Great & Holy Saturday, 2017
Eve of Pascha, The Resurrection of Christ
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
“If there were only one book left in the Bible, only one chapter, yea only one verse, it would have to come from Romans chapter 6.” I was used to hearing such hyperboles from our pastor and teacher growing up, so when he made this particular declaration, it did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I mean, if I had to lay my bets on the most seminal verse in Scripture, I might have chosen something about love like the ever-popular football verse, John 3:16. But this spiritual father of mine was closer to the truth than I realized. For the next time I heard his declaration ringing in my ears was the first time I heard that chapter situated in the very heart of the church year.
Romans 6:3-11 is the portion chosen for the unmistakable turning point of Holy Week when the eager expectation for redemption found in the 15 Old Testament readings is answered with a resounding discovery: The wages of sin have brought death to the deathless One who by His death destroys death itself, bringing eternal life to all. This discovery unleashes the power of the resurrection on Great & Holy Saturday morning at a service some have nicknamed “little Pascha” because in it, we hear the first Gospel proclaiming the resurrection. This Gospel comes right after the portion from Romans 6: the Royal Doors are flung open, the choir chants the Great Prokeimenon, and the priest who is the icon of the risen Christ in bright white vestments showers the people with fragrant flowers taken from Lord’s tomb the night before. The holy mess left in the wake of the resurrection leaves no doubt of death’s demise and our Savior’s triumph over its power.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. When I was a a child, I could afford thinking I knew better than my teachers. Now that I am an adult, I know that this teacher was more correct than even he could know. May He who rose from the dead bring life and resurrection to all who call upon Him now in purity of heart.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
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