Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hristos Voskrese

It is an old and simple tale, familiar in many forms, almost certainly apocryphal. Yet it is worth the telling again, for it is deeply true.

It is the 1920s in Communist Russia. A minor Party functionary has been dispatched to a small town to close its Orthodox church. He gathers the entire populace in the square and for hours rails against the faith, demonstrating conclusively that its doctrines are false, its miracles – particularly the Resurrection – are lies, and it canons oppressive. The Party is the way forward; to the Party belongs the future. Satisfied with his commanding performance, the official prepares to leave when the town’s old priest rises and asks to address the people. Dismissively, the official grants him two minutes – not a second more. “I will not need that long,” says the priest. “I have only two words.”

The priest mounts the podium, faces the people, crosses himself in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and in a loud voice proclaims to the crowd, “Hristos voskrese (Christ is risen)!” Hearing the words which had been proclaimed for a thousand years in all their churches, the people stand as one and shout, “Voistinu voskrese (He is risen indeed)!”

The church has been speaking this truth to power from the moment the stone rolled away from the tomb and Christ strode forward trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. Let us take our place in this long line of proclamation and confess, not only with our lips but in our lives:

Hristos voskrese.
Voistinu voskrese.

Christos anesti.
Alithos anesti.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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