Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead.
I Peter 1:3

Thank you for your prayers this Holy Week. In trying to juggle everything, I ended up posting the Paschal sermon on Sunday, and wrote on St. George yesterday. I wanted to finish this series on “Out of the Depth I Cry to You, O Lord” with a reflection today, and a final postscript on Thursday. Tomorrow will be for St. John the Theologian and Friday for the Life-Giving Fountain, before beginning a new series next week.

The homily of St. John Chrysostom which is read at the Paschal Divine Liturgy reminds us that Christ welcomes those who came at the eleventh hour with the same joy as the ones who came at the first. That means He welcomes those who have been consistently faithful along with those who have just recently become faithful. Notice that there is no mention of those who did not come at all, and that is an important distinction. Christ accepts the ones who come but does not force those who do not come, nor does He reward them.

The Resurrection of Christ brought hope to humanity. I would argue that in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall of mankind, there wasn’t a need for hope. It was just everlasting joy. Hope comes into play when we are lacking something and we hope for the thing we are lacking. After the Fall, there was a feeling of hopelessness, because no matter how righteous and God-fearing people were, everyone had the same destiny of Hades in their future. Thus, those who came at the first hour, those who came at the eleventh hour and those that didn’t come at all ended up in the same place. Which made it on some level feel kind of hopeless. Imagine you are a student in a class working hard, knowing at the end of the term you’ll still end up failing. There wouldn’t be much inspiration to work, or hope that hard work would be rewarded.

The Resurrection of Christ changed all of that. We know that it is possible for someone to rise from the dead. We know that Christ, in dying on the cross, paid the debt of sin that humanity owed as a result of the Fall, and with that now paid, Christ rose from the dead opening the door back to Paradise for all of us. We can once again have the life that Adam and Eve enjoyed, and we can have that for eternity. This is the great hope that we work for. As we gaze on the icon of the Resurrection of Christ, we see the unification of Christ with Adam and Eve, taking them back to the place they once called home. We are all going to die, but those who die in Christ will be carried home by Him, to the place of Paradise once again enjoyed by Adam and Eve, ready to be enjoyed by us as well.

We are supposed to begin all things anew in the light of the Resurrected Christ.  That means new hope, new inspiration, a new start. The end of Great Lent is not an end in itself, but the start of a new journey. This is not a time to take a vacation, but to jump in with renewed enthusiasm, renewed purpose, and renewed commitment. There is a Tradition at the beginning of Great Lent that we ask one another for forgiveness as we begin the Lenten journey. There is also a tradition that we embrace one another on the Feast of Pascha, asking for an offering forgiveness, so that everything truly begins anew. That sounds nice, and I wish that was possible. Many sins and mistakes linger through life. As much as it is possible, we should forgive one another so that we can start new. In the hymn quoted as our prayer today, we hear “Let us say, ‘O Brethren, even to those who do not love us; let us forgive all things in the Resurrection, and thus, let us exclaim'” that Christ is Risen! We are supposed to meet the generosity of Christ with a generosity of forgiveness. That doesn’t necessarily mean restoration of trust, but it means freeing ourselves from anger and those we have wronged from shame.

The Church, in her wisdom, gives us so many opportunities to begin anew. We begin anew when we are baptized. We can begin anew anytime we want in the sacrament of confession. The beginning of Great Lent gives us an opportunity to begin anew. And now that we have concluded the journey, we get a new beginning at Pascha, even the one who came at the last hour. In I Peter 1:3, in his greeting to the reader, he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” As I reflect on this verse, the words that jump out at me are “living hope.” That Resurrection doesn’t just give us a destination for the end of life. It gives us purpose today and it should bring us hope today. The message of salvation is not just words in the Bible or icons on the walls of the church, but a living hope we are supposed to carry inside of us, that is supposed to be reflected outwardly in our lives. It is a hope that should be alive at all times and in all places. The Feast of the Resurrection reminds us of the living hope made possible through the Resurrection of Christ. It is time for us to be renewed not only in our commitment to others and to Christ, but it is a time to feel renewed within ourselves, to come to a place where we place Jesus above all, and the journey to His Kingdom as the goal above all other goals, with working on preparing to meet the Lord in His Kingdom as the primary and overarching theme of our lives.

It is the Day of Resurrection! Let us shine forth in splendor for the Festival, and embrace one another. Let us say, “O Brethren, even to those who do not love us; let us forgive all things in the Resurrection, and thus, let us exclaim: ‘Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death and to those in the tombs, He has granted life.'” (Praises, Resurrection Service, p. 460, Holy Week and Easter, by Fr. George Papadeas)

Let all things begin anew in the light of the Resurrection!