Christ is Risen!
In His mercy, the Savior has granted that we may live one more time until this very special and most important day in our lives--the Day of Resurrection. The Day of the New Creation, when the whole world is renewed, one more time. One more time, to us and to the entire universe, the chance is given to be risen alone with Christ Jesus to new life, life in God.
This renewal, this new birth in God, can be conceived in our hearts. It is difficult to imagine a person who comes to the Orthodox Church on a Pascha night--and feels nothing. The warmth in our hearts, the joy of the faith we all experience during this Holy Night--is real. This is what it means, to believe. This desire to "embrace each other joyously," as we sing in the Paschal Verses, this desire to share the joy of Resurrection--this is the real experience of our faith. This is the true indication of our involvement and participation in the joy of the Holy Church.
To illustrate this, I would like to retell here an episode in the life of St Dionysius, the anchorite of the Cave Monastery in Kiev.
It was Pascha night in 1463, and as always during the Pascha celebration, clergy were unceasingly going around the temple and the entire monastery complex with the censers, proclaiming the glorious Resurrection of the Lord. When it was the turn of Father Dionysius to cense, this monk-priest went to the Caves where the relics of monks rested in peace. With overflowing joy in the Resurrection, he cried out upon going into the caves: "My holy fathers and brethren, Christ is risen!" At that, a voice like thunder rose from the tombs: "Indeed, He is risen!" This is a wonderful story, but the real miracle here is not the incredible response the elder received. What really amazed me was the Paschal manifestation of faith so plainly depicted here. Venerable Dionysius surely knew there were no "living" creatures in those caves, he saw around himself dry skulls and bones. But, he descended into the Caves from the temple, filled with the "electricity" of Paschal celebration, and in his ears the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom still resonated: Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave! In the fulness of faith, St Dionysius delivered this message to his fathers and brethren. And his faith is the true hero of this story.
We, Orthodox Christians, celebrate the Resurrection of Christ fifty-two times each year. Every Sunday (in Russian, Voskresenie, means the Day of Resurrection), we are given an opportunity to be born again, to be refilled with this joy that we experience usually only once a year. But, this limitation is our own, self-inflicted. For Saint Serafim of Sarov, for example, "Christ is Risen!" was an every-day salutation, and he lived accordingly, paschally, so to speak, in the true joy of one who believes in Christ. We can--and should!--live all the days of our life in the presence of Christ Jesus, remembering His Resurrection and expecting His Second and Glorious Coming.
Indeed He is risen!
Priest Victor Sokolov