Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Homily


Many consider St. John Chrysostom (circa A.D. 344-407), bishop of Antioch and Constantinople, as the greatest preacher of the ancient church and one of the greatest of all time. Probably no sermon he preached is as well known as the powerful and eloquent Easter homily (circa A.D. 400), which I've printed below. Many churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition still recite it each year as part of their observance of Pascha.

For the third year in a row at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, MS, we have read Chrysostom's famous homily at The Great Vigil of Easter. And each time, it's said everything that needs to be said on this holy night. It's the very epitome of what, before his consecration as Bishop of Atlanta, Neil Alexander said about "precision and economy" in his homilietics class at The School of Theology in Sewanee, TN.

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Easter Homily

by St. John Chrysostom

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!


Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!


Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!


If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.


If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!


And those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall lose nothing.


And if any have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.


And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.


For the Lord is gracious and receives the last no less than the first.


The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.


To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.


The Lord honors every deed and commends their intention.


Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!


First and last alike, receive your reward.


Rich and poor, rejoice together!


Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!


You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!


Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.


Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy the riches of the Lord’s goodness!


Let none grieve their poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.


Let none mourn that they have fallen, over, and over again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.


Let none fear death,
for the death of our Savior has set us free.


The Lord has destroyed it by enduring it.


The Lord destroyed hell when He descended into it.


The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of His flesh.


Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering him below.”


Hell is in turmoil because it has been eclipsed.
Hell is in turmoil because it is mocked.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is destroyed.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is annihilated.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is now made captive.
Hell grasped a corpse, and discovered God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.


O death, where is thy sting?
O hell, where is thy victory?


Christ is risen, and you, O death, are obliterated!
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.


For Christ, having risen from the dead,is become the first-fruits
of those who have fallen asleep.


To God be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!

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