Why do we read from the beginning of John on the night of Pascha? Pascha Homily 2010

To live in the resurrection, we must know Jesus Christ.

Pascha 2010

John 1:1-17


The Descent into Hell. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/resurrection-02.gif

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Christ is risen!  TRULY HE IS RISEN


Christos Anesti! ALITHOS ANESTI!


Christos Voskrese!  VOISTINU VOSKRESE!


Brothers and sisters, on this bright day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we read from the beginning of the Gospel of John, which does not say anything about resurrection. There are many passages in the Gospels that speak about the resurrection; we read eleven of them in a cycle throughout the year in matins, but we did not read this time about the resurrection. We read about it this morning, but not this evening.


Now why is this, that on the very day when we most extravagantly celebrate the resurrection we read from the beginning of John and not a resurrection story?


Well, we certainly know about the resurrection, but have we lived it yet? Who is the resurrection? – Jesus Christ. Saint John, preeminently, of all the Apostles and Evangelists, shows us Who Jesus Christ is. In order for the resurrection to be actualized in our life, we must know Jesus Christ. So it is apropos that from this day forward, during the cycle of Pascha, for fort days an onwards – forty days after Pascha is the Ascension and fifty days after is Pentecost – we read from the Gospel of John because we are to learn of Jesus Christ, the One who is meek and lowly, the One Who came to save us from our sins.


Just knowing this does not make it happen – we must live according to Who Jesus Christ is. The joy of the resurrection is that we can become completely alive, completely human, as we are meant to be. Right now, brothers and sisters, we are in a state that is between human and not human. God created us to know Him perfectly and intimately. Since we do not, we are not quite what we should be. But the joy of the resurrection is that we can become this.


Jesus Christ became like us in all things except for sin. And He lived on this earth as a man and also fully as God, having two natures, not intermixed, but cooperating with one-another. And His human nature is as ours should be. It was as ours in all things except sin, even to the point that it would die, because we know that our Lord dies on the cross.


But then a wondrous thing happened. Of His own power, of His Divinity – the hymns of Holy Saturday especially sing of it – the one Who created the universe, Who laid dead in tomb, became alive of His own power.


And He imbued humanity with the ability to be alive too. This is what we are celebrating, brothers and sisters! We are not celebrating merely the event of Christ rising from the dead; we are celebrating that reality that WE can rise from the dead.


And make no mistake – this is not a future event for us. The Lord made that perfectly clear, when He began preaching and said that “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”


So right now, brothers and sisters, we should live according to the resurrection, in everything. And as we live in this light, we become light; we become peaceful.


Now let’s be honest with ourselves: there is a lot in us that is not peaceful; there is a lot in us that is not light. But God came so that we could be ALL LIGHT. That is what we are celebrating today. He resurrected Himself so that we could become resurrected. For Him it happened in a flash, in a moment. For us it happens in a lifetime, with struggle, with difficulties, with happiness, with sadness, with holiness and with depravity – all the things that are mixed up in our complex nature.


But I tell you, God’s nature is not complex – He is only good. And that is what we are to become – simple and only good. And our Lord Jesus Christ, although he was man, was simple, because He was only good as man, and only good as God. And He made us capable of becoming good, and fully human.


This is what we celebrate today, and this is why we start reading the Gospel of John today – because you cannot know the resurrection unless you know Jesus Christ. It is not possible. And there is only one way to know Jesus Christ – to become like Him. That is what we are called to do. And the great joy is that it is possible – God came so we could become like Him. This is what we celebrate today, bothers and sisters.


Anything that you do in your life, no matter what it is, no matter how small or how large, no matter how long it takes, or if it is just for a moment — if it is according to the resurrection, then it will bring you light. Anything that you do that is not according to the resurrection only brings darkness.


It really is that simple.


Certainly we live in a complex life, with complex decisions to make about things and difficulties that we are perplexed about – this is true. But basically life is – choose good and avoid evil. Not becomes the Lord commands, but because it is the only way to have life. So we celebrate today that we can have life.


Brothers and sisters, this life is in knowing our Lord Jesus Christ; that is why we read the Gospel of John.


After a feast, the church will have hymns that discuss the feast in a deeper way. You will see this all throughout the whole period of Pascha. All the Gospels for Sunday are about the gradual enlightenment of man, because the resurrection occurs in us bit by bit. You can see it how it happened to the women, to the apostles. At first they could not believe, at first they were afraid. At first the Apostles thought that the words of the women who announced the resurrection were nonsense. Thomas could not believe for eight days. Peter could not have the joy of the resurrection until the risen Lord had them go fishing and then He restored him after they caught many fish.


This is the way life is, brothers and sisters. It takes time to be enlightened; it takes effort to be enlightened. And the church will speak of it over the next forty and fifty days. So the Gospel of John is sort of the prelude to all that.


The church IS Jesus Christ. All truth is Jesus Christ. The truth is not an abstract concept; truth is a person – Jesus Christ. So when you say that you live according to the truth that means that you are becoming like Christ. The Gospel of John teaches us preeminently Who Jesus Christ is, but it cannot be learned just by reading – it can only be learned by … becoming


So let us celebrate today that we can become like as God; we can become light, with no darkness in us at all; we can become arisen, with no death in us at all. This is what we were created for, and this is what we celebrate.


Christ is risen!  TRULY HE IS RISEN


Christos Anesti! ALITHOS ANESTI!


Christos Voskrese!  VOISTINU VOSKRESE!


May God bless you and help you to live in the light of the resurrection.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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  1. Father, Bless,
    Thank you.
    "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
    Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." 
      John 1:12-13
    Countless times I have read this beautiful and amazing passage with the assumption that I understood it.  Now I am reading it for the first time with a more Orthodox perspective and now there is both more understanding—and even greater mystery:
    To those who believe on His name–to those who receive Him–He has given the power to become Sons of God.  And not by the will of man (including my own) but by the will of God.
    "O fearful Mystery! O the lovingkindness of God! How is that I, being but clay, partake of the divine Body and Blood and am made incorruptible?"

    —from the Canon for Holy Communion, Ode VIII

  2. The annual cycle of liturgical readings begins with Pascha and in centuries before Peter the Great, the Evangelarion began with the Gospel of St. John, not with St. Matthew,, or so my former parish priest informed me.The content of that reading is fortuitous but fortunate in its content. The same is true of the Epistle readings.

  3. But is it merely fortuitous that the annual cycle begins with St. John, or that St. John is specifically read in the period beginning on Pascha and ending just before Pentecost? It seems more likely that this choice was made deliberately.

  4. I agree with Nicholas that the choice was made deliberately.
    Also if we think of the disciples of St. Cyril & St. Methodius who did the translating into Church Slavonic, the first piece translated was the Gospel of St. John.
    I am not sure if Tsar Peter the great really had anything to do with the changes in the Evangelarion.  I think the British & Foreign Bible Society had a greater influence in Russia.

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