Paschal Joy

A Homily for Bright Saturday


O Divine, O dear, O sweetest voice!
For Thou, O Christ, hast faithfully promised
to be with us to the end of the world”

Paschal Canon, Ode 9, troparion

The bright Paschal week is coming to a close. True, the joyful Paschal chants will still be heard in our holy churches until the feast of the Ascension of our Savior into Heaven, but there won’t be that bright, joyful mood that Pascha week brings us.

The Royal Doors will be closed, the canon won’t be sung in its entirety… Thus, joy passes. It wasn’t long ago that we remembered the days of our Lord’s sufferings—Holy Week passed quickly too. Thus, sorrow, too, passes. Even an ancient pagan philosopher said, “Everything flows, everything changes.” Yes, beloved, everything changes in this life: Sorrow is replaced by joy, and after joy comes sorrow….

But the time will come, beloved, when joy will be constant, when Pascha week will continue forever—this is in the future life. There will be an eternal Pascha, with no leavetaking. There will be eternal joy, according to the prophetic word: The ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Is. 35:10).

But it won’t be for all people, but only for the faithful and virtuous. For those who don’t believe in God, who don’t keep the commandments of Christ—eternal anguish and despair await them in the life to come. How do we know this? From the mood that people experience in this Paschal week. While the faithful experience joy and peace, special spiritual sweetness on the days of Holy Pascha, for non-believers this is an ordinary week of the year, like all the others. Their hearts are dark and empty, while the faithful are full of spiritual joy.

Yes, the present earthly life is a foretaste of eternal life. Here develops, here begins the disposition with which we will live in eternity. And our disposition during Pascha week is the pledge of eternal joy… Only, here on earth we perceive everything vaguely, dimly—but then in full clarity (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12).

Your future life depends on you, beloved. If you want the eternal joy of life with God, of eternal Pascha, then believe in God and fulfill His holy commandments, as the Orthodox Church teaches you. If you don’t believe in God and you live like a pagan, there will be eternal sorrow and darkness for you.

May the Lord vouchsafe us all the eternal, unceasing joy of communion with Himself in that life.

“O great and holiest Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom, Word and Power of God! Grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the unending Day of Thy Kingdom” (Paschal Canon, Ode 9, troparion). Amen.

St. Onuphry (Gagalyuk) of Kursk
Translation by Jesse Dominick



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