Easter Homily: Something Strange is Happening

Cristo ha resucitado!
Hristos a înviat!
Kristus är uppstånden!
Hristos Voskrese!
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!
al-Masīḥ qām!
Christus resurrexit!
Christ is risen!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, one God.

Something strange is happening. But do we have ears to hear this news? Do we have eyes to see this event?

Most unfortunately, most regrettably, most sadly, our eyes and ears focus on what we think really matters—the sights that please us, the music that recalls pleasant memories.

But these sights and sounds fade. And we know that, because we try to freeze them in recordings. But most of all, these sights and sounds don’t deeply satisfy. They only provide momentary distractions. They only make us think we are happier. The sights and sounds we think are so good, so helpful, so pleasing—they are like an over-strong perfume that doesn’t really hide the stench of our dismal and decaying world.

But something strange is happening. Something that is so much better than what we say is good. Something that soaks deeply into marrow of our hearts. Something that doesn’t distract, or cover-over, or give fleeting pleasure. Something whose aroma fills our souls, whose taste truly satisfies and fulfills.

Something strange is happening. And that something requires us to believe that what we say is so important, is really nothing. That what we firmly believe is necessary, actually is not. That what we will give all we can to have, truly is worthless.

What is this strange happening? It is the transformation of our life. A transformation that makes all the difference, but that we too often refuse. Because we haven’t sought it out. We haven’t chosen it. And so we think this transformation is useless.

In fact, this transformation intensely frightens us. For it begins with quaking. A shifting of the ground beneath our feet. The toppling of all the facades we have built. A destruction of the waste-filled life that we have constructed.

This transformation is so deep that it begins, not on earth, but in Hades. In the grave. The first grave; and the last grave. Every grave we’ve stood over; and every grave that we’ve ever visited. And, most importantly, in the grave that we’ll be planted in.

This strange thing is so hard for teary eyes to see, so hard for crying mouths to hear, so hard for grieving hearts to imagine, that we are convinced it cannot be. We are certain it did not happen. Or if it happened, that was then and this is now. And so it’s like a fairy tale, or the good fortune that rains down on everyone else.

Yet what happened then truly happens now. Even if we don’t see it. Even if we won’t believe it.

And what happens now, happens not in the cemetery. Not in those graves. But first and foremost, in the watery grave we were plunged into. For then, our dying self was put to death. And in that baptismal grave, we were given the ability to live—to truly live—beyond death and the grave. And the Spirit of life was again breathed into us. And living bread was placed in our mouths, to give us the strength through this life and the grave and into the life to come.

This mystical, sacramental, grace-filled grave planted in our souls the hope, the desire, the longing, that there is more. That there is a world without end.

In that watery, baptismal grave, our life is transformed. Because in that grave, death decays. In that grave, the Grim Reaper loses his grip. Because, in that grave, death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.

This transformation of our life—this strange happening—this is what terrifies us. Partly because we do not understand it. But mostly because it requires us to see clearly that our life is not what we think it is.

We think our life is about living. About getting all we can out of life. About experiencing all life offers. About not missing out on the places, the sights, the events, the chances. About getting it all in before we die.

But this strange happening proclaims, clearly and forthrightly, that life is not truly lived until we have died. Not later, after we’ve done our thing. But now.

Dying now means living for later. Living not for this life, but for the life of the world to come. Living as if now doesn’t matter, and as if later matters most. And living now as a prelude to living later.

When that mind is in you, then something strange is happening. In you. In the depth of your being. In how you see and hear. In what you think it important. And in what you value. For then you live not as if each day is your last, but as if each day is a rehearsal for how you will live everlastingly.

So, truly, something strange is happening. With the resurrection of Christ, we are being raised—our hearts are being uplifted, our eyes are looking heavenward, and our minds are set on everlasting gifts. With the resurrection of Christ, we can now see life as it truly is—a life headed for the grave, but with the confidence that the grave is not the end. And with the resurrection of Christ, we no longer need to fear that we’ll miss out. Rather, we have the courage to prepare, with all our being, for being awakened to an abundance that exceeds our desires with Our Lord in His heavenly kingdom; to whom, by the prayers of the saints, belongs all glory, honor, and worship; now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Cristo ha resucitado!
Hristos a înviat!
Kristus är uppstånden!
Hristos Voskrese!
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!
al-Masīḥ qām!
Christus resurrexit!
Christ is risen!

 

16 April 2017
V. Rev. John W. Fenton
St Michael Orthodox Christian Church, Whittier