“We feast death’s slaughter, the overthrow of Hell, the first fruits of a new eternal life” (Paschal Canon, Ode 7)
Now death, the last enemy of mankind is destroyed; now death is swallowed up forever, and we have passed from death to life, from the power of hell into the kingdom of Divine life. Instead of a life spent in search of fleeting and illusive earthly joys that leave our hearts unsatisfied even at the time, when it would seem the thrill of bliss and happiness embraced our entire being, now the beginning of a life filled with eternal and indestructible spiritual joy is laid out. Undoubtedly, many of us experienced glimpses, as it were, of this Heavenly joy during the “all-festive and saving night” (cf. Paschal Canon, Ode 7) of the Resurrection of Christ.
But why did this joy, flashing for a moment in our hearts like a life-giving ray of light, soon completely disappear in some, while in others it left but a faint memory or a weary expectation until it comes again? Of course, because instead of this pure, Heavenly joy, they soon returned to loving things that seem to be joyful on Earth more; earthly viands were preferred to the communion of the Divine and Most Sacred Pascha; instead of the drink of incorruption and the source of Divine joy, they preferred to drink the cup of the pleasures of the flesh that darken the mind. But if we feel weak and powerless to conquer within ourselves and to expel from our hearts these alluring thoughts and desires of the flesh that close before us the doors of the blessed bridal chamber of Christ, which was opened on the radiant night of Christ’s Resurrection, then let us at least truly evaluate these thoughts and desires that make our hearts like, perhaps, tombs that appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (cf. Mt. 23:27)! Let us open again the doors of our hearing, that the words of the Church hymns, so filled with spiritual triumph, might enter in through them!
When these words reach the inner doors of our hearts, we will again hear within our souls the voice of Christ, Who has come to sup with us (Rev. 3:20) and drag the remnants of our spiritual life, decayed by the passions—that is, our hearts, bound by love of sin—out of the graves (Ezek. 37:11-14). And if His visitation doesn’t return to us that former joy, which delighted us to the point of forgetting all things earthly, then we will at least sense a great power in ourselves for the battle against the abusive desires of the flesh. Our spiritual enemies will disappear like smoke, and we will experience the power of those words that we so often hear these days: “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered!” Once they are conquered, we will again see in our souls that which we saw on the night of the Resurrection—the image and beginning, as it were, of that joyous, light-bearing life before which earthly joys will lose all attraction.