The following homily was delivered by Schema-Archimandrite Zosima on Pascha evening in 1999.
By the grace of God, the first day of Holy Pascha flew by, and we finished the services with the celebration of Vespers. According to the liturgical typikon, the second day of Pascha—Bright Monday—is already coming.
We read in the Gospel at Vespers how the Lord appeared to His disciples, when the doors were shut. For two thousand years, from year to year these events have been remembered, when in the Upper Room, with the doors and windows closed for fear of the Jews, Christ appeared, stood amidst His disciples and said: Peace be unto you. The first word on Sunday was, Rejoice, which we read on Holy Saturday. The Lord gives joy to all. And the second word of the Resurrected One was Peace be unto you—the giving of peace.
This is what I wish for all of you on this day of Holy Pascha: that you would live in peace, not quarreling; that you would leave the church with peace. “Let us depart in peace,” the priest says at the end of the Liturgy; that we would go into the world with peace, would live in peace for the glory of God, would bear the burdens of the cross of family life with peace, would bear our life’s cross with peace, and would thank God for all things with peace, so that we would depart this life into eternity, into the Heavenly Kingdom; that the peace of God, the peace of Christ would ever accompany us all in our daily lives. These are my good, bright, Paschal wishes for you at the holy Vespers of Pascha today. To have peace, to have calmness. The Optina Elders said: “You must acquire peace in your heart.” But I always emphasize—it’s not indifference to anyone or detachment, as some have false humility. Detachment from everything is a sinful feeling. But to acquire peace in the heart, and to be a joyful, bright person is a podvig, and we must pray for this—for a peaceful disposition of heart, so the peace of God, the peace of the Risen Lord would ever accompany us in our lives.
Glory to God that again this year on Holy Pascha we have gathered under the arches of this sacred church to celebrate, rejoice, and exult. The Lord has strengthened us clergy, and all of you to celebrate the Feast of Feasts and Celebration of Celebrations—the Bright Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ!
True, the Gospel at Vespers ends a little gloomily: I will not believe, says Thomas, “until I see for myself.” Because Thomas was not there when the Lord appeared to the disciples, he says with such firm confidence: “Until I examine Him, until I see Him personally—I won’t believe.” In a week’s time we will celebrate Thomas’ assurance of the Resurrection, when the convinced Apostle Thomas triumphantly exclaimed: My Lord and my God! And Christ answered him: “Thou, Thomas, hast seen and believed in Me, but blessed will be all those thousands and millions of people who will not see Me but will believe in Me.” The Church remembers such a sacred event on this Paschal day, on the Bright Resurrection of Christ.
Unfortunately, the service has already ended. We just got to church, and it’s already time to leave. Well, that’s Pascha. Glory to God, the Lord has strengthened us. Now, according to the ancient custom, you will kiss the holy cross and we will distribute Paschal eggs, and we will exchange the triple kiss to the glory of God.
Let us gradually begin to engage in our peasant labor, holy farming, and pray to plant our gardens peacefully, and that the Lord would grant us a harvest this year by the grace of God.
This is all that I wanted to say to you on this holy evening of Pascha. Thank God that Holy Week went by wonderfully this year, and the Lord strengthened me to celebrate all the services day after day. What a procession with the bringing out of the Shroud—all the candles burning, a peaceful, triumphant procession! And what a Paschal procession—joyous, bright! Glory to God for the joy of Pascha! It was quiet, peaceful, Paschal.
The Lord has given the Gospel to be preached in many tongues! Is it not clear? This is a symbolic moment. When all the Apostles began to speak in various tongues, no one understood one another—who was saying what. Then everyone began to take heed: You’re speaking my language, and you mine, and everyone began to understand their language and their dialect. So it is with us, even if it’s incomprehensible, but symbolic—the preaching of the Gospel has seized the entire world, to the glory of God.
This is everything I wanted to say. Thank God, Pascha night is special, solemn, happy, joyful—it passed as a single moment. My brothers carry my infirmities, they help me, they support me and fill in for me when I am exhausted, and so, step-by-step, we will bear our service to God for the glory of the Lord.
Grant us, O Lord, to pray on Bright Week and serve the first week. Grant us, O Lord, to celebrate the feast of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God this year. Grant us, O Lord, to close the Royal Gates on Saturday, and to celebrate Thomas Sunday. Now we’re breaking the fast, eating non-fasting food—proteins, proteins. Your bellies have lost their fat! Be it eggs or chicken, let us eat for the glory of God, and let it be healthy for our bodies that have become so lean from fasting. And whoever has not fasted will not feel Pascha… emptiness and meaninglessness of life… It’s very sad.
I’ve said and explained everything I wanted to. May the Lord help you.