TRIUMPHANT SONG OF ALL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS
“Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
After the Great 40-Day fast and the emotional readings from Scripture, and funereal hymns of Holy Week, then on early Sunday morning, Orthodoxy the world over, breaks into triumphant song that can be heard in heaven and on earth in most every country. Churches are filled with people triumphantly celebrating Christ’s victory over death by means of the Cross. The cry is heard everywhere: “Christ is risen!”, which brings the reply: “Truly He is risen!” Jesus Christ was certainly put to death and did die, and more certainly did He arise on the third day as witnessed not only by many people but by the existence of His holy Orthodox Church which has continuously stood for two-thousand years proclaiming His victory in putting death to death by His life-giving death. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
We sing forth our paschal song from depths of our hearts which can never be satisfied except with the divine glory, power and richness of God. This paschal song contains these treasures in its holy words. That is why Orthodoxy’s glorious paschal hymn is the central point of our faith and its words are filled with glory, power and the richness of God, for the Son and Logos of God became incarnate of the Ever-virgin Mary and was crucified of His own will upon the Cross, accused by his enemies as being deserving of an infamous and tortuous death.
But His Resurrection on the third day changed everything. The death and resurrection of Christ being life-giving shone more brilliantly than the sun and immeasurably more glorious than the heavens and it turned the world upside down. The death and resurrection of Christ transformed weakness into almighty power, infamy into heavenly glory and the ugliness of the Cross into an object of adoration and royal beauty. Hence, without restraint Orthodoxy breaks into singing with its triumphant song of Christ’s victory on the Cross: “Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
Christ conducted His life on earth without blemish and being born sinless remains so forever. He spoke only good words not the good words of man, but the divine words of God the Father poured from His holy mouth into the hearts of the faithful. Encouraging only good deeds, He is the perfect man, the man we must emulate, and through his teaching and action He instructed us to become holy as He is holy and perfect as is His Father in heaven. He demonstarted that the source of all man’s evils and sufferings is pernicious sin, and sin is the weapon used by the Devil to control and tyrannically rule over us. Sin is one of the three enemies of men which Christ will defeat.
Christ identified our enemies and taught us how to do battle with them. Not like the world, whose order of the day is to return evil with evil and seek revenge against enemies. This accomplishes nothing except to increase evil in the world. But by the weakness of the Cross Christ gained victory due to His innocent suffering which defeated evil. Christ taught us to follow His way. He did not suggest or recommend that we love Him and take up the cross, but instead he firmly commanded even more, saying: “He that loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mat. 10:37-38). We do not become Christians when we go to Church, but when we do when we go to Church and follow Christ by taking up our cross and following Him.
We triumphantly sing the victorious paschal hymn and rejoice in the victory of Christ over man’s enemies, the devil, sin and death. Our joy stems from the fact that just as Christ rose in glory from the dead after His death and the infamy of the Cross, we too bearing our crosses will die and rise following the path he set for us. This is the central point of our Christian life, being dead to sin and alive to God. If we die to sin we lose nothing beneficial but if we live to God we will gain everything in the glory of eternal life.
If we exuberantly sing our triumphant song it will not be enough unless it is accompanied by our own action, for if we do not change for the better and instead behave like others who do not follow Christ, we gain nothing, and will lose everything. This will cause us to forfeit eternal life, and be subject to condemnation to the second death from which there is no return. Our song requires action for Christ who is risen, commands that we follow the gospel and spread it to all peoples.
Judas, and all those who wanted Christ crucified, maligning and mocking Him, will never hear the beauty of our glorious song of Orthodoxy. Instead, ringing in their ears forever will be their m own hatred and bitterness, the ugly words they cried clamoring for His death, saying: “Away with Him! Let Him be crucified! If He is the Christ, let Him come down from the Cross!” These unfortunate souls preferred and chose sin and wickedness instead of Christ and goodness. They were bloodthirsty and hated Christ because His goodness exposed their evil actions. They can never sing our song, the song of the Orthodox.
We delight in singing our song of victory: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” But if we sing our song and fail to love Christ above all else and bear our own cross, this will do us more harm than good, for we will deceive ourselves. There can be no victory without an engagement and no triumphant song without the battle. Also of what good will it be to use this life only to seek pleasures and we fail to be faithful to our song of triumph: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life?”
Sealing the meaning of our victorious song we use the words of St. Paul: “Now if we be dead with Christ we believe that we shall also rise with Him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead cannot die again death has no dominion over Him. For in that He died He died unto sin once, but in that He lives, He lives unto God. Likewise you should consider yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:8-11).
“Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.!”