Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recommendation: Making Choices by Fr. Stephen Freeman

I commend to you a recent post by Fr. Stephen Freeman, priest at St. Anne's Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and author of the Glory To God For All Things blog. Fr. Freeman's writing is among my favorite on the web -- always thought-provoking and often quite humbling.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Saints Mary and Martha: Sabbatical

For years, like Martha of Bethany, I have bustled about the kitchen of the Kingdom of God, doing good and necessary work while sometimes ignoring the better part of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. I now have an opportunity to change that, an opportunity to take a long-overdue sabbatical. It is a gift not to be ignored.

So, for the next three or four months I do not plan to write or post new sermons. I plan to listen to Scripture as God’s word to me, and not as God’s word through me to others. I plan to compose new songs for the glory of God alone. I will read good books and perhaps begin a writing project of my own. I will sit at the feet of Jesus with Mary and pray long, leisurely prayers. I will rest in God. From time to time I will post reflections on this whole process or on other aspects of the Christian experience that seem important to me during this process. As always, I welcome your comments and I covet your prayers.

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reflection: The Diary of Anne Frank -- Complicity In Sin and Salvation

My family recently attended this season’s final performance of The Diary of Anne Frank at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. It is a play that demands reflection. How does the Jewish holocaust occur, or the Rwandan genocide, or countless mass acts of terrorism? Who is responsible for these unimaginable but all too real evils? I know for certain – with a certainty beyond reason – that I am, and you are, and we are – all of us together. Through our solidarity with all men – our kinship to Adam of which St. Paul makes much in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 – my sin and yours ripples outward through all space and time making each of us entirely complicit in the sins of all men, everywhere and everywhen. I must repent of the holocaust because the burden of my sin has contributed to the fallenness of a world in which not only is the holocaust possible, but well nigh inevitable. Time is no barrier against sin. Why should the effects of my sin be unidirectional – forward only, but not backward? If Christ was slain for my sins from before the foundation of the world, then past, present, and future have no power to imprison sin – or grace. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, we pray and we cannot even begin – most of us – to comprehend the magnitude of the sin or the mercy for which we pray. Thanks be to God that he grants us only that degree of self-awareness that his grace makes it possible to bear.

But, if we are complicit in the world’s sin, so too are we complicit in the world’s salvation. Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us, we pray, invoking the prayers of those who were, who are, and who are yet to come. And our prayers are there, too. As others pray – long ago or yet far away – they bind their prayers to ours and our prayers to theirs for the salvation of the world. Who can know what affect my prayer this day had on the grace that allowed faith to survive through the holocaust and to triumph over it? Who can know what affect the prayer of one in generations yet to come has on my faithfulness this day? But that no man lives unto himself alone, that I know for certain.

Given the complicity of all in the sins and salvation of all, we see forgiveness as essential. When a brother sins against me, I must also accept responsibility for his sin; I contributed to the corruption of the world and the relationship in which the sin was possible. (If this is difficult to accept, put it aside. It is helpful only when you are truly convinced – when you experience – that it is true.) If I then am to be forgiven of my part in his sin, I must forgive and must pray for his forgiveness: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If I do not forgive my brother how can God forgive me, since his sin and mine are inextricably intertwined?

A life in Christ is always personal – I and Thou – but never individual – I and Thou, alone. Sin and grace, fall and salvation: all is accomplished in the company of the other, for the life of the world. Amen.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sermon: Thomas Sunday (11 April 2010)

Sermon: Thomas Sunday (11 April 2010)
(Acts 5:27-32/Psalm 150/Revelation 1:4-8/John 20:19-31)

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the week past (Pascha through the following Saturday) as Bright Week. It is the celebration – in time – of the Paschal’s candle’s witness in fire and light and the Exsultet’s proclamation in word and melody:

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people (BCP 286).

In an Eastern Orthodox church, the Royal Doors on the iconostasis – which conceal the altar and are kept closed throughout the year – are thrown open throughout Bright Week, a visible symbol that the stone sealing the tomb has been rolled away and that the glory of God in the face of the resurrected Christ is even now and will be evermore streaming forth and enlightening the world.

In chronos – clock-time – Bright Week lasts seven calendar days. In kairos – the time of God’s acting – Bright Week is but a single day, the eighth day of the week. In the creation account, God rested from his labors on the Sabbath, on the seventh day. The next day, Sunday, marked a commemoration of the first day of creation – a one-week anniversary. Likewise, in the Passion account, Christ’s body rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, on the seventh day. The next day – Pascha Sunday, the day of resurrection – is not just a commemoration of the first day of the old creation, but is the beginning of God’s new creation in Christ: if any man is in Christ – Behold! new creation (cf 2 Cor 5:17). The church found the existing calendar too small, too restrictive to account for this beginning of new creation and so itself created a new day – the eighth day – Bright Week to herald the restoration of all things through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Bright Week marks the day of God’s new creation.

No fasting is allowed during Bright Week, only feasting. The normal round of daily prayer services is replaced with the Paschal Hours, including these praises:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and on those in the tombs bestowing life.

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We worship Thy cross, O Christ, and Thy Holy Resurrection we hymn and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy name. O come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ’s holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy hath come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we hymn His Resurrection; for, having endured crucifixion He hath destroyed death by death.

Bright Week is the church’s proclamation – in time – that in Christ new creation has begun: death has been conquered, hell has been vanquished, sin has been overcome, and man has been reconciled to God. Bright Week is the church’s proclamation – in time – that through his resurrection our Lord Jesus Christ has defeated all those powers – whether spiritual or earthly – arrayed against him and has become King and Lord of all creation.

Bright Week ushers in a new reality seen by those in Christ, seen by those who have seen the resurrection, a new reality that changes our relationship with all the powers that be. So, when Peter and the other apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest (cf Acts 5:27-32) – the religious powers that be – brought before the Sanhedrin for violating the council’s command to refrain from teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter gives a Bright Week response:

“We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:29b-32, NKJV).

And when John – who was certainly with Peter that day before the council – is exiled to Patmos by command of Imperial Rome, he greets the seven churches with a Bright Week doxology and blessing:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev 1:4b-6, NKJV).

Peter and John see the new reality that the world cannot see – new creation and Jesus enthroned – because they have seen the resurrection. Peter and John live in Bright Week because they live in the reality of the resurrection.

Bright Week comes to a close – liturgically – today, on Thomas Sunday. The Royal Doors are closed, the Paschal Hours are no longer chanted daily, and the weekly fast days return. This liturgical practice presents a twist on history. For seven days the apostles, and other disciples as well, had lived in their own Bright Week; they had seen their resurrected Lord on Pascha. But not Thomas: Thomas still lived in the darkness of the crucifixion, in the gloom of a reality in which corrupt powers dominate and old creation winds down toward corruption and non-being. The others had told him of the resurrection; they had tried to usher him into Bright Week, but to no avail.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, NKJV).
So Thomas, at least for the moment, shuts the doors on Bright Week. But, bidden or unbidden, doors open or shut, the resurrected Jesus has a way of breaking through.

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And, just at the moment Bright Weeks ends for the church, it begins for Thomas – a twist of history: 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:26-28, NKJV)!

Regardless of liturgical practice, in a sense the church lives continually in Bright Week: Christ, having risen from the dead will never die again; the gates of hell having been broken open will neither be rebuilt nor shut; new creation having begun will not cease until all is renewed and there is a new heaven and a new earth, a new and holy Jerusalem with God dwelling in the midst of his people. Each Sunday is a bright day, a liturgical reminder that we live our lives in Bright Week. And yet, the annual contrast of Bright Week and Thomas Sunday, the contrast of this day’s lessons, is a valuable reminder that much of the world still lives not in Bright Week, but as Thomas did: in a reality very different from ours, in a reality where sin dominates and the powers oppress and death is an ever-present companion, in a reality that has never experienced the resurrection. And so, Jesus commissions his church.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:18b-20, NKJV).

It is our vocation and our joy to announce the gospel – the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – to all the world, to show to all those dwelling still in darkness the glories of Bright Week.

As tragic as it is for the world to dwell in darkness when Bright Week beckons, it is more tragic still when the church does so: when the church lives as if the resurrection never occurred, when the church lives as if new creation had not begun.

The church lives in darkness when it becomes re-entangled in the sin from which Christ’s death and resurrection set it free, when the church compromises with the culture to the extent that holiness is no longer the church’s driving passion.

The church lives in darkness when it bends the knee in worship before any authority save its resurrected Lord and Christ, when its chief loyalty is to nation or political party or social ideology or self-interest.

The church lives in darkness when it quakes in fear of any defeated enemy, even of death itself.

The church lives in darkness when it places its hope and trust in anything or anyone but Christ, whether in money or power or family or nation.

The church lives in darkness anytime it fails to lift its voice in the triumphant song: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. How appropriate and powerful it would be if the church – and those of us blessed to be part of the body of Christ – developed the habit of greeting any news – good and bad alike – with Christos anesti! Christ is risen! What proper perspective that would give everything. My wife and I exchanged the following brief emails during this Bright Week:

“The rain has come through Maryville. I have my windows open, the air is clean and cool, and the birds are singing. Christos anesti!”


“It is still raining in Oak Ridge. My nose is still stuffed up. The door is leaking. Alithos anesti!”

Yes, exactly.

Truth be told, though, it is hard sometimes to live in Bright Week, to insist that the true reality is the one hidden from human sight, the one perceived only by the purified heart, not least because Bright Week is an eschatological reality, a last-days reality: already present but not yet realized in its fullness. It is not unlike our own salvation: We are saved; we are being saved; and we hope one day to be saved completely. With the resurrection of Christ new creation has begun and is moving toward its fullness when Christ will return and God will be all and in all. But it is not there yet. With the resurrection of Christ all rival powers have been defeated and Christ has begun his reign. But the powers that be have not yet yielded or disarmed. With the resurrection of Christ death has been overcome by life. But death still has its brief moment in each life, before the final resurrection when we shall be forever with the Lord. And so we live in Bright Week in fits and starts, here and there catching a glimmer of the glory ahead, holding on to the hope the resurrection gives us. We need reminding that all this talk of resurrection and victory and new creation is true. So each year we light the Paschal candle and chant the Exsultet. Each year we greet one another with Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! Each year we break the Lenten fast with a week-long Paschal feast. Each year – in churches that have them – we throw open the Royal Doors and pray the Paschal Hours. In a Thomas world, we live – for a time at least – in Bright Week. And, as Bright Week draws to a close, we kneel with Thomas in the presence of Jesus of Nazareth and exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” because he is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Paschal Hours

During Bright Week -- from Pascha (Easter Sunday) through the following Saturday -- we replace Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer with the Paschal Hours. The following is taken from Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church Daily Prayers with minimal adaptation.


PRIEST: Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages

(But a layman sayeth: Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us.)

Amen. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. (Thrice)

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We worship Thy cross, O Christ, and Thy holy Resurrection we hymn and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy name. O come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ's holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy hath come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we hymn His Resurrection; for, having endured crucifixion, He hath destroyed death by death. (Thrice)

Forestalling the dawn, the women came with Mary, and found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, and heard from the angel: why seek ye among the dead, as though He were a mortal, Him Who liveth in everlasting light? Behold the grave-clothes. Go quickly and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen and hath slain death. For He is the Son of God Who saveth mankind.

Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of hades. And didst arise as victor, O Christ God, calling to the myrrh-bearing women: Rejoice! And giving peace unto Thine apostles: Thou Who dost grant resurrection to the fallen.

In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God: in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

How life-giving, how much more beautiful than Paradise, and truly more resplendent than any royal palace was Thy tomb shown to be, O Christ, the source of our resurrection.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O sanctified and divine tabernacle of the Most High, rejoice! For through thee, O Theotokos, joy is given to them that cry: Blessed art thou among women, O all-spotless Lady.

Lord, have mercy. (Forty times)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.

PRIEST: O Lord Jesus Christ our God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, of our holy and God-bearing fathers, and of all the saints, have mercy on us.

If a Reader's service: O Lord bless.

Amen. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life. (thrice) Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

PRIEST: May Christ our true God, Who rose from the dead, and trampled down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life, through the intercessions of His most Pure Mother, and of all the saints have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Lover of mankind. Amen.

If a Reader's service: O Lord bless!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Vigil Sermon: 3 April 2010

This Is the Night

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, saints of God: now we join with angels and archangels, with cherubim and seraphim, with apostles and martyrs, with all the company of heaven and all the saints on earth, to give voice to all creation as together we proclaim, “This is the night!” How holy is this night. How blessed is this night. For this night is the climax of salvation history. Every past act of God points toward this night and every future act of God radiates outward from this night. It is both the last of the first days and the first of the last days, the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end – the alpha and the omega.

This night we tell the story – the story of creation and fall, of God’s good and very good creation ruined by our failure to bear God’s image, by our refusal to be God’s instruments of grace and life in his world. Why is there evil in this world? Why corruption? Why pain and sickness and loneliness and despair and death? Why plague and famine, slavery and poverty? What is wrong with God’s good creation? I am and you are and we are, all of us together, as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous,
not even one;
there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God”
(Rom 3:10-11, NRSV).

Adam, Cain, Lamech: generation after generation we spiraled downward into corruption and dissolution. We did this, for this is your story and mine.

We knew God but we did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in our thinking and darkened in our senseless minds. Claiming to be wise we became fools; and we exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles (cf Rom 1:21-23).

The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created,” (Gen 6:5-7a, NRSV).

But God had mercy on our father Noah – a righteous man, blameless in his generation – and preserved him, along with his family, through the great flood. Yet sin survived the flood as well, carried by the very hope of our kind, Noah, who in hung-over rage cursed his son Canaan to slavery and began anew man’s downward spiral toward the hubris of Babel and the alienation of person from person, nation from nation.

But God had mercy on our father Abraham.

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1b-3, NRSV).

This is the covenant, the promise God made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever: election, nation, land, blessing.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ (Gal 2:16, NIV).

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob: each carried the seed of blessing and each carried the thorn of sin. The ones chosen to be the means by which God would put to rights the world were themselves part of the problem: blessing and curse, freedom and slavery. And slavery came as the house of Abraham went down to Egypt and was ruthlessly oppressed with forced labor by Pharaoh who made their lives bitter in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields (cf Ex 1:11-14).

But God had mercy on us and raised up for us a deliverer, Moses, who commanded Pharaoh in the name of our God, “Israel is my firstborn son. Let my son go that he may worship me” (cf Ex 4:21-23). But Pharaoh would not, so God struck him again and again – ten times God struck Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm until the pride of Ham, the firstborn sons of Egypt, lay dead, and Israel, the firstborn son of God, was driven from Egypt with the riches of the land and the blessing of the people, until the might of Egypt lay drowned on the shore of the Red Sea, until our fathers and mothers, former slaves all, could sing together,

I will sing to the Lord, for he is lofty and uplifted;
the horse and its rider has he hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my refuge;
the Lord has become my Savior
(The Song of Moses, BCP 85).

To Sinai we came, to Sinai where our God called us a holy nation, a kingdom of priests to serve him; to Sinai where God gave us his commandments; to Sinai where we bowed the knee before idols made by hand; to Sinai where we sat down to eat and rose up to play; to Sinai where we traded glory for shame; to Sinai where we inherited the curse of the Law and not its blessing.

But God had mercy on us nonetheless and brought us into a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the land promised on oath to our father Abraham. There we became fat and arrogant – a stubborn and stiffnecked people – and rebelled against our God, prostituting ourselves before the gods of the peoples of the land. And God punished us, delivered us over to our enemies, yet forgave our sins when we called upon him: again, and again, and again.

But God had mercy on us and raised up for us a man after his own heart, David, son of Jesse, sweet psalmist and king of Israel. And to David, the LORD Almighty said,

I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed.

The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son
(2 Sam 7:8-14, selections, NIV).

But David, even David, turned from the Lord and embraced Bathsheba, embraced the lust and sin within him and within us all. Confronted and beguiled by the prophet Nathan, David pronounced his own condemnation; “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die” (2 Sam 12:5)! David rightly placed himself and all men under the righteous judgment of God.

But God had mercy on us and sent us prophets who again and again called us to repent and return. And though we were faithless, God remained faithful. Though we were false, God remained true. Again he made covenant with us, a covenant through the promised seed of Abraham. He says,

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

This is what the LORD says – the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel – to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you”
(Is 49:6-7, NIV).

And about this light for the Gentiles, about this one chosen by the Holy One of Israel, the prophet says,

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth
(Is 53:4-9, NIV).

And God had mercy on us, for he came, this one, in the fullness of the times. He came, the last Adam. He came, the seed of Abraham. He came, the fulfillment of the Law. He came, the son of David. He came, the hope of the prophets. He came, the anointed of God, the savior of Israel, the light of the Gentiles. He came.

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:22-23, NIV).

God have mercy on us. For in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. All the promises of God found their fulfillment. All the righteousness of God bore all the sin of the world. God have mercy on us. For we put to death the author of life, the Messiah of Israel, the hope of the world.

And so it all comes down to this, to this night when all creation holds its breath, when all promises are pending, when all hope peers forward in the blackness of night into the darkness of the tomb. This night is the climax of salvation history. Every past act of God points toward it and every future act of God hinges on it. This is the night when all of watching creation – in heaven, on earth, and under the earth – will learn whether Adam’s sin will be forgiven, whether man will be renewed in God’s image and will bear that image before a creation set to rights, whether God’s promises to Abraham will be fulfilled, whether David’s son will receive an everlasting throne, whether the hope of the prophets will be vindicated, whether the Messiah of Israel will become the light of the Gentiles and the Lord of all creation. This is the night. And on this night the One on whom all this depends lies in a tomb – beaten, broken, and crucified for the sake of all.

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me’ (Mt 28:1-10, NRSV).

This is the night: the night of sorrowing women, the night of earthquakes, the night of angels, the night of the empty tomb, the night of fear and great joy, the night of Jesus – suddenly Jesus – risen from the dead and going ahead of us, the night of Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid.” This is the night when Adam’s sin is forgiven and man is reconciled to God. This is the night when man is restored to the image of God, when men and women and children are renewed in nature and vocation, and when nature itself experiences the firstfruits of its liberation from the bondage of corruption. This is the night when God’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled and the world is blessed through his seed. This is the night when David’s son takes his everlasting throne. This is the night when the prophets are vindicated and the Messiah of Israel is shown to be the light of the Gentiles and the Lord of all creation. This is the night that marks the dawn of the first day of God’s new creation. This is the night of resurrection.

Christ is risen and all is made new.
Christ is risen and death is conquered.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

This is the night!

Amen. Alleluia.