St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Sermons

Pascha 2010
by Fr Roberto Ubertino

“There is only one sin: not to be attentive to the Resurrection.”

This is the Big Sin, according to St. Isaac the Syrian. Olivier Clement commenting on this text adds it is the sin to not kindle, stir up, the great thirst – the thirst for Christ’s love and the joy of this love. What is Gehenna, says Isaac, in front of the grace of the Resurrection?

So during these paschal days, we are engaged in an even deeper repentance than in Lent. Repent and believe the Good News, now means repent and believe that Christ is risen!

We do this by greeting each moment, each situation, person, in the joy of Christ’s love, paying attention at the Resurrection, seeing all things in the Resurrection. Remember St Seraphim who greeted everyone “My joy – Christ is risen!” and St Maximos the Confessor saying to us that all things lead to the resurrection; e.g., I tried to remember this as I sat next to a drunk bleeding to a bottle head wound, and as he explained to me his mental illness. Someone asked me, “How does this lead to the resurrection?” I don’t know, but I know I have to live the question.

But for us to see in this way, we need to repent, literally turn around, from what? From being focused on ourselves, looking at ourselves. St Gregory the Theologian describes this self-centered gaze as looking backwards, to the past. We are to repent and face the Risen Lord, this is looking forward he says. It’s turning and looking towards the human we are called to become, we who are created in the image and likeness of God. To repent, then, means to stop looking towards the past and to look towards the future. We do this when we look towards the risen Christ, when we pay attention to the Resurrection.

St. Ephraim the Syrian defines the church as the crowd of repentant sinners – sinners indeed, but repentant in the true sense of the word, not bewailing our sinfulness but sinners who have turned away from themselves, whose gaze is now turned towards the Risen Lord. In this gaze forward, we discover that it is the voice of love that resurrects us from our tombs.

Ode 5, “Those who were held by hell’s chains seeing your measureless compassion press forward to the light of Christ with joyful steps praising an eternal Pascha.” Ode 9, “O divine O beloved O sweetest voice, you have promised to be with us until the end of time.” This sweet voice is the voice that calls us to become as great as the one who calls us. Angelus of Silesius quoted by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom said, “I am as great as God and he is as small as I.” If Lent was about learning to weep over the failure and tragedy of our nature, the paschal season is to discover how much we have been created for health, joy, life, fullness and completeness, all summed up in one word, created for love

“It is easy to find a companion to cry with, but find me a companion to rejoice with” – Serbian proverb.

Bishop Athanasius says that to rejoice with another is more difficult than sharing another’s grief. From a psychological true this is also true because you have to let go of your own self-centeredness in order to receive another’s joy. St. Gregory the Theologian helps us understand the true meaning of tears for us; he says that we weep over the mystery of each of our lives because it is worth weeping over, since in each of us there is the presence, the foretaste of joy, the Paschal joy. So joy is the path of repentance for us during these 40 days of Pascha, a turning away from ourselves, we are called to go beyond our sins, our failings. To look forward to where love leads us, out of ourselves into communion with the Holy Trinity and one another. This is the Extase that the Fathers speak about.

This joy is not a bed of roses. It goes through the cross, through tears, pain and suffering, but it refuses to stop until it reaches Christ who with outstretched arms draws us to Himself.

It is this encounter with the Resurrection that the women first among mankind experienced. The ancient curse of the first woman Eve ushered into history the bonds that kept us in the grip of hell (Ode 5). Closed in our familiar tombs, locked out of paradise, locked in the past. At early dawn, the myrrh-bearing women came face to face with the reality that the curse is done, finished. We celebrate the death of death (Ode 7), the beginning of a new, eternal life. The tree of life is ours; paradise is opened. Did not Jesus promise that “today you will be with me in Paradise”?

This experience at early dawn of such unimaginable joy to two women pushed them out of the tomb (literally translated) with ecstasy and terror.

This ecstasy and terror will lead Mary of Magdala to encounter in the garden the risen Christ and this will push her to bring the Good News of the resurrection to the Apostles, awakening the church to this new contagious joy.

Christ is risen.

 

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