Feast of Pascha

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Darkness cannot overcome the Light
Feast of Pascha
19 April, 2009
Acts 1:1-8 ; John 1:1-17

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen

Even though it is not expected that I should do so at Pascha, I usually stop now and say something. During the course of this long night, we can begin to get tired because we are not used to being up in the middle of the night, praying and worshipping like this. It does not hurt for you to sit down for a few minutes, rest and catch your breath (especially the choir).

Human beings always have difficulties in life. Always they are facing trouble of one sort or another. That is the case with every human life. It is the case (and even more so) with Christians. I would dare to say this is more so with Orthodox Christians. In part this is because we are trying to follow Christ and to live in Christ. When we are trying to follow Christ and to live in Christ, we face many of the obstacles that came to Christ, Himself, in the course of His years of service amongst us, because we are living in the environment of our Lord.

What did we just hear in the words of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian ? We heard : “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”. However, true as that is, there is another translation that is possible : “the darkness did not overcome it”. Both of them together are important for us to understand as Orthodox Christians.

In the first place, you and I are here today by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which is spoken of by the Evangelist in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. By the Grace of the Holy Spirit we are here in one of those very far-flung parts of the earth (compared to 2,000 years ago). The Gospel has reached “even Canada”, one might say. There are some people who do, in fact, mean to say : “so far as back-water Canada”. We are here by the Grace of the Holy Spirit and we are here because, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we are being given a living and personal relationship and connexion with our Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is not a one-time occurrence. It is a perpetual state of being – we are being given this personal relationship.

If our Saviour Himself, being the Light, was opposed, we ourselves, participants in that Light, cannot expect other than to have both opposition and non-comprehension. I think that we can say that many people do not very well understand why we Christians do the things that we do, and why we behave the way we behave insofar as we behave in conformity with this Light and this Love. It is this Light in which we are participating, the love of Jesus Christ that is alive in us and active in us, that prompts us to act in ways that most people in the world would not act.

Most people in the world are geared to living according to a pattern that is opposite to our pattern. The world is about “me, me”, “I, I”, and “self, self”. The way of Christ is about service of others and forgetting about self – not putting oneself down and saying bad things about oneself – but simply being so full of the love of God that we do not worry about ourselves, because the Lord is taking care of us. He is with us. His love is with us. It does not matter if we are misunderstood or opposed. What matters is that the Lord is with us. He is giving us the ability to pass through all these difficulties and all the pains of life because we turn to Him and we accept His strength, His help, His love, His life.

I was told this past week about one serious believer’s life. He said to me that he and his wife both had had difficulty in their spiritual lives, primarily in this Holy Week. In their whole lives of going to church, they found that this last week of the preparation for Pascha was the most difficult. Very difficult things were happening in their lives ; problems were occurring ; cars were breaking down or they were having horrible dreams, and all sorts of things. He said to me that this particular past week for him was one of the most difficult in the course of his life in terms of these strange, opposing and distracting phenomena. He and his wife are an example of how we go about our lives in the context of spiritual warfare. This couple are, and have been serving the Lord their whole lives and have been trying always to be faithful. Therefore, it is no surprise at all that in the holiest time of the year they had the greatest difficulty in persevering. Such experiences are not so different for some of us (or maybe for many of us) from being with the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. This week we were there ; the services were long, and it was difficult.

However, being there during Holy Week was still energising, life-giving and renewing. That is the point of it all. Here we are, in the middle of the night, on this glorious Feast of the Resurrection. We are here because of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are here because of His love. We are here because this Resurrection is our life. Therefore, let us take very seriously the words of encouragement of our Father, John Chrysostom, who spoke to us again tonight in his glorious exhortation. Let us have confidence in the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and persevere in His love, holding on to Him tightly, no matter how difficult anything may get. Let us, every day of our life (and not only in the Paschal season) be ready to proclaim even without words but in the whole context of our life : Christ is risen !