In the luminous night of Pascha, when churches are filled with worshipers, when faces shine with spiritual joy, when glances reflect elation, when the entire church responds to the priests exclamation: “Indeed He is risen!” then there is no doubt that the sting of death is vanquished, that the triumph of sin and of hell has come to an end. These sensations reign in the soul throughout this wondrous night. “Pain and sorrow and mourning are fled away!” The soul communes of eternal happiness, foreseeing the life of the age to come.
Behind the church doors, the world slumbers with its sorrows, failures, sufferings and diseases. On the path from the church in the dark of the night, so quiet, and always so peaceful, there no dissonance to intrude into the feeling that fills the soul.
But day arrives, bright and joyful in the shining sunlight, but dusk gathers in the soul. It sees the mortal sorrow everywhere: in prisons, in hospitals, in hostels; weeping; horror from sin which is yet powerfully alluring; and the soul senses that death had not yet departed from the world upon the Resurrection of Christ.
And the innumerable hospitals, boasting such cleanliness, comforts, equipment and brilliant doctors; and the cemeteries, adorned as they are with flowers and the decorum of their tombstones, they all strive to create an illusion which might conceal the terror of death—this all brings challenge to our Paschal joy.
But we must justify it! We must see that it represents the ideal, and that it is an object of hope. What have we already been given, and what is it that we must still await?
What we are given, however, is this: fearlessness in the face of death!
Professor Vasily Bolotov of St Petersburg Theological Academy, who loved nothing and no one on this earth more than knowledge, dying at the age of 50, whispered: “How sweet are these final moments before death!”
Fr John of Kronstadt [since canonized to sainthood— transl .] said before his death: “I burn with the firm hope of beholding the Artist Who created me with such wisdom, in His own image and likeness—with reason, sense, free will and a soul granted eternal life. When will I see Him, the One I yearn for?”
The 16 th -century Spanish bandit Serrallonga, sentenced to hang, said to his executioner: “Do not throw the noose upon me until I finish reciting the Creed, until I speak the words that I ‘look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.’”
Our resurrection and our life in the world to come remains our one hope.
Like summer mornings when we rise too early, when the dew of the dawn and cool breeze cause us to shiver, even as the sunrise brightens in the east and the anticipation of the coming day and its sunshine and warmth already hearten our thoughts, so do all things that are sorrowful in this life, under the light of Christ’s Resurrection, soften, losing their bitterness, and our soul begins to live in hope of our future peace, of joyous meetings with our loved ones, of the consolation of Christ.
“In hope we have been saved,” said Apostle Paul. Meaning that all will be manifested: sin will become repugnant to all, that the bitterness of separation will be replaced by joy, and the Lord shall wipe every tear from our cheeks, and our ailments shall be no longer, and death itself will be eliminated, and endless joy of eternal life will be ours!
For us to soften our sorrows with this hope, the Lord gives each of us this Paschal joy as a deposit, as a premonition of all that will be in the future. Amen .
Protopriest Victor Ilienko
Sto slov i poucheniy [A Hundred Sermons and Lessons], published by the author, Los Angeles, CA, 1964, pp. 37-38.