On the holy and great Sunday of Pascha we celebrate the life-bearing
Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ itself.
Christ going down met Hell
in single fight,
Laden with spoils of
victory he came up.
To him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen.
We call the present Feast ‘Pascha’, which in Hebrew means ‘Passing Over’; for this is the day on which God from the beginning brought the world out of non-existence. On this same day he also made the people of Israel pass over the Red Sea and snatched them from the hands of Pharao. Again it was on this day that he came down from heaven and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin. And now he has snatched the whole of humanity from the vaults of Hell and made it pass upwards to heaven and brought it to its ancient dignity of incorruption. But when he descended into Hell he did raise all, but as many as believed in him were chosen. He freed the souls of the Saints since time began who were forcibly held fast by Hell and made them all ascend to heaven. And so we, rejoicing exceedingly, celebrate the Resurrection with splendour as we image joy with which our nature has been enriched by God’s compassionate mercy. Likewise, to demonstrate the abolition of the enmity and the union with God and the Angels, we give one another the customary kiss.
The Lord’s Resurrection took place as follows. While the soldiers were guarding the tomb, at around midnight there was an earthquake, for and Angel came down and took the stone from the door of the grave. The guards on seeing this fled and then came the arrival of the Women, late on the Sabbath, that is around midnight on the Sabbath. The Resurrection was known first to the Mother of God, who was sitting, as St Matthew says, opposite the tomb with the Magdalen. But that there might be no doubt of the Resurrection, because of its appropriateness to his Mother, the Evangelists say, ‘He appeared first to Mary Magdalen.’ She also saw the Angel on the stone and leaning down again she saw the ones inside the grave, who proclaimed the Lord’s Resurrection. ‘For, they said, he has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him’. On hearing this she ran and came to the leaders of the Apostles, Peter and John, and brought them the good news of the Resurrection. As she was returning with Mary Christ met them and said ‘Rejoice!’; for it was necessary that the sex which had first heard, ‘In pains you will bear children’ should be the first to hear also of the joy. But they, overcome with longing, came forward and touched his most pure feet, or more accurately, wanted to. The Apostles came to the tomb and Peter, having simply leaned down near the tomb, went away, but John and in and inspected more closely, and touched both the shroud and the napkin.
Again the Magdalen came around dawn with other women to verify what had been seen more accurately. She stood outside grieving, but bending down inside the tomb she sees two angels, blazing with splendour, and, as if rebuking her, saying, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking? Are you looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the crucified? He has been raised, he is not here’. And at once they arose, filled with fear, for they had seen the Lord. And so she, on turning round, sees Christ standing there; but, imagining him to be a gardener (because the grave was in a garden), she says, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will remove him’. When she had again made a sign to the Angels, the Saviour said to the Magdalen, ‘Mary’. But she, recognising the sweet and familiar voice of Christ, wished to touch him. But he said, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, as you reckon, understanding me to be yet a mortal. But go to my brethren and tell them all that you have seen and heard’. And the Magdalen did so. But when daylight came again she came to the tomb with the rest of the women. Those with Joanna and Salome came when the sun had risen, and, briefly, the arrival of the women at the tomb occurred at different times. Among them was also the Mother of God, for she is the one whom the Gospel calls ‘Mary of Joses’. This Joses was the son of Joseph. It is uncertain at what time the Lord rose. Some say at the first crowing of the cocks, others when the earthquake took place, and others give different times.
When these events had taken place, some of the watch came and told the Chief Priests what had happened. The latter, bribing them with money, persuaded them to declare that his disciples had come by night and stolen him. That same evening, the disciples being gathered in one place for fear of the Jews and the doors being tight shut, Christ came in to them, because he had an incorrupt body, and gave them customary good greeting of ‘Peace’. When they saw him they were overjoyed and through his breathing on them the received a fuller force of the all-holy Spirit.
Understand how the Lord’s Resurrection was on the third day like this. Thursday evening and Friday (for this is how the Hebrews reckon the space of a full day) make one day. The Friday night and the whole of the Saturday make another full day; so this is the second day. The Saturday night and the Sunday (for the whole is understood from the part) make another full day; so that is the third day. Or it can be calculated as follows. Christ was crucified at nine o’clock on the Friday, then there was darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour, and this can be reckoned as a night. So from nine o’clock to three o’clock is counted as one full day. Then after the darkness a day and the night of Friday. This then makes two full days. The day of Saturday and the following night then makes up the three full days. Though our Saviour had promised to exercise his loving-kindness towards us on the third day, he accomplished that act of loving kindness more rapidly.