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Sermon: Easter Vigil 2011

April 24, 2011

Sermon preached at the Easter Vigil, April 23, 2011, at St. Paul’s Church on-the-Hill, St. Paul, MN.


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

We have come to the end of our Holy Week journey and found an empty tomb. We marched triumphantly through the gates of Jerusalem, while Christ entered humbly upon the back of a donkey. We gave voice to our blood lust for murder, while he refused to speak–even to save his life. We jeered his humiliation along the Via Dolorosa, while he paused to teach and bless us. We stood speechless upon Golgotha, while he declared forgiveness from the cross. We sat weeping before the tomb, while he transcended the bonds of hell for our sake. We did not believe what we saw, while he gave us faith, hope and love to endure.

And now our journey continues. It is an Emmaus journey where we encounter the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread. It is an Easter journey where we proclaim that by dying, he destroyed our death; and by rising, he restored our life. It is now up to us to proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ; to proclaim the Good News of life and love and reconciliation offered to us and to the whole world; to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s justice and peace—and with truly thankful hearts, may we show forth God’s praise, not only with our lips, but with our lives.

It’s not too late to embark upon the journey. If fact, the journey is only just beginning. Though it began some two thousand years ago, it is our journey yet today. In the Fourth Century, St. John Chrysostom prepared an Easter sermon for the catechumenate–the culmination of their Lenten journey of preparation for baptism.  As we come to the end of our Lenten journey and prepare to renew our own catechumenal promises through the Baptismal Covenant, it is fitting that we should listen again to his timeless words.

The Hieratikon of 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!

Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.

Those who 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 even as 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!

Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who 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 banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s goodness!

Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.

Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Savior has set us free.

The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished 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, were placed in turmoil when he encountering you below.”

Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

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

Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
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 Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!

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