09 April 2007

It is Not Enough to Say "Christ is Risen"

The Paschal Vigil, celebrated at Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church, began at 11:00 p.m. on Holy Saturday. The liturgy followed that prescribed by the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America with the exception of the blessing of baptismal waters (since Holy Incarnation does not have a permanent baptismal font).

Below are excerpts from the sermon. Here is the full sermon.

It is not enough for us to say “Christ is risen!” We must hold these words firmly in our hearts, and live these words with every breath we take, every thought we think, every word we speak, and every deed we do. For our Easter greeting is nothing more than an empty ritual and a religious tradition, unless it comes alive with frequent prayer to God, regular thanksgiving for His mercy, and constant kindness toward all men.

Christ our Savior clothed Himself in our weakness, endured our temptations, became our sin, suffered our death, entered our grave, and then rose victorious so that, by His Spirit, we might stop living for ourselves, and instead live for our Father and for all mankind with all that we are and all that we have.

This is what St. Paul means when he says that we should serve sin no longer.

Christ Our Lord suffered to death our sinful self-serving so that He might free us from sin’s bondage. More than that, He also put death to death, and destroyed the power of the grave and the grip of the devil. For our selfishness comes from deep-seated fear—the fear that we will miss out; the fear that death will overtake us before we get all we want from life.

In His death, Our Lord gives us all that Life Himself has to offer. In His death, Christ Jesus submerges our fears and resurrects a living hope—a hope that lives beyond this life, into the life of the world to come. In His death, Christ Jesus put to death any benefit we may see in our self-serving, self-pleasing ways—and gives us a taste of His benefits, which exceed our imaginations. And in His death, Christ Jesus frees us to live no longer serving ourselves by serving sin, but so that we might freely serve God and so reach the full maturity as the men and women He created us to be.

The rich words and symbols in today’s early morning liturgy teach and remind us that our new life has begun—both in the resurrection of Our Lord, and in our baptism into His death and burial. In our baptism, Christ has accomplished what we desired but could never achieve—a complete break with our former ways, a severing of our self-serving life in sin. So since we have been baptized, we have been freed from sin—and released from the fearful grip of death. So let us not revert to our former ways.

For Christ Jesus has risen from the dead, trampling down death and the rule of sin. And by His overwhelming mercy, He has bestowed upon all of us His abundant and full life—a life that now lives to serve Him, knowing that from Him we have received not only all we hoped for, but more than we ever imagined; to whom with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit belongs all glory, honor and worship.

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