.
But just like the Disciples, when we least expect it, our Risen Lord comes to us, granting us His peace. To the Disciples, he passed through the locked doors and the solid walls; to us, He enters the deepest recesses of our hearts and instills in us His peace that surpasses every human understanding.[†]
My beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Christ, I know that this is not an easy time to celebrate the Holy Pascha – without our traditional festal meals and gatherings. But the Resurrection is so much more than an occasion for the celebration of an ancient event. It is the daily rising in our hearts of the Sun of Righteousness, Who bears healing in His wings.[‡]
There will always be a part of us – the “Thomas particle” I would call it – that will always doubt the reality and the efficacy of believing. Just as when his fellow Disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas replied:
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and unless I put my finger into the wound of the nails, and I unless I stick my hand into his side, I will never believe!”[§]
His words are as full of pain and anger as they are of doubt and disbelief. He is fixated on the Passion and the Death, because he cannot comprehend how such suffering and sacrifice could emerge in triumph. Let us not forget that he was in the same kind of isolation that many of us are today. The Scripture reports that he was not with the other Disciples when Jesus appeared to them.[**]
My dear friends, the same is true for many of us – maybe all of us. There is a part of us that cannot see our way through the pandemic, and we share in the pain and outrage of Thomas.
But fear not. Christ will come to you, just as He came to Thomas, “after eight days,”[††] and you will know from that encounter that God is real, that Heaven is real, and that Christ is truly risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life!
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!