“It is the day of Resurrection. O People, let us be enlightened by it.
The Passover is the Lord’s Passover, since Christ, our God, has brought us from death to life,
and from earth to heaven.
Therefore we sing the hymn of victory!”
The words above are from Ode 1 of the Resurrection Canon sung at Resurrection Matins in our Byzantine Catholic churches. The words summarize what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished across all measures of time and space for all people. Our hymn of victory is our proclamation that “Christ is Risen” and that He is our God, “the Giver of Life”.
Our Hymn of Victory is made visual each time we see the symbolic letters of
IC XC NIKA, shorthand derived from the Greek language meaning JESUS CHRIST CONQUERS! Everytime we see these letters — on icons, on our hymnal books, in stained glass windows, and also imprinted on the prosphora the priest uses for Holy Communion — we are emboldened with strength in knowing that regardless of any hardships we have, that Christ triumphs over darkness.
We turn to Christ as a trusting child, knowing that the victory he has won for us is the answer.
The victory of our Risen Savior is found in another beautiful hymn sung at Resurrection Matins, the Hypakoje, gives a wonderful description of what we read in the New Testament — the discovery of the empty tomb, and along with this, a short command given to the “myrrh-bearing” women to act immediately. A call to action, nonetheless! This is also a command for us to go and be disciples. To joyfully proclaim the same wonderous news to all. When we share the “kerygma” we are following in the footsteps of the women at the tomb who in their discovery were the first to proclaim the revelation of the good news.
“The women with Mary, before the dawn, found the stone rolled away from the tomb – And they, heard the Angel say: ‘Why do you seek among the dead as a mortal , the One who abides in everlasting light? Behold, the linens of burial – Go in haste and proclaim to the world – that having, conquered Death, the Lord is risen for He is the Son of God, the Savior of mankind.”
And as we rejoice and celebrate, we sing with emphasis the words of another refrain:
“All you who been baptized into Christ, have been clothed with Christ! Alleluia!
The church wisely reminds us that we are clothed in Christ as having been initiated into the Body of Christ through the Sacraments. We live in Christ and Christ lives in us. This is such a great gift freely and sacrificially earned for us by our Lord and Savior. Such a victory! Such a gift ! No one can give such a valuable gift as this ! Every time we receive the Sacraments, we renew our life in Christ. Let us be mindful when we approach the Sacraments, such as Holy Communion, who we are receiving and what a sacred privilege to be so closely united with Christ, to be filled with all the graces and love He pours into our soul.
Not inconsequentially — our promise to God in our baptism is to live our Christian beliefs, all that Jesus taught his own disciples. We are pledged and commissioned, just as the angel instructed the women at the empty tomb, to share through action and words, the message and joy of the Gospel.
This is why in the Byzantine Catholic Church we sing repeatedly: “Christ is Risen!” It is just as He foretold. The amazing power of God.
May we strive with unfailing intention, to bring the spirit of that first Easter and evidence of our life in Christ to those we encounter along our life path.
Christ is Risen ! Indeed He IS Risen !
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Our journey with our Lord brings us to this most solemn week for all Christians. Yet we find ourselves both anxious and expectant of what may come next. It is not the events of our Lord’s passion that has us most anxious. Rather we feel the vulnerability and risk associated with a microscopic adversary, the novel coronavirus. This tiny entity that we cannot see, but fear greatly, has presented every person with never before foreseen challenges. We have been forced to submit to authorities in new ways, we have been stripped of our complacency and distanced from our self-created sense of comfort and self-reliance.
For us as Christians and Catholics it has been a Lenten journey like no other, one seen in a new light if we are able to see all that has come upon us through our spiritual eyes. This Lent has given us a stark reminder more powerful than any of our rituals of faith, of our human condition — the finite reality of our human physical bodies.
Now imagine for a moment the world back in the time of Jesus Christ. We may have an idealized view of what it was like. But it was a world of difficulties, of hardships, and of discomforts. During Jesus’ three years of public ministry he walked and lived the day to day realities of that time. And for what little the apostles had in terms of possessions, Jesus asked them to give up all for the greater treasure he offered. Now consider the works of Jesus during his travels in the many towns and villages around Galilee. Aside from his preaching, you would probably agree that his healing of the sick is among the most mentioned topics in Scripture. Wherever he traveled, Jesus was surrounded by people who sought to be healed.
In the situation of our present moment, we have been humbled to change our behavior, our thinking, our habits, relationships and more. Like the people in Jesus’ time on earth, we are a people and a world in need of healing. We have been in need of healing for some time. Our plea of healing is not only for our physical problems, but for healing of the many ways we fail to live the virtues that Jesus calls us to. Those failings are our sins. Jesus not only wished to heal the people of his time on earth of their physical infirmities, but in many ways their spiritual blindness, a blindness that is prevalent in our time. Jesus’ love and desire is to heal people of all time for all eternity.
A tradition during Great and Holy week in the Byzantine Catholic church has always been the chance for all Byzantine Catholics – not limited to those with physical ailments — to receive the Sacrament of Sick, usually on Holy Wednesday. Our Eastern view of the Sacrament is that we are all in need of healing, whether that is spiritual or physical and we are invited as a church family to receive this Sacrament during Great and Holy Week. Unfortunately, during this time of cloistering and distancing, we are unable to receive this important Sacrament of our Catholic church. However, we can still ask Jesus to heal us wherever we may be. We can “attend” one of the many streamed services online, even to chant and pray along as participants.
We do not know what comes next in our present crisis. In any crisis we do not know. But we do know what comes next in the upcoming and final days of Holy Week. And as we participate in our domestic church services this week, we can appreciate more clearly what Jesus endured for us, we see the price of sacrificial love, and the meaning of the cross. We also see what Jesus wants us to have, wants us to possess, and that is the constancy of hope, a hope in all that is Truth, all that is eternal. For the cross is more than a symbol. Jesus Christ our Lord has conquered what we fear most. He shows us the Way, loves us as children, knows our fears and hears our prayers.
We call to mind the many ways Jesus healed those who sought his help in total trust. In faith we can obtain those same graces and spiritual healing. Jesus, the great Physician of Souls is always near to the hearts of those who seek and ask.
- Please pray this week for healing for those who are suffering in any way and those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
- Pray for all who tirelessly serve the needs of others in sacrifice, that they may have the physical strength and patience they require.
- Pray for healing and softening of the hearts that reject and mock God or are lukewarm in their relationship with Him.
- And do not fear to ask for your own spiritual healing to trust God in all the trials of life, in asking for protection in the Most Holy and Blessed name, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.