‘May we glorify Your mighty acts, your unspeakable plan of salvation for our sake’. (From the Matins Service of the Sixth Friday of Lent).
Pascha is a time of joy and light, because when we celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection, we anticipate the immortality of our own soul and the resurrection of our own body.
In the final week prior to Pascha, we are led step by step through the events that led to our Lord’s Crucifixion, and we are filled with so much awe at what our Saviour suffered for the sake of our salvation. During the services, we witness how we condemned the Lord to death and how God, through the Resurrection of His Son, gave us the gift of immortality. In return for our buffets (beatings), He offered embraces; for our insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Humankind showed enmity (hostility) towards God, while God showed so much love through His Resurrection.
When the myrrh–bearing women came early on Easter Sunday morning to Christ’s tomb to show their love towards their Lord and to anoint His dead body, they found that the great stone had been rolled away (Luke 24: 2-3). Why had it been rolled away? Did the all-powerful Lord need an opening through which His body could pass? Or was this another gift of His love, a way for us to become witnesses to His Resurrection and to share this great joy of redemption? Since we have limited understanding, the open tomb visually signifies redemption. It represents hope, an escape from despair because it means that there can be an entry of light and life, where there had been death and hopelessness. When there is light there can be life, whereas in the dark nothing grows, not even hope.
Christ’s resurrected body did not require an open physical passage in order to achieve victory over death and dying. He had conquered death and redeemed us from the ancient curse. He gave us back our original form, a body and soul destined for incorruption. He had transformed our body, as we are told in the seventh Ode of the Paschal service: ‘The only blessed and ever-glorious God of our fathers…became man, and as mortal suffers, and through suffering, clothes the mortal with the grace of incorruption’. The open tomb reinforces this message for us, but it also challenges us to come humbly and with reverence to the place where our Saviour died for us, and to offer Him our life, because He considered us important enough to give His life for our sake.
We cannot fathom the greatest mystery of all which is Pascha, neither the depth of the passion of Christ’s sacrifice, nor how our Saviour’s body made a passage from the earth to Heaven. This Easter, however, there is one thing we can do. We can offer Him our sacrifice of gratitude and unconditional love!
Lychnos April - May 2015