All-Holy Pascha-The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

My beloved spiritual children,

Glory to the Holy and consubstantial and Life-Giving and Undivided Trinity, always, now and forever, and to the Ages of Ages. Amen.

THE RESURRECTION HYMN

Χριστός Ανέστη έκ νεκρών, θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας, και τοισ εν τοίς μνήμασι, ζωήν χαρισάμενος.

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Christ has risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed Life to those in the tombs.

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PASCHA SUNDAY Vespers
Aposticha

Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior, enlightened the whole world, and recalled Thine own creation, Almighty Lord, glory to Thee.

A Sacred Pascha has been today shown forth to us. A new and Holy Pascha; a mystic Pascha. An all-venerable Pascha; A Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer. A spotless Pascha, a Great Pascha, a Pascha of the faithful. A Pascha which has opened to us the gates of Paradise. A Pascha which hallows all the faithful.

Come from that scene, O women, bearers of good tidings, and say to Zion: Receive from us the tidings of joy, of the Resurrection of Christ. Exalt, rejoice, and be glad, O Jerusalem, for thou dost see Christ the King as a Bridegroom come forth from the tomb.

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"Let all then enter into the joy of our Lord. Ye first and last receiving alike your reward; ye rich and poor, rejoice together. Ye sober and ye slothful, celebrate the day. Ye that have kept the fast, and ye that have not, rejoice today; for the Table is richly laden. Fare ye royally on it. The calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake ye all of the cup of faith. Enjoy ye all the riches of His Goodness. Let no one grieve of his poverty; for the Universal Kingdom hath been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he hath fallen again and again; for forgiveness hath risen from the grave. Let no one fear death; for the Death of our Savior hath set us free. He hath destroyed it by enduring it. He spoiled Hades when He descended thereto. He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he cried, Thou, O Hades, hast been vexed by encountering Him below...O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is Risen, and thou art annihilated. Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down. Christ is Risen, and the Angels rejoice. Christ is Risen, and life is liberated. Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead; for Christ, having Risen from the dead, is become the firstfruits of those that have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen."

(Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople)

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THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
THE SAVING FRUITS OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

By Father Michael Pomazansky (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)

The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation and the crown of our Orthodox Christian Faith. The Resurrection is the first, most important 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:

a)     the victory over hell and death;

b)     the blessedness of the Saints in heaven and the beginning of the existence of the Heavenly Church (the Church Triumphant);

c)     the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church of Christ on earth.

A. 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 also, 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 a spiritual death, as is expressed in the words of the Old Testament Psalm, "In hades who will confess Thee?" (Psalm 6:6). 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 thing 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 sins, 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" (1 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" (1 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 first-fruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 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 first fruit,: afterward they that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). After this, death will be utterly annihilated. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The troparion 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).

B. The Blessedness of the Saints in Heaven, and the Beginning of the Existence of the Great Kingdom of Christ, the Heavenly Triumphant Church.

Before his departure to the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostles: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (St. John 14:2-3). The Savior prayed to the Father, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me" (St. John 17:24). And the Apostles express the desire to depart and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), knowing that they have "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1).

A depiction of the life of the Saints in heaven is given in the Apocalypse. Saint John the Theologian saw around the Throne of God in the heavens "four and twenty seats" and on them elders clothed in white garments and having crowns of gold on their heads (Rev. 4:4). He saw under the heavenly altar "the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Rev. 6:9); and yet again he saw "a great multitude...of all nations, and kindreds, and people," standing before the Throne and before the Lamb and crying out: "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9-10).

The bright mansions of the Heavenly Home sacred Scripture calls "the city of the Living God," "Mount Zion," the "Heavenly Jerusalem," "the church of the first-born written in heaven."

And thus the Great Kingdom of Christ has been opened in heaven. Into it have entered the souls of all righteous and pious people of the Old Testament, those of whom the Apostle has said: "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise" (until the coming to earth of the Son of God and the General Salvation), "that they without us should not be made perfect," that is, attained the joy and blessedness of the Heavenly Church of Christ (Hebrews 11:39-40). Into this Kingdom in the New Testament there entered the first ones who believed in Christ, the Apostle, First Martyrs, Confessors; and thus until the end of the world the heavenly home will be filled --the Jerusalem on high, the granary of God--until it shall come to its perfect fullness...

"...According to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the blessedness of the souls of the righteous in heaven consists of: a) the repose or rest from labors; b) nonparticipation in sorrows and sufferings (Rev. 14:13, 7:16); c) being together with and consequently being in the closest communion between themselves and with thousands of Angels; e) standing before the Throne of the Lamb, glorifying Him and serving Him; f) communion and reigning together with Christ; g) the joyous beholding face to face of God Almighty.

C. The Sending Down of the Holy Spirit and the Establishment of the Church of Christ on Earth

The Lord Jesus Christ, in His conversation with His disciples before His sufferings, promised them to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who would remain with them forever--the Spirit of Truth Who would instruct them in everything and remind them of all that He Himself had spoken to them, and would inform the m of the future. Appearing after the Resurrection to His Disciples, the Lord granted them the grace-given power of the Holy Spirit with the words, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (St. John 20:22-23). And ten days after His Ascension, the Lord, in accordance with His promise, sent down the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost in the form of fiery tongues.

The descent into the world by the Holy Spirit was expressed, first of all, in the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Apostles in the form of signs, healing prophecies, the gift of tongues, and secondly, in all the grace-given powers which lead the faithful of Christ to spiritual perfection and to salvation.

In the Holy Spirit, in His Divine power, is given us "all things that pertain unto life and Godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). "These grace-given gifts are in the Holy Church which the Lord founded on earth." They comprise the means of our sanctification and salvation.

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Χριστός Ανέστη! (3) Christ is Risen! (3)

Αληθώς Ανέστη! (3) Truly (Indeed) He is Risen! (3)

Priest: Glory to His Third-Day Resurrection.

Faithful: (reply): We bow down to His Third-Day Resurrection.

Priest: Christ has risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed Life to those in the tombs.

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Dear friends,

On behalf of our family to all of you, Chronia Polla! (Many Years) to all of you and Kalo Pascha! (and a Blessed Pascha)

With agape,

Konstantopoulos family

GLORY BE TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!

IN OUR RISEN LORD JESUS CHRIST,

+Father George