Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord, God, Redeemer and the Only True Savior of the world,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life to those in the tombs.
SUNDAY OF THE BLIND MAN
Stichera of the Resurrection. Plagal of the First Tone
By Thy precious Cross, O Christ, Thou hast put the devil to shame; and by Thy Resurrection, Thou hast blunted the sting of sin; and Thou hast saved us from the gates of death. We glorify Thee, O Only-begotten One.
He that granted the resurrection unto the race of man was led as a sheep to slaughter; the princes of Hades were terrified of Him, and the grievous gates were lifted up; for Christ, the King of Glory, hath entered, saying to those in bonds: Go forth; and to those in darkness: Reveal yourselves.
O Great wonder! Having suffered in the flesh out of love for man, the Creator of things invisible, the Immortal One, hath risen. Come, O ye kindreds of the nations, let us worship Him; for delivered from error by His compassion, we have learned to praise one God in Three Hypostases.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On May 23rd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul perfected in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Our Righteous Father Michael the Confessor, Bishop of Synanadon; Holy Myrrh-bearer Mary the wife of Cleopas; Holy Martyr Salonas of Rome was perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy Martyr Selefcius, having been sawn asunder, was perfected in Martyrdom; our Righteous Martyr Michael of Saint Savvas Monastery, the disciple of St. Theodore of Edessa; our Righteous Mother Efrosyne of Polotsk; our Righteous Father Paisius of Galich.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Righteous, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Myrrh-bearers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT MICHAEL, BISHOP OF SYNNADA. From his childhood, this wise and holy hierarch consecrated himself to the service of Christ. He labored in asceticism together with Saint Theophilact of Nicomedia. Once, in a time of drought, these two holy men caused an abundance of rain to fall on the earth by their prayers. Because of the life of asceticism and chastity that St. Michael had led from his early youth, he was chosen and consecrated by Patriarch Tarasius as Bishop of Synnada. He took part in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD. At the wish of the emperor, he visited Caliph Harun al-Rashid to conduct peace negotiations. In the time of the wicked emperor Leo the Armenian, he was deposed from his episcopal throne for his veneration of the holy icons and sent into exile, where he died in want and poverty, faithful to Orthodoxy to the end. He entered into the Kingdom of Christ the King in 818 AD.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 15:5-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 10:17-28
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WRITINGS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
Eat from the right fruit
"The Church has been planted in this world like a Garden of Eden. Thus the Spirit of God says, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden" (Genesis 2:16)--that is, "Eat from every Scripture of the Lord, but you must not eat with a proud mind, or touch any heretical discord." For these men claim that they themselves have the knowledge of good and evil, and they set their own impious minds above the God Who made them. Thus they form opinions on what is beyond the limits of understanding. This is why the Apostle says, "I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment" (Romans 12:3): so that we won't be cast out of the paradise of life by eating the knowledge of these men--that "knowledge" that knows more than it should". (Saint Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.20.2)
THE SAVING FRUITS OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
By Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)
The Resurrection of Christ is "the foundation and the crown of our Orthodox Christian faith." The Resurrection of Christ, most important, great Truth, with the proclamation of which the Apostles began their preaching of the Gospel after the descent of the Holy Spirit. Just as by the death of Christ on the Cross our Redemption was accomplished, so by His Resurrection "eternal life was given to us." Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the object of the Church's constant triumph, its unceasing rejoicing, which reaches its summit in the Feast of the Holy Christian Pascha---"Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen!" (Canon of Pascha, Canticle 9).
The saving fruits of the Resurrection of Christ are:
- the victory over hell and death;
- the blessedness of the Saints in heaven and the beginning of the existence of the Heavenly Church;
- the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church of Christ on earth.
THE VICTORY OVER HELL AND DEATH
Human existence after the loss of Paradise has two forms: (a) the earthly, bodily life; and (b) the life after death.
Earthly life ends with the death of the body. The soul preserves its existence after bodily death, but its condition after death, according to the word of God and the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, is diverse. Until the coming to earth of the Son of God, and until His Resurrection from the dead, the souls of the dead were in a condition of rejection, being far away from God, in darkness, in hell, in the underworld (the Hebrew "Sheol"; Gen. 37:35, Septuagint). To be in hell was like spiritual death, as is expressed in the words of the Old Testament Psalm: "In hades who will confess Thee?" (Psalm 6:5). In hell there were imprisoned also the souls of the Old Testament righteous ones. These righteous ones lived on earth with faith in the coming Savior, as the Apostle Paul explains in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews; and after death they languished in expectation of their redemption and deliverance. Thus it continued until the Resurrection of Christ, until the coming of the New Testament: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40). Our deliverance was also their deliverance.
Christ, after His death on the Cross, descended in His soul and in His Divinity into hell, at the same time that His body remained in the grave. He preached salvation to the captives of hell and brought up from there all the Old Testament righteous ones into the bright mansions of the Kingdom of Heaven. Concerning this raising up of the righteous ones from hell, we read in the Epistle of Saint Peter: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (I Peter 3:18-19). And in the same place we read further: "For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (I Peter 4:6). Saint Paul speaks of the same thing: quoting the verse of the Psalm, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," the Apostle continues: "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:8-10).
To use the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "Hell was taken captive by the Lord Who descended into it. It was laid waste, it was mocked, it was put to death, it was overthrown, it was bound" (Homily on Pascha).
With the destruction of the bolts of hell--that is, the inescapability of hell--the power of death also was annihilated. First of all, death for righteous men became only a transition from the world below to the world above, to a better life, to life in the Light of the Kingdom of God; secondly, bodily death itself became only a temporary phenomenon, for by the Resurrection of Christ the way to the General Resurrection was opened to us. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20). The Resurrection of Christ is the pledge of our resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits: afterward they that are Christ's at His coming" (I Cor. 15:22-23). After this, death will be utterly annihilated. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26).
The troparion hymn of Holy Pascha proclaims to us with special joy the victory over hell and death: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life." Christ "ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:10).
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God